Regardless if you already work, live and breathe the internet or if you’re just about to craft your online presence, there’s one magic term that you’ve probably heard of – SEO.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and by many is considered as some manipulative technique that can have an impact on how websites are ranked by search engines.
Only a part of this is correct.
Indeed, optimization for different search engines (e.g. Google, Bing, Yahoo), if done well, can improve a website’s visibility in SERPs (search engine result pages). However, nowadays SEO is no longer about sneaky techniques that are meant to deceive search engines and their users.
In fact, the reason Google is updating its algorithms so often is that it wants to ensure that only good SEO practices are implemented by website owners on a daily basis. Proper techniques are those that not only help a web page rank higher but most of all those that help people find relevant information effortlessly. In the SEO world, we call them white hat techniques.
In other words, SEO is here to serve not only you – a website owner, blogger, entrepreneur but most of all a user who, at the same time, is your potential visitor, follower, happy customer and dedicated brand advocate.
Start your SEO adventure
Below we gathered some of the most trusted SEO tips that will help your own online space become both more visible in the depth of the Internet and more user-friendly.
To keep things organized and as clear to you as possible our list is divided into few sections. (Yes, SEO is a complex and long-term process.) We begin with some small and easy-to-implement tweaks that could have a great impact on your website’s SEO. As we go deeper, you will learn more about SEO, how search engines work and how to build a robust SEO strategy.
While implementing those tips, remember that the best companions in your adventure will be: persistence and consistency in optimizing your website.
Basics of on-page website optimization
Note: Nowadays the way in which we structure URL addresses, write title tags and meta-descriptions, optimize website images and so on becomes less important as Google focuses on other SEO factors (mostly on content and link building techniques). However, as we’re learning about the SEO basics, the only way we should do it is to learn about good practices.
This is exactly what we’re about to do now.
1. Make your website’s structure clear, intuitive and up-to-date.
The way you organize a site architecture, and its navigation is crucial for both SEO and your visitors. Search engines go through a link structure to find and index pages. If your site is structured well, all the pages and subpages will be easily found and indexed by search engine crawlers.
Also, an intuitive navigation will work for your visitors as it will help them find what they came for in the least amount of time possible. A ‘three clicks’ rule says that any information on a website should be available for a user within no more than three clicks. This is how you should plan it.
2. Include one primary keyword in a page URL.
The web pages in your domain may be optimized for many different keywords. It is said that the best way is to focus only on one keyword phrase and to include it directly in the URL address.Use hyphens (-) instead of underscores (_) in URLs.
3. Use hyphens (-) instead of underscores (_) in URLs.
When you use underscores to separate words in a URL name, Google will read it as one single word. This means that the_best_seo_practices will be treated by search crawlers as ‘thebestseopractices’. That one is hard to read, right?
4. Choose a static URL address instead of a dynamic one.
There are two types of web addresses: static and dynamic.
A static URL looks like that:
A dynamic one can look like this:
While search engines can easily understand both of the URLs, for human beings dynamic URLs are completely illegible.
For instance, if you have a blog on WordPress you can see that a default URL address of a particular post is dynamic.
When you click the ‘publish’ button, WordPress will automatically convert it into a static address. However, it will pick random keywords from the blog’s title. In terms of SEO, it would be better if you edit the URL name yourself which is possible as seen above.
5. Keep a URL address brief, descriptive and relevant.
A visitor should be able to tell at a glance what a particular website is all about. If you choose to edit a URL address yourself, you’ll not only work in favor of the keyword optimization, but you’ll also make it easier for a user to understand what he or she can find on a particular website. This way you’ll make a searcher’s life a bit easier.
Title-tag, meta-description and ALT-attribute
6. Create a sweet title-tag for every single page of your website.
A title tag describes what your domain is all about. This is one short sentence in which you describe your online space. It will appear in several places, such as: the SERPs, social media, external pages, and in browsers (see examples below).
It should be short, catchy and original enough to attract the attention of those people who are your targeted audience. Yes, it means that you should speak their language and present your website in a way that would be attractive to them.
7. Use meta-description to present your brand better.
A meta description is a short paragraph which is displayed under a title tag on the SERP (see screen above). A meta-description gives you the opportunity to introduce your brand before a searcher pays a visit to your site and actually sees the products that you offer.
The optimal length of a meta-description is between 150-160 characters.
8. Don’t forget to use ALT attributes for all of the images.
Search engines don’t read images, they read the ALT text instead. You should use an ALT attribute to help engine crawlers better understand the meaning of an image and what it represents. Of course, it’s good to use keyword phrases you target to describe the images on the webpage itself.
Also, it is good to place keywords in the text that surrounds the images and make it bolded. This way engine crawlers will know that this part of a post is particularly important for readers.
Whatever CMS (content management system) you use, each time you upload an image you will have a chance to optimize it with proper keywords. It’s easy. Below is how you can optimize images in WordPress.
Keywords and keyword phrases
9. Find keywords that will work for you.
SEO is pretty much based on keywords. The key to a good SEO strategy is to find out what words users type into a search bar when they look for websites like yours. With a list of relevant keywords in your hand, you’ll be a half way there.
One (and the most common) way of doing a keyword research is to use Google Keyword Planner. This free tool is available to anyone with a Google AdWords account, which is also free. Once you setup your account and give more details about your website, you’ll get a list of keyword suggestions.
Your job is to pick the most relevant keyword phrases from the list. However, it is also important that those keywords are popular among users (have a relatively high number of average monthly searches). Lastly, they should have medium or low competition (not many websites try to optimize for those keywords).
This is only easy in theory. The tricky part about Google Keyword Planner is that it shows the estimated number of average competition is for the number paid ads for that particular keyword. When it comes to the competition for the organic results will be totally different.
So the best idea is to use additional (and usually paid) tools for checking the actual keyword difficulty metric.
Still, Google Keyword Planner is a good starting point for keyword research. Here you can read more about how to use Google Keyword Planner.
10. Mix different types of keywords simultaneously.
Basically, there are three main types of keywords: generic, broad match and long tail. Each of them attract a bit different types and amount of traffic. The safest and the most effective strategy is to mix those types of keywords in order to get different variety of traffic.
Generic keywords are unspecific and very general terms, for example: “content marketing” or “growth hacking” are those kinds of keywords. Such terms provide a really good amount of traffic, which, at the same time, is not very targeted. Generic keywords are also very competitive.
Broad match keywords usually provides a good balance between the traffic volume and its relevance for a website. They could sound like: “growth hacking for startups” or “content marketing best practices”. Traffic that comes from those phrases will be better targeted, which means that people who visit will be more likely to become your future clients and followers.
Long tail keywords are long phrases (they could be even whole sentences) that people type into search bars. “How to prepare a content marketing strategy” or “how to use growth hacking techniques to expand a business” are examples of long tail keywords. They won’t bring a lot of traffic to your website. However, visitors that they provide you with, are most likely to become your engaged users.
11. Don’t forget to include a location in your keywords.
This way you’ll optimize your website and your business for both local searches and local clients. For instance, if you offer content marketing services and you’re based in San Francisco, it’s good to you let your potential customers know and put keyword such an obvious keyword phrase like: “content marketing services in San Francisco”.
12. Place your keywords in headlines, subheadings and anchor texts.
Not every spot on your website will give your keyword phrases the same exposure and SEO power. In a content’s structure the best places to put your keywords are headlines, subheadings, bolded sections within a text and anchor texts (copy that describes links).
When describing links don’t ever use the “click here” term! It gives absolutely no information about what can be found under a particular link, plus you miss the chance to optimize a text link.
This way you’ll do it right:
Also, if possible, put the most important keywords also in the name of your website’s sections.
13. Put keywords naturally throughout your on-page content.
They should fit into the context. If you over do it and stuff your content with too many keyword phrases, you will make your web page look spammy and unattractive both for users and engine crawlers. Keyword stuffing will result in a negative user experience and most certainly will harm your site’s rankings.
14. Try to focus on one keyword while optimizing a web page.
It is good to optimize a web page with one keyword phrase rather than several ones at a time. By focusing on one keyword, you’ll be sure that it gains all the SEO power it can get. Optimize title and meta tags of a website along with its content (headline, subheadings, body text, links and images).
15. Optimize all images with proper keywords.
Don’t forget to use keyword phrases not only throughout the website’s content, but also in the image description. It is also believed that it’s good practice to use words such as: “image”, “photo”, “picture” along with your picked keyword while describing an image with an ALT attribute.
16. As soon as you start doing SEO, track the performance of all your keywords.
If you don’t follow the search rankings of your website and don’t know how particular keywords work for your positions in SERPs, you may as well just stop doing SEO altogether. Website optimization is a long-term process which requires carefully tracking all your efforts. When it comes to keywords, you have to know which ones work in favor of your rankings.
Content still wears the SEO crown.
17. Publish only high quality, fresh and keyword rich content.
One of the most important SEO factors nowadays is a website’s content. If you provide useful and actionable information for users, search engines will rank your website higher in SERPs. To get the best optimization results, you should also update your content as often as it is possible. This way you’ll keep your website fresh and your audience interested.
18. Pay special attention to spelling and grammar of your content.
High-quality content means faultless spelling. It’s true that people often misspell words they type into search bars. Some the of not-so-recommended techniques advise to optimize a website also for misspelled keywords so that users who are not good at grammar could easily find it. However, excessive misspellings and poor grammar can only harm your website’s rankings.
19. Make sure your content is unique and valuable.
To make a website stand out in the depth of the internet is the hardest job for everyone who runs an online business. There’s no magic recipe that can be applied and give sustainable results. However, search engines tend to reward those websites that bring a real value to their users.
A site that has information that unique and valuable (informative, useful and intelligible) will gain more exposure in the SERPs. Search engines rank higher those websites which try to make a difference (in a good way of course!) and provide real value for people.
20. Prepare content that appeals to your targeted audience.
Not every piece of content will be interesting for each and every user out there. Your website will get in front of a random audience from time to time. However, your job is not to please everyone, but to create content tailored to the needs of your customers.
Develop a buyer persona before you start investing your resources into content creation. Publish only those pieces of content that matter to your audience.
21. Carefully plan your content strategy.
Yes, you should have a strategy for content that you publish on your website. Not only should you know exactly what kind of information you would like to provide, but also how often. This applies especially if you run a blog within your website. Start with creating a roadmap for content creation.
22. Make your content easy to read.
On the Internet, people tend to scan text rather than read it from cover to cover. That’s why you should provide a clear structure of each piece of content. Use headlines, subheadings, bullets and bolds in the most relevant sections of your copy.
Also, try to make your content a bit more vivid – use pictures, real-life examples, infographics or videos to illustrate information better and make your content memorable. Also don’t forget to place proper keywords throughout the content.
23. Take care of all duplicate content on your website
Duplicated content – the same content that appears on multiple unique URLs – is not welcome by search engines and can cause a serious drop in a website’s rankings. However, sometimes it’s hard to avoid duplicating content, especially on ecommerce websites where the same product is presented on separate web pages with different size and/or color.
In cases like this, you should use a canonical tag that points out which page should be considered as original in relation to duplicated content. You can also use a 301 redirect to make sure that SEO juice is directed to one website address and not divided into several web pages.
Link building matters a lot
24. Build a healthy backlink profile for your site.
Inbound links that come to your site are the second most important SEO factor (right after content) that has great impact on your website’s rankings. From the first days of crafting a SEO strategy for your business, you should plan which link building strategies you’ll invest in.
Picking trusted and relevant websites that you’d like to receive backlinks from will be a good start.
25. When actively gaining links aim only for the quality ones.
Only links from quality and trusted websites that attract a high amount of traffic can have a serious and good impact on your website’s rankings. If an authoritative website links to yours, some of this “authority” is transferred to your site.
Search engines start to trust your site a bit more. And when they consider it as a good source of knowledge, they are also more willing to rank it higher in their SERPs.
Remember: quality is always more important than quantity when it comes to links, content, and SEO in general. Plenty of spammy links can only harm your rankings, not make them higher.
26. Don’t invest in sponsored links.
It’s far better to focus on reaching to authoritative blogs and providing them with real value rather than pay for a spammy or highly promotional articles with a backlink to your website. Such a publication won’t bring you much traffic, nor will it give you credibility in readers’ eyes.
It’s far better if you find a respected blog or media outlet from your niche and present your extensive expertise on a particular subject in the form of a blog post, case study, infographic, presentation, etc.
Real value generates traffic, followers, engagement and backlinks. When you give something worthwhile, you’ll get a quality backlink juice in return. No money will give you sustainable SEO results and quality inbound links like that.
27. Link to other quality websites.
If you link to other websites, you not only help to promote their content, but also you let others know that you exist. Simple as that. And if you provide quality content, people whose work you’ve shared will be more willing to promote your website as well.
Quality link building is more about creating relationships, not exchanging links.
28. Earn links by helping people
In the SEO world, the currency is links. When you help others, for example by sharing your knowledge, valuable insights, easy-to-implement tips and free tools, you always get something in return. Users usually feel gratitude and the need to give you something in exchange – they give links.
If you decide to spend money on paid campaigns, consider spending them not only in favor of gaining backlinks, but to actually help people. There are plenty of charity and nonprofit organizations that are looking for sponsors. In return, they will mention you on their websites.
The good news is that domains which end with .org (for organization), .edu (for education), .info (for information), .gov (for government) have higher domain authority than commercial websites and are far better trusted by search engines. Receiving links from them will give your website a lot credibility.
29. Create content that people would love to link to.
As it was mentioned above, if you give a real value to your visitors, they will be happy to share it with their friends and family. You won’t even have to ask for it. This way you will receive ‘natural’ links that search engines are fond of.
30. Build good relationships with websites from your niche.
Search engines have really smart algorithms. If you try to gain links from irrelevant websites (even the quality and trusted ones), you won’t receive any link juice as search engines will consider it as one of the manipulative techniques.
It’s far better if you invest your time in creating relationships with websites and companies from your niche. You could exchange valuable content with your audiences and grow your backlinks in a safe way.
31. Create your social media presence.
Ok, it’s true that links from social media are ‘no-follow’ which means that they don’t have the direct impact on your rankings. However, having a brand presence in social media channels can increase traffic to your site and build your reputation in general.
The more visible your content is on social media, the more chance that people will share it via blog posts, forums, social bookmarking sites, and other avenues, naturally increasing your link profile.
32. Seek for guest blog exchange opportunities.
Guest blogging is a popular and a rather safe method of gaining backlinks. A blogger offers to write a post on another blog from the same niche. He or she receives a valuable inbound link while the blog host gets a high-quality content for free.
However, if you want this technique to work for you, the only way is to target high-quality blogs that are also relevant to your site, rather than participating in generic blog exchange networks.
33. Don’t overdo guest blogging.
A large scale of guest blogging only for link purpose is considered as a violation of Google’s rules. Guest blogging should bring value not only to both sides (the blogger and the blog host) but for users as well. SEO has always been a long-term and time-consuming process, but nowadays it is also more about users, not website owners.
At the end of a day, it’s ordinary people who use search engines on a daily basis. If they can’t find relevant information there, they will stop using them and switch to other sources.
34. Monitor the quality of your backlink profile.
After implementing any SEO technique, you need to monitor your efforts. As for link building you should check what results you get. You should do it not only to know whether your hard work is paying off, but also to make sure that you’re not hurting your rankings with low quality inbound links.
And don’t forget to…
35. Find out what your competition is doing for SEO.
Always keep an eye on your competitors. Find out what keywords they optimize their websites for and monitor their rankings along with yours. Do it on a daily basis. Check what websites they appear on and what content they publish on their blog.
You should know all of those not to copy their SEO strategy, but on the contrary, to find your own unique way of optimizing your website. Also, don’t be afraid to change the strategy as soon as you know that it fails to bring you good, sustainable results.