We ended the Intro to SEO Part 1 on some of the shadier techniques of SEO, also known as Blackhat SEO. In part 2, we’re going to discuss the best practice SEO techniques, tools and strategies of optimising your website, also known as Whitehat SEO.
What is SEO Best Practice?
Best practice SEO is constantly changing due to the nature of the internet, technology and consumer behaviour. As I mentioned in the last article, Google is all about the end user and is dedicated to finding and presenting the right information from the right website in the right format at the right time.
Think about the evolution of how people access and engage with the internet compare to just 10 years ago – we may as well have been cavemen! Google has managed to tag along for the ride and has been guiding the way people use technology, look for information and make decisions. They have also shaped the SEO industry with constant updates and versions to their search algorithms, keeping SEOs, businesses and webmasters on their toes to make sure the end user is happy.
What may have been best practice 2 years ago may now earn you a harsh search penalty from Google and destroy your online presence, so it’s vital for anyone even remotely involved with website optimisation to keep relatively up to date with the industry and what the boffins at Google are recommending.
Best practice SEO can be time consuming and resource intensive, but it pays off massively in the long run and you minimise your chances of getting on Google’s bad side.
Before anything else, you need a strategy. All your SEO efforts should be following the same strategy and working towards the same goals, otherwise you’re straight up wasting your time. A strategy will guide everything you do, from the audience you’re trying to target, to the quality and quantity of competition, to the keywords important to your business. Some of this information will come from the business’ own brand and marketing strategy, but most of it will need to be thoroughly researched and planned.
The way keywords are researched and used in SEO has changed dramatically over the years, but their importance has not. A keyword strategy is developing a list of primary, secondary and sometimes tertiary keywords that will dictate a large component of your optimisation efforts. Your keywords must match certain criteria:
They have to be relevant to your business and its products/services – This one is pretty obvious. You want to target keywords that have something to do with your business i.e. Joe’s Vacuum Emporium will be targeting keywords like vacuums, best vacuum, cheapest vacuum, best vacuum for carpets etc. Your keywords have to match potential customers to your business.
They have to be relevant to your customers – This is where your research comes in. You can’t just put together a list of keywords that have something to do with your business without researching whether people are actually searching for them. There’s no point in Joe spending time, money and effort in trying to rank “Joe’s Super Summer Sucker Sale” if no one is actually searching for Joe’s Summer vacuum sale.
They have to be a mix of head terms and long tail keywords – head terms are the very broad, top level phrases that people will often start a search with, whereas long tail keywords are the longer, more detailed and highly specific phrases that people use. Head terms are important to target because they’re often used when people are just beginning their search for information i.e. someone searching for “vacuums” just as they start their search for a new vacuum.
Long tail keywords are just as important because they signal a higher level of intent. Someone searching for “Joe’s Vacuums price for Supersonic Vacuum 300” are obviously interested in buying a vacuum because they’re looking for the price of a specific model from a specific store. A great keyword strategy will be a combination of head terms and long tail keywords, but do your research!
Is there competition for them? – Be very careful about the keywords you decide to target, because the higher the competition for a keyword, the more work and resources you’ll need to put in to compete for it. Joe’s Vacuums won’t need to do too much to rank highly for “Joe’s Vacuums” but the word “vacuums” is a different story. In this case, Joe will be competing against other major retailers, housekeeping and home interest topic blogs and news sites and even vacuum manufacturers themselves. Does Joe have the resources to compete against Hoover, LG or Dyson? Probably not.
You have to be able to work it into your content – Gone are the days when you could stuff keywords into every part of your website so Google couldn’t possibly miss what keywords you were using. In fact, if you do that today, Google will write your website off for its poor quality and spammy material at best, or slap you with a search penalty at worst, meaning you’ll slide down into the back pages of their search results.
Google looks for original, high quality, informative and engaging content on websites because that benefits the end user. Make sure you’re using your keywords appropriately and keep your keyword density at around 5% (keyword density is the number of times your keyword is used in your copy relative to the rest of your copy, so for 100 words aim to use your keyword 5 times).
This is a brief introduction to SEO keyword strategy, but the main takeaway is RESEARCH! There’s a million and one different paid and free tools across the internet that will help you research, plan and build your keyword strategy. Your own Google Analytics and Google Search Console accounts are a great place to start as they’ll give you an understanding of the types of keywords people are using to find your website.
A couple of fantastic free tools are the Free Google Keyword Tool and the Keyword Research Tool 2.0 by SEO Review Tools. They’ll help you get an idea of search volume and competition for any keywords you want to target as well as helping you discover related words you might not have thought about.
Google Analytics & Search Console
It’s vital that you set up these two tools. They are the bread and butter of digital marketing and should be set up the day your website goes live. Google Analytics is the industry standard website data analytics tool, while Google Search Console is a tool for webmasters (website owners) to verify ownership of a website in Google’s eyes so webmasters can access data and insights relating to how a website performs in search results. Google Search Console is also a crucial tool for performing a number of critical actions for maintaining and improving your website’s search presence.
They’re both free, relatively simple to use and incredibly powerful. If you don’t have them set up, contact us ASAP and we’ll sort it out for you. The sooner you start collecting data, the more information you’ll have to base future decisions on and you might be able to identify any urgent issues affecting your website results that you didn’t know about!
You should always be monitoring how people are interacting with your website, regardless of any marketing activity you’re running. This will give you a good understanding of how people interact with your site, what pages they spend time on, what pages they’re not spending time on, how they got to your website in the first place… the list is endless.
The point is, when you’re undertaking any marketing or SEO activity, these tools allow you to measure your results so you can tell what’s working and what’s not.
On-page SEO is any activity undertaken that happens on your website – both the front end (what users see), the back end (what website admins see) and the page technical structure (the code and the files on your site). On-page SEO is super important because it displays the quality, safety and ease of use for users and search engines.
Think of on-page SEO as running a hotel – a hotel will clean their rooms and premises while doing everything they can to make sure guests enjoy their stay, right? A website’s on-page SEO is the same concept, except your making sure your hotel is presentable for guests, health inspectors, hotel reviewers and anyone else that’s looking for a good hotel.
When you have a nice, clean, welcoming hotel with great facilities, people are going to want to come and stay and the good reviews will come flooding in. Travel journalists and hotel reviewers will write amazing articles about your hotel which will encourage even more people to come and stay.
There are thousands of different On-page SEO techniques, but some of the more important ones include:
This is crucial! Google indexes and ranks for a website’s mobile friendly performance over its desktop performance, so your site is slow on mobile you risk turning visitors away before they’ve even started looking at your site! There are many factors that affect page speed; some of them you will be able to change and some of them will need to be changed by a web developer, an SEO professional or your hosting company.
One of the most important aspects of page speed is image optimisation. For the love of bandwidth, please don’t upload photos you’ve taken on your phone straight to your website. You can optimise your images for both dimension (the actual size of the image, measured in pixels) and file size (measured in bytes, KB and MB).
Before you upload an image to your site, make sure you’ve resized it to an appropriate pixel dimension using an image editing tool like Microsoft Photos, Mac Photos, Microsoft Paint or any other software you have access to. Once that’s done, use a free image optimising tool that will shrink your image file size while maintaining the image quality and dimensions.
Use of Keywords
Keywords (also called search queries or search terms) help search engines understand what your content is about, as well as being the actual terms that people search for. Make sure you have inserted your keywords into important parts of your webpage, but do it so everything reads smoothly and naturally. Like we mentioned in Part 1, keyword stuffing is a Blackhat technique and can hurt your website. Make sure your keywords are found in your page title meta tags, page description meta tags, H1 tags, website content and image alt tags.
Regular, Quality & Original Content
Good quality content (like blog posts) is the bedrock of good SEO. If you are publishing original, informative and relevant content that attracts and engages your users, search engines will take notice and give your website massive brownie points. When writing your content, be sure that it’s relevant to your business, industry or customers. DO NOT STEAL CONTENT! It’s perfectly OK to reference content from another business’ website, but if you are straight up copying and pasting large chunks, search engines will take note and slap you down with a penalty.
Internal links play a major part in on-page SEO because when used correctly, they help direct website users to other valuable pages on your site that they may not have found by themselves. They also signal to search engines that the content on linked pages is important and search engines should pay attention. Link building is another major component of SEO, but we’ll get to that in the next article.
Best practice SEO is all about quality and simplicity
If your web page loads quickly, user experience is awesome and has high quality content, you’re doing it right. Keep up the good work and watch your search rankings improve and your traffic grow!
This is part 2 of our intro to SEO series. The next instalment will be on our site soon, but if you have any questions about SEO for your site or SEO in general, drop us a line! We’re always happy to talk to people about their projects. You can leave us a message through the contact form below, call us on 0413 353 013 or drop in to our office for a coffee.
You can also check the current health of your website SEO with our free website SEO audit tool! It’s completely free; there’s no obligation and you’ll be emailed a website SEO health report in minutes!