You’ve got your website up and running. You’ve bought the domain name and set up the hosting, but now what? The next step is to make sure you’re optimizing your site for search engines like Google and Bing. There are SEO best practices to follow. This can be tricky if you haven’t done much (or any) SEO before, but don’t worry—we’ll walk you through the basics of making your site search-engine friendly. There are plenty of things to do when it comes to optimizing your site for search engines, but these 12 tactics will help you create a solid foundation for your site’s growth.
And remember, SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. You won’t see results very quickly, and the more competitive the industry and market you’re in, the longer it will take to get a foothold. The key is to be consistent!
SEO Best Practices: The Basics
We’ll start with the basics. What is SEO?
SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” It’s a collection of techniques that help websites rank higher in Google and other search engines, like Bing and Yahoo Search. The goal of this process is to make it easier for people who are looking for your products or services to find them. This means more customers and less money spent on ads or marketing.
How about some best practices?
There are many ways to optimize your site for search engines, but we’ve found that these basic principles (or “best practices”) are a great start.
Mobile First Indexing
Mobile first indexing is the primary way that Google will index (list in their database) your website. It means that Google will crawl and index mobile versions of websites before they crawl and index the desktop version. Mobile first indexing is good for SEO because it means that Google will be able to find your site more easily, due to its ability to read small text on mobile phones (and also because everyone has a smartphone these days).
Don’t Get Lost in Keyword Research
If you ever find yourself in a conversation with an SEO expert like Advisors SEO & Marketing, just ask them how they do keyword research. If they tell you that it’s a waste of time because Google has already figured out what people are searching for and serves those results up at the top of their search engine results page (SERP), then they’re probably not very good at their job. If they tell you that they spend hours every day poring over analytics data from tools like Semrush, Moz Analytics, and Ahrefs to figure out which keywords people are using as well as how many times each one was used across social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, then congratulations! You’ve found someone who really knows what he’s doing.
You see, even though it seems pretty straightforward on its face—you just look for words that people use—keyword research is actually incredibly complicated because there are so many different factors at work behind the scenes when someone types something into their browser or uses voice search on their phone.
A good SEO person will take the time to understand your business so that they can understand what keywords will give the best ROI to your business. With literally thousands of keywords to scan, being able to attribute value to the best keywords is paramount.
Make Sure Your Website Loads Fast
If you have a website, there are many reasons to make sure that it loads fast.
According to research by Akamai, nearly half of all consumers expect a site to load in two seconds or less. If they don’t get what they expect within three seconds, they’ll bounce from the page.
And it’s not just about getting visitors to stay on your site: Top-performing sites in search results have faster load times than their competitors—which means that by making your site fast, you’re helping yourself rank higher in Google searches for keywords related to “fast” or “speedy”.
The key here is how page load times directly affect conversion rates. If your website has e-commerce, you’ll want to pay particular attention to your load times.
So how do you make sure your website loads quickly? It depends on how big it is and what kind of technology powers it.
This aspect of website optimization gets pretty technical pretty quickly. If you’re not comfortable coding and working with servers, then give us a shout and we’ll help you out.
Make Sure Your Website is Responsive
The last thing you want is for your website to look like it was designed in the 90s and has been left behind by the times. Google has made responsive design a ranking factor, so if you want to stay competitive in the SERPs, this is one of those “must haves.” It’s one of those SEO best practices that you just can’t ignore!
Responsive design isn’t just a way to make sure your website looks good on all devices; it can also help you convert more customers. A study by Google shows that people who browse via mobile are 70% more likely to complete a transaction than desktop users due to ease of access (and maybe because they’re doing it on their phones). So don’t let any opportunity pass!
Responsive vs Not Responsive
Every website we create at Advisors SEO & Marketing is mobile responsive.
Make Your Site Easy to Navigate
You don’t need to be an expert to get the basics right. If you’re building a website from scratch, consider using a navigation bar—a list of links that takes up space at the top of your page.
You could also consider using breadcrumbs (an abbreviated version of your site’s structure that shows how a user got where they are on your site) and internal links (links from one page in your site to another). Breadcrumbs and internal links help users find their way around the different sections of your site.
Finally, make sure that when users click any links on your website, they are taken straight there without being redirected back to a previous page first! This is called “soft linking.”
To make sure these elements work together seamlessly with all devices (phones, tablets etc.), make sure that any pages/sections load quickly and easily so users can navigate them easily too!
A well thought out UI will set up your website for success.
Write Unique, Relevant Content
Writing unique, relevant content is the most important SEO best practices you can follow. But not just any content. It has to be backed by solid SEO research. Otherwise, you’ll just be creating content that nobody sees.
It’s better to have one piece of high-quality, unique content than it is to have 10 pieces of subpar copywriting.
Google will penalize you if your website contains duplicate or plagiarized text, so make sure you’re writing original copy for every page on your site. This includes blog posts, product descriptions and any other type of text-based content that appears on your site.
Don’t Overuse Images
We all love images. They add color to the web and help us better understand what we’re reading. But too many images can be a bad thing for SEO.
Sometimes that has become a tug-of-war with the designers, but usually a balance can be struck to allow a beautiful design, and still allow enough copy for your website to index well with Google.
Images can also be slow to load on mobile devices, which means users will have a hard time accessing your content if they visit from their phones. (Remember where we talked about page load times!) Additionally, too many images will make your page look cluttered and distract from the actual text that makes up most of the content of your page—which is usually what search engines want to see!
Optimize URLs for Search Engines
Use a keyword in the URL. The first step to optimizing your site’s URLs is to make sure the keywords, or relevant terms, are included in the URL itself. This means that if you’re writing an article about how to properly use hashtags on Twitter, your URL might look something like: http://www.bloggerbloggerblahblah/how-to-use-hashtags/.
This also goes back to your permalink structure. If you don’t know what this is, ask us and we’re happy to explain it and test your site to make sure it has the best permalink structure for SEO.
Optimize Titles and Descriptions for Click-Through Rate (CTR)
Optimize Titles and Descriptions for Click-Through Rate (CTR)
The title and description of your page are what visitors will see when searching for a specific topic. They’re also the first thing that shows up in the SERPs, so they should be optimized with keywords that describe what the page is about. However, you don’t want to overdo it; you’ll end up using too many keywords and nobody will click through because they’ll think it’s spammy or irrelevant. To optimize titles and descriptions:
- Use around 3% keywords density—not more than 10%
- Include all your main terms in order of importance, but don’t repeat them within each section e.g., “best practices” or “guide” (which should go at the beginning), then “web content optimization” (which should go at the end).
Use Internal Linking to Boost Pageviews and Dwell Time
When it comes to internal linking, there’s a lot of confusion about what it actually means. Internal linking is simply the practice of linking between pages on your site. You’re probably familiar with external links, which are the ones that take you offsite—these include any link that takes you from one website to another (for example, these links). Internal links, on the other hand, help users navigate through your site and help search engines understand its content better. To use internal linking effectively, remember these three things:
- Link to relevant content within your site
- Link more than once per page
- Make sure that each link is going where it should
A good internal link structure goes a long way to show Google what pages are most important to your website. Don’t overlook this aspect!
Optimize for Local SEO to Maximize Visibility in Local Results
You’ll also want to optimize for local SEO. This means ensuring that your business is listed on local business listing sites like Yelp, Google My Business, and Facebook. If you haven’t already done so, add your address and phone number in the correct categories on each of these sites. Then make sure your hours are accurate as well (and do update them if they change). People will see that information when they’re searching for a local business—and if it’s wrong or outdated, they might not be able to find you at all.
Finally, adding photos of the space where you work will help potential customers visualize what visiting there would look like before ever visiting there!
Human-Friendly 404 Pages (and 301 Redirects)
One of the most often overlooked SEO best practices is regarding a website’s 404 page. A 404 page is an important part of your site’s user experience. It lets visitors know that something has gone wrong and gives them a few options about how to proceed. Here’s how to set one up:
- Make sure your website hosts a 404 page. If you don’t have one, create one (it’s easy). Most web hosts will provide you with the code needed for this step, but if not, there are plenty of resources online that can help you get started (for example, this article from “Wired”).
- Include helpful tips and links on what users can do next time they visit your website—and make sure those links redirect back to your home page or another relevant page on site (like an FAQ). For example, if someone clicks on a broken link in our search results pages we could show them something like this: “This link isn’t working right now but we’re working hard to fix it as soon as possible! You may want track down some other great content in our blog section or browse through our company bio here.” These messages should also point out how long it will take before everything works again (e.g., “Our developers estimate that this issue will be resolved within 24 hours.”)
Take a deep breath, because that was a lot of information. Don’t worry—you don’t have to memorize it all. Just make sure you understand the basics of SEO best practices and then implement them on your own website. You’ll eventually start seeing results!
All of this can be overwhelming to those who don’t do it all the time–totally normal! If you need help with your site, just reach out to us! We’re happy to help!
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