BEGINNERS GUIDE TO SEO BEST PRACTICES 2021
What is meant by SEO?
Driving traffic from the search engines to digital assets is called search engine optimization (SEO). Generally, SEO drives most traffic towards your website, but it also helps drive it to your mobile app, social media account, or any product listed on your e-commerce site.
You may have heard that it is extremely difficult to understand the working of SEO or that it may take years to fully grasp its concepts, or you may need a refined skill set and talent to understand it.
This is not the case.
It is highly easy to understand if you know how search engines work. But how does SEO generally work? All I’m going to take 30 seconds to answer this. It’s about four essential things:
- Keyword research: You have to understand what people look for on the other search engines and Google.
- Document relevancy: Make your content easy to understand so that the search engines or robots know what you’re trying to say.
- Increasing authority: Make yourself trustworthy and reliable to the users by handling some things that exist outside of your page and make sure your search engines know it.
- Technical optimization: Optimize everything that is going on behind the scenes so that it is easy for search engines to locate your content.
Another most interesting thing I’ve heard is that many people are confused about whether SEO is dead or not.
To get rid of this confusion, keep on reading to know more about whether SEO is dead or not. Also, we’ll have a detailed discussion on SEO best practices and how you can implement these strategies on your website to get free traffic.
SEO is still a very effective tool to increase your website traffic
I know that it becomes difficult to access the internet as the world is advancing but what are the simplest ways to land on someone’s website?
- You can directly type the URL of the website into the browser. This approach is known as “direct traffic.” But if you ponder over a little, how many websites have you visited using this approach? 10, 20? I bet it will not be more than this, and I’m counting Google too!
- Another approach is known as “referral traffic,” which can occur when a friend suggests you click on a certain (rather dumb) link such as [random/stupid/ridiculous article] or the one you’ve seen on another website.
- Another way you can land on a website is by tapping onto a link present in a social media post or an article.
- Lastly, you can go to Google directly and find what you’re looking for.
When I looked for the search that drives the most traffic, I got to know that 26% of the traffic is driven by social media posts and articles while 35% of the traffic is driven by the search engines, which is now considered the largest referrer of external traffic.
Now, you can analyze the importance of SEO. If your content is ranked on the search engines, there are higher chances that you will receive steady and continuous traffic on your site.
Now, how can you do this? Let me answer this for you.
HOW TO USE SEO TO INCREASE TRAFFIC?
First of all, there will be a lot of people who will brainwash you into believing that SEO is very complex and you won’t understand a word of it.
Don’t listen to them.
The simplest way to increase your traffic and to learn SEO is by understanding how a search engine works, such as Google.
Let’s take a look at the TL; DR of a search engine’s business model.
- In order to provide the most relevant results to the queries of the users, all the search engines compete with one another.
- These search engines are used to provide the best answers to the queries of the users, such as Google.
- When your users search for something, ads pop up on the search results page. The search engines provide these ads to monetize your users. The more the users, the more the ad revenue will be.
Is it hard to understand? I think not.
Do you want to know the best strategy to understand SEO perfectly?
Help Google in making more money.
But how can you do that?
Provide answers to what the users are asking!
There are four ways to do this:
- Keyword search: You need to come up with content that answers every question of your users, and you can do this only if you understand what your users are looking for.
- On-page optimization: Make your content easy to understand so your search engines know exactly what you’re trying to say.
- Off-page optimization: You know that you can answer the queries of your users but let your search engines know that as well.
- Technical optimization: Make sure that your search engines can easily locate your content.
With the help of these four ways, you can help Google in making more money. Let’s explore each one of them a little more comprehensively.
SEO BEST PRACTICES #1
Keyword research: Understand what your users are looking for
An effective SEO strategy can only be put into action if you analyze the queries of your users. This is the art of keyword research that helps you search, arrange, and evaluate your user searches.
What’s surprising about this fact is that this evaluation and analysis of the keywords is what keeps SEO alive.
Keyword research can help you in:
- Analyzing the demand for your product or service in the given market.
- Forming a clear understanding of what your target market wants.
- Exploring all those areas that you may have overlooked otherwise.
One of the SEO best practices is that the keyword data is accessible to everyone, which means you can compete against anyone you like, including those massive companies.
If you want to work on the keyword research like a pro, this is what you need to know:
- The popularity of every keyword – how many people are looking for it
- What the person is searching when he/she is typing that keyword – it will help you in understanding what kind of content you need to come up with
- The competition for each keyword – how difficult it will be to get your keyword ranked
- How to create the best content – to fit your keyword in the sales funnel
I’ve seen a lot of people that don’t get past the first step and thus, end up creating a weak SEO strategy.
You’re not going to be one of them.
Firstly, we are going to find out the popularity of the keyword and you can find that out by searching for its search volume. This can be done by using a third-party tool (I will explain such tools later in this guide).
Search volume can help you analyze the demand for a certain keyword. It is kind of a metric through which you can evaluate the number of times a user has typed a certain keyword in the search engine.
If there is a larger search volume, it will mean that there is a large demand for a certain keyword. However, the size of the search volume generally depends on the kind of research tool you used.
That is why I recommend that you must not consider search volume as an absolute metric. It is simply a relative metric that provides you with an overview of the keyword’s popularity. As you can see in the aforementioned example, the keyword “flowers” has more popularity than the keyword flower delivery and one can conclude that flowers would be a much more promising target than flower delivery.
Intent of the searchers
Once you’re done searching the popularity of a keyword, it is now time to find the searcher’s intent. You can find it out by typing the keyword in Google by yourself. This will give you an idea of what your users are looking for.
This is important because there are often times when you misunderstand what your users really want.
For example, you come across a keyword such as “how to write good”. You assume that such people are looking for some copywriting tips and many companies can use this keyword to promote their content marketing services.
You’re absolutely wrong.
People who are putting this keyword into Google are searching for the autobiographical book that has the title “how to write good” inscribed by a famous YouTuber.
Now, you know what I mean when I talk about searcher intent? Thus, if you want to research your keyword, you need to know the popularity of the given keyword along with what users really mean when they put this keyword in search engines.
The third major thing that requires your utmost attention is keyword difficulty.
If you’ve found the right keyword for your website or business, there are a lot of other businesses or websites that have found it right as well. There are higher chances that you’re not the first one to find it.
If you’ve found that keyword that belongs to big companies’ websites and they are all ranked on the first page of search engines, it is better to start exploring different keywords for your website.
You can figure out the website authority in several ways (we will learn more about this in the section of off-page optimization) but some of the tools already contain some metrics through which you can check the difficulty of a given keyword.
This is the final stage of doing keyword research and in this stage, all you have to do is to map out your keywords against the sales funnel. Basically, you need to pinpoint where the searcher is present in the buyer’s journey. Here’s how you can do it.
- The users who are most interested in your business topic will be found at the bottom of the funnel while the ones who’re showing minute interest will be present at the top.
- Then comes the part where you need to add an extra layer. This is done to define your customer persona, their needs, and their location in the funnel.
To clear it out further, take a look at this example of a website that sells real estate in New Hampshire.
Now, if you want to attract people, preferably newlyweds, you will need to come up with such content that will persuade the newlyweds to buy a house.
Now, let’s say you’ve found your perfect keyword and its search volume per month by doing some research. Now, you need to divide them up and pinpoint where exactly they are in the sales funnel.
For instance, the top of your funnel queries may show keywords like “best cities for high paying jobs” or “best cities for fresh grads employee”.
The middle part of the funnel can give you keywords like “Best job cities” or “best cities to start working today”.
However, when you see the bottom of your funnel queries, you’ll come across keywords like “best high paying jobs, November 2017” or “best high paying job NewYork” which can be found at the bottom of the funnel.
The sales funnel for these keywords can show up like:
Let’s rewind what we learned
There are four points that you need to keep in mind if you want to be in the top 5% of the people who can do keyword research like a pro.
- Come up with those keywords that people actually want and look for
- Understand the searcher’s intent before you come up with a keyword
- Create those keywords that can actually compete with the others and provide a good ranking
- Critically analyze where your keyword resides in the sales funnel
If you want to get started right ahead, I suggest you take a look at these resources. They can help you a lot.
- The keyword strategy master-class
- Keyword research guide by Mangools
- How to do keyword research for SEO
SEO BEST PRACTICES #2
On-page optimization: Help your search engines understand what you’re trying to say through your content
The process of on-page optimization enables you to create that content that your search engines can easily understand. The algorithm of Google may be extremely efficient but it won’t be able to understand your content like you and I can. Robots are wonderful in everything that they do but they can’t do everything (yet).
For instance, if you put the keyword ‘bat’ into the search engines and a webpage shows up, search engines need to figure out what kind of page content it is supposed to show. Three types of content can show up for ‘bat’ and these are:
- The mammal
- The baseball equipment
- The British-American group of tobacco
You can probably figure it out with just one look but computers need several clues before they can properly understand what you’re trying to say.
Talking about the clues, they can appear as:
- Keywords (and how these keywords are placed on the webpage)
- Image alt text
- Contextually relevant keywords
- The theme of the webpage and of the entire website that published this webpage.
However, with time, search engines have cracked the code of how the users interact with your content. This can also be a great way to understand what you’re trying to communicate.
For instance, if you put the phrase “baseball bat” in Google, you will get three of the following options:
- Five reasons why bats are the coolest mammals
- Where can you buy second-hand bats (or other equipment of sports)
- A critical analysis of British-American group of tobacco
If you select the second option, you’re letting your search engine know that your content is about baseball bats.
Now, let us examine what kind of user signals your search engines look at:
- Click-through rates (CTR): It demonstrates the percentage of those people who click on the search result for a given query.
- Bounce rates: It demonstrates the percentage of those people who land on a website but leave after looking at just one page.
- Time on page: I guess this one explains itself
- Pages per session: This one explains itself too.
The more accurately your page answers the queries of your users, the more clicks you will get on your website. You will get lesser bounce rates and people will spend more time on your website looking for answers from one page to another.
These are the clues that a search engine looks for and if you’re successful in providing all of them, they can provide better answers to all the queries of your users. Once your users get everything they’re asking for, they will help to increase your ranking which will, in turn, help you in making more money.
It’s a win-win situation, guys!
But do you know the best part? Everything you do under on-page optimization is totally in your hands and you get to control everything. Moreover, it is one of the most dominant components of SEO. Amazing, right?
We’re going to start by discussing the most essential components of on-page optimization and one such component is the title tags. Title tags hold immense importance when it comes to your click-through rates and ranking.
However, with title tags, you need to pay close attention to these three things:
1. Truncation limits
Many people tend to cross this limit and then suffer the consequences. But what is this truncation limit? The truncation limit is a 65-character limit on Google which means that your title tag should be within this limit.
If you have a large enterprise and you want your website to have a higher ranking, it is better if you add as many keywords as you can in the title tag but make sure that you stay within the truncation limit.
2. Click-through rate
When it comes to writing your title tag, click-through rate plays a very important role.
I know I’ve said that you can put as many keywords as you can but you can’t stuff them all up. Make them interesting and eye-catching so that people feel the urge to click on them and land on your pages.
You must never use the same keywords for each of your website pages. They must be unique.
If you use the same keywords for different pages, you’ll come up with duplicated titles that will create a lot of problems with the various systems of content management. Therefore, unique keywords are essential to avoid such problems.
Now, the second important component of on-page optimization is the meta description. It doesn’t have any effect on your rankings but it can affect your click-through rates.
Meta descriptions and title tags have a lot in common such as:
- Meta description must not exceed the 160-character limit.
- You should put your primary keyword in this description because you need to bold it.
Now, comes the most frustrating part of meta descriptions. You may spend days coming up with an attractive meta description that can also help you in business marketing but in the end, Google may refuse to use it.
Instead, if Google finds a shred of text that is somewhat better than what you’ve come up with, your carefully inscribed meta description may get replaced with it.
Despite this replacement, you should create such meta descriptions that compel the users to click on your page.
Before writing it on your page or website, read it aloud and if it feels good to the ears, use it. Otherwise, work on them a little longer. Google may indeed reserve the right to not use your meta description but you can’t pretty much do anything about it.
There are two rules that you must always remember:
- If you’re creating a new website and you’ve done your research on your primary keywords that will get bolded, you’re ready to add that keyword into the URL.
- If you’re working on your old website and you’re now figuring out SEO best practices and you’re like, “well, none of my primary keywords are in the URL”, keep your URL just the way it is. Don’t change.
While putting your keyword into your URL can be extremely helpful, it can also have dreaded consequences if you try to change it because it can impact page migrations. Therefore, I recommend that you don’t make any changes to your URL.
Changing your URL can prove to be a lot riskier if your website draws a large amount of traffic towards it. However, there are several ways that you can take into account to minimize the effect of URL migrations. For example, you can go with a 301-redirect from your old URL to the new one. But, even if you use this approach, you might lose some of your traffic while doing this.
Apart from the aforementioned rules, the most significant one is to keep your URLs closest to the root domain because only then, it will be considered as one of the SEO best practices.
For instance, instead of using “website.com/folder/folder/folder/page”, it is better to use “website.com/page”.
Now, if you pay close attention to it, it’s not a major crisis that can’t be averted and you don’t need to re-architect your whole website. However, if you’re creating a brand-new website, this can come in handy.
Now, most of you may question, “Should I re-architect my site because I want to place my blog posts closer to the domain? I have several blog posts and all of them are one sub-folder level deep (like website.com/digitalmarketing/page), so should I go for it?
I would never recommend that.
Firstly, it won’t be worth all of your effort because if we look at it, the setbacks outweigh the benefits as there are numerous ways in which things can go wrong.
For example, PayPal is optimizing a page for “send money online” as:
Generally, you would think that it will be better to place this page closer to the root domain as:
But in order to place the page closer to the root domain, you will need weeks or even months to do it. Plus, let’s not forget about the problems that will take place around office politics and the whole enterprise.
Since this URL already has a primary keyword so I suggest you leave it just the way it is and save yourself from all the hassle.
Headers make us layout our webpage in the most promising way. You know them as H1, H2, H3 tags. Your primary keyword should be in the H1 tag and the rest in the H2 or H3 tags.
I’ve seen a lot of people debating on whether you should put your primary keyword only in H1 and not others. In my opinion, this is rather small and you don’t get many benefits from it either.
Let’s clear this up with this example.
For instance, I run a WordPress site and I have to post an article with the title “15 of the best email marketing campaigns examples you’ve ever seen” and my primary keyword is “email marketing campaign examples”.
See, the H1 tag contains my title and primary keyword.
Body copy refers to the text on your page apart from the headers. It is generally recommended that your primary keyword must appear about 2-3 times in the body copy.
Now, you may wonder what should be the length of your content to rank it on Google. But there’s not any specific limit to the number of words but I guess, your content must comprise at least 100 words.
However, if you have lengthy text on your page, it will be better than just having 100 words. But the length of your content highly depends upon the type of your business.
- If your website is filled with heavy content then you’d have no problem incorporating your keywords into the body copy.
- If your website is filled with heavy images then you’d have a lot of difficulty in placing those keywords in your text because your text will be really small. Plus, it will be difficult to rank it in Google.
For example, I optimize a page with the title “coffee shop San Francisco”. As you can see, I used the word “coffee” multiple times so my content is good to go.
IMAGE ALT TEXT AND FILENAME
Images play a very important role when it comes to on-page optimization. Search engines can’t see the images like we humans do so what can you do to make them acknowledge your images?
You give them a correct name i.e., “alt tag”. This alt tag helps the search engines to understand the content of your image. However, you have to be careful with this because this part of SEO can be over-optimized quite easily.
A lot of excitement can kick in when it comes to naming your images to make them SEO like “Nike-shoes-buy-Nike-shoes-online-discount-Nike-shoes-online-for-sale.png.”
Never do this.
Now, the exact opposite of this is to use a highly un-optimized name for your image like “home-page-graphic-6.png”.
The most suitable one to use would be “red-Nike-shoes.png”.
Describe your keyword but don’t get too excited. Figure out some synonyms of your primary keyword or latent semantic indexing keywords and get it all in there in the most suitable way.
Don’t worry, you won’t have to spend months renaming all of your images on your site. I think this part of SEO should be left at the end or you can prioritize others over it because all the mentioned above SEO practices are more helpful than renaming your images.
For instance, Zappos has posted a shoe picture and named it “men’s-boat-shoe. Jpg.” Now, its alt tag is known as “men’s boat shoe.” This one’s acceptable.
INTERNAL LINKS AND ANCHOR TEXT
It is very important to put links from other pages on the site but you need to be careful while choosing the text in those links. This text is what helps your user and search engines to discover what more you have in store for them.
The text you use on those links is known as “anchor text” and it is used by the search engines to know more about the page that you have linked.
- Keeping this in mind, some awful anchor texts are “this website”, “learn more”, “click here”.
- But, on the other hand, some great examples of anchor text would be “black Reebok shoes,” “brown shoes,” or “men’s boat shoes.”
If you use understandable text to your links, your users and search engines will know what you’re trying to communicate. Thus, name your links properly.
No doubt, the text of your link is important but its location is equally essential as well. Google values your links based on where it is located on your document. Whether it is on the footer navigation, on the top of the page, or the sidebar blogroll navigation, Google decides the location of your text.
For instance, if your site gets linked in the first paragraph by an author of the New York Times, Google will find your site a lot more valuable. The basic rule to follow here is that you need to put your links there where your users can find them easily. But don’t put them on the sidebar, in the footer, and the top navigation.
Wikipedia provides a great internal linking example. Check this out.
Wikipedia is considered to be the king of internal linking. Look at how certain words are linked to some other articles of Wikipedia. I suggest you keep Wikipedia in mind whenever you link out your documents.
I know it’s very important to create a good resource for your users but what if you can use the resources that your users already trust? It seems a bit controversial but I love it.
What I mean is that you can link your documents to the content of your competitors. This is what I do. I choose my primary keywords and then look them up on Google. I select the top 4 results (maximum 10) to link out my documents. This helps me to signal Google that my resource is of high-quality and I should be counted in the high-quality neighborhood.
In this way, you’re telling Google that you’re associated with a good neighborhood and, believe it or not, it really helps you when it comes to on-page optimization.
FRESHNESS AND RECENCY
In 2011, Google announced that it will now prefer that content that is much more recent over the old one. But one thing to understand here is that you don’t have to recreate your old content using the same keywords or that your old content is practically useless.
What I want to say is that you need to keep updating your old content that was a blast in its times. This will help in increasing the results as more people will start clicking on it. So, keeping the URL same, all you need to do is to fix the dates, polish it up a bit by adding a couple of things or removing some and you’ll be good to go.
If you want to see a significant boost in your traffic, go through your content, give it everything it lacks, and sort it according to the SEO requirements. You’ll definitely see an increase in your traffic.
We’ve covered almost everything regarding how you can make your documents optimized for search engines such as Google.
If you want to start your on-page optimization, take a look at the complete on-page SEO guide.
SEO BEST PRACTICES #3
Off-page optimization: Prove that you can efficiently answer the questions of your users
You may already be familiar with the fact that search engines try their best to provide the most suitable answers to the questions of your users.
Did you know that Google indexes more than one hundred trillion (damn, these are a lot of zeroes) web pages and for each query, only ten results show up per page? Amazing, right? But how does Google figure out which result would be the most relevant one to your user’s query
First of all, the web pages get filtered by relevance that we covered in the previous section (on-page optimization one). But even after this filter, you’ll see a lot of results for your search query. The number of results is mentioned on the top of the match like this:
So, what does it all come down to? Popularity.
Search engines prioritize those web pages that are more popular or authoritative (including the website the page belongs to) and they think that because these pages are more popular, they will provide better answers to the user’s queries.
There are no specific authority metrics that the search engines use but over time, some tools have built up some of their own metrics to check the authority of the page or a website:
(UR is the abbreviation of URL rating and DR is the abbreviation for domain rating – metrics used by ahrefs to check the popularity or authority of a website and its pages.)
When it comes to SEO, you can determine the authority of a page with the help of links, particularly those links taken from another site.
Consider these links as votes.
It is an act of authorization. When you link your site to another popular one, search engines will affirm the content present on your site.
All in all, off-page optimization is one of the SEO best practices that is also named link building. It is a strategy through which you obtain links from a third party and use them on your site. In this way, you increase the authority or popularity of your website and its pages.
To understand it better, let’s consider this cookie recipe website.
You just have to go out there and collect tons of links from several other websites and post them on your content. All the search engines including Google will consider your website as one of the most popular, trustworthy, and authoritative websites.
As you can see in the example below, they’re both the same sites but the site that has more links definitely wins the popularity competition.
Another thing that you need to keep in mind is that you must use several domains (websites) to link to your websites. If you use various websites such as website-a.com or website-b.com to link to your website or pages, search engines will consider this much more valuable as compared to linking only one website dozens of times.
No doubt, the number of links matters but the quality of those matters the most. If you’ve linked a lot of websites but they’re from spammy or low-quality websites, it will bear no fruit.
On the other hand, if you use high-quality websites, even if it’s just for two links, it will be much more valuable.
As mentioned by the example below, one site has only two links and that is from stanford.edu and nytimes.com which have more importance as compared to the other.
My site will definitely win because of the high-quality links I used.
The next step for perfect link building is the relevance of the links.
If you’re linking tons of low to medium websites to your pages, they may be considered valuable over the high-quality ones.
How can this happen when I just preferred quality over number?
It’s all about relevance. If those low-quality websites are more relevant to your content they will be preferred over standford.edu and nytimes.com.
So till now, quantity, authority, and relevance are extremely important when it comes to link building.
With time, Google has developed a clear understanding of how the websites should be laid out and how this layout is related to the relevance of the content. For instance, if you’ve placed a link “vegan cookies” on the footer of the page, Google may think that it’s a side-wide link and it’s not related to the content at all.
That is why it is important to put your links in the body copy or on the top of the page where Google and other search engines can easily pinpoint. It is also much more valuable to place links in these areas rather than in the footer, top navigation, bottom of the page, sidebar, etc.
LINK ANCHOR TEXT
As already mentioned in the on-page optimization section the text used to describe the links is very important to let the search engines understand what your linked page is about. This text is known as the anchor text.
So, you should come up with descriptive anchor texts such as “brown shoes,” “black Reebok shoes,” “men’s boat shoes,” etc., instead of using terrible anchor texts like “learn more”, “click here”, “this website”, etc.
LINK BUILDING SUMMARY
Here’s the summary of what we covered in this section:
- It is much more beneficial to use links from several domains instead of one (for instance, use 12 links from 12 different websites instead of using 12 links from the same website)
- It is much more beneficial to use links from high-authority web pages and sites (use those websites that have tons of links pointing towards them)
- It is much more beneficial to use links that are relevant to your content (use links from those websites that contain similar content rather than using those that are completely unrelated to your topic or theme)
- It is much more beneficial to use relevant keywords (for instance, it is better to use your primary keyword instead of just jotting down “click here”)
- It is much more beneficial to place your links in the body copy or on the top of the page (rather than placing them in the footer, header, sidebar, etc.)
Off-page optimization is considered one of the hardest SEO best practices, but if you understand it, it can prove to be more valuable than others.
Companies acquire an immense amount of traffic just because they know how to gain links from popular websites and make them optimized.
If you want to start your link-building journey, take a look at this guide first: The beginner’s guide to link building.
SEO BEST PRACTICES #4
Technical optimization: Make it easy for search engines to locate your content
So, till now, we’ve covered the top three SEO best practices and now, we’re going to learn about the fourth one, technical SEO.
Think of SEO like you’re building a brand new house, you’ve managed to build a firm foundation, added walls, roof, and polished it up nicely by adding furniture and stuff. Now, the only thing that is left to do is wiring, plumbing, and electrical fitting. Power and water supply won’t add to the aesthetic appeal of your house but without these, you won’t be able to live in the house.
That’s how important technical SEO is. With the help of technical SEO, you make it easier for search engines to find your content. If the word ‘technical’ freaks you out, don’t worry, I got you.
You just need to keep these four things in your mind:
1. MAKE SURE SEARCH ENGINES CAN INDEX YOUR PAGES
First of all, if your search engines can’t find your content, they won’t be able to index it.
There are two ways through which you can avoid this:
- Give an XML sitemap to your search engines
- In the page you want to rank, make sure that the robot.txt file isn’t blocking any crawlers
In order to do that, you can take some help from the following resources:
2. FIX ERRORS AND BROKEN LINKS
Your search engines may find some errors when they crawl into your website. These errors may result because you accidentally removed a piece of your content and now the URL is showing up with a 404 error.
This can have severe consequences for your URL because if your URL is connected to several other third parties, this error can stop the valuable information from passing down from your URL to the connected sites. These links are termed “broken links”.
One way to solve such errors is to continuously check your website. If you’ve found an error you can’t neglect, you can opt for redirecting to a new URL. I will also talk about some tools (later in this guide) that you can use to fix these errors.
But if you want to start fixing your errors right away, check out these guides:
3. MAKE SURE YOUR SITE IS MOBILE-FRIENDLY
Every one of us browses the internet on our mobiles phones and it gets really frustrating when the site doesn’t respond as you want it to.
We want to provide a better experience to our users and so do our search engines. That is why Google and other search engines have come up with another ranking factor known as mobile-friendliness.
WordPress, Shopify, and Squarespace have already cracked this code due to the modern content management systems.
If you’re going through a similar crisis, you need to talk to your developer to make your website mobile-friendly as soon as possible. If you just want to test the mobile-friendliness of your website, you can go through this handy tool designed by Google
4. SPEED UP YOUR SITE
The last thing that we need to make sure of is that your site loads up in milliseconds. Google has also justified it by saying that the faster your content loads up, the more your users are going to engage with it.
You can speed up your sites by improving your caches, avoiding needless codes, and optimizing your content images. If your site takes forever to load, you definitely need a trip to your developer and ask him/her to fix it. However, if you want to check the speed of your content or website, use this test created by Google.
Now, remember that this tool can state every little problem on a list. You don’t have to cover all of them. Just pick out the big ones, fix them, and you’ll be good to go. Because if you fix the smaller ones, it will have little or no effect on your rankings or the user experience. Plus, you’ll be wasting your time. So, focus on the big ones. They are the real game-changers.
TECHNICAL SEO SUMMARY
Technical SEO is all about these four issues – indexing, errors, mobile-friendliness, and speed. Once you grasp their concepts, you’ll get rid of almost all the issues associated with your website.
If you want to learn more about technical SEO, take a look at these resources:
SEO BEST PRACTICES #5
STATS: METRICS THAT MATTER FOR SEO best practices
So, we have gone over the top SEO strategies and now we’re going to probe deeper into the nerdy stuff of SEO best practices.
When it comes to operating a digital marketing channel, you’ll feel a lot intimidated by a number of metrics present to measure the SEO performance of your site.
But don’t worry, I’m not going to talk about all of them. I’m just going to focus on the top five metrics that are essential for SEO. These top five metrics are – domain authority, ranking, backlinks, organic traffic, and business metrics.
1. Domain authority and page authority
PageRank is a metric designed by Google to check the authority of the website and content but soon, it stopped functioning. That is where MOZ, an SEO analytics company, came into the business and gave us two metrics – domain authority and page authority.
After some time, some third-party tools also came up with their own metrics such as ahrefs developed domain rating and URL rating. On the other hand, SEMRush developed domain score and page score. Don’t be scared of all these terms. You can use any one of them because all of them do the same thing.
- Domain authority/domain rating/domain score: As the name indicates, you can measure the authority of your domain (your whole website) with this metric. This is measured by the number of links and their characteristics pointed towards your website (we covered this in the off-page optimization section above)
- Page authority/URL rating/page score: As the name indicates, you can measure the authority of a single page (a single URL) with this metric. This is measured by the number of links and their characteristics pointed towards your pages (we covered this in the off-page optimization section above)
It is generally believed that page authority is much more important than domain authority in the eyes of search engines.
For instance, if you compare two URLs that have similar content, that URL will rank higher that will have the highest page authority. But if they have the same page authority then you can use domain authority to check which one will be ranked higher.
Plus point: If you want to see how your website is working, go through this tool to inspect the authority of your domain.
2. Rankings and CTR
SEO is obsessed with this metric and that is rankings. The rankings given by the search engines are a way to tell the position of a specific page in the search results whenever you type in a query in the search engines.
According to the default settings of the search engines, they are bound to show 10 results on each page of the search result. So, if you want to be on the first page of Google, you need to be in those top 10 results for a given keyword. But this isn’t enough anymore.
According to various studies, over 50% of the people only click on the first three results shown by Google. So, whenever you perform SEO, you need to have a low ranking but a higher clickthrough rate.
The backlinks metric is the metric that measures the number of links from third parties’ sites to one specific site. You can acquire a backlink profile if you associate backlinks metrics to that of domain authority and page authority of the linking sites. In this way, you will be able to analyze both the quantity as well as the quality of the links pointing towards a certain site.
When it comes to SEO, you need to have:
- A large number of backlinks should be provided by high authority websites
- More backlinks should come from unique sites instead of having several backlinks from less unique sites
- More backlinks should come from the sites that are related to the topic or theme of your site instead of those that come from sites that contain totally unrelated content.
4. Organic Traffic
We’ve covered the top three SEO metrics but none of them will bear any fruit if you don’t have much traffic.
Organic traffic comprises all those numbers of visits to a specific website that are referred by Google and other search engines.
Undoubtedly, the more organic traffic you have, the better it is for your website.
This metric provides you with a lot of benefits like with the help of this metric, you will be able to analyze the behavior of your visitors much better, the value of an organic visitor, and the average rate of conversion.
But you need to make sure that you can differentiate between the branded and non-branded searches.
- Branded searches are referred to those searches that contain the name of your website in the main keyword. Not everyone has the same brand name so whoever looks for your website definitely knows you. So, in the case of branded searches, your organic traffic will be a lot similar to the direct traffic (i.e., people who directly type your website’s URL into the search engines)
- Non-branded searches are the opposite of the branded searches. These searches don’t contain the name of your website in the main keyword. In the case of SEO, you need to focus more on the non-branded searches because these searches allow you to gather new visitors who aren’t aware of your website.
5. Business Metrics
Business metrics help to figure out whether this SEO traffic is generating valuable results or is it just attracting the wrong traffic towards your site or content.
Let’s take a look at some examples.
- If you want to measure the success of your blog post, you can examine the conversion rate from organic traffic to leads or you can examine the number of new leads generated from organic traffic. This can only be possible if your blog post is optimized to convert your traffic into leads.
- If you want to measure the success of your pricing page, you can examine the average value per organic visitor or you can measure the number of customers it gathers from the organic traffic. This can only be possible if your pricing page is optimized to make visitors purchase from your website or brand.
You can utilize Google analytics to check the impact of SEO best practices in these metrics. You will be able to tone down to a few specific URLs, strain your organic traffic, and analyze the overall performance of your website.
If you want to examine your business metrics, use this website analytics guide.
BEST SEO PRACTICES #6
POWER-UPS: THE BEST SEO TOOLS for SEO best practices
We’re done discussing the SEO best practices and the metrics used to measure the performance of your website. Now, we will talk about execution and the tools we need to execute.
SEO contains a lot of areas and it might take years to specialize in each area. Similarly, the more areas it has, the more tools you’ll have to use to perform various tasks.
However, I’ve listed the most important ones below that can help you get started on the SEO best practices.
Basic SEO tools for SEO best practices
These basic SEO tools are essential to understand if you want to work on SEO best practices.
- Google analytics: Everybody is familiar with this world-famous web analytics tool. Google analytics can be used to track your organic traffic as well as analyze the behavior of those visitors when they visit your website along with several other things. Learn more about Google analytics.
- Google search console: Google designed this tool in such a way that it helps you to organize your search engines. Google search console will figure out the clickthrough rates, latest search rankings, and indexing errors to fix your website. Plus, it also notifies you if you commit any penalties. Learn more about the Google search console.
- Google cache search: If you want to check the cached pages of a website or want to know what the old version of a website looked like, you can use this Google cache search tool.
Keyword research tools
Keyword research tools will help you gather information regarding the search volume, opportunities, and competitiveness of your keywords.
Google ads keyword planner:
Many people used this keyword planner but since you can get a limited amount of data, SEOs have stopped using this platform. But you can get a huge sum of data if you can spend thousands of bucks on this. I don’t recommend that you use this platform but if you don’t have anything else, this can prove to be good. Something is better than nothing, I guess. Learn more about Google ads keyword planner.
If you’re a beginner, this is a must-have keyword research tool. It has a welcoming user interface with a lot of helpful features. Learn more about KWFinder.
In my opinion, ahrefs is one of the best keyword research tools to utilize. Not only the keyword research but it also offers the largest keyword data database. You can find a great many easy-to-use features in this tool just like KWFinder. But in addition to these features, it offers several advanced features that can prove to be fruitful for an experienced SEO. Learn more about ahrefs.
On-Page Optimization Tools
On-page optimization is one of the SEO best practices that is done to optimize the content on your web page or a website so that the search engines can understand it better. Now, below mentioned are some tools that can be used for this SEO best practice.
WordPress and Yoast plug-in is a lethal combination and this combination can make SEO (on-page and technical SEO) 10x easier for you. It can provide a simplified layout of your metadata that includes titles, meta descriptions, and slugs. Learn more about yoast SEO.
Link Building Tools
Link building is another one of the SEO best practices that can be quite intimidating if you don’t fully understand it. Therefore, these link building tools will make this challenging process extremely easier for you.
This is hands-down the best link building as well as keyword opportunities finding tool. It also provides abundant information regarding the backlink profile of thousands of websites that you can utilize to reverse-engineer their strategies of link building. Learn more about ahrefs.
The easiest part of link building can be locating the keyword opportunities but gathering a bunch of links by reaching out to various other websites is a totally different story. This link building tool can also be taken as a link building CRM that can pinpoint and store valuable information, reach out to your contacts and maintain good relationships, and launch capacity-building campaigns. Learn more about BuzzStream.
Rank Tracking Tools
The name of this tool defines itself. The rank tracking tool is used to track your search engine rankings for huge sets of keywords.
Google search console:
This tool is better to use if you don’t have enough money because it can gather some data regarding your rankings directly from Google and it’s absolutely free. But one setback of using this tool is the data may be incomplete and you won’t be able to analyze it effectively due to the poor user interface. However, if you’re serious about SEO, you will not stay at this tool for long. Learn more about the Google search console.
This is the best rank tracking tool I’ve found on the internet. It provides you with daily updates of your rankings and you can track the rankings of infinite domains. Learn more about SERPWatcher.
You may think that ahrefs? Again? I can’t do anything about this either because it has everything including this rank tracking feature as well. But with this tool, you won’t get daily updates like SERPWatcher. However, if you’re already using ahrefs, use it as a rank tracking tool as well. I won’t recommend you spending money on two different tools. Learn more about ahrefs.
HELPERS: PEOPLE AND COMPANIES WHO WILL MAKE SEO EASIER FOR YOU
We’ve covered the tools that can help you with your SEO and now we’re going to bring the human factor into it.
Shady business is everywhere including the digital marketing world. You can differentiate between a legit business and a not-so-legit business. And now, we have a sub-industry that has gained a lot of visibility in a few years known as the SEO media industry.
The SEO media industry comprises various websites and website owners that will provide you with a humungous amount of not-so-helpful information. Plus, they will make you feel that are missing out on tons of important SEO events by making everything “newsworthy”.
To keep you safe from such fraudulent industries and people, I’ve compiled a list of people that can actually benefit you in the SEO world and make your SEO life a lot easier.
If you want to stay up-to-date on all the technical aspects of SEO, especially international SEO, you need to read the guides of Aleyda and watch her tutorials as well.
Meet this finest link building expert, Glen Allsopp. I’ve shortlisted Glen because of his creative content and the way he pushes people to extremes to extract the best link building skills through his case studies.
Ah, ahrefs, again! So, now you probably know that this company is our favorite. Ahrefs not only has a wide range of SEO tools for SEO best practices but it also has valuable blogs that will help you in starting your SEO journey. Ahrefs blogs are worth reading, especially for beginners.
Matthew is a co-founder of a private SEO community known as a traffic think tank and he is also an acquisition director at Hubspot. If you want to read something interesting and helpful, check out his blogs.
If you want to know about some tactics to increase organic traffic and to make your content SEO, Nat’s blogs can prove to be a lot helpful.
QUICKSTART GUIDE: HOW TO ACCELERATE YOUR SEO SKILLS
We’ve done with the technical and nerdy stuff regarding SEO best practices and tools. We’ve also done with the people that can help you. But now, we’re going to talk about you, what you can do to accelerate your SEO skills.
All I’m asking you to do is practice. As much as you can. The better you execute your SEO campaigns, the more it undermines any blog posts that you read in the past.
If you’re a beginner and want to gain some experience, keep these three things in mind:
- Grow your business with SEO best practices. If you are starting a new business and want to increase the traffic, simply apply what you’ve already learned.
- Look for that business that can help you with SEO. Make sure that this business lets you make some changes to its content and also lets you publish some of your own. (this business can be one of your friend’s or a person that lives near you)
- If you’re unable to find that business that lets you do all of this, you can make your own website and blogs and gather organic traffic. But don’t go for digital marketing or other SEO-related niches because it will get competitive and you won’t have the experience to tackle all of that since you’re a beginner.
If you choose the last option, it may take some time to generate valuable results because you’re building a brand new website. On the other hand, this gives you the privilege that you can do anything with it. You can make it, break it, or fix it. It’s in your hands. You can try out new things without risking the business and, who knows, you may come up with a valuable asset after all.
Either way, you can follow the below-mentioned setup:
- Finish reading this guide
Outcome: Before you start working, you must have a basic understanding of SEO, search engine rankings and how you can improve them, and how you can increase your traffic from search engines.
- Do keyword research to discover various keyword opportunities, measure out the competitiveness of those keywords, and also figure out the searcher’s intent.
Outcome: You must be able to come up with a detailed list of your searched keywords with appealing search volumes. Make sure those keywords are similar to your searcher’s intent and have low competition.
- The keyword opportunity you found out in the previous step should be utilized in this step by creating and optimizing content according to it.
Outcome: You must come up with several different pages (2-5) each of which is optimized for its own specific keyword.
- Discover backlinks opportunities and run outreach campaigns to create links to the content you came up with in the previous step.
Outcome: You must be able to extract at least one link from a third-party website that has content relevant to your niche and add it to your content.
- Thoroughly examine your website and make sure it is free from all kinds of technical errors.
Outcome: Your content must not return any errors and it must be correctly indexed. In addition to this, your website must load up quickly and it must be mobile-friendly.
- Lastly, keep a track of your search engine rankings and organic traffic by measuring the impact of your SEO efforts. You can use this free SEO report to check the success of your SEO efforts.
Outcome: Make use of all the tools mentioned in the previous section of this guide and check the performance of your campaigns or website. If something is not going as it’s supposed to be, you can repeat 2-5 steps and then check your website’s progress again. In this way, you will be able to grow your organic traffic and your business.
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