In my previous post, An Introduction to SEO and Why It’s Important, I explained what SEO is and why it is important for everyone tasked with managing a website. In that previous post, I explained that some time and consideration will need to be put into deciding what terms SEO should be built around.
Employing best practices for SEO around those terms in your content will be crucial to ensuring that your efforts in creating new content or managing existing content are not wasted time. Not all content is created equally!
The following best practices have been suggested and employed to improve SEO ranking over time by web professionals specializing in SEO:
- When utilizing the page’s Title metadata element, ensure that the content is quality and that SEO terms are included in a meaningful manner. The common recommendation is to keep the title between 40 – 60 characters. It is worth noting that this is what will appear as the Linked text in a page of Search Results. Make sure that the quality of the Title is representative of something you would want web visitors seeing you listed as in a search results listing page.
- In addition to the page’s Title metadata, be sure to utilize the page’s Description metadata. Ensure that the Description is quality and that SEO terms are included appropriately. The common recommendation is to make the Description between 130 – 160 characters. The Description is also displayed below the linked Title in the Search Results page. Make sure the content is easily readable and that it is a good representation for your organization and the content provided on the page.
- Utilize the page’s Keywords metadata to outline your SEO terms that are applicable to the content included on the page. Keywords should be included as a comma-separated list. It seems that less weight is put on this element but most algorithms still take these into account. If for no other reason, this can give content editors some outline for the SEO aim and what terms should be utilized throughout the content.
- The Heading 1 element should be used as the main heading for your content. It should contain terms where you are trying to gain SEO for the specific page. It is helpful if you are using terms that were also in the title. While it is not necessary to utilize the same exact phrasing from the Title, it is okay if it does, however.
- Use additional headings to outline your major content points. Heading should be used in order to outline the structure of the content of the page. Using headings in order means that heading levels should not be skipped or used because of a preferred styling that happens by using that specific heading level. Including terms that you would like to show up in searches for within heading tags gives that page additional SEO weight. Utilizing headings in order also provides additional accessibility benefits for users navigating through content by drilling from one heading level to another.As a quick example, users should utilize an h1 then an h2 then an h3. Users should not jump from using an h1 to an h3.
- Links – there are four considerations here:
- Links to related content – additional weight tends to be given to pages that link to pages with related SEO words. Linking to related content external and internal to your website increases your ranking for those words.
- Your page’s URL – this will be the link a visitor utilizes to access the webpage. If the word/words that you would like to show up for in Search Results are a part of your page’s URL, you will be given more weight for those terms. This means that it is a good idea to utilize systems for managing content that allow you to have a human-friendly, readable URL as opposed to URLs that have random strings of numbers and characters.
- Links to your webpage from other websites – your website will gain ranking the more people link to your content where they have related content. This, in particular, is where website marketing likely crosses into the real world of networking and forming relationships with other individuals in your related business space. The more you can find websites that have related topics and create a relationship for sharing resources to one another’s website, the more SEO ranking will likely increase. In addition, people may more organically come to your website. Whether your networking happens through social media or attending conferences or industry activities, being active and involved in your industry’s community can help you gain SEO ranking because people will be more likely to link to your content and web crawlers will be finding your content more frequently.
- Link text is the content that you link to related pages. Like headings, if you include words that you want to be gaining SEO ranking for within link text, these pages will be given more weight. It is also a best practice for accessibility to make Link Text that does not need the context of the surrounding content to know its purpose. In addition, the best practice is not to use the URL as the link text.
- Consider the unseen content, like alt text and transcripts – this content lends to SEO ranking. It is important that alternative text like alt text for images and transcripts for videos be accurate and follow accessibility best practices. It is also useful to know that this content also counts positively toward your SEO ranking.
- rel=canonical should be used if you are presenting duplicative content. This tag lets a search engine crawler know to not include the duplicative page as a result. It is worth noting that duplicating content wholesale within a website could result in lower SEO if you do not use rel=“canonical” on the duplicate page.
- Verify that you are not excluding pages from gaining SEO by disallowing crawlers to reach them by using nofollow and noindex. These attributes should be used if you are trying to keep a search engine from indexing and therefore being able to return it as a search result.