You only have to look back a few years and SEO best practices are noticeably different. Google’s algorithms have matured, and are now more intuitive than ever before.
And while SEO techniques are ever changing and somewhat steeped in mystery, there are a few constants that remain.
SEO essentially has two main disciplines, technical SEO and content SEO - both equally valuable. And while some businesses will rely more heavily on search-led content, others like ecommerce sites are becoming more like content sites every day, offering not only a place to shop but somewhere to read reviews, get advice and keep up to date with industry news.
Money is a factor for any business but for startups - where pursestrings are often tight - employing an in-house or agency SEO specialist is expensive, especially when there are numerous things you can do to improve it yourself.
Follow our dos and don'ts to grow your organic traffic.
Add in site tracking
Before you start any SEO campaign, you’ll need to set up a way to measure the results and also make sure you’re making the most of your visitor data.
It's relatively straight forward to add in tracking for analytics tools such as Google Analytics and Google’s Search Console and the insights gained from them will mean you can create content and tailor your site to your visitors.
Having analytics tools integrated in your site is also vital in spotting any sudden drops in traffic. For example, when Google updates its algorithm or even changes it, you can assess how your site has been impacted.
Choose the right keywords
SEO best practices have changed and their relationship with keywords is a difficult one to master.
Blog posts and articles on your sites should contain keywords, with each story written to gain ranking for that said keyword. However, while individual keywords are important, articles should also include different iterations of the keyword. This means your site is targeting overarching subjects, not just one single keyword.
Make sure the keywords you plan on targeting is something that fits into your key readership’s interests. Choosing a keyword topic just because it has high volume is not a bad thing, but sites should be conscious about going after top hitters as they will likely be overly saturated and the competition will be too high to truly compete with.
Try not to be fooled by popular search terms. Obviously, the sweet spot is low competition and high volume, but settling for low competition, and a moderate volume keyword, could get you higher up the rankings on Google, and while the search volume is lower, the likelihood of them visiting your site is much higher, so net visits should be higher in this instant.
Write in natural language and keep headlines short
If your site contains blog posts and articles, headlines are critical for good SEO. Try and write your headlines to mirror how someone would search for it in Google. But make sure they still make sense!
Headlines should also be as concise as possible. Where possible, aim for under 70 characters in the main headline but if you post them on social media you can adjust the headline for those individual channels.
Links are key
To help optimise your online content, you should link to relevant internal and external content throughout your articles/blog posts. You should link between existing content on your site, and link to reliable external content as this will help build credibility with Google.
Find out what queries visitors are searching for
As you know adding tracking is an important step in an SEO best practices, and one tool that will boost your online offering is Google Search Console. Once integrated, it will show you what exact search queries are bringing visitors to your site. You can then work out what drives your audience and what will keep them coming back.
For example, the data might show a lot of visitors coming in on a particular key term, this could opportunity to write more articles around that key term/ the overarching topic.
Optimise your site’s navigation
Improving your site’s navigation is an important step in technical SEO best practice. You should create a simple site map and use a breadcrumb trail (see photo below) to clearly show the visitor where they are on your site.
Add in an SSL certificate
This is a relatively simple technical SEO step and is considered a must for good ranking. You can do this via your site’s service provider or there are free options available. Most sites use a free service like Cloudflare to do this.
Crawl your site for SEO errors (and fix them)
By crawling your site, you’ll be able to see issues that could be damaging your SEO efforts. For example, a site crawler will dig into every aspect of your site and flag issues such as broken redirect links, missing code, broken ads, missing fields and many more issues.
You can do this via third-party tools such as Moz, DeepCrawl and BeamUsUp.
Don’t overuse keywords
A few years ago, content-based sites could essentially get around Google’s algorithm by repeating keywords throughout a sites article or blog post. Google would spot the many keywords and assume it was useful content and should be placed high on Google’s search pages.
Thankfully now, Google’s algorithms are much more sophisticated and are able to see past keyword jamming. It now prioritises quality content and utility to the reader, as well as the site's UX.
Make sure you don’t get penalised by Google for overusing key terms. It is still important to have a keyword to target and include that in your headline, strapline and where relevant in the body.
Don’t forget about UX
Since Google’s algorithms have matured, user experience has become a big factor in Google’s rankings.
Make sure your site is as useful and easy to use as possible, and that your content is displayed in the best way possible for the reader, not the advertiser. If your site has long-form content on it, you should organise it, add in subheads and a table of contents to make it as readable as possible.
Don’t have long URLs
Simply, Google likes short headlines and, similarly, short URLs. The URL is normally taken from the headline, so if that is under 70 characters, you shouldn’t have any issues. However, you should also look back at older content on your site and crop the URLs where possible.