In this post will learn about some new tools that can help you follow great SEO practices. Further down in this post there is a tool that can solve your CWV, and website speed score.
Did you know that most users do not go beyond the first page of Google search results? In fact, the top five results account for 67.6% of all clicks.
The only way to help searchers find your web pages is to rank in the top 10 search results.
And, my guide on SEO best practices can help you get there.
I will tell you:
- How to choose keywords that will attract potential customers to your site.
- How to optimise your site and content for multiple search ranking factors.
- The best SEO tools that can make the process easier for you.
19 SEO Best Practices That You Should Follow in 2021
In this section, I will discuss 19 of the most effective SEO best practices that have worked for me.
Let’s get started.
1. Choose Your Keywords Wisely
I believe that finding the right keywords is one of the most important SEO practices to rank higher on SERPs
1a. Start With The Right Tool
While there are numerous paid and free keyword research tools, I’ll show you how to build keyword lists using Semrush:
Go to the Keyword Magic Tool and enter a topic or keyword in the search bar.
Get a list of related and similar keywords.
Select the keywords that are relevant to your business and add them to the Keyword Manager.
Or, you can also save them in any tool that you use (like Excel).
2. Sort and Filter Your Keywords by Volume and Competition
Remove all of the high competition keywords from your list and keep only low to medium competition keywords.
I prefer to use Semrush as it makes it easier to filter out keywords that have a high keyword difficulty score (KDS) or simply choose the “Possible” KDS keywords.
Sort your keyword list by the search volume in decreasing order.
This will give you all of the relevant keywords that you can realistically target and rank for.
3. Select the Right Keywords
Finding a perfect balance between search volume and level of competition is one of the SEO best practices that I follow.
When I choose target keywords, I pick the ones that:
- Have a decent search volume
- Have a low or medium competition level
- Are relevant to your niche
- Have the right user intent
Fine-tuning my keyword list gives me the most relevant keywords for my business.
Next, I identify the user intent and customise my content accordingly. I will cover this aspect in the next section of this guide on SEO best practices.
2. Write Content According to Search Intent
When you answer a user’s query or give them the exact information they need, it builds audience trust in your website.
Why Does Search Intent Matter?
When you create content according to search intent, you have a higher chance of ranking on the first page of SERP, as search engines rank the most relevant results first.
Writing content according to search intent can help you:
- Rank higher on SERP.
- Get more organic traffic.
- Build audience trust.
- Improve website authority.
How to Optimise Content Based on Search Intent
A search query can have four types of search intent:
Here is my quick guide on exactly how to optimise content for each type of search intent:
The intent here is simply to seek information about something, without any intention to buy.
I suggest that you target informational keywords by creating content like:
- How-to guides
- Informative blog posts
- Tutorial videos
You can even try to rank in the featured snippets for such keywords. From my experience, I can tell you - it’s easy!
Let’s say you want to target the keyword, “what is SEO?.”
You can create an educational blog post that answers that question and uses the exact keyword in the URL, meta description, title, and other key places.
The intent behind searching for these keywords is to research a product or service, usually before making a purchase decision.
One of the best practices to rank for commercial keywords is to write:
- Product review posts
- Product/tool comparison posts
- Listicles of tools or products
If your keyword is: best SEO tools
The best way to target it is to create a post listing the top SEO tools, as seen in the top-ranking search results.
If you want to promote your SEO tool, you can either write such a post yourself or get your tool featured in high-ranking tool listicles.
The intent with navigational search phrases is to locate a place or business, or find something.
The best practices I use to rank for navigational search queries include:
- Getting listed in directories
- Claiming Google My Business listings
- Creating location-specific landing pages
Let’s say someone searches for “SEO agencies in London.”
The first set of results will always be Google Map listings and Google My Business listings like:
These are the high purchase-intent keywords that searchers use when they want to buy a product or service plan.
I target these real money-making keywords through my website’s:
- Product or service pages
- Checklists and gated content pages
- Other landing pages
Being an SEO expert, I rank for “freelance SEO expert UK” not once, but twice.
Along with using the main keyword - “freelance SEO expert UK,” I also used:
3. Include Your Main Keyword Strategically
I place target keywords at strategic locations throughout my content to rank higher on search results.
It helps Google to understand and categorise my content better.
Here’s my quick guide on best practices for placing your keywords strategically:
Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
Place your target keyword in the title tags and meta descriptions, preferably towards the beginning.
Also, ensure that you keep these short and crisp.
- 50-60 characters for titles
- 150-160 characters for descriptions
You can use tools like Meta Tags to preview your title tags and meta descriptions, as shown below.
Always add your primary keyword to the page URL.
If you are using a long-tail keyword, then you can include a key portion of that keyword in your URL to keep it short and neat.
Just like I followed this SEO best practice for my blog post URL:
Image Alt Tags and File Names
Adding the primary keyword to image alt tags and file names is one of the SEO best practices to keep in mind.
These help search engines understand and index your image content.
If you’re adding a custom graphic about “SEO best practices,” you can name your image as “seobestpractices.jpg.”
Also, add the keyword, “SEO best practices,” in the alt text while explaining what the image is about.
Headings and Subheadings
Add the main keyword to your post title, headings (preferably the first or second ones), and subheadings.
Use keyword variations for other headings.
Here’s an example where I have followed this best practice:
I recommend adding primary keywords throughout the content in a natural way.
Also, maintain the keyword density.
4. Use Variations (LSI) of the Main Keyword
If you are using long-tail keywords, you can break them into smaller phrases and optimise your content for those.
Main keyword: how to use SEO best practices to increase your website traffic
Smaller phrases that you can optimise for:
- How to
- Use SEO best practices
- SEO best practices
- Best practices
- Increase your website traffic
Also, use other keyword variations like:
- SEO tips
- SEO strategies
- SEO tactics
- Best practices for SEO
Here’s an example from my blog:
5. Use AMP and Mobile-Friendly Page Designs
Make your website mobile friendly so that you don’t lose valuable traffic coming from mobile devices.
Check out whether or not your website is mobile friendly using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool.
Simply enter your website’s URL and click on, “Test URL.”
Here are the test results for my website:
My site is mobile friendly. What about yours?
If not, here are some best practices that I follow:
- Use a good website builder like WordPress that provides mobile-responsive templates.
- Avoid using ads or pop-ups that block text.
- Always compress your visuals and don’t upload any heavy files.
- Leverage a simple website design and layout.
- Use colours and fonts that are easy to read on mobile devices.
- Add the viewport meta tag to your site’s HTML code to make sure that your pages adapt to the width of different screens.
- Use Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) for mobile responsiveness.
I follow these best practices to make my website mobile friendly and so can you.
6. Use the Right URL Structure
Having the right URL structure is important both for your audience and search engines.
Using consistent and informative URLs can help:
- Your site visitors navigate your website better and find relevant pages
- Google to understand, crawl, and index your website pages and content
Here are some best practices I follow for creating SEO friendly URLs:
- Keep it short and easy to remember.
- Create page hierarchies like homepage > category page > product page.
- Use HTTPS to ensure security.
- Add your primary keyword, which would be category or product names in the case of landing pages.
Here’s an example from one of my blog posts:
I follow a simple URL structure: homepage/topic-or-the-main-keyword
7. Use HTTPS on Your Website
Using HTTPS is good for SEO and helps build your audience’s trust by telling them that your website is secure.
Google considers the safety and security of its users important. That is why it introduced HTTPS as a ranking signal.
Sites that use HTTPS have a much higher chance of ranking in the SERPs than those that don’t.
To add HTTPS to your website, you simply need to:
- Buy an SSL certificate.
- Install it on your web hosting account.
You will then see a lock icon before your URL, as shown below.
8. Add Visuals to Your Content
Images and other visuals make your content engaging and easier to understand, which leads to people spending more time on your website.
That will make Google think that your content is useful.
And, winning Google’s trust will improve your search engine rankings.
Therefore, you should add lots of:
- Custom graphics
- Other visuals
I follow this SEO best practice diligently to keep a good balance of written and visual content on my site.
Here’s a screenshot from one of the posts on my site:
9. Publish Well-Researched Content
According to a recent Semrush study, there is a direct correlation between the content length and the number of pageviews.
While the longest articles get the most views, the sweet spot for getting maximum shares is to create content of 1500-2000 words.
- Create long-form content on evergreen topics.
- Create shorter, more engaging content pieces for volume and frequency.
10. Optimise Your Web Pages for Rich Snippets
Adding structured data to my web pages is one of the SEO best practices that helps me get enhanced search listings - rich snippets.
And, enhanced listings lead to more clicks and views.
When you search for “Ravioli recipes” on Google, you will get different results, including:
Rich Snippets Listings
Which one would you click first?
One of the rich snippets, right?
That’s precisely why optimising pages for rich snippets is one of the SEO best practices I trust.
And the best part?
Adding structured data to the pages on your site is easy.
Use a paid or free structured data tool, choose the schema type, and fill out the details.
The tool will generate the schema markup code for you in the right format.
You just need to copy and paste it to the HTML of your web pages to be eligible for rich snippets results.
11. Optimise for Voice Searches
Voice searches are becoming increasingly popular owing to the rise in the use of voice-based assistants.
Most people use voice search at least once a week.
Therefore, optimising your content for voice searches is one of the SEO best practices you should follow.
Here are a few best practices that I recommend:
- Use conversational, long-tail keywords.
- Make your content easily scannable.
- Add an FAQ (frequently asked questions) section.
- Improve your page speed.
- Claim your Google My Business listing.
Use these SEO best practices to optimise your content for voice searches and drive more traffic to your website.
12. Focus on Image Optimisation
Bulky images are one of the top causes of a slow website and a bad user experience.
That’s why I always compress my image files using an image compression tool.
Some of the other best practices for image optimisation include:
- Use JPG, PNG, GIF, and SVG files.
- Use image alt tags/alt text to help search engines index your images.
- Add keywords in image alt text and file names to rank in image searches.
- Leverage lazy loading technique to defer loading heavy files for later.
- Use plugins like Kraken.io to automatically optimise all images for WordPress and Magento while you’re uploading them.
13. Include Internal Links
Internal linking can help your site visitors discover other relevant pages.
And, keep them on my site for longer.
For this to happen, create topic clusters - cover various sub-topics under the main topic and connect them with one another using internal linking.
Here’s a graphic representation of how this SEO best practice works.
Here are some SEO best practices for internal linking:
- Always use relevant anchor text.
- Link only to similar topics and resources.
- Add links to product/service pages, whenever relevant.
- Include, at least, one internal link in the top fold of your page.
- Use a short anchor text, preferably 2-3 words long.
- Don’t overdo it.
I use Link Whisper for internal linking that saves a lot of time and effort by giving link suggestions and fixing broken links.
14. Build High-Quality Backlinks
Getting backlinks from authoritative sites shows that those sites trust your content and makes Google value your content.
This, in turn, helps boost your SERP rankings.
Here are some of the best practices for link building that I recommend:
- Guest posting
- Expert roundups participation
- HARO (help a reporter out) answers
- Quora answers
- Infographics syndication
You can also use tools like Semrush to find link outreach opportunities for your existing content.
15. Optimise Your Page Loading Speed
If your site takes time to load, most people will simply leave and move to the next site with similar content.
That is why you need to optimise your page load speed to prevent losing valuable traffic.
Here are some best practices to improve your site speed:
- Compress the file sizes of all visuals on your site.
- Reduce the number of redirects.
- Use a content delivery network (CDN). - This will get you a 100% score.
- Use caching to store temporary files.
- Optimise your code (remove unnecessary characters and code comments).
- Improve your server response time (optimise slow routing times, slow database queries, etc.).
Use these best practices, along with fast themes and plugins, to optimise your WordPress and Magento sites.
Test your website’s page speed with Google PageSpeed Insights and find improvement opportunities.
Here is how my site performs:
Our Overall Page Speed Score
Insights About Page Speed
Opportunities to Improve Page Speed
16. Enhance Your Overall User Experience
User experience is the most important Google ranking factor.
Providing a good user experience encourages users to stay on your site longer and helps you reduce bounce rate and increase dwell time.
And, boost search rankings.
I believe that good UX depends on three factors: look, feel, and usability.
Here are some ways to improve user experience on all three aspects:
- Use a simple and visually-appealing design and layout.
- Make site navigation easy by creating relevant tabs.
- Choose colours and fonts that enhance readability.
- Improve your site speed and remove elements that slow it down.
- Optimise your site for mobile devices and go mobile-first.
- Share engaging, relevant, and scalable content.
Follow these SEO best practices to improve your user experience and get better SERP rankings.
17. Optimise for Local Searches
If you have a business serving customers from a specific geographical area, this is one of the most crucial SEO best practices for you. And even if that's not the case, doing this is still a signal to Google.
People search for local businesses using “near me” searches and location-specific keywords.
To attract local audiences, you need to follow local SEO best practices like:
- Claim your Google My Business listing.
- Add your business locations on Google Maps.
- Get your business listed in all popular local directories.
- Use location-specific, long-tail keywords.
- Optimise your site for voice searches.
- Create separate listings for different business locations.
Use these local SEO best practices to rank for relevant local search queries.
18. Conduct a Backlink Audit Regularly
Simply building backlinks is not enough.
I like to go the extra mile and regularly audit my backlink profile to find broken links and other issues that need to be fixed.
I use Semrush to conduct a detailed backlink audit.
Here’s how I do it:
Visit the Backlink Audit tool and enter my URL.
Check out the overall score and results.
Review any toxic backlinks, by visiting the website.
Found a link you don't want linking back? And the tool is classing it as toxic. Then look to disavow the domain. See here.
It’s a simple process and is one of the most important SEO best practices that have helped me improve my link profile and search rankings.
19. Conduct a Complete SEO Audit Regularly
Even if you follow all of these SEO best practices, you still need to consistently monitor your site performance and keep improving.
That is why I recommend conducting regular SEO audits.
Use tools like SiteBulb or Screaming Frog to find technical and onsite SEO issues like:
- Find broken links.
- Audit site redirects.
- Find and remove duplicate content.
- Optimise title tags and meta descriptions.
- Generate sitemaps.
- Evaluate internal linking and site structure.
- And more!
Let me show you how I conduct my site audit using Screaming Frog.
Enter the website URL in the search bar and click start.
Select the various elements to get the specific audit reports.
Analyse the results and find areas for improvement.
Use this process to identify areas for improvement and then fix issues.
Conducting regular site audits is one of the SEO best practices that I follow, without fail.
Q1. What are SEO best practices?
A. SEO best practices are the proven SEO strategies used by experts that are known to deliver good results. These best practices include:
- Selecting the right keywords
- Creating valuable content
- Optimising your site for page speed
- Optimising your content for voice searches
- Monitoring your search rankings
You should use these SEO best practices if you want to rank on Google and other search engine results pages.
Q2. Which are the top SEO best practices?
A. The top SEO best practices include but are not limited to:
- Choosing keywords wisely
- Writing content according to search intent
- Including the main keyword strategically
- Using the right URL structure
- Adding visuals to your content
- Optimising your web pages for rich snippets, voice searches, mobile devices, page speed, etc.
- Including internal links
The SEO best practices mentioned in this article are extremely useful and can help your pages rank higher in the SERPs.
Q3. What are the three pillars of SEO?
A. Great content, relevance, and authority are the three pillars of SEO.
I’ve covered all three of them through the SEO best practices listed in this post.
Q4. How do I find keywords for SEO?
A. Use keyword research tools like Semrush or Google Keyword Planner to find relevant keywords. Once you have selected your target keywords, use the SEO best practices mentioned above to optimise your website for those keywords.
Q5. How can I improve my SEO in 2022?
A. To improve your SEO in 2022, use the best practices mentioned in this article, which include:
- Thorough keyword research and selection
- Search intent-focused content creation
- Strategic keyword placement
- Well-researched content
- Visual content
- Internal linking
- Link building from authoritative websites
- And more!
These SEO best practices can help you get more traffic to your website and help you rank higher on SERP.
Q6. What are SEO tools?
A. SEO tools help you with various aspects of your SEO strategy from keyword research to content optimisation, link building, and performance tracking.
Some of the best SEO tools you should use in combination with the SEO best practices that I’ve discussed in this post include:
- Google Keyword Planner
- Screaming Frog
- Majestic SEO
- Link Whisper
- Schema Markup Generator
These are tried-and-tested SEO best practices that I use and have delivered solid results for me.
Use these SEO best practices to create a comprehensive SEO checklist for optimising your site. It will help you rank for relevant keywords and drive more qualified traffic and leads.
So, what are you waiting for?
Start using these SEO best practices now and see the results yourself.
I'm Paul Gordon an SEO freelancer who has spent the last 16 years helping businesses expand and grow through effective SEO strategies.