There are thousands of research papers, case studies, and exhaustively detailed reference materials that cover many of the nuances of on-page SEO, link-building, algorithmic changes, and much more. This is not one of them.
The purpose of this article is, plainly and simply, to provide a simple (yet comprehensive) go-to guide for anyone trying to improve their search rankings in a post-Penguin 2.0 world. Everything discussed will be about using white-hat, evergreen SEO practices meant to help your rankings in the short term and for the long haul. (Thanks to Danny Sullivan’s Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors for being a valuable resource in compiling this list.)
And remember, Google ranks web pages, not web sites, so make sure to optimize each page for its target keywords, rather than for the website’s broader targets.
CONTENT: make sure your website content is unique/original (or properly attributed to avoid duplicate content issues), high-quality, engaging, and keyword-inclusive (without stuffing). The goal is for your web page to be the answer to whatever search query the user has entered—so if your target keyword phrase is “buy widgets online”, make sure your users can buy widgets on your website.
Page Titles: give each page a unique, relevant, page title that features your target keyword(s) and is under 70 characters in length. (Avoid keyword stuffing!)
Meta Descriptions: describe what your page is about while enticing users to click through your search listing. Try to stay between 150-160 characters. (For more about page titles and Meta descriptions, see The Top 2 SEO Tips for Every Business.)
Markup: use proper HTML to identify headlines (<h1>), subheads (<h2>, <h3>…), paragraphs (<p>), etc. Add alt tags to images, only use one <h1> per page, and don’t try to hide any content using CSS tricks.
Structured Data: depending on your website’s topic/industry, structured data can be extremely helpful. By using structured data to create more compelling search listings you not only help your search rankings; you can also see a significant boost in your click-through rates.
URLs: keep them short, topical, and feature keywords (without stuffing—you might be noticing a theme here.).
Technical Factors: make sure your site is crawlable, loads quickly (the Google PageSpeed Insights tool is a great resource for this), and displays well on mobile devices.
Mobile: If you have a separate mobile site, make sure your redirects are handled properly (i.e. http://example.com/seo gets redirected to http://m.example.com/seo, NOT to the mobile homepage) and you’ve taken care of duplicate content issues with canonicalization.
Links: focus on getting high-quality inbound links from reputable websites. Simply put, the more high-quality links you have, the better your site will rank—and the more low-quality links you have, the more it hurts your search rankings. Avoid link-spamming on blogs, forums, and low-quality directories and focus on white hat link building that follows Google’s linking guidelines.
Authority: if you consistently produce high-quality content in your area of expertise across the web, Google will recognize you as an authority on that subject (make sure to use Google Authorship Markup). That means enhanced search listings and higher search rankings.
Social: like backlinks, Google sees social sharing of your content as a recommendation (which it is). So engage your audience on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. And remember, engaged readers are more likely to link to your content from their websites, generating quality backlinks.
About the Author:Dan Rapoport is the Digital Marketing Strategist for DotcomWeavers.