If you’ve ever attempted to optimize your website to get better rankings from search engines, you probably understood one thing very quickly: when it comes to best practices for SEO, there’s a lot of information out there.
It can be easy to feel overwhelmed, especially if you’re new to SEO. But if you’re looking for a place to start, there are some core best practices that are the foundation of any great SEO strategy — even the most advanced SEO tactics will be pointless if you ignore any of these fundamentals, so it makes sense to master these before getting into the weeds.
Intrigued? Read on to see the 7 SEO best practices you should never, ever ignore.
1. Match search intent
At their core, Google and other search engines are designed to help users find the content they’re looking for. This might seem obvious, but failing to match target keywords with the search intent for those keywords is actually one of the most common mistakes you can make when it comes to SEO.
For example, let’s say you run an e-commerce site that specializes in running shoes. After doing some keyword research, you find that thousands of users search for “best running shoes” every month. That keyword phrase is related to your product and gets lots of search volume, so it would be a great idea to target “best running shoes” on your product page, right?
Wrong. If you type “best running shoes” into Google, you’ll find that the top organic search results don’t include retailers selling running shoes — instead, they’re buying guides and reviews from authoritative sources on running shoes.
That’s because users who search for “best running shoes” aren’t ready to make a purchase yet. Ultimately, they are interested in purchasing some running shoes eventually — but they’re still doing their research, so for now they’re looking for unbiased information about the best running shoes.
A search term with this type of intent is known as a commercial investigation search. It’s one of four main categories search intent falls into, along with informational intent, navigational intent, and transactional intent. Not sure which type of search intent aligns with the keyword phrase you’re considering? Simply type the phrase into Google and see what kind of results come up.
2. Create high-quality content that people are actually looking for
Again, the number-one priority of Google and other search engines is to give people what they’re looking for online. People look for well-written, high-quality content that’s both enjoyable to read and provides the information they’re looking for — and modern search engines are remarkably effective at identifying that type of content and making it easier to find.
So when it comes to content, quality is non-negotiable — today’s search engines are far too sophisticated to be tricked into providing users with low-quality content.
But if your goal is to create blog posts and other content that brings organic search traffic to your site, there’s another piece of the puzzle that can’t be overlooked. Even the most well-written, highest quality content won’t bring organic traffic to your site if it’s not something people are searching for.
So, it makes sense to do some keyword research before choosing a topic for your content. What are people searching for that you can provide?
3. Target the right keywords — and target them the right way
When it comes to SEO best practices, keyword targeting is nothing new. But today, keyword targeting is all about finding the right keywords to match search intent, so definitely don’t take shortcuts when it comes to keyword research.
Equally as important as finding the right keywords is using them the right way — cheap tactics like keyword stuffing are not only ineffective but are explicitly discouraged by Google and can significantly hurt your site’s rankings.
4. Pay attention to user experience
Just as search engines have gotten better at recognizing high-quality content, they’re also more sophisticated than ever when it comes to understanding user experience.
A whole range of factors contribute to the overall experience users have on your site, from page speed to content quality to the ease at which users can navigate your site and find what they’re looking for. As a general rule, though, try to put yourself in a user’s shoes and look at your site from their perspective — if this was a site you’d never visited before, would you want to stay?
5. Don’t underestimate title tags and meta descriptions
Think of title tags and meta descriptions as your opportunity to convince users that of all the different results they see on a SERP, yours is the one they want to click on.
After all, every result on the SERP is going to be relevant to their query, and they’re probably all fairly similar — so your title tag and meta description are the only way to make sure your page stands out from the pack.
Obviously, you’ll want to include your keyword targets in both the title tag and meta description, since that will signal to both searchers and search engines that your page is relevant to the topic.
From there, focus on writing title tags and meta descriptions that are unique and compelling — what can you say to convince users that it’s worth clicking on your page to find out more?
6. When it comes to backlinks, focus on quality over quantity
Backlinks are one of Google’s most important ranking factors, and it’s not hard to understand why: if lots of other websites are linking to a page on your site, it’s a pretty good indicator that page is a useful, high-quality resource that many people are relying on.
However, not all backlinks are created equally — earning just a few high-quality backlinks from pages that Google considers authoritative and relevant to yours will be a lot more valuable than earning dozens of backlinks from spammy, irrelevant, or low-quality sites.
7. Use internal linking on your site
Just as backlinks help search engines understand your content and determine which pages on your site are most useful and authoritative, internal links give search engines context about which pages on your site to pay the most attention to. If multiple pages on your site all link back to the same page, search engine crawlers will take that as a clue indicating that page is an important one.
Plus, thoughtfully-placed internal links can improve user experience and help encourage users to spend more time on your site — in the end, making it easier for users to navigate your site will make it easier for search engines to find their way around, too.
Implementing SEO Best Practices
Understanding what needs to be done to optimize your website is one thing; taking the time, energy, and effort to implement these best practices is quite another.
That’s exactly where we come in. Our team spends all day, every day pondering the ins and outs of SEO best practices, and we’re passionate about putting in the work to get tangible results for our clients. If you’d rather focus on the day-to-day demands of your business, but understand how a weak online presence can negatively impact your bottom line, contact us — we’ll take care of the rest.