Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
The king of digital marketing.
In its purest form, SEO is the process of attempting to help a website improve its visibility on the search engine’s unpaid results page.
SEO must be part of any digital marketing strategy as it helps increase a website’s competitive ability.
But unfortunately, SEO is a highly complex and consistently changing field.
The algorithms are always changing, and what worked in 2018 doesn’t necessarily work anymore.
In this comprehensive blog post on the current trends and best practices in SEO, we will take a look at the most fundamental aspects of SEO.
This won’t just be another boring SEO guide that says, “write great content” and “forget about backlinks.” Instead, we will show you how to do proper keyword research, on-page and off-page optimization, and many other useful tips and tricks.
We’ll also discuss the latest developments in the field and how we see this landscape shifting over the next few years.
Understanding How Search Engines Work
Before diving into specific SEO techniques, you must have a clear understanding of how search engines work.
Suppose you are a user who types a query into a search engine. You want to find the most valuable and helpful resource that directly answers your question.
Google (among other search engines) is fully aware of this.
So, the search engine’s algorithm uses specific criteria to determine the relevance and authority of each page in relation to the query.
There are over 200 ranking factors, but primarily, the search engines look at things like the number and quality of links pointing to a page, the content of the pages, and the overall expertise and trustworthiness of the website.
The algorithm then runs and presents a list of hyperlinks to pages that will (hopefully) provide the most value to the user.
There are a few concepts that will help you gauge a better understanding of how Google actually finds, identifies, and ranks content. These are:
Crawlers: Spiders or Crawlers quite literally “crawl” websites to find and index new content. Once a page has been crawled, it can go into the search engine’s index.
Indexing: Once a web page is crawled and “found”, it moves into the search engine’s index. Not all content will be indexed, but as long as the content is decent, there’s no reason why not.
Ranking: As we mentioned, ranking relies upon various conditions to determine the most relevant and authoritative pages for a given query. The ranking algorithm can consider any pages in the index.
SERP (Search Engine Results Page): The SERPs are a list of results that appear after the user enters a query into a search engine. When someone says their content is ranking on the first page of the SERPs, this is what they mean.
Importance of Keyword Research
Keyword research isn’t going away.
Simply, keyword research involves identifying the terms and phrases that people use to find information on the internet.
All the blog posts that you publish should target a specific keyword. Keywords can be short-tail e.g., winter gloves, or long-tail e.g., best winter gloves for snowboarding. Long-tail keywords are much less competitive and are an effective way to start getting relevant organic traffic.
Doing proper keyword research helps businesses understand what their target audience is searching for and how to optimize their website to rank for those terms.
The intent is also an important component of keyword research. There are four types of search intent, but I want you to focus on the main two – informational and commercial.
Informational intent refers to when a user is looking for information. Common informational intent keywords include “what is” and “how to.” Whereas commercial intent keywords signify that the user is close to making a purchase, e.g., “best”, “vs”, and “review”.
In 2023, mastering keyword research and understanding user intent signals will be even more important. Using voice search is changing how people search for information on the web, so incorporating natural language and writing in a more communicative style will become more important.
Why do we say this? Although voice assistants like Siri and Alexa have been used to perform web searches over the past few years. They haven’t become incredible yet. But, OpenAI’s release of ChatGPT may well force Apple and Amazon to invest heavily into conversational AI.
If they do, more people will use natural language rather than typing in specific keywords when searching for information. As a result, businesses will need to optimize their content for natural language queries and try to answer several common topical questions in each article.
Similarly, featured snippets (the answers that appear at the top of the SERPs) will probably become more common. People searching for information love snippets because they are designed to provide users with short and concise answers. In 2023 and beyond, content writers need to optimize their content to be included in snippets. Take a look at “how to write NLP-friendly content” for further guidance.
Keyword research has always been part of SEO. Some things remain the same, but other parts are changing.
So, it’s more important than ever to understand what your target audience is searching for so that you can optimize your website for search engine success.
On-Page Optimization Techniques
Keyword research can give you the foundation for good content, but it’s not guaranteed.
In fact, the next step is optimizing the content itself and the structure, so search engines love it. This will give you the best chance to rank for the keywords you are looking at.
Employing good on-page SEO strategies will enable you to rank higher and earn lots of relevant traffic in search engines.
Anyone can put good on-page SEO practices in place. You don’t need to be an expert. Some of the best tips include:
Optimizing Title Tags and Meta Descriptions: The title tag and meta description are both HTML elements that tell search engines what a particular page is about. Additionally, having a good page title and compelling meta descriptions are the first things that stand out to users on the search engine results page, so getting these right can help you to improve your click-through rates.
Keywords in the URL: Including keywords in a blog post’s URL (or the slug) directly tells search engines, “this is the page’s main topic”. Giving your page a specific focus is the best way to rank for the target keyword.
Optimizing Headings: Headings (H1, H2, H3) are an essential SEO technique. Headings add structure to a page and help you cover the relevant sub-topics related to the primary keyword. You need to use headings to organize the content. Humans and search engines both like this!
Images and Videos: Optimizing images and videos can help search engines understand the actual media on the page. To do this, you can add relevant descriptions and alt-text to all files. This can also help people who are visually impaired to enjoy your content.
Internal Linking: Hands down, internal linking is the most important part of on-page SEO. Internal linking is a straightforward process where you will directly link from one page on your website to another. Internal linking needs to be topically relevant.
Suppose you are reading this post on SEO Best Practices. I may add internal links to other SEO-related content. This is good. However, this would be bad if I were to link to an article about car insurance.
Internal links help users and search engines navigate your website. For search engines, internal linking allows a better understanding of the relationships between the pages on your site.
Off-Page Optimization Techniques
On-page SEO optimization is crucial.
However, off-page SEO is just as important and often needs to be addressed.
Off-Page SEO effectively helps you improve search engines’ perception of your website. As the name suggests, off-page SEO techniques are performed outside of the main website.
The most important off-page optimization technique is link building.
There are many ways to build links, but you need to know right now that link-building or earning is pivotal.
What is link building, and why is it important?
Simple link building is the process of acquiring backlinks from other websites that point to your website. Backlinks from other websites act as a “vote of confidence” for search engines. They indicate that other websites see your content to be valuable and relevant.
Backlinks can either be do-follow or no-follow, which we discuss in this post.
The more high-quality links (preferably do-follow) pointing to your website, the more likely it is that you will rank well in search engine results.
However, not all links are created equal. Search engines prefer links from authoritative and reputable websites that are contextual and relevant. On the other links from low-quality or spammy websites won’t really pass any value.
That’s why building high-quality links from relevant and authoritative websites is so important.
Unfortunately, acquiring high-quality backlinks from high-quality websites is easier said than done. Fortunately, there are several proven ways to get a decent number of links every month.
Guest Blogging: One of the safest ways to build high-quality backlinks. Guest blogging involves writing and publishing articles on other websites that are related to your niche. This is a decent way to build contextual white-hat backlinks and allows you to control the link completely. Unfortunately, a lot of websites charge publishing fees between $100 – $200, and outsourcing guest posts can end up costing you $300 – $500 per post… so it’s an expensive option.
Broken Link Building: This technique doesn’t work as well as it used to. Essentially, BLB involves finding broken links (that bring up 404 error pages) on other websites. You can then let the webmaster know and offer your own content as a replacement. BLB is time-consuming and relatively ineffective even if you use a tool like Ahrefs or SEMrush.
Resource Page Link Building: Some authoritative blogs will have resource pages. If you have great (and unique) content, e.g., case studies and statistics posts. Other blogs will be happy to link to your content. Why? Because this content takes a lot of time to create and is easier to replicate without raising red flags.
Niche Edits: This is our personal favorite. Niche edits or link insertions are a fantastic way to get super contextual backlinks. Niche edits work in a similar way to broken links. This is where you will contact a webmaster and ask for a link to your website in an existing article. Some webmasters will try to charge you, but others will do it in return for a non-financial favor.
HARO: Services like HARO and Qwoted allow you to respond to queries from journalists. If you have great insights, the journalists will publish your quote and a link to your website.
Link building is a long-term strategy. It takes time to see results. However, links are and will remain a crucial part of ranking content in organic search. Try to avoid black hat techniques such as Fiverr links and taking part in excessive link exchange programs because these can lead to penalties from search engines.
Link building is a crucial aspect of SEO as it helps to establish your website as a source of expertise and authority.
It’s a necessary part of SEO, regardless of what some people will tell you. That’s why it’s essential to work with someone knowledgeable and committed to getting you results, wink wink. Here’s my SEO services page.
This one is a bit of a cliche, so we won’t dwell on this section.
But you can’t mention succeeding with SEO without mentioning creating high-quality content. The truth is content is one of the most important aspects of SEO.
Search engines love websites that have an abundance of high-quality, long-form content. Not only that, content is essential in helping to attract, engage, and retain visitors.
High-quality content should be informative, unique, and relevant to a specific target audience.
Here are a few quick tips you can implement to create better content:
Understand your target audience: As a content creator, your job is to try and understand the needs, interests, and pain points of your target audience. Once you do this, we recommend creating a topical map that plans out articles to answer many queries your audience may have. This will help you to establish topical authority with Google.
Strategic Keywords: We mentioned this briefly in the on-page SEO section, but make sure that you consistently use keywords that your potential readers will be searching for. You must use these naturally and avoid depending on tools like Yoast SEO. NEVER keyword stuff, as this is an easy way to get penalized by Google.
Create Appealing Content: Integrate images, videos, stats, infographics, tables, and audio files into your content. This is a good way to improve page engagement and your pages’ UX.
Optimize For Readability: Subheadings, bullet points, and white space can make your content easy to scan. Also, you can use tools like Grammarly and the Hemingway editor to improve the fluidity and tone of your writing.
High-quality content is important for SEO and can help your business get noticed as a thought leader in your industry.
Moreover, creating highly informative content is algorithm-proof. Ultimately, awesome content is the goal. In a perfect world, this would be enough. However, backlinks will continue to play a dominant role.
The good news is that quality content helps you generate backlinks, especially if you are writing something totally unique.
Technical SEO Considerations
So we have spent most of this article talking about the best practices for on-page and off-page SEO.
But, there is a third type of SEO.
Of course, I’m referring to technical SEO. We would argue Technical SEO doesn’t need the same level of attention as on and off-page optimization, but that doesn’t mean it can be ignored.
Technical SEO looks at a website’s technical infrastructure to make it more crawlable and indexable.
If you get your technical SEO right, then it will take a lot of worries off your chest. Without further delay, here are a few things to consider.
Website Structure: Your website should have a structural hierarchy. This makes it easier for search engines to crawl, index, and rank your pages. For example, you will need a Home Page, a Blog Page, a Contact Page, and an About Page. Then on each of these pages, it should be easy for users to access secondary pages.
Site Speed: People hate slow-loading websites, and so does Google. Therefore, site speed is a ranking factor. Websites that load slowly negatively affect user experience and search engine rankings. Make sure you compress images and unused code, then use a tool like WPRocket to optimize further.
Mobile First: In 2023, most people will use mobile devices to access the internet. Having a website that isn’t responsive on mobiles isn’t good enough. You need to put mobile users first on your website. Luckily, most themes and page builders are responsive by default.
XML Sitemaps: You can easily generate an XML sitemap for free with a tool like Yoast SEO. Make sure to submit your sitemap file to Google (you can use Google Search Console). An XML sitemap helps search engines understand your website’s structure and can help to improve the speed at which your pages are indexed.
As a website owner, you should also consistently check your search console account for any security issues or manual actions. This will show you any penalties or vulnerabilities impacting your site.
Local SEO Strategies
Only some people are trying to rank internationally for their keywords.
For many businesses, Local SEO is the priority. For instance, if you operate a brick-and-mortar store or you primarily serve clients in your local area e.g., plumbers.
With Local SEO, businesses that target customers in a specific geographic area, such as a state or a city.
Employing local SEO strategies allows businesses to rank better for “near me” type searches. As a result of good local SEO, you will get a consistent pipeline of potential customers who are searching for the products or services you offer.
Some of the most influential strategies for Local SEO include:
Optimizing Google My Business Listing: As you may already know, Google My Business is a free listing service provided by Google that allows businesses to manage their online presence across Google Search and Maps. By building a complete and detailed profile, you may see a quick boost in your Google My Business listing.
Building Local Citations: Local citations are mentions of your business on other websites. These commonly include directories, review sites, and local newspapers. Because citations are locally relevant, they can positively impact local search rankings.
Creating Local Content: Creating relevant content for your location. For example, if you are a CRM company in Texas, publish a case study about how you helped another Texas-based business.
Measuring and Tracking SEO Success
Some people do SEO but completely fail to measure and track results.
Measuring the results of your campaigns is crucial in understanding your strategies’ impact and making data-driven decisions.
If you don’t know where to start, there are several key metrics that you can use to start tracking.
Rankings: Ranking is key, so you need to track the position of your website in the SERPs. Rankings are perhaps the most important SEO KPI. You can use Google Search Console to track progress for relevant keywords. You should notice small, incremental changes in ranking positions for your main keywords.
Website Traffic: Monitor the number of visitors to your website. The more eyeballs on your content, the better. Look out for pages experiencing traffic contraction and make on-page improvements.
Conversion Rate: You should keep tracking the percentage of website visitors that lead to a conversion, e.g. a sale. After all, conversions pay the bills, not traffic.
Check out our comprehensive guide to the best SEO software. We have included free and paid tools to help you track and measure your SEO.
In the meantime, check out Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Ahrefs, SEMrush, and Moz. These tools provide detailed information about the performance of your website (and competitors).
Integrating Social Media with SEO
How can social media help with SEO? Well, we are here to tell you exactly how.
Social media can, in fact, help you with SEO in a few ways.
Social Sharing: You can implement social sharing buttons onto your website. Long-form content is extremely shareable. More shares mean more visitors. Ultimately, this can help you generate new backlinks, positively influencing rankings.
Social Signals: Social signals, such as likes, shares, and followers, can indicate to search engines that your content is valuable and relevant. Although social signals aren’t officially a ranking factor, evidence suggests they can impact your search engine rankings.
Social Media Profiles: Additionally, you can create social media profiles for your business. We recommend optimizing them with keywords and links back to your website. Building profiles like this helps you to build an image of authority online.
Influencer Marketing: As a business owner, you should actively work with influencers in your industry. Together you can create content that drives qualified leads to your website.
Social Media Monitoring: If your business has already gathered momentum online, you should actively search for brand mentions and engage with people on social media. This is a great way to build legitimate relationships and drive referral traffic.
Moreover, short-form content on social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok is becoming increasingly popular and can be used to reach a new audience.
Social media is only going to continue to grow.
You should definitely implement social media into your SEO strategy.
Integrating Email Marketing with SEO
We recently published an incredible post on email marketing and SEO that delves into all the important aspects of both topics.
But, ultimately email marketing is a highly effective tool that can be used to support your SEO.
Email Campaigns: Running email campaigns to promote articles on your website is an efficient way to drive traffic back to your website. People that are on your email list will already be engaged with your brand, so they are much more likely to visit your content when prompted.
Email Signatures: Incorporating an email signature is a great way to make your emails look professional and stand out. You can include a link back to your home page or services page to increase exposure further.
Personalized Email Campaigns: The best thing about email marketing is how personal you can make it. Personalized email campaigns are a solid way to target specific groups (or segments) of your subscribers. This helps you to make your marketing more focused. Focused marketing means more conversions!
Email Automation: You can use email automation software to send sequences of targeted emails to subscribers. This can help you to build rapport and drive more sales.
So, by now, I hope that you have realized email marketing is not dead and still presents a great opportunity.
E-commerce SEO Considerations
A large proportion of online businesses are E-commerce stores.
Several SEO considerations – strategies and techniques we mean- can be used to optimize an e-commerce website for search engines.
Some of the most important considerations to keep in mind for eCommerce SEO are:
Product Optimization: You must ensure that each product page targets relevant keywords. Remember the on-page SEO strategies we mentioned earlier, such as including product information, images, and reviews to improve visibility in search results.
Category Optimization: You should also optimize each category page for relevant keywords along with your product pages. Make sure to add internal links to other store pages to pass more link equity.
Look At Your URLs: Ensure that your URL slugs are descriptive and keyword-rich. Your URLs must accurately reflect the page’s content. Add additional content to every page to provide search engines with a reason to index and rank your pages,
Images: The product images on your website should all have descriptive file names and alt tags. Go through every photo and make sure these criteria is met.
Utilizing Structured Data: You can use structured data (or schema markup) to tell search engines what your web pages are about. You can add schema markup to your web pages by visiting Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper.
Essentially, this will be HTML code that exists to help search engines understand the structure of your content. Use schema markup. You won’t regret it!