SEO best practices

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General principles

1. Think about search intent when choosing what to write

Successful SEO is all about anticipating a searcher's desire and delivering the right answers for them. This means thinking beyond just the initial search term – e.g. someone searching for the difference between retention rate and churn has a deeper desire: "I want to improve retention/churn."

2. Get to the point

Google increasingly rewards pages that answer questions quickly. It's annoying for readers to have to scroll through masses of filler to find the answer to their question.

3. Make guides easy to scan

Readers rarely read an article from the start – especially if they're coming from search. They're likely to scan the page looking for signs of quality and reassurance the page will answer their question. Clear headings and engaging visuals (e.g. diagrams and tables) massively help here.

4. Write headlines that stand out

Writing headlines that work for users and Google is hard. The best thing we can do is try to find ways to make our headlines stand out in some way. Does every result for a search show articles with nearly the same headline? Do something completely different. Make it shorter, more opinionated. Anything that's different is good.

5. There's always more than one search term

Good SEO articles always target more than one search term.

While you may start with a core search term in mind, remember there are always multiple ways to search for the same information. Sometimes it's better to target a similar but lower volume search term than the big obvious one.

For example, the parent search term "user persona" (27,000/mo) has numerous derivations:

  • Define user persona (8,100)
  • Create user persona (3,600)
  • Persona modelling (720)
  • Benefits of personas (50)
  • User persona examples (5,400)
  • Examples of user persona (260)
  • How to create personas (2,900)
  • What is a user persona (260)
  • User persona template (27,000)

It may be hard to rank for the most popular term, but many of these smaller, more specific terms are attainable.

6. Updates work / are important

Google favors pages that are fresh and up-to-date, so regularly updating articles with new information is a good way to boost rankings and traffic.

How often this should happen is very subjective, but the more traffic a page gets the more often it should be updated.

Likewise, updating and improving a page that isn't ranking is often the best way to get it to rank successfully. Just because something didn't rank at the first attempt, doesn't mean it never will.

7. Internal linking isn't optional

Internal linking is a vital part of successful SEO. It helps Google find our content and understand how pages relates to each other. It can also help prevent internal conflicts (where Google is unsure which article to list for a term), by signalling to Google what specific term we think a page should rank for.

As a guideline, every article we publish should have 3-5 internal links when it goes live.

Here's a simple step-by-step you can follow:

  1. Go to Google and search for " [your key terms]"
  2. Open the top 5 or so results
  3. Search the page for the first mention of your key terms on the page
  4. Add an internal link on those mentions

Additional tips:

  • Google values links higher up on the page more than those at bottom – e.g. at the end of the article. Always try to link on first mention of a keyword.

  • Don't just use "Further reading" links. They're useful, but a link in the body of an article works better.

  • Don't use the same link text on every link. Google can treat too many identical links as spammy. Varying the link text with secondary terms will also help the page you're linking to rank for those terms. If you're linking to our guide on how to measure product-market fit, any of the following would be fine:

    • "measure product-market fit"
    • "measuring product-market fit"
    • "guide to measuring product-market fit"
    • "product-market fit metrics"
    • "measuring PMF"
  • Add or change sentences to include your desired link text, provided it doesn't change the meaning. This is useful because in-body links are generally better than lists of links, such as those in a footer.

Useful SEO tools

We use and recommend all the following tools to all writers.


Ahrefs is an all-in-one tool. It's useful for:

  • Rank tracking: We use the built-in rank tracking to keep an eye on our visibility in Google for terms we're targeting with content. It updates ranking every 7 days. We only track desktop rankings in the United States atm.

  • Competitor analysis: Arguably the most useful feature. Use the Site Explorer feature to analyze traffic and keyword patterns for competing websites.

  • Keyword research: There are better keyword research tools, but the Ahrefs Keyword Explorer is still a useful way to find and analyze keyword and article opportunities.

  • Site audits: We use Ahref's Site Audit tool to identify website issues – 404s, broken internal links, etc. A scan runs once a week. Andy looks after this.

  • Backlink analysis: Allows us to see who is linking to our website and competitors. We don't use this extensively atm, but it's useful every once in a while.

Keywords Everywhere

Keywords Everywhere is a very useful Chrome extension that adds keyword research context to Google searches and other popular SEO tools. It's a great way to do quick bits of keyword research and find related terms.

It's only ~$15 annually.

Google Search Console

While the data is somewhat sampled, Search Console is a useful tool for analyzing the top-level numbers, or specific pages. Especially useful for seeing exactly which search terms are driving traffic to a particular page – sometimes the results will surprise you.

Mangools Google SERP Simulator

A free tool that lets you test how your headline will look in Google search results. This is useful for seeing:

  1. Whether Google will clip the headline because it's too long – Google has a 600px width limit on headlines.
  2. Comparing your headline to other results – ideally we want headlines that stand out / are more enticing than other results


A useful little tool with a decent free tier – 3 searches per day. It generates "people also asked" questions based on search terms.

It's useful for deciding what subheadings to include in articles, though exact matches aren't really necessary.


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