Do you have the nagging feeling that your website can’t be found in the search engines? If you use Google analytics to track your website traffic and are disappointed by the results, these search engine optimization tips may help. I’ve provided five tips in each of the key areas for SEO: technical implementation, keywords, on-page SEO, content, social media, and back links. Plus, there are two bonus tips at the end!
Technical SEO: This is the foundation for everything else, so you need to get this right.
- Make sure you have a Sitemap that has been submitted to Google: A Sitemap is just that – a map of your site that tells the search engines what pages you have and how often they’re updated. It makes it easier for the search engines to find and index your pages. You can easily create a Sitemap in WordPress.
- Fix broken links on your site: Fixing broken links is one of the recommendations in Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This is important because too many broken links result in a poor user experience and can signal to Google that you have a low quality site. You can use the Broken Link Checker plugin and Google Webmaster Tools to find the broken links on your site so that you can then fix them.
- Fix duplicate page issues: Sometimes, you can inadvertently be creating duplicate content on your site, which means that two pages on your site may be competing against each other. In those cases, Google doesn’t know which page to serve up in the search results. To avoid this, you can use a tool like Moz, one of my preferred SEO software tools, to identify duplicate content issues so that you can fix them.
- Make sure that you don’t have any crawl errors: Crawl errors are problems that can prevent Google from crawling your site. Obviously, if Google can’t crawl your site, it can’t serve up your content in the search results. The easiest way to do this is to log onto Google Webmaster Tools and go to the “Health” tab under your website. Any crawl errors will be listed there (if you don’t have access to your Webmaster Tools, check with your web developer because they may have set that up). Moz software will also check for crawl errors for you on a weekly basis.
- Make sure your website is accessible to mobile users: As you undoubtedly know, more and more people are searching using their mobile devices these days. If your website is not set up to be easily viewed on mobile devices, you’re at a disadvantage. The best way to fix this is to make sure that your website incorporates responsive design.
Keywords: Optimize for the right search terms.
- Identify the keywords that you want to rank for: This is where it all starts. If you’re not sure what keywords you want to rank for, how will you be able to optimize your site? Your keywords should be the words that your ideal client is actually using to search for your services online. Google’s Keyword Planner is a great tool for doing keyword research.
- Optimize for one keyword per page or post: A common mistake is to try to optimize a page or blog post for more than one keyword or keyword phrase. You can see this when a web page has a long list of keywords in the page title. The problem with this is that you’re not making it clear to the search engines which keyword that page should rank for, because you’ve included too many keywords. For every page and blog post on your site, ask yourself, “What keyword or keyword phrase do I want this page to rank for?”
- Keywords in your page titles: Check the page title of your website. Does it just list your website name? Does each page just say, “Home” or “Services”? If so, you’re missing out on a huge SEO opportunity! One of the most fundamental changes you can make to improve your SEO is to include relevant keywords in your page title. For example, if you are a sustainability consultant in Oakland, your page title should say “Sustainability Consultant in Oakland” rather than just “Home” or “About.”
- Keywords in your URL: Take a look at the URL (the web address) of your pages and blog posts. Do they have your keywords in them? If they don’t, or if they have a series of numbers in them, then you have an opportunity! You can change your link structure so that it includes your keywords (do note that this may create broken links if you don’t do it right, so if you’re not comfortable with it, it may be best to have your web developer do it for you).
- Use an SEO plugin: The best SEO plugin for WordPress is the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast, in my humble opinion and that of 5 million other users. This will help you with all of the other four steps and make the work of optimizing your site much easier! I’ve written a detailed description about how to use the WordPress SEO plugin here.
Other On-Page Improvements: Beyond keywords, you can take additional steps on your site to help with your search engine optimization.
- Use and optimize images: Image searches are quite popular, and since many people don’t optimize their images, this creates an opportunity for those who do. Basically, each image on your site is an additional opportunity to bring in search traffic. You just need to make sure that you optimize each image so that the search engine know what keywords apply to that image. I explain how to optimize your images in an earlier post about creating new WordPress pages.
- Make sure that all of your pages have meta descriptions: Meta descriptions are short descriptions that show up under a link to your site in the search results. Your meta description should be short (less than 156 characters), and it should entice a user to click on your link. Think of your meta description as a short ad that tells the user, “This post is about something quite useful for you. Learn more.”
- List your phone number and address on your site: In addition to making it easier for clients to find and contact you, this helps with local search. Google has been focusing more on local search results, so making sure that people can find you when they’re searching for local service providers is important.
- Set up Google authorship: Have you noticed how some of the search results you see now have the author’s picture next to the search results? If so, you’ve seen Google authorship in action. Basically, you can claim authorship by connecting your personal Google+ profile with your blog content, which helps you establish authority with the search engine. The complete guide to Google Authorship provides additional information about this.
- Increase your page speed: One of the factors in SEO that is becoming increasingly important is how quickly your website loads. A website that takes too long to load will turn users away, and they’ll click the “back” button on their browser. Though page speed can get quite technical, one simple step you can take is to install the W3 Total Cache plugin for WordPress.
Content: You can’t rank in the search engines without good content.
- Start a blog: Creating useful content is just the price of admission these days if you want to be successful in marketing online. Google has made it quite clear that the “key to creating a great website is to create the best possible experience for your audience with original and high quality content.” The best way to do this right now is to have a blog on your website. If you’re not able to keep up with the writing yourself, consider hiring someone to help you.
- Develop a content strategy: If you’re going to be blogging and using social media, you need to know what to blog and post updates about. A content strategy will help you to identify your audience, define your niche, and create content that is relevant for your clients. In short, it should help you to ensure that your online marketing meets your business goals.
- Make your posts easy to read: Use bullet points, headings and subheadings, numbered lists, etc. All of this makes it easy for people to scan your post. If there’s too much unbroken content, then people will generally hit the “back” button on their browser, which may signal to the search engines that your site doesn’t have good content that people want.
- Add a plugin that shows related posts: A related post plugin will show up at the end of each post. It will show readers other posts that you’ve written that they may be interested in. This will help users find new content on your site, which will help to keep them on your site longer. This in turn signals to the search engine that people are finding good content on your site, which will make it more likely that they’ll show your site in the search results.
- List your blog categories in the sidebar: As with the related posts, listing your blog categories in the sidebar will help users find new content on your site, which will help them to spend more time on your site. When choosing your blog categories, think of them as the table of contents for your website: just a few categories to help your readers find other posts of interests.
Social Media: Yes, this is an important part of SEO!
- Optimize your social media profiles: Include links to your website & keywords in your profiles. This creates links back to your website from quality sites such as Facebook and Pinterest. Links from quality websites is one of the key factors that Google uses in the search results, so this is important. Obviously, it also helps users to find your site after they’ve visited one of your social media profiles!
- Share your blog posts on social media: One of the factors that Google takes into account is how a piece of content is shared online. Basically, if a blog post gets a lot of retweets or likes on Facebook, it is a sign that it’s good content, so Google is more likely to serve it up in the search results. You can jump-start this process by making sure that you post updates with links to your blog posts so that people can share them.
- Include social sharing buttons on your blog: Another way to help get your content shared online is to make it easy for people to share your content via social networks. If someone finds your blog post after doing a search online, it should be easy for them to share it on Twitter or Facebook. The Digg Digg plugin is one of the most popular ways to add this to your WordPress website.
- Create a Google+ page for your business: Google+ recently passed Twitter in number of users, so it is now second only to Facebook as a social network. Obviously, a social network that is run by the world’s largest search engine cannot be ignored if you want to be found online. A Google+ business page is rapidly becoming an integral part of marketing your business online.
- Choose at least one platform and engage: It can be overwhelming to be on many different social networks, especially for small business owners. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, consider focusing on just one or two social networks – your business doesn’t have to be on all the social networks.
Links: Links from other quality sites to yours are critical for SEO.
- Get links from organizations you belong to: One of the important parts of SEO is the links back to your website. You can contact any organizations that you belong to such as Chambers of Commerce or trade associations to see if they have an online directory of member businesses. Often they will, so you should make sure that you have completely filled out your listing and in particular the link back to your website.
- Link extensively within your site: When you publish a new blog post, make sure that you link to other posts and also that your older posts link to your new post. This makes it easier for the search engines to find new pages on your site and index them. This also makes it easier for users to find new content your site and spend more time on your site.
- Comment on other blogs: When you do so, you’ll have to leave your name and you’ll be able to include a link back to your website. In addition to creating a backlink, people will see your comment and click through to your site so you’ll get a bit more traffic. However, you should do this strategically; don’t just leave random comments on irrelevant sites. Identify two or three blogs that are relevant in your industry and focus on those.
- Submit your website to appropriate directories: Though this is not as useful as it was a few years ago, it is worthwhile to make sure that your website is listed in relevant directories for your industry. Also, you can submit your site to more reputable directories such as Technorati and Alltop.
- Find sites that link to your competitors: This is a basic SEO tactic, and for good reason. There are tools such as Open Site Explorer (part of the Moz software suite) that allow you to see which sites are linking to your competitors. This can help you to identify links that you might be able to get as well. For example, if a leading industry website is linking to your competitor’s site in their directory, you can check out the submission guidelines or contact the site owners and get them to link to your site as well.
Finally, here are two more bonus tips:
- Increase your SEO expertise: Educate yourself about SEO from trusted sources. Two good places to start are Moz.com’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO and Quicksprout’s Advanced Guide to SEO . Both Moz and Quicksprout also have great blogs that will help you to learn more about SEO; these are two of the sites that I read on a regular basis. Otherwise, bring in a consultant to help (just make sure that your consultant will help you create an online marketing plan with a strategy, rather than just tricks or gimmicks).
- Track your results: How will you know if your online marketing efforts are paying off if you don’t track your results? At the very least, you should be using Google Analytics on your website. If you’re interested in a more robust option, I use Moz, which is one of the best SEO software options in the industry and is now even including social media mentions and more.