Following SEO Best Practices? But Are They Really the Best?

Best practice gold pointer.

Best practices have their place. When you’re just jumping into a deep subject like SEO, for instance, clinging to accepted best practices can keep you from drowning.

The problem with best practices, though, is that they’re one size fits all. They’re often far from being the best for everyone.

Best practices are guidelines … essentially data … about how to keep out of SEO trouble. But there is always a difference between data and wisdom.

Some SEO best practices cram webpages into unrealistic boxes. And content creators are often told to live up (or down) to arbitrary standards that don’t help their content succeed.

If you want to improve your SEO, you need to look beyond best practices. Here I’ll dive into examples and help you get realistic about what works for your website and your business.

Best Practices That Don’t Always Work

A tailor wouldn’t put the same suit on everyone. Especially not if these people were being dressed for a competition and trying to stand out from the others.

Dog wearing a one-size-fits-all suit.

So why should all sites strive for the same benchmarks? Here are a few “best practice” sacred cows to dismantle immediately.

1. The Ideal Page Length

Most SEOs remember when Neil Patel made waves by saying that everyone should be writing 2,000+ word posts. While longer may be better for some industries, that’s a dangerous standard to hold all pages to.

Let me be clear: There is no Ideal Page Length.

In reality, page length depends on the purpose, topic, and site behind a page. The “ideal” page could be longer or shorter, depending on these things. For example, a page detailing HVAC services on a local technician’s website is likely to be much shorter than an “ultimate guide” page.

Adhering to a set “best practice” here may mean you’re limiting or stretching a page beyond what it should be. While thin content is a problem, you can’t fix it just by setting an arbitrary word count minimum.

This type of SEO best practice also puts an unnecessary burden on the writer and the readers. Why stretch what should be a 300-word page into a 1,500-word page just because that’s what you’ve heard ranks better?

People are smart. They don’t like to be manipulated. If you’re padding your answers with hundreds of filler words, they’re going to pick up on that.

Readers also notice if you’re cheating them out of the information they need.

Save yourself: The right length for your page is the one that covers the topic and positions you as an authority. Anything more or less won’t do.

2. The Ideal Keyword Density

When it comes to how many times you need to mention a particular keyword on a page … there is no Ideal Keyword Density.

That’s not to say you don’t need to use keywords. You absolutely do need your content to talk about and include your keywords.

However, today search engine algorithms look for “topics rather than terms.” This has been true for quite a while. Back in 2014, Google’s John Mueller said, “keyword density, in general, is something I wouldn’t focus on. Search engines have kind of moved on from there.”

Today, SEOs advise lessening the focus on keyword density as a metric. Focus more on making your page the most relevant by fully satisfying the intent of that keyword query. If you incorporate keywords in a natural, organic way, you shouldn’t need to worry about density.

That said, knowing the density of various keywords on your pages can be a valuable resource. It a great place to start evaluating the actual topic of your page as seen by searchers and search engines. Using that information also helps you craft an appropriate title and meta content.

Save yourself: Make sure that your content contains the keyword you’re shooting for. Also include its variations, synonyms, and related words.

Each keyword has its own density target based upon what is natural usage for related pages in the search engine’s index. Tools that analyze the top-ranked pages’ keyword usage can be a great help.

3. The Ideal Reading Level

Let’s talk about readability.

People care that an article reads well and isn’t too difficult or too simplistic for its purpose.

For that reason, search algorithms analyze a page’s readability as one of (several hundred) ranking factors.
But there is no Ideal Readability Score.
A 6th-grade reading level may work well for a straightforward page about a non-technical subject.

But it would be inappropriate for a page about a medical procedure or something equally technical or industry-specific.

Here’s the problem …

Most SEO tools and plugins cannot recommend a reading level range that fits the page’s topic or purpose. These specifics are needed. Otherwise, you cannot target the natural persona’s reading expectations when coming to your page.

Instead, most tools can only advise a fixed readability range for all pages.

Adhering to a one-size-fits-all readability level limits you and your writing. Worse, it decreases your ability to provide real relevance and value.

This is a lot like the thin content issue I talked about.

The only group that should determine the reading level of your pages is your audience. If you’re writing to an advanced audience about an advanced topic, you’re going to use a more advanced reading level. If your pages are general and meant to appeal to a broad population, then a lower reading level is best.

Save yourself: Don’t hem yourself in and make things overly complicated or simple based on some outside appraisal.

Modern SEO Best Practices Worth Following

It’s time to break free of rigid, one-size-fits-all best practices. It is time to save yourself!

Begin by understanding what works for your business and why. Here are a few tips.

Tip 1: Context is key.

Evaluate your page’s purpose and your audience’s expectations. Let these dictate what will work best when you create new content.

Here’s how: Run a Google search for your target keyword. Then analyze the results. Those top-ranking pages set the right “best practices” for your individual page.

Competitive analysis should guide many SEO decisions.

This is one feature I’m especially proud of in our SEO plugin for WordPress. Instead of using fixed best practices, as every other SEO plugin does, Bruce Clay SEO for WordPress shows content writers recommendations based on what’s currently working in Google for their keywords.

Tip 2: Maintain flexibility.

Consider developing customized best practices for different pages and purposes.

For example, a blog post on an industry topic may need 1,500 or more words to rank. But your About page probably doesn’t need that much in order to rank for your own brand name. A category page may need just 200 words of unique text above the content list. A product page may need just two or three pictures with captions and one paragraph of unique text. And so forth.

Tip 3: Collect customized data.

Your site is unique, and your data should be, too. Collect data so you know what works and what doesn’t for your website and can adjust accordingly.

If the report data isn’t specific to your business’s content and goals, don’t use it as a basis for strategic decisions!

One-Size-Fits-All “Best Practices” Are Obsolete

Certain SEO gold standards can serve as helpful and timeless guidelines. But adhering too strictly to all manner of best practices hurts your competitiveness.

“Ideal” page length, reading level, and keyword usage measurements don’t exist. They only persist because so many tools, plugins and guides still prescribe them.

These SEO best practices don’t cover the multitude of purposes, topics, and industries that webpages fall into. Instead, they promote a one-size-fits-all approach that’s neither realistic nor helpful.

By bucking these best practices and identifying the standards that work for you, your industry, and your audiences, you can start developing authentic, valuable content immediately.

If you liked this post, please share!

Need a professional team to assist with your SEO efforts? Contact us today.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (52)
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52 Replies to “Following SEO Best Practices? But Are They Really the Best?”

Thank you for providing such an incredible post! The information shared is highly valuable. This knowledge is of utmost importance as it serves as a great educational resource and offers immense assistance. Understanding the best SEO practices is crucial, especially for beginners, as it is an ongoing and continuous process.

Hello Algeriahome,
DA is a valuable pointer, yet remember that it’s simply a tool estimation. The internet user calculations don’t utilize it and weigh many factors contradistinction relying upon the question.
Thanks for sharing your points.

You are right. These practises really work in my case. All points are very important in doing SEO properly.

Gone through the blog very informative content for SEO.

Very useful information for my business. Thanks for the sharing tips.

This article is really a great help for SEO. I would like to discuss on SEO and Social media. SEO is important even on social media.

There is no one formula for keyword density. I think it depends on how often a keyword must be used to make the content look relevant for the user. This can vary for different articles. Overdose of anything is not good at SEO:). And as you said utilizing suitable LSI keywords and synonyms can be beneficial. I always add as many long-tail keywords as possible for my blog posts.

When I originally left a comment I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on whenever a comment is added I get 4 emails with the exact same comment. There has to be an easy method you can remove me from that service? Thanks a lot!

Paula Allen

Jennifer at Bloodstained: There should be a link at the bottom of your email to unsubscribe or manage your comment notifications. I’m unable to turn it off for you at our end. I hope that fixes it! Sorry for the inconvenience.

Evaluate your page’s purpose and your audience’s expectations. Let these dictate what will work best when you create new content.

is so good

There are a lot of self proclaimed SEO experts in the field, how do you know who to believe? I guess it should be the one that comes up #1 for their main keywords as that proves they must know what they are doing.

Thank you for providing such helpful steps as it will help me for doing SEO of our business. Thanks once again

Great post. There is no Ideal Page Length – this is true, but content is the king! Longer text will be better for robots than shorter text, not sure what about the people.

Thanks for this important thing about SEO this post really helps people who do SEO for his websites.

This was useful information that will help me improve my practice. How many keywords should I add in my articles because Yoast is very picky

This is really one of the best seo practice to follow. I always try to follow the same on my blog.

Thank you

Great article, it’s gonna help many newbies out there who don’t know more about seo

Great post!

Reading level can be a toughy….

But, so important

SEO practices are not that simple as people think. Everything matters to get good ranking in google. this is good info , thanks for sharing it.

I’m wondering is these tactics can be applied in the newly launched website?

Paula Allen

Taylor: Absolutely, and you can look at the leaders for your targeted keywords, analyze their content, and have a guideline for how to do your own on-page optimization. Good luck!

The DA will be always the first factor of SEO, and to improve it still hard

Paula Allen

Hi Algeriahome: DA (domain authority) is a useful indicator, but keep in mind that it’s just a tool calculation. The search engine algorithms don’t use it and weigh many factors differently depending on the query.

Amazing blog post from Bruce Clay. This makes a lot of sense. I own a SEO agency in the Netherlands and the on page SEO factors are still the most important. You can have a lot of backlinks, but if you content isn’t great it doesn’t have any effect

Hello, Bruce. Again a great contribution from you or your team. It’s really unbelievable in what quality your content is created. It is very impressive. With your three tips you are definitely right. I think it’s nothing so despite it’s also very important nowadays to have an excellent technique. Pagespeed is the keyword. And beyond that reputation has become enormously important. By reputation, I mean the right digital brand building through professional inbound marketing, whereby backlinks can be gained. Finally, however, I am convinced that the brand is everything and decisive. Your blog has also become a brand. You understood it. I am looking forward to further contributions in the future. Many thanks and best regards. Winni.

Such a helpful post!!!Thanks for giving the information about Page Length.Helped me a lot.Appreciate it.

Following you and digging best SEO practices everyday!

People say your article should be at least 500 words but I didn’t think is right and in my opinion, also there is no ideal length for your articles. I think your article should be unique and content-rich.

So true – it’s getting more and more complex and challenging now :-)

I had personally asked this question in the comment section of the Neil Patel article. He himself had replied that article length should always be as much as it takes to completely explain the topic to the user. Also as it was mentioned in the article above, one needs to take the user awareness into considering while deciding how much he/she should explain the topic in the content piece.

Thanks for sharing an amazing article with us . And, yeah an ideal page length depends on the topic you are going to write.

Very nice and informative post. You have covered essential and vital points that are necessary for bloggers and help them to grow. It is important to know the best practices of SEO if you are a beginner & of course its a never-ending process.
Can you also write about content writing like how to find topics, content structure and its essential things to know, I think it helps those who are new in content writing.

all sites should not try same SEO practices but some SEO technics like content length and title need description is compulsory for all sites and you should do strong SEO from starting either there is no competition in your field don’t wait for the competition just do it so nobody can replace your place in google.

One of the most important “Best SEO Practices of Today” has to do with creating content that keeps the reader engaged. People are getting lost in the “long content” factor which has nothing to do with the length of the content itself, but on how comprehensive, easy to read, and to follow the content is.

Google’s VP, News Richard Gingras explains that “we instruct raters to use the highest rating, “very high quality,” for original news reporting “that provides information that would not otherwise have been known had the article not revealed it. Original, in-depth, and investigative reporting requires a high degree of skill, time, and effort.”

This is awesome Bruce, you just nailed it. Especially the page length and keyword density, I will definitely concentrate on those parts.

Yes, that’s perfect, there’s no ideal length, we need to lookout and test what matters most

Very insightful article. In order to rank in the first page of Google page length is important. however writing content just for sake increasing the word count will not get your website into the first page of Google. The content you write on your website should be of high quality and should cater to the visitors, basically engage them. It is very true that the content should be focused on “topics rather than terms.” Instead of filling the content with a keyword just to rank for that keyword. We need to focus on the providing useful information relevant to the keyword. This is something that i learnt recently.

You have added some of the most valuable information about on-page optimization in this blog post. I thoroughly enjoyed this blog post. Looking forward to your next blog post. :-)

Niharika Sharma

I heard about the 2,000+ WORD POSTS theory. I tried to apply it for better ranking. It didn’t work. As you said Context is key

Thanks for your blog it’s very nice.This is a really important information as it is very educational and helpful for us.Waiting for your next posting.

Google’s best practices are the best way for them to keep making money.

Google’s Best Practices & Search Engines’ Best Practices are two different things completely!

we say content is the king and in SEO content matters the most. If you have a blogging website then your content should be good. Other things are secondary in this condition.

Thanks for this informative article. I’m now following your blog.

Hi Bruce,

I read your entire post, it’s quite wonderful and helpful to the seo guys.

I would like to add here one point, about content readability check. If you are concern with content length, keyword density, yes it must be followed at the same time, if you check content before publishing for content readability it will be quite helpful to manage an error free content, in respect to keyword density and content quality.

Thanks for sharing your ideas.

Thank you for providing these steps which are very helpful in doing SEO of our business.

Hi there,
Such a great post !. Agree with you that there is no Ideal Page Length, most of us follow 2,000+ word posts, it became kind of a tradition to all, The Ideal Page Length” Definitely something to think about!, and the readability should be very easy. the most important thing is key word.

Thanks for such a great post …

Thank you for showing me the flip side of the coin. Very useful information.

All of your steps are well written, well presented and informative. I have one question, Can we write more than 2000 words of content on business site inner pages? I think it will affect the user experience. what do you think?

Paula Allen

Rankobiz: Absolutely. If you have 2,000+ words to say about a topic, all useful and on-topic, go for it. The point is not to force all pages to meet an arbitrary length requirement.

“The Ideal Page Length” Definitely something to think about!

Thank you for sharing such amazing post!
I am quite agree that the same keyword limit as said by “Neil Patel” does not work to all the type of content to rank. targeting the competitors can helps a lot to understand “what it takes to be on rank on search engine” who are ranking on the same keyword, that you want to rank on.

Appreciate you have provided useful information to me. I truly got a concept of what SEO best practices are that even worth’s.. Writing a content in number of pages depends on demand but a quality of content is important.


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