SEO best practices like creating a good user experience, monitoring Search Generative Experience (SGE), video marketing, and authoritative content keep your audience engaged and rankings high.

SEO best practices, according to our experts:

  1. Amplify authority with SME expertise
  2. Engage your audience with interactive content
  3. Monitor SGE results
  4. Connect paid search and social with your SEO strategy
  5. Improve your website’s user experience
  6. Optimize title tags and meta descriptions
  7. Plan regular SEO audits
  8. Create a keyword and content marketing strategy
  9. Embrace video marketing
  10. Optimize your loading speed
  11. Monitor and encourage reviews
  12. Create content hubs, pillars, and clusters
  13. Examine your structured data
  14. Build authority with backlinks
  15. Optimize images

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a never-ending process of keyword research, content creation, metrics reports, and audience engagement. 

The goal? Higher rankings, more conversions, and stellar brand authority — but with changes in Google’s algorithm, technological advancements, and your audience’s interests, the path veers every year.

Together with Sam Yadegar, CEO of top-3% digital marketing agency HawkSEM, and Associate SEO Director Matt Smith, we’ll share the latest SEO tips and how to defend your position on the SERP. Harness these insights and you can unlock massive ROI, just like that sweet 4.5X average we get for our clients.

HawkSEM: Best Practices to Boost Your SEO

Think of an SEO audit like a wellness check for your website. (Image: Unsplash)

Let’s dive into the latest SEO best practices to lock in your organic marketing strategy:

Top 15 SEO best practices 

 1. Amplify authority with SME expertise

Looking to build brand awareness? Sure, PPC ads might get the word out faster, but organic content and endorsements from trusted industry players have a much stronger impact. 

Your audience pays close attention to what you say, as well as who endorses you and where your content appears. That’s why Yadegar recommends nurturing subject matter experts (SMEs) within your brand to appear in credible spaces, like: 

  • Guest posts: Blogs you write for a similar organization as a “special guest” or unique perspective.
  • Podcasts: Get on an industry podcast as a guest and discuss an industry trend, report, or other topic your SME has proven experience with.
  • Webinars: Host your own talks and lessons on your marketing channels to offer value and insider intel to your audience.
  • Influencer content: Partner with social media influencers in your niche to extend your brand’s messaging to target audiences you haven’t yet reached.

Another perk? Yadegar says this is all great for building E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness), a pro for positive public perception and Google’s algorithm to rank your content higher on the Google search results. 

 2. Engage your audience with interactive content

Remember how much fun those viral BuzzFeed quizzes were? We’re naturally interactive beings, using all five senses to engage the world — it’s what makes us human. And Google knows that, which is why they rank brands higher when they regularly engage with their audience. 

Say you’re a finance SaaS brand that helps small businesses raise capital. A financial assessment quiz could be a fun, interactive way to assess and impress your audience. They’ll leave with value since they’ll gain insights about their finances, and feel good about the interaction, too. 

WealthSimple does a great job with quizzes on their blog, Wealthsimple Magazine. Here’s one about cryptocurrency: 

(Image: Wealthsimple)

If you scroll down, you’ll see multiple-choice questions for their audience to consider. 

They enhance the interaction further by scoring audience responses at the end. This is a great way to incite an email share or a newsletter signup, like Wealthsimple opts for: 

Guess who else likes quizzes? Google. Search Engine Journal says interactive content on your brand’s website boosts engagement, which is a ranking factor for SEO. But quizzes are just one example.

Other forms of interactive content include: 

  • Ebooks
  • Social media quizzes
  • Calculators
  • Polls
  • Games
  • Assessments 

Brand awareness is another bonus. Interactive content leaves an impression, which means your audience could share it with friends or on social media. 

 3. Monitor SGE results

Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) is expected to launch fully sometime in 2024. This will place an AI-generated summary of the most relevant SERP results atop those organic results. That means if you currently hold the #1 spot on the SERP, you’ll appear slightly further down  — unless you ensure you’re in the SGE results, too. 

According to Yadegar, the best way to prepare is to observe SGE results for keywords related to your brand: 

“How is the SGE displayed? Does it have links/no links? Are there additional FAQs included within snippets?” asks Yadegar.

From there, you can optimize your existing content to improve your chance of an SGE feature. Yadegar shares that this is a great time to lean on your SMEs again: 

“Unique, expert content is more important than ever,” says Yadegar. “Get quotes from your SMEs and unique stats that only they can get (internally). Identify ways to reverse engineer the SGE results from your competitors’ pages.”

 4. Connect paid search and social with your SEO strategy

Everything is connected in digital marketing. Meaning? PPC, social media, and SEO aren’t silos in Google’s eyes — they work best together

One way to do that is to direct more organic traffic to your organic content via PPC ads. 

To highlight a product page optimized with relevant content and keywords, you can use a tailored PPC ad to give it a little boost of traffic. The same goes for social media content, especially for remarketing purposes. 

Say a potential customer viewed your organic content. You could remarket social media ads to them more aggressively to encourage a purchase since they’d be further down the funnel and more likely to convert. 

We used this strategy for our SaaS client Zephyr, where we remarketed PPC ads to audience segments with specific histories of viewing Zephyr’s web content. The result was an incredible 100% increase in lead volume and decrease of $250 ($300 to $50) in cost per acquisition (CPA). 

Wondering how you can build a social media presence and following, while also boosting SEO? Smith offers the following advice: 

“Identify the social platforms where your users are, create a complete profile with your contact information (consistent on all platforms), and create engaging social posts that link back to pages on your website,” says Smith. “This pushes social signals to search engines that help complement your backlinks.”

A cohesive marketing strategy improves your rankings and makes your website more user-friendly. Speaking of… 

 5. Improve your website’s user experience

How does your audience (and Google’s crawlers) feel when they navigate your website? Step into their shoes and browse your site to gauge their experience. This is known as the user experience (UX), which measures your website’s usability, flow, and overall experience for visitors. 

Oh, and UX is a ranking factor, so ignoring it? That’s not an option. Not only will Google’s algorithm punish you for a poor UX, but so will your audience with an increased bounce rate

Here are some UX tips to improve SEO: 

Organize an internal linking structure

An internal link is a hyperlink that points to a different page on the same website. This helps your audience find relevant content across your website, from your services and contact information to blog articles and news releases. 

In short? Internal links help your audience (and Google’s crawlers) understand your website, which, in turn, improves UX. 

To set up internal linking: 

  • Identify your site’s pillar pages and create topic clusters using internal links
  • Choose the descriptive anchor text that clearly indicates the target page topics
  • Identify your site’s authority pages and support new pages with internal links
  • Use a site audit tool to fix broken links and find new opportunities
  • Select internal links that provide value to users and enhance their experience on your site

Don’t forget to use external links (which lead visitors to relevant pages on a different website) to foster trust and enhance your audience’s experience. For example, it’s perfectly fine to link to a reputable source for a stat in your web content or blog posts. Even though it feels counterintuitive to link out, this actually lends credibility to your content.

Pro tip: Leverage SEO tools like Google Analytics and Screaming Frog to identify and fix broken internal links (use 301 redirects if the pages were moved permanently) and discover new linking opportunities. This helps maintain an effective internal linking structure over time and improves your website’s overall SEO performance.

Optimize for mobile devices

Ever accessed a website on your phone only to be frustrated by a poor experience? Maybe you can’t scroll properly, there’s no sidebar, or half the page is M.I.A. This is a classic sign of a site that’s not optimized for mobile — a big no-no for UX. 

To avoid this common mistake, regularly check your website on mobile devices. Take note of any broken links or incomplete web pages. 

You can improve mobile-friendliness with: 

  • HTML5 code
  • Accessible fonts
  • Clear calls to action (CTAs)
  • Image alt tags
  • Highlighted navigation buttons

For more guidance, peep our full guide on how to make your website more mobile-friendly

Lose the ads and intrusive pop-ups

They might generate some revenue, but are they worth potential customers that bounce your page? Not a chance. These ads come off as cheap and disruptive. Plus, everyone has ad blockers nowadays, so it’s not worth risking your UX. 

Now, what if you have a massive pop-up for your newsletter that appears on your home page? While it’s technically not an ad, its intrusiveness is equally unpleasant. Keep pop-ups small and make the X button clearly accessible to prevent a bounce. 

Enhance your visual appeal

Long, jumbled walls of text can be overwhelming. Often, readers might not stick around to finish it. But, sprinkle in a few engaging visuals like high-definition photos or quirky gifs, and suddenly all that text feels more digestible.

These elements give your readers a visual break, increasing the likelihood that they’ll finish the text without abandoning it. This is especially true for website content. Look for opportunities to enhance your site’s visual appeal and improve UX. 

A good rule of thumb? Use at least two high-quality images for every blog post. 

We’ve covered a ton of UX tips for your website, but did you know the user experience actually starts before that?

 6. Optimize title tags and meta descriptions

Title tags are titles for your web pages that appear as blue hyperlinks in the SERP. Meta descriptions are short pieces of copy that summarize each webpage’s content. Both of these appear as a search result when you type something into Google: 

The title tag is the clickable blue page title that redirects searchers to the brand’s website. The descriptive copy below is the meta description. 

Google has character limit recommendations for title tags and meta descriptions (50-60 characters for title, 160 for meta description). Beyond this small space, your text will get cut off in the SERP, which you definitely don’t want. 

So conciseness is a priority, along with keyword relevance. You should include at least one primary keyword in both elements. You can include two, but make sure it doesn’t look like keyword stuffing (when you unnaturally force too many keywords in one spot). 

Take an inventory of your title tags and descriptions to ensure they’re: 

  • Within Google’s character guidelines
  • Have at least one primary keyword
  • Summarize the web page’s content accurately
HawkSEM: Best Practices to Boost Your SEO

Data also shows that images with descriptive captions perform even better — like, ahem, this one. (Image: Unsplash)

 7. Plan regular SEO audits

SEO has a ton of factors you need to consider for high search rankings. Plus, it requires ongoing maintenance. That’s why it’s a good idea to conduct an SEO audit at least once a year.

This process will give you a holistic view of where your SEO currently stands.

Here’s what you’ll want to include in your SEO audits

  • Perform a technical audit using a site-crawler tool
  • See what pages are indexed in search engines
  • Review mobile friendliness
  • Test page speed
  • Analyze on-site user behavior to ensure the design is user-friendly
  • Revisit your personas and audience
  • Conduct keyword research
  • Audit your content strategy
  • Analyze your link profile
  • Review backlink and internal linking strategies
  • Check for duplicate content 
  • Create an action plan for tackling any issues uncovered

Don’t forget other elements of your site that can impact SEO, like:

  • Your domain’s security (especially if people log in or are asked to submit their info on places like landing pages)
  • Long-tail keywords
  • URL structure (clear and concise is best)
  • Compressed media files

 8. Create a keyword and content marketing strategy

Organic content is informed, first and foremost, by audience search intent, which you can uncover with keyword research. 

Ask yourself: What does your audience type into Google? How can you create content that matches their search queries (aka keywords)? 

Finding keywords

Your content should be relevant and aligned with these terms, which tend to change over time. That’s why a consistent keyword strategy is vital for your content. 

A simple Google search query can give you ideas with drop-down suggestions about keyword phrases your audience types into Google. Take some time to brainstorm and see what kind of content (ideally yours) appears in the SERP. 

To narrow down your keywords, use keyword research tools like Google’s Keyword Planner and Semrush to zoom in on the highest volume (and competition) keywords worth implementing in your strategy.   

Our advice? Keep everything organized in a content calendar that covers: 

  • Target keywords – The primary and secondary keywords the page aims to rank for. 
  • Publishing schedule – A calendar that lists dates for each piece of content’s publishing pipeline.
  • Search intent – Informational, transactional, commercial, navigational
  • Channel – Blog, website service page, social media, etc.

Content strategy

As for the content itself, you want to make it easy for your audience and Google to understand it with: 

  • Headings and subheadings
  • Digestible, short paragraphs
  • Clear topic and structure
  • Keywords (without keyword stuffing)

Yadegar recommends AI software to kick things off: 

“Lean on AI software like ChatGPT for some of your lower-priority content creation,” he says. “Build outlines and flesh out topics lower down the page with it, and create images that work well with the content.”

Once you have the ball rolling, make sure your content is unique, engaging, and offers fresh perspectives compared to your competitors. 

But how will you know if your content strikes the right chord?

Set key performance indicators (KPIs)

Yadegar recommends focusing on a few key metrics to assess SEO performance: 

“Data is only as important as what you do with it,” explains Yadegar. “I find that data prioritization is the most challenging — identify 2-3 KPIs for your users that you want to focus on (typically user events) and build strategies off that.”

Solid SEO KPIs include:

  • Organic traffic
  • Keyword rankings
  • Page rankings
  • Bounce rate
  • Session time
  • Clickthrough rate (CTR)
  • Conversions

Sound like a lot? That’s because it can be. 

Harness our SEO services and you’ll get a dedicated account manager to oversee your content and continually optimize your strategy for high rankings. 

We also share insights from our innovative performance analysis system, ConversionIQ, which identifies content and keywords that bring you the most revenue. 

 9. Embrace video marketing

Video belongs in your marketing strategy. Why? It increases page session time, boosts engagement, and diversifies your content. And the more engagement you get, the higher your rankings will be. 

Wyzowl reports that 88% of marketers consider videos to be an important part of their marketing strategy. But what do these marketers use videos for? 

The most popular types of video content include: 

  • Testimonial videos (39%): Instead of a quote and photo, help your audience see the success of your offerings with a video of someone they can relate to. 
  • Explainer videos (38%): Ideal for SaaS brands, you can create explainer videos about various features to help your audience visualize your product. 
  • Social media videos (34%): Play around with different video content types on social media like Facebook and Instagram Reels or YouTube advertising content. 
  • Presentation videos (34%): Introduce your team, office, offerings, or anything else your audience might be curious about. 

Other types of video content include product demos, sales and teaser videos, employee and customer onboarding videos, and videographics. 

How to get started with video marketing

If you’re at square one with video content, Yadegar says it’s best to start small: 

“Start with basic video recordings like presentations, product demos, and even just podcasts with image overlays,” says Yadegar. “See what’s gaining traction and invest more as you’re able.”

Once you’ve mapped out a strategy and created your first video, don’t forget to optimize it. You can maximize your video success with SEO best practices, like:

  • Choose an engaging thumbnail image
  • Create a thoughtful title and meta description
  • Optimize the page itself that the video is hosted on
  • Explore paid ad options for promotion
  • Include captions or subtitles within your video

Finally, monitor progress and pay attention to how your audience responds to your videos. 

Keep tabs on KPIs for video marketing, like: 

  • Play rate
  • Views
  • Shares
  • Clickthrough rate (CTR)

Pro tip: Create a YouTube channel to host your videos. YouTube is a (free) Google product, which means these videos often perform well in the search engine’s algorithm.

The catch? Your videos won’t have any impact if they fail to load smoothly.

 10. Optimize your loading speed

Speed remains a vital SEO best practice. Not only is it a factor in Google’s Core Web Vitals ranking metrics, but a slow page speed can lead to a high bounce rate.

Images and video are two features that can affect page speed since these tend to be larger files. More — and larger — files mean more HTTP requests, which means more load time.

Here are a few ways to speed up your page load time: 

  • Use lighter website themes: By lighter, we mean better optimized. Some website themes might look elaborate and impressive, but the code isn’t efficient for speed. 
  • Use SEO tools for speed: Check out tools like PageSpeed Insights for theme ideas and more information about your website load speed. 
  • Enable compression: This gives you the option to make photos smaller and faster to load.
  • Enable browser caching: This makes it so that the pages your audience accesses aren’t loaded from scratch every time. 
  • Use Content Delivery Networks (CDNs): CDNs are servers that store various pages of content to help it load faster. 

 11. Monitor and encourage reviews

Google’s algorithm also takes into consideration something called brand sentiment (how people feel when they think of your brand). Because of this, it’s wise to keep a close eye on reviews on your Google Business Profile, Facebook page, and other review sites.

So, did you receive a glowing testimonial from a recent customer? Respond with gratitude and professionalism. This ensures your clients feel heard and valued, which improves your brand authority and boosts your rankings. 

But even more important? Respond public to negative reviews, given that it’s a legitimate review and not spam.

This presents an opportunity to turn a dissatisfied customer into a happy one. You can:

  • Offer a refund
  • Invite them to chat with you or a customer service representative to sort the issue
  • Appeal to their emotions and make them feel heard
  • Apologize for your role in the issue and offer some sort of resolution

While Google reviews are especially great for local SEO and visibility, website reviews support E-E-A-T guidelines and play into page rankings. So, encourage your audience to leave positive reviews that you can post on your website as social proof

The domino effect will fly your webpage to the top of the SERP. And the additional brand trust means audiences will stick around longer on your website, which reduces bounce rates and thus improves SEO. 

 12. Create content hubs, pillars, and clusters

Content hubs and clusters remain a powerful way to organize and structure your website’s content. They also offer immense content repurposing potential, more brand visibility via increased sharing, more engagement, and an improved user experience. 

A content hub (also known as a pillar page) is a central page or section of your website that acts as a resource for a specific topic or theme. Topic clusters are a group of related pages that link back to the content hub or pillar. Think of it like a family tree that’s interconnected with a clear, overarching picture. 

This model creates a more organized and focused approach to content creation that aligns with searcher intent. Plus, it helps search engines understand the topics you want to rank for.

How to organize content with pillars and clusters:

  • Identify a core topic or theme for your content hub. This should be a broad area that your audience is interested in, such as “digital marketing” or “healthy living.” And if it has keyword phrases with high search volume and search intent? That’s even better. 
  • Create a content hub that serves as the main resource for this topic. This could be a pillar page that covers all the key aspects of the topic in a single page, with subtopics listed out as links. 
  • Develop clusters of content pages related to the content hub. Each content page should cover a specific aspect of the topic in-depth and link back to the content hub. By linking all related content pages to the content hub in a sensible way, you’re signaling to search engines that the content hub is an authority on the topic.
  • Continuously monitor and update your content. Ensure it’s up-to-date and relevant to your audience.
  • Promote your content. Use social media, email marketing, and other channels to share your content, attract backlinks, and improve your search engine visibility.

Once you’re done? Review performance and keep tweaking as necessary. 

A content audit can keep your blogs, web copy, and other assets aligned with your goals. Which themes related to your business have you not covered? Which related search queries are your competitors outranking you for? If your content doesn’t measure up to competitors, don’t fret. The best thing about content is that you can always create more. 

Want even more expert tips to level up your SEO game? Let’s chat.

 13. Examine your structured data

Structured data, also called schema markup, is another way that search engine bots crawl and understand your website content. This is an important part of healthy technical SEO: the better these bots understand your content, the better your chances are of higher search engine rankings.

Schema is a type of vocabulary with tags you can add to the HTML markup of your web pages and emails.

One of Schema’s biggest benefits? It can enhance the descriptions that appear below your page title on the SERP. It allows you to add enriching content like a publish date or rating, rather than simply the meta description.

Pro tip: There are hundreds of Schema types. Those unfamiliar can use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper to add structured data to their sites.

 14. Build authority with backlinks

Unlike internal and external links, backlinks are links to your content that appear on other websites. They boost visibility and brand authority, which impresses your audience and search engine crawlers. 

So, how can you get more of them? High-quality content is paramount, but you can also move in the right direction after a quick assessment. 

Measure up your site’s current backlinks. Then, compare the results with those of your competitors. If you have room for improvement, source backlinks by building relationships with leaders in your industry and publications you know your audience respects. This will improve your chances of a backlink much more than if you were to “ask for a favor” out of the blue. 

Here are some ways to encourage backlinks to your site:

  • Publish unique stats, research, or findings
  • Attend events and network
  • Guest blogging on other sites
  • Leverage industry influencers
  • Reach out to sites with directories (like a site’s resources page)

Remember, backlinks are more about quality than quantity. It’s better to have a backlink on one high-traffic publication your audience loves versus a bunch of less relevant backlinks on low-authority websites. 

 15. Optimize images

A Jumpstart report shows over one-fifth of web searches in America are on Google Images.

This sheds light on the value images hold for your SEO strategy. People are visual beings and desire photos, infographics, and other image formats to consume information.

Here are 10 tips to help you optimize your images

  • Choose the right format: PNGs offer better quality but larger file sizes. JPEGs have smaller files with potential lower quality. Opt for PNGs, and convert them into WebP files for maximum compatibility.
  • Optimize alt text: Make your images readable by search engines with descriptive alt text. Instead of “IMG_1234.jpg,” use “golden_retriever_playing_fetch.jpg.”
  • Choose the right file name: Opt for descriptive file names that clearly represent your image content and include target keywords. Instead of “DSC_0987.jpg,” use “vintage_wedding_dress_shop.jpg.”
  • Avoid using copyrighted images: Steer clear of copyrighted images and always credit the source if needed. Check out licensed stock photos from sites like Unsplash or Pexels.
  • Use a responsive design: Make your images adapt smoothly to different devices by using responsive design techniques. Use CSS techniques like the “max-width” property to ensure images resize properly on mobile devices.
  • Leverage image sitemaps: Make it easier for Google to discover your site  and list all images on your website in an XML sitemap. Submit an image sitemap to Google Search Console for better indexing.
  • Use lazy loading: Implement lazy loading for off-screen images, where they only load when users scroll down. You can do this with a JavaScript library like lazysizes.
  • Add captions and titles: Enhance user experience and provide context with captions and titles for your images.
  • Maximize social media impact: Use OpenGraph and Twitter Cards to ensure you display images correctly when you share them on social media. Add proper meta tags in your website’s HTML to automatically display images when your content is shared on Facebook or Twitter.

SEO checklist: best practices

Phew! That’s A LOT to cover. If only there was a handy checklist you could reference to recap the most important points. You know we got you covered:

Content strategy 

Infuse unique insights from SMEs into content

Create interactive content

Monitor SGE results

Connect paid search and social to your SEO strategy

Audit content strategy’s performance (if you already have one)

Conduct keyword research

Analyze backlinks

Build an internal linking strategy

Create or update your content strategy’s goals, KPIs, target personas, tactics, creation process, and projects

On-site optimization

Perform ongoing technical SEO audits using a site-crawler tool

Test loading speed and mobile-friendliness

Examine site structure and navigation

Improve user experience

Examine structured data

Optimize images and video content

Off-site optimization

Monitor and respond to positive and negative customer reviews

Build backlinks to your blog posts and other content

Content creation

Build content pillars and clusters

Add quality, relevant visuals to blog content

Optimize your content with:

Create videos from content to post on blog and social media platforms

The takeaway

These best practices for SEO will keep your content aligned with your audience’s needs, which Google’s crawlers will eat up. 

That said, it’s no easy feat to optimize every morsel of content for SEO. The research, creativity, and performance monitoring takes serious time and effort. 

Many of our clients come to us overwhelmed by their SEO efforts and ultimately suffer drops in the SERP because they just don’t have the bandwidth to keep up with their strategy solo. 

As a Google Premier Partner, HawkSEM’s SEO gurus have unique insights and access to search engine updates and best practices. Our team of digital marketers is trained and educated in everything SEO and regularly brings rankings and results to businesses in ecommerce, SaaS, finance, education, and other industries. 

Ready to rock the SERP? Call on us.

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This article has been updated and was originally published in September 2019.

Christina Lyon

Christina Lyon

Christina Lyon is an entrepreneur and writer from sunny SoCal. She leads Lyon Content, a tight-knit team of bold creatives, and crafts engaging written content that helps brands sparkle and scale.