SEO has been changing rapidly and last year was no exception. With several Google algorithm updates to understand and incorporate, current SEO technique in 2016 continues to change and evolve. Between the famous Mobilegeddon mobile update and a Quality update last spring, a Panda refresh in the summer and RankBrain in October, SEO practices continue to focus on quality content and backlink strategies. If you’re new to SEO and want to know what to include in your SEO plans, here’s a rundown of the top 7 current SEO practices in 2016.

  1. Start With Keyword Research and On-Page SEO

With all of the online information out there about current SEO practices and the latest Google algorithm updates, knowing where to start your SEO can be kind of overwhelming. By now everyone knows the importance of having a website that is mobile ready, which is an important component for SEO. But after reviewing some of the top current SEO practices in 2016, we feel that the best place to start working on your SEO is by diving into keyword research and the optimization of your web pages for search, which is called on-page SEO.

To start assembling a list of relevant keywords, think of your company’s goal and the questions users would ask to find you, both general as well as very specific. Make a list of 5-10 keywords that represent your products or services and your unique value proposition.

For example, if your company designs and makes one-of-a-kind bathroom ceramic sinks that sell to a high-end market in Toronto, your website will need to be optimized for the localities you serve. People from Toronto and the surrounding area may have visited your booth at the One-of-a-kind Show and will later be searching for you online, so your keywords might include:

  • ceramic sinks Toronto
  • designer ceramic sinks
  • bathroom design
  • ceramic sink
  • unique ceramic bathroom sink
  • oneofakind show
  • one of a kind ceramic sinks Toronto
  • modern bathroom sinks
  • Toronto designer sink
  • your company name

After you have created a list of the main keywords that are applicable to your own offering, research different variations of each of them using Google’s Keyword Planner. You can download all the keywords into an excel document, and in different columns you will see various information provided such as the search volume of each keyword, the level of competition, and other metrics.

The next step is to match 3-5 keywords in your keyword list to each page of your website. If your list has relevant keywords that aren’t represented by any content within your website, some new web page content may need to be created. Once you have all of your web pages with 3-5 keywords assigned to each, it’s time to do your on-page SEO.

Whether you are working in a custom CMS, a popular CMS like WordPress, writing the HTML yourself, or using a website layout tool like Dreamweaver, there is a process for adding your keywords and related phrases in the meta tags and content. Here is a breakdown of what you will add:

  • Page Title – Describe each page in a concise, accurate and unique way while incorporating the keyword ideas and your brand. For example, here at The Marketing Boutique the page title of our home page is “The Marketing Boutique | Toronto Inbound Marketing Agency”.
  • Meta Keywords and Meta Description – Add your main keywords for each page here, and a unique description of what you offer with a call-to-action. For example, the meta description for our home page is “The Marketing Boutique is a Toronto based marketing consulting, creative design, and outsourced marketing agency. We are a Google & HubSpot Partner.”
  • H1 Heading Tag – Add an H1 tag to the main heading of each page, describing what the content is and why it is important to them.
  • Image Alt Tags on Images – Describe your images in alt-image tags, as well as in their file names, to help Google understand the content and rank it.
  • Page Text – Incorporate each page’s keywords or the meaning of the keywords into the body copy. Within the text on each page, add internal links to other pages within your site.

When you are writing the content for your website, ensure that all of it is originally written. If you’re taking over the management of your website from someone else, check that there is no duplicate content using a tool such as CopyScape. If you discover that any of your website’s content is a duplication of text from anywhere else on the web, remove or rewrite the duplicate content to avoid your rank on Google being adversely affected.

Another point to remember is to set up your website at Google Analytics and Google’s Search Console, formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools. These free tools are some of the ways that you will track and measure your SEO performance regularly as the months go on. If you don’t track results, you won’t be able to see if your SEO is doing well or not.

  1. Get Found Through Local Search Optimization

Set up your business profile at Google My Business, which will give you visibility on Google Maps as well as a Google+ business page. When you fill in your listing, fill out all of the information regarding your company name, address, telephone, and website URL exactly as it appears on your website. Continue to fill in the rest of the required information as completely as possible, selecting precise, narrow categories that best represent your business.

Since many mobile users will likely search for your product or service online, if you have a local storefront or public business location your website has to be optimized for local search for the geographies that you serve. When you add in page titles, meta descriptions and page text at step 1 above, ensure that the city or cities you serve are included as keywords.

One of the most important steps that many companies forget about is writing a unique, well-optimized description of your company at Google My Business/Google+, incorporating the main keywords as well as your location keywords into it. Make sure it’s different from the copy on your website. Follow through all of the steps to verify your Google My Business/Google+ business listing.

After your Google My Business/Google+ page has been verified, you can add photos and other media on a regular basis. Asking your customers to review your business on Google is a good SEO practice to follow so that your website’s trust and authority will continually increase.

  1. Before You Create Great Content, Find Out What Your Audience is Talking About

Having fresh, compelling content is an essential part of SEO in 2016, so it’s important to know what topics your audience is talking about. One of the fundamental concepts of SEO is that your website content has to answer all of your audience’s questions and be relevant to your users’ queries made in search engines. Defining who your target audience is, is the first step in understanding who your users are. A good way to understand your target audience is to find out what interests them so that you can meet those needs in your own content.

There are many useful tools available such as Buzzsumo to research what content is performing well according to your topic. Another interesting free tool to find out what your market is interested in and discussing is Quora, where you can enter your main keyword, see the questions in the results and analyze the headlines with the answers that look the most interesting to you. This is a great way to get new ideas to craft new content around.

  1. Prepare for an Audit of Your Website’s Framework

Analyzing how your site performs is a great way to find out how fast your site loads, find out which heading tags are too long, and analysis of many factors including how your content is optimized for the keywords that you want it to be ranking for.

Prepare to do a site audit by identifying your company’s goals, sources of quality leads, what drives conversions, and by gaining access to your Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools and AdWords data if applicable. Test how many pages of your website have been indexed by performing a site crawl – type site:http://www.yourdomain.com into Google with no spaces. To continue preparing for a site audit to be done, review what your company’s main keywords are and the Key Performance Indicators that you measure your website’s success by.

  1. Current Tips to Start Your Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO is the optimization of your presences outside your website, and consists mainly of social bookmarking, link building and social media. Social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn and others are great vehicles to build awareness of your brand as well as obtain high-quality links to your website.

As you build other off-page presences and links, be sure to use the same name, address, phone and website address as listed at your Google My Business profile outlined in step 2 above. The consistency in NAP is a critical part of SEO. In addition, when you build online presences outside of your website, make sure to apply the same keyword phrases and related ideas when writing the unique descriptions for each.

Off-page SEO gives search engines a great way to find out what the world thinks of your site. If you are mentioned frequently in social media channels and linked to from other quality websites because your content is so great, then that’s a good thing! If you have a business-to-consumer website, the more reviews you have on Yelp, Google and industry-specific sites will improve your trust and authority with Google.

Being able to watch your and other website’s trust change over time is really useful, since the more quality backlinks, reviews, and mentions you have the more it will gradually grow. Monitor your website’s domain authority by downloading the free MOZ toolbar.

  1. Mine Your Keyword Research to Find Long-Tail Keywords

Why are long-tail keywords important? Long-tail keywords are really important because they are associated with the searchers who were in the ready-to-buy phase. They are typically very specific, detailed keyword phrases that indicate exactly what that individual was looking for.

A long-tail keyword typically is a phrase that you rank for that’s comprised of four or more keywords. These are the phrases used by your audience that has a high probability of conversion and displays commercial intent, but are likely not used that often.

The reason we try to identify long-tail keywords is that they are usually the ones that no-one else knows about. As well as Google’s keyword planner, it’s a great idea to utilize other free keyword research tools as well. You can discover more keywords at https://ubersuggest.io/ as well as at Bing’s keyword tool, SEO Book, Wordpot, YouTube keyword tool, Keywordbuzz.net, google.com/trends/correlate/ and through free keyword research tools at SEO Book and Wordtracker.

  1. Link Building

According to the latest MOZ Search Ranking Factors, domain-level link features are the biggest influencing factor in how a website is ranked in search engines. It is an important part of SEO to write high-quality content that attracts links, as well as gradually develop your own link-building strategies or hire a professional to help. Here are a few ideas to start off your link-building campaign:

  • set up a Facebook company page and include weekly links to pages of your site in your posts
  • set up a LinkedIn company page and post relevant content to it with links to your site
  • get registered at Better Business Bureau and obtain a link from their site to your site
  • get registered at Industry Canada
  • submit your site to dmoz.org in the correct category

These are few of the current SEO practices in 2016 that will help you cover most of the basics. For more information on how to improve your SEO, contact us and we will be happy to review it with you.

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