Best SEO Practices
February 15, 2022
Implementing the best SEO practices can go a long way in improving online visibility, attracting more traffic, and ultimately, increasing revenue.
A lot of online business owners are aware about SEO (Search Engine Optimization). However, many of them are unaware about the best practices that can significantly improve SEO results.
The best SEO practices include: aligning the content with the searcher’s intent, writing compelling title tags and meta-descriptions, optimizing web page loading speed, using HTTPs, and making optimal use of keywords.
SEO best practices are different to SEO tips, in that the best practices need to be implemented by everyone – regardless of whether they are operating an e-commerce store, owning a blog, or have a brick-and-mortar physical store.
We have compiled a list of the best SEO practices as recommended by experts like Neil Patel and Joshua Hardwick, which will help readers make the most of their SEO campaigns.
Best SEO Practices:
1) Aligning the content with the reader’s intent:
Once you have developed an understanding of SEO and keywords, it is time to dive deeper and focus on the search intent.
Search intent (or ‘user intent’) can be defined as the reason that a user makes a particular search query. Google and other search engines make it their utmost priority to understand and satisfy these search intentions. Any page that shows up on the first results page for search engines, has managed to successfully fulfill that engine’s criteria pertaining to search intent.
For instance, when you search, ‘how to make banana bread’ on Google, you will find videos or blog posts discussing banana bread recipes – you will not find e-commerce stores or restaurants selling banana bread. This is because Google knows that the purpose behind this search term is to learn how banana bread is made, rather than to buy banana bread.
Hence, if you want your page to lead the ranks in Google’s search results, you must have a clear idea about your target market’s search intent.
Below are some of common kinds of search intents:
Simply speaking, if the searcher wants some particular information, the search intent can be categorized as informational. It could be something as simple as ‘what is the temperature right now’ which can offer simple and straightforward answers, or something more complex like ‘best SEO practices’, which would require more in-depth explanations.
A searcher with a navigational intent wants to find a particular app or website. Examples of such searches are ‘Hotmail login’, ‘Amazon’ and ‘Facebook sign-up’.
A user who is considering buying a particular product is said to have commercial search intent. Examples of such searches are ‘Best Samsung mobile phones’ or ‘the best bikes for everyday commute’.
A user has transactional search intent when they are prepared to make a purchase, and would include terms like, ‘Buy Samsung mobile phone’ or ‘buy a bike online’.
So, for instance, if you want to use the keywords ‘Buy Samsung mobile phone’, you need to remember that this is an example of transactional (and not commercial) search intent. The searcher has already evaluated their options, and is now ready to buy the product.
2) Writing powerful title tags and meta-descriptions:
The title tags and meta-descriptions are perhaps the two most critical meta-tags for any page.
Let us start by exploring title tags.
A title tag is a clickable headline which shows up in the search engine results. Therefore, from an SEO point-of-view, a title tag is quite defining.
Google will generally display the initial 55-60 title characters. This means that, if you want the full title to show up in Google’s search results, you need to keep the title length to less than 60 characters.
Below are a few other practices that will help you come up with effective title tags:
- Using the target keywords.
- Writing title tags that are aligned with your searchers’ intent.
- Avoiding coming up with duplicate tags.
- Avoiding the stuffing of keywords.
- Keeping it concise yet descriptive.
The title tag is perhaps the only tag more important than the meta-description. The meta-description is the brief summary of your webpage, displayed right below your title tag on the search engine results page.
While meta-descriptions do not have a direct impact on search rankings, they do have a critical influence on the click-through rates.
When it comes to meta-descriptions, Google will include a maximum of 160 characters. Hence, you need to make sure that you find a way to keep your meta-description within this limit, while making it adequately descriptive and clear.
The below practices will help you make your meta-descriptions more effective:
- Writing a unique meta-description for every page.
- Using an action-oriented copy.
- Including the target keywords.
- Focusing on the search intent.
- Providing accurate summaries.
3) Using HTTPs:
HTTPS helps encrypt any information exchanged between the server and visitor, thereby helping to boost the page security. Since Google puts a lot of emphasis on security, HTTPS has been one of its ranking factors ever since 2014.
If you want to see if your website is using HTTPs, just put your website URL in a browser, and then take a look at the browser’s loading bar.
If you find a ‘lock’ symbol before your URL, that is proof that your website is HTTPS-incorporated.
However, if it is not, you should get an SSL certificate installed. Thankfully, numerous web hosts provide an SSL certificate as part of their overall packages. However, if your provider does not offer one, LetsEncrypt allows you to get one for free.
Fortunately, getting HTTPs on your website is a one-time task. This means that, once you get HTTPS installed, every one of your website pages – even future ones – will automatically be secured.
4) Optimizing page loading speed:
In today’s fast-paced world, nobody has the time to wait for a page that takes ages to load. Unsurprisingly, then, page loading speed has been a vital ranking criterion for desktops ever since 2010. For mobiles, page speed became a ranking factor back in 2018.
There are numerous factors which can impact the loading speed. Some of those include the site’s images, server location, and codes.
The Pagespeed Insights Tool offered by Google can help you get an idea about your page’s performance. All you need to do is enter your URL, and the tool will return a performance score ranging from 0 to 100. In addition, you will be able to benefit from practical advice as to how to improve this score.
One limitation with this tool is that it only allows you to test a single page at any given time. However, using the Google Search Console can help solve this issue. The Speed Report issued by the Console will allow you to pinpoint any slow-loading pages on mobile and desktop, as well as identify the reasons behind the slowness.
Often, the reasons behind the lack of speed are complicated and technical, which is why you should reach out to an SEO expert or developer to address them.
In general, you can implement the following practices to boost and maintain your pages’ loading speeds:
i) Using CDNs:
Almost every website resides on a single server on a single location. This means that there are visitors for whom the data must cover long distances to show up on the browser. A CDN copies important elements of your website (such as images) to many different servers across the world, making sure that the data is loaded regionally or locally and need not cover huge distances.
ii) Compressing images:
An image file is fairly large, which means it takes more time for these files to load. When you compress an image, you reduce its size which, in turn, reduces the loading time. However, when compressing images, it is important to find the right balance between quality and size.
iii) Using optimized themes:
Pick a website theme that is optimized and consists of efficient coding. You can run your theme demo through the PageSpeed Insights tool discussed above.
iv) Using lazy-loading:
With lazy-loading, any off-screen resources only show up as and when they are needed. This means that not every resource on a webpage needs to load together, which can help decrease the amount of time it takes for the page to load.
5) Using the target keywords optimally:
Each topic has its unique ‘head keyword’. This is the word or phrase that your target market is most likely to enter in a search engine’s search bar.
So, for those looking to buy a mobile phone online, the head keyword would be, ‘buy mobile phone online’.
The three key places where your head keyword needs to show up are:
i) Title Tag:
According to Google, your title tag should be an accurate description of your page content. So, if you are using your head keyword as part of your title tag, it should take care of this requirement.
In addition, since the head keyword is related to the search query, including it in the title tag shows searchers that your page can offer what they are looking for.
Having said all this, it is not worth including your head keyword as part of your title tag, at the expense of readability.
For instance, if the head keyword is, ‘bedroom drawers cheap’, then you might not be able to include it in the title tag without compromising the readability. It is okay to include some stop words or to rearrange words to make the whole thing more readable – search engines are pretty smart, and they will figure out what you are trying to say.
ii) First Heading:
Each page needs to have an H1 heading that stands out, and this heading should integrate the head keyword.
According to Google, your URL should consist of words pertaining to the content on your page.
6) Improving the user experience:
Search engines – especially Google – are very watchful about your page’s interaction with its users. For this reason, user experience is highly important when it comes to search engine optimization and rankings.
As we have already discussed, the page loading speed plays a critical role in determining the user experience. Below are a few other ways that can help you make sure that your users have the best-possible experience while visiting your pages or sites:
i) Using subheadings:
Properly using subheadings helps make your content easily accessible to your readers. In addition, subheadings also make it easier for Google to comprehend the content.
ii) Making the content more visually appealing:
There are quite a few studies that reveal just how important visuals are in helping users understand the content. Whenever possible, make use of screenshots, videos, and images to drive your point home.
iii) NOT using any intrusive pop-ups:
Not only do pop-ups annoy and irritate website visitors, they are also undesirable from the perspective of SEO: Google now penalizes any website that contains intrusive pop-ups, which is why your best bet is to use such pop-ups sparingly (if at all).
iv) Using white space:
White spaces are fundamental (and often overlooked) when it comes to website design. The Interaction Design Foundation states that white space (also known as ‘negative space’) helps improve focus, legibility, and branding. Hence, if you want to make your content more attractive and appealing, use plenty of white spaces in your design.
v) Making the website mobile-friendly:
Since Google makes use of mobile-first indexing, a site’s mobile-friendliness goes a long way in determining user experience and SEO rankings. If you want to see how mobile-friendly your website is, you can take the mobile-friendly test created by Google.
7) Use user-friendly URLs:
According to Google, lengthy URLs should be avoided since they might intimidate the users.
Hence, it is often a bad idea to convert a search query into a URL. Just imagine having a URL that goes, ‘how to treat lower-back pain without visiting the doctor’. Not only will such a keyword be a pain in the back, but it is also very unlikely to show up anywhere close to the first page in the search engine results.
If you get rid of any unnecessary details or stop words, you might be able to come up with something sweeter and shorter (‘treating lower-lower back pain at home’, for instance).
If you still feel that your web page needs a more succinct description, do not shy away from making that happen (‘lower-back pain home remedy’, for instance).
Here are a few things that you can do to make your URLs more user-friendly:
i) Make them short:
According to a Backlinko study, short URLs tend to perform better than their larger counterparts, in terms of search result ranks.
ii) Use keywords:
Do your best to add the head keyword to your URL; doing so can significantly increase the probability of obtaining a higher search-result ranking.
iii) Add subfolders or categories if required:
If you sell products, you could include ‘shop’ subcategories. These subcategories help both search engines and users navigate the website.
iv) Minimize the use of stop words:
Eliminating or minimizing stop words can make your URL easier to read.
Having said all that, it is not a big deal if your CMS already has a predefined URL that is less-than-pretty. These days, there are hardly any pages for which Google displays the complete URL, which means that URL user-friendliness is not something that you need to move heaven and earth to address.
8) Earning authoritative back-links:
Even though Google has introduced various changes to its ranking signals and search algorithms, it has not changed the importance of back-links. In other words, the more authoritative back-links that your page has, the better its search-engine performance is likely to be.
Having said that, not every back-link is created equal: while there are back-links that can help improve your rank for certain search queries, you need to be wary of ‘toxic’ back-links.
Using low-quality back-links is unlikely to get you penalized from Google. However, if you purchase back-links or participate in any link schemes, a Google penalty is far likelier.
So, it is important that you dedicate your energies towards developing quality back-links which will help you rank higher with regards to your primary keywords.
9) Optimizing images:
Image compression is, of course, important to make sure that your pages do not take too long to load. In this section, we will talk more about image compression, as well as discuss some of the other ways that you can optimize your images for SEO.
i) Using the ideal file formats:
One of the most important steps in optimizing your images for SEO is to pick the best format. So, how do PNG, JPEG, and WebP stack up against each other?
You are probably aware that the most common formats for web images are PNG and JPEG. However, both formats have significantly different techniques for compression, which is why there can be drastic differences in the file sizes of the two formats.
In terms of picture quality, JPEG is perhaps the undisputed winner. However, despite this, it might not be the best idea to make this format the de facto one for your webpage images.
This is because, although JPEG works really well for photographs, it might not be the best option for images containing line drawings, text, et cetera. In such situations, the PNG format is your best bet.
A third option is WebP, which offers superior lossy and lossless compression for web images.
The size of a lossless WEbP image, on average, is 26% less than the size of a PNG image.
ii) Compressing images:
As mentioned, the greater the size of the file image, the more loading time the page will require – which is why image compression is vital in improving your page’s loading speed.
Thankfully, there are many free tools that allow for image compression, with some of the best ones being:
This tool makes use of lossy-image compression techniques in order to compress JPEG and PNG image files.
ImageOptim is a free image compression tool that is available to Mac users, and is one that has also been suggested by Google. It is unarguably the best compression tool for JPEGs. However, if you want to compress PNG images, you are better off with TinyPNG.
Website owners who use WordPress to operate their sites can use the ShortPixel plug-in for image compression. This tool offers a free plan where users can compress up to 100 images every month.
iii) Providing alt-text:
Even though Google has come leaps and bounds in terms of its image understanding, adding image alt-text is still important. When you add alt-text to your images, you improve web accessibility, thereby helping browsers in understanding those images. Also, in case your image fails to load, the alt-text will help the user get an idea about the contents of the image.
In addition, over 8 million people in the US have some sort of vision impairment, and many of them use screen readers, which are devices that recite the alt-text on images.
When preparing image alt-text, make sure to remain concise, and to not stuff the text with keywords.
10) Creating thorough content:
If you want to improve your ranking for multiple queries, you must focus on creating thorough content.
Remember that being thorough is not necessarily about the content length, but about covering the relevant subtopics and any related topics that people might be searching for. Although this best practice is most relevant to informational material such as blog posts, it can also prove useful in various other kinds of content.
Below are a couple of ways to look for relevant subtopics:
i) Research top-ranking web pages and identify relevant keywords:
If you look at any top-ranking page for the keyword, ‘best DSLR camera brands’, you are likely to find terms like ‘Canon’, ‘Nikon’ and ‘Sony’.
ii) Pay attention to the ‘people also searched for’ results:
For instance, for the keyword, ‘best DSLR camera brands’, you are likely to find questions related to quality and reliability.
11) Include relevant internal links:
An internal link is one that links two different pages to your website.
Generally, the greater the number of links (internal and external) that a page has, the higher the page’s rank is likely to be. This is one of the foundations of the ranking algorithm on Google, and is important even to this day.
Until 2016, Google offered a PageRank tool that allowed you to check your page’s score with regards to internal links. However, there are still other similar tools that you can use.
Through internal links, search engines can get a better idea about the page’s content and theme.
Thankfully, almost every CMS includes at least one internal link on newly-made web pages. These links might be present on the site’s homepage, menu bar, or anywhere else.
However, you should still make sure to include additional internal links each time you publish any new content.
To identify any relevant site pages related to your content, you can simply run the following search on Google:
site:yourdomain.com [page topic]
Make sure that the content that you produce is answering your users’ queries adequately and thoroughly, without concerning yourself too much about the length of the content piece – sometimes, answering the searcher’s question might require lengthier material, while other times, shorter pages might suffice.
Hence, as long as you produce relevant and well-researched content, the length and word count are unlikely to have a major influence.
12)Targeting topics that have potential for search traffic:
SEO without keyword research is pretty pointless; you do not want to waste your money, effort, and time into improving your rank in areas that people are unlikely to search.
However, search volume, although important, can often be misleading. Sometimes, pages ranking lower volume keywords can attract more traffic, because they are also drawing traffic from multiple other keywords.
So, even though search volume can help you come up with keyword ideas, you should also check the estimated traffic for the ranking pages, as this will help you obtain the true picture regarding the keyword’s traffic potential.
13)Targeting topics within your wheelhouse:
A competitive keyword is likely to be dominated by the biggest players in the game, since they have deep pockets and outrageous back-link profiles.
For instance, if you search the term ‘best insurance companies’, you will find the first results page dominated by giants such as Nerdwallet, Investopedia, and Forbes, each of which have several hundred back-links from almost as many websites.
In other words, it is almost impossible to rank for this particular keyword, especially in the short or medium terms.
For this reason, your best bet is to target keywords that are right within your wheelhouse.
For the insurance company example, it might be something like, ‘best insurance companies for poor credit history’.
Although the traffic and search volume potential with such a keyword is likely to be considerably lower, you will not have to compete with the Big Boys. Therefore, you will not be required to find a massive quantity of back-links just to give yourself an outside chance.
14) Focusing on Indexing:
Ignoring indexing is one of the most common and harmful SEO mistakes that online business owners commit. This is because, in order for users to be able to view a page, it needs to be viewed by a search engine – and that will not happen if the page is not indexed.
There are numerous factors which can create indexing issues – even in the absence of any crawlability issues.
Duplicate content or meta-data, for example, often make it hard for a search engine to pinpoint the pages that need to be ranked for various similar or identical search terms.
A number of websites are dealing with indexing problems brought about as a result of duplicate content, descriptions, and title tags.
This means that search engines such as Google are being forced to decide the pages that need to be ranked – in spite of the fact that it is possible for webmasters to preempt such problems and instruct Google regarding page ranking.
Many different issues can affect website indexability, ranging from multilingual website conflicts to excessively low word counts. Some of the most common issues are discussed below:
i) Long/short title tags:
If your title tag is less than 60 characters long, you might have more room for optimization that you are missing out on. On the other hand, if your title is over 60 characters long, it is not being fully displayed in the search engine results pages.
ii) Too few words:
If Google thinks that a page does not have sufficient content, it might flag that page. For this reason, you should conduct regular reviews of all your website pages, and make sure that they are adequately informative.
iii) Missing lang and hreflang attributes:
This problem comes about when a multilingual page does not have the required tags or links informing the search engine about the results that should be served to users from the different regions.
iv) Hreflang conflicts present within the site’s source codes:
If a multilingual website’s hreflang is not aligned with any of the source codes on the site’s pages, it could end up confusing the search engine.
v) AMP HTML problems:
This problem pertains to users who access your website through mobile devices, and is triggered when your HTML code does not line up with the standards established by the AMP.
Other indexing errors include:
- Duplicate content.
- Duplicate heading tags.
- Missing heading tags.
- Multiple heading tags.
- Duplicate or identical meta-descriptions.
- Issues related to language mismatch in hreflang.
About THE AUTHOR
After working for multiple digital advertising agencies and managing hundreds of client accounts, spending millions of dollars via Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Native Ads and Direct Media Buying, I took things out on my own and started SparrowBoost. Now, my tight-knit team and I continue to get smarter and more efficient at running our own campaigns and we share our knowledge with you.Learn more about SparrowBoost