For B2B and B2C businesses alike, SEO is a super important part of your online digital marketing strategy (or, at least, it should be!).
For this reason, investing a great deal of time and money into SEO best practices can’t be encouraged enough.
Trust me, I’ve worked with plenty of businesses who’ve been scared to invest in SEO.
But optimizing your website for Search Engine Optimization pays off.
Luckily, there are plenty of things businesses can do to optimize their websites for higher search results on Google, starting with on-page optimization, keyword and competitive research, backlink building strategy, and more.
While Google’s AI and algorithms are constantly changing, adapting, and evolving (sometimes for the worse), there are solid consistencies that have remained to this day as the top factors which affect the SEO of a website.
If you want a quick read, check our our 5 Things You Should Do Right Now To Rank Higher On Google (Really!) article for pointers. This is more of an in-depth SEO best practices checklist than a compilation of quick-tips.
In this article, we’re going to take a quick tour of Google’s top search engine ranking factors and look at 20 of the top SEO best practices.
When it comes to SEO, thorough keyword research is extremely important in telling Google and your readers how to digest your content. It tells Google what your website and site content are about, so it knows where to place you in search results and in what positions.
Here are some of the best things you can do for your website when it comes to keywords:
1. Do thorough keyword research.
Use a tool like SEMrush or MOZ in order to analyze what the most important keywords your competitors are using in their content are, and create a list of keywords that you should be targeting. In total, you want to have a list of about 100-300 keywords in your list.
We’re not going to optimize your website for all of those keywords, but we are going to use them in order to optimize for your primary keywords.
2. Choose a primary keyword group to optimize for each page on your website.
You should already have a solid understanding of what it is that your customers are looking for online, so it’s important that you cross-reference that information with the keyword list we created in the above section.
For each page, you should identify one primary keyword, and 3-5 secondary keywords you wish to rank that page for. This is going to be called your primary keyword group.
3. Use your primary keyword group in titles, descriptions, and content.
This one goes without saying, but it’s really important that you include your primary keyword group on your website’s titles, descriptions, and content.
Here’s a quick tip about titles:
You never want to use more than one H1 title, but you can use any amount of H2, H3, H4, H5, and H6 titles on any given page on your website. Google views H1 titles as the most important line of text on a page, and it can become confusing if you include more than one H1 title.
Try to make your H1 title the same as your page title – for example, if you publish a blog post called “How to Generate More Plumbing Leads”, then your H1 title on that page should also be “How to Generate More Plumbing Leads”.
This serves two purposes:
- It tells the reader what your blog post is about.
- It tells Google what your content is about so it knows how to rank you.
4. Use your primary keyword early in your page’s content.
If you want search engines to know what you are writing about, then you need to include your primary keyword early on in the page.
This gives your primary keyword priority over other secondary keywords on the page.
You also want to include the same primary keyword a few times in your main content, but it’s most important to be sure that it’s included in titles, descriptions, and early on in your content.
There’s actually a lot of dispute in the SEO community regarding how many times you should include your primary keyword in your main content… and there are a few different schools of thought.
Essentially, though, you should strive to include your primary keyword at least 2-4 times in your main content, and also sprinkle in some of your secondary keywords as well.
This helps Google understand the relevancy of your content to the keyword you are attempting to rank your website page for.
5. Use your primary keywords in the metadata.
Google reads your website’s metadata/meta description to summarize what your content is about, and then show that content underneath your page title in the search results.
If you’ve ever done a Google search for anything, you will know that Google automatically emboldens the keyword you are searching for in the results it shows you in order to help you find an answer faster.
This is why you want to include the primary keyword at least once in the page title, and once in the meta description.
6. Optimize image SEO for Alt Tags and File Names.
Your image SEO is just as important as your content SEO, so be sure that you’re not ignoring images.
You should give each image in your content an alt tag that is both descriptive of the image, and also includes your primary keyword which you are trying to rank your content for.
This helps Google determine how relevant an image is to your content, and the image acts as a supporting piece of content to both readers and to Google.
7. Use plenty of related LSI keywords.
This is usually forgotten when optimizing pages for SEO but having a good LSI keyword strategy can make or break a website’s SEO.
Leaving our LSI keywords can be really bad, so listen up:
An LSI keyword is a keyword that is semantically related to your primary keyword group.
For example, if your primary keyword is “Build a dog house”, then it is safe to assume that some semantically related keywords would be:
- Dog house building materials
- DIY dog house
- How to build a dog house
- Cool DIY dog houses
Now that we’ve covered the grounds of optimizing your keyword strategy, we need to talk about your content strategy.
Not a lot of businesses have this part of SEO down to a science, but here are some pointers to get you started in the right direction:
8. Publish long-form content.
Publishing content that is between 1,500 – 3,000+ words is ideal for SEO, because it tells Google that you are an authority figure on the topic you’re talking about.
For example, we are an authority on B2B web design, so we published a 4,000+ word article about B2B marketing.
When you publish a piece of content that is under 1,500 words, Google will still index it – but it will not carry as much weight as a competing piece of content that is longer.
If you were to take two blog posts, both with an impressive backlink profile, great technical optimization, and interesting content about the same topic and put them head to head, I guarantee you that the post with more words is going to come out on top.
That’s just how SEO works. Be prepared to do research into your topic in order to create a long, in-depth article about the topic you’re covering.
9. Greate quality content.
When you’re writing content, it’s important that you’re using a human-first approach. You can always come back in and optimize for SEO after, so make sure the content is appealing first.
If you’re writing content that is painfully obviously meant for search engines, not for humans… you’re gonna have a bad time, ‘mkay?
Create content that people want to read.
Google is smart, and they will see right through any half-hearted attempt at manipulating the search engines through shady tactics such as keyword stuffing, article spinning, and other black-hat techniques.
Answer the questions your customers are asking and you will come out on top, every time.
10. Predict search intent before you create your content.
This one is a bit tough, but don’t get discouraged yet.
You know your business, right? Good. That’s all you need to know for right now.
Ask yourself: What are my customers searching for? What questions do they need answered? What are some popular verbiages associated with my industry?
When you have the answer to these questions, then you know what to write about. Writing content that immediately provides value to your readers is the best content strategy that you can implement for SEO best practices.
One great way to predict search intent in order to get a feel for what questions your customers are actively asking is to use Google’s “People also ask…” feature:
Search for a keyword related to your business, and follow this section down the rabbit hole until you find a question you can answer.
11. Don’t publish duplicate content.
A lot of business owners don’t actually know this, but you should (almost) never put duplicate content from one page on your website to another!
It seems like it wouldn’t make sense – after all, it’s your website, right? What does Google care if you’re copying text that you created to another page on your own website?
Well, here’s the thing:
Google doesn’t really care, per say.
Google gets confused.
There’s something called “Keyword Cannibalization”, and it’s a phenomenon that occurs when you have two pages from the same website competing for the same spot for the same search term. When this happens, Google essentially gives up, and decides not to rank you at all (sometimes it will, but like I said, you should almost never do this… there are exceptions).
So, for the love of SEO, do not copy content from one page to another unless absolutely necessary!
12. Don’t copy other websites.
Again, this is an item that should go without saying.
Google is a strict and attentive teacher who will notice if you are attempting to copy someone else’s work, so don’t. If you do, Google will most likely punish your website by decreasing its ranking.
The best tip here is to just always create unique content and never copy from another website. Ever.
13. Use relevant images, infographics, and videos in your content.
People love to read, but they love watching videos and looking at pictures even more!
Use relevant images that pertain to your content in your blog post – it will increase the time users spend on your website, and that will have a positive impact on your search results.
The more time a user spends reading your content, the more important Google will think your content is – and, in return, your website will be rewarded by being given a higher ranking for relevant search terms.
Now that you have implemented a strong SEO keyword strategy and solid content optimizations, you should focus on making sure that your website is equipped to provide a good user experience in order to reduce bounce rates and increase the amount of time a user spends on your website.
Hint: the more time a user spends on your website, the better!
14. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly.
Over 80% of all web traffic in 2020 comes from mobile phones and tablets, rather than desktop computers and laptops. You may have heard this one before.
So don’t leave mobile out of your website strategy – in fact, you should make your website mobile-first.
Most website builders out there automatically make websites mobile-friendly, so there’s no excuse not to have a mobile-friendly web design.
In recent years, Google has been giving a higher priority to mobile-friendly indexing algorithms – meaning that if your website doesn’t look good on a smartphone, then Google can actually tell.
Make sure your website is mobile-friendly, and your SEO will improve. Facts.
15. Ensure that your website is secure.
Privacy is always a concern when browsing the internet, especially for users who are visiting sites that collect sensitive data – like online stores. By securing your website, you can secure a higher rank than an unsecure site.
You should always prioritize security, and that’s why it’s important to have an SSL (secure socket layer) certificate installed on your website.
Having one installed will add a little padlock icon in your browser, and will change your URL from “http://” to “https://”.
You may or may not notice things like this, but search engines do.
16. Ensure that your website loads quickly.
A fast website will outperform a slow website 100% of the time in any scenario – that’s why making sure your website is loading in under 3 seconds is important.
It’s such an important ranking factor, in fact, that Google has created their own tool that you can use to test your website’s speed.
Some things you can do to increase your website’s loading time are:
- Compress the size of all images and video files on your website.
- Use lazy-loading to force images and videos to load after a user scrolls past them, instead of with the page.
- Install and use a CDN: studies have shown that a CDN can speed up your website as much as 200% without any additional changes!
There are some things that are harder to diagnose when it comes to site speed, however. If you’re using WordPress, sometimes a theme you have installed can actually be using way too many resources and slow your site down.
It’s important that your website is built from the ground-up so that you can be sure that a slow theme is not the source of a slow site.
Reach out to us for any custom web design and development needs you may have, and we will build a site the right way.
Equally important is your hosting. Speak with your host to determine whether or not you can upgrade you plan for a faster server, or use a tool like Bitcatcha to identify the speed of your web server.
17. Look at the user experience design.
User experience is important because it affects your bounce rate, which is a rate that defines how quickly people are reading content on your website and then “bouncing” off of it.
When you have a high bounce rate, it’s either an indication that your content is not valuable enough, or that your website’s user experience is very poor, and people are having a difficult time digesting your content.
You should speak with someone who can help you improve your website’s user experience, like Revved Digital.
We are premier experts at diagnosing and resolving user experience issues on a website, and we have over 8 years of experience doing it.
18. Ensure that your website is ADA-accessible.
ADA (Americans with disabilities act) accessible websites typically rank higher in search results – not necessarily because Google looks at ADA-accessibility as a ranking factor, but because it affects the user experience, which affects bounce rate, which, ultimately, affects SEO.
So, what is ADA-accessibility, anyway?
When you browse a website, there are a few things in place that help your users easily digest the content:
- The size of the font you’re using, or the font itself.
- The color of the font compared to its background (higher contrast is easier to read).
- Is there anything blocking the text from being read? A pop-up, or a broken feature?
- Are there certain things on your website that colorblind people might not be able to see, or have a hard time seeing?
These are things that most of us don’t really think about but are very important.
As someone who, myself, has vision problems, I find it very easy to design in a way that makes reading website content easier for others with similar vision problems.
Reach out to me to schedule a call about your website’s accessibility if you want to achieve higher SEO results, and offer a better user experience!
Link structure is a vital ranking factor for SEO best practices, so it’s important that you understand the importance of both internal and external link structure and link equity.
19. Have an internal linking structure.
Google uses things called “crawlers” to digest content on web pages, and you can think of these crawlers like… tiny little spiders.
Except these spiders are relentless, and won’t stop until your entire website has been crawled all over.
But… how do they know where to crawl to?
If you don’t have an internal link structure, Google will not be able to easily crawl your site.
The important thing here is to link smaller pages to larger, main pages so that the “SEO juice” flows from page to page.
For an even better result, include your primary keywords as the link handle, instead of using a URL, like this.
20. Build backlinks to your website.
This is a controversial one, but I’m going to try not to ruffle any feathers here.
Basically, a backlink is a link on another website that points to your website. But trust me when I say that there’s a whole lot more to it than that.
There are toxic backlinks, high DA backlinks, PBN backlinks, white-hat backlinks, black-hat backlinks… the list goes on.
The best thing that you can do, though, is to create high-quality content that people will enjoy or find useful, and then send links to other website or business owners in the hopes that they will link back to your content.
It helps to get back-links from relevant websites – for example, if you are a consulting agency that specializes in the medical field, then having a backlink to your website from an online medical journal would be very valuable.
Backlinks are an extremely important ranking factor for Google, so don’t forget about them, but also be careful not to purchase backlinks from a less-than-credible source or link seller.
A negative backlink can actually hurt your SEO strategy, so it’s best to keep everything as natural as possible.
BONUS: Local SEO Checklist.
If you’re a local business, then Local SEO is going to be one of your most important best practices for SEO.
For example, say you’re an electrician in Los Angeles. It’s not going to do you any good if you’re showing up in search results in Philadelphia!
Local SEO is a great way to ensure that customers in your area are able to find you so that you can bring in more local business.
21. Create a Google My Business listing.
If you own a local business, then chances are that you’ve already done this for yourself – but if you haven’t, then you need to jump on it right now. A Google My Business listing tells Google who and where you are, and how people can get to you.
These are especially important for retailers, restaurants, and home service business.
22. Add your business’ website to local directories.
Adding your business to websites like Yelp, Nextdoor, Angie’s List, and other local directories will help customers in your area find you – but it will also build a stronger backlink portfolio for Google to index.
When Google realizes that you are on these directory sites, it makes your business appear more authoritative, and as a result, your search results will climb.
23. Ensure consistent NAP data across all directories.
NAP stands for “Name Address Phone”, and when your business’ NAP is not consistent across all of the directories you are listed on, then Google will become confused and may think your business is fake.
Make sure that your NAP is consistent across all of the directories you’re part of, and you will win SEO.
24. Use social media to build domain authority.
If you’re not on social media (which, in 2020, I don’t know why you wouldn’t be), then you need to get on it now – even if you don’t think it’s worth it and your customers aren’t searching for you on Facebook or Instagram.
Because Google notices when businesses don’t have social media profiles, and not having one can hurt your website’s SEO.
Backlinks from social media sites don’t “count” as real backlinks, but they do carry some weight. At the very least, it tells Google that your website exists on social media, and is worth crawling.
How to check your website SEO.
Once you’re done making the optimizations we talked about, you need to consistently check and double-check in order to ensure the quality of your website’s SEO. Here are the best ways you can check your website’s SEO:
Get a free SEO analysis done by a professional.
If you’re not sure where to start, or if you’ve tried to make all of these changes yourself but still aren’t seeing the results you need, then you should reach out to a professional SEO agency, like Revved Digital.
If you reach out to us, we will provide you with a free SEO analysis and a PDF report of your on and off-page SEO.
Use a tool like SEMrush to audit your website’s SEO.
This is, what, the 4th time we’ve mentioned SEMrush?
Well, that’s because they are awesome, and they’re pretty much an industry-standard for SEO professionals. If you’re trying to take your SEO in-house, then you need to purchase their software.
With SEMrush, you can audit your website’s content, keyword strategy, current positions, competitors, and much more.
Give SEMrush a try and you won’t regret it!
Use websites like GTmetrix to analyze your page speed.
A slow website will result in bad SEO – so you need to make sure your website is performing at peak speeds at all times.
Using a tool like GTmetrix, you can determine your page’s load speed times, visualize what is taking too long to load, and you will also receive free optimization tips that are customized for your website!
Hint: sign up for a free account, and you can skip the queue every time you need to test your website’s speed.
Let us know your thoughts on our list of the 20 SEO Best Practices!
Everyone has different preferences, approaches, and techniques – so let us know: does our list coincide with your strategy? Do you do something differently? Is there something that we left out?
Let us know in the comments section, below!