5 Tricks for Tip Top Technical SEO in a Competitive Niche

5 Tricks for Tip Top Technical SEO in a Competitive Niche

by Rob Newhouse
Analytics & Measurement Consultant

10 September 2019

Let’s be real, some areas of the online marketplace can be downright ruthless.

Sure, if you’re in an extremely obscure and niche market like reproduction 1930s Bakelite doorknobs, you’ll probably be able to rank for your top terms after a few well-placed links.

But what if your sector is a cut-throat, no-holds-barred, targeting-your-opponents-brand-as-a-keyword kind of sector? Such as the gambling sector.

Obviously, we want to keep everything above board. So how do you get the edge over your competitors without using dirty tactics? Well, by playing EXACTLY by Google’s rules of course.

Doing the basics well is something that a lot of highly competitive niches don’t give much attention, which is why it is so important to make sure your technical SEO is on point. Even a minor mistake can cost you the top position, despite your best efforts to build links.

So, to get you started, here are five key elements to good technical SEO.

1. Frequently check your crawlability

Your site needs to have good on-page content and helpful links to the right pages so the user can find what they’re looking for with ease. These are the same core values a site needs to follow to rank well, and with the mobile takeover SEO is increasingly driven by user experience.

But Google is not a typical user, so none of this means a thing if Google can’t crawl the site reliably and comprehensively.

Discovering crawl errors frequently is vital if your site updates regularly with new games or new pages. You can see what errors have occurred in Google Search Console, in the new Coverage Report.

One of the first things we’ll look for when conducting an SEO Audit is how many 301 and 302 redirects your site is standing on, how many 404s are leading crawlers to a dead end and whether the number of 500 error codes indicates a server problem.

There might only be one broken page on the site, but fixing it could prevent a significant amount of link equity from being lost.

Links passing through redirects also slow down crawlers, so make sure your internal links are direct links, not redirects.

2. Build a disavow file

While we’re discussing links, let’s talk about backlinks as well. These are the links that other sites are pointing at your site. You have less control over these, but there are measures to control whether or not they affect your SEO.

If you check a tool like Majestic SEO or Search Console’s new Links Report, you might discover a LOT of backlinks pointing towards your site, maybe more than you expected. This could be awesome; it might mean you have citations from lots of sites!

Or, you might look closer at the anchor text and see they’re all some variant of the term “sexual stimulant medication”. In that case, sadly, it looks like you’ve found yourself the victim of a spam attack (some suspect they’re used by competitors to bring your rankings down), or perhaps just many years of the internet just being the internet.

So sometimes you need to take a look at what your inbound links are saying about you, and remove the harmful ones to make sure Google doesn’t start getting the wrong idea about what you do, and penalise you.

You can do this by building a Disavow file and uploading it to Search Console to assure Google that you’re aware of the situation and no, you don’t want all those websites advertising that you sell Viagra when you don’t. Google will then ignore these backlinks when assessing your website.

Note – A spam attack isn’t always as obvious as our example here, so it can be difficult to identify spammy links without a certain level of skill. If in doubt, best to check with an expert (hint, hint).

3. Fix duplicate content

I know, the immediate response to this is “we don’t have any duplicate content” and if all your content is truly unique then that’s great, but there’s more to it. First of all, which version of your site is the one with the bespoke content?

Because, depending on how robust your version control is, there could be up to eight versions accessible to search engines.

Your website could be accessed via the root-domain or the sub-domain version, and via https or http.

This gets further compounded by version-controlling URLs that can end with or without a trailing slash, include parameters, capital letters, the list goes on. Every unique version of a URL is considered to be a different piece of content by search engines unless the proper measures are in place.

Now, don’t panic – you’ll probably have a canonical tag to decide which of these sites is the one you want Google to see, but a much more reliable way to version control your site is through redirects. If the only version that can be accessed it the canonical version, then the problem is already solved.

Duplicating meta data is also bad form. Meta titles are usually caught pretty quick but meta descriptions often slip through the net. If making your meta descriptions all unique is too much of a pain, then it’s better to leave them blank and allowing Google to write its own description.

4. Use header tags properly

While we’re on meta tags, properly using header tags, namely H1 and H2, is important. Yes, they’re unlikely to be a game changer for any site that’s not ranking well but when you’re fighting at the top, every little helps.

Heading tags, namely H1 and H2, are important. Heading optimisation is unlikely to be a game changer for a site that’s not ranking well, but when you’re fighting for the top positions, everything helps.

A H1 in SEO is more than just a headline for the crawler to read, it’s important that they are coded correctly. The big money keywords for the page need to be in the H1 tag (for instance, using a sports and gaming example, “Football”) while the H2, your sub-headings, can include other keywords (things like “Leagues”, “Betting”, “Underwear brand”, whatever your site’s about).

It’s half user experience and half SEO, it’ll help make your page easier to read for users and search engines which, in turn, helps rankings.

Also, it is very important, remember to only use one H1 tag.

5. Identify orphaned pages and reclaim links

This section is most relevant if your site has some road miles. If you only just launched it then you might want to come back to this section after a few more versions are released.

Over time, your site is going to change and there will be a few pages that become redundant or outdated and just get removed from the menu and swept under the rug, existing on your site with no connection to other pages – often pages for limited-time offers and promotions. But if there’s nothing connecting that page to the rest of your site, that means any external link power going to that page is going nowhere.

There are several ways to discover these pages:

  • See which pages are getting hits in Google Analytics vs the pages that appear in a crawl (using a crawler like Screaming Frog)
  • Compare your XML sitemap to a crawl

Once you’ve discovered the pages, you can start consolidating the lost link power by redirecting the orphan URLs back into the main site with a 301. It’s a good way to get a head-start on your link building efforts.

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