SEO is not a one-and-done endeavor. Sure, some fundamentals can be learned, but good SEOs are not born SEO geniuses. Effective SEO is simply a matter of developing good SEO habits. You will become proficient at SEO and be able to create content and websites that rank on Google after practicing good SEO habits for days, weeks, and years. I know this firsthand because I learned SEO and taught it in our group and one-on-one coaching programs.
While there will undoubtedly be large-scale projects that you will work on as an SEO, things like:
- Website optimization
- Building a strategy
- Link building campaigns
- Content audits
The good habits you develop will lead to real, long-term SEO results. These building blocks are what will set you apart from your competitors on Google and allow you to eventually outrank and outsmart them. To assist you on your journey, I’ll break down the essential SEO habits I’ve observed or developed over the years that will put you on the fast track to SEO success.
Whether you work on a marketing team of two, twenty, or one hundred people, these general SEO habits will serve you well in your job and career. SEO is only effective if your suggestions are implemented; otherwise, it is just talking. These habits will assist you in developing positive relationships within your organisation and getting things done. Spend time with your website designers. Unless you’re a one-man show, you’re probably working with a web developer or development team.
Make them your friends. It’s as simple as that. Making it simple and easy for Google to find and index your content is a critical component of getting results from SEO. Prioritizing crawl ability, sitemap structure, and site speed will help your strategy succeed.
Ignoring those things risks squandering all of your efforts.
Having a good relationship with your development team allows you to prioritise those items. Schedule time with them, have coffee with them, and perhaps host a team lunch (in person or virtually)—do whatever it takes to get to know them and form a bond so that you can work together rather than bringing them a list of demands.
Set aside time on a regular basis, alongside your other priorities, to review and address the technical aspects of your website if you are also a web developer. It’s critical to track and stay ahead of tech debt, just like a product development team.
This is something that far too few SEOs do. It’s tempting to isolate yourself with a keyword database and a call that research, but you’re overlooking an important ingredient: the customer.
SEO is concerned with answering two questions:
- Who is doing the searching?
- What are they searching for?
A spreadsheet cannot provide an answer to that question. You must speak with people or listen to recordings/read transcripts of people who have done so. That is the most effective and efficient way to understand your company’s target customers and the questions they ask. Request that Sales or Customer Success listen in on calls so you can get a better sense of what your customer is trying to accomplish, their goals, and their challenges. This can then be supplemented with traditional keyword research tools (we constantly do it with our keyword research tools).
Spend time with the other members of the marketing team.
If you’re only one member of a larger market ting team, try to look beyond SEO and understand your team’s overall goals. If you’re a one-person marketing team, talk to the CEO and the sales team (sometimes the same thing).
This broadens your horizons beyond the specifics of search engine optimization. SEO is not the only goal. It is a tool used to achieve a business goal, such as increasing the number of customers for a product line or beta participants. As an SEO, you’re on a mission to help your company thrive, so you should understand what that entails.
The more you understand your company’s and organization’s goals, the better your SEO efforts will align with and support those goals, making your work much more effective.
Keep the end goal in mind at all times. It is critical to review your goals on a regular basis and assess your progress toward them. None of us SEOs can predict how Google will react to the changes we propose. We’re sometimes wrong, and sometimes we’re right. It’s critical to track your progress against your objectives to ensure you’re on the right track and to correct course as needed.
Never stop learning.
The best SEOs I know are always curious and hungry for more. Constantly inquire. A natural sense of curiosity will serve you well in any profession. If you ever think you have all the answers or are bored, stop and find someone you admire and talk to them about what they are working on in 5 minutes, you’ll realise how far you still have to go.
Subscribe to blogs, listen to podcasts, participate in Slack conversations… whatever it takes to keep your mind and skills sharp. Although there is a strong temptation in SEO to always be correct, I prefer to be proven wrong. We only learn when we are proven incorrect; otherwise, we are not being challenged.
Writing SEO habits
Before you start writing, go over the search results. It used to be that you could get SEO results simply by publishing a blog post. Now? Not at all. It’s not that blogging is ineffective. It’s just that there are probably hundreds or thousands of pieces of content similar to yours and only ten spots on Google’s first page.
Yeah, those odds bother me as well. You can gain an advantage by researching what already ranks for the question you want to rank and asking what you can do to improve on the existing content. Google will not rank your content simply because it exists; it must be better than what is already there.
Better does not necessarily imply longer; better could be longer/more in-depth, but it is best to focus on the intent behind the keyword you are targeting and ask how you can better match it.
While each piece of content should be designed to answer a single question, chances are your reader has a few more. Examine the search results and search features to get an idea of what follow-up questions your reader might have that you can answer.
This is a great way to establish authority in your content while also making it as comprehensive as possible. It’s also a great way to simply write some great content that helps your reader solve problems and make better purchasing decisions.
While writing, keep the buyer’s journey in mind.
One of the most common reasons people say blogging “doesn’t work” is that they envision two-dimensional content that does nothing more than scratch the surface and move on. That content, of course, will not work—no one enjoys reading it, and it does nothing to move a reader further down your funnel.
When you’re about to write a piece of content, consider where your reader is in the buyer’s journey. Do they appear at the top of your funnel? If that’s the case, how about at the bottom of the funnel? This is an excellent opportunity to assist them in making a more informed purchasing decision by purchasing from you. You could direct them to a demo page, a free trial, or a consultation. High-value conversion assets work well here as well. Not only will this content better match the reader’s intent, but it will also better serve your business goals.
Content review SEO habits
One side of the coin is content creation. However, once you’ve published your content, that’s not the end of the story. To constantly improve your content, you can and should test and iterate on it. Your website’s content is a living component that should be treated as a product that can be tweaked and optimised.
Regularly review top-performing content
Depending on the topic’s search volume, you could have hundreds to thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of visitors to your website each month. What a pity if they all bounced off that piece of content and never returned.
Take the time to review your top-ranking content in order to improve your conversion opportunities and turn it into a conversion machine for your company.
Regularly evaluate underperforming content.
- On the other hand, I like to review my worst-performing content at least once a month.
- If your content isn’t ranking, it’s time to investigate why.
- Is it not listed?
- Is it difficult for Google to locate this page?
- Is the content insufficiently authoritative or comprehensive?
- Could it be more in line with the intent?
- Could you make any changes to the structure?
There are numerous ways to improve your content to see if it will perform better; otherwise, it may be time to retire the content and redirect it to another page. Keep an eye out for high-ranking, low-converting content. You’re probably passing up some excellent traffic opportunities.
Just because a piece of content isn’t getting much traffic doesn’t mean it’s not ranking. In fact, there are probably pages on your website that rank on pages 1-2 but receive little traffic. This is what I call high-ranking low-converting content; it ranks but isn’t clicked on for whatever reason.
What is the solution? Exercise your copywriting muscles.
Experiment with different titles and meta descriptions to see what will catch your readers’ attention and entice them to click. This is the quickest and most straightforward way to increase traffic to your site and establish the authority of your high-ranking content. Iterate on your content on a regular basis. Your content is not complete once it is published.
You’re not writing a book or making art to sit on a shelf. Your website’s content is a living, evolving entity that should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis. You should view your website as a product that needs to be reviewed and evolved over time, just as you never stop working on and evolving your product or business. This keeps your content current and relevant, and Google favors fresh content, so it’s a win-win for both SEO and your readers.
Analysis of SEO
We touched on analytics briefly, but there are a few more SEO analytics habits I try to develop that will be beneficial to you. Because you’re probably already checking your traffic and search console reports, let’s go beyond the obvious. When it comes to SEO strategy, you must make deliberate decisions about the content you will create and the keywords you will target.
Examine the target page and query performance on a regular basis. If you stick to your strategy, you’ll need a way to see if the content you’re creating is having an impact. I do this by reviewing how my target pages and target keywords are performing on a regular basis.
The key metrics to monitor for target pages are:
- Organic visits
- Bounce rate
- Conversions/events if applicable
For target keywords, it’s:
- Impressions on Google
- Click-through rate
First, ensure that Google indexes it. If Google does not see and index your content, it has no chance of ranking. It’s now time to track its progress in search:
- Is the content being shown in search results?
- What keywords is your content ranking for?
- What keywords is it getting clicks for?
- How do impressions, position, and traffic change over time
All of these are critical questions to ask yourself with each new piece of content you create.
Technical SEO practices
Without a few technical components, no SEO strategy would be complete. Again, make friends with your developer(s), as they will be your best ally in ensuring that your website is in good technical shape and that your strategy is well-executed.
Keep your site coverage up to date. f your content is not being indexed, it will not appear in search results. Fortunately, Google Search Console includes a handy coverage report that shows how much of your website has been crawled and indexed, as well as which pages have been missed. Monitor site speed and Core Web Vitals on a regular basis. Google is becoming more concerned with website speed and page experience.
It all makes sense. Google is on a mission to provide the best answer to every question, and its dominance as a search engine is based on the quality of the content they provide. This is applicable to any search engine. Aside from the obvious, slow loading times, popups, and other poor user experiences are easy ways to degrade your quality.
Fast content is not guaranteed to rank, but it will provide a better experience than slow content, which will struggle to compete with similar quality content. I’m not obsessed with page speed, but I do pay attention to it on occasion.
Avoiding bad SEO habits
I’ll leave you with some bad SEO habits to avoid because you’ve got a nice, healthy list of good SEO habits. These are things I see many people new to SEO do, as well as things perpetuated by outdated advice.
- Concerned about keyword density
- Concerned about domain authority
- Overreliance on SEO tools and the data they provide Obsession with a “focus keyword”
- Concerned about domain authority and other fabricated metrics
- Obsession with hyperlinks
- In relation to the preceding, spamming people for links (seriously, please stop)
- Overemphasis on word count
These are some of the most common “bad” SEO practices I see.
They are not toxic or will harm your rankings; they are simply less productive than the ones listed above. They may feel like a bag of chips in the short term, but they aren’t doing much for you in the long run.
Finally, I hope this (somewhat) exhaustive list has been helpful.
I understand that the last thing anyone wants is more work. Isn’t SEO already a lot of work? If you’re not sure where to go next or how to advance as an SEO, this list is a good place to start.
Try implementing one or two of these habits at a time. Keep in mind that you are what you do. By implementing these core habits, you will develop the same natural instincts as the best SEOs. It’s simply a matter of repetition and sustained focus.