SEO Best practices

You can implement various strategies to get your website ranked on Google. However, as you gain more experience as an SEO, you’ll find that only some of them yield a positive impact in the long run. 

So, how do you decide what to focus on for the most sustainable results?

In this article, I’ve listed 20 SEO best practices that will help your website rank high in search engines, attract your target audience, and convert them into paid customers. 

Let’s start with the basics of how to boost your website’s indexability to make sure it’s searchable on Google.

Get Your Content On Google

In the past years of my SEO career, I’ve worked with various clients, from startups to established companies. 

Regardless of the business size, I’ve seen the same SEO mistake — most site owners think their websites become searchable right after hitting the “Publish” button. 

SEO doesn’t work this way.

Every content piece you publish should go through the following steps before getting to the Google index:

  1. Discovering
  2. Crawling
  3. Rendering
  4. Indexing

If your content is stuck on the first or second step, it will never rank on Google or any other search engines for that matter.

So, what are SEO best practices that affect your website traffic? Here is what you can (and should) do to ensure your website is on Google.

1. Get Started with Google Search Console

Managing a website without Google Search Console is like navigating a ship in the dark without a compass — you’re left without crucial insights and tools to steer your online presence in the right direction.

So, if you don’t have a verified Google Search Account yet, I recommend prioritizing this task. 

Google Search Console will help you get the most reliable data about your website’s impressions and clicks in organic search results. Furthermore, you’ll be able to track any technical issues on your website and take prompt action. 

If you’re not sure where to start, Google has a detailed guide on how to add and verify a property in Google Search Console. 

Google Search Console Indexing

2. Monitor Indexing Issues 

Every web page that doesn’t have a “No Index” tag should be available on Google. However, that’s an ideal case scenario. 

Some of your website pages might be discovered and crawled by Google Bot but are not added to the Google main index. In this case, users will never find your pages in organic search results because they won’t be searchable. 

You can track your website indexing in the “Pages” report in Google Search Console. This report also shows you all your indexing errors, if there are any. 

Alternatively, you can inspect any URL using the Google Search Console search bar. 

I recommend paying attention to the following two indexing issues that can occur to recently published pages:

Crawled – not indexed: A web crawler (such as Google Bot) has accessed a particular web page on your website but has not included that page in its index.

Discovered – not indexed: Google discovered your web page but did not crawl it because the crawl could overload your website. Therefore, Google rescheduled the crawl.

Based on my experience, these issues can be resolved automatically. However, it’s worth monitoring your website indexing status and addressing the issues on time.

GSC URL Inspection

3. Create an XML Sitemap

An XML sitemap is an essential when it comes to SEO best practices. It’s like a roadmap that contains all essential web pages, making it easier for search engines to discover and crawl your website. 

Even though some experts say XML sitemaps are not compulsory because Google Bots can discover new URLs using internal linking, I highly recommend creating an XML sitemap for your website.

It will help search engines understand the structure of your website and the relationship between different pages, discover pages without internal links (orphan pages), and identify pages that have been updated since the last crawling. 

Now, open your website home page and add /sitemap.xml to the URL. Can you see a list of URLs? If not, your site does not have a sitemap. 

You can create an XML sitemap using various tools, including content management system (CMS) plugins. Alternatively, you can ask a developer to create a sitemap and add it to the root folder of your website. 

Once your sitemap is ready, add it to Google Search Console here. 

GSC Sitemap

4. Create a Robots.txt File

Robots.txt is a text file placed in the root directory of your website that informs search engine bots about what pages and directories of your website can be crawled. 

Remember that crawling is a second step after discovering, followed by rendering and indexing. 

If you want to exclude specific directories on your website from being indexed, you can do it via the robots.txt file. 

For example, it’s a common practice to exclude test website environments, client dashboards, and WordPress admin panels in robots.txt. This way, web crawlers won’t waste their crawling budget on your website pages, which are closed for indexing. 

Even though the robots.txt file isn’t considered compulsory, I highly recommend creating it. This way, you’ll have complete control over what is crawled and indexed on your website. 

If you wonder whether your website has a robots.txt file, add /robots.txt to your website’s URL.

robots txt

5. Fix 4xx Errors, If Any

A 4xx status code denotes an error on the client side (typically your browser). In other words, the server can’t return a destination URL for some reason. 

The last two digits of the HTTP status codes explain why your website’s web page isn’t accessible. 

For example, a 404 code means “the page is not found,” and it’s unknown whether or not it will be accessible again. On the other hand, 410 code means the page is permanently gone. If you’re interested, I wrote an in-depth article explaining what each 4xx status code means. 

If your website has multiple 4xx errors that are not fixed over time, Google may crawl your website less frequently, and eventually, these pages will be removed from the index. 

If you see a page returning 404 that should return the “200 OK” status, check Google Search Console to learn more about the issue and add it to your technical SEO KPIs task list. 

GSC 404

6. Optimize Page Loading Speed

According to Google, page loading speed is one of the user experience metrics that impact rankings. 

It’s not among the main ranking factors, though. So, you won’t see a substantial rankings boost after improving a page loading speed. 

Nevertheless, your website pages should load quickly enough to ensure a smooth on-site user experience.

Whether you launch a new website or conduct an SEO audit of an existing website, use the PageSpeed Insights tool developed by Google to check page loading speed and improvement recommendations.

Page speed insights

7. Optimize URLs

Google recommends using short and descriptive URLs that convey essential information about a web page and its content for users and search engines. 

  • Good URL structure example: site.com/art-canvas-print
  • Bad URL structure example: site.com//index.php?id_sezione=360&sid=3a5ebc944f41d

I’m sure you’ve seen this poor URL structure a few times when browsing the web. Such URLs don’t follow SEO best practices — they’re long, unfriendly, and confusing. Whenever I see such a web page loading, I often think it’s spam. 

Therefore, ensure your website settings let you customize URL slugs. I also recommend including your target keyword in the URL slug. It’s not a strong ranking factor, but it will help Google better understand what your web page is about. 

If you want to learn more about keywords and how to find one, check my in-depth article about the importance of keywords for SEO.

8. Align Your Content With Search Intent 

Search intent is the “why” behind a user’s query.

In other words, it’s why people insert their queries into search bars. 

Failure to align your content with search intent will result in losing page rankings, even if you target low-competition keywords. 

Therefore, I always recommend analyzing search engine result pages (SERP) for the target keyword to understand and align your content and users’ search intent.

You can also check search intent using Semrush’s Keyword Overview, which shows search intent for every keyword and semantically related keywords. 

Note that keywords with transactional search intent will always have medium or high keyword difficulty because many website owners compete for the top 10 positions in organic search results. 

Semrush Keyword Overview

9. Publish Human Written Content 

Since the ChatGPT introduction in November 2022, many website owners have relied on AI tools for content creation. 

Guess what the majority of them do? They use ChatGPT and similar tools to generate content to manipulate ranking in search results, even though Google explicitly mentioned it’s a violation of their spam policy. 

Google has already launched multiple core algorithm updates, including Helpful Content Update, to clean search results and provide users with relevant results. 

I’m sure more is yet to come!

Therefore, I recommend complying with Google’s E-E-A-T and YMYL content quality guidelines to grow your website in organic search results.

Keeping E-E-A-T in mind doesn’t mean you can’t use AI-generated content, though. It simply means your content should reflect your expertise, experience, authority, and trustworthiness whether or not you use AI generation tools. 

E-E-A-T and YMYL

10. Use On-Page Optimization Strategies

Last but not least, an essential factor for your website’s organic growth is on-page optimization.

Despite the rumors that SEO is dead and keyword targeting no longer works, on-page SEO is as important as it used to be. The impact of SEO is phenomenal if you follow proven-to-work strategies. 

Whenever you work on new content for your website that needs to rank on Google, follow these strategies:

  1. Identify relevant keywords and phrases for your content.
  2. Create high-quality, informative, and engaging content.
  3. Optimize your title tags with target keywords.
  4. Write compelling meta descriptions to make users click (keep reading to learn how to do it).
  5. Use header H1 tags (plus H2 and H3) to structure content and include keywords.
  6. Link to related pages within your website for better user navigation.
  7. Choose your outbound links wisely.
  8. Optimize images with descriptive filenames and alt tags.
  9. Create clean, descriptive URLs with keywords where applicable.

Improve Your Organic Click-Through Rates (CTRs) with These SEO Best Practices

Backlinko analyzed four million Google search results and discovered that the top five spots account for over 69% of all clicks. In other words, most users’ attention is directed to the top five results on Google. 

If users come across your web pages in organic search results but don’t click, implement the SEO best practices I describe below to make your website stand out. 

Google Organic CTR
Source: Backlinko

1. Create Unique Metadata

When I say metadata, I refer to the meta title and meta description. These are the first things users see when scrolling the search engine result page.

Before creating a meta title and description for your web page, do a competitor website traffic analysis to review who’s already ranking in the top 10 … and how catchy their metadata is. 

Note that metadata should be optimized, descriptive, and, most importantly, honest. If you promise something in the meta title, ensure your content delivers on that promise. 

For example, if you Google “Art galleries in Chicago,” you’ll see that most organic search results are boring — they look pretty similar. 

Imagine you’ve created the following meta title for your web page: 3 Art galleries in Chicago to visit in one day (for 2024).

How do you like the new meta title? I bet it would attract more eyeballs than existing search results. 

Google Search Art Galleries Chicago

2. Use Power Words in Meta Titles

Power words are effective for creating compelling and attention-grabbing meta titles. 

A meta title can trigger emotions and help users relate to your brand before visiting your website. For example, you can use power words like: 

  • Secret
  • Discover
  • Proven
  • Master
  • Ultimate
  • Revolutionize
  • Unlock
  • Achieve
  • Elevate
  • Dominate
  • and Ignite

To create a sense of curiosity, urgency, and value, making a meta title more appealing to users. 

I recommend experimenting with the power words to discover what works best for your target audience. 

SEO Title Power word

3. Include Numbers in Meta Titles

You might have noticed that many organic search results contain numbers. It’s not by chance! 

By including numbers, you make your meta title more specific, actionable, and catchy compared to your competitors.

If most search results are text-heavy, adding numbers will help attract users’ attention and communicate the value they’ll get from reading your content. 

Here’s what you can mention in a meta title:

  • A list of actionable items (for checklists or how-to guides)
  • The number of items from a listicle
  • The number of products and prices (for ecommerce websites)
  • The year of publication or when you updated it to show that your content is fresh 
SEO Title Numbers

4. Use Structured Data Markup 

Structured data helps search engines better understand your website content, which can lead to enhanced search results and rich snippets in SERP features.

You might have heard of Schema.org, which is a standardized vocabulary for website owners to describe the content and its attributes.

If you are tech-savvy, you can manually write code using Schema markup vocabulary. Alternatively, you can use plugins for content management systems (CMS) and generators. 

You can start with breadcrumbs and add FAQ, product, event, or how-to structured data, to name a few. 

I recommend setting up structured data for a new web page before publication or updating existing content. Based on my experience, Google displays rich snippets a few days after updating content for web pages ranking in the top 10 organic search results. 

Structured Data

5. Optimize for Featured Snippets

A featured snippet is a small block of text that appears at the top of Google search results to answer your questions quickly. It’s sometimes referred to as a zero search result.

Besides 40–60 words definitions, you can also see tables, how-to steps, and lists as featured snippets. 

Optimizing for featured snippets can help your website get extra clicks even if your website does not rank in the top three positions. How is this possible? Well, according to Backlinko, 99% of all featured snippets are pulled from pages ranking on the first Google search result page. 

So if your web page is among the top 10 organic search results, you should optimize your content for a chance to get a featured snippet and extra eyeballs to your content.

Featured Snippets

Improve Your Organic Conversion Rates (CRs)

The ultimate goal of launching and growing a website is profit, right? 

After all, money invested in website creation, content writing, and any other PR activities should pay off. 

The following SEO best practices are organic conversion rate optimization (CRO) strategies that worked well for me in the past years of my SEO career. 

1. Use Call-to-Actions (CTAs)

If you don’t ask your audience to perform a specific action, they’re less likely to take the action you want them to take. 

Therefore, ensure you use CTAs in your content, whether it’s a landing page or a blog post. The only difference will be how you place your CTAs. 

Landing pages usually have button CTAs with a clear and actionable copy. However, I recommend using in-text CTAs in blog posts. Linking internally to various pages on your website is a powerful SEO strategy. Moreover, users will likely read in-text CTAs rather than banners. 

Using one CTA copy on a landing page is also a good practice. This way, you won’t confuse users viewing your landing page. 

You can ask your target audience to buy a product, fill out a contact form, download a lead magnet (more about this later), or subscribe to your updates. For example, Semrush uses a mix of different CTAs in its content, ensuring they are related to the blog post topic. 

Semrush CTAs

2. Customize Offers According to Users’ Search Intent 

If your target audience is in the decision-making model, you are unlikely to make a sale, no matter how many CTAs you use. 

Therefore, you must understand the search intent behind users’ queries to make relevant offers. I keep repeating this in most of my articles because it’s that important for SEO and your business overall.

I recommend having a dedicated marketing funnel for every product you are selling. Most of your informational content will be helpful during the awareness and consideration steps. 

You can now ask your target audience to download a lead magnet, read reviews, subscribe to your newsletter, try a product demo, or sign up for a free trial. It’s not a sale yet, but you are one step closer to it. 

Once your audience reaches the conversion step, direct them to the landing page to finalize the sale. It’s a proven-to-work strategy that takes into account people’s behavioral characteristics and decision-making steps. 

Marketing Funnel

3. Add Chatbots to High-Performing Pages

I once experimented with a chatbot on a B2B lead generation page – the results were pretty promising. 

Instead of asking people to fill out a form and wait for someone to contact them, we added a chatbot to the lead generation page to answer users’ questions and address their concerns immediately — and people loved it.

After all, being faster than your competitors matters a lot nowadays!

A chatbot helped make a conventional page interactive and engaging, generating more leads for the client.

4. Use Lead Magnets

I’ve already mentioned lead magnets as a CRO strategy related to SEO best practices.

Lead magnets are incentives or valuable resources you can offer your target audience in exchange for their contact information, usually their email addresses. The primary goal of lead magnets is to attract potential customers, nurture them, and eventually convert them into paying customers.

Based on my experience, ebooks with industry trends, how-to guides, and checklists help collect users’ contact information that you can later use for email marketing. 

For example, Semrush has a powerful lead magnet strategy offering free online marketing courses, where you learn the subject using Semrush tools. This way, Semrush shows the value of its toolkit and attracts new clients.

Lead Magnets

 5. Do A/B Tests

I’m sure you’ve heard of A/B testing, also called split testing, as one of the “old school” CRO strategies. It’s effective because you compare two identical web pages where only one element differs, such as a CTA copy, a button placement, a headline, etc. 

This lets you quickly identify what resonates best with your target audience. 

Note that your website should get substantial monthly organic traffic to get statistically significant results. 

AB test

Follow SEO Best Practices That Help You Achieve Your Goals

Now you’re armed with proven SEO best practices that will help you outperform your competitors, you’ve got everything you need to grow your website in organic search results.

Wondering which tool can help you achieve your SEO goals? 

Try Semrush Pro for free to supercharge your online presence.

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