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Kevin Brady 2/21/20 2:58 PM 5 min read

10 Best Practices for SEO Success

Just when you think you have SEO mastered, Google comes up with yet another algorithm update!  The old thought that you can optimize your site for search with aggressive keyword-driven content is gone. Keeping up with these ever-evolving updates is a full-time job!  Marketers today have to develop refined websites filled with original, high-quality content and high-value links in order to be at the top of the search engine game and stand out from the competition.    

If you are chasing SEO success in 2020 here are 10 best practices to follow.

1. Focus your content on a few specific keywords

 Keyword research is critical. Spend time to determining what topics your prospects and customers are searching for.  Research what keywords and topics your competitors are writing about.  Once you understand that, determine one or two keywords to write about and be sure to use the keywords naturally.  Google recognizes if you are forcing your keywords into your content!  Concentrating on a few keywords per page or post makes it very easy for Google and your audience to be clear about your topic.  The SEMrush Keyword Research feature provides you with well-tried and tested keywords—the ones that help your competitors’ and industry leaders’ websites rank in Google's top results.

2. Write useful content

Write content with a purpose in mind, focusing on your keywords.  Ideally, you want to write content that shows you understand your audience’s pain points and can provide solutions. Writing useful content provides value for your prospects and sets you on your way to becoming a trusted advisor.   Furthermore, it lets Google know that your page is first-page worthy and consequently will rank you higher.

3. Avoid duplicate content

Duplicate content is when the same content appears on more than one web page in your site.  Google doesn’t like when multiple URLs post the same content and is confused by which version(s) to include or exclude from the results.  Consequently, the duplicate pages may be left out of search results altogether.  Bottom line is, avoid duplicate content for best SEO results.

4. Include your keyword in your URL, description and title tag

Make sure to include your focus keywords in your URL, description and title tag for your webpage.  Including the keywords in every SEO element let’s Google know that the term is very important and leaves no question about your topic. Remember that Google typically only displays the first 50–60 characters of a title tag, so make sure your titles fit in this range to ensure proper display on the search engine results page. Also, use your keywords in the URL but try to keep your URL short.  Short URLs help when sharing on social media and in emails and helps Google and your audience know what the topic is at a glance. 

5. Use header tags

Header tags are HTML elements (H1-H6) used to identify headings and subheadings within your content from other types of text (e.g., paragraph text). Header tags make your content easier for your audience to read. Think about header tags in this way.  H1 introduces the topic your page is all about, like the title of a book. The H2s are like the chapters in a book. Headers H3s to H6s, act like sub chapters in a book. Proper headers provide keyword-rich context about your content for search engines.

6. Optimize your images

Adding images is a good way to make your web pages more appealing. But not all images are created equal – large images can slow your website down to a crawl. Make sure your images are optimized for your site by reducing the file size without compromising the clarity.  Image formats acceptable to Google are PNG – produces higher quality images, but also has a larger file size, JPEG – uses lossy and lossless optimization, and GIF – only uses 256 colors. GIFs are the best choice for animated images as it only uses lossless compression. Make sure your images support your content and include descriptive titles and alt tags containing your keyword. Finally, give your image file names something unique and descriptive.  This helps Google and your audience understand the image.

7. Make sure your site is secure

Make sure all of your pages are secure.  The “s” at the end of the “http” part of a URL means the website is secure.  Google takes security very seriously and sites that automatically have a secure connection can be the ‘tiebreaker’ when ranking against your competition.

8. Ensure your site is optimized for speed

How fast or slow your site loads does affect SEO.  Google understands that users will leave a site if it fails to load within 3 seconds.  This equates to a bad user experience and Google doesn’t like bad user experiences.  Evaluate your site’s speed with a tool like Google’s Pagespeed Insights.  If your hosting server is the problem, you might have to switch to a faster server.

9. Have respected sites link back to your site

Often referred to as ‘backlinks’, having another trusted site link back to yours is highly recognized by Google.  Backlinks represent a "vote of confidence" from one site to another.  They signal to search engines that others vouch for your content and that content is worth linking to, therefore worth a higher ranking in search. Although sometimes difficult and time-consuming to do, it is worth the effort to partner with other reputable sites so that you can share each other’s content.

10. Include an XML sitemap

XML sitemaps are important when it comes to SEO. In simple terms, an XML sitemap is a list of your website’s URLs that acts as a roadmap to tell search engines what content is available and updated and how to reach it.  XML sitemaps also assist crawlers in faster indexing.  You can use tools like XML Sitemaps to generate your own XML sitemap.

In conclusion, SEO has become an ever-evolving art.  Because the rules are constantly changing, it is critical to make sure your SEO knowledge is current.  Also note that keyword research is not a ‘one-and-done’ task.  Review your keywords  throughout the year.  Likewise, new and relevant content should be regularly added to your site.  Well written and relevant content, proper website structure and tags along with respected site referrals all adds up to SEO success.

Happy SEO’ing!


Kevin Brady

Highway 9 Consulting | President