14 SEO Best Practices to Rank Higher
- 1 1. Research Competitor Keywords
- 2 2. Include Keywords Early and Often
- 3 3. Write Great Content No Matter What
- 4 4. Write Content for Mobile Users
- 5 5. Understand the Role of Consistency
- 6 6. Optimize Images
- 7 7. Include Keywords in Headers
- 8 8. Learn and Understand Schema
- 9 9. Quality over Quantity in Backlinks
- 10 10. Create a Web of Internal Links
- 11 11. Make Sure You Have a Site Hierarchy
- 12 12. Don’t Neglect the About Us Page
- 13 13. Optimize Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
- 14 14. Understand The Importance of Conversion Optimization
- 15 Final Thoughts
There’s a lot of do’s and don’ts when it comes to SEO. In this guide, I want to focus on the “do’s.”
Here we have 14 SEO best practices that you should start doing right now to increase your chances of ranking and drive more traffic to your website.
1. Research Competitor Keywords
My results skyrocketed when I learned the art of reverse engineering my competitors’ success. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel and we know that SEO is a copycat game for the most part.
There’s nothing wrong with figuring out what your competitors are doing right and finding a way to spin it and do it yourself.
If you put a competitor URL into Ahrefs and go to the keywords section, you get a massive list of all the keywords that your competitors are ranking for.
Ahrefs even has a gap analysis tool that allows you to see what keywords your competitors are ranking for and you’re not.
Start by identifying your main competitors, visit their website, look at the content they’re creating, and take some of their URLs and put it into Ahrefs.
Assess the difficulty of ranking for the keywords your competitors are targeting. Ahrefs will give you an idea with their keyword difficulty rating but I like seeing how many sites are ranking on page one with a lower DR than mine.
This is how I determine how easy it will be to rank for a given keyword. The more sites on page with a lower DR than me, the lower hanging the fruit is.
2. Include Keywords Early and Often
We all know that the inclusion of keywords is a basic rule of SEO, but where should you include them, and how often?
There’s a fine line between stuffing keywords where they don’t belong and optimal keyword placement.
Ideal keyword density is between 1-2% so you’ll want to have a keyword about 10 times per thousand words.
Now, where do you put the keywords?
I recommend using your primary keyword in the introduction and conclusion. Use your keyword as early as you can in the introduction so Google can immediately get a sense for what the content is about.
Keep in mind that none of this is necessarily “required” and it’s not guaranteed to make any difference but sitewide, it could have an impact on your performance and traffic.
3. Write Great Content No Matter What
No matter what keyword you’re targeting, who your audience is, or what your content is about; it needs to be amazing in our current SEO landscape.
You have a ton of people competing for the same keywords and Google is getting more serious about the content it ranks.
It’s getting harder for SEOs to game the system. I see this as a plus because Google is more willing to reward the site owners that do what they’re supposed to do; and publish great content that informs and educates.
One critical aspect of great content is its relevance. Your content should align with the interests, questions, and problems of your target audience. It should offer solutions, insights, or entertainment that resonates with them.
Originality is another hallmark of excellent content. It sets you apart from competitors and establishes your credibility and authority in your niche. Avoiding duplicate or copied content is not only an ethical practice but also a strategic one.
Regurgitating the same thing you’re seeing everywhere else on the internet isn’t going to work anymore.
If your site has thin, bland, and minimal content stuffed with keywords it’s not going to rank and if it does, it’s not going to rank for long.
4. Write Content for Mobile Users
Desktop usage is getting lower and lower as mobile usage grows across all generations. Around 60-70% of all internet usage is done on mobile phones so if your content doesn’t look good on phones, you’re excluding the majority of your audience.
A crucial aspect of mobile optimization is adopting a responsive web design. This approach allows your website to adapt seamlessly to various screen sizes, providing a consistent and user-friendly experience on mobile devices.
Gone are the days when users had to pinch and zoom to navigate a website; responsive design eliminates such inconveniences.
If we come at this from a sheer SEO and content perspective, you’re not off the hook either. Your content needs to be written for a mobile audience and done so in a way that makes it easy to digest.
Short paragraphs, clean design, plenty of media, buttons, clickable elements, and a lot of headers are all essential for making content scannable and easy to read.
Mobile optimization isn’t just about aesthetics; it’s about performance. Mobile users expect fast-loading pages. To meet this expectation, optimize your website’s loading speed by compressing images, leveraging browser caching, and minimizing unnecessary code. Slow-loading pages can lead to higher bounce rates and lower search engine rankings.
Pay attention to how your site looks on mobile. Using the “inspect” element in Google Chrome, you can get a preview of how the site looks on phones.
5. Understand the Role of Consistency
I’ve worked with a number of businesses big and small and one of the things they always lack when they come to me for SEO help is consistency. They lack systems and project management that help them publish content on a regular basis.
As a result, they may publish 10 pieces of content in one month and then nothing again for four months. This doesn’t help your SEO and can actually hurt it.
Google rewards sites that provide value in the form of interesting and engaging content, we know that. But, Google always wants to see that you’re going to continue providing value to your audience.
Search engines reward websites that consistently produce fresh, valuable, and relevant content. Regular updates signal to search engine algorithms that your site is active, relevant, and worthy of a higher ranking. Websites that publish content sporadically or infrequently may struggle to establish authority in their niche.
Keep in mind too that if your website is publishing regularly, it’s getting crawled more frequently which increases the chances of Google picking up on additional keywords.
While this may be one of those “phantom metrics” that a lot of people are unsure whether or not it helps, I’m a big believer in it. Plan out a schedule, see if you can publish content on a regular cadence, and see how it makes a difference in your performance.
6. Optimize Images
Optimizing your images for both keywords and size is so important because it improves both the user experience and your site’s visibility to Google.
I’ll admit, alt text and image names aren’t quite as important as they once were. But, I do believe that image size is important for the performance of your site which can impact your overall SEO.
Large, uncompressed images can significantly slow down page loading times, leading to a poor user experience and potentially higher bounce rates. In an era where mobile users constitute a substantial portion of web traffic, fast-loading pages are essential.
By resizing and compressing images without compromising quality, you ensure that your website loads swiftly, keeping visitors engaged and reducing the likelihood of them leaving due to slow load times.
It’s much simpler than it sounds. Tools like Bulk Resize Photos can help you resize every image on the page to ensure they are all the same size.
While I said it’s not as important as it used to be, missing alt text will display as an image in an audit so you’ll still want to include it. The little details can make a big difference if you’re trying to compete for a spot on the first page.
7. Include Keywords in Headers
It’s obvious that including keywords in your content is important but what’s the big deal with headers and why do SEOs make such a big deal about them?
Think of your headings like a table of contents. If you want to know what a piece of content is about without reading it, where do you go? You look for a table of contents, right?
Google does the same thing.
So, if you have keyword-rich headers throughout the article, it’s very easy for Google to figure out what the content is about.
Not to mention there is a certain emphasis. Think of it like a hierarchy. Search engines rely on headers to understand your content.
When you include your target keywords in headers, it sends a strong signal about the main topics of your page, improving your chances of ranking for those keywords.
Secondly, headers enhance the readability of your content. They break up long pieces of text into more manageable sections, making it easier for visitors to scan and understand the content’s key points. Users are more likely to engage with content that is well-organized, and this can positively impact SEO metrics like bounce rates and dwell time.
8. Learn and Understand Schema
Here’s where things get a little more complicated. Schema or structured data is a critical SEO practice that helps you provide extra context to Google about the information in your content.
The ultimate goal of schema is to fill in the blanks that Google isn’t always able to learn by crawling the page. You’re essentially giving Google more information so it can choose which pages to display and what content is most accurate for a query.
Schema is added to the HTML code of your webpage and there are a few different types:
If you look at the image above, you can see under the meta description that there is additional content. Sometimes this is populated on its own, but sometimes it’s the result of schema.
For the example of the “best of Brooklyn food tour” the site may add information about the food tour to the HTML of the site to provide additional context.
Schema Markup helps search engines categorize and index your content more effectively, which can lead to better rankings and increased visibility in relevant search results. It also plays a crucial role in voice search, as voice assistants rely on structured data to provide concise and accurate answers to user queries.
I’m a huge believer in natural link building. I believe websites that create great content attract links naturally so they don’t have to reach so hard to get the links they need.
That said, there is a time and place for backlink outreach and that’s if the quality is there. Tools like HARO make it possible for even small sites to get links from the big names like Forbes, INC, and Washington Post.
While the number of backlinks pointing to your website remains a crucial ranking factor, their quality and relevance hold far more weight in the eyes of search engines. High-quality backlinks, originating from authoritative and relevant sources, have a more significant impact on your website’s search engine ranking and overall online authority.
I also think Google places a lot of weight on relevance as well. The websites you receive links from should be in your niche or industry.
Chances are other content on that site resonates with your audience and further enhances your authority. This looks good for your backlink profile and makes the link look more natural.
If you’re doing manual outreach for backlinks, be sure to prioritize authority and relevance over quantity.
10. Create a Web of Internal Links
Another highly underestimated part of SEO in my eyes is internal linking. Proper internal linking helps Google learn more about your website and it helps you appear as more of an authority on a subject.
If you’re connecting your content using internal links it not only helps the user navigate from page to page but it helps Google crawl the site as well. This is great for topical authority and also great for Google picking up on keywords.
Using Link Whisper is a great way to make internal linking easier. Link Whisper automatically identifies internal link opportunities and provides you with the best anchor text based on relevance and category.
11. Make Sure You Have a Site Hierarchy
Having a well-structured site hierarchy is a fundamental SEO best practice that involves organizing your website’s content in a hierarchical manner, similar to a tree-like structure.
The overall topic of your website should sit at the top and supplemental topics should follow like branches of a tree.
This hierarchy ensures that your website’s pages are logically categorized and interconnected, facilitating both user navigation and search engine understanding of your site’s content.
Think of a landscaping site as an example.
Within the main topic of “landscaping” you may have a number of other topics such as:
- Weed removal
- Pest control
- And more
Even within those subcategories, there are categories that fit in those too. This is what creates a site hierarchy and allows linking between all the pages and connecting every page on the site to make it easier to crawl and navigate for both Google and your users.
12. Don’t Neglect the About Us Page
I’ve never felt like an “about us” page was more important than it is now. This is especially true for affiliate and ecommerce websites where you are not the true face of the business.
The reason I feel this way is because Google is starting to pay a lot more attention to who is actually considered the expert in a situation.
For example, creating a fake alias and pretending to review products that you’ve never touched doesn’t always work anymore. Google likes to see reviews from people that actually tested the product and can provide honest and comprehensive information.
There are ways to still do these reviews without having to buy the products but it requires a bit more effort. You need to put yourself in the shoes of someone who tested them, speak from a personal perspective, and use first person language in your writing.
You might notice that a lot more product review sites are putting a “how we tested” or a “methodology” section in their articles. This is them responding to what Google wants.
Is your about us page going to help you rank? No, it’s not. But, what it will do is show Google that you’re legit and this can help with long-term authority which will benefit your SEO efforts in the long run.
13. Optimize Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
Should we still be talking about title tags and meta descriptions? Are they really that important?
Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t but here’s the thing. If you have two completely equal websites and Google is trying to figure out which one gets the number one ranking, which site do you think it’ll take?
The one with well-optimized meta data or the one without?
There’s no task too small and all of these SEO best practices aim to help you get a small advantage over your competitors.
Make sure you’re including your keywords in your meta descriptions and title tags and also ensure they’re the proper length. There are a number of tools to help with this.
14. Understand The Importance of Conversion Optimization
Last but not least, let’s not forget about actually converting your traffic. This is still a part of SEO in my opinion because it’s an important piece of content marketing.
How do you optimize for conversions?
So much of what we do in SEO is writing with the hope of getting traffic based on a series of keywords. But, these keywords aren’t always attached to an action or a purchase.
Take this post for example. This is an article about how old you have to be to play soccer. This is a strictly informational search, right? People aren’t really looking to buy anything when they search for this, they’re just looking for an answer.
But, right at the top of the article is this CTA button. This is an example of how you optimize an informational post for conversions. You include a related call to action that intrigues the reader into wanting to learn more.
No matter what the content is about, you should be trying to do this in some way.
There you have it, 14 SEO best practices to take with you and implement in your business. Keep in mind that all of these will have some form of impact on your website so you’ll want to implement all of them.
It’s likely that you’re already doing some of these steps and doing them quite well. Fill in the blanks and take care of business and you’ll find yourself outranking your top competitors in no time!