Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is constantly changing as Google continually makes changes to its search algorithm. According to Backlinko, over 200 ranking signals are relevant and used by Google for page ranking. Manually, it is not so easy to comply with all the expectations. The fact about SEO is that there are factors that are very weighty and those that are not so weighty. In this post, we discuss five best practices that can guide your SEO and bring you good ranking in the Google Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs).
Table of Contents
- Monitor Your Rankings
- Get Relevant Backlinks
- Keep Your Content Fresh
- Pay attention to technical SEO.
- Be Careful With Making Changes
Now, let’s look at them in greater detail.
Monitor Your Rankings
The best way to monitor your rankings is to combine the use of monitoring tools with manual checks on search engine performance. For a beginner, and even with advanced SEP practitioners, combining Google Search Console with Google Analytics can be enough for this purpose.
Frankly, SEO is a continuous exercise and because it is always changing, what worked yesterday no longer works today and there are no guarantees that what works today will continue to work tomorrow, you need to monitor your performance as you get along. Monitoring will help you understand how well you are performing and could be one way you will justify further tweaks to your pages to increase performance.
There are a couple of analytic results you need to keep an eye on.
- Bounce Rate: A bounce is taken as a visit to a page that does not result in a click on any other page.
- Website Speed: Take the rate at which your website fully loads all page content.
- Number of total visitors: Visitor traffic increase is good. If traffic drops consistently, it could signal a problem.
- Percentage of returning visitors: If visitors do not return to your page, it signals that your website was unable to deliver on their expectations.
- Number of pages visited: Related to bounce rate is how many pages visitors actually visited. The higher the number, the greater the quality rating.
- Time spent on page: How long do people spend on the page. The higher the number, the higher the quality score.
- Backlink profile: Backlinks are great for every website and indicate an endorsement, It impacts ranking very strongly. We will deal with this in greater detail in a seperate section below..
- Domain authority and Majestic Trust. The domain authority though not used by Google as a ranking factor can tell you how strong your backlink profile is and suggest the likelihood that your website will get good ranking.
Backlinks are like a vote. When you get a vote for, you are endorsed and when you get a vote against, you are brought down just like when you do not get a vote at all. So backlinks telLs Google that your page was considered to be relevant and found worthy to be a reference point. Similarly, when you do not get backlinks at all, it suggests your content is not so valuable and worthy of being referred to. It suggests people do not find anything new to talk about your content and refer to as the source of their findings.
You need to analyse your backlinks because they will help you assess how well your website can perform in the search engines.
The other issue is about the source of your backlinks. Getting a backlink from the New York Times is better than a backlink from Todhost Blog. Getting backlinks from CNN is also better than a backlink from Todhost. The other side of it is the relevance of the backlinks. If you get backlinks from a website in the same industry, that will be more relevant to you and more weighty than a backlink from a non-related industry. So, if you are a news website and get a backlink from New York Times, it will be more relevant than a backlink from Dell Computers.
We should also mention that not all backlinks are rewarding. Getting links from paid SEO service is highly discouraged because Google does not like bought links. Google also hates links from scrappy websites established mainly to help people get backlinks. Site-wide links and some directory links fall into this category. The emphasis is on the quality of the links and not the quantity. You may want to read more about quality backlinks.
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Keep Your Content Fresh
This may not be the first time you will hear that content is a key marketing strategy. Yes!, and you must also have heard that content is king. Google loves content that is fresh and explains new perspectives. The implication is that you do not only post fresh content, you also need to update existing content to keep it fresh, relevant and incorporate new changes to the topic under discussion.
How do you achieve this you may ask.
One way is to maintain a blog for your business. Of course, except you run something like a news website, you can’t just be editing frontpage content modules all because you want to keep your content fresh. That will be counter productive and will certainly hurt your rankings.
The other thing you need to do is to revisit and update older blog posts to keep them up with current changes in the industry.
Pay Attention to Technical SEO
This is a key aspect of your SEO campaign which you should pay particular attention to. Address technical SEO issues and this critically cover the following:
- Identify crawl errors.
- Check HTTPS status codes.
- Check XML sitemap status.
- Check site speed.
- Make it mobile-friendly.
- Audit for keyword cannibalization.
- Perform a Google site search.
- Check for duplicate content
- Check and fix broken links
Identify crawl errors.
If Google cannot crawl your website, then there is no way your pages can be indexed. Identifying crawl errors is very important for ranking. You need to check for any technical issues that could be preventing Google from crawling your website. The first thing you should look at is whether Google or any other search engine has been blocked by your robots.txt.
You will also need to check your search console for any crawl errors. Google will usually notify you of any difficulty with crawling your website. Take time to address the errors and resubmit your website for a reassessment.
Check HTTPS Status Codes
Ensure that your website uses a valid SSL certificate and loads in secured mode. Website security has become a ranking factor. Apart from that, it gives users some confidence and assurance about the protection of their personal information when using your website.
SSL – is a security technology which creates an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. You can spot a site using SSL fairly easily: the website URL starts with ‘https://’ rather than ‘http://.’ In 2014 Google announced that they wanted to see ‘HTTPS everywhere’, and that secure HTTPS websites were going to be given preference over non-secure sites in search results. Google have kept their words on this and if you want to rank, your website must run on secured mode.
Check XML Sitemaps
Sitemaps will help Google crawl your pages. You should create and submit a valid xml sitemap to Google via search console. When new pages are created, if you have a bulky website that publishes frequently, instead of submitting your links for indexing via search console each time a new page is created, Google advises that you simply submit a sitemap. A sitemap will help Google index all your pages.
Fortunately, there are free sitemap building tools which can help you create sitemaps that are acceptable by Google.
Check site speed
Make it mobile friendly
Mobile friendliness is fundamentally necessary for top ranking. In fact, pages that are not mobile friendly can hardly rank so well in the Google SERPs. If they do, it is only a matter of time for Google to catch up with it and downgrade its ranking.
You can test your website mobile friendliness with a free tool from Google: Google Mobile Friendly Test.
Check for keyword cannibalization
Keyword cannibalization involves a situation where your web pages compete with each other for the same keyword. The best way to deal with this is to choose keywords carefully. It is important that you do not have your internal pages competing with your home page and your main menu items.
You can conduct a search by keywords to see how many pages are competing for the same keywords. With WordPress and most content management systems, editing the keywords to address this can be easy.. But with static html pages, editing the titles will create 404 errors. The best practice is to choose keywords carefully especially to avoid competition with the site’s main homepage.
Perform a Google site search
This is simple to conduct. Simply go to Google search and type “site:enter your website address here” and hit the enter button. You will be able to see the list of indexed pages for your site. Please note that if this search does not show your website in the top result, that suggests your website could be under a Google penalty.
Check for duplicate content
You will need to check for duplicate page titles, description and content. Google frowns at duplicate content and although Google does not penalize for duplicate content, it may not rank your content if it perceives that you have duplicated it from some other website. The rule is that you should write your content, do not duplicate your titles and descriptions and write for humans, not the search engines.
Check and fix broken links
Broken links are technical errors and you need to find and fix them. If the search engines crawl your site and find lots of broken links, it suggests a bad experience for users and Google does not want to serve users with pages with such technical errors. That is not to say there will not be broken link errors on your site. It is normal to have broken links according to Google but it is important to find and fix them.
Read more: Best Practices for Managing 404 Error Pages
Be Careful with Making Changes
Changes to existing pages can affect its ranking. We have noted that in an earlier article we titled How to recover from a Search Engine ranking drop. Changes can enrich your keyword, it can also diffuse it, it can affect how Google understands it and so you must carefully research the situation before making changes. Besides, every time you make changes, your site goes through a reassessment and this can cause some ranking fluctuations. That is not something you want to do frequently.
We have always emphasized patience as a character you must imbibe to get results from your SEO efforts. You should not expect your SEO efforts to manifest immediately or in a few days or a week. You have to work consistently, stick to the rules and watch how your website performs. Of course, making changes is normal in the SEO world but you should not rush into making changes without investigating the impact of the change on the performance of your website.
If you follow the suggestions in this post and stick to the Google Webmaster Guidelines, you should see better ranking results and some reward for your efforts. Finally, you must be patient to see results. SEO results do not come overnight. You have to be patient, monitor the traffic and performance of your website and work with continuous improvement.