From February to April 2023, Google received in excess of 8.5 billion searches a day.
With the advancement of artificial intelligence (AI), it's crucial to stay ahead of the curve and adapt to current SEO best practices.
This means that mastering the art of search engine optimization (SEO) continues to be essential for businesses and individuals who are seeking online visibility in the ever-evolving digital landscape.
Backlinko found that, on average, the first result in the search results has a click-through-rate (CTR) of 27.6% compared to 15.8% if you're in the second position, 11% if you rank third, and 2.4% if you are in the 10th position.
That speaks volumes, right?
Here are 12 best practices for SEO that you should implement today.
1. Pick keywords with search potential
It's essential to choose keywords that have sufficient search potential.
The golden rule is to identify low-hanging fruit: relevant keywords and phrases with high search volume and low competition.
Going after this can help your content reach a broader audience and rank better in the search engine rankings.
Use a tool like Surfer's free Chrome extension to find search volume data in your browser.
There's also the other side of the coin.
Going after highly competitive keywords isn't easy because you are competing against big brands.
It's not impossible to rank those terms, but it's not the easiest and there may be better opportunities to target your ideal audience.
You want to identify the right keywords that best represent your services and products and that you can create authoritative content around.
With high-quality content that's built around strategically selected keywords, you can drive more organic traffic to your website, increase visitor numbers, and potentially boost conversion rates.
Sounds like a win, right?
Pick realistic topics
When you choose keywords with the right search potential, you also need to pick realistic topics that are suitable for your brand.
Start by considering your competition and identifying what they are doing right and where they are missing the mark. Then go back to your business and objectively choose topics that will work for you.
You also need to consider keyword difficulty when evaluating your keyword ideas.
While seed keywords have the highest search volume and attractiveness, it's best to opt for long-tail keywords suited for your website.
They will cater to a more specific target audience with higher interest.
You can also use the queries report in Google Search Console to identify keywords you are ranking well for. And then pick related keywords to create content for.
2. Match your content to search intent
Understanding and meeting search intent (also called user intent or keyword intent) is another good practice for SEO.
Matching search intent with the content you create should be a main priority in your SEO strategy.
Authority Hacker's Gael Breton said it best:
If you don't check and align with the user's intent, you won't rank.
Search intent refers to the searcher's goal or purpose behind their search query.
What do they want to achieve?
Do they want to learn something, buy something, do something, or go somewhere?
Once you understand the user's goal, ensure that your content for that specific intent is spot-on so you can rank higher in the search results.
But how can you ensure that you meet search intent?
Surfer's Keyword Research Tool can help you identify search intent for a keyword you're analyzing. In this example, "pole trekking" is categorized as "customer investigation" and is closer to transactional or commercial intent.
Keep in mind that although there are 4 types of user intents, they are often worded slightly differently.
When a searcher types informational keywords in Google, they want to learn something.
So your blog posts, glossary terms, FAQs, and research papers need to match their search for education and information.
Examples of informational intent queries are:
- What is X?
- Definition of X
- Examples of X
Once a searcher understands the topic, they may decide to act on the information.
Commercial intent keywords are process-oriented and fall into the "do" category.
Searchers are now ready to decide how they want to move forward, and the content you create needs to fulfill this specific search intent.
In-depth tutorials and guides are examples of content that matches commercial intent.
When you search for "apply for a credit card," Google and other search engines know that you are looking for an application page.
And that's exactly what it gives you in the search results.
A searcher who uses transactional keywords is looking to buy.
This person has decided they are ready to commit to a purchase, so during this stage, they're narrowing their options, seeking validation, and finalizing the "buy."
Create content, such as broad landing pages, specific product and service pages, testimonials, and pricing pages, to match these types of transactional intent queries:
- best X
- X vs Y comparison
- X reviews
If you are looking for the "best family tents," Google understands and will give you nine of the best family tents (with the option to load more).
Then you also see reviews to help you narrow down your decision so you can continue on your purchase journey.
Navigational intent queries indicate that the searcher wants to go somewhere specific: visit an online store, or a specific web page.
Searchers often have a brand in mind when they use navigational keywords, so it's essential that your brand appear first in the results when they type in your product.
When a navigational search is related to a brand, the searcher is more likely to buy.
3. Use your primary keyword effectively
Incorporating your primary keyword or target keyword effectively is essential for SEO success. This keyword should best represent what your blog post is about in order for your content to rank.
Use your main keyword in these 4 essential areas of your page:
H1 page title: Place the keyword at the front of the page title or title tag. Searchers like to scan, often just reading the first two words of a title, so chances are higher that they'll click on your site if they can see that your headline matches what they are searching for.
Header tags: The heading or header tags you use in your web pages structure your content. It's important to include your main keyword and variations in some of your header tags, such as H2 and H3, to help give context to your content for search engines.
Meta descriptions: Your meta description will appear in the search results together with your page and meta title. This tells readers what your content is about and whether it will help them. Make sure that your description includes your primary keywords.
URLs: Using your main keyword in the web page's URL tells readers and search engines what your page's content is about.
Ensure that your URLs are SEO-friendly.
For example, the primary keyword for our pillar page titled "Keyword Research Ultimate Guide: Step-by-Step Strategies for More Traffic" is "keyword research."
The target keyword appears prominently in the page title, meta tag, meta description, header tags and the article's URL.
4. Optimize your content with secondary keywords
You also need to use secondary keywords in your content to convey topical depth to search engines.
Since secondary keywords signal semantic relationships, Google uses these to identify related entities on your page.
Finding these on your page will signal to search engines that you have a well rounded article on your main keyword.
Instead of spending hours identifying related keywords in Google's Autocomplete, Related Searches, and People Also Ask, you can use Surfer's Content Editor.
The Terms panel shows a list of suggested keywords and their optimal frequency that are relevant to your content.
They're arranged in order of importance so you can easily find the most popular terms for your target query.
Those highlighted in green are optimum while yellow and red leave room for improvement. As you include more keywords in the optimal range, Surfer improves your page's content score.
5. Write compelling titles and meta descriptions
It's important to write compelling titles and meta descriptions if you want to improve CTR and make it easy for search engines and users to understand your content.
To maximize CTR, titles should be no longer than 60 characters and meta descriptions should not exceed 150-160 characters.
When crafting titles and meta descriptions, consider accessibility, brevity, and capturing quality. Titles should be capitalized, with every word in upper case.
Meta descriptions are like elevator pitches, and they should persuade the searcher that your page is exactly what they are looking for.
You can get more people to click on your content in search engine results pages by giving it a catchy title and a detailed, interesting description.
A well-written title and meta description can help your website get a lot of traffic from search engines.
Here is an example of a good meta title and description.
The whole meta title tag shows clearly, and the meta description tells the reader what they can expect to learn by reading this blog post.
6. Include internal links
Internal links are hyperlinks that connect one page on a website to another on the same domain and are crucial to improving your website's SEO performance.
Internal and external links aid in offering context to search engines for understanding your content and the relationship between content pieces.
Internal links also help establish a site hierarchy while improving the flow of PageRank through your website. They can also offer valuable additional resources to readers.
How do internal links influence your search ranking?
Linking acts as a vote of trust in the eyes of a search engine. While external links to your pages are the strongest indicators, internal linking can also help search engines understand which pages to prioritize.
Search engine crawlers use links to discover content on your website.
When you link to a page on your website, you're essentially telling search engines that this is an important page for you.
Here are a few tips to optimize your internal linking strategy:
- Link within related pages in a topic cluster to signal a content hub on your website. This will ensure that your links are semantically related and aid topical authority.
- Older content tends to have more authority than newer ones on your site, so ensure that you always link to new pages from old ones.
- Use variations in your anchor text.
- Don't link to every page. If you are a relatively new site, link to pages within your topic. Authority sites can get away with linking to pages outside the topic cluster.
- Ensure all the web pages on your site are linked so you don't have any pages without internal links to them. Without pages linking to them, it will be harder for Google to find, crawl, and index content on your website.
Don't forget to include external links. They can help you associate with credible websites, which can help your standing.
7. Build backlinks
We know that backlinks are a confirmed ranking factor that need to be part of your SEO strategy.
A website with fewer or no backlinks is like an isolated island in the vast ocean of the internet.
It's harder for search engines to discover and index such websites, which can lead to lower visibility in search engine results pages.
This lack of visibility can result in fewer visitors, less brand exposure, and ultimately, lower revenue.
When a website links to your site, it signals to search engines that your content is valuable and relevant. This can significantly improve your website's SEO ranking.
Moreover, backlinks can also drive direct traffic to your site, increasing your audience and potential customer base.
Here are several ways to acquire backlinks to relevant pages:
- creating high-quality, shareable content
- guest blogging on reputable sites
- building relationships with influencers and other relevant websites in your industry
- digital PR tactics such as press releases and HARO style outreach to journalists.
You can also conduct a backlink audit of your competitors to identify potential link-building opportunities with tools like Surfer Audit.
Instead of entering several of your competitor's URLs, you can enter your competing page, and Surfer will extract the most common websites linking to the top ranking pages for that target keyword.
For my article on submitting your website to search engines, I found 207 websites that I could approach for link building opportunities.
8. Engage your readers
There is no point in creating content that your audience will not enjoy or find helpful because they'll leave your website quickly.
You can only captivate your audience and encourage them to spend time on your website when you create helpful, valuable, and original content and share unique perspectives.
You also boost your search rankings when you write compelling, optimized content that meets Google's search quality rating guidelines for E-E-A-T.
Your content also needs to resonate with your target audience, and you can only do this when you understand their needs, preferences, and search intent.
Here are some best practices when writing SEO content.
Make your content skimmable: Most readers skim content to find what they are looking for, so you want to utilize white space, make your content skimmable with short paragraphs, and include formatting to attract their attention.
Use headers and subheaders: Headers and subheaders categorize your content, and they improve skimmability too. Choose clear and concise headers and subheads that accurately summarize the following content sections to help your readers stay on your page.
Communicate with images: The saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words" remains true. Include images, infographics, videos, GIFs, and screenshots in your content where possible to make it more attractive, and optimize images to be SEO-friendly.
Optimize for mobile: Mobile searches are more popular than desktop searches at more than 55% of searches going to mobile devices compared to roughly 43% of desktop searches. It's critical to ensure that your website is optimized for mobile search queries.
- Content should be legible on the smaller screen
- There should be space to tap on buttons and links
- And don't have walls of text.
By crafting content that is informative, visually appealing, commercially viable, and user-friendly, you can provide an enjoyable experience for your readers while also satisfying search engines and achieving your on-page SEO objectives.
9. Practice E-E-A-T
E-E-A-T stands for experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
E-E-A-T originates from Google's Search Quality Rating Guidelines and is used to differentiate between high and low-quality websites, especially in YMYL niches (Your money your life) like finance and healthcare.
But we know that expertise, trust and authority are important to Google, so it's a good idea to practice E-E-A-T in every industry.
As AI content becomes more prevalent, E-E-A-T will be considered even more important.
Content that meets Google's E-E-A-T guidelines can help you build trust with the search engine and your audience.
Here are some tips to show E-E-A-T in your content:
Hire industry professionals: Using industry professionals and subject matter experts (SMEs) to write, edit, and review your website pages is good practice to ensure credibility and accuracy. Your audience is more likely to trust content written by someone they know than by someone who doesn't have a license.
Showcase author bios: Name the industry professionals and SMEs that are involved in the content creation process. Prominent author bio pages can show your readers that the blog posts are written by real experts. You can also showcase links to your author's social pages and LinkedIn.
Display credibility: Content that's credible cites statistics, research, and case studies. All facts are verified, and there's a clear distinction between fact and opinion.
Sites in the YMYL space like VeryWellMind, are great at building credibility and authority.
A medical expert reviews their articles, and you can see who they are by hovering over the reviewer's name.
It's a mini author bio, and clicking on the links takes you to a more detailed biography and the person's social accounts.
The site also explicitly mentions that the article has been medically reviewed, with information about what this means exactly, for transparency purposes, which helps them abide by E-E-A-T guidelines.
To showcase E-E-A-T in your content, ensure that the information is accurate and up-to-date, reference reliable sources, and utilize language that is suitable for your audience.
10. Build topical clusters
You can demonstrate topical expertise to search engines by building several pages that cover a topic in sufficient depth.
These pages can be linked together with anchor text so that they form a cluster of information about the topic, commonly known as topical clusters or content hubs.
Topical authority is crucial because it signals to search engines that your website is a trusted source of information on a specific topic.
This can significantly improve your website's SEO ranking for relevant keywords.
You can find several topic clusters for your website using Surfer's Keyword Research Tool. In this example, I searched for "home appliances" and found 43 keyword clusters that are related to my topic.
Keep in mind that you can also search for more specific topics like kitchen appliances, food appliances, etc to find even more related subtopics for your website.
By establishing topical authority, your website becomes a recognized expert in a specific field.
This clarity helps search engines understand what your site is about, making it easier for them to rank your site for relevant keywords.
11. Optimize page speed
Your readers are busy and don't want to wait around for your page to load. Slow loading pages result in higher bounce rates and lower engagement, negatively affecting your SEO rankings.
In fact, Unbounce compiled a page speed report that indicates that most internet users leave if your page hasn't loaded after 3 seconds.
70% of online shoppers say that the speed at which a page loads affects their decision to buy.
Be aware that slow load times mean fewer sales and conversions.
Since page speed is a confirmed ranking factor, it's essential to pay attention to your website's page speed.
To improve your website's page speed, consider incorporating lighter elements into your website design and utilizing image compression software to compress images prior to their use.
Tools to check page speed
Using page speed tools can help you identify potential performance issues and uncover opportunities to optimize your site's loading speed.
Here are 3 tools you can use to check your page speed:
Google PageSpeed Insights
This tool lets you see how fast your website's pages load on mobile and desktop browsers. Simply enter your site's URL and look at the diagnostics to determine what you need to fix.
Pingdom has a free version to check your website's loading speed. The paid plan lets you dive deeper to identify and fix performance bottlenecks.
Another popular tool, GTMetrix is a website performance monitoring and testing tool that you can use for free but need to pay to access more features. Enter your site's URL and view your page speed grade with recommendations to improve your page speed.
Monitor your site's loading speed on a regular basis and implement the suggested optimizations in these tools to ensure that your website remains fast and user-friendly for your visitors.
Besides checking for pagespeed, ensure there are no broken links or server issues and that your pages provide an all-around user-friendly experience.
12. Revisit old content
In the fast-paced world of the internet, content can quickly become outdated or irrelevant.
If you don't revisit and update your old content, it can lose its value and relevance, both to your audience and to search engines.
Updating old content is important because it keeps your content fresh, relevant, and valuable to your audience.
It also signals to search engines that your content is up-to-date and reliable, which can improve your SEO rankings.
Moreover, updating old content is often more cost-effective and less time-consuming than creating new content from scratch, making it an efficient way to maintain and improve your SEO performance.
Updating your content can include:
- Revisiting facts and statistics
- Adding new information or sections
- Improving the content's SEO (such as optimizing keywords, meta descriptions, and title tags)
- Improving the content's readability and structure.
- You should also check and update any broken links, and consider adding new internal and external links where relevant.
For example, we have a bunch of blog posts that were written in 2020. As we're now in 2023, this content is outdated and may no longer be relevant or accurate.
This can lead to a drop in our content's search engine rankings, resulting in less organic traffic, lower engagement, and fewer conversions.
- Choose keywords that have search potential with a high search volume and low competition. Find the best keywords to rank for, and then choose realistic topics to match.
- Understand the search or user intent behind queries and create content that will fulfil what your audience wants. Distinguish between informational, navigational, transactional, and commercial intent before planning and creating content.
- Use your primary keywords effectively throughout your content. Write title tags that include the keyword, and use it in the meta tags, header tags, and URLs too.
- Write compelling title tags and meta descriptions that capture searchers' attention when they are looking for which site will best match their search query in the search results.
- Build an internal linking structure on all your content so the Google bots can find and crawl your pages and also understand the relationship between content pieces. Remember to include external links too, but ensure you only link to credible and authoritative sources.
- Building authoritative backlinks is another best practice to adhere to. Since they are seen as "votes of "confidence," getting more quality backlinks tells Google that your website has high-quality content, which improves your rank and website's visibility.
- It's critical to engage your readers by having high-quality, relevant, authoritative, valuable, and original content. Ensure your content is skimmable by using white space, clear headings and subheadings, including optimized images, and being mobile-friendly.
- Following Google's E-E-A-T guidelines is a must, especially if you publish content in the YMYL niches. Your content needs to showcase experience, expertise, authority, and trustworthiness, which buys you credibility with both users and Google.
- Create topical clusters to help you rank higher and for more long-tailed queries. Spend time building a pillar page and then write related articles. Ensure all the content in a cluster links to each other.
- Optimize your page speed to lower your bounce rate and Google will reward you for it.
- Old content doesn't have to stay "on the online shelf" and die. Dust it off by repurposing and refreshing it. Up-to-date and accurate content remains valuable for your audience.
As the digital landscape continues to evolve, staying updated on the latest SEO best practices is crucial for maintaining and improving your online visibility. By implementing these strategies and continuously refining your website's content and performance, you can position yourself for success in the ever-changing world of search engine optimization.
Have you updated your website and content with all of these SEO best practices for 2023 yet? What rewards have you reaped with your SEO efforts?