Advanced SEO refers to a set of techniques that require a deeper understanding of SEO, search engine algorithms, and marketing technology.
These tactics and strategies go beyond SEO basics and can give you an edge over your competitors.
Here are 13 of the most effective advanced SEO strategies in 2023.
1. Improve Your Content’s Time to Value
Time to value in SEO is the time it takes for a user to get value from a piece of content.
The time to value of your content should be short.
Short time to value enables your users to get what they’re looking for as quickly as possible.
But with hero images, author bios, and long-winded intros, many websites have poor time to value.
In the example below, there is a hero image and a whopping 739 words before the first tip.
The time to value is even worse on mobile.
Poor time to value can negatively affect your bounce rate, dwell time, and session duration.
And this could affect your traffic and rankings.
So, how do you improve time to value?
By putting the most important information and elements at the top of the page.
Ideally, above the fold.
Use the BLUF (bottom line up front) or journalistic inverted-pyramid approach. In other words, put the information users are looking for at the top.
Keep your introductions short and get to the point.
Don’t waste anyone’s time.
Investopedia does a great job with time to value.
In the image below, they hit on a definition of the term in the image. And then a summary of the article in the “Key Takeaways” section. Right at the top.
Users can get exactly what they are looking for immediately and without really having to scroll.
It’s no surprise that this page consistently ranks in the top three on Google.
2. Build Out Topic Clusters
A topic cluster is a group of articles or pieces of content that share a central topic and strategically link to and from one another.
Topic clusters provide comprehensive coverage of a topic.
This coverage improves topical authority and enables your readers to have their queries (as well as any follow-up queries) satisfied on your site.
Typically, topic clusters revolve around a pillar page, which is a page that targets a broad topic.
Content that covers related topics makes up the cluster and is used to link to and from the pillar page.
You can visualize a simple topic cluster in the image below.
Topic clusters are an effective SEO tactic because they help you create content that demonstrates topical authority, relevance, and expertise.
Think of it this way:
If a website only had a single piece of content on a topic, you probably wouldn’t consider them an authority or expert on it.
But if it had a whole cluster of related content that used internal linking to demonstrate the topical relevance between them?
You’d probably think the site knew what it was talking about.
Your users (and Google) feel the same way.
Migrating your site's content into a topic cluster structure may not be the simplest of tasks.
But it's one that will pay dividends and can contribute to your site’s long-term success.
Long gone are the days of thinking about ranking for single keywords.
In 2023, you should be thinking about how to rank for topics and satisfying your users’ queries before they even search them.
Building out topic clusters is a great way to get into this mindset.
3. Leverage Strategic Internal Linking
Internal linking is one of the most underrated SEO tactics.
While adding internal links to your pages is beginner SEO stuff, using internal links strategically to boost relevance and authority requires nuance and advanced SEO knowledge.
Good internal links help search engines better understand your content and site structure.
They also help users navigate your website.
The strategic part comes from knowing how and where to link to which pages.
You should be linking to your most important pages from other semantically and topically relevant pages.
You should also be using descriptive anchor text that has the same search intent as the primary keyword of the page it points to.
One impactful way to start improving internal linking is to base your strategy on your site's most linked-to pages.
To do this, load up Semrush’s Backlink Analytics for your website, head to the “Indexed Pages” tab, and sort by “Domains.”
The ones with the highest number of referring domains are your website's most powerful pages.
You can use these pages to redistribute and pass link authority (i.e., PageRank) to other relevant pages on your site.
Look for opportunities to link these pages to topically related pages that need a push in organic visibility.
And think carefully about the anchor text you use.
This tactic works and should be evaluated regularly.
You should also use this technique when you launch new content and look for opportunities to link to it internally.
4. Maximize Your SERP Real Estate with FAQ Schema
You can increase search visibility and take traffic away from your competitors without improving your rank.
By increasing your SERP (search engine results page) real estate.
A great way to do this is to integrate FAQ schema as part of your advanced on-page SEO.
Just look at the SERP example below.
See how much space the first listing takes up?
At least one other ranking website could fit into that space.
And those drop-down questions aren’t being served up by accident.
FAQ schema markup is driving them.
FAQ schema makes it possible for questions you answer in your content to appear in the SERPs.
It's a tactic to consider if your page includes question-and-answer style content.
Even if you're already ranking well, you'll be able to push your competitors further down the first page and take clicks away from them.
Further reading: How to Add FAQ Schema to Any Page Using Google Tag Manager
5. Leverage Paid Ads for Link Building
Link building is one of the most difficult, time-consuming aspects of SEO.
Yet even in 2023, it’s still one of the most important.
But what if there were a safe way to get backlinks without spending a ton of time?
Fortunately, there is. And it’s Google-approved (and encouraged)!
Results at the top of the front page typically get more backlinks than other results.
Simply because they get more clicks and traffic than other results.
Assuming everything is equal, more people reading your content means a higher chance of getting links.
If you have a budget for link building, you can take advantage of this reality with Google Ads.
First, find keywords in your niche that have informational intent and serve up search ads in the SERPs.
You can do this by opening Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool and searching for broad industry terms.
Then, use the filters to display only keywords with informational intent that serve up Google Ads at the top of the SERPs.
In the example below, we used the keyword “SEO.”
Choose a keyword from the list that you have great content for that satisfies the search intent and doesn’t already rank at the top of the SERPs.
Alternatively, you could create a new piece of content that targets one of these keywords.
You’ll also want to choose a keyword that is likely to get backlinks.
Think definitions, statistics, facts, and tips.
These types of keywords often serve up content that gets linked to in other articles.
Run your ads for at least one or two months at a budget that makes sense for you.
Monitor the quality of links you get and determine a cost per link.
You’ll probably need to try different keywords and bids to find a strategy that works for your business.
This strategy can be effective on Google, Bing, and even Facebook.
6. Steal Featured Snippets
Featured snippets are another way to maximize your SERP real estate and ensure you’re getting as much organic traffic from your content as possible.
Featured snippets appear in position zero, meaning they’re above all other organic results in the SERPs.
They also take up as much as three times the space of a normal organic result.
Your SERP competitors are already bringing in traffic with these snippets.
But often, their snippets are bits of text from their content that was never meant to be a featured snippet.
You can seize this opportunity and steal their snippets by tailoring your content for the featured snippets.
Start by searching keywords you want to rank for in the Keyword Magic Tool.
Make sure to cast a wide net by using broad terms in your industry (e.g., use “SEO” instead of “SEO tips”).
Use the “Advanced Filters” to display only keywords that yield a “Featured snippet” in the search results.
The resulting keywords are opportunities to get featured snippets.
Create a list of these keywords and evaluate the actual featured snippets they serve up.
Go back to your own content for these keywords and ensure you have a header for the featured snippet keyword.
Under the header, update your content to hit points similar to those that are snippeted in the SERPs.
Improve on whatever your competitors have written. And be direct and concise.
If you don’t have pages for these keywords, you can create them.
Even if their sole purpose is to take the featured snippets.
Monitor results, iterate, and repeat until you get the results you want.
7. Start A/B Testing
A/B testing enables you to test different versions of your content and find the most effective.
Whether your goals are conversions, leads, or simply increased session durations, A/B testing can help.
Identify pages on your website that are important to your business.
Then identify the specific metrics you’d like to improve on those pages.
Consider changes you could make that might have a positive impact on those metrics and on business.
Even things as simple as button color, text size, and header text can have significant impacts on how your users interact with your website.
Start testing your hypotheses as soon as possible.
Use tools like Google Optimize (which sunsets in September 2023), Optimizely, SplitSignal, or VWO.
These tools are built for A/B testing. They enable you to painlessly test what you want to test.
They have visual editors that allow you to make aesthetic changes to your site without coding knowledge.
They also have built-in models to help you understand whether your results are statistically significant.
Test anything you can think of and keep testing.
Here are some ideas of things to test to get you started:
- Button text
- Button copy
- H1 text
- Content length
- Table of contents
- Text size
- Button color
- Hero images
- Sidebar CTA
- Header CTA
- Sales copy
A/B testing is how you get the most out of your website.
8. Diversify Your Visuals
Visual elements attract the eye and engage your users.
Engaged users stay on your site longer and are less likely to bounce. Which can help you rank higher.
But in 2023, almost all webpages have images and graphics.
And if nearly every webpage has images, images stand out less. They’re less compelling and less likely to keep users engaged.
So, how do you make your images compelling again? And how do you keep users engaged?
By diversifying your visuals.
This means adding GIFs, animated images, and videos to your content.
Images can be great and can relay a lot of information.
But GIFs and animated images can relay a lot more information.
They can also autoplay and repeat automatically. This draws the eye and compels users to watch.
Add GIFs and animated images, such as animated SVGs, to your content.
They can prevent users from bouncing and keep them on your site longer.
This can help you rank higher and bring in more traffic.
Consider also adding videos to your content.
While they may require user interaction, videos are engaging and can convey a lot more information.
They can also rank independently in the SERPs, giving you added SEO benefit.
9. Discover Unlinked Mentions for Link Building
Unlinked brand mentions are opportunities to painlessly and ethically build valuable backlinks.
An unlinked brand mention is whenever someone mentions your brand online without providing a link.
This can be on social media, forums, news articles, and blog posts (even comments sections).
Wherever it happens, it’s an opportunity to get a backlink.
Backlinks like these can help your ranking in the SERPs and bring in referral traffic.
This means more SEO value and more potential customers.
Tools like Media Monitoring can help you keep track of when and where your brand is being talked about.
Once you’re aware of the brand mentions, you can reach out to the authors and ask them to provide links.
Authors are usually open to adding links, especially within the first few days of the mention.
Media Monitoring also allows you to track the brand mentions of your competitors.
Keep track of how your competitors are being discussed online.
You can also reach out to the authors of competitor mentions to see if they’re open to mentioning your brand (with a link) as well.
10. Remove or Repurpose Underperforming Content
Every page on your website should serve a purpose.
Whether that purpose is to rank and bring in traffic, convert leads, acquire backlinks, or simply boost your authority.
To ensure your content is serving a purpose, you should continually evaluate its performance.
Content that isn’t serving a purpose should be removed or repurposed.
Otherwise, it’s just using resources (and may be holding your site back).
Use the method outlined in our article on SEO content pruning to audit the content on your site.
Following the guide, you’ll build out a spreadsheet that helps you identify exactly which URLs aren't performing.
And once you've audited all of your content, you’ll have a clear view of how it’s performing.
You can take the following actions based on your evaluation of a piece of content:
- Keep (the page is performing, no actions needed)
- Improve (make edits and improvements to see if the page performs better)
- Repurpose (two or more pages are consolidated into a single page, with any removals being 301 redirected)
- Remove (the content serves no purpose and can’t be repurposed elsewhere)
This is a task that most sites should be running once or twice a year, depending on how much content they have.
11. Find and Fix Keyword Cannibalization Issues
Keyword cannibalization is not about keywords.
It’s all about intent.
It happens when you have two or more pages that target the same intent.
The reality is that you can have more than one page optimized for the same keyword, as long as they're targeting different intents.
Some keywords have fractured intents.
This means that the top 10 results for this type of keyword may be a mix of informational and commercial pages.
For example, the keyword “youtube keyword research” yields results with both commercial and informational intents.
Two of the top three results are YouTube keyword research tools. While ours is an informational guide on how to perform keyword research for YouTube.
This is common. And you could conceivably rank for both intents.
It becomes a problem when you have two pages trying to rank for the same intent (whether or not the keyword is the same).
Here are some common signs that your site might have these issues:
- Ranked URLs keep changing in the SERPs
- Your rankings keep fluctuating
- You're struggling to increase a keyword's ranking position
- The wrong URL ranks for a given keyword
And you can find specific keyword cannibalization issues using the keyword cannibalization feature of the Position Tracking tool.
You can use this to view cannibalization issues either by keyword or by page, taking note of fluctuating URLs or positions:
Once you've found the issues, you can do the following to fix them:
- Remove and 301 redirect cannibalized pages
- Canonicalize cannibalized pages
- Re-optimize pages
- Merge and consolidate pages
- Rework internal linking structures
12. Build Out Q&A Pages Based on People Also Ask Questions
People Also Ask (PAA) sections are Google SERP features where users can get direct answers to questions they may have related to their initial queries.
You typically see PAA features in SERPs with broad or fractured intent.
These questions are valuable because they are questions people commonly search on Google.
They are typically long-tail, low-volume keywords.
But they also only require a few sentences to comprehensively answer them.
This makes them relatively low effort.
And while each of them typically has low search volume, together, they can really add up.
Farm these questions using SERP analysis or a tool like AlsoAsked.
Then create a dedicated page for each question.
Your titles and H1s should be the questions from the PAA component.
Answer these questions directly and concisely right under the H1.
You’ll typically only need two or three sentences to provide a complete answer to each question.
Use lists when applicable.
And make sure to add an internal link to the pillar page for that topic.
For example, if we created a page for the question “How to do advanced SEO for a website?,” we’d link to the article you’re reading right now.
These pages can help you bring in more traffic and potential customers. And can also boost your topical authority.
13. Analyze Your Log Files
Log file analysis is an advanced technical SEO tactic that needs to be on your radar.
Analyzing log files can:
- Show you where crawl budget is being wasted (and how much)
- Help you to identify the cause of crawl errors
- Find pages that aren't being crawled frequently
This information can enable you to make fixes and improvements to help Google crawl your site more efficiently.
Log file analysis gives you a way to understand how search engines are crawling your site and any issues they face.
You can analyze your site's log files with Semrush’s Log File Analyzer.
You'll need to download a copy of your site's log file (usually located in the “/logs/” or “/access_log/” folder on your server) and upload it to the tool.
Then you’ll get a detailed report. You can analyze the report for issues and opportunities.
Advance Beyond the Competition
SEO in competitive industries requires you to go beyond the basics to succeed.
It’s a continual process that demands analysis, experimentation, refinement.
But by leveraging advanced SEO tactics and using the tools available to you in clever ways, you can strengthen your search visibility and get the edge you need.