09 Sep Perfect your own SEO with our 20 easy to follow steps!
Perfect your own website SEO with our 20 easy to follow steps!
I’m going to start with a quote from Hollywood (but don’t let that damage my credibility before I’ve even got warmed up…)
Build and they will come....
I actually think it’s originally a biblical reference but, the truth is where your website is concerned it’s not true. Build your website and no-one will come (apart from maybe your Mum and Husband or Wife).
There are over 1 billion websites in existence globally, Google’s index contains 47 billion webpages!
So….how do you go about getting your website noticed?
I know….Promotion! Of course! Promote and then they will come (surely?)!
Social Media is probably going to be your ‘go to’ resource here but its time consuming and there is only a finite amount of time you can spend promoting and catching relevant queries across your social media channels and, of course, you still have to have the time where you are actually doing what you are promoting!
Eating, travelling, sleeping, working, family commitments, meeting clients – all compete for your precious time and make a serious dent into the time you spend promoting on Social Media.
Social Media is also very transitory and fluid, once it no longer in front of you the detail is lost.
So if your potential clients can’t find you on Social Media due to the vast volume of data….what do they do?
They’ll google what they can remember about you.
(I’ve spent years ‘correcting’ people and telling them ‘google’ is a company name and not a verb – turns out I’m completely wrong it is actually a verb!).
So, there they are ‘google-ing’ and trying to find you amongst the other 47 billion pages in Google’s index…
An additional consideration is diversity.
You must, must, MUST have a diverse online profile!
“BUT”, I hear you cry,
“Facebook is so EASY and EVERYONE is on it so it makes complete sense to spend the majority of my time promoting my business there – ROI is SKY HIGH!”
Please pay heed to this warning, if you don’t own the platform you use to promote your business you are extremely exposed and vulnerable to that platform changing the rules.
And there’s nothing you can do about it.
So…Build It….Of course Promote It…BUT….SEO it too – it is an essential tool in your marketing armoury
In fact – get your SEO right and your marketing costs will decrease as your rankings increase, you’ll also be able to spend less time promoting on Social Media – your customers and clients will be coming to you!
And I’ve got some great news for you!
Practicing good On-Site SEO doesn’t have to be rocket science!
And it doesn’t have to cost a penny….
You may have heard that Google uses in excess of 200 ranking factors and whilst this may sound daunting some simple ‘best practice’ tweaks could see you shooting up those rankings.
Follow these 20 recommendations and get your website in the best of health.
Are your URLs search engine friendly?
Search Engines (and site visitors!) hate long complicated URLs that are difficult to read.
http://yoursite.co.uk/greatpage/ – This is good, we like this structure!
http://yoursite.co.uk/post/01/2016/ID=269?¬sogreat/ – This one, hmmm, not so pretty.
And if we think it isn’t too pretty, Google will have trouble with it too.
If you use WordPress you can nicely configure your URL structure from the Settings | Permalink menu option:
Don’t be afraid to slip in a keyword or two.
You’ve probably heard that Google are generally moving away from giving serious weight to keywords BUT it’s still true that using the keywords you’re targeting for rankings in your URLs is very good practice.
As you can see I’ve searched here for ‘Surrey Widgets’ and you can see it’s the URL which is highlighted at the top of the rankings.
It’s worth noting that Google are on record as stating that the first 3 to 5 words in a URL are given the most weight.
2. Title tag
The title tag is an extremely important on-page SEO factor.
The nearer the keyword is to the beginning of the title tag; the more weight it will have with the search engines. You can use a maximum of 58 characters so make good use of them but no keyword stuffing (I’ll be saying that a lot).
3. Header tags
Headings help Google understand the content of a page (it also makes the page nice a readable for your site visitors).
We have <h1> to <h6> inclusive available, <h1> being the main headline, if you use WordPress it would normally assign the <h1> tag to your page/post title but some custom themes overwrite this so please double check.
It is generally agreed that you should only use one <h1> tag and it should contain your target keyword.
Use <h2> and <h3> tags to sub-categorise your content, it would be clever here to utilise ‘Latent Semantic Indexing’ to ‘prove’ the authority of your post, so if you were targeting ‘umbrella’ as your main keyword you would mix in phrases like ‘staying dry’, ‘raining’, etc. This will also help with your ‘Topical Authority’ score and fit nicely with Google’s Semantic Search engine.
I rarely use header tags beyond <h3>.
I’ve mentioned above how to use keywords in the title and header tags, it’s important to get the ratio right in the main body of your content, too much and you’re on your way to a Google penalty, too little and you’re not going to rank.
The general school of thought is to stick to a keyword density ratio of between 2% to 4%, this can be bent a little by using key phrases of 2 or 3 words in addition to the keyword and remember to use synonyms and LSI.
Make sure you get your keyword/phrase in the first 100 words of the post and please, please, please no keyword stuffing – you will get busted by the Big G!
5. Latent Semantic Indexing
Google are now getting so clever that they don’t just know what content is on your site, they also know what it’s about meaning they can determine the difference between a search for Apple (the fruit) and Apple (the company) based on the topical relevance of the page content.
Google call this Semantic Search. When you’re creating your pages with a keyword or key phrase in mind start to think about associated phrases, terms and synonyms. It’s also clever here to think about putting in some outbound links to authority sites. If you’re writing about ‘rocket science’ find out who the leading authority on rocket science is, put in some references to his/her work and link out to them. This will increase the authority of the post (If you contact the person you are linking to they may even give you a backlink to your post – then you’ve struck pure SEO gold! – but more about Off Page SEO in another e-book!)
Put simply – Content is King. If you’ve got poor, thin content then everything else in this e-book is irrelevant, you simply wont rank.
You should always write for your visitors, not the search engines, that being said the easier we make things for Google the better Google will like us. Make your posts high quality, with high authority outbound links. Use LSI. Write long form content – in a recent study it was found that the average word count of a Google first page result was 1,890 words (but keep it relevant and of high quality – thin content with padding will get penalised).
You’ll see I was keyword stuffing there with overuse of the word ‘Quality’ – completely intentional, it’s so important and the key to everything (pun intended).
7. Meta Description
In the ‘Olden Days’ of SEO webmasters used to fill the meta description with keyword after keyword often leading to a paragraph of utter nonsense.
Whilst the SEO value of the meta description is now fairly limited this is the first thing a user will see after a Google search so it should be clear, concise and detailed. This is the ‘hook’ to get users to click on your link.
Remember that you should limit the meta description to 155 characters and it shouldn’t duplicate the Title.
8. Image alt tag
An Alt tag is a descriptive field for any image files that you include in your post.
The complete tag is: <img src=”image.jpg” alt=”image description” title=”image tooltip”/>
In their article on image publishing guidelines Google tell us to ‘use great alt text’ – this clearly indicates that they put a lot of weight behind this.
Why so much? Well the Alt tag describes what the image is so helps with relevancy and is yet another clue as to what your page is about. It is also an important element of accessibility, screen readers used by the visually impaired will ‘read out’ the alt tag so the more descriptive it is the more useful it is. User Experience is highly valued by Google.
Site Wide Optimisation
9. Site Speed
The faster your page loads, the happier your visitors will be, the lower your bounce rate will be and the higher Google will rank you. A site load speed of 4 seconds will result in a 25% abandonment rate – 10 seconds and 40% of visitors will give up.
The good news is you can run a site speed test from within Google Webmaster Tools (or Search Console as its now called.
It takes a few minutes to run but will return a fairly comprehensive report of what, if anything, is slowing your site down.
10. Image Optimising
As previously mentioned, large images are the bloat dragging your website down. A recent study of 200 million website crawls found that 78% of all on-page SEO issues were image related, this means it probably affecting you (and me!)
If you use WordPress there are a number of plugins you can use to optimise images, I use EWWW Image Optimizer or Smush-it. Kraken.io is also highly rated.
11. Bounce Rate
Bounce Rate is the percentage of visitors who ‘bounce’ back to Google after visiting a single page on your website. This is a strong indicator of how relevant the searched for keyword is to the content you are presenting.
If you ranked first for ‘Surrey Widgets’ but after a period of time your bounce rate for this key phrase was extremely high it would be a clear indicator to Google that your page isn’t considered relevant or useful to a high number of visitors. You can then expect a ranking hit for this key phrase.
You can track your bounce rate in Google Analytics:
If you find you have a high bounce rate look at the page content, try the following:
- Checks its readability – readers generally dislike huge chunks of text
- Use <h2> and <h3> tags to break up the page.
- Avoid pop ups and adverts that slow the page down.
- Make sure your meta descriptions are accurate and you are targeting the right audience.
- Improve the page load time
- Include attractive images to grab the attention
12. Internal Links
An important part of on-site SEO is the natural flow throughout your website created by your internal links.
Internal links are useful for:
- Allowing your visitors to easily navigate your website thus improving user experience and reducing bounce rate.
- Establishing an information hierarchy
- Spreading link juice (ranking power) around your website
Use your internal links to keep your visitors on your website, show other compelling content that you have, even give a little ranking boost to lower performing pages by linking to them from more popular pages. Anything from 2 to 5 internal links on a page is considered optimal.
Google’s John Muellor is quoted as saying “we do use internal links to better understand the context of content of your sites”.
13. Broken Links
Website visitors really dislike broken links which means Google really dislikes broken links.
Thankfully you can easily find, and fix, any broken links you may have. Chrome has an extension you can install called ‘Check My Links’ but if you aren’t a Chrome user you can go to http://www.brokenlinkcheck.com/ and get a list of your broken links.
14. Your ‘About Us’ page
This is one of the most important pages on your website, if a visitor is on this page then they WANT to know more about you, don’t lose this opportunity to tell them all that is great about you, sell, sell, sell, have a great CTA and show them what you look like.
Hubspot have some awesome examples of About Us pages in their blog: http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/remarkable-about-us-page-examples
15. A customised 404 page
A 404 page is displayed when a visitor clicks on a broken link, you’ve probably all seen this:
Obviously, our ultimate objective is to be broken link free but let’s hedge our bets and not lose the opportunity to keep our visitor on our website (and reduce bounce rate). There a clever little WordPress plugin called ‘404 Page Pro’ which will allow you to create something like this:
Much, much better I’m sure you agree!
16. Mobile Friendly
Google searches on mobile devices have now overtaken desktops. Google has a 94% market share of mobile searches compared to 65% of desktop searches.
Make no mistake mobile matters to Google, but also, given these statistics it matters to your customers (and potential customers).
Check how mobile compatible your website is using this quick and free tool:
If you don’t get this message, make fixing it a high priority!
XML Sitemaps are a must-have for all websites. They serve as a way to communicate directly with the search engine crawlers, alerting them to new or changed content quickly and speeding up the indexing process.
You can use seositecheckup.com to check for your sitemap, if you don’t have one you can get one generated there too.
If you use WordPress Yoast SEO for WordPress will automatically create sitemaps for you.
Once this is created you will need to submit the sitemap to Google Search Console:
- On your Search Console home page, select your site.
- In the left sidebar, click Crawl and then Sitemaps.
- Click the Add/Test Sitemap button in the top right.
- Enter /system/feeds/sitemap into the text box that appears.
- Click Submit Sitemap.
18. Write, maintain, and distribute, a blog.
I could write a whole e-book (and probably will) about the Content Marketing side of SEO.
I will keep this section fairly brief and just say that, contrary to popular belief, you do not need to be writing your blog musings little and often. Quality will far outrank Quantity. Every Single Time.
Publish one good, authoritative post every couple of weeks and promote the life out of it, backlinks will inevitably follow.
19. Duplicate Content
Duplicate content is a BIG no-no. This is true both internally and externally.
Say you have a website selling shoes, there may be two or three different ways for a visitor to find the same content, this would essentially create 2 or 3 pieces of duplicate content.
Don’t overuse ‘Categories’ and ‘Tags’ – each of these will create a webpage which could then lead to duplicate content issues. It is always a good idea to ensure that tags and categories are not being indexed.
If you have a legitimate reason for having similar or duplicate content on your site, then always use the rel=canonical tag to tell Google which page they should concentrate on.
You can read what Google have to say about canonical URLs here.
Remember also that the www and non-www versions of your website are treated as 2 sites so always set your preferred domain in Google Search Console and, if necessary, then setup a redirect.
If you want to investigate any possible external duplication of your web pages Copyscape is made just for that purpose!
20. Local Factors
You’ve probably noticed that if you type a business type and a location into Google (ie, Solicitor Guildford) you will now get a local map and 3 boxed listings before you see the usual Page 1 listings – it’s got to be worth trying to muscle in on this!
This is the Google My Business search, if you haven’t already, claim your Google My Business page, actively encourage your customers to leave you reviews, this is going to be a huge Google ranking factor for local SEO.
Once you have your page setup concentrate on your NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) citations.
Moz have a handy little tool which checks all the major business listing websites: https://moz.com/local/.
Reviews are essential in ranking in the ‘Local 3 Pack’. Google + and Facebook reviews all count here.
One last, but important, piece of advice…..
Google won’t be getting less clever or less strict in the future make sure your SEO strategy is as ethical, sustainable and future proof as it can possibly be.
And always abide by the Google Webmaster Guidelines.
We’ve put together all of the above steps in a handy checklist of SEO basics to help you increase your visibility in Google.
These SEO basics will help the search engines to index your website and users to find what they’re looking for.
If you’d like help with optimising your site we provide SEO services for businesses throughout the UK. Our ethical SEO services are known for gaining high ranking results for all types of businesses and generating huge volumes of leads that convert for the long term.
If you’d like to discuss your options, please do get in touch – It would be great to hear from you.
If you found this post helpful, we’d love it if you could share it – Thank You…
I’m Nigel McHugh, Head of SEO at Surrey Digital, a Surrey based digital media agency.
With over 20 years consultancy experience working with blue chip companies I’m a natural problem solver – a perfect character trait for the ever changing landscape of SEO.
Feel free to ask me anything, always happy to help out – firstname.lastname@example.org
And if you’re on Facebook why not swing by my group and say Hi…
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