The practice of search engine optimization (SEO) has become standard for any website that is serious about ranking among the top results in search engines. Even though SEO is so important, it can still be challenging to know exactly what changes to make in order to improve your chances of ranking higher.
To make things easier, we’ve compiled this list of 50 expert SEO tips and best practices that will help you identify ways to improve your website’s search visibility. They are organized by subject and provide a nice overview of the most effective SEO tactics that are being used today.
- Content Management Tips
- Keyword Research Tips
- On-Page SEO Best Practices
- Link-Building Tips and Tricks
- SEO Metrics and Monitoring Tips
- Technical SEO Optimization
Content Management Tips
1. Update your old content to boost rankings. Every website needs a steady flow of new content, but have you taken any time to refresh your evergreen content? Taking time to rework your old articles can help you improve click-through rates and increase your overall ranking. Some typical improvements include creating new titles, fixing grammar and spelling mistakes, and updating publication dates. These changes inform search engines that your content is fresh and help boost the visibility of your site.
2. Establish a search intent strategy. In order to create relevant content, it’s important to know what your audience is searching for. Creating a search intent strategy starts with an analysis of search rankings for a target keyword. Review the articles that appear first in the search and notice which types of content they contain. Look to see if the majority of results are blog posts, product pages, guides, or other types of popular content. Ultimately, you want your content to have a familiar structure but be unique enough to capture attention.
3. Regularly post fresh content. Creating quality content is still the best way to develop your website as a true authority. But in addition to informative content, you also need to develop a steady stream of new posts that can be indexed by search engines. Sharing your thoughts about the latest industry news in your niche is one great way to generate new posts. Another is to break down your core subjects into smaller topics so that you can post new articles related to these keywords. Posting frequently and consistently should be an important part of your SEO strategy.
4. Write your posts for human readers. It is easy to get carried away with SEO and forget that you are creating posts to capture the attention of a human audience. Search engines are an important pathway for reaching people since you can’t be seen if you do not rank. However, you should always strive to keep your content simple and avoid using too many keywords, links, or other elements that may be distracting. Enjoyable and easy-to-read posts are what will keep people coming back.
5. Choose headlines that draw attention. When it comes to posts and SEO, the first impression is perhaps the most important factor in your success. It does you no good to rank well if you don’t get anyone to click on your posts. To generate more clicks, you should create headlines that are clear, interesting, and contain rich keywords. A headline is the first thing that anyone will see as they browse search results, so you want to capture their attention right away.
6. Make your post long enough to count. How long do your posts really need to be? The simple answer is that a post should be long enough to add value to that particular topic. A good minimum post length to target is 600 words, which gives you enough space to make your key points. Search engines do tend to favor longer posts that are at least 2,000 words, and you should also use these longer “authoritative” posts to add additional leverage to your ranking potential.
7. Avoid keyword stuffing. It is important not to use too many keyword mentions in your posts. Today’s search engine algorithms are very sophisticated and can automatically determine the relevance of your post for a particular keyword based on a number of factors. Keywords represent just one of the criteria, and they are very important, but you don’t want to sacrifice quality just for their sake. Always try to place your keywords smartly within your post and make sure that the writing flows smoothly with limited distractions.
8. Have an original idea to start with. Once you have identified a primary keyword based on your research, you are ready to create a post. It’s important to remember that a keyword is not a post topic; you should aim to create an original idea that has the keyword as a prominent part of it. Always try to use your personal perspective in your content writing and bring your unique voice to each article.
9. Work on building content authority. While some SEO tools and techniques have changed over time, the idea of authoritative content has remained very relevant to long-term website success. Authoritative content provides value in the form of credible references, supportive data, and clear takeaways. You should always be working to build your authority and thinking about new ways to expand your influence.
10. Remove any duplicate content. Having duplicate content can have some impact on search engine rankings, even though it may not be a direct penalty. When you have the same content at two different URLs, it can make it difficult for search engines to choose which one to display for a given search. It can also dilute the focus of your content and divide traffic among multiple locations. Generally, it’s best to fix the issue and bring greater focus to your content stream.
Keyword Research Tips
11. Start with seed keywords. All keyword research should begin with your seed keywords as they truly define your niche and help you assess your competitors. You can take your seed keywords directly from the product or service you are selling or, in the case of an affiliate marketing website, brainstorm potential keywords from your affiliate channels or research into your niche. It’s important to pick relevant seed keywords that you can build long-term value around.
12. Look for keywords that competitors are using. You can learn a lot about website positioning by doing competitive keyword research while also improving your own keyword strategy. One of the most important reminders with competitive keyword research is to learn what your competitors are doing but avoid simply copying their major keywords. You still want to carve out a unique position for your website that highlights your unique value in the marketplace.
13. Make use of negative keywords. Negative keywords are words that you have chosen to exclude from any PPC ad campaign. By selecting words that you do not want to target, you can better direct your advertisements to the audience that you wish to reach. When defining your ad campaign, consider what the primary goal is and how you can exclude any keywords that might dilute from this main purpose.
14. Analyze the keywords you are targeting. While this may sound obvious, it is always a good idea to do a thorough analysis of your chosen keywords. Keyword research is most effective when you combine a number of different tools and methods. By looking at a number of different resources, you can create a keyword list that is complete and directly relevant to your target niche. Your main goal will always be to find keywords that have a reasonably high search volume but low competition.
15. Research related search terms. If you’re having trouble developing a complete list of target keywords, you may want to consider related search terms. This is a super simple method; all you need to do is perform a Google search and scroll to the bottom of the page. There, you’ll see a “searches related to” section that gives you some additional keywords. This is especially helpful during initial research when you’re exploring a topic and want to compile a list quickly.
16. Consider the seasonality of keywords. Certain keywords, such as “fireworks” or “eggnog,” will have a spike in search demand around particular holiday seasons. Other search terms that see a typical spike an increase in search demand at a certain time of year are awards shows and other annual events such as conferences. You can take advantage of his seasonal demand by creating posts that employ long-tail keywords that are related to these periods.
17. Address your audience’s questions and needs. In order for your content to resonate with an audience, it will need to address a specific need that they have. In order to make your content directly relevant, it is often best to position each post to address a particular question to which you can provide a useful answer. By directly responding to these questions, you’ll add value while also having the opportunity to promote your own products or services.
On-Page SEO Best Practices
18. Use clear and readable URLs. Having a clearly written URL should be a standard practice today, yet many web pages continue to have unclear or system-generated URLs. The URL of each article is most definitely a factor in SEO, as search engines understand that people like to read a URL before clicking on a link. Keep your URL name clear and directly related to the subject of your post in order to increase the chances of ranking well and getting more clicks.
19. Use keywords in your image names. This suggestion is an easy one that can often be overlooked. We all know that including images in our web pages makes them more dynamic and easier to read. In addition, audiences appreciate this and an image-rich post is more likely to be shared with others. When naming your image files incorporate the primary keywords from your headline and URL. You can also modify the alt text (alternative text) for the image with additional detail and information about content of the photo.
20. Use your target keyword in the first 100 words. This on-page SEO tactic has been around for a long time and is still a great one. Google tends to favor the words that appear early in an article, and you want to make sure that your primary keyword is featured front and center. It’s also helpful to include the primary keyword early in your post as part of clarifying your key points for the audience. As a general rule, you want the target keyword to appear within the first 100 words of an article.
21. Optimize for search intent. Even if you have developed a search intent strategy as we pointed out above, you still need to make sure that your page formats are optimized with search in mind. Using a page structure and format that matches the popular search results is a great place to start. Do the top results favor lists, walkthroughs, product pages, or something else entirely? The worst thing you can do is try to make a post work in a place where it does not belong.
22. Learn to avoid search penalties. Using questionable SEO practices can leave you with penalties from search engines and poor ranking results. One example of an SEO practice that can receive a penalty is hiding keywords. Keywords can be hidden by matching the text color with the background and can be difficult to catch, but modern search engines are getting better at detecting these types of tricks. Other examples include keyword stuffing and forcing keywords into places in the post where they just don’t fit.
23. Write compelling meta descriptions. The meta description is the short paragraph of text, usually, 150-160 characters in length, which appears below the title of a post in search results. These descriptions are not as important for direct ranking purposes but can have a dramatic effect on the engagement with your posts. In order to compel readers to click on your articles, you should make the meta description interesting, unique, and inclusive of your main keywords or points.
24. Know the difference between on-page and off-page factors. Your on-page SEO factors include the technical set-up of your website including the code (HTML, CSS, etc.), text, and visual experience. Off-page factors include links, social media engagement, and marketing efforts. Many companies spend a great deal of time pursuing these off-page activities, but you don’t want to neglect your on-page SEO optimization. The on-page SEO factors are really the elements that you have the most control over.
25. Fix pages with noindex tags. During the development of a website, pages are sometimes marked with a noindex tag which prevents them from being indexed and picked up by search engines. While this is helpful while testing a page design or writing code, it is not a good practice to keep these pages tagged as noindex unless you are using them for a specific purpose. You can easily use the Yoast plugin for WordPress or another third-party tool to review your page tags and make sure that they are indexed properly.
Link-Building Tips and Tricks
26. Link out to other websites. There is some debate among SEO specialists about the value of adding external links to your pages. Some say that it dilutes the value of your links and that you should focus more exclusively on internal linking. In addition, there is technically an impact on page ranking as the algorithms favor internal links. That being said, there are some clear benefits to including some external links on your website and using them smartly to increase the value of your posts.
27. Develop high-quality backlinks. Based on today’s search engine algorithms, not all backlinks are created equal. For example, Google’s system favors backlinks that are from a trusted and authoritative host domain. Since backlinks are one of the most important overall factors for page ranking, it’s worth taking the time to craft a backlink strategy that involves building relationships with leading websites. The best approach also includes the basics of creating amazing content and getting more people to link to you.
28. Don’t use guest blogging for link building. Guest blogging used to be a great tactic for building links back to your primary website. But in recent years search engines have cracked down on marketers who create low-quality content on other sites in order to create new links. As a result, it is best to use guest blogging as a tactic to release additional high-quality content that can build brand awareness and drive traffic to your website while pursuing other methods for building your links.
29. Avoid bad link building tactics. Any links that you build to your website should be natural and connected to quality domains. It is always best, for your business and your customers, to focus on great content and high-quality links. Examples of negative link building tactics include excessive link exchange, creating links with over-optimized anchor text, and adding your site to low-value web directories. You want to avoid these entirely, or you may risk damaging your site’s ranking potential.
30. Contribute content to relevant websites. One link building tactic that is much more effective than simple guest blogging is to contribute your high-quality content to a publication, blog, or website. The content could be in the form of an interview, infographic, video or other material. This link building method is best used to target high authority websites that are part of your niche. It may be slower than other techniques but has the opportunity to provide great visibility.
31. Build links with social shares. Social shares are not a direct search engine ranking factor, but they can help drive traffic to your website and give you more visibility. Make it easy for your readers to share your content by placing visible social media buttons directly on your pages. The more shares that each post gets, the more likely you are to receive a link from another website.
32. Try the broken link building technique. This tactic requires a bit of research as you must first find broken links on pages from relevant websites. Once you have some target links in mind, you simply create some valuable content to replace the broken link content and notify the site owner, editor, or webmaster with your proposed update. Since your change will likely help improve the user experience and readability of the page, it can be an easier sell than you might think.
33. Treat your testimonials like backlinks. Collaboration is essential for many of these strategies as there can be a mutual benefit for everyone involved. When you provide testimonials for other businesses, you can also use the opportunity to create a backlink to your website. You may be able to generate some traffic with the link and also develop trust with your customers by providing your genuine feedback.
34. Set your internal links strategically. Your internal links, meaning links from one page of your website to another, can have a positive effect on page ranking. A proven way to set this up is by using contextual links to connect related pages. You should define “donor” pages that will provide the link and “target” pages which you would like to boost with the added links. Try not to overload your pages, especially shorter posts, with too many internal links. No more than 5 or 6 internal links for a shorter post is a good rule of thumb.
SEO Metrics and Monitoring Tips
35. Make the right comparisons with organic traffic. Organic traffic is simply the overall number of visitors that come to your website from search engines. While the main goal of most websites is to increase traffic as much as possible, it is always best to use an appropriate benchmark. For example, if there is a seasonal nature to your web traffic, it’s important to compare your organic traffic for any given time to the results from the same month last year. Other common comparisons are to assess traffic based on visitor location or page.
36. Measure the bounce rate for landing pages. The organic bounce rate will tell you how many people left your site after only viewing a single page. It is reported as a percentage of visitors, and the lower this number is, the better. Having a high bounce rate on a page means that you may not have enough links or other useful content to keep people engaged with your website. For a landing page, it can mean that the content is not relevant to the keywords that were searched and may require some important updates.
37. Track user engagement with pages per session. Looking at the bounce rate can certainly tell you if you have a page engagement problem, but if you want to understand more about how much content your audience interacts with, you’ll need to look at another metric. Pages Per Session is a simple measure of the number of pages that each visitor interacts with during a single visit. A high number for Pages Per Session is desirable, and you can also segment your data by different groups of people to understand more about your audience behaviors.
38. Conversion rate is a great targeted metric. You can measure the level of engagement that your audience has with nearly any element on your website. Conversion rate is measured by taking the number of actions performed (for a particular element) and diving that by the number of unique visits. This metric is best used when tracking a desired action that is part of your overall website strategy. Actions like newsletter signups, content downloads, or video plays are some common examples.
39. Keyword rankings can be a good estimate of authority. Measuring your search engine authority is not easy, and there is no direct way to do it. One metric that makes a very good estimate, however, is keyword rankings. Keyword rankings measure specific terms that you are trying to rank for and can reveal some good information about your competitiveness. You can see if your keyword rankings improve over time as your site becomes more trusted.
40. Look at time spent on-page. Measuring how long your visitors spend on a particular page is a great way to know if your content is truly engaging. Other metrics can tell you how many pages they visit and if they bounce off the page, but the actual time spent on-page is very useful to measure specific goals. Each of your pages will have a different objective and format, such as a landing page, in-depth post, or news article. You can measure the average time spent on each page and see if it matches your expectations.
Technical SEO Optimization
41. Remove anything that slows down your page. Having a fast website may seem like a given these days, but even a small one- or two-second delay can have a dramatic effect on your ability to retain visitors. Your website speed really impacts just about every important engagement metric you are tracking. Some ways to speed up your website include moving to a premium host, removing widgets or plugins that slow down the theme, and reducing image size.
42. Improve your site user experience. Having a website with great user experience (UX) will lead to more shares, likes, and links to your content. A strong UX also helps to reduce your “bounce rate” and keeps visitors engaged with your pages longer. More page views and time spent on your website impacts SEO directly and can have a positive effect on your page rankings over time.
43. Organize your site hierarchy. The navigation of a website is important not only for visitors but also for search engine indexing. Most search engines estimate how any particular page fits into the overall website structure. For SEO considerations, it’s best to create a simple navigation page for visitors that can also act as a sitemap for search engines. You should also keep all of your pages organized in an easy to navigate structure with corresponding URLs.
44. Add an SSL certificate to your site. An SSL certificate verifies that your website is secure and provides visitors with some added confidence by displaying your URL with an ”https” instead of the usual “http.” Getting the certification is not difficult, and it certainly adds some authenticity to your website. It also prevents any navigation issues that can happen with some browsers that may warn visitors when a site does not have an SSL certificate.
45. Highlight your data with Google Webmaster Tools. Using Google Webmaster Tools can help you display additional information from your web pages onto Google’s search results. Specifically, the data highlighter allows you to highlight certain information from your pages such as ratings, prices, and reviews. Once you have set them up within Google Webmaster Tools, they’ll be displayed along with the rich snippet after Google crawls your website again.
46. Create a custom, branded 404 page. It’s always best to eliminate as many redirect (404) pages as possible so that your visitors will always be guided to useful content. There is no way to eliminate them entirely, and one way to improve your website is to create a branded 404 redirect page. Doing so gives you the ability to customize the page with additional links back to your other content, and a custom redirect page is much more engaging than the standard 404 page.
47. Develop a technical SEO strategy. Before you make additional improvements to your website, it’s a good practice to define a technical SEO strategy. A recommended first step is to complete a technical SEO audit which will help identify some of the weaker aspects of your site that may require improvement. There are a number of software tools that will help you compile this information, and it’s a great basis for a well-informed technical SEO improvement plan.
48. Breadcrumbs can help enhance your site navigation. Your primary website navigation should be readable, intuitive, and readily accessible to your visitors as they browse your site. An additional way to add transparency is to utilize breadcrumbs, which is the SEO term for leaving a transparent and fully readable hierarchy on your pages. This hierarchy should never replace your primary navigation but can help visitors move between pages without losing their “place” among the content.
49. Describe content with structured data. Another way to highlight data from your web pages is to use structured data markup. A number of data libraries can be used, but one of the most widely accepted is schema.org. The schema vocabulary allows you to describe content for search engines such as star ratings, pictures or any other media. These can then be displayed when your page appears in search results and is another great way of increasing click-through-rates.
50. Use canonical URLs to manage duplicate content. Removing duplicate content is an important SEO tactic, but there may be times when you have a need for identical pages. Some websites, such as e-Commerce stores, often have many similar pages, and one way to properly connect them is by using canonical URLs. This tool is available in the Yoast SEO plugin, and you simply add the address of the identical page in the Canonical URL field. Search engines will then know that these pages are identical and display the canonical page.
If you’re ready to start improving your website’s search engine visibility, one quick and easy way to start generating brand awareness and traffic (and those sought-after backlinks) is to install our easy-to-install social media share buttons. They make it simple for your visitors to share your content on their favorite social networks with a single click, and best of all, they’re free to use!