What Are SEO Best Practices?
SEO best practices are the strategies, tactics, workflow processes and business practices that should be used in an SEO campaign. SEO best practices have one or more of the following characteristics:
- They follow Google’s published, current rules and recommendations for SEO execution and related issues (such as online content creation and website construction).
- They are based on data and testing that use reliable methodologies.
- They have a proven track record of success and meet one or both of the standards mentioned above.
A couple of important notes about best practices:
- Google’s search algorithm changes continually. Standards for website construction and other factors affecting SEO also change rapidly. It is very important to employ up-to-date SEO practices in your campaign; otherwise, you may unwittingly undermine your efforts.
- Just because an SEO technique works (at least in the short run) is no guarantee it follows SEO best practices. Yes, it is possible to game the system and achieve high rankings for inferior content. However, employing SEO strategies and tactics that run afoul of Google’s rules and recommendations present serious risk. Google may penalize or permanently ban you from its site, which is the kiss of death for online marketing. In addition, inferior or misleading content, regardless of its ranking position, is unlikely to generate conversions — sales leads and online revenue — and therefore is unlikely to deliver a decent return on investment.
Strategic SEO Best Practices
Strategically, an SEO campaign should have several characteristics. Please note that in this entire discussion, there are always exceptions, and there may be some recommendations that are not applicable to your specific situation. This idea, in fact, brings us to the first SEO strategic best practice: All SEO campaigns should have a unique mix of tactics, because every website starts from a unique competitive situation. Canned SEO campaigns are usually a tip-off that best practices are not being followed.
Other strategic best practices to take note of include:
- Having separate website pages dedicated to each primary target keyword.
- Allowing several months to elapse before making evaluations on campaign expansion, contraction and major modification.
- Making conversions (sales leads or online revenue) the primary goal of the campaign. Companies go astray when they put primary emphasis on rankings or organic traffic. Those two things matter only to the extent they maximize organic lead or revenue generation.
- Not spreading execution activities too thin. The best way to handle a limited budget is to do a small set of things very well rather than a lot of things poorly.
Tactical SEO Best Practices
Tactics is the area of best practices that gets the lion’s share of attention. These SEO issues are indeed extremely important, and many of them are worth an article themselves. These are some of major SEO tactics that should be used in your campaign.
- Unique, keyword-rich title tags for each page of the website.
- Website and off-site content of high quality — content that’s unique, useful, relevant, authoritative, scannable and engaging.
- No duplicate content or technical handling of duplicate content to make sure Google crawlers can identify the page you want to have ranked.
- A strong, intuitive internal linking structure on the website that emphasizes links to the target SEO pages.
- Mobile-friendly, responsive website. This is getting more important all the time.
- HTTPS website.
- Business name, address and phone number (NAP) displayed consistently on every website page.
- Link building that does not rely on tricks, gimmicks or poor-quality content.
- Link building that does not overuse keyword-rich anchor text.
- Persuasive Meta descriptions (snippets that appear under the link on Google results pages). Well written Meta descriptions improve click-throughs.
- Keyword research that takes into account keyword competitiveness, intent, search volume, probability of success and budget.
Best SEO Workflow Practices
SEO campaigns involve a lot of ongoing assignments that must be carefully coordinated and timed. In addition, campaigns require a great deal of data collection and analysis if they are to improve and eliminate underperforming, non-ROI producing work. SEO best practices for workflow are as important as the strategic and tactical best practices, but get much less attention. These workflow best practices include:
- Granular tracking of phone and form leads generated by the SEO campaign. This requires setup beyond what Google Search Console provides.
- Connecting the website to Google Search Console, to collect important website data and customize aspects of the campaign.
- Validating all sales leads, in order to separate true leads from non-lead conversions. Our analysis of well over 2 million online conversions reveals that about half of all conversions are something other than leads (sales solicitations, spam, customer service inquiries, etc.). Isolating legitimate leads helps you gauge the ROI of your SEO campaign with precision, and enables the SEO team to more rapidly improve campaign execution.
- Having a documented, proven system of workflow that schedules and coordinates all SEO campaign execution.
Best SEO Business Practices
Another area of SEO best practices that deserves more attention is the general business practices provided by SEO agencies and freelancers. Don’t overlook these, or you are likely to have an agonizingly difficult relationship with your SEO provider — or possibly partner with an unreliable or even unethical firm. Important best SEO business practices include:
- Detailed but intuitive monthly reports that highlight campaign results, trends, ROI calculations and recommendations for improving the campaign.
- Open lines of communication at all times.
- A dedicated point of contact through which most or all campaign communication is channeled. This prevents details from getting lost in the shuffle and also having multiple people working on the same issue. Problems such as these add cost to the campaign and sap its efficiency.
- No guarantees. SEO is a science, but an inexact one. Google does not share the specifics of its search algorithm, which contains more than 200 ranking factors. Nobody can predict the SEO moves your competitors will make during the course of your campaign. Thus, SEO companies that guarantee rankings, guarantee traffic or guarantee any specific results are misleading you, intentionally or unintentionally.
- Ability to cancel. Any legitimate SEO contract has some way of enabling you to cancel under reasonable conditions. Don’t make the mistake, however, of canceling before the jury is in on your campaign. SEO is usually a slow-moving process that requires several months or longer to start moving the dial in a big way. Nevertheless, no customer likes to feel locked in for life in any business relationship, and SEO is no exception.
- Commitment to SEO best practices in all regards. Because SEO campaigns, especially for midsize and large organizations, involve a number of people (content producers, content marketers, analysts, web developers, web designers, SEO specialists, etc.), the SEO agency must communicate its support of SEO best practices throughout the organization, and monitor campaign activity to ensure that your campaign is being done the right way.
To discuss your SEO campaign in more detail, contact us now or call 855-883-0011.