Top 9 SEO best practices for an effective strategy
According to Hubspot, the average person conducts between three to four Google searches per day. This is people searching for products, services and information up to four times or more a day.
In addition, 51% of website traffic is driven by organic search. If you’re not ranking on the first page of Google, or even the top ten results for your target keywords, you’re not going to drive any traffic through your SEO strategy.
An SEO strategy is essential for being found online by your potential customers but getting the basics right is important for any SEO strategy. There are a number of different ways you can get your website to rank on Google but getting the basics will form the foundation of your strategy and help to make sure it’s as successful as possible.
SEO best practices are the strategies that help search engines to crawl, index and understand your content. Let’s have a look at the top 9 SEO tips for an effective SEO strategy.
1. Align your website content with search intent
As part of your SEO strategy, you should have done keyword research to find the keywords you want to target to drive organic traffic to your website. Once you know what these keywords are, you will also need to consider search intent and the types of pages and content that best match this intent.
Search intent is the purpose behind a search query. Understanding and satisfying search intent is Google’s priority. When someone performs a search, Google wants to provide the best, most relevant answer that helps users to solve their problems or answer their questions. The pages on page one of the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) will all match the intent of the query.
There are different types of search intent to consider:
- Informational – this means the user is looking for specific information, this might be ‘pizza recipe’ or ‘what’s the weather like in Sheffield today’.
- Navigational – these users are looking for a specific website or app such as ‘Amazon’ or ‘YouTube’.
- Commercial – these are users who are looking for a specific product but haven’t made a decision about the product they want to buy yet. These searchers might be looking for ‘best running shoes’ or ‘best headphones’.
- Transactional – these users are ready to make a purchase and have already made the decision to buy a specific product. They are likely looking for the best price or brand to buy from.
2. Optimise page meta titles and descriptions
Title tags are a key element of SEO. These are the headlines of a search result that you can click and should include your keyword and provide users with an idea of the content they can expect to see when they click through to your site.
Best practices for optimising your page title include:
- Include the target keyword for the page
- Make sure the title matches the search intent of the query
- Avoid keyword stuffing
- Avoid duplicating title tags
- Keep the title descriptive and concise
Search engines pay close attention to the keywords you use in your title tags so it’s essential they match the content of your page. In addition, they should be useful for users too and let them know more about the content of the page.
A meta description is a brief summary of the content of a page in the SERPs. Although they don’t directly influence search rankings, they can influence the click through rate of a page.
Best practices for writing meta descriptions include:
- Making sure each page is unique
- Using action orientated copy such as ‘buy now’
- Matching the search intent of the query
- Including your target keywords
- Providing an accurate summary of the page
3. Optimise your site’s loading speed
Your site speed is one of the most important ranking factors so you need to make sure that your website loads as quickly as possible.
The longer your site takes to load, the more likely visitors are to leave. Google looks at the bounce rate of your website (how quickly people leave your site and return to the search results) when ranking it so, if people are not staying, it can have a detrimental impact on your rankings.
Google’s PageSpeed Insights Tool is free and allows you to take a look at the elements that could be slowing your site down. GTMetrix is another great tool for insights into the speed of your site and the steps you can take to improve the speed of your site.
4. Optimise images
Optimising the images on your site is not just to help your website rank in Google image, it can also help your website to rank higher within the search results.
There are a few best practices to follow when it comes to optimising images:
- Use alt text – Google relies on alt text to understand your images so make sure this is descriptive. Alt text also helps to improve web accessibility.
- Use descriptive file names – Google can’t see images so the filename and alt text you use is what will help them to understand the content of your image and how it relates to your content.
- File format- the file format you use can affect site speed so make sure you choose the best file format such as JPEG or PNG.
- Compress images – larger file sizes can really slow your site down and are one of the biggest contributors to a slow site. You will need to compress them before adding them to your site.
5. Use internal linking
Internal linking helps Google and users to understand the hierarchy of your site and which pages are the most important for a particular topic. A good internal linking strategy can help to boost rankings so it’s an important factor to consider.
You can link from a top ranking page of your site to pages that need a boost to pass the authority over.
Always use keyword rich anchor text. The anchor text is used by Google to help understand what the page is about so make sure your link includes the main keyword of the content you’re linking to.
Google crawls every page of your site and want to see that the content you produce is relevant to what you do and to your other pieces of content. Most importantly, you need to make sure the links you include in your content are as relevant as possible.
6. Publish great content
Creating content is at the core of any SEO strategy. It’s not enough to just produce piece after piece of content stuffed with keywords. It needs to be high quality content that matches the intent of the search query and provides users with the information they need and are looking for. Whether it’s your product pages or blog posts, content is vital to making sure your site is seen in the SERPs.
What should you focus on when creating SEO content?
- Identify the most relevant keywords
- Identify the user intent behind your chosen keywords
- Take a look at your competitor’s content
- Use internal links
- Make sure the content is unique to your website
- Include visuals
- Optimise the headers and meta tags
- Keep user experience in mind
Your content should always answer the original search query. Sometimes answering the query needs longer content but sometimes a shorter page will be just as effective. Don’t stuff the content with keywords or additional information if it’s not needed.
7. Build backlinks
Backlinks are another key ranking signal. Authoritative backlines signal to Google that your site is trusted and provides information that is worth sharing. This will mean your site is likely to rank higher in the search results.
Remember that not all backlinks are the same. High quality links from relevant sources are great for boosting your rankings but if they’re low quality or not relevant to your content or website, it can be detrimental to your website.
Whilst Google is unlikely to penalise you for poor quality links, you will be penalised if they think that you’re taking part in link schemes or buying backlinks so beware of blackhat link building techniques.
8. Improve user experience
Improving the user experience or UX of your website is another way to boost rankings. It impacts your SEO results because Google can see when visitors click on your site and then leave again. This is usually a signal that your website has not answered the question or the user could not find what they were looking for due to poor user experience.
If your website is not providing users with what they need, this can impact your rankings.
Here are some of the best practices you can follow to ensure the best user experience for your website:
- Use subheadings – using subheadings and H1,H2,H3,H4 tags within your content helps Google to understand the content of a page. It can also make the content more accessible to your website visitors too.
- Use visuals – visuals within your content will help users to get a better understanding of what you’re trying to get across. Where you can, add in videos, relevant images and screenshot to illustrate what you’re trying to say.
- Avoid popups – popups can be annoying for visitors and prevent them from taking the relevant actions on your site. This can lead to more people leaving your site and can be detrimental to your rankings.
- Utilise white space – white space is a fundamental part of good design. It makes it easier for visitors to scan the page and find exactly what they want quickly and easily.
- Make your site mobile friendly – mobile friendliness is essential because Google uses mobile-first indexing. A site that’s not mobile friendly is unlikely to rank well in the search results.
9. Make URLs SEO friendly
URLs are an important part of SEO and can often be overlooked. A good URL structure provides users and search engines with information on the destination of the pages on your site.
Make them as simple as possible and organise your content so that the URLs are constructed logically and in a way that is most intelligible to people.
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