Best search engine optimization techniques that will always work
What are the best search engine optimization techniques and what strategy they should follow, bloggers and small website owners keep asking on Google and Q-A sites such as Quora.
And most of the times, the answers are convoluted or copy-pasted - and they are seldom effective becaue the 'SEO expert' himself doesn't know the merits of the techniques he recommends. Please also remember that what worked a few years back might not work a few year later, and some actions that looked innocent in the past may be red-flagged by search engines; one more reason the copy-pasted advice does not work. Then there are some genuine experts (including big SEO and tech companies) who have mastered SEO techniques but they take the visitor to the garden path only to end with a bait: buy their SEO tools, analytical tools or SEO service.
Why should you go anywhere else when Google itself keeps issuing advisory articles and answers to SEO-related queries? The present list of SEO techniques is based on public data from Google and Bing documents and genuine experts. We have applied them on our websites and seen them applied on blogs and websites that come on top of Google search pages.
I call the entries in this list as the best SEO techniques because these are:
- effective SEO actions: they work slowly but they definitely work.
- white hat SEO techniques: they are not unethical and they are not tricks to fool search engines. So, there is no chance of a Google penalty.
- evergreen search engine optimization actions: these SEO techniques may look bland and commonplace because they have been working and will keep working even when Google and other search engines come up with very unsparing algorithm updates.
- simple SEO actions: These techniques can be applied without much effort. None of the SEO techniques in this list needs much knowledge of technology.
This list also has some actions that are not actually search engine optimization techniques but other means to improve popularity of the website. But these also improve SEO, because modern search engines get signals from allwhere (social media, mobile usage, purchases, maps, apps, etc) and use them for indexing and ranking websites for search purposes.
The sum and substance of what Google and experts sugges tis that SEO should help search engines find content with high quality. Google also says, if someone claims that he can get your website on the first position on search pages, he is cheating you outright. Google is smart enough to know what is good content that should come high on serch results. SEO need not be technically cumbersome. Hardcore SEO actions are better left for SEO experts - most bloggers need not bother about them.
If you are very new to SEO and do not know what search engine optimization is and how it works, let me refer to a knowledge-base article on this very blog: Fundamentals of SEO.
One last word before I share the list of top search engine optimization techniques: avoiding (i) unethical SEO and (ii) excessive search optimization are as important as doing the correct SEO.
Best search engine optimization techniques: the list
- Give your website/ blog a good title. Keep the title below 70 characters (if that is not possible, give the most relevant expression within this limit).
- Give the blog a relevant, well-written description within 130 characters. It should contain the highlight of the blog. As search engines have started giving more importance to mobile phones, a bigger description might bleed away from the space available.
- Give the site an independent domain name, not a sub-domain of a free domain (e.g. example.com, not example.wordpress.com). For this, you will have to register a domain name and then apply that on the blog.
- Make the domain name memorable, short, with an expression (keyword) that defines your blog.
- Choose one of the many variants of your website as the standard one. Many variants arise due to re-directions or being with www or without www. All the other variants of the website should direct to the one you choose. There is a small bit to be done for this: canonicalization. For this, open the HTML of the website/ blog and within its top (after 6-7 lines), add the code as given below in blue. Change the example.com URL with the homepage address of your website/ blog. If you want the version without www, remove that part. This single line of HTML should apper like this: <link rel="canonical" href="https://www.example.com" />
- Regularly publish original content. 'Original' does not mean you need to make inventions or discoveries, but you must speak in a voice that is your own and the matter should not be copied from others.
- Keep the quality of your writing high. Have well-researched and detailed articles and without grammatical errors.
- Write for the reader, not for yourself or the search engine. Yes, put keywords in your articles as said below but that is secondary.
- Write long content, of over 1600 words, at least once after 3-4 smaller posts/ articles. The content of these long posts should be ever-green. Link these posts on other related posts. If your website is a static site, apply this to any type of web page.
- Do not put too many ads or widgets. They make the blog look unprofessional, reduce stay time on the blog, slow down the site and hurt SEO.
- Give relevant sub-headings to different thoughts, especially in a long post.
- If you know how to do it and your blogging platform allows that, use heading tags ( main heading or H1; sub-heading or H2; etc) for heading and sub-headings. On Wordpress and other CMSs and Blogger, these are available in the post editor.
- Get SSL / HTTPS security for your blog. Blogger and Wordpress do that automatically; for self-hosted blogs, there are free HTTPS certificates available. A secure website sends trust signals to search engines as well as readers.
- Think of the best keyword for your posts/ articles. Go to Google, type out the query most relevant to your post and see the suggestions. Select the one that suits your blog. Put it (and its synonyms) in different parts of the post, also its title, sub-titles and description. You can think of a few more keywords for the same post. Sprinkle them also, in the post/ article.
- Use keywords in a way that they flow with the rest of the content and look natural. Instead of the same keyword too many times, use synonyms and different ways of saying the same thing.
- Use long-tail keywords (two-three word phrases) rather than one-word keywords.
- Highlight sub-headings by way of bigger font and/or colored text so that they catch the attention of visitors. H1, H2 etc tags (described above) already look bigger and bolder than the body text; you can decorate the text further if you so like - only for getting attention, not to make them flowery.
- Put visual content to support text content: have images, info-graphics and/or videos. These aid reading and understanding the text content, and improve stay time on the web page.
- Give relevant description to individual pages/ posts. This is in addition to the description given to the blog. Major CMSs and blogging platforms have this option in the post/ page editor.
- Don't ignore to put a relevant ALT attribute on images, especially important images. Without it, search engines find it difficult to know the subject of the image. To apply this property to the image, your website/ blog platform would give an option when you click on the image in the post/ page editor. If not (or if you want to put the ALT attribute manually in the HTML), open the web page in HTML view, search for img and wherever you find it, write alt="example" after that. Your image tags on HTML will now look like as given below in blue. Remember to give a nice (also with keyword where relevant) ALT property to all major images - in place of example or keyword given here. < ... img alt="keyword" ...>
- Go for a simple and efficient blog design. Remember that a good design cares for navigation and readability even more than looks.
- When giving links, use relevant anchor text (the hyperlinked text). It should look natural too.
- Give internal links (links to useful information on other pages/ posts on your website/ blog). However, do not over-do it.
- Also give links to authoritative websites when these add value to your own site's content.
- Bring your content to the notice of authoritative bloggers on your subject. You can send them email to seek their opinion.
- Think of commenting on blogs and websites that have good articles on your subject. Give your name and website address if that option is there but DO NOT give your website link inside the comment.
- Check broken and dead links and remove them once in a while. Do the check once in six months so that you do not lose visitors. Google Search Console (described below) lists out such links.
- Place a 'broken link' page on the website so that if for any reason a page is not available to the visitor, he sees a page in which you say sorry for that and request him to visit another page. The option to create this page (called 404 page) is usually available on all CMSs and blogging platforms under tools or settings menu.
- The website should send trust signals to search engines: Google has stated that it finds high trust in websites that have contact details, an 'about us' page and a customer service page (if relevant).
- When hosting the blog or website independently [e.g. not as a free blog on Blogger or Wordpress], choose the web host wisely as the web host's quality impacts SEO a lot.
- Make sure that your website is not too slow to open. Websites open slow if the server is slow, the website is heavy or poorly structured, or there is not enough internet bandwidth available to the website. Google has stated that since 2017, it has been taking site speed as a signal to rank pages. Without going for complicated SEO techniques, just take care that (i) your images are of small pixel size (not more than a few kb in size), (ii) the theme is not too complicated, (iii) you have not put too many widgets and applied too many plugins on the website, and (iv) the web hosting plan selected by you gives you enough bandwidth.
- If your blog is hosted on a small server and the server is shared by many websites, make sure that the website is available all the time (over 99.5% uptime) and the website does not hang when there is heavy traffic. [That's one way web hosts can impact SEO in a big way.]
- All websites are automatically indexed by major search engines. However, check on Google, Bing and Yahoo! if most of your website's pages are indexed or not. (On Google, type out your site name like this site:example.com and the indexed pages will be shown on the serch page.) A better way is to open an account on Google Search Console. This is free and not very complicated and you will feel comfortable with it after some trials and errors. Besides other data, this tool tells which web pages are indexed on Google and which web pages have crawling errors.
- On the blog/ website, have prominent links and buttons for social networking and bookmarking accounts of yours.
- Promote new content on the website/ blog on your social networking and chat platforms, but not in a way that it irritates or offends people. The promotion should be moderate, not obtrusive, not looking like too much self-promotion or bragging.
- Cross-publish new content on social networks, but in a way that the same content is not repeated. For example, you can give summary or highlight of the blog post and then give a link back to the blog.
- Be active on social media and its communities. Sharing of content and favourable comments by others on social media gives a positive signal to search engines.
- Make sure that your website is mobile-friendly, because more and more searches are now carried out through mobile phones. Wordpress and Blogger automatically make the blog/ website mobile friendly. However, there are some old themes on these platforms that are not 'responsive' - they are not able to adjust to the width of different devices.
- Put a sitemap on the website if your website platform does not do that automatically. Blogger and Wordpress (free blogging platforms) do that without your bothering for that. CMSs including Wordpress.org might want you to do that yourself or through a plugin. Google Search Console, linked above, has the facility to accept sitemaps (and also has a link to guide on creating a sitemap).
- Guest posting on other websites/ blogs is useful, but search engines do not like it (i) when used for back-linking and (ii) on websites that are not in a related field or are not trust-worthy. Do not forget to give a single link back to your own blog on the guest post.
- Have a subscription widget for email, so that people follow you and get updates on email.
- Tell your friends, relatives and colleagues about your blog/ website and also when you publish a new article/ post.
- After publishing a new post/ article, send an email to people who might be interested in that content. But do not bombard them with too many emails in a month. You can use a free emailer such as MailChimp.
- Have your website/ blog's URL and a short description on your visiting card, stationery and other items that you share. Business bloggers can put the URL on carry-bags, advertisements, products, back panels of cars, etc.