Search engine optimization is a dynamic digital marketing strategy. One day you’re at the top of the SERPs, and the next, Google knocks your business down to page two or stops promoting your pages entirely.
It’s the nature of SEO: algorithms change, competitors re-optimize, keywords grow more competitive, and content, no matter how fresh, eventually becomes stale.
So how can you maintain your rankings and optimize for now and the future? A proactive approach to SEO can help your business weather the changing landscape of search and prioritize what matters most.
To stay ahead of the curve and above your competition in the SERPs, make sure your business is deploying these five SEO practices.
5 SEO practices for staying on top
1. Invest in high-quality content
Despite the changing landscape of search, Google’s north star has always remained the same: to provide high-quality, authoritative, and high-performing web content for users. Investing in quality content always provides the best ROI. Why? Because with every algorithm update, Google refines its ability to identify quality signals that indicate better content results.
If you start with the best content, you don’t have to constantly overhaul your pages when Google releases an update, although they may need a tune-up from time to time. In terms of how to create quality content from the get-go, do the following in your content creation:
- Focus on providing the greatest value to users. Google’s ranking factors all add up to providing the most relevant, high-performing, and helpful content to searchers.
- Look at the content that is already ranking on page 1. What quality signals does Google appear to be responding to? Try to emulate them in your own content creation practices.
- Don’t shy away from fresh ideas and use your industry knowledge. Google not only looks to the content on the page, but to expert authorship and sourcing.
- Never use fluff, but aim for a greater topical depth. Although longer content is not a ranking factor, there is a strong correlation between longer content and higher positions.
2. Always be optimizing
One common mistake that site owners make is focusing on SEO only when they initially set up their website or first publish a piece of content. But Google wants to see that site owners are actively taking care of their websites.
Publishing new blogs, updating content, repairing broken links, and other regular tasks are SEO practices that are essential to showing Google that your website is high quality and worthy of ranking for the long-term. Make sure you are constantly improving these areas of your website to show Google crawlers that you also want to provide users with the best quality web experience:
- Speed—Ensure your web pages load quickly, especially content above the fold. Using tools like PageSpeed Insights or the SearchAtlas Site Audit tool can identify issues for your team to prioritize.
- Mobile optimization—Mobile searches accounted for 61% of organic search engine visits in the United States and continue to account for more searches than desktops. This trend is not going to change; therefore, mobile-responsive design is a must.
- Web development and site organization—As your content library grows, your site infrastructure needs to be prepared. If users (and Google’s web crawlers) cannot find your content, it’s useless. Identify issues with regularly scheduled technical audits.
- Updated content—Keep your content fresh. This not only involves updating the content on your pages, but culling outdated, low-traffic, or underperforming pages.
3. Study search intent
Google has been working to better understand its users’ search intent from the beginning. So should you. Content marketing to support SEO only works if you’re providing value to your visitors, after all.
To understand how to provide your organic visitors with value, you must understand the purpose of their search. Certain keywords imply a specific search intent. If your piece of content does not meet that search intent, not only will searchers bounce back to the search results, Google will most likely not even promote that content.
There are four primary types of search intent, and they will determine what type of content you want to create:
- Navigational—When a user uses Google to find a specific website they have in mind. For example, someone looking for the AllBusiness website may type in “allbusiness articles.”
- Informational—The searcher wants to learn a specific piece of information; for example, “what is seo?” Informational keywords represent users who are looking for answers, expertise, or additional information through blogs, articles, or resource-driven pages.
- Transactional—The searcher is looking to explore shopping options, often for a specific service or product. Keywords like “men’s running shoes” or “plumbers near me” indicate a user who is ready to make a purchase and is wanting to see product- or service-related landing pages.
- Commercial investigation—The searcher is looking to purchase in the near future, but may not be ready to buy right now. Keywords like “best natural cleaning products” represent users who are looking to compare products for the ultimate goal of making a purchase.
Not only will better meeting search intent help improve your keyword rankings overall, this SEO practice can also help improve conversion rates from organic clicks. After winning more visitors, you can then use conversion rate optimization(CRO) to further improve your pages’ ability to convert visitors to buyers.
4. Make link building a part of your marketing strategy
Backlinks have always been the primary way that Google understands the authority of web pages and whether or not to promote them. Although content and page experience are important, Google’s No. 1 ranking factor still remains the same: backlinks.
Actively seeking out linking opportunities for your website is one of the most important SEO strategies that every business should implement, and it’s also the most impactful. One reason why top web pages stay at the top of the SERPs for years is because they have accumulated large amounts of PageRank via the many other websites that link to them.
Although your business cannot control whether another website links to yours, there are ways that you can be proactively seeking out backlink opportunities and building offsite signals for your website. Some great ways to build links include:
- Getting listed in online directories—For local businesses, in particular, this is one of the easiest and most affordable ways (under $100) to start building your site authority. Industry-specific directories are ideal for starting to build strong offsite or local signals in the eyes of Google crawlers.
- Guest blogging—Webmasters and publishers are always on the hunt for good content. If you provide that content for them, it can often mean a link back to your website in your author byline, or even sometimes in the context of the article.
- Outsource your link building—If you don’t have an in-house team to create original content or do manual outreach to other publishers in your industry, consider the help of a link-building agency. SEO and marketing agencies often have teams of content creators in-house and strong relationships with established websites.
Making link building outreach an integral part of your marketing and public relations efforts is one of the most important SEO practices you can implement. The efforts produce benefits across all of your web pages and elevate your SEO performance now and in the future.
5. Leverage your SEO metrics
Your website’s search metrics are the equivalent of health vitals. Tracking your keyword rankings and other key search metrics can help you understand the overall health of your website and iterate on your SEO strategy to make more targeted, impactful optimizations.
If you see a sudden drop in one of your top-performing pages, it’s time to jump into action. If your CTRs, site visibility, and overall keyword positions have an upward trajectory, your strategy is most likely working, and you should redeploy similar optimizations on other pages of your website.
Although organic clicks are the ultimate goal of search engine optimization, there are other key performance metrics your business should be tracking:
- Impressions—The number of times a page on your site has appeared in search results. Lots of impressions for multiple relevant keywords is one of the first signals that your optimizations are on the right track.
- Total keywords—The total number of keywords that your website (or a specific web page) ranks for. Longer, in-depth content, and publishing more content to your website, can increase the total number of keywords your web pages show up for in search.
- Rank position—The position of your web pages in the SERPs for a specific keyword queries. Higher positions earn more organic clicks, so identifying keywords where your web pages can rank in position 1-3 are essential to ranking for the long-term.
- Site authority—An authority metric that quantifies a website’s offsite signals through backlinks and referring domains. The most popular site authority metrics include Domain Rating and Domain Authority.
Paying attention to these SEO vitals, and leveraging them to your advantage, is one of the most essential SEO practices to earn organic rankings in the short term and maintain those top positions over the years.
Google rewards proactive SEO practices
When you take a best practices, proactive approach, Google responds. Google likes to see site owners take the time to update their content and page experience and improve upon it for users.
The results? Longevity, stability, and less troubleshooting and revision in the future. It also means sustainable, scalable growth that helps your business maintain your content’s foothold in the SERPs for the long haul.