SEO Best Practices: In With The Old, In With The New
In the ever-changing digital marketing landscape, search engine optimization (SEO) remains vital for businesses aiming to boost their online presence and attract potential customers. As the internet and how people use it evolves and changes, so does SEO and its best practices. The internet is an entirely different place than it was just a few short years ago with the incorporation of new technologies and habits — such as Siri or increased social media use — and search engines are riding the wave right along with it. While the core principles of SEO have remained constant over the years, search engines’ algorithms and user behavior continuously evolve. This blog explores the significance of blending traditional SEO practices with new trends to create an effective strategy that maximizes visibility, engagement, and conversion rates.
SEO Best Practices: What To Keep
Even though SEO has changed dramatically throughout the last few years, not all of the old ways of doing things are bad. The people’s search habits have spoken, and there are many things that still help us find what we need in a relevant way. Link building, on-page SEO, images, and site speed are still hanging in and as important as ever.
Link building is the practice of increasing the number of quality inbound links to your website. There is a difference, however, between link building and link farming (more in this later), which lay with one important word: quality.
In short, the more quality websites there are pointing toward you, the more relevant (and, therefore, important) the search engines will think you are. Think of it as a way of giving your website a vote of confidence or stamp of approval, instead of just any random person writing anything about whatever topic and throwing links in to gain SEO exposure.
An important aspect of link building is that it is a two-way street. They scratched your back, so now it’s time to scratch theirs. Your inbound link building will only matter if you are using external links to point to other websites and make it all the more fair and relevant.
According to Moz, on-page SEO is the practice of optimizing individual web pages in order to rank higher and earn more relevant traffic in search engines. On-page refers to both the content and HTML source code of a page that can be optimized, as opposed to off-page SEO which refers to links and other external signals.
This means using SEO tools to optimize each and every page of your website, rather than just your website as a whole. This way, search engines are able to serve up individual pages as search results to give the user what they want right away. In addition, the better optimized each page of your website is, the better the SEO health your overall website will have — kind of like spokes on a bicycle wheel.
Reading a whole bunch of text with no images is boring, and people want images. That SEO practice has stood the test of time, and there’s more to do now with images than ever. Writing quality content is extremely important, but it’s no good unless you’ve got some quality, well-SEO’d images to go along with it. This is so that the search engines have something to show in the images section, giving you another place to showcase your content.
Some best practices for images include:
- Making sure you have a featured image that isn’t too small or too big
- Using ALT text
- Saving the image with a filename that includes the keywords
- Even distribution of images throughout the content
The internet is under more pressure than ever to perform well, so if your site loads slow, you might as well have no website at all. Slow load speeds will give you a high bounce rate – nobody wants to sit around and wait if they can just ditch you and head to your competitor. This high bounce rate will make the search engines think you’re not important or relevant, and your placement will plummet.
It’s even gone a step further. Search engines have become keen to all of that and want to give their users the best experience possible, which means they will penalize your placement if your site loads slow. That’s right — having a slow load speed is so important that search engines won’t even consider ranking you.
What To Ditch
There are many SEO practices that have not only become outdated, but, if you’re still using them you will actually become penalized or blacklisted. If you’re still doing any of the following SEO practices, it’s time to stop and clean it up immediately to see a quick SEO boost.
When search engines first became a thing, they used to rank by keyword density. In short, the more times you mentioned a particular keyword, the better. This quickly led to awful practices such as keyword clouds, robotic content, and silly cheats like writing “woodland hills dentist” 2,000 times (literally) at the bottom of each page.
In an effort to stop the madness and clean up the internet, search engines made it a penalty to do things like this. And, while it is obviously important to include your keywords multiple times throughout your content so that search engines know what you want to be ranked for, now it is more about relevancy than numbers. If you have your keyword weaved in your content 3-5 times (depending on your word count) in a relevant, human-sounding way, that is best.
Keywords have always been the foundation of SEO, enabling search engines to understand the content and its relevance to users’ queries. In the past, keyword stuffing was a common tactic, but as search engines became more sophisticated, this practice lost its effectiveness and could even lead to penalties. Today, a balanced approach to keywords is essential.
a. Long-Tail Keywords: While short and competitive keywords are still valuable, long-tail keywords have gained prominence. These phrases are more specific and have less competition, allowing businesses to target niche audiences effectively.
b. Keyword Intent: Modern SEO focuses on understanding the intent behind search queries. Creating content that aligns with users’ search intent helps improve click-through rates and user satisfaction.
Writing For The Search Engine
In the past, quantity often outweighed quality in content creation for SEO. However, this approach is no longer effective. Today, search engines prioritize content that offers value to users and engages their interests. In the same vein as keyword stuffing, everyone got sick of websites’ content catering toward search engines for ranking purposes rather than the actual people using the search looking for useful content. As such, search engines decided to start penalizing websites that weren’t writing for the people.
For example, it’s a bad idea to say “Our Woodland Hills Dentist is the best Woodland Hills Dentist of all the Woodland Hills Dentists on Yelp.” Instead, cater to actual people by saying: “Our Woodland Hills Dentist has been in practice for over 25 years and has hundreds of 5-star ratings on Yelp!” This way, you are using your keyword in a relevant way for humans while still getting the SEO green light. Here are examples of content that offers value to users and engages their interests:
a. Comprehensive Content: Long-form, informative content tends to perform better in search engine rankings. In-depth articles that cover various aspects of a topic satisfy user queries and demonstrate expertise.
b. Multimedia Integration: Diversifying content with images, videos, infographics, and interactive elements enhances user experience and keeps visitors engaged.
One of the most important reasons for this change is the rise of voice search. We are prompted by our voice assistants — Siri, Alexa, and others — to ask them questions, as they are marketed to be your handy-dandy, human-like assistant. That’s why we now search for things like “Siri, find me a dentist in Woodland Hills” rather than simply “Woodland Hills dentist”. As you can see, the keyphrase has been switched up in order, allowing websites a little more leniency in their content to sound less robotic and give the users what they need.
As you learned earlier, making sure you have outside links pointing toward you is extremely important — but quality has quickly trumped quantity. Kind of like keyword density and how people were cramming in a ton of keywords in a messy way, people started buying links from any ol’ source just to get the backlink.
This started the rise of link farms as a business, and search engines quickly caught on to the madness and put a stop to it. That is why if you’ve got a ton of backlinks from random sources these days, you will likely get penalized. However, having a ton of backlinks from relevant sources is great, so choose wisely!
Doing Too Much Too Fast
Working on your SEO is super important, but don’t do it all in one day. Don’t do it all in one month, even. It’s important to slowly roll out the changes so that search engines don’t confuse you with a spam site. This means slowly posting your blog posts throughout the month rather than all in one day, doing keyword updates for a couple of hours per month rather than all in one day, and so on. The more human-like you become, the better, so here is your excuse to work on your SEO at a marathon’s pace rather than a sprint.
New SEO Practices To Incorporate
Now that you know what to keep and what to ditch, it’s time to learn what new SEO practices you need to start incorporating. In fact, it’s so important that you start incorporating these because you could be missing out on huge SEO opportunities and may even be hurting your placement in the search engine if you keep waiting.
YouTube is owned by Google, which means your videos will help your placement in its search engine! People love getting their information from videos, especially if it is a visual how-to. Keywords can be weaved into the title and description of the video, and the better your video performs, the better it is for your website’s ranking.
We know, the only thing in between you and that sweet video SEO gold is, of course, actually making the videos. If you need help, we can assist you with video production and getting your content seen. We can help you come up with ideas, a script, a set, and much more.
Similarly to video SEO, people also love getting their content in the form of an easy-to-read infographic. Instead of having to scan a long blog for the answer they’re looking for, they can get quick takeaways from an infographic. These are important to use every once in a while, not only to help your users but also for the shareability on social media and other websites. Remember those relevant backlinks!
Structured data, also known as schema, is the result of a collaboration between Google, Bing, Yandex, and Yahoo! to help you provide the information their search engines need to understand your content and provide the best search results possible at this time. Adding Schema markup to your HTML improves the way your page displays in SERPs by enhancing the rich snippets (more on this later!) that are displayed beneath the page title.
In short, you can structure your data and your website’s HTML to make individual parts of your website’s page searchable. Simply utilizing structured data doesn’t improve your search ranking, and not using it won’t penalize you. Rather, the clicks you receive by utilizing it will boost your SEO greatly, so if you’re not using it, you’re leaving money on the table.
Rich snippets are a piece of the schema and structured data puzzle. A snippet is the small piece of content Google shows you as a result. A rich snippet shows extra information, such as:
- An image
- A rating
- Publication date
- And much more
If you’re writing a recipe, you can structure your data to show how long the recipe will take or what the ingredients are in your rich snippet. Whatever is relevant for your business or service, Google and Bing will take that to serve as a search result. The more that they are able to give their users off the bat, the better, so if you’re utilizing rich snippets you are the search engine’s teacher’s pet.
In the dynamic world of SEO, blending traditional practices with modern trends is the key to success. As search engines refine their algorithms and user preferences evolve, businesses must stay adaptable and refine their SEO strategies. By focusing on relevant keywords, creating high-quality content, enhancing user experience, earning high-quality backlinks, and optimizing for local searches, websites can stay competitive in the digital marketplace and reach their target audience effectively. Remember, SEO is not a one-time effort but an ongoing process that requires consistent monitoring and improvement to stay ahead of the competition.