Best SEO Practices for Search & Content Optimization in 2021

They say you can only count on death and taxes. If you’ve been paying attention to digital marketing in the last 20 years, I’d change that to death, taxes, and Google making changes to its search algos. The tech giant acknowledges they’re continually updating their algorithms. The upside is that search engines are getting better and smarter at understanding what we’re actually searching for, making it incredibly difficult for unethical folks to game the system. The downside of getting your content in front of users is you have to constantly update your SEO strategies to adapt to what Google considers best practices.

Changes like featured snippets, more ads, “people also ask” and other new elements mean new opportunities and challenges for your SEO strategy. That’s why you see a new list of the best SEO practices offered every year. We’re always playing catch up to Google. At EVG, we think that’s the equivalent of playing Whack-a-Mole with our clients’ content. Not the best approach, if you ask us.

3 Rules for SEO Success

Let’s be real: There isn’t a single set of rules for SEO success. No one can guarantee your content will earn that coveted first place in organic search results. Stop trying to outwit Google by changing strategies every six months. We believe there are three simple best practices for SEO success:

  1. Understand your audience’s intent – what do they want to do?
  2. Deliver the answers on a really fast and mobile-friendly website – help them find it.
  3. Offer authoritative and helpful content – deliver the goods so others want to share it.

We all know this. These three rules for SEO success aren’t a mystery or a big secret. But if everyone knows them, then how come you’re reading this article? Because the devil is in the details. That means you have two choices: hire EVG to do the work for you or figure out the details on your own. If you’re a DIY-type, then read on!

Fundamental Best Practices for SEO

  1. Understand the intent of your audience. Who, what, where, and why aren’t just fundamentals for journalists. They’re the reason behind most searches. Google, and its advanced AI, is getting really good at understanding what we mean when we speak or type a query. As a brand, you need to be just as good at figuring out what your audience is searching for so you can provide the content they need. The key is not to provide what you think they want. That’s apt to just be more sales content. You really need to know what they want. So ask them—and then produce content that answers those needs.
    1. Add value to the user by making certain your content meets Google’s E-A-T expectations.
      1. E” is for expertise. You’re the expert, so share your expertise in a user-friendly way. Get rid of the jargon and industry acronym-heavy shop talk and write for the general public.
      2. A” is for authoritativeness. Back-up your assertions with authoritative sources and become your own authority. We know anyone can sound like an authority, but you need to link to websites that are acknowledged as experts and authorities.
      3. T” is for trustworthiness. Do what you say you’ll do, and ensure your website and digital presence reflects that. Good product and experience reviews? That’s relevant to your search engine placement.
    2. Anticipate the user and their needs by giving them the answers they need. Users love FAQ pages with the questions and answers on the page, not hidden away in an accordion the user has to open and close. Web designers might think accordions are cool, but if you’re on your phone looking for a quick answer, wading through those accordions is a surefire way to drive people off your site.Ask your customer care team about the most frequently asked questions they get. Then be certain those are answered on your FAQ page or somewhere on your website.
    3. Check that your written content is written for humans and search engine spiders. If you keep humans in mind, your content is going to score well for natural language processing. High readability scores (content that’s easy to understand) and natural language directly impact search rankings.
  2. Offer a stellar user experience. Following the best SEO practices means you need a great mobile experience. Why? Because your mobile site determines your search rankings.
    1. Review your site on a smartphone to make certain the mobile experience is the same as the laptop experience.
      1. Do a link check and make sure all the links on the laptop version are also on the mobile version.
      2. Look at the site through fresh eyes, or better yet, have non-colleagues take a look at your site on their phone or tablet. Does the website work well for them? If not, you have some work to do.
    2. Ask your team to check that the website meets and passes the Core Web Vitals test. Look at page loading speeds and fix what slows them down. Slow speeds are related to images that aren’t properly optimized and messy code, among other things.
    3. Monitor your page experience metrics. Time-on-page, entrances, exits, and bounces need to be examined and used to drive updates to improve the content and the user experience.
    4. Check that your breadcrumbs are optimized. Breadcrumbs are a user-friendly element and a simple optimization opportunity.
    5. Check that there are no broken links. External links especially should be scheduled for review because trusted sites update their content routinely.
      1. And while you’re checking links, check for unnecessary internal and external links.
      2. Review your internal linking strategy and update your internal linking strategy for your most important pages.
    6. Take care of all of the technical details.
      1. Provide an ALT text for every image, and optimize that text and the file name.
      2. When appropriate, be sure you’ve added the right schema.
      3. Review your page layouts and its headers, metadata, and title tag. It’s easy to overlook these, but they help users and spiders navigate your content.
    7. Use clean, clear URLs with keywords when possible instead of lengthy and ungainly strings of words and alphanumeric combos. We know it’s a pain to create new URLs for old, legacy websites. But Google is paying attention and you should too.
  3. Offer the right content. And that means content that speaks to user intent, not your top 10 reasons why we should buy from you.
    1. Give your audience what they want in the form of long-form content. Yes, it’s more expensive to produce, but it will pay off in the long run. And that’s the view you need. There are no fast solutions to ranking well in search.
    2. Fraggles matter. Not sure what a fraggle is? (We’re NOT talking about muppets.) It’s the term Cindi Klum coined to describe the handle and fragment or passage of text Google can pull from your web page and serve up in search rankings.
      1. Google Passage Ranking appears to be a result of their emphasis on mobile indexing. There’s nothing you can do to help a passage rank, other than providing EAT content. But this new approach to search results means every part of your webpage needs to be audience focused.
    3. Pay attention to opportunities beyond the pages you think matter.
      1. Check search results and see if there’s a featured snippet for the search phrases you’re targeting on each page. According to Ahrefs, about 12% of searches lead to a results page with a featured snippet.
      2. Consider creating subtopic pages for your primary pages if you can provide enough solid information for the users.
      3. Add a transcript for each video you post on your website. And don’t forget to optimize it.
    4. Focus your primary efforts on long-tail search phrases. When you do this, you’ll naturally weave in organic and natural variations of the shorter phrases that drive traffic to the top of the funnel. But the long-tail phrases will drive traffic to the more productive end of the funnel.
    5. Rewrite key pages that aren’t performing as well as they could.
      1. Revisit the linking strategy on those pages.
      2. Take your content out of accordions and put it on the page.
      3. Use headers to help readers understand the organization of your content

Set up Google Analytics

If you haven’t already done it, Google Analytics can help you:

        1. Monitor the data and analyze what it’s telling you.
        2. Pay attention to the user flow through your website. Where do they drop off?
        3. Review the searches they conduct trying to find information. Are you missing pages they expect to see?
        4. Measure, test, and repeat.

Optimize your brand’s entire digital presence.

Begin by looking at your digital profile from a bird’s eye view in order to understand how Google sees you as a brand.

      1. Are you telling a really good story consistently across all of your platforms?
      2. Does your story speak to your audience?
      3. Can you tell a better story?

If you need help with anything on our list of best SEO practices, we hope you’ll reach out to EVG or Laura Lee, SEO Director. She loves speaking with clients about all things SEO and how we can help you.

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