The SEO best practices to rank higher than your competitors
Are you creating excellent content, but still can't seem to get ahead of the competition in the search engine results? Following these SEO guidelines will help you to get ranked higher by Google, and get you more organic travel.
The title tag
A good title tag is essential for on-page SEO because:
- The title tag is what search engines use to see what your page is about.
- The title tag tells visitors what your page is about.
- It's the title at the top of the page when somebody clicks the URL.
- It’s also the title when somebody shares your page on social media.
Writing a title tag doesn't have to be hard if you follow a couple of rules:
- Never use duplicate title tags for different pages.
- Make sure you do not use more than 50-60 characters because Google will cut you off in the middle of your sentence, like this:
- It's important to write your primary keywords at the start of your title tag, describing what the page is about, followed by secondary keywords and sometimes your company name.
- Don't try to put as many keywords as possible into the title tag because it might scare off readers and Search Engines might also punish you for it.
- Add Characters like | or < to keep the overview simple.
This is an example of what a good title tag looks like, but there are tons of possible variations, so experiment and find what fits your page best. Before choosing a final title, see how it will look in Google with this tool.
A meta description is a description that comes up when typing a search query in Google. It's essential that the meta description is a clear, attractive description of the page.
- Include keywords in the meta-description, but do not stack them.
- Prevent using quotes and non-alpha characters.
- Never use duplicate meta descriptions.
- The ideal length of a meta description is 200-300 characters.
- You should write the meta description in an active voice.
- Add a call-to-action to the meta description that will convince people to click your post instead of another one.
Example of a good meta description:
Alt text stands for alternative text. It is text that is visible instead of an image for everyone and everything that cannot see the image. This includes:
- Visibly handicapped people.
- People whose devices, browsers or software for whatever reason do not show images.
- Search engine crawlers.
Alt text ideally has to describe what is visible on the picture, in a way that's understandable for someone who hasn't seen the picture. Alt text should be detailed, without being excessively long.
- Use keywords in alt text if it’s relevant.
- Do not use alt text as a space to jam as many keywords in as possible, because search engines will punish you for that.
- Alt text should be used for any image that is on your page, including buttons like: Subscribe, click here and mail us.
- It's not necessary to write “Image of” in your alt text as that is already assumed.
For this picture a good alt text would be:
<img src="dog.png" alt="Dog running on a grass field with a green ball in his mouth.">
By the way, alt-text is not the only way to improve SEO with images.
A URL is like a map for a computer to locate a page. You want your URL to be a bit like the title, a logical description of the page. Format all your URLs in a consistent way. Keep it short and do not add unnecessary information.
An excellent way to create a URL is: http://www.domain.com/category/Description-of-the-page
A URL is useful for three things:
- Organizing your page: Clear and consistently formatted URLs will make it easy for you to see immediately which page the link leads to.
- Ranking: Even though URLs are not the most active way to improve SEO, it's still good to put in your long tail keyword. Again, don't stuff it with keywords just for the sake of using as many keywords as possible.
- Visibility: If somebody comes across your link without context, it would still give them a good idea of what they get when they click.
An example of good a URL:
As you can see, it's first the category and then a description of the page. With these URLs it is clear for everyone what the website is about without needing further context.
Write what your audience wants to read, not what you want to write. That is the fundamental rule when it comes to content marketing or any blog writing. Create unique and attractive content that answers questions your audience might have. Write something that's generally interesting and useful for your audience. To do that, before you put a single word on paper (or on your screen) ask yourself: Who am I writing this for, whom is this useful for?
- Once again, keywords are essential but -- again -- don't throw keywords around just for the sake of having as many in there as possible.
- Use your long tail keyword 4 to 6 times around your blog article in places where it feels natural and is not disruptive to the flow of your content.
- Make sure your content is relevant to your keywords, so people get what they expect; otherwise your bounce rate will be high and your rating low.
Once you found a topic to write about that will fill a demand, think about what medium to use. It's useful to look at what others are doing first. For example, if you want to write a blog post about swimming with sharks, type “Swimming with sharks” in a search engine, and you'll notice that almost all the results that come up are videos. So, it might be a good idea to include a video in your blog post.
If you write content, consider its shelf life: how long will it be useful or interesting? Some content just does not stay relevant for very long, think blog posts about trends or new technologies. Other blog posts need regular updating to stay relevant. Articles without an expiration date are called evergreens, they always stay relevant and "green." Writing evergreens and regularly updating your other posts is an essential part of a good content strategy.
Better known as “latent semantic keywords,” they're not as complicated as they sound, so don't worry. LSI keywords are keywords related to your search query that Google also includes in the results.
Instead of a direct keyword match, Google is looking for a topic match, to show you related results you probably want to see. For example, when I type virus scanner in Google, Virus protection, Antivirus, and virus scan are LSI keywords.
The best way to include LSI keywords in your content is to write naturally and use synonyms for your keywords. However, LSI keywords are not just synonyms of keywords, they are much broader than that. They are words that contextually relate to your keywords and trends heavily influence this.
Site structure is very important for user experience:
- Can your users easily navigate the site?
- Can your users find what they're looking for?
A good site structure is also essential for your SEO, as it tells the search engine crawler where pages are and which pages are important. A good site structure also tells search engines which of your pages are most important by internal linking.
A good website structure looks like a pyramid. Your homepage is the top of the pyramid, your categories and your sub-categories (if needed) after that, and then your blog posts and other pages at the bottom.
Model for Pyramid Page Structure by MOZ
To structure your site like a pyramid, categories are significant. Make sure all categories are about the same size (no category should be more than double the size of another one). This means you might have to merge two categories or split one big category into two separate categories.
The way the different categories, subcategories and their content are connected is with links. (In the image above all the black lines would be links and there would be many more.)
Somewhere near the top of the pyramid is where the cornerstone articles and other most important articles should be, including your evergreen articles that you link to from many other articles.
Google now mostly ranks the mobile version of websites, even if somebody searches on a desktop. So it is imperative that your website works perfectly on mobile devices. If your website is not working optimally on a mobile device, that should be your number one priority.
A relatively new development in mobile SEO is AMP. “AMP is an open-sourced library that provides a way to create web pages that are compelling, smooth and load nearly instantly.” AMP pages are very good for SEO and improve the conversion rate as well, but conversion to AMP could be expensive and time-consuming.
Smart content is when a website recognizes your user's place in the buyer cycle and adapts the content your user gets to see accordingly. For example, if it's the first time your user goes to your site, the site will tell you “welcome to this site". If your user filled out a form and goes to the site again later, it will greet you by using your name.
Check out this great example from HubSpot:
Headers are essential from a design perspective. A piece of text without headers look bad (bad bad bad) and will have a high bounce rate. Headers add structure to the text and make it easy for users to navigate an article.
Not everyone will want to read your entire article, no matter how good it is. Sub-headers help navigate users who are looking for specific information. Headers also help people know what to expect when they scan your page.
H1 header is the main header at the top of the page and should include your primary long tail keyword
H2, H3, H4, etc. are sub-headers
Keep in mind:
- There can only be one H1 header.
- There can be more than one H2 or H3 header.
- Use LSI keywords for sub-headers.
- An H3 header always comes after at least one H2 header.
- Make sure all headers accurately summarize the text below.
It's important to use relevant anchor texts as the link. Here's an example:
- Wrong way: For a CNN article about flying with dog click here
- Right way: Check out this CNN article about flying with dogs
Your links should away open up in a new tab.
Page speed is the time it takes for a browser to load all the content on a page, whereas site speed is the speed of a sample of pages. Site speed is one of the things that search engines look at when ranking a page. If your page speed is low, search engine crawlers take longer to visit your page, and can visit fewer pages. Google will punish your SEO too if your page loading speed is longer then average.
To test your loading speed, go to Google page speed insights. This will not only tell you your loading time, it will also tell you how you can increase it.
You can increase your page speed by compressing files bigger than 150 bytes. For images, use Photoshop to retain image quality.
Redirects can be useful if you remove a page that still generates traffic, just make sure you don't use too many redirects as this could slow down your site speed.
HTTP VS HTTPS
HTTP stands for “HyperText Transfer Protocol.” HTTP is the protocol used to display usually HTML websites.
HTTPS was introduced to make secure transactions online possible. HTTPS stands for HTTP Secure. Google says that changing your page to HTTPS will give you a ranking boost. HTTPS is especially needed for websites with a sales channel on it but also gives SEO advantages for other websites.
Structured data is data you put in the coding of your website to tell Google what users can find on your website. For example, for a page with a recipe on it, the structured data will tell Google the ingredients, calories and maybe a user rating of the recipe. This makes it easier for users to find pages based on one or a few aspects -- like an ingredient, say. Structured data also helps Google with the creation of SERP features and is generally good for SEO. Get started with structured data and rich snippets.
Updating your content regularly keeps it fresh. Google will rank fresh content higher. However it is not enough to change some small details to keep rated fresh. A large part of the body content should be updated for your page to be seen as fresh. The frequency of updates is another factor for Google to see how fresh your page is.
Great job! You're now up-to-date with the latest SEO. But that doesn't mean you can sleep easy. Google is constantly updating its algorithms, so check back regularly as we will be updating this article as well.