Great Search Engine results start with your overall SEO friendly website.
Your organic Search Engine results are highly dependent on many website elements and techniques. I have had many experiences where people would ask me why they are not showing up on Google for the keywords they enter to find their website. I take a quick look at their site and usually notice an array of errors right off the bat.
There are no Meta Titles and Descriptions. Either their keywords are very scarce or stuffed all over the place. Their website layout is confusing and not logical for users and search engines. The content looks like it was copied from a technical manual and doesn’t pull me in, to say the very least.
1 minute later…time for me to bounce off!
Today’s Internet users and Google are both very savvy and expectations continue to get higher for very clean, informative, trustworthy, fast and relevant website experiences.
Google’s latest algorithms have really leveled the playing field, and Rankbrain was brought in to help weed out the many spammy websites of the past, and pave way for the well written, informative and humanly engaging sites of the now.
*This article was written for on-site search engine optimization. Their are several other practices that will greatly boost your SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
Related article: 9 WHITE HAT BACK LINKING PRACTICES FOR TOP SEO IN 2019
White Hat Back Links, Content Marketing, and Social Media Marketing are a few worth mentioning. Stay tuned, as I have already written about some of these and others will be covered throughout the blog.
1.) Keyword Analysis
In my mind, this is probably the most important first step to take as you are creating your website strategy. You need to ask yourself – “What keywords would I enter in the search engines to find my business website?”
Jotting down a list with pen and paper is a great start. Think of Broad Match (2-3 words resulting in a wider and broader search), and Long-tailed (more than 3 words, longer specific search phrases – which narrow the search).
Google needs and relies on these keywords as they crawl your website. There are some keywords that are searched more – (usually Broad Match), which bring in more traffic, and therefore, are more competitive.
But, by using less competitive and lower traffic Long-tailed keywords, your chances of ranking for these are much higher!
- As mentioned before, write down a list of Broad Match and Long-tailed keywords and phrases that are relevant to your business niche products, services, and location.Stay focused on some of the lesser competitive Long-tailed phrases and jot down specific phrases you would use yourself, for searching your website.
- Keep in mind, if you are a local business, then use Geo-targeted keywords for your location. Example: “Portland SEO“, “SEO Portland Oregon” “Social Media Marketing services and consulting in Portland, OR”.
- Use some of the free tools for doing your keyword research and analysis.
Google Adwords Keyword Planner (Still widely used by many SEO experts)
SEOBOOK Keyword tool (Easy to use and get started with)
- If your budget allows it, there are some really excellent paid tools. One of my favorites for finding Long-tailed phrases is: keywordtool.io
SEMRush Keyword Research Tool
A Hrefs Keyword Explorer Tool
- After compiling a good list of keywords with their competition and traffic statistics, logically narrow down which terms are realistic to shoot for in your business niche. Some of those highly competitive keywords can take several months and a big off-site SEO campaign budget to achieve great results.
- Be realistic with your marketing budget. By focusing on more of the long-tailed keywords in the beginning, you will start to accumulate traffic. You can then look toward focusing more on the Broad Match terms. If your business niche is unique and less competitive – then don’t hesitate using Broad Match right away.
- For existing website owners, it is always good to consistently do keyword searches and analyze the new competition and traffic stats. You will also want to continue to track your keyword traffic results.
- There are some awesome free and paid tools for analyzing and tracking your keywords:
Google Webmaster Search (free and must have)
SEOBook Rank Checker (free – does a great job!)
Rank Tracker (free & paid versions)
Authority Labs (paid – downloadable CSV files)
A Hrefs Rank Tracker (paid – comes with many other tools)
SEMRush Tracking (paid – comes with many other tools)
2.) Content – Relevant, Engaging & Trusted
It is probably no secret by now about how important your website content is in the eyes of Google and your incoming visitors. I had mentioned Google’s Rankbrain algorithm earlier.
The search engine ‘king’ has been really emphasizing high quality content that is relevant, engaging, trustworthy and informative for your visitors. Gone are the days of ‘keyword stuffing‘ and spammy sites riddled with ads everywhere!
Creating a content strategy should be the next step after having done an extensive keyword research and analysis. By utilizing your targeted keywords in a natural and free flowing writing style, your content will end up having more appeal and validation from both your readers and Google.
I find it very efficient for writing your content for all your main website pages, then designing everything around that content. This is my content strategy in a nutshell. Although there is a bit more to it than that.
There are several rules (or proper practices) for writing high quality content for your users and the search engines. These adhere to the latest Google algorithms and give you an upper hand for ranking higher with your website content.
- It is always a good idea to get your main targeted keywords/phrase in the first body of content, on the page you are writing for.
- Make proper use of your h1 h2 h3 h4 h5 h6 headings. Your h1 heading tag is highly valued by Google, and you should always have one of these at the top of each of your web site pages. I strongly suggest having your higher targeted keyword(s) in the beginning of this heading.
- Your content should be easily readable by an eighth grader. Google’s Rankbrain and human behavior play into this. Check out this article that fully explains on readability is:
Keyword Density is something to keep in mind. No more keyword stuffing! Many SEO experts have come to an agreement that between 1-2% keyword density is a good number to shoot for. This is much lower than in the past.
Characteristics of good content: Concrete, Clear, Coherent, Simple, Educational, Inspiring, Relevant, Practical, Credible, Emotional, Entertaining, and Trustworthy.
- Write for humans and not just for the search engines! This is what Google (Rankbrain) wants, and it’s what your visitors want. Writing naturally, informatively, and technical jargon free content, will bode well for your audience sticking around longer. High bounce rates will harm your SEO efforts and lower conversion rates.
3.) Create and Maintain a Blog
As mentioned above, the importance of great content is not to be overlooked. If your business website does not have a blog, I highly advise starting one ASAP. Your blog should be your ‘meat and potatoes’ of your overall website content.
Writing informative blog articles for your readers will pay off huge dividends, not only for your audience, but for your organic SERPs.
Ryan Biddulph, a good friend of mine on Twitter and a top blogger has an awesome blog on how to get you started and how to be successful in blogging! I suggest checking into this.
We tend to develop websites using the WordPress framework for various positive reasons. WordPress was originally used as a blogging platform, but now is one of the most widely used website frameworks on the Internet.
There are several other options out there worth looking at, but we usually stick with WordPress based on our excellent experiences and results.
“A good content marketer can empathize with their audience and can therefore understand what topics they should create content on, what tone of voice to use, and what channels to promote the content in.”
Rand Fishkin, Wizard of Moz, Moz Blog
- Write and publish quality blog articles consistently. This keeps your website alive, and keeps Google continually crawling and ranking your new content and keywords.
- Quality over Quantity – Writing one really good, informative, and inspiring article is much more effective than putting out 10 uninspiring and dull articles. Your audience will quickly skim over your article and will either bounce off in a matter of seconds, or stick around and feel engaged based on the informative effort you made when publishing your article.
- Write good catchy (Meta, H1) titles for your articles that include some of your high traffic keywords. This is your primary opportunity for capturing your audience during their search, and gives Google more of your relevant keywords to rank in the SERPs.
- Add images, infographics, quotes, videos and statistics for a higher user engagement rate.
- Use great formatting for your readers. Mix in one sentence with 3-5 sentences. Add colorful and bold headings with your keywords included. Make good and proper use of lists. Use readable fonts and stay focused on size, style and color.
- Write about the latest and trending topics that are relevant to your business and your readers. Buzzsumo is a great tool to find out what is popular and being widely shared.
- Make great use of everlasting ‘evergreen content‘. You can share this type of content for years and it still stays fresh and pertinent!
- Always include the main social sharing buttons in an easy and clickable spot on your blog. Your search engine optimization will benefit greatly when your articles are being consistently shared via Social Media.
- Divide your articles up into categories and tags. This provides for a better user experience and more keywords for Google to crawl.
- Always include at least one high authority outbound link for gaining the trust of Google.
- Use inbound links to relevant articles and pages on your website. Use natural keyword phrases for these links, as Goolge loves picking up on these. This also keeps your audience engaged with more pertinent content to link to and read.
- Cite your sources and give credit where credit is due. Link any images you borrow to their respective website owners. This establishes trust and builds strong relationships.
4.) Meta Titles and Descriptions
Although Meta Titles & Descriptions are not a Google ranking signal, proper optimization and good practices will really help to increase your website traffic. When search engine visitors can get a quick glance at the information that stands out to them, they will click that listing quickly, as it pertains to what they are searching for.
A high (CTR) Click Through Rate is a strong indicator that your Meta Descriptions and Titles are informative and convincing to web searchers. This ultimately increases traffic to your website, while giving you an edge over the higher ranked sites just above you.
Recently, Google increased the Meta Description snippet length up to 300 characters. The Meta Title still remains 60 characters. There is no need to go over the limit for both of these!
- WordPress users take advantage of the Yoast SEO plugin. This works awesome for Meta titles and descriptions, as well many other SEO functions for your site.
- Personally, I like to add our business phone number in the Meta description. This is a great call to action, and customers don’t even need to click on to our website to get in touch with us.
- Use some of your main keywords in both your title and description. If you are going for Local SEO, always have your Geo Targeted location in the Meta title.
- Do not keyword stuff your titles and descriptions!
- Write out naturally flowing and relevant descriptions covering the gist of your services and products. Write for the humans not the search engines.
- Do not have duplicate titles and descriptions for different pages!
5.) Image Optimization
A good bit of your website content most likely will made up of images. Images play a big role in user engagement, but also have a big role for strong SEO. You can do a web search and hit ‘Google Images’ – an low and behold, a plethora of images show up, linking to their website pages.
Driving traffic from well optimized images is just another bonus from knowing your content and how to make the most out of it!
- Use caution when adding stock photos. Many of these photos are used by other website owners and are clustered together when visitors are searching through Google images. Chances are greatly reduced that they click on your image and link.
- If possible, always try and use your own original images. This adds a unique trust and style to your brand, and stays in the memory of your visitors. Also, the chances of people sharing your original images via social media, are greatly increased!
- Use the highest quality image that has the smallest file size. The .jpg image file type is generally the best for optimizing for quality and file size. .png image files are great for transparency and used for images like logos.
- Do not use copyrighted images. This is bad practice and could also land you a lawsuit. If you use images from bloggers, make sure you cite and link to the source.
- Give your images relevant file names and make use of keywords. Example: seo_optimized_image.jpg.
- Have a descriptive alt tag for your images that include keywords, but not stuffed with them! Example: alt=”web designer in the office at Designatude Portland digital marketing agency”.
6.) User Experience (UX)
A poorly designed website will not only effect audience user experience, but also could have a negative impact on SEO. When visitors have a difficult time navigating through a site, or are distracted by ads bombarding them, or just simply put off by poorly written content, they will bounce off immediately!
There goes the opportunity for a good conversion, phone call, subscriber etc. Although there is no clear answer as to whether Google uses bounce rate as a ranking signal, we do know that Google understands that higher bounce rates = spammy or less user friendly environments. If your are having challenges with UX design, then make sure to hire an experienced web design company to help you out with this.
- A good content strategy is the beginning of what a solid web design layout will become. Having all your content/pages written and images in mind, you can now design a logical and consistent layout that provides a smooth and flawless experience for your users.
- Your link structure is not only important for easy navigation, but needs to be logical for Google and for the pages you want to be crawled first. Think of a pyramid, your home page being on top.
- Less is better these days. Having bigger sites with hundred’s of pages will dilute their Page Authority. Fewer higher quality content pages have a better chance for increasing their Page Authority, and ranking higher in the SERPs.
- Be very careful of using pop-ups and landing pages. There is a lot of discussion on this, and many think that pop-ups cause visitors to bounce off quickly. A well designed popup is a must. Visitors need a clear choice for not opting in.
- Make use of a good Call to Action (CTA) that isn’t too distracting or annoying to visitors. Your visitors are on your site to learn who you are and what you can provide for them, not to be constantly shadowed by social media buttons and subscription forms.
- Formatting, font size, style, and color all play a huge role in user experience. Web safe fonts are a great way to go.
7.) Website Speed Optimization
Website loading speed is on of the biggest factors for successful SEO results. This all comes into correlation of slow loading sites = very high bounce rates. Savvy Web users are impatient and will have nothing to do with a slow website. This is a huge traffic killer!
Site speed has become a Google ranking signal. It is absolutely imperative to have your website loading as quick as possible…or face utter doom and disaster from very low traffic numbers.
- Check your website speed with these free tools:
Google Page Speed Insights
- WordPress users read: Speeding Up Your WordPress Website in Less Than 5 Minutes.
- Use optimal file and image compression practices. Hire a great web developer and web designer for this job. it is totally worth it for your SEO efforts.
- Make sure you are using adequate hosting for the size and type of website you have. Shared hosting works fine for smaller business sites. VPS (Virtual Private Servers) give you more control over your hosting and work well for bigger websites and high amounts of traffic.
- Check into some CDN’s (Content Delivery Networks). These are very useful for websites that use an abundant of images, videos, music, and any other content that requires big file sizes.
- Integrate a page and browser cache system. Combine and minify all files that are being used….css, .js etc. Again, it is worth hiring a good developer for these tasks.
8.) Mobile Friendly and Responsive
In this day and age, Mobile Internet users are increasing at a rapid rate, and as of 2018, 52% of all website traffic is generated worldwide through mobile devices! Websites not only need to be responsive and render consistent on all Internet devices, but need to pass Google’s Mobile Friendly test. This has been extremely important for Local SEO, as users are searching for local businesses mostly via phone.
The Mobile Friendly test has become an SEO ranking signal for Google in one of their latest algorithm updates. It is absolutely imperative to make sure your website passes this test for optimal SEO results in the search engines. This also provides for better user experience and lower bounce rates.
- Test your website to see if it passes the Google Mobile Friendly Test.
- WordPress users make sure you are using a theme that has responsive capabilities built into it. There are also several free and commercial plugins for responsive and mobile capabilities. Do your research and find which plugin works best for what you are trying to achieve.
- Hire a great Web Developer that specializes in mobile and responsive capabilities. This is money well spent!
- Read all about the Google AMP Project. This project is gaining popularity among many of the top websites and being integrated by many more business websites. These lightning quick mobile pages are having a positive effect for better SEO results.
9.) Clean Optimized URLs
Good and clean URLs (Uniform Resource Locator) will help benefit your users and SEO. It has always been a rule of thumb to keep your URLs short, descriptive, and clean with no characters or numbers.
Adding in your keywords to your URLs is always a good idea, when you don’t spam them.
An Example of good URLs:
An Example of not so good URL:
- Keep your address Urls short and descriptive. Short is always good for your users when they copy and paste your site for whatever reason…saving and such.
- Add your keywords into you URL in a short and concise way.
- WordPress users should learn and know about permalinks and the best way to use them for your pages.
- Anytime you change your URL after publishing and indexing your page, make sure you use a redirect pointing to the new page URL.
10.) XML Sitemap Submission
An XML (Extensible Markup Language) Sitemap is a must have for your website pages. This is a machine-readable website map for all your pages you have published. You want these pages indexed by all the major search engines when first published, and anytime you update your website pages.
Eventually Google will get to your website and index your pages, but this can take a good amount of time. By creating and submitting an XML sitemap, you speed up the process, and get your updated pages indexed more quickly, which can really benefit your SEO.
- WordPress users should install the Yoast SEO plugin that was previously mentioned above. There is an excellent XML sitemap generator built into this plugin for easy use. You have the option to add in your pages, posts, archives, categories etc.
- There are many free and commercial XML site map generators to use and take advantage of. When you are ready to have your website pages indexed and found by your Web searchers, submit these sitemaps pronto!
- Use Google Webmaster Tools as well as Bing Webmasters to easily and quickly submit your sitemap pages and images.
- You can also upload your .xml file via FTP to your root directory. This is quick and easy for when you make future page updates.
11.) Internal and External Linking
Using internal and outbound links can really take your well written content to a new level of gaining awesome search results and more traffic. If your website is new and you want to quickly start gaining the trust of Google, outbound links to high authority sites is your answer.
A well structured content strategy along with a great content marketing plan, can greatly benefit from well placed and written internal and external links. The idea is to spread some page wealth throughout your entire website and not just focusing on the home page and contact us page.
- Add in at least one outbound link for each of your blog articles to a high authority website. This gains the trust from Google. You can add more but have at least one.
- Your internal and external links should be written in a natural, anchor text or contextual way. They should be relevant and provide value for the reader.
- Add in some of your long tailed keywords to the anchor text links, in a very natural flowing way.
- Make sure all your links are ‘follow links’, so Google will follow these externally or internally. This is where credit is given for the links and their perspective pages.
- A good practice for bloggers is to have your main article topic, and create links to your sub articles with their relevant sub topics. This works well when you are sharing your content and bringing in visitors via inbound marketing. They will engage and stay on your site when you have good and relevant articles linked from the one they are currently reading.
- Devise a deep linking system that works as a pyramid. Having your main page on top, linking to the main pages below and so on. You want to focus more of your link juice on the top (or most important) pages of the pyramid.
12.) Check for Broken Links and 404 Pages
Broken links and 404 pages lead to that heartbreaking dead end for your users and the Google search crawling spiders. There is nothing positive about any of this but can be remedied pretty quick and easily.
If any of your internal links are broken and not working properly, this can really confuse Google when they are crawling your website. In turn, your page crawl rate can drop and have an effect on your SEO.
Also, your visitors will tend to bounce off your site rather quickly if they click a link and end up at a dead end 404 page. So this would not be healthy for your traffic and SEO.
- Do a website audit with this fabulous and free tool: Screaming Frog. This will tell you everything you need to know about broken links and 404 pages.
- If you have found an outbound link on your site that has lead to a 404 page, either just remove the link, or link it to a relevant page that has a high page authority. Sometimes you can find better content to link to as well!
- You can use an excellent Chrome extension Check My Links to quickly find any broken links on your website.
- Although after some time, Google will not index any 404 pages you might have on your site, it is always good practice to do a 301 redirect of that 404 page to a page that is relevant on your website. WordpPress users are in luck as there are several
redirect plugins available.
- Hire a good web developer that can do an efficient site audit and manually redirect any 404 pages to the desired source page.
13.) Schema Markup
Schema markup has become one of the latest revolutions of SEO and is being used more and more often. Learning Schema markup can take a bit of time, but gives you a plethora of options to spruce up your website search results.
Schema has a way of telling the search engine what things ‘mean’ not just what it says. An example would be that if I put the name ‘Brad Lindsey‘ on an article, and wrapped some Schema code around that, meaning ‘author of the article‘, then the information of Brad Lindsey is the author of the article, would show up in the SERPs.
There are many types of content that the schema data markup can be used for: Restaurants, articles, book reviews, events, products, movies, TV ratings, local businesses…and more!
- Check out this great article on how to get started using Schema Markup.
- Set some goals in mind for what you would like to have show up in the search results…events, reviews, article name etc.
- Use the Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper.
- If you are really ambitious and want to lean all of the options available, then head on over to schema.org.
- Keep this information handy, as SEO results have been correlated to Schema Markup results being on the average of 4 places higher than the other results in the search query.
14.) HTTPS SSL Website Security
If you haven’t already noticed that most websites appearing in the search results have some sort of SSL security encryption (https: instead of http:), then it is time to look a little closer.
HTTPS has been declared a Google ranking signal. There has been a fair amount of debate on how much of a role this signal has on our SERPs.
In the minds of Google, SSL shows a sign of security and that the website can be trusted. HTTPS can act as a tiebreaker in the search results.
Despite all the debate of http vs https, having a secure connection for your business website is always a good idea anyway. SSL certificates are fairly inexpensive and sometimes free with a lot of hosting packages. To me, this is a no-brainer, I would just play it safe and switch to SSL (https).
- Check to see if your hosting service offers a free SSL certificate. Lots of them are offering this to their customers these days.
- Make sure all of your pages are redirected from http to https! This is crucial.
- For WordPress users, ask your host if they use the WordPress migration when switching to SSL. Everything will be redirected for you, and save you a bit of time. Also, make sure to have your WordPress website has a good firewall plugin installed for tighter website security!
- Don’t get too worried about your search rankings, as they might dip down for awhile as the https resolves. This usually can end up being a few days to a few weeks.
- Do your website transfer to https during a slow or down time for your business. As mentioned, your rankings might take a temporary dip.
- Add an https account to your Google Search Console and Analytics, as you will be getting your statistics here when your SSL resolves.
15.) Avoid Duplicate Content and Keyword Stuffing
By now, most of us probably know that duplicate content is certainly not a good thing! There are instances that Google is smart enough to recognize where duplicate content is simply unavoidable. Having links and other information in a universal footer is just one example.
If you are using a CMS (Content Management System) such as WordPress, you will run into some situations were duplicate content is inevitable. Google recognizes this and your website won’t suffer because of it. Many websites rank very well in the organic search results using WordPress. Our expert Portland SEO company strongly recommends WordPress for it’s robust blogging capabilities!
We have mentioned that ‘keyword stuffing’ is a thing of the past, and most points on this were covered in the content section. Just remember to keep a low keyword density in mind, and write naturally and let your keyword phrases come out where they feel logical for your readers.
- There are a number of tools for checking duplicate content on your web pages. My personal favorite is Copyscape. This is very reliable and inexpensive to use.
- Still use quotes from people in your content. This is one of those exceptions Google will overlook for duplicate content.
- Do not create duplicate Meta Titles and Descriptions!
- Do not publish your articles or content from your blog on other websites, via guest posting, in forums, Quora etc.!
- If you found someone stealing and using your content (from Copyscape or other tools), notify the website owner and ask them politely to take it down. I am am sure they know the consequences if this were reported to Google.
There is a lot to digest here, but hopefully these tips are useful for your business SEO improvement. When getting stuck on any of these tactics, get in contact and learn more from our SEO company Designatude today!