7 Essential SEO Best Practices For Content
SEO is an acronym that stands for Search Engine Optimization. This means you are optimizing your content so that search engines, such as Google, can find and read it better. The more you learn about SEO best practices, the better your content will rank and the more traffic your site will receive.
The world of SEO is always changing, but there are some best practices that remain evergreen. Here are a few must-know terms, tips, and ideas:
1. Keyword research
People find your site by typing keywords or keyphrases into search engines. So, you want to make sure that the keywords people use are in your content.
You can choose the keywords first, using a tool such as SEMrush, and create content around them. Or, you can create your content first, then figure out which keywords best fit the topic.
Accuracy & competition
When conducting keyword research, go for words that accurately describe your content and have low keyword difficulty, rather than the highest volume. If a keyword is getting 300 hits per month but has a lot of competition, it’s unlikely that your new content will outrank the existing competitors.
Choosing keywords with low keyword difficulty is akin to finding a gap in the market and answering a query that others have not yet answered effectively.
Be mindful of intention. For example, you may choose a keyword such as “minimalist wall art” for your DIY project. However, many people searching for that term are looking to buy minimalist wall art, not make it themselves.
Instead, select keywords that are more specific and represent the right intention e.g. “how to make minimalist wall art”, “minimalist wall art tutorial”, or “DIY minimalist wall art.”
Longtails & semantic keywords
Once you’ve selected a main keyword, research around that keyword for longtails (longer phrases that include your keyword e.g. “DIY minimalist wall art with spray paint” or “minimalist wall art tools”) and semantic keywords. Semantic keywords are related terms that don’t include your main keyword e.g. “abstract painting tutorial” or “how to make your own art.”
2. Where to use keywords
Ok, now you have your keywords, what do you do with them? Your main keyword should appear:
In the URL
In the title of the post (it’s best at the beginning or end, rather than in the middle)
In the first few sentences of the post (the earlier, the better)
Throughout the post where it fits naturally
Your longtails and semantic keywords should also be scattered throughout the content where they fit naturally.
Don’t fall into the trap of keyword stuffing - this is the overuse of keywords and using keywords where they don’t fit naturally. Search engines can pick up on this, but also it affects the user experience if the text is awkward to read.
3. Writing killer headlines
Headlines, or titles, are one of the most important factors when it comes to SEO. When your post appears in search results, you want the title to be engaging, catchy, and helpful, in order to get people to click through to your site.
Headline best practices include:
Starting with “How to” e.g. How to Make a Pretty DIY Bauble Edge Ceramic Bowl
Using questions e.g. When is the Best Time to Bring Hanging Plants Inside the House?
Using numbers, especially at the start of a headline e.g. 8 Simple Steps to Making a DIY Basketball Hoop
Using modifiers e.g. best, simple, easy, cheap, guide, checklist, quick, cute etc.
You can use a tool such as HeadlineStudio to help you construct enticing headlines.
4. Filling out metadata
This is the title of the post and a short description of the content. Search engines can choose to use this as the SERP (how the content appears in search results) and it lets search engines know what the content is about. Make sure to use the main keyword in the meta description too.
A great formula to use for the meta description is: This is a guide to X. Learn how to X with this X.
5. Best practices for writing
It’s also important to know how to write content well so that it’s easy to read for users, but also easy to read for search engines.
Writing for mobile
Many of us access content through our phones, rather than a tablet, desktop computer, or laptop. In order to optimize for the mobile experience, content should be easy to scroll through, with short sentences, short paragraphs (3-4 lines max), good visuals (images and videos), and lots of clearly structured headings.
Questions & answers
Google features “snippets” which show full answers to questions that are asked in search, as well as the “People also ask” list of questions. The best way to get featured by Google in this way is to have Q&As in your post (especially if Qs come up in keyword research). The question should be concise and the answer should be succinct and direct.
Search engines like aids that help them understand the order and amount of content e.g. 5 steps in a tutorial or 7 ways to wear a shirt. Adding numbers to headings to show the steps in tutorials is a great way to do this.
H2s, H3s, and other formatting
Use H2 for any heading e.g. a step in a step-by-step tutorial, or wherever a heading is needed. For subheadings, use H3s. These indicators help search engines read the content better and see how it is structured. Using bullet points and numbered lists where appropriate also helps.
6. Best practices for images
Use images and videos to illustrate steps. It is best practice for images to be unique and original, not stock imagery. Also, don’t start a post with an image - always have an introduction that is 3 sentences long or more before the first image or video.
Images also appear in the “image” search. This is another way for people to discover content, therefore it’s important to use best practices when sourcing, naming, and uploading images.
Name images in a descriptive way
When adding images to a post, make sure the name of the file describes the image e.g. “painting a table red”, rather than “IMG1027”. This helps search engines (and visually-impaired users) understand what is in the image and why it’s relevant to the content.
If there is an image or video in a post, it should have alt text. This is a short text description of what the image is, so search engines can read it better. You could also write something descriptive as a caption.
As with text, image captions and alt text should not be used for keyword stuffing. Sometimes the keywords will fit naturally to describe an image, but don’t add irrelevant or inaccurate alt text.
7. Best practices for linking
There are two types of links you can use on your site: internal and external.
Where appropriate, link to other relevant posts on your site. This helps search engines see how content relates to each other.
Linking to other relevant websites/content outside of your website should be done where appropriate as well. This also helps search engines understand what your content is about. Make sure you only link to reputable sites and not to content that is competing for the same main keyword.
If you’re using affiliate links, these should be marked as “nofollow” as search engines can penalize content for using links to sell things.
Whether links are internal or external, the text that is linked should be accurately related to them (and ideally, semantically related to the keywords in the post), as this tells search engines what the linked content is about and how it’s related to what we’re posting about.
The longer and more descriptive the anchor text, the better. e.g. “For more information read this tutorial on how to easily wrap awkwardly shaped gifts” rather than “For more information read this tutorial.”
SEO best practices
Those are 7 SEO best practices that are essential for beginners to know. Did you know these tips already? Do you have any more to add to this list? Let us know your thoughts and questions in the comments below.
For more SEO tips and general blogging advice, check out the Hometalk podcast, Mastering Media!