It is the goal of every website to stand out and be seen. This seems like a daunting task, especially with thousands and even millions of other similar websites saying almost the same things about the same topics online.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to set your website apart and get the conversion that your business needs. These are known in the industry as search engine optimization or SEO best practices.
What does SEO Best Practices Mean?
Have you ever wondered how Google decides which results to show every time you key in your search parameters?
Even before you type your keywords, Google is already hard at work, constantly organizing all the content found in web pages using their Search index. This index catalogs all the information online in a manner akin to how libraries work.
SEO best practices are the convention of complying with the guidelines used by Google in their Search index, giving your website the best chance of being ranked among the most relevant.
Why is this important?
The highest-ranking websites and content based on Google’s search algorithms are prioritized when search results are displayed. This allows the searcher to see your website first among thousands of other similar websites or content.
The optimized visibility increases traffic to your pages, giving you the chance to convince people to buy your products, avail your services, attract sponsored ads, or whatever your business goals are.
This is the foundation that the concept of SEO best practices is built on. It is designed to improve your website’s rankings in Google’s search engine through on-site optimization, keyword research, and link building.
If you are still a bit confused about how everything works, don’t worry. We are just getting started.
Below are ten of the most effective best SEO practices you should know.
1. Research Your Keywords
For your web page to be ranked, it is not enough that the reader finds it relevant. You must first convince the search engine that it is. And it all begins with the keyword research.
Keyword research is one of the many SEO best practices you must learn. It is like getting into the heads of millions of different people to anticipate what words or phrases they would use when searching for a topic, product, or service.
Is this even possible?
Trying to understand the minds of that many potential customers may sound herculean, but it is actually easy to do, and a critical part of SEO keyword best practices.
There are many online tools available that can give you indications as to what words or phrases are popular among searchers based on search volume.
One good news is that Google itself offers two highly effective sources of keyword data: Google Trends and Google AdWords Keyword Planner.
And even better news: they are totally free.
Google AdWords shows the estimated metrics of monthly search volumes in the US and all over the globe. Google Trends, on the other hand, shows how specific phrases trend over time. Both are reliable sources of possible keywords and phrases.
Once you find these keywords, you can build your content around them and come up with something that is not only relevant to your target audience but also friendly to search engines and aligned with current best practices for SEO.
2. Use Unique and Useful Title Tag, Meta Description, and Content
One of the worst things you can do for your site is to fill it with content that closely resembles those from other sites. Google even goes as far as stating explicitly and specifically to avoid such practices.
With the premium that Google gives to new and useful content, posting one that does not offer distinct information will hurt your search engine rankings. The result is scarcer traffic that is less organic, indexing of fewer pages, and complete deindexing in extreme cases.
Having unique content starts with the title tag, and it is one of the many SEO optimization tips.
The title tag is the headline that will appear in search engine results pages or SERPs. It gives the searchers a quick insight into the general idea of the content and helps them decide whether it is worth spending more time on by clicking the link to the web page.
But first things first:
For the title tag to come up in SERPs, it must be distinctive and useful enough for Google. You can make this happen by loading your keywords at the front of the title tag, at least if it seems natural and not forced.
How is this helpful?
Since your title tag would give searchers the first impression of your web page, it makes sense that Google would pay more attention to the terms used in it. And having your keywords right at the beginning of your title tag is a great way to tell search engines that your content is relevant.
Next in the best practices for SEO is optimizing the meta description. It is the brief summary that appears right below the title tag. While it does not directly influence the search ranking, it will help convince users that your web page has the exact information that they need, and is just as important in improving your click-through rate.
Finally, make sure your content does justice to your optimized title tag and meta description. While the last two items will encourage the user to visit your web page, your content will make them stay.
If you do it well enough, they will reward their great experience on your website with an actual purchase, or equally important, a glowing review that will influence other potential customers.
3. Insert the Main Keyword Early in Your Page
No discussion on best SEO practices is complete without mentioning the main keyword.
The main keyword is the word or phrase that the user inputs into the search engine text box. It represents the question that has to be answered or any other need that has to be met.
In other words:
It is the reason that users go online in the first place. They would be looking for these words and information relating to them throughout the page.
If the user starts reading your article and does not find the keyword right away, he or she might lose interest and move on to the next result in the SERP. As such, Google ranks a webpage with the keyword on top higher than one that does not.
When exactly are you supposed to use your main keyword?
As per the latest SEO keyword best practices, insert the main keyword in the first 100 to 200 words of the article, as the topic is being introduced or set up.
4. Use Your Keywords Strategically
One of the first things you should avoid when incorporating keywords into your content is keyword stuffing.
If you are not familiar with the term, it means exactly what it says.
Keyword stuffing is using your keywords excessively within your web page in an effort to trick search engines into thinking that it is more relevant than it really is.
Fair warning: Search engines are too smart for this.
Google’s search engine is sophisticated enough to recognize such strategies and will penalize your ranking. What is worse, flooding your content with the keywords to the point of it losing context will result in negative user experience. Even those who were initially interested in your web page will be driven away eventually.
On the flip side, strategic use of keywords, as advised by current Google SEO best practices, can increase traffic to your website organically.
One good habit is to keep track of your keyword density. A good usage rate is 1 to 2%, or at least that is what most SEO experts believe. For example, I am using the keyword “SEO best practices,” and its variations throughout this 3000-word article.
5. Link Internally With Your Anchor Text
Internal linking is the process of linking to another page within the website. It is one of the easiest but nonetheless productive SEO best practices you can use.
How do you do this?
First, look for an anchor text that is rich in the keyword that you are using. An ideal choice is to use the exact keywords. For instance, if you look back to the first time that the words “SEO best practices” first appeared on this page, you will notice that it is linked to a page of the desired website.
You may wonder if this is helpful at all. It is, and let me tell you how.
Linking gives you the chance to give your website more authority on the strength of the authoritative page linked to another page with lower authority. It tells search engines that you are a reliable source of relevant information so they will reward your rankings accordingly.
6. Get More Quality Backlinks
Backlinks are similar to internal links except that it comes from a page on another website. And just like with internal links, search engines see them as votes of confidence, worthy of higher rankings for relevant search queries and an important part of best practices for search engine optimization. The caveat is that these backlinks must be of high quality.
So the question now is this: how can you tell helpful backlinks from immaterial ones?
To answer this, you must first see if the content or the domain level of the backlink is relevant to the same audience you are targeting. These users are more likely to click on articles related to your content, and this is given more value by search engines.
Next is the authority of the backlink. According to best SEO practices, backlinks from stronger websites transfer more authority than weaker ones. Page-level authority has a direct impact on organic traffic.
In the same vein, backlinks from high-traffic websites are more likely to send referral traffic your way compared to low-traffic pages and boost your search ranking.
Finally, the placement of the backlink has a lot to do with how effective it can be in helping your web page’s ranking. Backlinks placed on prominent parts of the page are more likely to be seen and clicked by users. If they end up in the footer or the sidebar, you are better off investing your efforts on other opportunities.
7. Publish Relevant and Compelling Content
So your title tag, meta description, and URL are now all optimized with the perfect dose of keyword usage as recommended by standard SEO optimization tips. Search engines have given you a high ranking, enough to grab the attention of your target audience.
We have briefly discussed how the content of your pages is the main course to the appetizers that are your title tag and meta description. But all your efforts at reeling in potential customers will be for naught if they do not get what they actually came to your website for.
Ultimately, the quality of your content will determine whether the searcher gets a satisfying user experience or not.
What is more, the definition of “good quality” with regard to web content has evolved over the years.
There was a time when an article that is 1000 words long is considered special. Now, it is nothing out of the ordinary, which makes generating content of high quality in today’s more ultra-competitive digital marketing all the more difficult. You have to invest more time, money, and man-hours to stay ahead of the competition or at least stay in the race.
There is no working around this, but if you are willing to put in the time and effort in following SEO standards, you will increase traffic to your website, get more links, and shoot up in the rankings of search engines.
8. Increase Your Page’s Load Speed
Your website’s loading speed is one of the few ranking factors that Google talks about openly. This alone tells you how important it is to increase your page speed. It is actually one of the most important components of current mobile SEO best practices.
This is understandable as most people go online for convenience. If your page takes a long time to load, users will lose interest or even get frustrated, and this will drop your rankings. A second of delay would cost you 11% page views, 16% customer satisfaction, and 7% conversion.
If you need more convincing, here are a few more facts:
Surveys show that slow sites can eliminate conversions even before your target audience reaches your website. To be more specific, 40% of online users routinely abandon pages that take longer than three seconds to load.
For those who stick it out and decide to stay on your website, 79% express an unwillingness to return due to the site’s poor performance.
That is not all.
The same surveys say that 52% of online shoppers stay loyal to websites with fast loading speed. In contrast, 44% of them tell friends and family of poor user experiences related to loading speed.
There are many more statistics from many other surveys, but you get the general idea.
Now onto the next item in the latest SEO optimization tips: how to increase your site’s load speed.
There are a few simple ways for you to do this. First and foremost is to compress your images. Images take up the lion’s share of a page’s size in terms of kilobytes. Reduce them using online tools that are easily accessible.
The rule of thumb is to make them as small as possible without significant impact on user experience. It is a tricky balancing act, but once you manage it, you would make your website load as quickly as possible and still have aesthetically pleasing images.
If you are like most websites that use WordPress, steer clear of bulky themes that take longer to load. If you are already using one, consider switching to a lightweight theme that is optimized for speed.
The list is long when it comes to boosting your load speed, but these are some of the best practices for SEO.
9. Optimize Your Site’s User Experience
User experience or UX is the response that your website draws from its visitors, be it on a mobile app, desktop software, website, or any other form of interaction. It helps the users do what they want to with the least hassle and the most gratification.
At least websites with good UX can.
When optimized properly, UX can be a powerful tool in swaying a potential customer one way or another. A good UX meets the needs of the user in many ways, turning potential clients into loyal customers. A bad UX, on the other hand, will send people scurrying away from your website.
The ability to make people stay on your website instead of just passing through or “pogo-sticking” is part of current SEO best practices. It is also one of the many things that search engines look for when ranking search results. It tells Google that your results gave the searchers exactly what they were looking for, giving your webpage higher priority. UX can also boost your web page’s ranking indirectly through user sharing and linking.
Now that we have made the case for the importance of UX, here are some ways for you to improve it:
The first is to make your website more responsive and mobile-friendly.
Smartphones are getting smarter, making them the go-to devices in driving traffic to most websites. Enhancing your website’s mobile-friendliness is a sure way to increase your visibility online by dipping into the increasing number of mobile internet users.
On the other hand, making your web page responsive is one of Google best practices in SEO that can help you provide outstanding user experience to all visitors, whatever device they are using. If you want to check how responsive your website is, you can use one of the many testing tools available online.
Another of the search engine optimization best practices that can do wonders for your website’s UX is using attractive call-to-actions or writing well-designed headlines. These can help create an immediate connection with your target audience and give you a higher chance of converting them.
Your website’s aesthetics are also important in terms of giving your target audience the user experience that you want for them. Using different colors that help convey your message the visitors, including animations, and videos, and optimizing white space are just some of the SEO best practices that involve optimization of your website visually. They make navigating your website easier and more enjoyable for your target audience.
10. Increase Your Website’s Security
Another thing that people consider when using websites is security. It is technically a part of the broader UX umbrella, but its importance in SEO warrants a separate section all its own.
Online users are constantly looking for an assurance of safety or trust, especially if payment is involved. If you can eliminate their apprehension by beefing up security, it can virtually guarantee an exceptional user experience to any visitor.
Here are some ways for you to do this:
Using the latest software is critical in keeping all your platforms or scripts safe from cybercriminals. Hackers who can sense weaknesses in your system target these flaws aggressively.
Updating your software religiously can deter most hackers in their tracks by patching up security holes.
Using SSL encryption on your login pages allows sensitive details such as credit card numbers and login credentials to be transmitted safely.
Choosing a reputable web hosting company is also important in securing your website. A secure host can back up your data to a remote server, making it easier to restore in case a hacker manages to compromise your website.
Files, databases, plugins, or applications are possible points of entry for hackers. Part of SEO best practices is to regularly clean up your website by removing some of these entry points that are no longer in use.
It is also a good habit to keep the structure of your files organized to make it easier to delete old files and keep track of all the changes you make.
Finally, investing in a security expert can be a lifesaver. These companies can regularly scan your website for possible vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit. They can also audit your website security, monitor malicious activities, and provide support every time your website is compromised.
If possible, develop a long-term relationship with a security firm to ensure your website is protected at all times.