Despite the importance of SEO being very clear to the majority of businesses, not all companies approach SEO in an unadulterated way. Instead, they employ black-hat SEO practices — those that violate search engine guidelines — in an attempt to quickly get a leg up on the competition.
This article lists common black-hat SEO practices that are bad for business and presents 15 sound SEO practices that help companies achieve positive results. Read on to learn the do’s and don’ts of successful SEO.
Worst SEO Practices: What You Shouldn’t Do
Black-hat SEO practices are shortcuts intended to manipulate the search engines into providing higher rankings. Google has declared that the following types of tactics are unethical:
- Publishing duplicate content (repeating one’s own content on a range of pages as well as taking content from other sites)
- Keyword stuffing (loading pages with irrelevant keywords in an effort to rank higher)
- Cloaking (redirecting users to a different page while displaying a false URL to try to hide the deed)
- Participating in improper (paid) backlink schemes
- Creating doorway pages (fake pages that users don’t see) to rank for specific keywords
While a company may get away with using black-hat SEO for a time, Google will eventually figure it out. Not only will the website or business be banned from the search engine, but also consumers eventually catch on and will not look kindly on these companies. Believe us, any possible — and temporary — gains achieved via black-hat strategies are not worth doing!
Best SEO Practices: What You Should Do
To improve your website’s SEO performance and rankings, put these 15 strategies into action:
- Increase site speed: People tend to leave sites that take too long to load. According to Google, a loading time of three or fewer seconds is ideal.
- Optimize URL structure: URLs should be short (up to four words), descriptive, contain a target keyword and use hyphens between words for easy reading.
- Design a site for users on multiple types of devices: Ensure that your site is accessible to and easy to use for laptop, tablet and mobile users.
- Make the website accessible: Building a website that is usable to those with disabilities is not only the right thing to do, but also it can improve search engine rankings.
- Ensure website security: Users need to know that a website is secure, and an HTTPS or secure site is ranked more highly by search engines than an HTTP site.
- Improve user experience: Websites should be visually appealing and easy to navigate while containing few, if any, distracting ads and pop-ups.
- Base content on audience searches: Page content that closely matches users’ search intent ranks higher than content that misses the mark.
- Select keywords with traffic potential: Select relevant keywords, including long-tail keywords, and place them in the title tag, URL and judiciously throughout the content.
- Review meta titles and descriptions: Content should match search intent and entice users to click in fewer than 60 characters for titles and 150 for descriptions.
- Refresh website content: Is the copy stale? Updates reinvigorate the site and improve the content, which leads to better search results.
- Write on-site blog posts: Posts with high-quality, relevant content and internal and external links bring traffic to your site and improve rankings.
- Seek quality backlinks: Good backlinks give your site authority. This improves your rankings, increases traffic and, ultimately, helps grow revenue.
- Link pages internally: Not only do internal links help users navigate a site, but also more links — whether from external or internal sources — means higher page rankings.
- Add visual elements: Images break large blocks of text and explaining ideas that words cannot. Use relevant images, resize appropriately and write effective alt tags.
- Optimize images: Alt text tags ensure that images appear in Google Images, help sites achieve higher rankings and show users the subject of a broken image.
Don’t get taken in by shortcuts or unethical black-hat practices. Improving SEO performance takes a lot of time and skill, and while results seem to appear slowly, rest assured that they will come. Applying these 15 best practices offers the best chance to increase search engine rankings.
Author: Aaron Wittersheim is Chief Operating Officer at Straight North, a digital marketing company. He helped startups, middle-market, and Fortune 500 companies improve organizational structure and grow through his expertise in process conception, task automation, technology, and internal project management.