If you are not ranking on the first page for your target keywords, your website may as well not exist.
Now that might appear harsh, however according to Hubspot 75% of users never scroll past the first page of search results making it essential you’re ranking on the first page of Google.
There are techniques that you can apply to your site to enable you to rank higher in search engines. But, if the basics are not set up you have a very minimal chance of being seen on the 1st page of Google.
By making sure your website follows SEO best practices, your site will be prepared for increases visibility in search results.
Once the groundwork has been laid, you can move on to more advanced keyword research and link building strategies.
In this article, we will be sharing some SEO best practices that you should follow to achieve higher search rankings.
- What is SEO
- Write strong meta titles & descriptions
- Include keywords in your URL
- Optimise your images
- Use internal linking
- Align your content with search intent
1. What is SEO
For those of you entering into the world of SEO, I wanted to give a brief overview of what SEO is. For everyone else feel free to skip on to the next section.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and is defined by Moz as ‘the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results’.
Simply, it means the process of improving your site to increase its visibility for relevant searches. The better visibility your pages have in search results, the more likely you are to garner attention and attract prospective and existing customers to your business.
2. Write strong meta titles and descriptions
Your page title and meta description are two of the most important tags on your page.
Title tags are the clickable headlines that appear in search results and critical to giving visitors a quick insight.
According to Google:
“Titles are critical to giving users a quick insight into the content of a result and why it’s relevant to their query. It’s often the primary piece of information used to decide which result to click on, so it’s important to use high-quality titles on your web pages.”
Search engines display the first 50-60 characters of a page’s title. Google displays the full title of your page as long and you keep the title length under 60 characters.
Here are some best practices to remember when creating title tags:
- Include target keywords.
- Write titles to match search intent.
- Avoid duplicate title tags.
- Avoid keyword stuffing.
- Keep it descriptive but concise.
The meta description is a brief summary of a page displayed below the title tag on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Meta descriptions do not directly impact search rankings, but they can help to influence click-through rates.
Google best explains it by stating that:
“A meta description tag should generally inform and interest users with a short, relevant summary of what a particular page is about. They are like a pitch that convince the user that the page is exactly what they’re looking for.”
Google truncates meta descriptions to 155–160 characters, so it is important to make sure you provide an accurate and concise summary of your content under 160 characters.
Here are some best practices to remember when writing your meta descriptions:
- Write unique meta descriptions for each page.
- Use action-oriented copy.
- Include target keywords.
- Match search intent.
- Provide an accurate summary.
3. Include keywords in your URL
Your websites URL structure is an often overlooked area of SEO. Good URL structure provides both users and search engines an insight on what the destination page is all about.
Google says that:
“A site’s URL structure should be as simple as possible. Consider organizing your content so that URLs are constructed logically and in a manner that is most intelligible to humans (when possible, readable words rather than long ID numbers).”
Here is how you can create a well-structured URL:
- Use short URLs: A study conducted by Backlinko found that short URLs tend to outperform long URLs in SERPs.
- Use keyword-rich URLs: Always include your target keywords in the URL to increase your chances of ranking better in search results.
- Remove unnecessary stop words: To make your URL look clean and succinct, consider removing stop words.
4. Optimise your images
Website images are crucial to user experience and visual appeal. You most likely spend a lot of time selecting the right images to enhance your content.
But do you spend time optimising your images?
When used correctly, images can enhance your site’s SEO, boosting organic traffic.
Here are a few things you can do to optimise your images:
- Choose the best file format
PNG, JPEG, and GIF are all popular. Each has its benefits. We recommend JPEG for images with lots of colour and PNG for simple images.
- Compress your images
The larger your image file size, the longer it takes the web page to load, which is why it is imperative that you compress your images.
- Optimise image file names
The right file name is important for your page SEO and ranking in image search results. Name files with relevant, descriptive keywords.
- Provide alt text
Adding alt text to images improves web accessibility and helps browsers better understand the subject of the images on your site.
- Lazy-load your images
Lazy loading defers the loading of non-critical resources at page load time. Instead, images are loaded only when users need them.
5. Use internal linking
Internal links are important because they establish a hierarchy for your website and helps Google understand the content on your page. Internal links can significantly boost your rankings when used the right way.
An SEO best practice is to add internal links from top-ranking pages to pages that need a boost.
6. Align your content with search intent
Search intent is the purpose behind every search query. Understanding search intent is Google’s ultimate priority. Pages ranking on the first page of Google pass the test on search intent.
If you want to rank your site on page 1 of Google, you need to understand the concept of search intent and create content that aligns with user intent.
There are four types of search intent:
- Informational: A search when the user is looking for specific information. It can be a search like “what’s the weather today?” that provides instant results or something more complex like “best SEO strategies” that require more in-depth explanation.
- Navigational: The searcher is looking for a specific website or app. Common examples of navigational searches include “Facebook login,” “BBC News,” and “Amazon.”
- Commercial: When the user is looking for a specific product but hasn’t made the final decision yet. For example, searches such as “best laptops” and “best DSLR cameras” are all commercial searches.
- Transactional: Here, the intent is to buy. The searcher has made a decision to buy a specific product or tool. Examples include searches such as “buy MacBook Pro,” or “buy wool online.”
A good practice is to always keep the search intent in mind while creating content for your website.
If you would like to rank for the keywords “best gaming laptops,” you need to understand the search intent here is commercial, not transactional. The user is still undecided on which laptop to choose.
There is no point in optimising your landing page with those specific keywords. Google understands what users want when the search query is “best gaming laptops.” Users are looking for options, blog posts or videos listing the best gaming laptops, not product pages or eCommerce websites.
Essentially you need to create content that aligns with the search intent of your target audience.
The practices outlined above are a great starting point to achieve higher search rankings.
The competition for appearing on the first page of Google is tough, regardless of the niche you’re in.
Once you have the best practices are in place, make sure you are kept up to date with the latest trends and follow other SEO techniques from time to time to stay ahead of the game.