Best practices for organic SEO in 2021

I have been actively involved in organic SEO since the year 2002. A lifetime in tech-years. But when I look back over time, little has changed in organic SEO practices.

Certainly, there have been some major technological developments like the emergence of smartphones and social networks that have all but taken over our everyday lives. But the fundamentals of organic SEO have largely remained unchanged.

What is organic SEO?

People search for things on the Internet using search engines like Google and Bing. Many of the searches are for products and services. As anyone who searches the Internet knows, most searches return many thousands of results. The top few results are usually paid advertisements. These are referred to as PPC (pay-per-click) ads. Directly underneath the paid ads are the organic results. This is where you want to be located.

What’s so good about organic SEO?

Firstly, many people prefer to click on the organic results as they are perceived to be more transparent and less skewed than paid ads. But more importantly, organic results are free. Google is one of the most highly valuated companies on the planet. Why? Because of PPC. You can spend tons of money on paid advertisement with no guarantee of success. If you engage in CPC you had better know what you are doing, or you can lose a fortune.

The objective is to get a high ranking on the organic results. A first page position is almost guaranteed to get you clicks. A page 10 position is almost guaranteed to get you ZERO clicks. So how do you get a top organic position? That is the challenge of organic SEO and this article will try and review the fundamentals that can get you there.

Good things take time. One of the main things to consider when going about organic SEO is that it takes time. Months and even a few years are typical, especially if your business is in a competitive space. And the work needs to be done painstakingly, one day at a time. Be patient and don’t expect quick results.

DIY (Do It Yourself). Just like 20 years ago when I first started out in SEO, there are people and companies that promise first page rankings. They were liars then and they are liars now. Because nobody can guarantee a top ranking. When I say DIY, I am not saying that you need to do everything yourself. And I am not saying that all SEO consultants are dishonest. But before you hire such consultants, get to know the insides of organic SEO so you can (a) know how to differentiate between the liars and good ones, and (b) so you can outsource specialist tasks to true experts. Study the guidelines published online by the search engines, for example here: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/7451184?hl=en

Great Content. One of most overly used cliches about SEO is “Content is King.” And for good reason. Search engine algorithms rate content and will not rank poorly-written posts in a high position. But that aside, search engines also rate other factors like CTR (clickthrough rate) and dwell time (the amount of time spent on a page). If your content is rubbish, people won’t bother to read it and the search engines will rank it accordingly. Another common mistake is to write content for search engines. Don’t. Instead, consider your audience and write content which will engage them and which they will benefit from. Remember, your main task is to get the content in front of your audience. The search engines are just a means to that end.

Consider starting a blog as another source of content for your business. Embedding infographics and video clips in your content can be a good way to increase dwell time and get your messages out to new audiences.

Keyword research. Craft your content around relevant, high traffic keywords. Remember, people that search for things on the Internet are looking for solutions. Consider the challenges facing your potential customers and write content that solves these problems using the same language of the search queries.

Backlinks. If you have truly great content, it is natural that other websites will reference it through backlinks. One such example of incredible content is Brian Dean’s blog https://backlinko.com. Brian is an SEO genius and as such, thousands of other websites link to his content. The result? Brian Dean is a household name for every SEO professional.

Accelerating your backlinking campaign. Not everyone is Brian Dean. So even if your content is excellent, it may take a long time for people to link to it. So how can you get backlinks more quickly?

Ask nicely. Approach relevant website managers and ask them to link to your content. This is tedious work and can be frustrating, as most such requests are ignored. You can get people to assist you in these efforts and pay them on a per-link basis. But if you outsource link building, make sure that you set the guidelines straight to avoid getting spammy backlinks which can cause more harm than good. Look for websites and blogs that are relevant to your industry. And preferably; get people with authority in your industry to provide backinks.

Blogger outreach. Write quality posts and get them published on other blogs. Here too, the blogs should be relevant to your industry. And as with backlinking, if you hire blogger outreach consultants, make sure that they post quality content on high authority websites.

Directories. There seems to be some disagreement among SEO experts as to the efficacy of directory listings. Some people are saying that they are no longer effective. My own opinion is that these are good links and will help your organic SEO. Again, use caution and good judgement when placing directory listings. If the leaders in your industry are in a specific directory, then you should be there too. Check the domain authority and traffic rating of each directory and see if it makes sense. Remember that a directory listing is not only good for SEO, it can also get you more traffic through direct clicks from the directory.

Social Media. Link your content on your Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn and other social networks.

Outbound Links. Place outbound links to authority websites in your content.

Optimize for Mobile. This is one of the more recent developments in organic SEO. More and more people are searching the Internet using cell phones, tablets and other mobile devices. Make sure that your content can be well-accessed on mobile. Otherwise your search rankings will drop and you will be missing out on a lot of potential clicks.

Competitive Analysis. Do an Internet search for the keywords that you are targeting. Who has the number 1 organic position? Number 2, 3, 4? Use a suitable tool like SEMRush (https://www.semrush.com) and try to find out how they achieved their lofty position. Is it backlinks? Keyword density? More relevant content? Try and get ideas that will help improve your content and climb in the search rankings.

Keep posts/pages up to date. Even if you have great content, keep your posts and pages fresh by updating the content periodically. This not only ensures that your content remains relevant to your audience, it also reminds the search engines to crawl your website and rank it higher. Also, create new pages as often as possible. Search engines hate stagnant websites and love dynamic websites. Having a blog and posting to it frequently can help your keep your website fresh with new content.

Take advantage of search engine tools. All of the major search engines have webmaster and analytic tools which are free. Take advantage of these tools to promote your content wisely.

Be Geographic. The search engines serve up different results based on the location in which the search is being made. Check your rankings for all locations/cities/countries that you deem important. Consider using proxy networks to simulate search in different geographic locations. An example of a good tool is the Hide my IP Free Firefox extension (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/hide-my-ip-free/) which allows you to select from hundreds of cities. Optimize your content accordingly to boost ranking in other locations.

Translation of website content and localization for other countries can be an effective way to increase traffic and rank for more keywords.

About the Author

David Grunwald is the managing director of GTS Translation, a leading online translation services company. GTS is one of the best ranked translation agencies on the Internet, with first page rankings for hundreds of very competitive keywords.