About this guide

At more than 400 pages long and almost 140,000 words in length, Econsultancy’s SEO Best Practice Guide contains everything you need to know about search engine optimization, whether you work for an in-house client team, independently or for an agency.

Built on the foundations of our previous, highly-renowned report, this document will help you understand search marketing like never before. 

The SEO Best Practice Guide is invaluable for anybody working in internet marketing, or looking to appoint an SEO agency, or simply trying to secure better search engine rankings.

It has been created with the help of globally-esteemed SEO practitioners, in order to provide front-line insight and give you the edge in your natural search marketing strategy.  

Make no mistake: this guide contains lots of actionable, real world insight. It will help you immediately start to improve your performance across the search engines.

Topics covered

Inside the guide, you will find: 

  • Best practice success factors 
  • Key recommendations
  • SEO tips for success 

These sit across six main areas: 

Contributing authors

This guide has been put together and updated by James Gurd, an experienced digital marketing consultant and owner of Digital Juggler, with the assistance of leading agencies and practitioners working at the coal face of search engine optimization. They have kindly contributed their time and effort in producing this guide.

Contributors to the report include:  

  • Andrew Girdwood, Media Innovations Director, DigitasLBi
  • Stefan Hull, Insight Director, Propellernet
  • Rishi Lakhani, Independent Online Marketing Consultant
  • Lee Colbran, SEO Director and Founding Partner and Dr David Sewell, Consultant at Fresh Egg
  • Gary Moyle, Head of SEO, NetBooster
  • Lisa Myers, CEO and Owner, Verve Search
  • SEmetrical
  • Joe Friedlein, Founding Director, Browser Media
  • Nichola Stott, Owner and Director, theMediaFlow
  • Kelvin Newman, Strategy Director, Site Visibility
  • Michael Hope, Analytics and Conversion Manager, Search Laboratory
  • Alex Moss, Director, FireCask
  • James Lowery, Digital Strategy Consultant, Latitude Digital Marketing
  • Paul Rogers, SEO Manager, Buyagift.com
  • Aleyda Solis, Head of Digital Strategy, WooRank


  1. Introduction to Our Guides
    1. How this guide is structured
      1. Features of this guide
      2. Key chapters
    2. About Econsultancy
  2. Introduction to Search Marketing and SEO
    1. What is search marketing and SEO?
    2. Why is it important?
    3. Market context
    4. Getting to grips with the fundamentals
      1. Have you heard of the tail of search?
      2. Savvier searchers
      3. Anatomy of a SERPs page
      4. The different types of organic search result
    5. Goals, objectives and KPIs
      1. The difference between goals and objectives
      2. Setting SMART objectives
      3. The value of KPIs
    6. Opportunities, challenges and risks
      1. SEO opportunities
      2. SEO challenges
      3. What are the risks?
    7. Integration with other marketing channels
      1. Paid search
      2. Display advertising
      3. Affiliate marketing
      4. Offline marketing
    8. Regulations
  3. Changes in SEO Since the Last Report
    1. Updates from the search engines
      1. Algorithm update: Hummingbird
      2. Algorithm update: Panda
      3. Algorithm update: Penguin
      4. Algorithm update: Venice
      5. Algorithm update: EMD
    2. Interface updates
    3. Transparency and alerts
    4. The drive to disavow
    5. Paid inclusion
    6. Updates from the SEO industry
      1. Content marketing
      2. Outreach and engagement
      3. Data and analytics
      4. Click through optimization
    7. Debate around Google+
  4. Ranking Factors
    1. Focus on the customer to get the rank
    2. The science behind rank
    3. How search engines are evolving algorithms
    4. How this is expected to change
    5. Key dos and don’ts
  5. Planning And Strategy
    1. Understanding the darker side of SEO
      1. Whitehat SEO
      2. Greyhat SEO
      3. Blackhat SEO
    2. Understanding Google penalties
      1. Manual penalties
      2. Algorithmic penalties
    3. SEO strategy – the planning process
      1. Setting a realistic strategy
      2. Balancing SEO and paid search
      3. How PPC can help SEO
    4. Audience analysis, search behaviour and keyphrase selection
      1. Which search terms should you target?
      2. Understanding search behaviour
      3. Time-related variations in keyphrase use
      4. Understanding different types of keyphrases
      5. Grouping and categorising keyphrases
      6. Keyphrase identification and selection process
    5. Auditing current performance
      1. Relative performance
      2. Performance benchmarking
      3. Site inclusion for natural search
      4. Link and domain popularity for natural search
      5. Evaluating alternative SEO approaches
      6. Site speed
      7. Page metrics vs. key term metrics
      8. Benchmarking content performance
      9. Mobile vs. desktop
      10. Page performance
      11. Benchmarking correctly
    6. Site inclusion and reinclusion requests
      1. Filing a reconsideration request
    7. Setting goals, objectives and KPIs for SEO
    8. Key dos and don’ts for SEO strategy
  6. Measurement and Reporting For SEO
    1. SEO measurement
      1. The role of web analytics
      2. Identifying goals, objectives and KPIs
      3. Defining data needs
      4. Ecommerce and non-ecommerce tracking
      5. Ensuring data is validated
      6. Metrics for SEO
      7. Using campaign tracking parameters
    2. SEO reporting
      1. Defining requirements
      2. Essential SEO reports
      3. Using segmentation
      4. Role of dashboards
      5. Custom reports
      6. Importance of goals and event tracking
    3. SEO analysis
      1. Importance of context
      2. Questioning data
      3. Role of Voice-of-Customer data
      4. Multi-channel funnels and attribution analysis
      5. Universal analytics and SEO
    4. Role of testing and optimization
      1. What can you test?
      2. Creating a testing plan
      3. Case study
    5. Known data anomalies for SEO
      1. (not provided)
      2. iOS search
    6. Tools of the trade
      1. Web analytics platforms
      2. Market analysis tools
      3. SEO performance tools
      4. Browser extensions
      5. Technical performance tools
      6. Voice-of-Customer tools.
      7. Page engagement tools
      8. AB and MVT testing tools
    7. Key dos and don’ts for SEO measurement and reporting
  7. Technical SEO
    1. Why technical SEO is important
    2. Considerations when building a website
    3. Site architecture
      1. Categorisation
      2. Use of subdomains
      3. URL formats
      4. Using Webmaster Tools
      5. Sitemaps
      6. Telling the search engine about your Sitemap
      7. URL parameter management
      8. The “robots” meta tag
      9. The Robot Exclusion Standard (robots.txt)
      10. Mod-rewrite and URL Rewrite:
      11. URL Rewrite
    4. Canonicalisation
      1. Why does canonicalisation cause problems?
      2. Quick tips for canonicalisation
    5. Pagination
    6. Geo-targeting
    7. Crawling, server behaviour and response codes
      1. Viewing headers
      2. HTTP request headers
      3. User agent
      4. Accept-Encoding (Compression)
      5. Referrer
      6. HTTP response headers
      7. Response status codes
      8. HTTP compression
      9. ETag
      10. X-Robots-Tag
      11. Canonical URLs
    8. Vary HTTP header
    9. Web crawler detection
    10. URL discovery
      1. Links
      2. Sitemaps
      3. Toolbars and analytics
    11. Web crawling optimization
      1. Crawl budgets
      2. XML Sitemaps
      3. Expired/deleted content
      4. Crawl optimization checklist
    12. Redirection
      1. Geographic redirection
      2. Mobile/device redirection
    13. Site availability and speed
      1. Availability
      2. Site speed
    14. Optimising site speed
      1. Server response time
      2. HTML size
      3. Page structure
      4. AJAX / client-side asynchronous technologies
      5. Site speed checklist
    15. Vertical technical SEO
      1. Image search
      2. News
      3. Video search
      4. Shopping search
    16. HTML markup
      1. Open Graph
      2. Title and description tags
      3. Header tags
      4. Structured data
      5. Breadcrumbs
      6. Pagination
      7. Testing
      8. HTML 5 elements
    17. Domain migration and site redevelopment
      1. Domain migrations
      2. Site redevelopment
    18. Technical auditing for SEO
    19. Technical SEO monitoring
      1. Monitoring checklist
      2. Monitoring tools
  8. On-page Optimization
    1. Introduction
    2. The importance of targeting keywords
    3. Selecting keyphrases for optimization
    4. Page markup factors
      1. Page
      2. Content headings
      3. Body content
      4. Meta description
      5. Image optimization
      6. Authorship
      7. Rich snippets
      8. Social sharing
    5. Document level factors
      1. Keyphrase(s) within domain name
      2. Keywords in URLs
      3. Non-HTML document types
    6. Internal linking
    7. User-generated content
  9. Landing Page Optimization
    1. Setting objectives for your landing pages
    2. Conversion strategy
      1. Macro conversions
      2. Micro conversions
      3. B2B or B2C
    3. Measuring effectiveness
      1. Success factors
      2. A careful consideration for product specific obstacles
    4. Conversion considerations when copywriting for SEO
    5. Different types of SEO landing pages
      1. Landing page as part of the existing structure
      2. Specific campaign landing pages
      3. Microsite (different domain)
    6. Continuous improvement – testing landing pages
      1. Tools
      2. Evaluate results on all levels
    7. Key dos and don’ts
      1. Remember non-responders
      2. Ensure your company image matches perceived impression
      3. Don’t use corporate terms and language
      4. Break content down into readable format
      5. Introduce urgency
      6. Ensure your CTA has an enticing value proposition
      7. Don’t ask for unnecessary information
  10. Link Building
    1. Introduction: Why links are so important
      1. History
      2. Link based algorithms: how Google changed web search
      3. Evolution of link based algorithms and the growth of link spam
      4. Link networks
    2. Link building today: marketing your site to attract links
      1. What makes a good link?
      2. Earning links
      3. Creating unique and valuable content
    3. Active link building
      1. Blogger outreach
      2. Guest blogging
      3. Directories
      4. Business partnerships
    4. Other marketing channels and link treatment
      1. Affiliate marketing
      2. Advertorial
    5. Manipulated links: identifying, cleaning and avoiding
      1. Why are manipulated links problematic?
      2. How to identify unnatural links
      3. Link tools to help with analysis
      4. Cleaning a backlink profile: link removal or disavowal?
      5. Future-proofing your link building strategy
  11. Social and Online PR and their Influence on Search
    1. Changes in algorithms and their impact on the role of social and PR
      1. February 23, 2011 – Google Panda update
      2. April 24, 2012 – Google Penguin update
      3. July 26, 2013 – Link schemes document update (Google’s Webmaster Tool)
    2. Online PR
      1. The role of the influencer
      2. Online PR distribution services
      3. Understanding the motivations of journalists and writers
      4. Key PR skills that support SEO
    3. Social media and SEO
      1. Why is social media relevant to SEO?
      2. What does this mean for SEO?
      3. Social leads to links
      4. Social leading to richer search results listings
      5. Social content ranks in its own right
      6. On-page social signals
  12. Mobile SEO
    1. Why do mobile SEO?
    2. Development for mobile SEO
      1. Responsive web design
      2. Mobile optimised site
      3. Technical considerations
    3. Mobile indexation
      1. robots.txt:
      2. META robots tag
      3. link rel=”alternate”
      4. Mobile XML Sitemap
      5. Canonicalisation
    4. Mobile content
      1. Viewport meta tag
      2. Display/hide content per viewport
      3. Responsive images
    5. Mobile performance
      1. Page speed
      2. CDN (content delivery networks)
      3. Dynamic (or “lazy”) loading
      4. Structured data
      5. Click-to-call links
      6. Option to view the full site
    6. Mobile SEO marketing
      1. The factors driving mobile marketing growth
      2. What are people doing?
    7. Understanding mobile search behaviour
    8. Mobile keyword research
    9. Understanding the mobile SEO algorithm
    10. Link building for mobile
      1. Reciprocity
    11. Mobile landing pages
    12. Key dos and don’ts for mobile SEO
    13. Useful resources for technical mobile SEO
  13. Local SEO
    1. How local SEO has evolved:
      1. The Google Venice update:
      2. Personalisation
      3. Google Places pages and Google+ Local pages
      4. Zagat reviews
    2. Local SEO ranking factors
      1. Place page factors
      2. On-page factors
      3. NAP listings and citations
      4. Link signals
      5. Review signals
    3. Social and local SEO
    4. The most impactful signals
    5. Key dos and don’ts
  14. International SEO
    1. The global search engine market
    2. Defining an international SEO project
      1. Auditing current international organic search status
      2. Auditing current international search activity
      3. Approach to translation: automated vs. native support
      4. Targeting your international audience
    3. Your international SEO goals and targets
    4. Developing an internationally optimised web presence
      1. Organising your international URL structure
      2. Country targeted website URL structure
      3. URL Structure for language targeted websites
    5. Translating or localising
    6. Language and country targeting for web content
      1. Hreflang annotations
      2. Content language meta tag
      3. Search engine webmaster tools
    7. Growing your international web popularity
      1. Defining an international link building campaign
      2. Executing an international link building campaign
    8. Measuring international SEO success
      1. Following up your international search activity
  15. Appendix 1: Acknowledgements
    1. Lead author
    2. Expert contributors
  16. Appendix 2: SEO Performance Audit
    1. Technical Performance
      1. Page load speed
      2. Page size
      3. HTML validation
      4. HTTP status
      5. Site crawl errors
      6. Volume of webpages being indexed
      7. What content is being indexed?
      8. Cross browser rendering
      9. What checks to make
    2. On-page Optimisation
      1. Page titles
      2. What checks to make
      3. Meta descriptions
      4. What checks to make
      5. Internal links
      6. What checks to make
      7. Content
      8. What checks to make
      9. Keyword density
      10. What checks to make
      11. Mark-up and rich snippets
      12. What checks to make
    3. Keyword Coverage
      1. What checks to make
    4. Link Portfolio
      1. What checks to make
    5. Social Media Coverage
      1. What checks to make
    6. Competitor Strengths and Weaknesses
      1. What checks to make
    7. SEO Audit Checklist

A free sample document is also available for download