SEO Best Practices Part 2: SEO Optimized Content

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If you haven’t read the first part in this series on SEO best practices, check out our post on finding the best keywords for SEO

Create Good Content (With Good Keywords)

Once you have your target keywords, the next step is writing your content using those terms. Some of these best practices involve creating content, some the technical organization of the content, and some both.

Writing with Keywords

In the old days, the common practice was to just repeat the keyword(s) as many times as possible (which is called keyword stuffing). Today you can just write naturally and include variations of your target keywords. Google is smart enough to recognize and rank related keywords. For example, I don’t have to repeat “hiking in LA” multiple times. I can use natural language and variations of the phrase like “Los Angeles trails” or “LA hikes” and Google will recognize them as such.

Tools such as Yoast SEO will give you a “keyword density,” which shows how much you’ve used your keyword(s) relative to the length of content. There’s no magic number here. Use keyword density as a rough guideline, aiming for between 1%-4%. If you go over 4%, Google will interpret it as keyword stuffing and will penalize you.

It doesn’t pay to be succinct when writing your content. In general, the longer your page content, the better you will do. Pages should be a minimum of 300 words. If you analyze top search results, many of them are over 1000 (but it depends on the topic).

Google rewards copy that is readable. In general, you shouldn’t write copy that a 15 year old couldn’t read according to the Flesch Reading Ease test.

Images also help bolster your ranking. If you use images, use the HTML figure and figcaption tags to include related text.

Organize Your Content Correctly

Google looks at the semantic structure of your copy and markup to determine it’s meaning.

Use Schema

Schema is metadata in your page code that gives Google more information about your content. There is schema for all types of data at schema.org. Not all of it is recognized by Google, but they do tell you what they look for on their schema page.

It doesn’t hurt to include attributes listed on the schema.org page that are not on the Google page. I’ve seen Google expand what it looks for over the last few years.

There are a few ways to incorporate schema into your page. The cleanest way, and the method preferred by Google, is JSON-LD. Just throw the JSON in your header and call it a day.

Common schemas for web pages are reviews and articles. You should also have schema for your organization and contact info on every page.

You can test your schema with the Google Structured Data Testing Tool. It works on any webpage, so you can also use it to test your competitors’ pages.

google schema tool

Google uses some types of schema to create enhanced search results. In the example below, I’ve included “review > tourist attraction” schema on my page. Google adds the star rating based on that schema. (Star ratings also lead to better clickthrough rates on SERP results.)

schema result on google

Google also took the schema on my breadcrumbs to include the category in my results, giving searchers an overview of where the content lives and providing some context.

Other Content Ranking Factors

External SEO Ranking Factors

Google places a high value on established sources that validate your page and keywords. It does this by looking for links to your page, and the anchor text used to link. For example, if the official Los Angeles City page linked to my “hiking in LA” page with the anchor text of “hiking in LA,” Google would interpret that as an official endorsement of my content and keyword. These are called backlinks. 

When shady SEO consultants first discovered this, they set up fake websites and linked to their client’s pages. Google got wise to it and now looks at the reputation and domain authority of the page linking to your site. Backlinks from sites with a higher domain authority are more valuable.

Below is an example of backlinks to a site on Google Webmaster Tools.

google webmaster tools seo research

Not only that, but if Google thinks that your site is linked to from a fake website, it will penalize your website. Of course, sleazy SEO companies just started linking to sites they wanted to penalize with their fake sites in an effort to knock them down in the SERP result.  So Google now allows sites to “disavow” toxic backlinks to avoid a penalty.

Backlinks from social media are also a ranking factor. Google monitors public social media for links to pages. If a link has traction on social media, Google will interpret that as a sign that it’s important and timely, and will increase the search position.

Lastly, Google looks at user behavior to determine whether your page is relevant to a keyword. Google Search doesn’t look at Google Analytics (I think it’s a legal thing). What they do is see if users stay on your page after clicking through on search results.

For example, if you click on a page in the search results, and don’t go back to the search results, Google assumes that the page matched the keyword and solved the problem. If you quickly go back to the search results, Google assumes that the page wasn’t relevant to the keyword searched for. I’ve found that if you have quality content that matches your keyword, you can do really well here.

Another consideration here is what your user is greeted with when they first land on your page. If the page is slow to load, has banners or other bullshit above the fold, users will bounce. It doesn’t matter how useful or beautifully crafted your content is after that.

Technical Factors

In addition to the technical factors surrounding content, there are some other ways to help your SERP ranking.

What’s Next?

In our next post, we’ll explain how to measure and track your SEO efforts and put all the pieces together.

And if you have any questions on how to apply SEO best practices to your website and content, feel free to contact us any time.