SEO Best Practices in 2017
Search engines are progressively getting more complicated with their ranking algorithms. This makes it essential to stay up to date on SEO best practices as they are constantly evolving. What worked ten years ago may be obsolete today and could actually end up harming your website’s search result rankings. SEO is something you can do on your own to improve your online presence, however, you will need to follow the best practices in SEO to avoid harming your website and its ability to rank in search results. Of course, StatCounter can help you in this endeavor.
While StatCounter allows you to track your progress in terms of your SEO work, we also aim to provide our members with information that will help improve their online presence. By sharing some of the SEO best practices of 2017 with our members, we hope to help our members’ businesses improve and grow. With this, take a look at the essential strategies of SEO we’ve outlined below.
To learn more about SEO and the tactics therein, you can gain more insight from the articles provided below:
Keywords: Research, Density, and Usage
In the early days of SEO, you could pepper keywords into your on-page content and watch as your website moved up to the top of the search results. Today, search engine’s algorithms have become more complex, relying on a variety of signals to determine where a site should rank for certain keywords. That being said, there’s a select few tactics essential to any SEO strategy—no matter the type of business at hand.
Keyword density is a huge part of this change in more recent years. Use your keyword too much and search engines will view your site as spam, potentially leading to your website being blacklisted from results pages. Use it too little and search engines won’t view it as important to the corresponding keyword. The recommended sweet spot is a keyword density of about 2.5%.
Researching and Selecting Keywords
Density aside, keyword research remains at the heart of any sound SEO strategy. Many tactics within SEO will rely on the keywords you choose to target and try ranking for. Whether you’re creating content on site, optimizing on-page aspects (covered below), or using the keywords for anchor text in backlinking (also covered below), the keywords you select will be used greatly.
So, as you begin selecting keywords to focus on, consider what terms you know are relevant to your industry. From here, you can use a range of keyword tools to find relevant terms, determine the feasibility of each for your site, and much more. When it comes to using your keywords, however, you’ll need to add them across your site in various areas. In terms of content, shoot for the aforementioned keyword density, while also ensuring each page matches the user’s intent. In other words, consider what you think users would want to read for a specific search query.
As you select keywords to target and focus content of your site around, you can use Google search to get a great idea of the type of content that ranks for each keyword. Simply type a targeted term into the search bar and view the pages Google serves in the results. Be sure to check the similar searches at the bottom of the results page, too, as these can give you more ideas for relevant keywords.
On-Page Optimization: Key Strategies
As mentioned previously, you can use your keywords beyond written content on your site. Referred to as on-page optimization, this aspect of SEO encompasses a range of tactics to improve search results rankings. Of course, not every aspect of on-page optimization applies to keywords. Regardless, take a look at some key strategies below:
- Header Tags: Header tags, also known as htags, serve multiple purposes in SEO. First, they show search engine’s the important topics covered on a webpage. Also, header tags can help users by breaking up the written content accordingly, which can help improve the user experience. Header tags typically start with H1 (the title of the article), then H2 for subsequent sections. H3, H4, and so on can also be used, but H1 and H2 are the most commonly used.
- Title Tags: Title tags are the blue, clickable links found in search results. Use the keyword each webpage is built around in the title tag to show search engines and search users what the page topic is. However, avoid using too many keywords in your title tags, as this can result in a penalty. A good rule of thumb is to include a keyword, descriptive text about the page, and your business name. You should add your location as well if you’re a local business.
- Meta Description: Below the title tag in search results is a snippet of text about the webpage, called the meta description. While this doesn’t directly affect your SEO work, it can help drive users to your website by explaining what they will gain from visiting your site. Similar to title tags, use a keyword, descriptive text, business name, and your location (if applicable).
- Image Alt Text: If an image doesn’t appear on a webpage, its alt text will be displayed for web users. Not only will this show search engines what the picture’s subject is, it will also help users should the image have a problem loading. Again, you’ll want to place a keyword in the image alt text.
- Internal Linking: In each page of content of your site, you should include links to other pages of your website. This will help direct users to other areas of your site that might appeal to them as well as help improve the bounce rate and drop off rate.
- URL Structure: Another important aspect of on-page optimization is your URL structure. Humanized URLs often perform better in search results, as this can help the user understand what the webpage in question is about. Using a keyword in your URLs can also benefit your SEO strategy.
Another essential aspect of SEO lies within backlinks. Backlinks, also known as inbound links, are any link pointing to your website from another domain. So, if a business mentions you on their website and leaves a link to your own site, you’ll have acquired a backlink. These are crucial to SEO, as they help improve your domain and page authority, which directly impact your website’s ability to rank within search results.
As you can imagine, there’s a variety of ways to acquire backlinks. However, even common practices should be approached carefully, as your tactics can easily be viewed as manipulative to search engines. In short, you just need to be honest in your backlink strategies, and only submit your site where it’s relevant. To learn more about backlinks, check out our page on how to get backlinks for your site.
Aside from the on-page strategies listed above, as well as acquiring backlinks to your site, one of the best practices within SEO for 2017 is the user experience—yet this has always been an essential piece. Search engines pay close attention to how users interact with a website so they can improve their search results accordingly. If a user visits your site and immediately backs out to the search results, an action known as a bounce, search engines will view that as a negative user experience and could drop your site in the rankings. The higher your website’s bounce rate is, the harder it will be to rank competitively for keywords.
As we alluded to earlier with regards to keywords, be sure the topic on the page matches the message in the title tag and meta description. If a page does not meet the user’s intent, odds are your page is optimized poorly or for the wrong topic.
Additionally, make sure it is easy to navigate through your site and find every webpage without having to dig through multiple pages. Accessible content is important and can easily improve the user experience. Adding interactive, clickable buttons and unique images can also help to improve the user experience. Sitemaps can be quite helpful in this regard.
Track Your SEO Progress with StatCounter
As you can see, there’s quite a bit to consider as you delve into SEO and begin working to improve the visibility of your website. The SEO best practices listed above are key for virtually any website and business, so be sure to implement those strategies in your efforts. From here, you’ll then want to track your efforts to ensure they’re paying off.
With StatCounter, you can track your website’s visits and other metrics and dimensions to determine potential areas of improvement or to see where your SEO efforts are succeeding. If you have any questions or are in need of assistance, please contact StatCounter member support by completing the form below and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
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