1. Keyword Research

Why is keyword research important? 

Keyword research can reveal a lot about searcher behaviors. It’s essential when deciding which topics to cover, but can also help you determine which keywords to prioritize, and how to use them on your page. 

Keyword types

  • Head keywords: These keywords are usually 1-2 words long. They’re often the most popular, high volume terms, which means they’re also high-competition terms — everyone wants to rank for them.
  • Long-tail keywords: These are multi-phrase keywords that are more targeted, and more niche. They’re usually lower-volume keywords, which also means there’s less competition to rank for them.  

Keyword intent

  • Navigational: Searches performed to locate a specific website — these are usually branded searches.  
  • Informational: Searches performed to answer questions or learn something. These usually surface blogs, long-form educational content, etc.
  • Transactional: Searches performed to find a product or service to purchase, these usually turn up service pages.

Selecting keyword targets

  • Primary Keyword: This is the priority keyword you would like the page to rank for, and usually, it is the keyword with the highest search volume. 
  • Secondary Keyword: This is a keyword that's closely related to your primary keyword and may even include your primary keyword as a modifier. 
  • Tertiary Keywords & Beyond: These keywords are usually long-tail keywords that are very specific. Typically, they're also lower volume. 

Best practices for choosing keyword targets

  • Select keywords that align with your audience's intent and provide answers
  • Target 2-3 main keywords per page — the goal is to create a topic focus for each page, and your keyword targets should support this topic focus 
  • Choose keywords that have a similar theme 
  • Carry your keywords throughout all page elements (e.g. title tags, meta descriptions, heading tags, content) 

Important keyword metrics:

  • Monthly search volume: Monthly search volume (MSV) is the number of times per month a particular query is searched. The higher the search volume, the more popular it is with searchers.
  • Relevancy:  How relevant the keyword is to your user's intent, or why a user is searching in the first place.

Should you choose keywords based on monthly search volume? 

While monthly search volume is important, it's not everything. Your keyword targets should always be hyper-relevant to your product offering and the information you're writing about on the page. 

How to find keywords

If you're looking to optimize an existing page, look at Page Insights to find what the page is already ranking for. From there, you can use Audience Intent Explorer to find more keywords to target. 

 

2. Optimize H1 and H2 Tags

H1 Heading Tags

What is an H1 tag?

An H1 tag is an HTML heading. It is the highest level of tag. 

Why is an H1 tag important for SEO? 

H1 tags tell search engines the main topic of a page. 

Search engines give this tag more weight than the other heading tags.

H1 tag best practices

  • Only use one H1 tag on a page
  • Include your primary keyword in the H1 tag 
  • An H1 tag should be at the top of the page content
  • An H1 tag should help the reader quickly understand what a page is about

H2 Heading Tags

What is an H2 tag?

H2s are used as subheadings to the main heading.

Why is an H2 tag important for SEO? 

An H2 tag supports the H1 and is typically used to break up the content of a page. 

H2 tag best practices

  • H2s should contain semantically related keywords 
  • Unlike the H1, you may use multiple H2s on a page 

 

3. Ensure High Content Quality

On-page content can help search engines determine a page’s topic and context. All pages should have robust, unique content that includes the keywords you are trying to target.

Why is content quality important?

Content is one of the 3 biggest ranking factors in SEO. Google's algorithm updates over the past several years have focused on ranking quality content that meets a user's intent and answers their query. 

Major algorithm updates to know: 

  • Hummingbird: Core algorithm update that emphasizes semantic, conservational search and Knowledge Graph results
  • Panda: Core ranking algorithm that filters out poor, low-quality, and duplicative content (and thus boosts high-quality content pages) 
  • Rank Brain: A machine learning system that is part of Google search’s core algorithm. Google has publicly stated that this is the 3rd most important part of their search processing. It will help Google return results for more complex, long-tail, conversational queries, and places a greater emphasis on a semantic web

What are some quality factors? 

  • Use of keyword targets & semantically related keywords
  • Natural, conversational language 
  • Content length 
  • User engagement

 

4. Use Proper SEO Content Structure

Google’s organic SERPs are becoming much richer as Google provides more and more information directly on the SERP. These new informational elements are called Universal Results. 

Common ways to structure content that generates an Answer Box

  • Paragraphs with a Q&A format 
  • Lists
  • Tables 

How to Rank for Answer Box Results 

  • Use the Content Type Explorer in Searchlight to check whether a particular keyword generates a Universal Result. 
  • See which domain gets the Answer Box. If their content isn't great, it'll be easier to grab the result. 
  • Format and write your content to rank for the Answer Box.

Note: It helps if the page you’re optimizing for already ranks on page 1, but it’s not essential to be the top-ranking result.

 

5. Optimize the Metadata for Your Page or Post

Page Title Tags & Meta Descriptions 

What is a title tag?

A title tag or meta title is the short line of text that you see in the browser title bar and on SERPs. They are coded into the head portion of a page's HTML.

Why is a title tag important?

Search engines and users place a lot of weight on these tags, because they indicate the main topic of a page. They also affect CTR from organic SERPs. 

Title tag best practices:

  • Lead with your primary keyword 
  • Keep the tag under 55-60 characters to avoid truncation 
  • Include branding at the end of the tag 
  • Ensure the tag reads naturally 

What is a meta description?

Meta descriptions are the 2-line descriptions you see in SERPs. They also live in the head code of your page's HTML. 

Why is meta description important?

Like the title tag, it provides a short description your page’s content. It's important for messaging and CTR. 

Meta description best practices:

  • Keep the description under 156 characters to avoid truncation 
  • Include primary and secondary keywords, if possible
  • Refine your messaging so you optimize for the click, while accurately depicting what the page is about 

6. Technical SEO Considerations

URL Syntax

Why are URLs important to SEO?

URLs:

  • Help increase CTR
  • Help users and search engines better understand the topic of a page
  • Factor into rankings

For the most part, CMSes typically generate a URL based on the page name. However, in the case where you have to custom-write a URL, there are some best practices to keep in mind.

URL Best Practices

When creating a URL:

  • Include primary keyword in the URL
  • Use hyphens (-) to separate words (e.g. /page-name) 
  • Ensure the URL is easy to read & understand (users should know a page’s topic by looking at its URL) 

URLs should not include: 

  • Query string parameters (e.g. ?sub=)
  • Hashbangs (e.g. #section) 
  • Spaces 
  • Uppercase letters (e.g. /This-Is-not-A-Good-URL)
  • Underscores (e.g. /this_is_not_a_good_url)

 

Canonical Tags

What is a canonical tag?

Canonical tags tell search engines which URL to index, pass SEO authority to, and rank. 

Why are canonical tags important to SEO? 

Canonical tags help fix important SEO issues, like duplicate content. 

For example, if your team is appending UTM campaign trackers when sharing blog content on social media or doing media outreach, these other URLs may also get indexed. 

  • https://www.example.com <-- this is the preferred URL that we want in the index and ranking
  • https://www.example.com/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social
  • https://www.example.com/?utm_source=paid&utm_medium=banner

A canonical tag helps tell search engines which URL is the preferred URL for indexing.

How do you add canonical tags to your pages?

Canonical tags go in the head section of a page's HTML. The canonical tag should always point to the preferred version of the URL. 

link rel="canonical" href="PREFERRED URL"