Best SEO practices are something you will often see thrown around the internet.
What is SEO?
You may see SEO alongside taglines such as:
- Increasing ROI
- Generating better search engine rankings
- Improving visibility
- Real Results
If you have ever wondered what you could be doing to increase online traffic or rank better in search results, then the truth is you probably DO need SEO.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a long-term strategy to increase online traffic to your website. It is not a quick fix and is rooted in how you design your website and digital marketing strategy.
It is often touted as a free and easy way to generate visibility. However, it can be more likened to a set of best practices that you should be exercising to maximize visibility. Best SEO practices should become second nature and part of your digital marketing strategy going forward.
SEO is not a cookie-cutter strategy. It takes a bit of research and know-how. Ultimately though, it will come down to what your goals are.
- Do you want to rank the highest on a search engine results page (SERP)?
- Do you want to maximize conversions on your website?
- Do you want to generate the most traffic towards your website?
These are all important distinctions to make when designing the best SEO strategy for your business.
Of course there will be overlap, but you need to decide what your goals are. SEO is an even blend of the trustworthiness and quality of your site and its technical performance between the user and search engine.
Your job is to create engaging and quality material that services the user’s needs while also optimizing it to be delivered efficiently. You and your competitors both have the same goal, so it comes to down to who can deliver.
Let’s take a look on how to get started.
How to Have the Best SEO Among Your Competitors
1. SEO Health Check
While best SEO tactics are no quick remedy to a poorly optimized website, there do exist quick fixes and key areas where you can identify problems. These typically boil down to the technical side of your website.
Let’s do a quick audit of your website to see if some SEO has been implemented.
By no means is this an end all be all best SEO practices list, but it will let you know if you are on the right track.
Best SEO practices are some of LYFE Marketing’s core competencies. We are proud of what we can accomplish for your business. If you would like a much more comprehensive SEO Audit, then contact us and we can discuss the pain points within your website design.
2. Page Loading Times
Google’s algorithm isn’t set in stone, but it is certain that page loading speeds will impact your website ranking. More specifically, how long a visitor must wait for the entire page to load.
A very quick way to know if your website is suffering from poor search engine optimization is if pages (especially your homepage) do not load in a timely manner.
On average if a landing page takes over 3 seconds to load, then a whopping 40% of users will abandon the site. Even more surprisingly, according to Google, the average time for a mobile page to fully load is an absurd 22 seconds.
Chart courtesy of Load Storm
There is little margin for error when it comes to page loading times. If unattended, this can be one of the largest bottlenecks for any website.
If your website suffers from poor loading times, then check these factors to identify the issue:
- Overuse of widgets. A lot of fancy moving parts will take a toll on your server.
- Your theme. Again, an overly-designed theme will speed.
- Too many ads or pop-ups
- Photos/Images with large file size. Stick to JPEG for photos and PNG for logos/etc.
- Unoptimized browser/plugins. You may need to individually test what is causing the delay if this becomes an issue.
- Your host. When it comes to your service provider, you get what you pay for. If you have plans to scale in the future, or expect an influx of traffic, or experience a delay in normal use, you are going to need to upgrade your plan.
It is a quick boost to your best SEO game and is a no-brainer in the overall picture.
This is perhaps one of the most important factors when it comes to best SEO for a variety of reasons. Google is aware of these reasons which is why they have shifted to a mobile-first approach with their algorithm. This means that no matter what device you are using, mobile sites will be prioritized as the most useful and valuable sources and will appear first on a SERP.
Nearly half of the internet traffic is accessed through a mobile device. This means that if your website is not mobile-friendly, then you are suffering a huge blow to your user volume and potential business. If you access your Google Analytics and you have a disproportionate amount of desktop vs mobile users, then you can guess what is wrong.
Your website is most likely not optimized for mobile. Even if your website theme says that it’s mobile-friendly, you could most likely be doing better, hence the word optimization.
Desktop and Mobile pages are indexed separately, so they need to be designed separately. Separate URLs (m.www.website.com) used to be popular. But for simplicity’s sake, it is easier to detect devices to design accordingly through dynamic serving.
Here are few things you can do to make sure you are not missing out:
- Make sure all resources load across all devices. Mobile users should not be missing out on content viewable on a desktop.
- Loads quickly for mobile. Compared to desktop, pages need to be more streamlined.
- Your website is responsive to the device and adjusts the size and resolution of its elements for desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones.
- Pages are designed with larger text, big buttons, and simplified navigation. People are going to be accessing your website through smaller screens and they need to be able to interact with ease.
If you want to see if your website passes the test, Google provides a quick service that does just that.
4. HTTP vs. HTTPS
You may have already known the difference between HTTP and HTTPS websites, but did you know that Google has a preference? It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a trusted and secure website would rank higher than its non-certified counterpart. After all, HTTPS is just HTTP(secure).
You have probably heard of an SSL certificate as well. Secure Sockets Protocol (SSL) is the layer of encryption and data protection from your third-party provider that ensures customer data will always be secure.
Not only does Google see your SSL as a certificate of trust, but when a customer sees the lock symbol (pictured above) they know that they can purchase with confidence. An HTTPS connection is especially prevalent and useful among online businesses.
At the end of the day, it is a lightweight factor in the overall algorithm. But it does play a psychological role with your customers. It can also be a distinguishing factor between you and your competitors.
5. Cleaning Up Links
What does cleaning up links entail?
Google frowns upon duplicate content. And they also frown upon duplicate and dead-end links.
Do a quick inventory of all the pages on your website. If you have pages that aren’t internally linked somewhere on your website through navigation, then Google will count these against your ranking. Similarly, if you link that direct to a 404 error, then you need to sweep these up as well.
Google also frowns upon the unnatural placement of pages, links, or articles. Remember, if it does not provide any usefulness to the reader, then Google will mark it against your ranking.
Now on to duplicate content. If you have two pages that house similar content, this will count against your ranking. Look at it from Google’s eyes. You are trying to double-dip on rankings with two pages that are supposed to be unique.
If you have pages that are like any of these examples, then you may want to rethink including them on your website:
- Unnatural placement of links that are irrelevant to the content.
- Duplicate writing on multiple pages.
- Links are in the comments.
- Pages that are for ‘SEO’ purposes come across as spam or uses keywords/internal links heavily.
- Pages have nearly the same URL. Google will read this as duplicate content.
6. Hidden Content
When it comes to SEO best practices, hidden content may refer to a multitude of things.
Don’t worry though, we will cover them all here.
Perhaps one of the first uses of ‘hidden text’ is actually an old black hat method that you should actively avoid. There are a number of ways to implement hidden keywords and links such as changing the text to match background color, hiding them in elements on the page, etc.
Google has a sophisticated website crawler that actively looks for these things. And if that wasn’t enough, they also have reviewers who manually search for these spammy tactics. These methods do not contribute much to your ranking and could end up costing you in the long run.
Old SEO tactics were aimed at gaming the system. But at the end of the day, quality trumps all. Stay ahead of your competitors by employing only best SEO white hat tactics.
However, there are many valid reasons why text would be hidden that you should be aware of. Google uses an ‘above the fold’ philosophy. While validly hidden and valuable content is still ranked, try to keep them in plain view.
Here are a few use cases for validly hidden content:
- Navigational Elements. You can implement drop down menus, sliders, hover menus, and many other methods that contribute to user experience and reduce on page clutter.
- Compatibility measures for old and new browsers may display different content accordingly. But it is still ranked all the same.
- Paid/preview-able content. If you hide things behind a paywall, Google still counts this as valid user content. However, other factors such as bounce/conversion rates may differ if it were free to view.
7. Keyword Research
Doing your homework when it comes to keywords will pay off.
Keyword research is the bread and butter of the best SEO practices. But like most aspects of SEO, it is not set in stone. Doing proper research takes market insight and is a time-intensive process.
We cannot give you concrete instruction on how to maximize keyword effectiveness because it ultimately is a craft specific to your business goals. However, we can guide you and give you the tools to do so.
Now you may have heard of Google Ads and PPC in relation to keywords. So what is the difference?
Google Ads are Pay-Per-Click (PPC) where you bid on specific keyword searches so that your ad appears in a designated ad section.
Keywords in the context of SEO are a different beast. By including keywords in your URLs, blogs, headers, and other content, you are signaling to Google that the content you are producing will be valuable to users performing those searches.
It is an important distinction to make.
Now when it comes to keywords, this is where looking at your competitors is going to matter most.
- What keywords do they target?
- What are my customers searching for?
- How many other people are targeting these keywords? Here is a succinct way to go about choosing keywords:
These are all important questions to ask yourself because they will come into play when deciding what you are going to target.
There are a number of plugins and tools for Google that will help give insight into your competitors’ strategies. Google also provides a Keyword Planner that will give you analytics on specific keyword ideas.
- Brainstorm keyword ideas. General relevant topics and the suggested searches when you Google them are a good place to start.
- Develop buyer persona and think of what your customers would search to find your business online.
- Look at your competitors that appear when you search for specific keywords. How do they use them?
- Look up the competition for keywords using a tool like Google Keyword Planner. How much is the average PPC and search volume? You will have your work cut out for you to rank in a high-volume search.
There are also tools out there that give a metric of keyword difficulty. These can be especially useful to catch a quick glimpse into your competition.
The goal is to balance high volume, low competition, and relevancy to your business.
Therein lies your challenge.
Something to take into consideration is short-tail vs long-tail keywords. Short tail keywords are usually 1-3 words and long-tail keywords are generally 3 or more words.
Short tail keywords will typically have a higher volume of searches. But they will also be higher competition. Long-tail keywords will be lower volume, much more specific, and typically lower competition. Including long-tail keywords in your pages is a good way to direct quality traffic to your site.
Once you have chosen a good group of keywords that fit your buyer persona’s searches, it is time to implement them into your website.
8. Polished Content
When your website is all well and structured, you still need to be maintaining the best SEO practices. This will often come into play with the content you are continuously publishing.
View keywords as a tree of other relevant words/topics/synonyms. Do NOT stuff keywords or fluff writing on your pages. Google is good at weeding it out and will penalize you for it.
While incorporating the keywords you have selected, you need to be generating quality content that is highly relevant to the search. Google is also smart about how to incorporate keywords.
You need to understand what people are looking for when they search for something and inevitably land on your website. You are trying to provide content that is both in-depth and fulfilling for their needs.
However, you don’t need to stick to broad topics. It is actually recommended to touch on several subtopics since search engines are continuously sifting through a website’s content to determine which ones best match a certain query. So the more relevant subtopics you have in your web content, the higher your user intent satisfaction is. And both search engines and users love that.
Google values content that keeps readers engaged on your site. This means avoid publishing short 250 word articles. Provide in-depth analysis, customer testimonials, pictures, and videos to keep your readers from bouncing.
9. Crawlable Website
Your website not only needs to be structured properly so that a human can read it with ease. But also so that Google can crawl through your website. In other words, Google needs certain elements to be tagged and formatted so that it knows what the page is about and can index it accordingly.
Here a just a few of the elements that you need to take into consideration:
- Image Optimization. When uploading multi-media, include target keywords in the alt text description and appropriately title the file. Also, try to avoid using pictures as headers and word heavy logos because Google cannot read through pictures.
- Meta Descriptions. These are the website descriptions that appear in the SERP. Using a target keyword for the page, write a concise and informative description.
- URLs. Keep these short and sweet. Include the keyword but keep URLs unique and concise.
- Headings. You may already know about H1,H2, and H3 headings within your theme. It is crucial to include keywords and highly relevant info to the page content in these elements.
- Title Tags. These are the clickable headlines that are displayed on the SERP. It is one of the most important on-page factors for SEO and should of course be relevant and contain your target keyword.
If you are a bit more tech savvy, think about including an XML sitemap. This allows Google to quickly skim through your entire website. A slow loading website will also contribute to a slow crawling process.
Now while we have discussed many best SEO practices to polish your website, there are a multitude of things that can be done off-page to improve your rankings. These often boil down to traditional digital advertising. But they still effect your position on the SERP.
Here are a few of the ways this is accomplished:
- Local SEO
- Social Media
- Back links (Link Building)
While a book could be written on each of these topics alone, let’s quickly review the ideas behind them.
10. Local SEO
If you are an in-person business and a majority of your customers are local, then you need to be paying attention to local SEO tactics.
While it is important to be highly ranked among organic search results, being part of Google’s Local Snack Pack is pertinent to local businesses. You’ve probably seen what we are talking about. Take a look at the image below for reference.
The basic idea behind local SEO is to tie your business to the location while also maintaining a quality digital presence so that you rise to the top of the local list.
Start first by claiming your local business. Over 56% of businesses do not do this. And it is crucial to staying ahead of the curve. You will see the difference in your business when someone searches for you.
The next step is to associate your business with your location.
- Include your city in your targeted keywords
- Make sure your address is consistent across all platforms
- Include where your businesses services on your website or even embed a map
Other things that you can do to help your local presence are:
- Generate quality, high-rating reviews.
- Engage with reviewers and promote them to share your information.
- List your businesses on local services like Yext, Yelp, Four Square, Yellow Pages, BBB (remember to be consistent with company info across all platforms)
11. Social Media
Another way to boost your off-page SEO is to stay active on social media. Having accounts across multiple platforms will boost your business’s online credibility.
Social media is also a great way to generate organic traffic to send into the funnel to your website. Distributing content and links throughout will improve your digital following.
Social media marketing is a large topic in itself. If you would like to dive in yourself, we provide a wealth of knowledge through our blog. We know that it can be difficult and time-intensive to maintain as well. Think about hiring a social media advertising agency to give you a full-circle social media package.
Backlinks is up there with the most valuable contributors to your SEO ranking. If a third-party is willing to host your links/pages, backlinks are seen by Google as a token of credibility.
This means that links on third-party platforms need to be trustworthy and not be spam. If you can distribute links that will all point back to a specific page, Google will see the page as valuable and reputable.
Link generating is an ongoing process. You can start by building a strong site architecture that has adequate navigation between all pages. Design menus and navigation tools to be a pyramid of relevancy with umbrella topics branching into more niche ones.
The Need to Keep Up
SEO is beyond a simple toolbox.
SEO is an art that you must learn and tailor to your business and goals. Google’s algorithms are highly complex and only they know what constitutes the most valuable pages. While the system will always be adapting to better service the user’s needs, there are measures you can take to stay on top of these changes.
The best way to do this is by understanding what Google is looking for, and more importantly, what the user is looking for.
Avoid black hat tactics and quick workarounds because it will only cost you time and effort when your pages get weeded out by the system.
The algorithm is smart and is only getting smarter.
A good bet is to adopt best SEO philosophies such as:
- Create the most helpful content for your audience
- Generate quality back links from credible sources
- Deliver what you say you are going to deliver (keywords, tags, descriptions)
- Stay up to date with the changes
The best SEO is an investment in your business and it is up to you to stay on top of the changes.
If you find that you are not generating the traffic or conversions that you deserve, then take a look at our other SEO services. We offer complete packages that can overhaul your digital presence and help you reach your goals. Time is money and we know that the best SEO can be a lengthy process for the busy entrepreneur. Let us help you get that coveted top search engine ranking, so you can focus on your business. Contact us to get started.