There are many best practices for SEO, including those provided by Google.
Here are 17 tips that will help one develop a better search presence.
- 1 What Do Best Practices For SEO Even Mean?
- 2 1. Choose The Best Platform For Your Situation
- 3 2. WordPress SEO
- 4 3. Website Builder Platforms For Easy SEO
- 5 4. Fast Web Hosting
- 6 5. Title Element (AKA Title Tags)
- 7 6. Alt Text
- 8 7. URL Structure
- 9 8. Best Way To Use Headings For SEO
- 10 9. Google Discover
- 11 10. AI For Content
- 12 11. SEO For Images
- 13 12. SEO For Product Pages
- 14 13. Best Practices For Category Pages
- 15 14. Best Practices For Review Websites
- 16 15. Structured Data For SEO
- 17 16. Best Way To Do Internal Linking
- 18 17. Read Patents Carefully
- 19 Understanding SEO
What Do Best Practices For SEO Even Mean?
Best practices for SEO are generally considered to be those that adhere to Google’s evolving guidelines and are not explicitly listed by Google as manipulative.
But best practices are more than just what Google considers manipulative and what not.
For example, Google’s guidelines don’t tell you how to choose hosting, how to optimize a WordPress site, or whether a website builder makes the most sense for a specific situation.
Those are the types of best practices that this guide will cover.
1. Choose The Best Platform For Your Situation
A good place to start is at the point before any code is uploaded to the web.
Understanding the technology that underpins a web presence is important to making the best choices for SEO.
Get this part right, and the site will be well positioned to sprint to first place.
Why Choose Self-Hosted
Today’s choices are between a CMS (Content Management System) hosted on a publisher’s server, and site builder platforms where the technology is hosted and managed by the provider.
Many people choose self-hosted open source solutions (like WordPress) because of the extensive support and development network, which offers complete freedom to build custom sites that users can optimize without limits other than their own skill level.
The disadvantage of self-hosted solutions is the need for technical skills to optimize templates, to deal with constant updates, and to acquire the necessary knowledge to create a strong security position against hacking.
Why SaaS Platforms Make Sense
Many businesses prefer to focus on the business, not maintaining the website technology.
A lawyer’s skill is litigating, not learning how to switch to a system font stack on their self-hosted CMS.
For businesses that prefer a high-performance website without having to deal with technology, the SaaS (Software as a Service) website builder platform is increasingly considered the best choice for many small and medium-sized businesses.
Examples of software as a service (SaaS) platforms:
The best practice is then to check what the company needs to do business online and then see which technology works best – a self-hosted CMS or a SaaS website builder platform.
2. WordPress SEO
There are many CMSs to choose from.
WordPress is probably the most popular open-source, free system with a huge global community of developers supporting it, including for SEO.
It is possible for anyone with a moderate understanding of how to use WordPress to create an entire website and pay almost nothing.
That includes free templates and free SEO plugins, plus any other plugins to extend the functionality, such as the WooCommerce plugin to create ecommerce stores on a $0 budget.
Web development and SEO expert Adam J. Humphreys of the digital agency Making 8 Inc. shared his thoughts on WordPress SEO Best Practices.
“With WordPress, something as simple as the default theme will achieve site speed goals without much work.
Add in a good provider with a content delivery network (CDN), compression plugin like WP Rocket & amp; ShortPixel, and the result is a screaming fast website. We’re talking 0.5 second load times, and that won’t happen on some paid solutions.
My favorite SEO plugin is RankMath Pro because it allows me to generate schema, generate local SEO page content, create video site maps and do things that other plugins just don’t do at all.
A plugin like this allows me to mark content for search engines in ways I’ve never seen paid solutions outside of WordPress.
A builder for WordPress like Bricks Builder is a template system that allows you to create SEO-optimized bespoke themes that load websites in a fraction of a second out of the box before even compression.
These days, I think dentists using WordPress have better websites than many of the Fortune 500 companies, and I know this because I’ve done technical SEO audits for them.
WordPress can be the best for SEO and security, assuming you have a simple maintenance plan and you have someone who clicks update a few times a month (yes, it really is that simple).
A ready-made site with WordPress is basically set. There is no need to have a full-time developer to keep up with basic security updates.
I asked Matt Cromwell, a WordPress expert and co-founder of @GiveWP, to share some WordPress SEO best practices.
Matt offered the following insights:
“People who build websites with WordPress and want to focus on web core vitals often start with caching plugins and what not. That’s a mistake.
The two biggest needle movers that will make your site faster are: (1) excellent hosting, and (2) clean markup.
Throwing a lot of cache at your WordPress website might help some on really slow hosts, but it will never give you the performance you really want. So start at the foundation with fast hosting.
The biggest factor that affects your markup is the combination of your theme and, most often, a page builder.
Most sites that work really well use a minimal theme that works well with WordPress'[‘s] built-in content editor (aka Gutenberg). Page builders are very often the biggest factor in slowing down a website.
You either need to do a lot of custom code to minimize their impact, or switch to a theme that supports Gutenberg really well.
So my biggest recommendation for small businesses who don’t want to drag too much on their site and keep it lean and functional is to invest in high-performance hosting, keep your theme very minimal, and use the WordPress editor instead of a page builder.
If you scale your business enough to hire talent, hire a great web developer and digital marketing specialist to make your site beautiful and fast.
Andrew Wilder of WordPress support company NerdPress offered an out-of-the-box best practice idea for WordPress SEO, one related to fonts.
“We see a lot of sites using tons of web fonts – these can really slow things down if not implemented well.
They are particularly challenging because they need to load early in the process (so the page can render properly), and when they do load, they can cause layout changes such as the text that was first show[ed] changing the font.
Switching to a system font stack (which uses the default/system font of whatever device the user is on) can make a huge difference in performance.
3. Website Builder Platforms For Easy SEO
Understanding how to choose the best way to create an online presence is a best practice for SEO.
One of the ways to create an online presence is with a SaaS website builder platform.
Not too long ago, SaaS website builder platforms were great at building attractive websites but not so great at site speed and SEO.
But that is no longer the case.
Today, the major website builders match the traditional CMS in terms of speed and SEO.
Over 14 million websites have been built using Duda’s technology, and Wix has over 200 million users worldwide.
Focused on SEO, the main advantage of website builder platforms is that they take care of technology, integrate directly with Google Business Profile, produce valid structured data, issue SEO on the page that meets Google guidelines, and excel in site speed and performance. .
A platform like Wix makes it easy for businesses to get online and start competing with excellent SEO.
A platform like Duda is easy to use for business owners. Nevertheless, it is designed to meet the needs of digital agencies and service providers, who can take advantage of Duda’s platform to quickly roll out attractive and fast-performing websites that are flexible for customizations and SEO.
Duda’s platform handles the underlying technology, for example site optimization for speed, integration with a CDN (content delivery network), and semantic tagging such as in-section elements.
This allows agencies and developers to focus on what is important: content, promotion and SEO.
Anton Shulke, Duda’s Head of Influencer Marketing, explains:
“The SEO settings Duda offers website builders are very user-friendly and really help differentiate their website from others.
Outside of providing users with site SEO settings in our builder, we provide users with educational materials not only about our platform, but about what SEO is and why it’s important.
Duda has created technology that optimizes our users’ websites for SEO in the background so our clients can focus on their site design.
Duda takes care of complex optimization such as code optimization for core web vitals, generates robots.txt files, sitemaps, and even submits websites to crawl immediately upon publishing.
Duda’s platform not only focuses on providing excellent out-of-the-box site optimization, it also offers clients the opportunity to optimize their business listings with options such as Local Business Schema and app integrations with Uberall and Localeze, which Duda makes an excellent choice for both web designers and business owners.”
4. Fast Web Hosting
Using a fast web hosting environment is a top SEO best practice – just like choosing the most suitable web hosting platform.
Examples of different types of web hosting:
The SEO best practice for hosting is to choose the fastest web hosting possible that also makes economic sense.
Optimizing for site speed depends on at least four factors:
Of the four, the first two (hosting and a fast website) are under a business’s control.
And of the two, fast hosting is probably the most important – because a slow web host can make even a fast website slow.
Shared hosting is the easiest way to host a website (or multiple websites).
The downside of shared hosting is that the least expensive plans put thousands of websites on a single server, so all the sites have to share the limited resources of that single server.
This can lead to slower websites, especially if one of the other sites on the server is experiencing a heavy load.
Sites that are popular and use “too many resources” may have their traffic slowed down (aka “throttled”).
Some might say it’s a good way to start, then build up as the site becomes more popular.
When a site becomes popular, traffic stops, which can slow down a website’s popularity – because slow websites drive away site visitors who would otherwise have become customers or frequent visitors.
Many SEO pros can agree that a shared hosting environment is good for a hobby site, but not for a site with monetary goals.
Some premium shared hosting environments are not necessarily cheap, but are usually less expensive than renting an entire server.
The value of premium shared hosting is that it is easy to install websites and access more server RAM and CPU resources.
Prices can range from $40 to over $100 per month.
Managed WordPress Hosting
Managed WordPress hosting is a specialized server environment specifically tailored for WordPress websites.
These hosting environments only run WordPress sites and offer features that offload tasks from the website, allowing WordPress sites to perform at a higher level.
The benefits of managed WordPress hosting are faster performance, better security and less effort to manage the technology side of WordPress.
David Vogelpohl, VP of Growth at WPEngine, shared:
“Unlike generalist hosts, who also try to optimize their platform & caching for each type of site, managed WordPress hosts focus on one type of site, WordPress.
By focusing on one type of site, managed WordPress hosts can optimize their networking, caching and infrastructure to a much higher degree than what is possible in generalist hosting environments.
The result of this focus is often a much faster site for you when hosted on a managed hosting provider.
Managed hosting providers like WP Engine often deliver faster speeds for your website by providing proprietary and advanced caching for your site, a global content distribution network (CDN), a low site-to-server ratio on shared hosting, and highly optimized infrastructure that is specific to the type of websites they host.
In the case of WP Engine, we offer a free & global CDN through Cloudflare to all customers and includes a proprietary caching layer called EverCache, which includes WordPress and WooCommerce specific optimizations that help make sites faster than off-the-shelf caching solutions built for any type of site.
Website security is an SEO issue because website rankings start to drop once a site is hacked.
I asked David about WordPress security on a managed WordPress hosting service.
“Managed hosting providers like WP Engine can become a powerful part of your security toolkit, providing support for managing malware and virus threats by helping prevent malware before it becomes a problem, detect & remediate malware when it’s present, and recover from Malware infections that have affected your site.
Managed hosting providers often help prevent malware threats by providing Web Application Firewalls (WAF), enforcing strong passwords, supporting enterprise-grade SSO, and forcing security updates for key software used on your website (WordPress, PHP, MySQL, etc. .).
For example, 37% of WordPress sites are on versions of PHP 7.3 or below, which are not supported with security updates, while 100% of WP Engine customers are on patched versions of WordPress and PHP.
Providers will also include network- and server-level threat detection and blocking capabilities that can help prevent some attacks before they even begin, stop active attacks, or alert you to malware on your site.
It is also helpful to increase your host’s security benefits by using solutions such as WordFence or Sucuri to regularly scan your site’s code for malware.
If your site has already been compromised by malware, managed hosts may offer remediation support (fix the vulnerability/remove the malware) depending on the nature of the malware and vulnerabilities that caused the malware to be present.
Once the malware has been removed from your site, you can use daily backups often provided for free by managed platforms like WP Engine to recover your site.
Coupled with a sound security culture and practice within your own organization, choosing a managed host is a great foundation for keeping your site safe and secure.
Virtual Private Server (VPS)
A VPS is the next step up that offers fast performance, but at significantly higher prices than shared servers.
The value of a VPS is more control over the server environment.
The downside is that many VPS hosting environments require more technical skill to manage successfully. However, some VPS offers have a managed option where the host provider manages the server at an extra cost.
Cloud hosting is a specialized form of hosting.
Generally, a cloud hosting environment is one in which the hosted data and processes are spread over multiple servers and have redundancy, so losing data is almost impossible.
The advantage of cloud hosting is that it is scalable and priced according to the resources used.
A site that experiences a sudden flood of traffic can quickly scale through the cloud hosting environment at a higher cost.
One of the disadvantages of cloud hosting is that it requires more technical skills to manage.
Managing a dedicated server is not as difficult as it used to be, but there is still a learning curve.
Even with a relatively easy-to-use control panel like Plesk Onyx, while it is intuitive to use, it helps to know about PHP settings, firewall settings, NGINX and Apache.
In general, there are no guardrails to protect you from mistakes on a shared server, so one must know their way.
5. Title Element (AKA Title Tags)
The title tag is generally considered an important ranking factor.
What’s in the title element is important because that’s what will (usually) be shown as the title link in search results.
As a result of that knowledge, SEO pros often used the title tag as a place to write the targeted keyword. That’s a 20+ year SEO tradition.
But times have changed, and Google rewrites the title link if it’s non-descriptive or contains repetitive boilerplate.
This means that the best practice for title tags has changed.
Today, the best practice for the title element is to be descriptive, concise and non-boilerplate.
Adding a keyword phrase is still useful, but it’s important to be descriptive.
That means if someone reads the title tag, they should be able to know what the website is about.
If the title tag doesn’t pass this test, it probably isn’t good enough.
The best practice today is to target the user intent of the keyword phrase in the content and then target that user intent in the title tag.
For example, since 2000, the standard practice has been that if you are trying to rank for the keyword phrase “fishing fly,” you must use the phrase “fishing fly” in the title tag.
That is no longer the case because this keyword phrase is vague, so Google first identifies the user’s intentions behind this keyword phrase, and then ranks sites that match the user’s intent – not the keyword in the title tag.
The best way to write a title tag is to understand the user intent of the keyword phrase and try to match the intent in your title tag.
Here are the search results for the keyword phrase “fish fly”:
Screenshot of the search for [fishing flies], Google, July 2022
What’s notable about the title links in the above search results is that none of the top four search results have the keyword phrase “fish flies” alone.
The sentence or partial sentence is always in the context of a sentence that signals the user’s intention.
The number one search result doesn’t even have an exact match to the keyword.
What these search results – and almost every search result – show is that it is not only the keyword in the title that is important, but rather, it is important to say what the topic of the website is in a way that also signals the user. intention.
That, in my opinion, is a best practice for title tags: optimize the title tag for the user intent topic, and don’t just dump the exact match keyword phrase in the title element.
6. Alt Text
The alt text (aka alt tag or alt image attribute) is an HTML attribute of the image HTML element.
The purpose of alt text is to describe what the image is about.
The SEO best practice for using alt text is to describe what the image is about.
Casey Markee, founder of MediaWyse, offers a useful way to think about alt text:
“Ask yourself, if someone with a visual impairment was sitting next to you, how would you describe a photo on your computer screen to them?
Alternative text (alt text) exists to describe a photo for someone who cannot see it.
It does not exist to bother with keywords, marketing jargon or other nonsense.
Finally, be sure to add a ‘period’ at the end of your alt text. That is an indicator to screen readers that the alt text has been completed.
7. URL Structure
Many in the search industry mistakenly believe that Google uses the words in the URL structure to understand what a page is.
But that is not necessarily the case today.
Google has a long history of minimizing the importance of keywords in the URL. As recently as 2017, Google’s John Mueller said that keywords in the URL are overrated as a ranking factor.
Keywords and URLs are overrated for Google SEO. Create URLs for users. Even on mobile, you usually don’t even see them.
— 🥔 johnmu from Switzerland (personal) 🥔 (@JohnMu) March 8, 2017
In 2018, Mueller again minimized the importance of keywords and URLs for SEO:
I wouldn’t worry about keywords or words in a URL. In many cases, the URLs are not seen by users anyway.
— 🥔 johnmu from Switzerland (personal) 🥔 (@JohnMu) December 6, 2018
The best practice for URLs is to keep them short but descriptive.
That helps signal to a potential site visitor what the website is about (when they see the URL), and helps them decide whether to click on the website.
When in doubt, you can’t lose by asking how it affects a potential site visitor.
So if you have the two main keywords relevant to the topic in the URL structure, that will be just fine.
If you go back to the “fishing flies” search results example, you will see that the number 1 result does not have the keywords in the URL.
However, in the number 1 spot, Google still ranked it as the most relevant for that keyword.
8. Best Way To Use Headings For SEO
Headings are like title tags in that the role they play is to describe what the web page is about and what a web page section is.
John Mueller explained the best way to use rubrics:
“…what we use these headings for is well, we have this big piece of text or we have this big image and there’s a heading above it, so maybe this heading applies to this piece of text or to this image.
So it’s not so much like there are five keywords in these sections, that’s why this page will rank for those keywords but more, here’s some more information about that piece of text or about that image on that page.
The best practice to use headings is to describe what the page is about or what a page section is about.
Casey Markee had this to say about optimizing heading elements:
“Headings on a page provide a road map for users and crawlers to navigate a piece of content.
Headlines have been horribly abused over the years to the point of being algorithmically targeted by Google for rewriting.
Focus on writing clear, concise headings that are not keyword-heavy, use title-case or sentence-case, and clearly follow Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
Always use headings sequentially (never jump from an H2 to an H4 just because), don’t put a keyword in every heading with your focus keyword, and never use CAPITAL-CASE in headings because some screen readers can confuse those with acronyms.
9. Google Discover
Cindy Krum, founder & amp; The CEO of MobileMoxie – which provides tools for mobile SEO – is excited about Google Discover.
She shared these tips for Google Discover SEO:
“Google Discover is native on all Android phones and included in the Chrome app for iOS. Because there are so many users, Discover can be a significant driver of traffic. It’s a great way to reach enthusiastic and loyal site visitors.
Content is shown to users who are interested in a topic and not because of keyword queries, which can make it challenging to report it as direct to SEO efforts.
But Google needs to know what a website is in order to show it to users who have expressed an interest in specific topics. That means on-page SEO is important.
To get more exposure there, it is important for pages to have high resolution images, and to pass all the checks for Google’s mobile ‘Page Experience’ evaluation in the Search Console.
It also helps if pages have a fast load time, because the context of where Google Discover content is shown is mobile devices.
A common mistake I see people make with regards to their featured image is using one that is too small or not rectangular.
To ensure that Google will open your content on Google Discover, use an image at least 1200 pixels wide.
A rectangular image has the option of being displayed in its entirety. A square image is only displayed as a smaller thumbnail that doesn’t stand out as much.
Speaking of standing out, be sure to use feature images that are colorful.
Images with bright colors appeal to Google search themselves and can help encourage clickthroughs.
Also use the maximum image preview robot meta set to large:
10. AI For Content
Marketers generally think of AI as a way to produce a lot of content faster.
(And often not so good content.)
The SEO best practice for AI is not to generate content, but to use AI to automate the entire process of content creation.
Jeff Coyle, Chief Strategy Officer of AI content automation company MarketMuse, explains SEO best practices for AI-based content:
“Evaluate the entire content creation and management life cycle at your company to identify stages in the process that are manual and inefficient.
AI can improve every stage of content creation:
Finally, automation can be used in the promotion and optimization phase of the content lifecycle.
It is possible to improve at each of these critical stages when refining a business content engine.
AI solutions for content can improve decision-making and research processes by making them faster and more successful.
Jeff concluded by sharing these best practices for getting the most out of automation:
“Ensure that any speed improvement and automation has checks and balances for quality and performance, so you can have breakthroughs in volume, quality and content engagement/performance with AI, while growing trust in the technology in your organization.”
11. SEO For Images
Images should ideally be colorful, but also low weight, under 100kb (and ideally under 50kb).
I know that sounds unrealistic, but the truth is that image editing software like Photoshop can help create the smallest possible image that still looks great.
Images in the body of an article are great for breaking up content and helping readers get to the bottom of the article.
However, make sure that the image is relevant to the content, because that way it helps to communicate the theme or message of the content.
12. SEO For Product Pages
Cindy Krum is also an expert in optimizing product pages for SEO and conversions on mobile-sized websites.
She had a lot to share about best practices for optimizing product pages.
“Mobile product pages are a significant opportunity for SEO, but it may be different from what most SEOs use.
We’re seeing more and more emphasis from Google on Merchant Center Listings, so if you’re optimizing product pages for SEO, it’s essential to know if they rank for your mobile shopping query.
If there is a Free Product Listing Module ranking for your keyword, it can be difficult to outrank it; it would be a bit like extracting a Knowledge Graph result.
We think users like Merchant Center pack in the search results because they work as a quick price comparison, so it seems likely that Google will keep these.
In this case, especially for broad queries like this, the strategy for ranking product pages is all about ranking in the Free Merchant Center Listings – that’s a whole new game!
13. Best Practices For Category Pages
There is a long-standing idea in the search community that category pages are not useful, so they add a noindex, robot meta tag to the pages to follow.
But this is a big mistake – because then Google will not index the category pages (as requested), and because of that Google will not follow the links, because the page is not indexed.
So, the best practice is to always allow search engines to crawl the product pages.
Another best practice is to use unique snippets for each page.
These excerpts are what will be shown on the category pages. Using a snippet from the first few sentences of a website for the excerpt is a missed opportunity.
Category pages are a great way to present a general page about a topic.
14. Best Practices For Review Websites
Google wants to rank product reviews that are real and not just product summaries; Familiarize yourself with Google Product Reviews Content Guidelines.
When writing reviews, be sure to show pictures of the product and use as many as a shopper needs.
If useful, display images of the product used to illustrate a review section.
The key focus of Google’s guidelines is to encourage product reviews that are helpful to users.
The product evaluation guideline ends with this:
“When writing reviews, focus on the quality and originality of your reviews, not the length… This will provide the most value to buyers who read your reviews.”
The best practice for SEO on review websites is to provide guidance about a product and help shoppers make better decisions.
15. Structured Data For SEO
Joost De Valk, founder of the Yoast SEO plugin, shared his tip for structured data best practices.
“When optimizing your site, make sure you have all the important information not only in human-readable text form, but also in machine-readable structured data.
Whether it is the opening hours of your business, the (sale) price of a product on a webshop or the title and author of a news article on a news site: there is schema.org structured data for everything.
As Google’s structured data guidelines are constantly evolving, I would recommend using a plugin for such work, as this shifts the burden of updating the schema onto the plugin developer, rather than you.
Of course, this means that you have to trust the plugin developer to actually do a good job for you and also understand the SEO impact.
I agree with Joost that using a plugin to manage structured data is a best practice for SEO. Google’s structured data guidelines are constantly updated.
By using a plugin, one no longer needs to devote time to keeping up with the changes in the structured data guidelines and take the time to update the structured data sitewide.
16. Best Way To Do Internal Linking
Internal linking is a way for crawlers to index content and help Google better understand what content is important.
Scott Hendison, CEO of Search Commander, Inc., offers some useful ideas about internal linking:
“I’m currently controlling a huge website that was migrated by someone where they included (at least) all the 301 redirects, but they didn’t fix the internal linking structure.
I simply use the better search replacement plugin in WordPress to change tens of thousands of redirects and redirect chains to show the final URL destination. I guess I would call this tactic, “reclaiming your own internal link equity.”
It’s pretty basic, but I never fail to get a ranking bump when I do this on sites, which is quite often.
There are always redirects in place, but no one bothers to fix the links in the content itself.
The 301s obviously need to be left in place, for old bookmarks and external links, but funding the internal linking structure to not have redirects is something I’ve strongly believed in for a long, long time, and seeing improvements after have done so – especially if there are referral chains.
Some SEO tools will list redirects as a minor issue, but over time these types of problems, especially with chained redirects, add up and become bigger issues.
I strongly encourage clients in favor of the fixes. They are easy to find and fix and can lead to significant improvements.
Joost had this to say about internal links:
“When optimizing a site, one of the first things to do is make sure you improve the internal links between pages.
Very often sites will have very little to no internal links in their content, relying entirely on large navigation menus to move people around.
In the interest of helping your visitors and search engines, you should link related content to each other from within that content.
This can often have dramatic effects on your rankings. There are tools and plugins out there that can help you find internal links easily so you don’t have to know all the content on a site (I know I often don’t for sites I’ve written tons of content for). “
SEO consultant Chris Labbate offers more best practices for internal linking:
“When it comes to internal linking, I like to say that ‘context is king.’
Here is what I believe is a best practice for creating internal links, with Semantic SEO in mind:
Try not to build links at the beginning of a paragraph.
We all know that Google crawls internal links, but it also looks at the surrounding text around each link.
This is especially true if the anchor text is too generic, like ‘click here’ or ‘follow me’, in this situation Google is almost forced to look around the words to pick up extra relevance.
What it also means is that you can use this approach for better internal linking.
Always pay extra attention to the surrounding text of the internal anchor text.
If you give Google good context around your links, this can help provide the crawlers with some good information about the link, but also improve your rankings by explaining what the link can do for them and any other user intent-related data .
17. Read Patents Carefully
An important best practice for SEO is to examine each best practice to see if it is true.
What sometimes happens is that patents and research papers are misunderstood, and then these misunderstandings become a false best practice.
These types of false best practices are often based on a misinterpretation of what a Googler said, or what was published in a patent or research paper.
For example, a common SEO myth is that Google uses “brand mentions” as a sort of ranking signal that is similar to a link.
This myth originated in a patent dealing with the use of brand search queries as a kind of citation signal, similar to a link.
The idea of the patent was that if users search with the name of a website plus keywords, then this could be considered as a form of a citation, but not as a link, but implied as one.
The entire patent, from the opening paragraphs to the end of the patent, was explicitly focused on search queries containing a URL or website name plus the keyword.
Somewhere in the middle of that patent was a paragraph that used the phrase “implicit link.”
This is the paragraph from the Google patent:
The system determines a number of independent links for the group (step 302).
A link for a group of resources is an incoming link to a resource in the group, ie a link with a resource in the group as a target.
Links for the group may include explicit links, implicit links, or both. An express link, eg a hyperlink, is a link included in a source resource that a user can follow to navigate to a target resource.
An implicit link is a reference to a target resource, e.g. a citation to the target resource that is included in a source resource but is not an express link to the target resource.
Thus, a resource in the group can be the target of an implied link without a user being able to navigate to the resource by following the implied link.
The SEO community took this sentence out of the context of the entire patent and then used that sentence to create the idea that an implicit link is when a URL is written but without it being a link.
This idea was further extended to the mention of a brand name.
This type of error is not uncommon.
Some SEO pros still make the mistake of skimming a patent (without trying to understand it), and then stopping at one or two paragraphs that seem to confirm an SEO idea they have.
That’s not how patents read.
So, any time someone claims a patent says Google is doing something, always check the patent for yourself.
The best practice to learn about what Google could do (after a patent) is to pay attention to the opening paragraphs.
It is in the opening paragraphs that you will find the key to understanding what the patent is all about. By doing so, you will be better able to avoid false best practices.
The understanding of SEO can be baroque or minimal, depending on the individual.
The most common mistake is focusing on what Google could do.
If there’s one golden rule for SEO best practices, whether you’re researching keywords or evaluating competitors, it’s this: Develop your SEO strategy around how a site visitor or potential customer might react.
Featured Image: HBRH / Shutterstock