Quality content rules the roost, but let's not forget these five best practices of SEO.
Quality content rules the digital landscape, yes — but what’s often forgotten is that even the best and most authoritative content needs to be built with the modern Internet in mind. Even if you’re churning out the best content in your niche, it’s not going to be seen by a wider audience unless you make it accessible via search. Here are five of the most important practices you can put into play to make sure your content is reaching the widest audience possible:
In the early days of the Internet, there was a strong focus on short keyword phrases — typically between one and three words in length — that were peppered throughout Web copy, often quite liberally. In those days, the frequency and density of keywords were a big part of how websites were ranked.
Google has reduced the importance of keyword phrases and now places more importance on a variety of elements, appropriately called “on-page factors.” Moz has an excellent post detailing these, and as you would expect, “content of page” is at the top of the list. If you create quality content, you don’t need to worry about keyword density or percentages or any of that; your keywords will naturally appear at an optimized rate. Other factors include:
- Accurate and concise title tags. According to Moz, if you keep them under 55 characters (including spaces), at least 95 percent of your titles will display properly in SERPs.
- URLs that reflect the information hierarchy of your site. This helps search engines understand relative importance and categorize your content.
- Image alt text that mentions your subject. This is another signal to the search engines that you are creating relevant content.
2. Be mindful of structure
Readability has never been more important. If you’re not familiar with this term, it refers to how easy a piece of copy is for the average reader to get through.
In practical terms, this means breaking up your content into easily scannable paragraphs and using subeadings. While subheadings do help make your content more readable, they go a bit beyond user experience. Relevant subheadings enable you to incorporate important keyword phrases that can help your content get noticed by Web crawlers.
If you want a handy tool to help you measure the readability of your content, check out Readability-Score.
3. Make use of responsive design
You already know that a considerable amount of Internet traffic these days comes from mobile operating systems. In fact, according to KPCB, mobile traffic now accounts for more than half of all online activity.
That’s a big deal. In response, Google now takes mobile-friendliness into account in a big way.
Responsive design — or, in other words, a Web layout that provides a quality experience no matter the screen size — is among the factors Google uses to determine search results. You may even find your site penalized if you haven’t yet embraced responsive design.
The good news is you can make this change even if you’re on a budget. If you use WordPress, for example, there are hundreds of themes to choose from that have mobile-friendliness built right in.
4. Write with your audience’s questions in mind
With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, Internet users are using more “natural language” to perform Web searches. This means they’re picking up their phones and actually asking it questions like, “What’s the best way to cook pasta?” From there, Google, Siri or Cortana executes their search with varying degrees of intelligence, which often means pasting the exact wording into the search field.
What this means is that journalists and other content creators need to write with natural language in mind. Answer questions in a direct manner, anticipating how searches are being worded and including phrases that match that language.
Natural language has long been touted as the future of Web search, and so far things seem on track to fulfill that prediction.
5. Use best practices for internal and external linking
Pay attention to how and where you’re linking in your content. There’s a balance here that might take some practice to nail down. Too many links, and it seems like your content relies too heavily on outside content; too few links, and some readers may question where you’re getting your information.
Strive to incorporate a small handful of links to authoritative sources throughout your copy. This communicates to your readers (and to Google’s algorithms) that your content, while unique, gives credit where it’s due. Also, don’t forget to include internal links to other places on your site — namely, to other posts and pages. This is another factor that Google’s crawlers take into account when ranking sites.
Maybe the most fascinating thing about search is how quickly and regularly it changes. What we’ve covered here today may be replaced by something entirely different a few years or a few months from now as technology continues to evolve. That’s part of the fun.
For the time being, though, put these latest SEO best practices to work for your website and help it soar to the top.