Here are the SEO rules to follow if you want to rank in search engines:
- Use keywords strategically and naturally
- Target the right keywords
- Create unique, helpful content
- Link to high-quality, relevant content
- Keep your content updated and accurate
- Align with Google's guidelines
- Provide a great user experience
We've outlined these 7 SEO rules in detail below.
1. Use Keywords Strategically and Naturally
Keywords are how you tell the search engines what your page is about. Years ago, marketers would use the same keyword over and over in an attempt to signal to Google that they were relevant to that term.
The thought was, if Google ranked you #4 for a keyword you use 10 times, then it would rank you #1 if you used it 20 times. I know math is hard, but that makes sense right?
Well, that only lasted a short time. Those who used keyword stuffing as a way to manipulate search results found themselves without any traffic.
Keyword stuffing not only makes your content read like crap, it dilutes ranking signals. Here is what I mean.
Google uses time on site as a ranking signal. The longer someone is on your website, the more Google feels it is relevant. If someone cannot read your content because it is so full of keywords it reads like a foreign language, they will click off your site quickly. When Google sees people leaving quickly, it knows your quality is only just above the sewer line and not worth ranking.
My recommendation is to use LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords in your content. Simply create content with a few keywords you want to rank for, but use them sparingly (2 to 3 times for a 500-800 word article). Then use LSI keywords through the article to supplement the main ones.
“Keyword-stuffing” is the biggest mistake you can make as a content marketer. It offers nothing for readers and will ultimately get you ignored by Google.
2. Target the Right Keywords
Do your normal keyword research. However, keep in mind that using the most relevant keyword isn’t always the best strategy, especially when 70,000+ people are already using the keyword.
Look for similar or unique keywords that are still just as relevant to your message but fewer people are using them. Focus on these as you will be able to rank higher with not as much effort. Try to set your keywords and their synonyms up in a way that complement one another. This will allow your writers to create content that sounds natural to the reader.
You can use crowded keywords, but try to use them as your keyword synonyms. When you find your “dark horse keywords,” build your strategy with them.
If you do decide to use crowded keywords, I recommend using the Skyscraper Technique to do it. If you are not familiar, it basically means you take content that ranks high for that keyword, then build on it to make it better.
3. Create Unique, Helpful Content
A great SEO strategy always involves generating unique content.
Making sure that your content is useful and well-written is just as important as the SEO strategy you design for it.
Let me put it to you like this …
If your content isn’t unique, few people will read it. When fewer people read it, fewer ranking signals are shown to Google. And well, you know the rest.
Unique means more than just “quality.” You need to provide something your readers haven’t seen before. In the previous section, I linked to SEMrush's post about the Skyscraper Technique. If you go to that page, it's about a unique content strategy to take advantage of.
4. Link to High-Quality, Relevant Content
There is so much focus on incoming links that many webmasters forget that external links are important as well.
You must make sure your external links all lead to quality content. Don’t just link for the sake of linking or you will shoot your SEO strategy in the foot.
Bad or broken links lead to upset customers and can affect your Google rankings (which is also why you need to update your site regularly – I will cover this in the next section).
Take your time, and really choose links that are relevant, impactful, and from sites that have been around a while. Those are the relationships you want to build and the quality Google will reward.
With that in mind, I will also recommend NOT linking to content that already ranks high for the keyword you are trying to rank for. Essentially, you are giving them link juice and showing Google that their content is slightly better than yours.
5. Keep Your Content Updated and Accurate
Ever been to a website that hasn’t been updated for 10 years? Did you stay long? If you’re like the majority of internet users, the answer is ‘no’.
Stay active on your website and update your channels regularly. It’s virtually impossible to see any rankings increase from an inactive domain.
Don’t be scared to update your content. In fact, you will see articles with hat notes all the time that say “updated for 2020” or something similar. You can see from the screenshot above how a marketing firm turned a post into evergreen content with a simple update.
This is why it is important to analyze your content to find out what isn’t working. You can update content that isn’t ranking in an attempt to get it higher in search results.
6. Align with Google's Guidelines
Google is constantly updating its best practices, so make sure you stay up to date. Most changes are minor, but you need to stay up to date nonetheless.
If Google does something minor like devaluing URLs with specific keywords, this is definitely something you need to know when creating content (I doubt that will happen. Don’t panic, it’s just an example).
So make sure you stay up to date!
7. Provide a Great User Experience
You also need to monitor your website speed. Make sure it’s quick and responsive. I know you’ve probably heard this before, but it really is that important, especially in a mobile world.
Let me ask you this. If site speed ISN’T important, why did Google come out with AMP? Exactly my point!
You should check the functionality of your site on a regular basis. If you notice site speed slowing down, it’s time to find out why. Use a tool like SEMrush Site Audit to analyze your load time and find any bottlenecks in the process.
You’ll get a breakdown of your website’s speed and performance. It should look like this:
If everything’s in the green, you’re good to go. If you’re seeing poor loading times and bad performance grades, that’s a sure-fire sign that something’s wrong with your site.
Check the speed regularly, especially after large updates. A good rule of thumb is to run a general test like Pingdom at least once a week.
As you build relationships and expand your marketing strategy, the little things will make a difference. Pay attention to simple SEO techniques such as these and you will likely head down the road of better search rankings.
Even if you’re not ready to implement a full-blown strategy, taking the time to set-up some basic search-friendly elements can still yield results.
How do you incorporate SEO into your marketing campaigns? Let us know in the comments.