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With millions and millions of websites on the internet, it can seem impossible to get heard through the noise. Today, we go over 10 top tips to help you get your site to the front page of Google.

Google is the world’s number one search engine. Google has a simple job: people search for things and get relevant content back. With millions of websites on the net and thousands of new domains being purchased each and every day, Google’s spiders have a lot of crawling to do. Getting your website noticed out of the millions can be a tough job, but we’re here to help! We’ve got ten great SEO tips to have you flying up the front page.

best seo practices

10 SEO Best Practices & Key Things to Look Out For

1: Institute Informative Meta Tags

Meta Tags should be properly placed in the head section of a website. Meta Tags will inform Google what your website title, description, and how you want the crawlers to interact with the page. Be careful with meta keywords: they’re not the same as meta keywords.

Hold on, that might need some explaining. HTML allows you to add specific keywords to your metadata as meta keywords. Up until the early-mid 2000s, they were a crucial ranking factor, but they proved inaccurate and easy to game so Google devalued them. The function remains in the code but it’s unclear how much benefit you get from them these days, if any at all. At worst, they give you nothing but let your competitors know which keywords you’re targeting. Your SEO strategy should include keywords and those keywords should appear in your metadata (e.g. in your title/heading/description), just not as formally-designated HTML meta keywords.

Key things to look out for:

It’s king, after all. All these years have passed and so much has changed, but good content remains the best and most reliable SEO pull. There’s a lot of overlap between good content for readers and good content for Google (more visitors, longer read time = more rank) but here’s a few more things you should consider:

  • Regularity of content: Releases at the same regular time each week-whether blogs, videos, or other content-are better at organically bringing users back to your site. If they know when they can check in for the new stuff, they’re more likely to do it.
  • Length of content: multiple sources have confirmed that 2000-2500 words is the perfect length for SEO content. If you can’t get inside those goalposts, longer is better than shorter: short content is more often thin content, which Google hates.
  • Originality of content: Google is always on the lookout for spun articles and other plagiarised or quasi-plagiarised content. The less you are like everybody else, the better you’ll do.

3: Refine your XML Sitemap

A sitemap is an XML document that includes all the links contained within a website, and directions for how the crawlers should interact with them. Crawlers will do their own thing without a sitemap, but it’s like a guidebook for your site: it tells them where’s good to go, and where they should avoid. They might ignore it and go off-trail anyway, but it helps sculpt which parts of your site get indexed. A sitemap should always be updated upon a new page addition to a site.

4: Use Your Tools

Google and Bing both have free webmaster tools that allow the average website owner to verify their website is indexed and track their visibility on the web, as well as request pages be indexed or disavow toxic backlinks. By doing this, you can also monitor your keyword rankings, indexed pages, and impressions.

5: Find the Host with the Most

The less downtime your website has, the less chance it has of falling back in SEO ranks. It’s important that you invest in stable and reliable hosting; a lower amount of downtime is positively correlated with site reliability. This is a key ranking factor and should not be ignored.

6: Avoid Annoying Popups

Nobody likes popups, and it should go without saying that an overabundance of them will drive traffic away and increase your bounce rate, which will lower site reliability. On a more technical level, though Google have added an ‘intrusive interstitial’ penalty that will lower your rank if your site is deemed to contain annoying popups. The threshold on what counts as ‘intrusive’ is quite high (a ‘subscribe to our newsletter!’ isn’t going to get you dinged) but it’s still important to be aware of when planning out your site. To avoid getting hit with a penalty or people bouncing, keep popups simple, minimal, and easily-closed.

7: Run a Broken Link Check

Run a broken link check on your website to ensure that all broken links are eliminated from your site’s web directory. Why are broken links bad for SEO?

Websites that are abandoned or just not updated enough have a large amount of broken links. If you have too many on your site, Google will treat your site like it has been abandoned, and push it down the ranks. Broken links and redirects also have a significant negative effect on load speed, and load speed issues will tank your ranking, as we’ve previously discussed in our article on web speed optimization. Speaking of:

8: Optimize Your Load Speed

Google’s bit tilt towards mobile-focussed indexing has put an even bigger emphasis on load speed than we’ve seen in previous years. There’s no evidence that high speed will gain you rank, but slow speed will lose you rank. You especially need to make sure that you’re running tests to ensure your site runs well on mobile.

Tying in with this, look into responsive web design. Google have sent signals that they think RWD is the future and-though this is currently anecdotal-it does seem like it can have a significant effect on rank. While responsive design has been around since 2011 (or as early as 2004, if you look to some experiments and prototypes that were floating around but never really took off), it’s been in the last 2-3 years that it has become a hot-button topic, in no small part because Google seems to have taken a real interest in it.

9: Protect your Images from Hotlinking

Hotlinking can cause your ranks to go downhill and your hosting usage will be wasted by other unauthorized websites. When adding images to your website, always prevent adding clickable linked internal image directories. Use the following .htaccess code string to prevent hotlinking:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://(www\.)?yourwebsite.com/.*$ [NC]
RewriteRule \.(gif|jpg|css)$ - [F]

10: Don’t Be Afraid to Disavow

Google’s Disavow Tool is critically important to use if you want to avoid penalties. It lets you point out an incoming backlink and say you don’t want Google to crawl it. Why-ever would you do that?

Because if the incoming link has been marked by Google as being spammy or low-quality, then it will hurt your rank. This can happen even if you engage only in white hat techniques: spam sites will sometimes post strings of random backlinks, hoping somebody monitoring the analytics will see a high volume of incoming links coming from the spam site, then click the link hoping to find a guest post or cross-promotion opportunity. If this happens to you and you don’t disavow the link, then you’re getting a Google penalty simply for having the bad luck of being targeted by spammers!

Or maybe the old SEO manager engaged in a link-buying scheme, or maybe you engaged in a link-buying scheme because you were young and stupid. Maybe you got a legitimate backlink on a high-authority site, then the site went downhill and its authority went with it. There are a whole lot of circumstances where a backlink is toxic, and in those circumstances, the Disavow Tool is your best friend.

best SEO practices to avoid google penalties

SEO has come a long way since the wild west days pre-panda-and-penguin. Some folks have said that SEO is dead now, but that’s not really true. Black Hat SEO is dying (and good riddance), but White Hat SEO is booming. Take control of your site, and make content that people and crawlers will love.