SEO - (Search Engine Optimization) - this is the bread and butter of many online marketing businesses. But, what if you aren't at the stage of hiring a marketing agency, but still want to show up on a Google search? Here at Park House Solutions, we've compiled some of the most simple-to-implement, yet effective, ways of improving your site's search engine optimization. These methods are generally pretty simple, and often can be completed by someone with a basic understanding of backend web management. But if you have any questions, please contact us. We'd be happy to walk you through the process, or map out a plan to fully optimize your website for you.
The Do's and Don'ts of SEO
Let's run down some of the most common Do's and Don'ts for SEO
Don't: have large images on your site. This includes not only the actual size of the image on the page, but size of the file as well. Correctly formatting your image so that it appears properly on-page across devices increases the likelihood of effective user engagement. Similarly, images that are too large can delay page load speed -- an important ranking signal for Google and other search engines -- while also negatively impacting user experience. On average, slow websites have higher bounce rates, and lower time spent on pages, which also signals to Google that your site isn't satisfying its visitor's expectations leading to additional penalization. Your potential customers, and Google for that matter, want your pages to load quickly. Try to keep the size of your images below 300kb. There are tons of free image compression tools available online to help with this.
Do: choose to save your image in the proper format that will be most effective for its appearance. For example, JPG images are great for colour, while basic PNG's are generally best for simple images.
Do: utilize proper image titles and alternative or "alt" text. File titles and alt text should make sense both to your potential customers, and to search engines. The titles may help ensure that your viewers can understand a picture, while well written alt text ensures accessibility compliance and that bots indexing your pages can accurately understand the context of your images. Alt text is essential for image-based searches, so if you'd like the images on your site to be discoverable in search results, don't overlook adding alt text. It's also a great place to include additional long-tail keywords, increasing the keyword density of your specific pages for your SEO.
Content and Keywords
Don't: duplicate content. This may seem obvious, however many website administrators assume an effective method for getting higher ranking in search engines is to simply include the same keywords over in over in titles, meta tags, within the body copy of pages, and so on. This, however, is not the case; it's referred to as "keyword-stuffing," and it is actually punished by search engines, not too mention it has a tendency to appear spammy and unprofessional to site visitors, reducing the quality of their experience.
Do: include a range of interesting, fresh, relevant content across your site's pages. Just because you can't stuff keywords, it doesn't mean you shouldn't try to brand your business and include industry-relevant keywords throughout your site. The trick is to use novel content throughout the site, using a range of titles, meta tags, copy and images that are consumer friendly. Indexing bots are designed to consider usability; so often your most effective way of increasing your SEO is by providing a well functioning and labeled site that is both user, and bot-friendly.
Do: track what works. This gets into the analytic, data-focused side of SEO, which when discussed is often where many business owners and site managers jump ship. You may believe that you have artfully sewn-in a variety of effective, long-tail variations of keywords that are relevant to your business across all your pages, but are you sure? Once you have established an SEO strategy for your website, it's vital that you begin tracking what works, and possibly more importantly, what doesn't. Position tracking by keyword is vital to effective SEO because often by making small, strategic adjustments to the content on your pages you can greatly improve your site's position in SERPs. If you have any trouble tracking, or wish to learn more, please feel free to get in touch.
Don't: have broken links on your site. It is important to ensure that any links on your site -- whether it is simply an internal link to your contact page, or an external link to information on another website -- are active and functioning. Indexing bots follow these links (unless they are specifically directed not to through the use of a rel=”nofollow” HTML tag, but more on that later), and broken ones can hurt your SEO ranking, not to mention frustrate potential customers. For example, this includes posting something like a blog post link on social media. If you chose to update the title of the blog, the URL slug could change, resulting in a broken link (404s) and frustrated users when an attempt is made to click the original post URL.
Do: link internally. Refer to different pages on your website that are relevant, such as contact pages, posts that provide further information, or even home page links. This practice is referred to as an internal linking, and is not only key for customer activation, but it helps indexing bots better understand the composition of your site. You should also link to relevant information on other credible sites, when applicable. This is called external or outbound linking, and it isn't just about plugging a bunch of links to random, low-authority websites. Effective outbound links are those that link to reputable sites that may be valuable to your customers. There are also two kinds of outbound links, as eluded to above: "follow" links and "nofollow" links, each indicating to Google and other search engines your site's relationship with the site you're linking to. The type of link is determined by what's called a rel attribute assigned within the <a> HTML tag on a given page, but that's a slightly more advanced topic that we'll dig- into in another post. The practice of what pages are being linked to is tracked by companies like Google to help determine what's called PageRank. When website's receive inbound links (also commonly called backlinks) from other places on the web they get an SEO boost. In essence, if many folks on the web are linking to your site, Google sees this as an indication that your site must be really great (yay, you!) and in turn, your website is likely to be given preference in search results over others offering information on the same topic.
Do: update/refresh old pages and content. Don't be afraid to revisit old content across your site every now and then to make updates. This actually has great SEO benefit, as the next time Google crawls your site the crawl bot will take note of the updates, and acknowledge that your site isn't stagnant. Simply ensure that when you do update old posts or page content, if you happen to move the page or alter the URL slug (often done by changing the Page Title) you implement 301redirects so that the content is still reachable and the SEO value of the old page is passed to the new one. Most website management tools offer this ability, and it is important to take advantage of.
Don't: have mixed content on your site. Mixed content occurs when the HTML code on a page is loaded over a secure connection (HTTPS), but other content on the page, such as images or scripts, are loaded over an insecure connection (HTTP). This often results in the browser flagging this content which raises red flags for potential site visitors, while also hampering your SEO performance. Google gives preference to SSL enabled sites as they offer additional security in the transfer of information between browsers and websites. If your site is built on WordPress and you've identified mixed content issues across some of your pages, check out the list of plugins here that you can install to resolve the issues.
Do: utilize an HTTPS connection for all of your content whenever possible. HTTPS connections help ensure that a website can be properly authenticated, and reduce the chance of information being stolen and data tampering. If you want your customers to feel safe using your site, as well as indexing bots to recognize your use of secure content, HTTPS is the way to go.
If you have found this information useful, please DO share it. If you would like to learn what Park House Solutions can do for your business' SEO strategy, please check out our SEO service page, or contact us today.