Creating the right habits from the start will keep your website in tip-top shape and hopefully result in bonus points from the Google algorithm.
The good news is that this list is packed with actionable, everyday tips. Start with a solid website framework and then employ these techniques with every update to get on the path to creating great SEO habits that won’t be tough to maintain.
1. Create Quality Content
Good search rankings start with quality content. There’s a reason marketers say “content is king.”
Quality content includes text, images, video and elements that users want to interact with. It can be fun or informative, a game or e-commerce, short or long-form. There’s no truly magic formula; they key is that content relates to what your website is about and is well constructed and composed. And then write killer headlines to match, so that users can find this great content.
Characteristics of quality content include:
- Content that is rooted in data or factual information. It should be easy to read – think around an eighth-grade level and free from grammatical errors.
- Content should relate to your website or brand goals. Don’t write about ponies and unicorns if your website is about baseball. The connection should be obvious.
- Content is shareable on social media, and users interact with it. While this concept doesn’t help you in the creation of content, it can be a measuring stick as to what types of content work for you and your users.
- Content should have enough length – the best estimate seems to be about 300 words or more per page – to actually say something of value.
- Content should establish your credibility and authority in your field. Testimonials, case studies, and reviews are a good place to start.
2. Link to Reputable Sources
Don’t cram your content with meaningless links just to build a history; use links that are meaningful and add actual value to the story you are trying to tell.
A good set of links includes internal links – you want users to move around within your website – as well as external links. Aim for a mix of both types (where applicable on each page).
And think about the kinds of websites you are linking to. Do they also relate to your type of product, brand or business? Those links are valuable. Unrelated links are a waste of your time.
The authority of those links is equally important. Certain domains have more credibility and authority than others, so opt for those links. Here’s a guideline for authoritative rank:
- .everything else
Try to include a mix of links from a mix of places. But please, don’t cram the content with too many links; users will abandon the page. (Don’t forget social media. Those links count as reputable sources, too!)
3. Ensure User Security
Google is already warning website owners that having an SSL certificate is a big deal and it will impact search ranking. You need to think about that right now. (Most hosting companies offer no- or low-cost SSL.)
There are some challenges to making the switch, but it will be worth it in the long term.
If you operate a website with e-commerce, you should already be using a secure method to collect data and payment information.
4. Build for Speed
Websites need to be fast. This applies to renderings on every device type. A website is only as fast as the slowest place it loads.
A big part of optimizing for speed is thinking about how to make the most of file sizes. Don’t overload your website with junk. Use icon fonts rather than images for icons, consider SVG rather than PNG for image files and stop uploading full-size images to your website. That’s just overkill.
Here are a few other things you can do:
- Consider adding a tool that will help compress images that are too big.
- Run Google’s PageSpeed Insights to see what issues might be bogging your website down.
- Use a caching plugin, especially if you are running on WordPress.
- Opt for asynchronous scripts.
- Ditch unused plugins, tools and code that can weigh your website down.
5. Use Words for Everything
Search engines can only read words. (Right now anyway.) That means you have to tell search engines what the other types of content your website contains. What is in that video or photo?
You can do that in two ways. Use the file name to your advantage. Name the file based on what is in the image or video.
Descriptive image file names look like this: <img src=”dog-playing-fetch.jpg” alt=”dog playing fetch”/>. The source is the actual file name (use hyphens between words) and the alt is a similar description without hyphens between words.
Here’s another trick. Tell search engines exactly what is in the video on your website by embedding a video on a page with a transcription of the content in the video.
6. Don’t Duplicate, Update!
Many websites have a tendency to use the same boilerplate copy over and over and over on multiple pages. Why are you doing that? If the copy needs to be on every page, put it in the footer. Problem solved!
If the copy is popped on pages to boost SEO because it is stuffed with keywords or to add to content, stop. Google is dinging you for all that duplication.
If you have content that is static, or mostly static, just update it and reshare links. Don’t duplicate posts. (This happens more commonly than you might think.)
If you are starting today with these habits and maybe haven’t been diligent about SEO in the past, consider going back to correct missteps on older pages. Make it a goal to go back and use the proper header, alt and meta tags on pages that you want users to see.
Remember to run Google’s PageSpeed Insights on your website periodically to see what issues might be bogging your website down. And create content that users want to engage with; nothing will boost SEO and drive traffic like stellar information.