SEO best practices — 17 tips to seriously improve SEO
When it comes to SEO, it’s all about following a correct strategy. SEO is the most cost-effective way to bring new visitors to your website. But, there is no secret method to rank number one in Google. Nevertheless, you can achieve great results and dramatically improve your website’s organic rankings by applying the best SEO practices.
In this article, you’ll find 17 resources and tips that will help you boost your website to a whole new level.
Tip 1: Write only high-quality content
No matter what niche your website is in, when you start writing an article, always provide helpful and actionable guidance. If you are giving the users the information they want, your content can be as long as you need. However, note that longer articles tend to rank higher in Google.
In order to write the best article about a specific subject, do your research and check what articles are already ranking high in Google, for your keywords. You have to find posts that have proven to be successful on social media and also at attracting backlinks.
Have a look at the top 10 results and make improvements to the content that already exists. For example, if you are trying to write an article about small dog breeds, you can do a detailed post titled ‘Everything you need to know about small dog breeds’. Make your article a few times better than everything that’s already on the web, and you’ll have high chances to rank on the first page in Google.
Tip 2. Keywords research
Never start writing an article without performing a keyword research. The best tool to use is the free Google Keyword Tool. Click on ‘Search for new keyword and ad group ideas’ and enter the main keywords you want to target. You’ll then get a list with keywords suggestions based on what users are searching in Google.
Another method to find what people are searching for is to type in Google your main keywords, and check the suggestions based on the most popular searches.
Lastly, if you scroll at the bottom of the Google’s page, you can see some more search related queries.
Focus on keywords that have higher search volume but don’t neglect long tail keywords. If optimized right, you can get more traffic from keywords with less search volume.
Keep in mind that you must write for your readers, and not for Google’s spiders. Don’t do keyword stuffing.
Tip 3. Use unique titles and meta descriptions
Meta descriptions don’t carry as much value as they used to, but they still have an important role for SEO. Each of your posts should have a unique title and meta description. Make sure all are unique and you don’t have any duplicate ones.
Tip 4. Highlight your data with Google Webmaster Tools
By highlighting your website, you help Google better understand your site’s data. Data highlighter allows you to highlight parts of your website through Google Webmaster Tools, without having to make any code changes. That will help you display ratings, prices, reviews along with your rich snippet in organic results. Even further, this will increase your chances of getting a Google knowledge card featuring your website. So if your website includes listings, reviews or events, here’s how to make your results show in Google, like this:
Go to Google Webmaster Tools and click on ‘Search Appearance’ and then on ‘Data Highlighter’.
Click on ‘Start Highlighting’. You will be asked to choose what type of data you want to highlight. If you have a simple content blog, choose articles. If not, choose what is the most appropriate category for your website.
Once on the highlighter page, simply click and drag your mouse over your website’s title and choose ‘title’. Do the same for your ratings, author, date published, image and so on. Google will ask you to repeat the process a few times until they will understand the patterns your website is following. Once finished, click ‘done’ and that’s all. When Google will crawl your site again, they will better recognize your data structure.
Tip 5. Use a sitemap
Having a sitemap for your website plays a crucial role in SEO. It helps Google easily crawl your pages and index your website. If you have a Wordpress website, you can generate a sitemap of your website by using a plugin. Some of the most popular are:
If you are using a custom CMS, you can use a XML sitemap generator to build a sitemap and then upload it to your website.
After creating your sitemap, you will have to head over to Google Webmaster tools and from the right side menu, click on Crawl-Sitemaps. Here you can submit your sitemap to Google.
Tip 6. Avoid having 404 errors on your website
Having a few 404 errors will not ruin your rankings completely, but they can lower your user experience, which ultimately can affect your SEO performance. There are several Wordpress plugins that can help you detect 404 pages on your website. My favorite one is called Permalink Finder. This plugin detects when a user lands on a 404 page on your website. It automatically searches through your database and tries to redirect the user to a page that contains the words the user was searching.
At the bottom of the settings page, you can see a list of all the pages that gave a 404 error to your users.
Not using Wordpress? Then you can use the Google Chrome extension called Check My Links. Install the extension and use it when you want to look for broken links on your website.
Tip 7. Promote your website through guest blogging
The benefits of guest blogging are endless and often underrated. By tapping into already established communities, you can increase your reputation, build high-quality backlinks, get more exposure to your website and much more.
To automate the guest blogging research process, you can use social media, Twitter to be more exact. I recommend you to use Topsy, which can send email alerts when keywords you want to track, are posted on Twitter. For example, to get email alerts when someone on Twitter mentions a keyword like ‘seo guest blog’, click on the Settings icon and then on ‘Get email alerts’.
Filter the results and only write guest articles for websites that are worthy. Don’t waste time doing it on low-quality sites and don’t do it just for the sake of getting a link. Try to provide value to the readers, and you’ll get much more in return.
Tip 8. Use what works best for your competitors
If you’ve previously read my articles before, you already know that I enjoy spying my competitors on social media, and everywhere. That’s because you can learn a lot from the techniques that work best for them.
Think about this for a second. If you could get the about 50% of the websites that are linking to your competitors, to link to your website, that would mean you can easily outrank them, right? Of course, by having all the top links of all your main competitors, you could easily get an advantage ahead of them. Sounds easy, but how do you do that.
By spying them, obviously. You have to be up to date with all the backlinks they are building or earning, and try to replicate them. For this, you can use one of my favorite SEO tools, which is called Monitor Backlinks. After connecting your account with Google Analytics and adding your competitors, you get a list with all the websites that are linking to them. The feature I find the most useful is that it automatically compares your links with your competitor’s, and highlights with green the ones you have in common. Take this screenshot, for example:
I already have three out of the eight best links of my competitor, meaning I only have to focus on finding a way to get a link from the other websites.
What’s even greater is that Monitor Backlinks sends you email reports with all the links earned by your competitors. All this makes the job a whole lot easier.
Tip 9. Keep track of your backlinks
Keeping track of your backlinks is just as important as building them. That’s because SEO relies on the quality of the backlinks your website gets. The more high-quality links you have, the higher you will rank in Google. Building backlinks is not enough. You also have to monitor every link your website is earning. Not knowing who links to you or when links are being removed can cost you a lot of traffic. After all, no one would want to be a victim of negative SEO.
To easily keep a record of your links, you can again use Monitor Backlinks. It allows you to add tags to your website’s links, get email alerts when your website earns a new link or when one of your old ones are being removed.
Tip 10. Speed up your website
Your website loading speed is one of the most important rankings factors in Google. No one likes slow websites, and neither does Google. Studies show that a visitor expect a website to load in no more than 2 seconds. If it takes more than 4 seconds, users usually lose patience, and the chances of clicking the back button are increasing with every second of delay.
Optimizing your images is one of the first things to do if you want to speed up your website. Never use pictures at a higher resolution than the one you need to display on your posts.
The slower your website is, the more complicated it will be for Google’s bots to crawl your pages.
Tip 11. Use smart URL’s for your posts
Your URL’s should include your main keywords, but make sure you keep them short and friendly. Try to limit the number of characters as much as possible. For example, you can drop adverbs from your URL. Use hyphens instead of underscores and try to maintain a consistency.
Tip 12. Remove duplicate content from your website
Duplicate content is your website’s worst enemy. Google is very serious about penalizing websites with duplicate content, descriptions or titles. Use tools like CopyScape or Google Webmaster Tools to detect when duplicate content problems occur on your website.
Tip 13. Consistently add fresh content
Websites with fresh content added on a regular basis are given more authority, and rank higher in the search results. Fresh content tells Google you are maintaining your website.
Tip 14. Build a strong internal linking system
When writing a new post, always link to previous relevant articles you have written. That will help your users spend more time on your website by visiting other useful articles. A better average time on your website leads to a lower bounce rate and a greater user experience. Make the navigation through your website as smooth as possible.
Tip 15. Optimize your images
All images published on your website should have a relevant name. Use ALT attributes, description and captions for your images.
Tip 16. Don’t build backlinks just to your homepage
One of the most frequent mistake marketers are doing. When building backlinks to your website, you have to make everything look as natural as possible. It’s normal that a website has most of its links to the homepage. However, if the website has nothing but backlinks linking to the main page, it can raise a flag to Google. For this reason, you should also build backlinks to your other pages.
Tip 17. Don’t do advertorial or paid links for SEO
If you want to promote your website by purchasing sponsored links, always use the rel nofollow attribute. There’s no other way. If Google finds that you’ve paid webmasters to build backlinks, you will end up with a hard to remove penalty. Here’s Matt Cutts take on advertorials.
These are the best SEO practices that can help you increase your organic traffic. Keep in mind that SEO never gives results overnight. If done right, in the long run, you will get a lot of benefits.