10 Best Practices for Great SEO When Building A Website
Why You Should Consider SEO Best Practices When Building A Website
A common misconception people have about building websites is: “If you build a website, they (visitors) will come.” The reality is that you need a website plus the power of SEO to rise to the top of search results where 75% of website clicks occur. (Informza)
Why? Because SEO introduces your website and its content to Google and other search engines so they can share it with consumers that are most likely to be your potential customers. And that's important because without a formal introduction your content won't be found.
Search engine optimization also helps search engines understand how to categorize your content so it appears in the right search results. That way your business is showcased to consumers who are already looking for the products or services you offer.
And SEO helps you build a website full of the most sought-after information and resources that attract your target audience like a magnet.
Unfortunately, many website developers have no clue about SEO! So they don’t follow SEO best practices when planning, designing, and building a website. And that is one of the reasons why more than 90% of pages receive no organic traffic from Google. (Ahrefs)
Let’s get you up to speed on some SEO best practices so your website stands a better chance of attracting visitors and rising to the top of search results quickly when it’s launched.
10 Best Practices for Great SEO When Building A Website
1. Start By Choosing The Right Keywords
Why do I recommend choosing your keywords first?
Because the keywords you choose will dictate the type and amount of content you need to create for your website, and give you an idea of how difficult it will be to rise to the top of search results.
Choosing your keywords FIRST also helps you be very strategic about the content you create so you don’t waste a bunch of time creating content that’s never going to bring visitors to your website.
What do I mean by the “right” keywords?
The “right” keywords:
- Are the terms and phrases your target audience uses when searching for businesses like yours. They’re also important terms and phrases for your industry, niche, products, and services.
- Have as many searches per month as possible, within your ability to rank. Your goal, when creating a website, is to get as many visitors as possible who are interested in your offers.
But here’s the challenge. Typically, the keywords with the highest searches each month are more difficult to rank for because everyone is targeting them.
This is where working with an SEO expert can really make a difference. A good SEO provider can identify similar, relevant keywords with a decent number of searches per month that are within your ability to rank.
For example, if you’re a dog trainer who is just launching a new website for your business, you might want to know that the keyword “dog trainer” has 14,900 searches per month in the U.S. but has an SEO difficulty of 54. That means it's really hard to rise to the top of search results using this keyword.
Whereas, if you use a similar term like “obedience training,” although it only has 3,400 searches per month in the U.S., it will be much easier to rank at the top of search results because this term has an SEO difficulty of 38.
Or the term “K9 training”... although it only has 3,300 searches per month, it is relatively easy to rank well in search results for this term because it has an SEO difficulty of 23.
Staying flexible about the terms you use to describe your business, products, and services, and choosing the most relevant terms within your ability to rank will ensure that your website rises to the top of search results as quickly as possible.
2. Know The Search Intent For Each Keyword You Choose
When you enter a word or phrase in the search bar of your browser, you have an idea of the type of content you expect to find in the search results. This is search intent… the type of content consumers intend to reach when searching for information.
Why is this important? Well, think about it. When you enter a term like “apartments for rent,” you expect to see a list of apartments that are available to rent in a particular geographic area. Right? You wouldn’t be interested in seeing listings for apartment complexes that are for sale or articles about how to show apartments for rent.
Likewise, if you search for a medical condition like diabetes or hypertension, you expect to find a list of articles that tell you exactly what the medical condition is, what symptoms you might expect, how the condition is diagnosed and treated, and what you can do to recover.
Or, if you search for chocolate cake, you’re likely wanting to find a recipe that helps you make the most delicious chocolate cake from scratch. And you won’t just want to know what ingredients you’ll need. You’ll also want step-by-step instructions and photographs of important steps along the way. You’ll probably also want to know what size cake the recipe will make, how many servings it will yield, and nutritional information like calories per serving and such. And wouldn’t it be a bonus if there was a video that showed you how to decorate your cake like a pro?
Sadly, your content will never rank well in search results if it doesn’t match search intent!
Unfortunately, many people… smart people… choose a great target keyword, then create the wrong type of content for it on their website, and wonder why they don’t rank well in search results.
So once you develop a list of target keywords, make sure you understand what type of content is presented at the top of search results. Then be sure you create that type of content for your website.
3. Focus On Delivering The Best User Experience Possible
Delivering a great user experience makes it more likely that visitors will enjoy visiting your website, stay on it once they get there, and keep coming back for more of what you offer. It also means they’ll be more likely to share your content with others, which drives more free traffic to your site.
What makes a great user experience?
Page Speed - A website that loads quickly: No one has time to wait around for a site that takes forever to load… mobile users least of all. Mobile users account for half of all website traffic (Statista) and 53% of mobile users indicated they will leave a site that takes longer than 3 seconds to load. (Google)
And, when it comes to page speed, every second counts… for bounce rate (the number of visitors who abandon a website before or immediately after it loads) and conversion rate (the number of visitors who take a desired action or make a purchase after reaching a website).
Navigation - Features that make it easy for visitors to find the content they want: Menus, a search button, and links to other related content on your site make it easy for visitors to quickly and easily find what they want.
Eye-Catching Images and Graphics: If you want to leave a lasting impression with your visitors (and, trust me, you do!) then your website needs to include high-quality photos and images.
Why? Because images are immediately stored in long-term memory where they stay forever. Words, text, concepts, and ideas, on the other hand, are processed by our short-term memory which can only retain about 7 bits of information. (Innovative Research Methods) By pairing text with high-impact visuals, we can significantly increase retention rate and thereby leave a lasting impression with our visitors.
Questions That Help Ensure Your Content Delivers A Positive User Experience
- Do visitors actually spend time consuming and interacting with your content? Or do they immediately abandon it?
- Do the same users return to your content multiple times or share it with others?
- Is it easy for visitors to find the information they need?
- Do website links and pages work properly, or do they generate error messages?
- Does the content load fast and display properly on all devices a visitor might use?
- Do you respond to visitors’ comments, questions, and reviews?
4. Select A Memorable Domain Name
When choosing your domain name, you want it to be something that’s easy for consumers to read, remember, spell, and type.
Why? Because people prefer things that are easy to think about, a process known as “cognitive fluency.” And here’s how “cognitive fluency” works in relation to your website: The easier it is for consumers to remember, spell, type… and even say… your domain name (and your business name), the more likely they are to:
- Feel it will be easy to work with you or buy from you
- Seriously consider your products or services
- Quickly and effortlessly make a decision to work with you or buy from you.
For these reasons, it’s best to avoid:
- Words that are easily misspelled, are difficult to spell, or are intentionally creatively spelled such as using “lyfe” for “life.”
- Hyphens (ie: www.my-domain-name.com) and underscores (ie: www.my_domain_name.com) which are difficult to remember and type.
- Top level domains other than .com
If the .com version of your domain name is not available, .net or .co are ok but, at this time, the .com version will result in more direct traffic.
5. Use A Reputable Hosting Provider
Choosing the least expensive host for your website is not good for your website and will cost you in the long run. Instead, take the time to do some research and select a reputable hosting service.
A reputable website host will provide:
- A secure environment for the websites it hosts and have good security measures in place to deter threats.
Think of it this way… would you rather go snorkeling in shark infested waters with just your own safety gear, or with a diving company that has set up shark nets and has a team of experienced divers standing guard to deter sharks from swimming where you and other snorkelers will be? Because, trust me… when hackers find a way into one website on a server, it becomes a feeding frenzy.
- A reliable environment for the websites it hosts.
An unstable server, or a server with software that doesn’t play nice means your website will “go down” (be unavailable) and there’s not a thing you will be able to do about it except wait.
Unfortunately, while you’re waiting for service to be restored, you will lose customers because the majority of people who try to visit a website that’s not working will leave and never come back.
- Fast servers that use the latest technologies to manage and improve server performance.
Beginning in 2021, Page Speed (how fast a website loads and is available for visitors to use) became a factor in where a website ranks in search results. Why? Because more and more consumers are choosing mobile devices, where speed and efficiency are critical, as their first choice for accessing the Internet.
While there are many things you can do to ensure you have a fast website, none is more important than choosing a hosting service that has fast servers.
- Exceptional customer service.
When something goes wrong with your website or your account, you want to know that your hosting service can help you find the answers and get the problem fixed… fast!
6. Choose An Efficient, Well-Maintained, Responsive Theme
The theme you choose for your website not only determines how pretty your website will be and how easy it will be to design and maintain, it also affects how large, fast, and reliable your site will be.
Free themes may seem like an economical way to go at first. But do you really want to have to rebuild your entire website… from scratch… in a year or two when the developer can no longer afford to continue to pour his/her valuable time and effort into a free theme? Of course not!
Themes, like Divi and Thrive Themes, that use a lot of shortcodes to accomplish fundamental tasks may be easy to use but they make your website unnecessarily large and slow.
Instead, you need a fast, efficient, responsive premium theme like Genesis or Beaver Builder that enables you to create a beautiful, efficient, and mobile-friendly website.
7. Make Sure Your Website URL Begins With https://
What’s The Difference Between http:// And https://?
I could get into a lot of technical details about Secure Socket Layer (SSL) but, in a nutshell, the difference is security. The website whose URL begins with https:// has an extra layer of security to protect the website and its visitors.
Why Is https:// Important?
There are lots of technical reasons why this extra layer of security is important. But, as a new website owner, the one that is likely most important to you is that many browsers will not allow their users to visit websites that do not use this security standard. Instead, they display an error message that prevents the visitor from reaching your website.
How Do You Make Your Website URL Begin With https:// ?
You will need to install and configure an SSL certificate to add the Secure Socket Layer of protection to your site. Some website hosting services require you to purchase your SSL certificate separately. If your site is hosted by SiteGround, an SSL certificate is included in your plan.
8. Design For Mobile First To Ensure You Have A Mobile Friendly Website
In September 2020, Google began using “mobile-first indexing” for all websites. This means that Google “predominantly uses the mobile version of your website for indexing and ranking.”
Unfortunately, most website themes have you develop your site for desktop by default. Then you must go back and modify your content for mobile. That’s the complete opposite of how Google works.
You might be wondering why I focus so much on Google when there are lots of other browsers out there like Bing, Yahoo, Firefox, Safari. And the reason is that Google has the largest market share of Internet searches at more than 3.5 billion searches per day.
More than half of overall website traffic comes from mobile users, where speed and size are critical because mobile devices have limited resources. To better understand the impact of page speed for mobile users, Google analyzed 11 million landing pages and the results might surprise you.
For these reasons, you need to make the mobile version of your website your top priority and ensure that:
- Your content looks great on mobile devices.
- Your links and navigation are easily tappable on mobile devices.
- Website forms are easy to use on mobile devices.
- Your images are properly sized for mobile screens… especially if they include text... so important information is not cut off.
- Your images open in a lightbox so mobile users can tap on them and expand the images to see small details.
9. Include A Search Feature On Your Site
A search feature enables your visitors to find exactly what they’re looking for and have more control over their interactions with your content. In addition, mobile users often don’t use a website’s navigation features because navigation often doesn’t work well on mobile. Instead, mobile users prefer to search for what they need.
And visitors who use your on-site search feature are 216% more likely to convert than visitors who use other methods to navigate your content. They know what they want, have often conducted their research, and are close to making a buying decision. Having a search feature that enables them to find exactly what they want on your site may encourage them to choose you over other options.
10. Create A Custom 404 Page
404 is an error code that websites generate when the requested content cannot be found. If you don’t have a custom 404 page on your website, the 404 error code will be sent back to the search engine. This signals the search engine to display a generic error page like the one below.
And… just… like… that… the visitor that you worked so hard to attract is gone!
Wouldn’t you rather have a way to keep these visitors on your site, interacting with your content, moving closer to a decision to buy from you?
Then you need to create a custom 404 error page. Click here to learn more about 404 error messages and how to create an awesome, custom 404 page for your site.
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