SEO + UK drawn in a heart on a chalkboard

SEO Best Practices add much-needed structure to content, on and off the web.

Honestly, before web content was ever needed, I always thought writing was fun. The web changed all that. As SEO developed, Best Practices emerged that mostly made sense. Current SEO Best Practices focus on creating content that answers search queries and is easy to skim to find those answers.

I’ll say it out loud – I like SEO because it provides Rules of Engagement for web content.

I do my best to keep up with SEO trends and adjustments by subscribing to the usual suspects – Search Engine Journal, Content Marketing Institute (CMI), Semrush. Going forward, I hope to see more content from the Arizona Innovation Marketing Institute (AZIMA), which recently hosted a panel discussion on SEO Trends and Best Practices.

I’m a little embarrassed that I hadn’t encountered this group earlier. I heard about it on a Slack channel for the Arizona WordPress Meetup. Dana Baedke, President of the RUNMARK communications firm generously shared highlights on the AZWP channel. She gave me permission to summarize her observations.

If You’re Doing SEO Right, Stay the Course!

Anyone who’s paid attention to SEO in recent years understands that SEO fundamentals haven’t changed: Develop content for users and design accordingly. This isn’t a trend – it’s an established piece of SEO Best Practices. In fact, it’s probably the most important one.

The key takeaway regarding SEO was that the strategy has not changed that much…you should design and develop content for the user.”

Dana Baedke, President, RUNMARK

This goes back to Google’s years-old advice to write natural content without obsessing about keywords. Sure, they’re important, but if it’s a struggle to incorporate them into your content, don’t sweat it. There are lots of related words and keyword phrases (which do a better job of mirroring how people search) to use.

Use SEO Best Practices to sail ahead of the competition like this regatta leader.

If your SEO strategy keeps you competitive, don’t change it. Pixabay/ermakovasve

Of course, if a client has gone to the trouble to provide keywords, you should use them. Put them in your title and at least a couple of headers and H2 headers, introductory paragraphs, and snippets. Don’t be afraid to look up synonyms or check Google’s similar search recommendations that appear at the bottom of every search engine page (or SERP for the acronym-addicted).

How content looks is also important. Readers often skim content, so a smart strategy keep sentences short to less than two full lines. Limit paragraphs to six lines. It’s OK to keep them even shorter if your analytics show a majority of your site visitors are using smartphones. Remember, smaller screens are more challenging to read but they are a majority for initial searches, especially in the B2C market.

Website and Page Hierarchy Remain Important SEO Best Practices

In an SEO context, hierarchy refers to how a website and page are structured. Pages and sites should be easy for a site visitor to navigate. If it isn’t, they will quickly leave, which will eventually result in higher bounce rates and that definitely weakens a site’s SEO efforts.

These items also fall into Best Practices rather than trends. Search engines want to provide useful, authoritative content. Well-organized and reader-friendly content provides an essential SEO boost as well.

I'm using this CAD floor plan design as a metaphor for SEO Best Practices.

Just as you’d design a floor plan, you should carefully design your website. Pixabay/3844328

A Top-Down Structure is a Best Practice for Website Hierarchy

Website hierarchy, or structure, for businesses, usually follows a top-down approach. There’s a landing page that provides basic information about what the business does – how it can help with a particular problem or requirement. This can be anything from manufacturing or marketing support (business-to-business, or B2B) to daycare or groceries (business-to-consumer, or B2C). Some businesses, like plumbers or HVAC services, have B2B and B2C customers.

The landing page will have a menu, often in its header and repeated in the footer or a sidebar. That’s where the structure comes in. Typical menu items are labeled as About, Services, and Contact. Menus often include a FAQ, Testimonials, and Blog or Newsletter. Details, like specific services, are nested underneath.

Best Practices for Page Hierarchy Require Skilled Writing

As a writer, I get so frustrated when I see an otherwise excellent post or page that has poor posture, so to speak. There’s so much useful information that could be presented so much more efficiently!

That’s where skilled writing, or at least copyediting will help. The role of a content creator isn’t necessarily to be an expert but to take information and put it in language readers can understand. That said, many of us certainly gained expertise in industries and topics over our working lives.

I always tell my clients that they’re the experts in their fields. My role is to translate their expertise into content their target audiences can skim or read carefully as they need.

The Negative SEO Trend is a Risky One!

This last piece really caught my attention. I’m on hiatus at the moment, but I wrote about using negative SEO in a weekly newsletter a few months ago. (See the 4/19/23 newsletter on my archive page.) I haven’t seen much on negative content but I have worried that it could become an SEO trend.

Using negative content is a risky SEO trend represented here by Darth Vader.

Resist writing to the dark side. Pixabay: ErikaWittlieb

I reported on Ann Gynn’s CMI article about how and when a contrarian marketing strategy can perform well. It featured a Philadelphia jeweler whose tagline is “I Hate Steven Singer” and uses the phrase in its URL. Its advertising and website content, one reviewer wrote, stresses the quality of their jewelry and put down the competition. Since then, the content has taken the hate vibe down several steps.

I visited the website on July 5, 2023 and the only negativity on the homepage was in the popup to “Join the Haters” and get Steven’s newsletter, and a top menu link that didn’t work. The content was exactly what I’d expect from a jeweler who sells diamonds – soft-focus photos of diamond engagement rings and earrings and wedding bands. The headers read “GUARANTEED YES!” and their brand is “Ready for Love.”

At some point, a content box labeled “Why Hate Steven” dropped down where I was reading. I clicked on it and was taken to an About page that didn’t give me a reason to hate the guy; in fact, I liked his backstory.

The hate campaign just seems illogical to me. As I wrote back in April, proceed with caution when you take a negative content strategy.

Coming soon: AZIMA’s website security recommendations.