SEO (Search Engine Optimization) has been an endless topic in the blogging world. Experts have a series of definitions for it as well as laid-out rules. But as the case may be, new SEO strategies keep springing up daily.
I’ve spent up to a year online trying to figure out what SEO is, but always lose interest whenever I read about most of the difficult-to-understand definitions.
I finally fell in love with the subject after thorough research. Since then, I’ve been improving my client websites for SEO.
What is SEO?
Without considering my expertise in SEO, I’ll still define it in an easy-to-understand layman’s way. SEO is getting your website in front of search engines for organic traffic.
Who doesn’t want to be on the first page of the giant search engine; Google? You do, I do, at least for organic traffic. Proper optimization of your blog helps you rank higher on the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages).
For SEO best practices, two primary components need consideration. These are the on-page and off-page SEO, otherwise known as on-site and off-site SEO. You need to understand these terms for optimum exposure on the results page and higher rankings.
On-site SEO is the act of optimizing your website to rank higher and gain targeted traffic from Google, Bing, and other search engines. In on-site SEO, both the HTML source code and content of a page are optimized.
Proper optimization of on-site SEO helps the search engines interpret the content of a page. It also helps visitors understand clearly what a page is all about. In a nutshell, well-optimized SEO tells search engines the high-quality content human visitors will benefit from a page. Therefore, search engines can confidently serve visitors the link to your page when they perform keyword research.
The primary purpose of on-site SEO is as simple as making it easy for both search engines and visitors to:
- Discover your page as relevant to a set of keywords (or search queries)
- Understand what your page is all about and
- Find your page worthy of ranking on the SERP.
The most important on-site SEO elements
There are five of the must-practice on-site SEO factors you must always bear in mind during the design and audit of your website. These include:
Even when content is king, it’s not enough to rank your site for a target keyword. In the whole process of SEO, evergreen, high-quality, and unique content is irreplaceable.
Ahrefs says 91% of Content Gets No Traffic From Google. Then, the big question, what does Google look for in content? The answer is, content that is relevant to users’ intent.
In the first place, website content is the main reason why you have visitors coming to your site. So, it must be interesting to capture good engagement.
Without relevant content, there’s no point practicing SEO on your website. So, content comes first in all your online marketing.
Page titles and descriptions
This is one of the most important factors of SEO in ranking a website’s page. The first thing Googlebot will crawl on a page is the page title and description.
If search engines discover that your page titles and descriptions are not good enough for users, it can backfire on your ranking. It’s as simple as not finding useful information to rank your page for during search query (keyword research).
Here’s how to optimize your page titles and descriptions:
- Ensure your title does not exceed 60 characters (but close to it)
- The description must be close to and less than 160 characters
- There’s no rule that your keywords must appear everywhere, so avoid keyword stuffing. If you want search engines and users to understand your page, use keywords naturally.
- Try to use “list title” when possible; it performs better. For example, 3 Proven Strategies for Instant Blog Traffic.
You must come up with titles and descriptions that’ll make users want to click your link. By using CoSchedule headline analyzer, you’ll be able to discover what works well for your blog title. Importantly, list headlines with emotional word(s) do better as you can see from the search query below.
From the above, the first four results from Google search are list headlines with emotional words. We have lists that are 65, 15, 10, and 40. According to CoSchedule, the emotional words are how to make, money, proven, quick, etc.
These are links within a website page. The links are in two forms: links within the same page and links that point to other pages of the same website.
When you click a link within the same page of a web page (also known as anchor link), it makes you jump from one section to another on the same page. On the other hand, the second link types are those with relevant content on the same website.
Internal linking is good for SEO in the following ways:
- Enhance users experience
- Tell search engines there are more valuable pages on your website
- Reduce bounce rate
- Helps create website-related content
- Lead visitors to related content on your website
Due to the release of Google Panda and Penguin, many webmasters stopped linking to other websites. They believe they’ll face Google’s penalty, which is not so.
While Panda picks out spam sites, Penguin handles keywords over-stuffing and bad linking. Ensure your web pages do not have useless low-quality content. If any, update them and make sure you’re linking only to high-quality related websites.
Proper external linking is another SEO best practice because it increases the trust rate of your site content.
Importantly, Google uses external links to understand the topics of your website content better.
Your website must be mobile-friendly in this contemporary age, where Google’s first index is mobile. And, this has become the primary ranking index of Google, updating mobile index before the desktop index.
Also, approximately 60% of the traffic from Google search comes from mobile devices. Not optimizing your website for mobile surfing experience means losing almost half (if not more) of the potential traffic.
How to optimize your website:
- Apply a responsive design.
- Use your CMS to tag pages with AMP code.
- Minify on-site resources to improve page speeds.
Now, go to Google mobile-friendly test tool and fix any likely problems found. Next, like a real user, browse your website through different mobile devices to ensure it’s mobile-friendly.
There are other on-site SEO factors you should look into, which includes:
Quality of content
Good configuration of 404 pages
Page loading speed
Having delved deeply into on-site SEO as the first step to take in SEO, it’s time to have a comprehensive discussion about off-site SEO.
Off-Site SEO means the activities done outside your website that helps you rank higher on the SERPs. You or other people can be responsible for these activities. When done appropriately, it raises your ranking significantly.
Most people without ample knowledge of SEO equate off-site SEO with link building, and it’s far beyond that!
The essential off-site SEO are:
- Links you get from other websites.
- Brand mentions
- Social media marketing.
Google still values relevant links. No matter how fresh and in-depth your content can be, it may be impossible for Google to determine its usefulness without links pointing to it.
When keywords research is done, Google prioritizes the results based on Google’s 255 ranking factors in their algorithms. These factors decide which sites rank higher and the order of their rank on the search results.
The algorithms have either positive or negative influence from links pointing to your site.
If it’s from a related and trusted websites, they’re regarded as “authority” and can boost your website ranking. On the contrary, if the links are coming from low-quality sites, the ranking of your website can be lowered. Your website may also face Google penalties.
While you may be unsure of the best link practices that are allowed and those that aren’t, you need to better understand the voice of Google about links.
Summarily, Google considers links generated purposely to manipulate their algorithm as unnatural links.
For SEO best practice, don’t sell, buy, or exchange links to increase your ranking. Unnatural links can lead to Google’s penalty.
What should you do?
Build natural links. Two of the best ways to build natural links to your site as form of SEO best practices include:
High-quality content: Natural links are obtained from other websites that find your content valuable and exciting, thereby linking to your site.
Guest posting: Instead of building several low-quality links, build high-quality links through guest posting from websites with higher domain authority (DA). A link from one website with higher DA will significantly impact your SEO than hundreds of links from lower DA websites.
Write guest posts for other niche-related websites. But if you don’t like writing, I can help – hire me. Before you contact the website owner for guest posting, confirm that the website’s DA is higher than that of yours, except you want links anyhow.
To do that, visit this link and input the URL of your website and the other site where you want to guest post. Let the URLs be on separate lines, then click “Check Authority.”
Let’s conduct authority check on Moz and Ahrefs, see the image below:
Look at the result below:
The result shows the DA of the two websites as well as the page authority (PA), Moz Rank, Spam Score, etc.
With the DA, you know what websites to write for and those that won’t have a high impact on your site.
Note: You can guest-post on any website but if you value link building, then ensure the DA of the site you’re writing for is higher than yours, especially for a new domain name.
In brand mentions, no link needs to be pointing to your site. All that matters is the mentions of your brand in social media networks, reviews, articles, or forums.
This is what Google loves – branded websites with mentions across different platforms. Hence, Google tends to rank such site on top of the search results.
The reason is, brands earn users’ trust easily, which translates to improved user experience. Google picks up how people perceive your brand and use it as signals to rank your site higher.
Brand mentions, as part of your off-site SEO methods, requires that you go after positive remarks of your brand’s services, products, or authorship. Also, respond to all misleading or harmful comments about your brand.
Social media marketing
If you think about promoting your content, consider social media. Social media marketing is also an excellent way to build links that point to your website.
You need to understand that most of the links pointing to your site from social media websites are “nofollow,” yet, they are valuable for SEO.
Promoting your content on social platforms is the fastest way to reach prospects with interest.
Although social media marketing is not easy, it worth the time and money if done with a proper plan. Plus, it’s considered as one of the important SEO best practices.
It is easy to get visitors from social media sites to your website than from search engines. If high-quality content is found on your website, it increases engagement.
When Google sees users’ engagement, it tends to rank your site higher for other people searching for the same query to see your web page. Thus, increasing your traffic naturally – the purpose of SEO.
Which of the SEO best practices do you need for more visibility and higher ranking? On-site or off-site SEO?
Both are a-must and should be practiced appropriately for better ranking.
First, optimize your on-page SEO correctly so that search engines will understand every bit of your content.
Next, work on off-page SEO as soon as you have published enough high-quality content. Most importantly, getting superb natural links from other sites to further boost your rankings.
For your website to attract natural links, ensure you practice on-site SEO properly. Especially, posting high-quality content that makes a site worthy of being significant.
If a website is not considered great but has links pointing to it, it’s a signal for Google that it violates their guidelines.
Be smart, play safe with Google, and engage in SEO best practices.
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