25 SEO Best Practices and Techniques - Rank Right Now

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25 SEO Best Practices and Techniques

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I'm Michael Peggs

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SEO can seem overwhelming. Best practices are always changing. Numerous factors impact it, from the keywords on your pages to how mobile-friendly your site is. There are seemingly countless Google SEO tips to remember.

This is an understandable reaction. However, SEO becomes much easier when you simplify it. With this SEO training for beginners, you’ll learn the essentials. It’s a Google SEO guide for anyone who wants to better understand what they should prioritize when developing and improving their own strategy. As you become more comfortable with SEO for beginners, you can expand your knowledge, eventually becoming a genuine expert.

These tips will help you get started. To boost your SEO, put the following suggestions into practice.

Keyword Research

1. Research Keywords Based on Search Intent

One of the top organic SEO tips to remember is that keywords alone are less valuable than keywords associated with a specific user intent. Consider these suggestions from Google’s Keyword Planner:

The initial query was “guitar.” The suggested keywords all indicate something about a user’s potential intentions.

“Electric guitar” is general. Someone searching for it may simply be interested in basic information. “Guitars for sale” indicates a user is ready to make a purchase. “Guitar online” indicates they are looking to purchase a guitar via the Internet. “Telecaster” indicates a user is looking for a particular model.

Keep intent in mind when using keywords. It will help you develop the type of content people are actually searching for.

2. Find Out Which Long Tail Keywords Competitors Are Using

Don’t make the mistake of assuming long tail keywords are necessarily long themselves. Although this is often the case, the name actually implies to the long “tail” depicted in the graph below:

Source

Long tail keywords tend to be used infrequently; they appear in 10 queries or fewer per month. Because they are very specific, they tend to include three to nine words, although this isn’t always the case.

Emphasizing long tail keywords is one of the more essential Google SEO best practices. Luckily, finding out which your competitors are using is easy. With this Ahrefs tool, you can enter a competitor’s domain, and adjust search volume to identify niche long tail keywords you may have otherwise overlooked. See the example below:

Source

Remember to check these lists when updating your own keyword list.

3. Use Topic Clusters When Researching Keywords

Organizing keywords into clusters is becoming increasingly emphasized in SEO best practices. For instance, return to the guitar keywords:

Your main topic might be “guitars.” From there, you can build a “cluster” by creating pages on specific topics related to the primary one (also known as the pillar). Your main page on guitars could link to pages on electric guitars, classic guitars, bass guitars, and other subtopics.

This helps you organize your content. It also helps search engines discover your content more consistently.

4. Perform Content Gap Analysis

Keywords are only as effective as the content you create with them. This is one of the most important SEO tips for beginners to keep in mind. Using keywords merely helps you rank in SERPs. Once users actually engage with your content, you need to provide genuine value.

One way to do this is to perform a content gap analysis. This involves researching a keyword and finding out if the top results for it fail to address a particular topic. For instance, consider this SERP for the query “infographic design ideas”:

Your first step would be to click on the links and analyze the content. Is it up-to-date? If not, releasing an updated version would fill in a content gap.

You might also find these pages don’t cover a topic that users may find relevant. For example, these may all provide general infographic design ideas. They may not account for current graphic design trends. Thus, you could fill in a content gap by writing a thorough blog post about infographic design ideas for the current year.

You want your content to stand out. While it’s important to cover topics users are interested in, it’s also important to cover topics that have been overlooked.

5. Identify Question-Based Keywords

One of the simpler SEO basics in this SEO beginners guide is to pay attention to keyword suggestions in the form of questions. Why?

This is why:

The query is “what is organic SEO?” Sometimes, when a query is in the form of a question (or close to it), Google will display what appears to be a top result in this style of snippet. This makes it more noticeable to users. If you were writing an article on organic search engine optimization tips, you might thus incorporate some question-based keywords to boost your odds of being found.

On Page SEO

6. Include Keywords in URLs

You might assume you don’t need to focus much on URLs in an SEO strategy. However, it is worth including a few descriptive keywords in them. For instance, a basic URL structure might look something like:

example.com/seo-best-practices

This is relatively short. That’s an important quality in URLs. The shorter a URL is, the easier it feels to copy and paste. This makes people more likely to link to your content.

The example above also includes basic keywords that nonetheless describe the content clearly. In instances when a user sees your URL before the title tag (for example, if someone linked to this page in the citations of their own content but didn’t include anchor text), they’ll still generally understand what type of content they can expect to find here. An interested user might overlook the URL if it was an assortment of random letters and numbers.

7. Modify Titles to Rank for Long Tail Keywords

Including modifiers in titles is an easy but effective way to target long tail keywords and “short tail” keywords.

Imagine you’re writing article on “digital marketing hacks.” That’s your primary keyword. However, it’s not specific enough to qualify as long tail.

Maybe your keyword research tells you that people often use certain modifiers when searching for digital marketing hacks. Perhaps one of your long tail keywords is “simplest digital marketing hacks” or “digital marketing hacks 2019.” You might thus title your article “These Are the Simplest Digital Marketing Hacks for 2019.” Again, you’ll still target your primary keyword, while potentially ranking for long tail keywords as well.

8. Include Rich Media

Gone are the days when you had to worry about user devices reliably loading images and videos. Although it’s still important to test your content on multiple devices to ensure it loads consistently, this concern shouldn’t prevent you from including such elements.

There are actually now many good reasons to include video and images on your pages. One is the simple fact that different users prefer to consume content in different ways. Some may prefer to read content, some may prefer infographics, and some may prefer video. Creating multiple types allows you to reach more users than you would if you restricted yourself to one medium.

Video in particular is becoming increasingly popular among Internet users. One estimate even states video content will account for 79% of all web traffic by 2020.

Search algorithms are also prioritizing sites that include dynamic content, and not mere text. Give your SEO a boost by taking more opportunities to incorporate images, videos, and GIFs in your content strategy.

9. Optimize for Mobile

It may come as no surprise that mobile browsing is now more common than desktop browsing. You need to account for this when designing your site’s pages.

First, if you haven’t created a separate mobile version of your site, use the responsive design/viewport meta tag to ensure content is displayed properly on the screen of a user’s chosen device.

Consider an example to understand how this impacts readability. This is how a page appears on a MacBook Pro:

It’s the perfect width for a desktop screen, but not a mobile screen. Users would be forced to scroll horizontally to read all the content. This isn’t something most are accustomed to.

Look at how the page appears on an iPhone:

As you can see, it “responded” to the device. Your pages need to do the same.

That said, making sure they automatically adjust to screen size is just one component of mobile optimization. You also need to identify ways you can make your content easier to consume on a small screen.

That means avoiding large chunks of text. Additionally, include headers, bullet lists, and other formatting elements to can make a page “scannable.” Users should ideally be able to skim through a page and find the portion of content that’s relevant to their interests.

You can also use images, videos, and other forms of dynamic content to break up large sections of text. As always, test your pages on various devices to see how they appear. You may sometimes find you need to make changes to a page if it doesn’t display clearly on a particular device.

10. Check Relevant SERPs to Determine User Intent

Understanding why users enter certain queries into Google helps you determine what type of content you should create when using those keywords. To do this, analyze the SERP for a relevant query.

Perhaps one of your keywords is “infographic design.” Here are some of the top results for this query:

As you can see, most of the top results provide basic information about how to design an effective infographic. The following are the results a little further down the page:

These relate to informational search intent.

Contrast that with the SERP when the query is “infographic design services”:

The first few results are technically paid ads. However, if we continue down the page, we find the results are still universally from businesses offering infographic design:

Thus, you can determine that the keyword “infographic design services” relates to commercial (or transactional) intent.

The same principle applies for all other keywords. Analyze SERP results, and you’ll understand why people use specific search terms in the first place.

Off Page SEO

11. Contribute to Communities

One of the most important SEO best practices for beginners is simple: create strong content. Too many beginners assume a combination of the right “hacks” will ensure their content always goes viral.

That’s not the case. Although there are steps you can take to get more eyes on your content, it won’t deliver the best possible results unless it’s high-quality.

Beginners are encouraged to prioritize creating high-quality content because it establishes a business’ authority in a certain area. For example, a law firm that posts an extremely thorough guide on a particular legal issue will appear more authoritative than one that posts a quick blog entry with a few inaccurate points.

Thus, SEO for beginners should also involve identifying other ways to demonstrate your authority. One is to participate in online forums. This can involve posting on Reddit, joining Facebook groups, and finding dedicated forums related to your industry or field.

Don’t be overly-promotional when participating in online discussions. Your goal is to genuinely contribute to a conversation. Over time, you’ll cultivate a reputation, which you can leverage to draw more attention to your business.

12. Offer Content Through Multiple Platforms

Reaching as many leads as possible is much easier once you diversify your content strategy.

Don’t simply record a podcast to spread the word about your brand. This limits your ability to reach some audiences. You could host video webinars, contribute guest posts to relevant blogs, self-publish an informational ebook, and much more. Remember, people consume content in different ways.

13. Help a Reporter Out

Getting journalists to cover your business is one of those SEO tips that may seem difficult to actually implement. What if you don’t know any journalists?

Not to worry. Thanks to Help a Reporter, it’s easy to find reporters looking for stories to cover. You may find someone interested in covering a story that’s relevant to your business.

14. Automate Social Media

It’s important to understand that social media itself is not a ranking factor for SEO. However, off page SEO tactics typically focus on generating backlinks and referral traffic (traffic to your site from visitors who clicked links elsewhere.) This is why social media is still relevant to your SEO strategy.

Social media is most effective when it’s consistent. Although you don’t want to bombard your followers (surveys actually indicate excessive posting is a major reason people unfollow brands), you also don’t want to post so rarely or randomly that you don’t engage anyone.

It’s easier to post consistently when you automate social media. By scheduling posts in advance, you can avoid the constant work of remembering to post content at certain times and on certain days. There is a wide range of tools available for this purpose.

Of course, there will be instances when it’s necessary to post spontaneously. Perhaps a trending news story relates to your brand. Sharing it (even though it’s not scheduled in your automated content calendar) may be a good idea. In general, however, automating your posts gives you time to focus on improving other elements of your SEO strategy.

15. Create Shareable Infographics

Marketing and SEO experts have increasingly recognized the value of infographics in recent years. They’ve found that strong infographics attract substantial attention when compared to other forms of content. When they catch the attention of a blogger or well known influencer, they can result in quality backlinks and referral traffic.

That’s because the Internet is distracting. Infographics allow users to consume a relatively large amount of information in a relatively small space. Additionally, approximately 65% of people are visual learners. An infographic presents content in a way that’s easy for most people to digest.

This is what makes infographics shareable. If you post a long blog article, some users might not read it through. Even those that do might not be inclined to share it on social media. They might assume few of their friends will bother clicking the link, and even fewer will read the entire article.

That’s not the case with an infographic. A user may thus be more likely to share one. As a result, you’ll be more likely to acquire referral traffic and backlinks from others who use your infographic.

Don’t worry if you’re not a graphic designer. Canva is a free tool even beginners can use to create vivid and effective infographics.

Local SEO

16. Create (and Optimize) a Google My Business Account

Do you have a Google My Business account? If not, create one now. It’s free. With GMB, you can manage the way users find and interact with your business via Google.

There are many steps you can take to optimize your account. First, make sure you’re using keywords (when doing so is natural and relevant) in your business description.

Including photos is also crucial. Businesses that do so tend to attract more attention from users than businesses which don’t.

Encourage guests of your site to write Google reviews. Respond to all reviews, demonstrating that you value customer input.

Of course, you need to make sure all important info, such as address and contact information, is accurate. Sometimes it can change! For instance, perhaps your business has adjusted its operating hours. Your GMB profile needs to reflect this.

A GMB account also allows you to monitor how users are interacting with your profile. For instance, you can find out how often users who see your GMB profile visit your website. Monitoring these metrics is key to determining whether you need to improve upon your strategy.

17. Add Address & Contact Info to Footer of All Pages

Your Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) should be displayed on the footer of all pages. The only reason you would not display this information would be if you have multiple locations. If a page describes a service or product that’s only available at one location, you don’t want to confuse guests by including inaccurate NAP info at the bottom.

Including your NAP in the footer of all pages ensures they are all tied back to your local presence. Just make sure the NAP is formatted consistently across all pages. For instance, if your address is written as “26 Example Ave” on one page, don’t format it as “26 Example Avenue” on another.

18. Post Relevant Local Content

This is key to a local SEO strategy. You need to link your content to local interests and stories.

The manner in which you might do so will vary depending on the nature of your business.

For example, perhaps you’re marketing a local law firm. On your blog, you might cover topics such as relevant changes to local laws, relevant networking events for legal professionals in your area, how specific area laws and regulations affect certain legal processes, etc.

Maybe you’re marketing a local restaurant. You could celebrate the cultural life of your community by posting content about seasonal festivals, local food-centric events, and more.

The goal is to simply localize your content. That involves being specific. To return to the law firm example, while the blog topic “What to do if you’ve been in a hit and run accident” is reasonably strong, you’d likely be better off covering “What New York drivers need to know about local hit and run laws.”

19. Create Landing Pages for All Your Locations

Does your business have multiple locations? If so, you need to optimize for all of them. This can be difficult at times.

Maybe your business has locations in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. Your copy and content will sound forced and unnatural if you try to mention all those locations multiple times on a single landing page.

That’s why you need distinct landing pages for all your locations. Now you can optimize for each one.

You might also consider creating multiple landing pages for the same location if research indicates users search for businesses similar to yours in multiple ways. For example, perhaps your business is a men’s barber shop located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Some potential customers might search for “Williamsburg men’s barber shop,” some might search for “Brooklyn men’s barber shop,” and some might search for “NYC men’s barber shop.”

20. Partner with Non-Competing Local Businesses for Backlinks

Backlinks are key to SEO. When high authority sites link back to you, it has a positive impact on both SERP rankings and user opinions. Someone is more likely to take your business seriously if a trustworthy source links to your content.

That said, when you’re focused on attracting a local audience, your most effective SEO strategy might differ slightly from that of someone casting a wider net. It’s possible that links from reputable local sources are more valuable to you than links from major publications.

That’s a good reason to consider partnering with non-competing local businesses to link to each other’s sites.

For example, imagine once again that you’re marketing a restaurant. Linking to other local restaurants isn’t a good idea. However, maybe several of your chefs took classes at a local restaurant career training establishment. You might thus write a blog post about how you prioritize hiring chefs with the best training and experience, linking to a page on that establishment’s site. On their end, they may develop content about the restaurants their graduates go on to work for, linking back to you.

eCommerce SEO

21. Focus on Clean URLs

Again, it’s important for URLs to be brief and to include keywords. This is particularly important in eCommerce. If you’re offering a specific product or service, you want someone looking for that product to read your URL and know they can find it on your page. Remember, there are instances when they might spot your URL before seeing the title tag. Including relevant keywords prevents users from overlooking it when this happens.

Here’s an example of a clean eCommerce URL:

It clearly establishes what is being featured on the page. Now, here is an example of what you should avoid:

Although there are keywords, the URL is too long (some of these details aren’t necessary), and it ends in a combination of seemingly random characters that makes it difficult for a user to immediately recognize what is featured on the page.

22. Create Holiday Landing Pages

Do you run special promotions during the holidays? Do you offer any products that are especially popular during the holiday shopping season? Have you put together a holiday gift guide? If so, create unique holiday landing pages to ensure this information is on full display for users who reach your site via organic search, a link in a marketing email, or any other origin. You can also use landing pages to rank for keywords that may be more popular during the holidays, such as “most popular holiday toys 2019.”

It’s worth noting that holiday landing pages tend to work when they are visual and dynamic. Consider this example from AutoZone:

Source

It doesn’t merely feature generic text. A countdown timer creates a sense of urgency. Products are displayed to let customers know what’s on sale. Various fonts and formatting elements are ensure the page makes an impression. This should be your goal as well.

23. Improve Product Pages

Clear Pictures: Make sure users can clearly see your products from multiple angles.

Use Depictions: If a product serves a special purpose, you need to show people how to use it. This may be possible through still pictures. If not, consider including GIFs or videos to show the product in use.

Strong Descriptions: Product descriptions need to feature strong language while also clearly describing the benefits a product offers. For instance, you wouldn’t blandly describe an item as simply a “black t-shirt.” You would mention the quality of the fabrics, touch on how comfortable wearing the shirt feels, etc.

Promotions: Customers interested in one product may be interested in others. Thus, product pages should include information about other relevant items.

24. Abide by the ‘Three Click Rule’

It’s important that users can easily find products or services offered via your site. To ensure they can, abide by the “three click rule.” This basic UX guideline states that it should take no more than three clicks to reach any page on your site. When you follow it, users will be more likely to find what they are looking for.

25. Include Customer Reviews & Testimonials

Including customer reviews and testimonials on your site generates social proof. Basically, social proof is a concept which states that people are more likely to take a certain action (such as buying one of your products) or hold a certain opinion (such as supporting your brand) if others do so first. That means when guests on your site read reviews from other satisfied customers, they’ll be more inclined to pay for your products or services.

Don’t limit your potential by only setting aside one page for testimonials. Include reviews whenever relevant. This includes on product pages, in informational videos, in ads, and anywhere else it makes sense to do so.

These tips for SEO will help you improve your strategy. That said, reading SEO tutorials for beginners is just one step in the process. You also need to monitor your performance. By paying attention to what does and does not work, you’ll boost your long term odds of success.

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