The best place to start with improving Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for your website is typically with content. The more pages you have on your website, the more opportunities you have to rank for more keywords, which means more searchers finding you on Google and coming to your website.
When ranking content, Google decides how much value it thinks your content provides to users. The most valuable content shows up at the top of search results. In order to figure this out, the search engine looks at how unique your content is compared to other websites. It also looks at how recently it was added or updated. Google looks at things like the number of words on a page, the types of keywords you target, and the keywords you use to link from other pages on your website as well. All of these are huge factors when it comes to SEO.
However, not every business has the capability to create the content needed to generate sufficient traffic from search engines. Some businesses don’t have the ability get that kind of content approved to be published. Others have a legal department that has to approve content or brand standards that prevent you from using the keywords you want to rank for. Sometimes the people responsible for content are simply separate from your website and marketing team, leaving SEO out of the question.
So if it’s the case for your business that you can’t touch the content but you need to increase search engine rankings, what can you do? Read on for 14 ways to improve SEO without touching your website content.
1. Set title tags on every page
Start out by setting your title tags. The title tag is what shows up in the browser bar on a web page. It’s also what shows up in Google on the search results page.
Title tags are the most influential on-page SEO factor, so you want to update them using the keywords you want to rank for. Depending on how your website is built, this may be something you can do on your own, or you may need to get a web developer involved.
If you have a WordPress site, I recommend using the Yoast SEO plugin to update your title tags. This will give you a preview of what your page will look like in search results using the title tag you have set, and it also provides some other great SEO recommendations.
2. Optimize for click-through rate
While keywords and context play a large role in what you rank for, there are also engagement factors that impact where you rank.
For example, Google looks at the percentage of searchers who click on a link in search results as an indicator of how relevant that listing is. Even if you are showing up a bit down the page, if your link is getting clicked on at a higher rate than those above you, your listing will begin to rise.
So how can you use this to your advantage? One way is to set your title tag using “click bait” or wording that intrigues a user into clicking because they want to read more. This is a common tactic for social media and news sites, but lesser known in terms of SEO.
Buzzfeed is really great at this. Just take a look at their blog:
You can also update your meta descriptions to include target keywords and a call to action to encourage clicks on your listings.
Here’s another example. Which title are you more likely to click on?
3. Leverage keywords in existing content
In an ideal SEO world, you would complete all of your competitor and keyword research to determine what phrases to target with your website before developing your sitemap and actually writing content. However, this isn’t always possible.
But, including the keywords you are trying to rank for somewhere on the page is pretty much a requirement. One actually decent option for SEO if you cannot touch your website content is to pick keywords based on the content that you already have.
You can identify these keywords using Google’s Keyword Planner. Using this tool, you can enter in the URL of the page you want to optimize, and Google will provide you with a list of keywords and search volumes that it thinks are relevant to your web page. You can use this information when writing your page title tags and descriptions to make sure that the keywords you are targeting are at least relevant in Google’s eyes to your web page.
4. Format your content properly
Body copy aside, Google also looks at behind the scenes factors as influencers of your SEO. So if you can’t change the words on the page, consider changing the way those words are laid out – including headings, bulleted lists and links.
5. Get rid of low quality content
For search engines to know what web pages to show when you type in a search, they need to crawl pages on the internet and index them so the pages are accessible in the split second from when you hit enter to when search results are displayed in front of you.
This means the robots are constantly crawling the internet, but they only want to collect information that is relevant and valuable to users, meaning they might not crawl every page on your site if they find a high number of low quality pages or if your pages are buried deep within the architecture of your website.
If you can’t add new content to your website, try reducing the number of pages on your website with low quality content or duplicate content. This will improve the “crawl bandwidth” of your website, making sure the good content, the content you actually want users to find in search results, gets indexed when a crawler comes to your site.
6. Be intentional about building the right links
While content is a huge at increasing SEO factor, the importance of offsite SEO factors and link building isn’t going anywhere. Google uses links as a popularity signal – other websites can “vote” for your website by linking to it. The more popular the linking website, the more valuable the link.
Other than the authority of the linking website, you also want to seek out websites that are in your industry or target the same topics as your website. Google will correlate the topic of the linking website with your site as an SEO factor. Not only is the website as a whole important, but so is the actual text used in the link. A link of web design company is going to have far more SEO value for the keyword “web design company than a link of simply Web Ascender.
How do you get these types of links? Some good places to start include becoming a member of industry organizations, sponsoring relevant events, or providing guest blog post content for popular blogs that target your audience.
7. Fix broken backlinks
In addition to seeking out new links, consider the “low hanging fruit”, that is websites who are linking to pages on your site that don’t exist. Maybe the page they are linking to used to exist but has since been deleted, you went through a domain change and the website is linking to your old site, or a typo snuck through.
Here are some ways to find broken links:
- In Google Search Console, go to Crawl > Crawl Errors and select Not Found. Then click on a URL and a popup will appear with the places the missing page is linked from. Go to that page on your site and update the link.
- In Google Analytics, go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals. Add a secondary dimension of “Landing Page” and click through to make sure your referral traffic is landing on actual pages on your site, not a 404.
- Do a search in Google for links:yourolddomain.com to find websites linking to an old domain.
- Find broken links on your own site by using a crawler / site auditor tool such as Raven SEO Tools or Screaming Frog.
8. Build links between pages within your site
We’ve already established that Google cares about links. A lot. But did you know that even links from your own site can have an impact on your SEO? If you can’t change the words on the page of your site, go through the content and link up relevant phrases to their appropriate pages.
For example, if you are a web design company with a page about web design, you might mention on your web design page that you build websites in WordPress. You might also have a page on your site about WordPress development. By linking “Wordpress” on the web design page to the WordPress page, you are telling Google that the WordPress page should rank for the keyword “Wordpress.”
Obviously don’t go overboard and be spammy, because Google will pick up on that, too. But if your links provide value to users, they’ll benefit your SEO.
9. Optimize page load speeds
The more updates Google makes to its algorithms, the more of a factor page loading speed seems to be. Google wants to provide searchers with the best experience possible when they land on a page from a search. This includes how quickly the page loads when you arrive.
There are a lot of factors that play into the load speed of pages on your website like the number and size of your images, the platform your site is running on, plugins and third party tools you are using, and caching settings.
If you’re looking to optimize page load speeds, but don’t know where to start, Google will check your site and give you some pointers. Just head over to Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
10. Ensure a mobile friendly design
A lot of the SEO improvements mentioned here go back to user experience, and this one is no exception. Back in April of 2015, Google announced an update to its algorithm that favors mobile friendly sites. If your website is not mobile friendly, not only are you making it more difficult for visitors to use your site and become leads for your business, but you are also making it more difficult for users to find you in search engines.
Wondering if your site is mobile friendly? Google has a tool for that as well.
If your site isn’t mobile friendly, commonly referred to as a responsive website, consider getting in touch with the person who designed or developed your site to find out what it would take to make the upgrade.
11. Optimize your NAP listings
“N.A.P.” information includes your organization’s Name, Address and Phone number. This information is typically listed somewhere on your website (i.e. your contact page) and on other sites such as Yelp or Google My Business. NAP listings on websites throughout the internet have SEO value for a number of reasons. They often have to be verified either through a phone call to your business or a postcard sent in the mail. Because of this, they help prove the existence of your business to Google. They also often come with a backlink to your site, which never hurts!
12. Leverage social media
The implications of social media on SEO has been debated for about the entire existence of social media. But one thing experts do agree on is that it plays some type of role. If you can’t implement traditional SEO tactics through optimizing and creating content, social media can be a beneficial alternative.
Some ways to improve your SEO with social media include having profiles on a variety of networks to help build credibility for your business, sharing content from your website like blog posts or promotions, and building a following of users to consume and share your content.
13. Get positive ratings, reviews and testimonials
Maybe you can’t add new pages or write content for your website, but you can add testimonials to existing pages or you have the ability to create a section on your website for reviews. When properly formatted, Google recognizes reviews on your website and uses those as an indicator of credibility. On some occasions, that review will actually show up in search results.
In addition to reviews on your, reviews on other websites such as Yelp or Facebook can be beneficial as well. Consider developing an internal process for collecting feedback from customers after a purchase or at the end of a project. Not everyone will submit, but even one new review every month or two can have an impact on your rankings and your traffic.
14. Get published or interviewed
A final SEO strategy to boost your rankings if you can’t change your website content is another link building tactic. Maybe you have the ability to create content, but there is something preventing you from publishing that content on your own site. If this is the case, seek out similar sites or blogs that your target audience reads and ask if you can provide them with content in exchange for a link back to your website. The link can boost your authority with Google, helping to increase rankings without the need to touch your website.
Have any other great ideas for improving SEO without touching website content? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.