If you’re like many small website owners, you probably assume Google must be aligned with the devil: How else could they both know so much and gleefully torture you with fussy/ill-defined secret rules that determine whether your website is ever seen by anyone!?!?
I’ve gotten quite a few questions lately about search engine optimization (SEO) for websites—probably because of Google’s big “mobile ready” update in 2015—so I thought I’d provide a simplified version of what SEO means to your website, and how you can begin optimizing your website for Google search.
What is this Search Engine Optimization that we hear so much about?
It’s the “stuff” we can do to our website that makes it possible for people to find our site when they do a search for it. When we do a good SEO job, people will find us by using quite a few search terms (that we believe should be associated with our business)—and we show up at the top of the search list (called a search engine results page, or SERP). When people say, “You want to be on the first page of a Google search,” that’s the first SERP they’re talking about.
But here’s the bad part: Google is super-secretive about what actually comprises good SEO, because people have gamed their system in the past. That means Google will only show us (marketing types) a few pieces of the SEO puzzle.
I’ll just say right now that this post is going to get kind of “listy”—otherwise it would be a 30-page book and not a simple blog post—so I’ll apologize in advance.
Here's what we do know
- There are more than 200 separate factors in the mix.
- The factors aren’t all equally weighted.
- Some of those factors are on your website, and some are not.
- We’ve identified a few factors that you can easily change (with varying levels of impact on web searches).
There are 4 main categories of SEO for your website (on-page, site, off-page, and domain), but in this article, we’re only going to discuss one of them.
This category contains the most readily recognized SEO items for everyone. Here’s a SERP listing for the Guild. The first two on-page factors are visible in the listing for CGBG, below.
- Title Meta Tag –the bold “Colorado Green Building Guild” in the SERP example, above. This is limited to a maximum of 70 characters, which Google examines very closely to determine your search engine ranking. This is one of the most important SEO items to get correct.
- Description Tag – this is most of the smaller text underneath the Title Meta Tag (between the Title Meta Tag and the Google+ page listing). The description tag is limited to 160 characters, which Google doesn’t pay any attention to, but everyone searching for your website certainly does! These description tags are very important because website visitors use them to determine relevancy to their search.
- Header Tags – appear as major headers or sub-headers on every page. They’re a little technical for this article, but are super important to Google (and therefore, to you).
- Keywords – important ones should be sprinkled throughout your website copy so Google knows what each page focuses on.
- Content Length – pages and articles should be “useful” length—so not just a sentence and not “the great American novel”.
- Duplicate Content – never (ever) duplicate long passages of copy on different pages (on one website or on two different websites). Google really hates that.
- Image Optimization – images have alt attribute tags, captions, and descriptions associated with them that can affect SEO. Make sure you fill these out so Google knows what it’s a photo of.
- Content Updates –regularly update the content/copy on your site, because it shows you’re an active participant in the discussion of your subjects.
- Outbound Links – when you aren’t afraid to say “hey here’s some useful information on another person’s website” it tells Google you have confidence that your site is good enough that you’re not afraid to recommend another site as well.
- Internal Links – links between pages and stories within your website signal to Google that all of your copy is discussing related topics. An example of this is the your website link that I put in the second paragraph of the blog post you're currently reading.
- Keyword in URL – try to make the web addresses of all of your pages contain a relevant keyword. It’s not always possible, but it is worth trying.
If you don’t already have SEO on your website: Make sure you have the ability to provide targeted SEO (Yoast SEO is a great plugin for WordPress sites), take time to make sure your SEO is actually in place, double check it to make sure the optimization good, and if you don’t think you can do it yourself, get someone to do it for you.
It’s a big deal.
Gnu 2 Marketing
Powerful Marketing & Branding