This article was originally published on Aug. 12, 2019, and updated on Feb. 1, 2021.
It's easy to fall victim to fads in your quest for success with search engine optimization (SEO). They're quick fixes that sometimes offer temporary results, but ultimately end up hurting your website's chances at ranking higher in search results. That’s why it’s so important to know current SEO best practices.
If you want to improve your business website's organic search engine ranking, forget popular SEO tricks and shortcuts and focus on creating long-lasting results.
Take a look at these 11 SEO best practices that will help you build a website that appeals to search engines and your customers.
You’ll learn how to research keywords, pick up some SEO content writing tips, and get up to date on mobile-friendly SEO.
11 SEO best practices for your website
Below, you will find 11 SEO best practices that are easy to implement on your small business website:
- Research your keywords.
- Create great content for your website.
- Make your website mobile-friendly.
- Understand metadata and use it properly.
- Avoid duplicate content.
- Showcase reviews and testimonials.
- Understand backlinking.
- Don’t play tricks.
- Measure success.
- Submit your sitemap.
- Speed up your website.
Use these tips and tricks to improve your website’s SEO rank and start getting more organic traffic.
Editor's note: If these tips seem daunting or you don't have time to focus on SEO, the experts at GoDaddy can help! With SEO Services, our experts will make sure your website stands out using SEO best practices. All you have to do is tell us about your business and goals and our team gets to work. Sit back, relax, and watch the results come in.
1. Research your keywords
Research keywords that are valuable and appropriate to your business. It's important to know what your customers are looking for, and then to use that knowledge to deliver what they need.
You can attract your customers to your site by using those keywords in informative blog posts.
While we’re on the topic of keyword research, you should also take some time to understand the concept of long-tail keywords and how to use them. Long-tail keywords usually consist of three to five words in the phrase.
Long-tail keywords are highly specific and often easier to rank for than short keywords.
In the long run, long-tail keywords have higher potential of bringing you more high-quality traffic and visitors that are already primed to make a purchase.
2. Create great content for your website
Create useful, current, relevant and interesting content.
When writing text for your website pages, consider what visitors want to know, not what you'd like to tell them.
Put the customer's needs first, and you'll get the chance to say what you want after you cultivate loyalty.
As you’re creating content, be sure to use the keywords you researched naturally throughout your post or a page. However, don’t keyword stuff as search engines are quick to pick up on it and will penalize your site for it.
3. Make your website mobile-friendly
Google has been emphasizing the importance of mobile-friendly websites for quite some time now, and with the introduction of mobile-first indexing, it’s more important than ever to have a website that looks and works great on mobile devices.
That’s why it’s important to master mobile-friendly SEO.
You want your website to perform and look as good on users’ smartphones and tablets as it does on their desktop computers. No pinching and squeezing!
You can test if your website is mobile-friendly using Google’s Mobile-Friendly tool. If you get a negative result, consider redesigning your website or using a CMS like WordPress along with a mobile-friendly and responsive theme.
Related: Responsive web design tutorial
4. Understand metadata and use it properly
Metadata refers to page and post titles and descriptions that show up on the search engine results pages when a visitor searches for a particular keyword, phrase or a term.
To follow SEO best practices, your meta titles should be 50 to 60 characters and include at least one keyword that is related to the content for that page.
Your meta descriptions should be 150 to 160 characters and provide more information about the content of the page. Using a keyword or two in your meta description will boost your SEO and increase the number of clickthroughs you get from the search engine results pages.
5. Avoid duplicate content
Recycle, don't copy. Search engines penalize websites that have pages with duplicate content.
Avoid using another website's content or having the same content on multiple pages of your website — be original, because that's what you are!
6. Showcase reviews and testimonials
Take advantage of social media and local review sites.
The more online visibility your business has, the more traffic your site will generate.
Incorporating social media and review sites (like Yelp and TripAdvisor) will help improve user engagement and credibility.
7. Understand backlinking
Backlinking refers to getting other websites to link to your blog posts and pages.
Getting backlinks from relevant, reputable websites and blogs is a major ranking factor so consider using guest blogging as part of your marketing strategy.
Don’t be afraid to link to other reputable websites that are related to your industry, another plus when it comes to search engine ranking.
8. Don't play tricks
It isn't about working the system. If you try to fool the search engines, your organic online success won't last long. It's best to avoid questionable shortcuts. Do your research to find out if what you're doing will truly improve your site.
Tip: The Moz blog is a great resource for staying on top of current SEO best practices.
9. Measure success
Track your site's performance. With website analytics programs, you can track the number of visitors to your website, conversion rates and more — and thus your marketing success.
Sign up for Google Analytics and add your website as a property so you can easily keep track of important SEO metrics.
Related: How to use Google Analytics
10. Submit your sitemap
A sitemap helps search engines crawl and index your website faster.
If you’re not using a CMS like WordPress, it’s imperative to submit your sitemap to Google and Bing.
Start by using a tool like XML sitemap generator to build a sitemap.
11. Speed up your website
Nobody likes a slow website, search engines included. If your site takes longer than two seconds to load, including on mobile, you could be losing out on sales. Your ranking in the search engine results will definitely suffer.
Editor’s note: Need some help with search engine optimization for your website? The experts at GoDaddy SEO Services can help you work less and rank higher.
3 SEO tactics to avoid
Now that you know SEO best practices for your website, let’s talk about three SEO practices that you should avoid at all costs, if you don’t want to hurt your site’s rankings.
These practices relate to any website built on WordPress but can also apply to websites built with other platforms.
WordPress describes itself as a natural fit for SEO best practices. That said, you should also know that there are some WordPress-specific issues to watch out for.
1. Blocking search engines
Why would anyone want to intentionally block search engines? Many WordPress users build their sites on live hosting, rather than create a staging site. If they’re not careful, the search engines will start indexing the site before the developer is ready (and more importantly, before they’ve finished adding content).
There is nothing worse than unedited or dummy content popping up in Google with your site’s domain name attached to it.
Thankfully, WordPress lets you block search engines from indexing the site by changing the Search Engine Visibility option under General > Reading Settings.
In the excitement of getting your new (or revised) website up and running, it’s incredibly easy to forget the Search Engine Visibility setting.
If you ever toggle it to block the search engines, even in the beginning of your site’s construction, make an SEO best practices to-do list for when you go live and, at the top of it, include unchecking the Search Engine Visibility option.
2. Changing permalinks
Your site’s permalinks are the URLs for site content. By default, it looks something like this: http://yourdomain.com/?p=223
To make your URLs search-engine-friendly and easier to find and index, set it to post name, so it looks like this: http://yourdomain.com/benefits-of-good-seo
Permalinks can also be altered under the post or page title in the Editor window.
After putting in your title, you can manually edit the permalink to make it search engine friendly.
A word of caution: If you decide to change it after publishing, inbound links to the original URL will result in 404 Page Not Found errors.
Avoid permalink missteps by:
- Determining your permalink structure early on, then configure the permalink settings before you begin publishing posts. As for manually editing permalinks on individual posts and pages, you should tweak them before you publish, not after.
- Installing and use a WordPress backup plugin so you can undo any major changes that break your site.
- If you really need to update the permalink on single posts and pages, install a redirect plugin so you can redirect the old URLs to the new ones.
3. Using themes with built-in SEO settings
Some WordPress themes have their own idea of what SEO best practices should be, and have built them in as features. You will often find them under the theme settings.
It appears to be a good option at first, but think about it — what happens when you change themes? There’s a good chance you might lose the website optimization work completed through the WordPress theme settings, as there might not be a way to export the original theme’s settings after you change themes.
The SEO best practice here is to let a plugin, like Yoast SEO, handle the search engine optimization. When you change themes, the plugin settings stay in place.
Another solution, if you are using a theme it supports, is to use the SEO Data Transporter plugin that allows you to move your SEO data from one theme or plugin to another.
Now you know much more about SEO best practices, how to research keywords, SEO content writing tips and mobile-friendly SEO. Put this knowledge to work for your website!
- Create a blog editorial calendar to plan compelling content around target keywords.
- Consider writing guest posts for other websites, with links back to relevant content on your own website.
- Likewise, share your awesome content on social media to encourage others to link back to it.
- Encourage happy customers to leave reviews, and showcase them on your website (with their permission).
- Don’t forget about metadata. You can learn more about structured data here.
- Test your website on a mobile device to make sure it looks and performs great on phones and tablets.
- Use a tool like Google Analytics (or one of these alternatives to measure the success of your efforts and make improvements.
Best of luck with your SEO efforts!