Have you mastered the seo basics?

It takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become world-class in any field, according to Malcom Gladwell in his book Outliers. Luckily, you don’t need nine years of extensive experience to master of Search Engine Optimization – all you need is five minutes (to read this cheat sheet) and these five things.  

  1. Maintain and optimize your website.
    Everything you do in SEO has the purpose of gaining attention and traffic to your website, so it’s important to have a well performing, appealing, and useful site. A critical component to this is technical SEO. That’s the back-end development and maintenance aimed at optimizing your site for search engines like Google to find, crawl and index your pages.
    Master it:
    Track your site speed and site health. To keep your site running at optimal site speed, your page load time be two seconds or less and pay attention to slow speed indicators like cumulative layout shift (the unexpected shifting of elements while the page is downloading). Crawl your site and fix 400 errors or duplicate title tags to keep your site healthy.
  2. Prioritize mobile-friendly website design.
    Pay close attention to your mobile website design. In 2021, 54.8% of website traffic worldwide is from a mobile device. Google also prioritizes mobile page load time in its ranking algorithm, making it important to stay competitive in this area. 
    Master it:
    Measure and improve your mobile site speed. Aim for a page load time closer to one second, and note any increases in bounce rate, which can be positively correlated with longer load times.
  3. Create content that aligns to user search intent.
    To help with SEO lift, you should be creating content that is directly related to what users are searching for. For example, if someone searches “how to clean a pool” they are likely looking for blogs and articles that explain the steps and details of cleaning a pool, not a product listing on an e-commerce site for chlorine and pool skimmers. 
    Master it:
    To rank higher for an important keyword, keep content specific to that query on your website. An indicator your content strategy is working is your click-through rate. An increased click-through rate indicates that users have found what they are looking for.
  4. Cross-link within your site.
    Internal linking – or cross-linking to other pages or content within your site – help search engines like Google to get a better idea of what information is on the page and identify new content it hasn’t crawled yet. It also helps your users find what they need quickly and easily, improving their experience on your site.
    Master it:
    Important content should be no more than 2-3 clicks from the homepage. If your content strategy is working, your crawl depth (the extent to which search engines are indexing pages on your site) should increase. If you’ve made changes to your site recently, make sure you’ve checked for broken links and replaced them with the new page URLs to avoid penalties from Google. 
  5. Build high-value backlinks.
    While internal links are important to maintain the health of your website, backlinks help Google verify you’re a credible source for information. A backlink refers to external links from other websites that lead to your website. Google rates the relevancy of content between the two linked pages and evaluates the authority of the website linking to your website. Well-known and respected websites will have a higher authority score and will produce a more valuable backlink. For example, Google would consider a backlink from New York Times to be high quality and would rank your website higher as a result.  And just as much as they can help lift you up the search engine results page (SERP), they can also drag you down. When spammy, low quality websites with low authority scores link to your site, Google questions just how reliable your site is.
    Master it:
     You can evaluate the health of your backlinks by monitoring toxicity scores and authority scores. A website’s Toxic Score is based on a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 being good and 100 being very toxic. Any website with a toxic score above 60 that links to your site could have lasting negative consequences. On the opposite spectrum is a site’s authority score. The higher the score, the more weight a domain or website’s backlinks could have on your site. These measurements can help by identify potentially negative backlinks (low authority, high toxicity) and find opportunities to acquire new backlinks from high authority and low toxicity pages.