Whether you're talking about Google, Bing or Yahoo, search engines want to give users the best possible results. If you want to rank, you have to follow search engine optimization (SEO) best practices. And SEO evolves with every algorithm update, so how can you be sure you're doing what's best for your website and search rankings?
If you're new to the concept, Moz's in-depth Beginner's Guide to SEO is a great place to get your bearings. And since Google accounts for nearly 64 percent of the search market share, you'll also want to check out their Webmaster Guidelines.
If you're old school, you may associate SEO with keyword stuffing. But there's more to ranking than plugging keywords into web content. While you want to optimize your pages for relevant keywords and phrases, the focus should be on providing valuable content to your audience.
Optimizing your content for a primary keyword isn't enough; you have to supplement those terms with secondary words that support the relevance of your topic and prove its worth. It also helps to feature keywords in prominent places, such as the title, header, opening paragraph and conclusion.
And keep word count in mind. Where short puff pieces were once popular, Google now prefers comprehensive content in the 1200-word range. Scratching the surface won't cut it; you have to provide substance and position yourself as an industry authority and thought leader.
Not too long ago, Google pushed mobile-responsive sites with fast-loading content to the forefront of mobile search results, branding it with a "mobile-friendly" label. While that label was removed with the latest algorithm update, the importance of mobile-friendly content hasn't diminished. Google is also penalizing mobile sites that force users to click through intrusive pop-up ads.