Twenty-first century websites are usually built and maintained following the standard set by the search engine giant, Google. These standards include Search Engine Optimization (SEO) best practices. As such, webmasters such as the Best SEO in Canada strive to follow good SEO practices that are ethical and up to date with the latest developments of ranking algorithms.
In the past, webmasters employed bad SEO practices such as keyword and banner stuffing, link building and cloaking in order to rank on Google’s first page.
However, Google’s latest algorithms make those practices almost impossible. Nevertheless, there are always unscrupulous webmasters who try to get around Google’s best practices.
Whether you are new to website development or a seasoned veteran at building websites, here is a simple guide to Good SEO Practices vs. Bad SEO Practices, so you can beware when making SEO decisions while building or maintaining your websites.
Good SEO Practices
Good SEO practices consist of what is called “white hat” techniques. These include:
● Security Certificate:
Up to recently, most people did not know what the ‘https’ at the beginning of a domain stood for. However, they understood that if a site had this “lock”, it meant the site could be trusted.
Today, Google has added security certificates as a requirement in their list of best practices for SEO. So websites with the https automatically rank higher in their search results.
HTTPS stands for hypertext transfer Protocol Secure, and enables websites to be more secure by encrypting the information sent between the visitor to the site and the server. It has been a Google ranking factor since 2014.
You can tell if your site is already using HTTPS by checking the loading bar in your browser. If there’s a lock icon before the URL, then it means your site is secure. If there is no lock, then you need to ‘buy’ one by installing an SSL certificate.
Due to Google’s standards, most web hosts offer these in their packages. If yours does not, you can depend on AJ Frey, owner of Best SEO in Canada, to pickup one for you.
This is a one-time installment, and once done, you can expect security on all your pages, including those you may add in the future.
● Placement of your target keyword / phrase:
Google’s best practices suggest that your target keyword / phrase should be in at least these three places. These are your title tag, heading and URL. Let’s take a closer look at each:
a) Title tag
According to Google, title tags should be written that accurately describe the page’s content. If you’re targeting a specific keyword or phrase, then this should do precisely that. However, search engine optimization isn’t just about improving rankings, but also enticing clicks. This is why your title tags must also be compelling.
N/B: Readability always comes first. Your title tag must make sense to the searcher. For example, if your target keyword/phrase is “saskatoon berry pie cheap,” then that doesn’t make sense as a title tag. Rearrange the words so it makes sense, even if you have to add stop words—Google is smart enough to understand what you mean. At Best SEO in Canada, AJ Frey knows just how to do this for you.
Finally, keep your title tags under 60 characters and use only “title case” for titles.
b) Heading (H1)
In addition to your title tag, your target keyword / phrase should also be in your heading. N/B: Every page should have a visible H1 heading on the page, and it should include your target keyword/phrase where it makes sense.
The third place according to Google, where you target keyword / phrase should be is in your URL. According to Mozilla, “URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator.
A URL is nothing more than the address of a given unique resource on the Web. In theory, each valid URL points to a unique resource. Such resources can be an HTML page, a CSS document, an image, etc.”
Your URL should be short and descriptive, according to Google, as long URLs may intimidate web searchers. As such, it is not always best SEO practice to use the exact target query as your URL.
N/B: Earlier we noted that it was okay to add stop words to your title tags. However, it is good SEO practice to remove stop words from your URL. What are stop words? Words such as The, Is/Are, At and On. There are others, and different search engines have different criteria for stop words.
Finally, your keywords/phrases in URLs should be relevant to your page’s content.
● Match search intent:
Another good SEO practice is to match search intent. This means to align your title and the description of your page with search intent. Nobody wants to see product pages in the search results for “how to make blueberry grunt.” Clearly, these people are in learning mode, not buying mode.
Google understands this, which is why all of the top results will be blog posts—not pages selling blueberries, lemon and sugar.
The opposite is true for a query like “where can I buy blueberries.”
People aren’t looking for a blueberry grunt recipe; they’re looking to buy some blueberries. This is why most of the top 10 results are going to get ecommerce category pages, not blog posts.
Matching search intent goes beyond creating a certain type of content. It’s also about creating the content from a particular angle and in a specific format. Which brings us to the next good SEO practice.
● Write thorough and relevant content on a regular basis:
How do you rank for more queries? By making your content more thorough and relevant. But how do you do that? Here are a few tips:
- Complete sentences with good spelling and grammar. There are a few reputable software programmes that offer spelling and grammar corrections, so there is no excuse for poor grammar and typographical errors on your website. This would not be a good SEO practice.
- Make sure that your content is unique and original. There is nothing wrong with publishing content that is written by others, however, it must be unique and original.
- Well-labelled images: If you use images in your content, ensure that each is properly labelled. If in case the images cannot load, at least the searcher can know what the image is about by reading the label.
- Make sure that your content is relevant. Quality over quantity. While the length of your content may be important in certain contexts, at the end of the day, it must be relevant to your searchers’ queries. Btw, this not only applies to blog posts, but also to other types of content on your website.
N/B: Publishing new content on a regular basis is a good SEO practice, but it is also important to keep a balance between content produced by the website and content offered to the website by an author, in exchange for a link in the author bio. In this case, it is better not to publish, than to break this rule.
● Relevant internal links:
Internal links are those from one page on your website to another. Adding internal links from other relevant pages is a very good SEO practice. This is one of the foundations of Google’s ranking algorithm and remains important even today.
Internal links also help Google understand what a page is about. Look for suitable places to add internal links on pages that fit the bill.
Unfortunately, Google discontinued public PageRank scores in 2016, so there’s no way to check them anymore. But in general, the more links a page has—from both external and internal sources—the higher its PageRank.
Which brings us to last, but not least:
● Get more backlinks:
Backlinks are another foundation of Google’s algorithm and remain one of the most important page ranking factors.
Google confirms this on their “how search works” page, where they state: “If other prominent websites on the subject link to the page, that’s a good sign that the information is of high quality”.
Finally, you should aim to build backlinks from authoritative and relevant pages and websites.
Bad SEO practises
On the other hand, persons who wish to take the shortcut to ranking high on Google’s pages employ bad SEO practices referred to as “Black Hat” techniques. These include:
● Duplicate content:
Duplicate content is a very common practice, as some webmasters will publish content that has already been published elsewhere. In and of itself, that is not a bad thing; there are many sites with information you may think is useful for your visitors.
If your intent is not to try to rank for a certain keyword or “stealing” someone else’s work, then you should “no index and no follow” those pages so that you are not penalised by Google for bad SEO practice. Non-unique content is not good for SEO. Think about it: If search engines already have the same content in their index, why would they index your web page since it has nothing new to offer?
● Invisible text and keyword stuffing:
It is not as common today, but there was a time when “black hat” strategists used to include many keywords at the bottom of a webpage, but make them the same colour as the background so they weren’t very noticeable to the human eye.
Google has been known to penalise such practices. The same goes for “stuffing” keywords where they are irrelevant. Have you landed on a page with a keyword search and that page was filled with the keyword, and barely anything else?
That is an extreme example of what we’re stating. This is a very bad SEO practice. Not only will it discourage visitors to your site who are looking to read relevant information on their search term, but it is also a red flag for search engines such as Google that you are trying to manipulate their algorithms.
N/B: It is enough to mention your keywords in the title, description, opening paragraph and a few other places in the body of the text.
● Cloaking and redirecting:
“Cloaking”, a very common practice of old, is when webmasters hide the real destination of a link, while “redirecting” is sending multiple “keyword-rich” domains to a single website.
Now, there may be times when redirecting is necessary for your business. However, there is a thin line between redirecting to a subdomain or domain and buying several domains just for the purpose of redirecting their traffic to a single website.
Showing different versions of a page to web crawlers and visitors to a website was a common practice in the past, but due to Google’s best practices thankfully this has been discontinued.
However, in case you just arrived on the planet and do not know Google’s best practices, please be advised that using such “black hat” techniques now is considered a very bad SEO practice.
● Poor linking practices:
Going out and purchasing a Fiverr package promising you 5,000 links in 24 hours is not the right way to build links. You need to get links from relevant content and sites in your niche that have their own traffic.
There are many other bad SEO practices one can employ including guest posting for links and accepting low quality guest posts. However, we will continue that discussion in a later article.
Google’s best practices reward good SEO practices such as Security Certificates, applying keywords to title tags, headings and URLs, having unique and relevant content, using appropriate internal and backlinks, while penalise bad SEO practices, which we call “black hat” techniques such as keyword stuffing, excessive link building and cloaking.
If you wish to have a successful website that ranks high on Google’s pages, then it behooves you to master good SEO practices.
AJ Frey can help you to develop and maintain a successful website that sees you ranking on Google’s first page with no fear of penalty due to bad SEO practices.
He offers a comprehensive range of SEO services dedicated to driving traffic that meets your lead, acquisition, or sales objectives. You should start seeing results–qualified leads, sales and traffic–in approximately 3 months.
That’s it. A list of Good SEO practices vs. Bad SEO practices, which we hope will help you to stay in Google’s good books, and any other search engine you wish to rank on. We know there are others. Why not share them in the comments section below? Ready to let an SEO expert help you maintain good SEO practices on your website? Give us a call or send us an email.