11 Essential SEO Principles for High-Traffic Success
- 1 1. Keywords Are Key
- 2 2. High-Quality Content Matters More Than Ever
- 3 3. Search Intent is a Must
- 4 4. The Meta Title and Description Matter
- 5 5. Backlinks Are Still a Big Deal
- 6 6. Internal Links Are Underrated
- 7 7. User Engagement is Essential
- 8 8. Niche Expertise and Topical Authority for a Boost
- 9 9. Content Freshness is Crucial
- 10 10. Trustworthiness Helps a Ton
- 11 11. External Links Move the Needle
- 12 Not So Essential SEO Principles
- 13 Conclusion
In this post, you’re going to learn the most essential SEO principles you need to focus on.
Instead of covering every single SEO tactic under the sun, these priciples cover the fundamentals in SEO.
Using these in your content strategy are a must if you want the best results in search rankings and organic traffic.
Let’s dive in.
1. Keywords Are Key
Google’s algorithm is pretty clever these days.
However, it’s not as complicated as you might think.
Essentially, it understands content based on the keywords it’s made up of.
Sure, there are other on-page SEO factors involved, but keywords play a big role.
The good news is that you don’t need to understand how RankBrain, Neural Matching, or BURT (AI models behind the algorithm) work to use keywords effectively.
You simply need to know which keywords people are searching for and write content based on them.
This is one of the most important SEO principles out there.
Because if you write a bunch of content without assigning a primary keyword to them, you could be missing out.
Missing out on traffic because the content isn’t optimized for a keyword, or keyphrase, that gets consistent search volume.
So, finding keywords with search volume and writing relevant content around them builds a solid foundation for your SEO strategy.
2. High-Quality Content Matters More Than Ever
Content is another fundamental SEO principle if you want your site to rank organically.
Not just any content though. High-quality content.
But what does high-quality content even mean?
First, high-quality content is useful, valuable, and relevant to the reader.
Essentially, it has to meet the needs of your audience and help them solve a problem.
Secondly, it has to be engaging enough that people want to read it. If there’s a lot of fluff or isn’t compelling, they will get bored and look elsewhere.
Thirdly, high-quality content should be original, share a unique perspective to avoid plagiarism and stand out from your competition.
Lastly, quality content is well-researched and accurate.
If the content you write isn’t comprehensive enough or isn’t accurate, your readers won’t be satisfied.
Notice that these are all important, not just for people, but for search engines too.
If content doesn’t meet a high quality standard, search engines will know about it and your site won’t rank as well.
3. Search Intent is a Must
Search intent is another key SEO principle you need to get right.
Simply put, it is the reason or intention behind the searcher’s query.
For example, let’s say you search for “how to boil an egg.” The search intent is not to buy anything or to find somewhere to go for lunch.
It is to find a how-to guide with instructions for boiling an egg.
Now, why is this important?
Let’s say you sell products online to do with eggs, such as cookware, egg cups, etc.
If you choose to write the article “how to boil an egg“, it should focus primarily on answering this question.
Listing the different products you sell and going into their details would be off-topic and won’t match the search intent.
As a result, Google and other search engines won’t rank the article for this query.
To establish what the search intent for a keyword is, look at what is already ranking on page one.
This will give you a solid idea of what your content needs to look like before writing it.
Even better, put yourself in the mind of your audience to determine the specific need of their query.
Then, let them know early on that the article they landed on will meet that need.
Directly communicating the need and search intent of each article will give the best results.
4. The Meta Title and Description Matter
The meta title and description form the SEO basics when optimizing your content.
But why is it so important and what’s the difference between this and the page title?
Let’s first look at the page title, also known as the H1. This is the title or main heading of the page that shows up on your site or blog.
Your audience will see it when browsing your website.
On the other hand, the meta title and description are slightly different. This data shows up in search results. Moreover, it displays in the browser tab.
It’s kind of like an additional title that you can optimize for users and search, helping them understand the page better.
It can also help improve CTR and conversions when implemented correctly.
To optimize your meta title and description, you can follow these guidelines:
- Include the primary keyword in both the title and description
- Place the keyword near the front of the title if possible
- Include power words that attract attention
- Make sure every title and description is unique
- Beware of character limits. 60 for the title and 160 for the description is average
Backlinks have signaled a vote of confidence in SEO for many years.
The main reason they hold a lot of value is that other websites will only link to valuable resources.
This means that to get backlinks, the content on your site has to be of high quality.
If you put in the effort to produce excellent content, for the intention of helping readers, backlinks will naturally follow.
However, there are other things you can do to build them.
Broken link building, for example, is where you reach out to other sites who have a broken link. You create a similar resource and ask if they want to swap their broken link for yours.
Another method is to create link-bait content. These are articles with industry data or statistics. People love linking to these as a useful resource.
Lastly, a link-building method that still works is guest posting. This is where you write content for another site that contains a link back to your site.
Overall, backlinks are an important SEO principle, but if you follow other SEO standards on this page, you can attract backlinks naturally.
6. Internal Links Are Underrated
Internal links are one of the most underrated SEO principles out there.
That’s because there haven’t been enough case studies done to show their potential.
Quite often, internal links are an afterthought and, thus don’t add as much value as they could.
However, they’re super important.
Google itself states:
“Google uses links as a signal when determining the relevancy of pages and to find new pages to crawl.”
The word to pay attention to is relevancy.
When you have topically relevant articles on your site, but don’t internally link them, Google has to do more work to find them.
Not only that, but it’s harder to establish how relevant your site is around the topics you cover.
Therefore, developing a strong internal link strategy with relevant anchor text improves page authority and user experience.
7. User Engagement is Essential
User engagement is an SEO principle that gets overcomplicated.
In simple terms, Google wants to rank content that satisfies the user. If they keep having a bad experience, they’ll stop using the search engine.
So, if your content is decent enough, but doesn’t give a good experience, they will click the back button and find a different result.
This can have negative consequences on your organic rankings which will lower organic traffic.
With that said, here are several things you can do to improve user engagement.
- Meet the search intent (see above)
- Increase time on page by writing engaging copy
- Format content to be more appealing, break up text with images, bullet points, and other visuals
- Add clear and relevant calls to action
- Include relevant internal links (see above)
- Make your site’s design clean and minimal
- Ensure your site speed is optimal
8. Niche Expertise and Topical Authority for a Boost
Niche expertise and topical authority have emerged as highly effective SEO principles in the last few years.
In a nutshell, Google will favor sites that demonstrate authority and expertise on a specific topic.
To paint a picture, imagine two sites, both with 100 articles and both in the same niche.
The first site targets random topics in the niche that are only somewhat related to each other.
The second site targets semantically related topics that are hyper-relevant to each other.
For example, site one targets posts like “best dog food for labradors”, “best dog leads for huskies”, and “how to stop beagles from barking”.
Whereas site two targets posts like “best dog food for labradors”, “best dog leads for labradors”, and “how to stop labradors from barking”.
Notice the subtle difference?
Site two, in essence, will have a much higher perceived authority and expertise in the labrador niche.
It’s how Matt Diggity grew a site in the CBD niche from 2,000 to 25,000 visitors per day.
Here are a few ways to implement this powerful SEO principle:
- Hub and spoke SEO: this entails creating pages targeting high-volume keywords that link to related secondary pages with lower-volume keywords.
- Comprehensive coverage: Covers the topic in its entirety instead of individual articles that aren’t as related.
- Highly relevant internal links: As content is highly related but covers different search intent, it creates more internal linking opportunities.
9. Content Freshness is Crucial
More recently, content freshness has become more apparent as an SEO principle.
That’s because humans are constantly evolving. As we evolve, context changes and we learn newer and more effective ways of doing things.
For example, 10 years ago, charging a car wasn’t a concept, and starting a business can now be done with less than $100 from the comfort of your home.
Therefore, we can explain things and structure information that better relays its meaning.
Enter content freshness.
If you wrote a bunch of articles last year or beyond, the chances are that some of them are outdated.
You can determine whether your content needs refreshing by analyzing other top-performing content.
If they answer the query better, provide more value, and keep things more concise, then it could be why it’s ranking higher in the SERPs.
A good strategy to keep content up-to-date is to monitor any drops in rankings and when it was first published.
Content that seems to be losing traction and is also over a year old may be a clear sign it needs an update.
10. Trustworthiness Helps a Ton
Many of the SEO principles we’ve covered so far relate to individual metrics that can be measured by an algorithm.
But, in recent years, Google has introduced other measures that aim to tackle people who attempt to game the system.
Specifically, the integration of E-E-A-T and its impact on SEO rankings.
E-E-A-T stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
However, none of this is a ranking factor, instead, it’s part of the Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines, which help real people assess the experise of content online.
It helps Google establish whether a site’s creator demonstrates first-hand experience and expertise in the niche.
In other words, has the content been created by someone with experience and expertise, or are they simply regurgitating information?
Furthermore, authoritativeness can be demonstrated by covering the topic in-depth, earning authoritative backlinks, and building a reputable brand.
Trustworthiness seems to have more importance in Google’s eyes as they’ve filed a patent for an AI model to establish how factual (or trustworthy) content is.
Implenting the initial three aspects of E-E-A-T will naturally build on the fourth of trustworthiness, as illustrated by this infographic.
11. External Links Move the Needle
This SEO principle might not seem that important until you understand this concept.
It’s the concept of giving credit to other sites with valuable content. This keeps the flow of information flowing through the web, helping Google find more content to index.
Furthermore, it adds more value to your own content, because you’re providing more context for your readers, without them needing to go elsewhere to find it.
So, try to add 1 or 2 external links to each post you publish.
Just avoid directly linking to an article that’s competing with the same keyword as you.
This will only dilute the value of your own content.
Not So Essential SEO Principles
There were a few principles that didn’t make the list, but deserve a mention.
It’s important to note that site speed is still a ranking factor.
However, the reason it hasn’t made the main list of SEO principles is that it doesn’t seem to have that much impact.
Furthermore, a fast website is so easy to implement these days, that you barely have to do anything to be considered fast.
Using a decent host, a good WordPress theme, and a caching plugin will do the job.
Again, SSL and HTTPS are ranking factors, but so easy to implement.
This technology pretty much comes standard with every web host under the sun, so it’s barely something you’ll need to be concerned about.
Content length has been an ongoing debate for some time.
In the wary days, an 800-word post was more than enough, then 10,000 words became the new norm.
Nowadays, it doesn’t really matter. Sure there might be an average the top ten are aiming for, but it changes from each article.
Schema markup has become less important as a ranking factor and more of a novelty for clearer search results.
More so for eCommerce sites or product reviews.
Implementing it can be done with an SEO plugin such as Rank Math or Schema Pro.
SEO principles are the actions or concepts that should be considered for every piece of content you publish.
Baking them into your content strategy will improve your workflow and SEO rankings.
Now, if you want to take your content to the next level, read our post on SEO Writing: How To Create Optimized Content.