Top 7 Do’s and Don’ts of SEO With Evidence from Google Itself
Before you get started on the Do’s and Don’ts of SEO, there’s an important thing to note.
Very, very important actually.
There are approx 5,000 things you should do for SEO and approx 10,000 things you should NOT do when it comes to SEO.
SEO is complex. There are hundreds of strategies (whether you know it or not) that impact your performance.
So while this article breaks down the top 7 Do’s and the top 7 Don’ts (which, if followed, will likely increase your SEO performance), SEO is much more complicated than that.
7 Do’s of SEO to Boost Rankings
#1 Do of SEO: Follow Google’s Policies
You’re probably thinking “holy sh** this guy is such a boring rule follower! Follow Google’s policies!”
But hear me out.
You do NOT want a manual action penalty or to, during the next algorithm update, see a 50% reduction in traffic. Yes, we’ve had many companies come to us, basically crying, right after a major algorithm update with +50% traffic reduction.
Again, you do NOT want that. It’s better to do things by the book and grow your SEO performance a little slower than to try to push the boundaries and get slapped with a penalty.
And Google even has an SEO Starter Guide that tells you how they would do SEO. You should probably become aware of that, too.
While you might think they’re boring, and if you want to use some funky grey hat or black hat strategies, you better at least know EXACTLY what Google’s policies are.
#2 Do of SEO: Leverage Data, Not Your Gut
SEO is about data. And leveraging data to make informed decisions.
Here’s the type of data you need to leverage:
- Keyword research: By doing proper keyword research, you’ll know EXACTLY what your target audience is searching for, how many searches per month, and the competition level.
- Competitor Data: Now that you know what keywords your target audience is searching for, you can easily find who is dominating for those keywords. Just go to Google, search the keyword, and voila, you know who’s ranking. From there, you can reverse engineer their strategy to determine how they’re ranking.
- Technical SEO: Things like site speed, 404 errors, etc should be looked at (and fixed) regularly.
- KPI tracking: How are you currently ranking for keywords? How is organic traffic trending YoY? How many new backlinks did you get last month?
Now, there’s different levels of data granularity.
The key thing… Don’t feel like you have to be an expert with data right away!
Just get started. Get working.
#3 Do of SEO: Create LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of Content
This is one of our favorites.
Hey, the fact that we’ve written LOTS of content (for example, this blog post…) it’s why you’re probably reading this right now.
I’ve personally probably written… yikes… 400,000+ words of content for our website alone. And it’s paid off.
Now, quick disclaimer!
It’s not just about writing a ton of content. It’s about writing a ton of VALUABLE content that REAL PEOPLE would find helpful.
You’re a nutritionist? You could write hundreds of articles on topics like:
- What women training for a marathon should eat
- How to lose weight in your 50s
- How to avoid the Freshman 15
- Which organic foods are worth buying
- Are GMOs really that bad?
- Kale vs. spinach for smoothies? Which is better
I actually take back what I said… There aren’t hundreds of articles. There are tens of thousands of potential articles.
For 90% of companies out there, it’s nearly impossible to run out of valuable content. There are no excuses!
#4 Do of SEO: Make Sure Your Technical SEO is Locked In
We’re talking sitemap, site speed, internal links, external links, mobile friendliness, etc.
There could be dozens of in-depth articles on the different facets of SEO and, in this article, we don’t have time to go through the do’s and don’ts for all of it.
The biggest things?
- Make sure your sitemap is built, functional, and submitted to Google Search Console
- Make sure you don’t have 404 errors (Google hates those)
- Make sure your site speed is reasonable. You don’t need your site to load in 0.01 seconds… but if it loads in 9 seconds? You’ve got a problem.
- Make sure your site is mobile-friendly
#5 Do of SEO: Become an Authority in Your Industry
Google cares about if a website is providing trustworthy information, particularly if it has to do with YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) topics. Those are topics like financials, health & wellness, etc.
Let’s say you’re a pest control company.
You might be thinking… how in the world do I become an authority in my industry? There are many ways.
- Be a guest on podcasts related to pests
- Start a podcast about pest control
- Use HARO to find journalists that are asking questions about pests
- Be a keynote speaker at a pest control conference
- Be a guest author on a trusted website about pests
Why does this matter?
Well, here’s a generalized, 5th grade explanation. When Google works its magic to crawl the ENTIRE internet and keeps seeing your name/company being featured as an expert, Google then trusts your site more.
The technical explanation? Being featured on other websites, podcasts, conferences, YouTube, etc. leads to more backlinks for your website, which will likely boost Domain Authority (DA), which ultimately allows you to rank for more competitive keywords.
#6 Do of SEO (For Local SEO): Create A Comprehensive Google Business Profile
This is what the front-end of a Google Business Profile looks like:
And, if done right, your Google Business Profile can help you rank in the Google Local Pack. This is the Google Local Pack…
As you can see, our Google Business Profile ranks first in the Google Local Pack for the search “Portland SEO Company.”
Clearly, we know what we’re doing.
Within the back-end of your Google Business Profile, you can do a LOT. You can…
- Add a primary and secondary category
- Write a main description
- Add images
- Add videos
- Add attributes (like woman-owned)
- Add custom services
- Respond to reviews
- Write Posts
- And more
If Google allows you to edit all of that, then you probably should.
The best way to optimize your Google Business Profile if you don’t know how? Make it as comprehensive as possible. Fill out every single thing. Google allows you to add photos? Add 50 photos: some of your lobby, your patient rooms, your staff, your supplements, the parking lot, etc.
Quick tip: many businesses get their primary category wrong. And it hurts their SEO.
Let’s say you’re a naturopathic medical office and SEO is top-of-mind. You want to dominate for “naturopath”-related keywords.
Well, the first thing to do is type into Google something like “naturopath doctor Portland.”
As you can see, all the businesses ranking in the Google Local Pack have their primary category as “naturopathic practitioner”.
So, you would want your Primary Category to be the same, since that’s what Google is rewarding.
I’ve personally seen two naturopathic doctors have their primary category be incorrect! They had listed their Primary Category as “Medical Office.” That’s too vague and was a huge factor as to why they weren’t ranking.
#7 Do of SEO (For Local SEO): Make Review Generation One of Your Top 5 Business Priorities
You notice how I said top 5 “business” priorities. Not “marketing” priorities. That’s how important they are!
Reviews, from a local SEO perspective, are becoming the most important ranking factor out there.
I’m willing to get controversial with this.
Let’s take wedding florists in Los Angeles as an example. Which of these wedding florists would rank in the Google local pack?
- Florist One: 17 Google reviews, 4.9 stars. Google Business Profile only mildly optimized with content.
- Florist Two: 29 reviews, 5.0 stars. Google Business Profile very optimized.
- Florist Three: 187 reviews, 4.9 stars. Google Business Profile not optimized at all.
I would still bet big-time money that Florist Three would because they have SO many reviews, even though their Google Business Profile isn’t optimized.
That’s how important Google reviews are.
7 Don’ts of SEO to Avoid Performance Losses
Just don’t do these things. Please, I’m begging you.
#1 Don’t of SEO: Buying Backlinks
Backlinks are cool and all, but just don’t buy them.
Google explicitly says to NOT do the following:
- Buying or selling links for ranking purposes. This includes:
- Exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links
- Exchanging goods or services for links
- Sending someone a product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link
Go out and build relationships with website owners to get links naturally.
#2 Don’t of SEO: Creating Pages for Google, Not Users
Again, Google straight up says to create people-first content. Google says:
Google’s automated ranking systems are designed to present helpful, reliable information that’s primarily created to benefit people, not to gain search engine rankings, in the top Search results.
So, if you’re scheming a way to create a bunch of pages that you think Google will LOVE, but a real user would hate, then that’s a bad idea.
#3 Don’t of SEO: Relying on AI Written Content
ChatGPT for SEO is enticing. You might think you can crank out thousands of words of content in seconds.
But you have to be careful.
Here’s what Google says about AI-generated content:
Spammy automatically generated (or “auto-generated”) content is content that’s been generated programmatically without producing anything original or adding sufficient value; instead, it’s been generated for the primary purpose of manipulating search rankings and not helping users. Examples of spammy auto-generated content include:
#4 Don’t of SEO: Creating Content Targeting Too Many Keywords
Here’s an example of what NOT to do.
Let’s say you’re a personal trainer. You write an article trying to rank for the following keywords:
- Are bicep curls good for basketball
- Are squats good for football
- Should you stretch after soccer practice
- How to warm-up for a tennis lesson
All these topics are cool and all. But they deserve their OWN article.
A near fool-proof way to test this:
If you think your article should rank for multiple keywords, then do SEPARATE Google searches for each keyword.
If Keyword A yields a search results page that’s COMPLETELY different than Keyword B, then there’s a good chance that they should be separate articles.
If Keyword A yields a similar search results page as Keyword B (at least a few of the websites are ranking for both Keyword A and Keyword B) then you can target both of those keywords in the same article.
#5 Don’t of SEO: Expect Results Overnight or Freak Out At Minor Fluctuations
SEO takes time.
Even Google itself says that SEO takes between 4-12 months to see results.
The other side of this is that fluctuations over time are totally normal.
Here’s an example of one of our client’s websites.
They were steady around 1,000 visitors per month at the beginning of the campaign.
Then, a HUGE jump in traffic.
Oh no! Then a down turn.
Then back up.
Then slightly down.
Now, as you can see in the upper right hand corner, we’re only 25 full days through January and traffic is already matching historical highs. So, finishing out this month with another 5 full days of traffic, organic traffic will likely be 1,000+ visitors higher than the previous record high.
These types of fluctuations are NORMAL. Maybe 1% of brands are lucky and every single month they see an increase in organic traffic.
#6 Don’t of SEO (For Local SEO): Building Multiple Google Business Profiles
“I have a friend who lives in the next town over. Can I use their house as another profile so I can rank in that town?”
Don’t do it.
Only include Google Business Profiles for locations that are legitimate and follow Google’s policies for local businesses.
#7 Don’t of SEO (For Local SEO): Creating Pages for EVERY Town Near You
Let’s say you’re looking to do SEO for your flooring company. And you’re located in Seattle.
Well, it’d probably be a good idea to create 113 landing pages, one for each of the 113 towns within a 50-mile radius of Seattle, right?