12 SEO Best Practices That Everyone Should Follow

Most SEO best practices lists contain bad, outdated advice. Or they focus on things that few readers care about.

Not best practices, but SEO tips.

Everyone should follow best practices, whether they run a blog, eCommerce store, or local store.

In today’s post, we’ll cover the most important web page best practices.

1. Use HTTPs

HTTPS secures your site by encrypting visitor-server data. Google started using it in 2014.

Check the loading bar to see if your site uses HTTPS.

If the URL has a lock icon, it’s safe.

If not, install SSL.

Many web hosts include them. If not, LetsEncrypt offers free certificates.

The switch to HTTPS is one-time. Once installed, every page on your site—including future ones—should be secure.

2. Make sure your pages load fast

Nobody wants a slow website. Since 2010, desktop and mobile page speed have been ranking factors.

Code, server location, and images affect page speed.

Google’s Pagespeed Insights tool can help you gauge page performance. Enter a URL to get a score between 0-100 and improvement tips.

You can only test one page with Pagespeed Insights.

Check the Speed report in Google Search Console. This shows slow desktop and mobile pages and why.

Some of these issues are complex, so a developer (or technical SEO expert) should fix them.

General tips for fast pages:

CDN. Most sites have a single server. Some visitors’ data travels far before reaching their browser. Slow! CDNs copy critical resources like images to a global network of servers so they load locally.

Image-compress. Large images load slowly. Images are faster to load when compressed. Balance size and quality.

Lazy-load. Lazy-loading loads offscreen resources when needed. This means a browser doesn’t need to load all page images before using it.

Optimize themes. Choose a theme with optimised code. Check the demo with Google Pagespeed Insights.

3. Target a topic with ‘search traffic potential’

SEO requires keyword research. Trying to rank for things nobody searches for is a waste of time and money (unless you just want to attract links).

Consider selling software tutorials. “How do I make the font larger in coffee cup html editor” is a low-volume keyword.

The top-ranking page gets no organic traffic.

Search volume can be a misleading indicator of a keyword’s traffic potential.

These two keywords illustrate:

The former has a higher monthly search volume, but the top result only gets 65 US organic visits per month…The former has a higher monthly search volume, but the top result only gets 65 US organic visits per month…

People want coffee cup tutorials more than reviews.

Search volume is a good way to find keyword ideas, but check estimated traffic to rank pages for a better idea of search traffic potential.

4. Match search intent

Nobody wants product pages in “protein shake” search results.

Learners, not buyers.

All of Google’s top results are blog posts, not protein powder sales pages.

“Buy protein powder” is the opposite.

People want protein powder, not a recipe. Most top 10 results are ecommerce category pages, not blog posts.

Looking at Google’s top results can tell you a lot about a query’s intent, which can help you rank.

“Best eye cream” gets 21k monthly US searches.

For an eye cream retailer, ranking a product page for this keyword may seem logical. The search results say otherwise.

They’re mostly list-style blogs, not product pages.

Follow suit to rank for this keyword.

Creating content for search intent isn’t enough. Format and angle are also important.

Learn more in our search intent guide.

They’re mostly list-style blogs, not product pages.

Follow suit to rank for this keyword.

Creating content for search intent isn’t enough. Format and angle are also important.

Learn more in our search intent guide.

5. Target a topic in your wheelhouse

Large brands with massive backlink profiles and deep pockets dominate competitive keywords.

Look at the referring domains for “best credit card” pages:

NerdWallet, Credit Karma, and CreditCards.com dominate the top five results, which have over 300 referring domains (backlinks from unique websites).

99% of people can’t rank for this keyword short- to medium-term.

So target keywords in your niche.

Best credit cards for lounge access?

While search volume and organic traffic potential are lower than for “best credit cards,” there are fewer big brands to compete with, and you won’t need as many backlinks to rank.

How to find easier topics?

Check Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer “Phrase match” report after searching for a broad topic. Next, choose keywords with a Keyword Difficulty score under 20.

Use the Include filter to narrow irrelevant suggestions. Let’s filter our list to “best” keywords.

6. Use your target keyword in three places

Every page has a “head” keyword that people use to find it.

“Natural weight loss” is a post about losing weight naturally.

This keyword belongs in three places:

a) Title tag

Google says title tags should accurately describe page content. This should target a keyword or phrase.

It also shows searchers that your page matches their query.

This a major ranking factor? Still worth including.

Don’t force a keyword into a post if it doesn’t make sense. First, readability.

As a title tag, “cheap kitchen cabinets” makes no sense. Google can understand if you rearrange words or add stop words.

b) Heading (H1)

Every page should have a visible H1 heading that includes your keyword.

c) URL

Google recommends using relevant keywords in URLs.

Using your target query is usually easiest:

7. Use a short and descriptive URL

Long URLs may intimidate searchers, says Google.

Using the target query as the URL isn’t always recommended.

Imagine your keyword is “tooth abscess treatment without a dentist.” It’s also going to be truncated in search results.

Stop words and unnecessary details can be removed to make a sentence shorter.

It’s okay if your CMS has a predefined, ugly URL structure. Fixing it isn’t worth jumping through hoops. Google shows full URLs for fewer results nowadays.

8. Write a compelling title tag and meta description

SEO isn’t just about rankings; it’s also about clicks.

Title tags and meta descriptions appear in search results, so write them well.

You’re selling with your title tag and description.

If neither stands out, searchers will choose another. How can you improve CTR besides using your target keyword?

First, keep title tags and descriptions under 60 and 150 characters. Avoiding truncation.

Second, capitalise titles and descriptions.

Title and description should match search intent.

Almost all “best headphones” titles and descriptions include the year.

As new headphones are released frequently, people want up-to-date recommendations.

Fourth, use power words to attract clicks without clickbait.

9. Optimize images

Compressing images helps pages load quickly, but it’s not the only way to optimise them for SEO.

Use alt tags and descriptive filenames.

Both help Google understand your images, which can help your pages rank for long-tail keywords in web search—and Google Images.

Google Images is important. Over 5,500 clicks in three months:

Easy file name optimization. Just hyphenate your image description.



Use spaces, not hyphens, for alt tags.

World’s most handsome man

lt text is important for visitors and GoogleIf an image doesn’t load, the browser displays the alt tag to describe it.

8.1 million Americans with vision impairments may use a screen reader. Alt tags are read aloud.

12 Actionable Image SEO Tips

10. Write thorough content

Search volume isn’t always a good predictor of organic traffic potential because many pages get long-tail traffic.

For “best laptop brands,” this page ranks #1…

… but also for over 300 other keywords like “best computer brands” and “is lenovo a good brand”


The average top-ranking page ranks in the top 10 for almost 1,000 other keywords, according to our study of 3 million search queries.

How do you rank higher? Be thorough.

This isn’t about length, but about covering relevant subtopics. It helps SEO content like blog posts, but also other types.

Find subtopics in three ways:

a) Look for relevant keywords on the top-ranking pages

Top-ranking pages for “best laptop brands” include keywords like “dell,” “hp,” “quality,” “reliability,” and “hardware.”

b) Look at “People also ask” results

“Best laptop brands” questions concern reliability.

c) Run a Content Gap analysis

Paste three top-ranked URLs into Ahrefs’ Content Gap tool. Click “Show keywords” with the bottom field blank.

This shows queries that top pages rank for.

To refine results, disable intersections 1 and 2.

11. Add internal links from other relevant pages

Internal links connect web pages.

More external and internal links boost a page’s PageRank. This remains the basis of Google’s ranking algorithm.

Google stopped publishing PageRank scores in 2016, so you can’t view them. But Ahrefs’ URL Rating correlates with rankings.

Google understands a page’s topic through internal links.

Most CMSs automatically link to new pages from another page. This could be on the blog’s menu bar or homepage.

When you publish something new, add internal links from relevant pages.

Google site:yourdomain.com. [Title]

This returns your site’s most relevant pages about the topic.

Add internal links to relevant pages.

Ahrefs’ Site Explorer shows internal link opportunities. Paste your domain, then click “Best by Links.” This lists your site’s pages by URL.

When relevant, add internal links.

12. Get more backlinks

Google’s “how search works” page confirms this:

If other prominent websites link to the page, it means the information is good.

Don’t believe Google…

Our study of over 1 billion web pages shows a clear correlation between organic traffic and backlinks.

Quality, not quantity, matters.

Build backlinks from authoritative and relevant sites.

Read about backlinks or watch this video:

Final thoughts

Best practises can help you rank, but they’re not always enough. Other ranking factors and SEO strategies should be considered.

Read this post or watch this video if you’re still struggling to rank:

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