SEO is an ever-evolving industry with a growing list of variables – but no matter how closely you follow the latest SEO trends, you’re doomed to fail if you don’t master the basics.
The good news is that many of SEO’s most fundamental rules haven’t changed in years.
Most of these fundamentals can be fixed with very little knowledge of website coding; they’re even easier to address with WordPress or a similar content management system. Auditing the most basic elements of your website’s SEO can quickly and dramatically improve your search rankings.
And more good news – using the tips below, you can audit your site to check for SEO snafus in less than 20 minutes. Follow these steps to learn how you can shore up your website and your SEO strategy.
Double-check title tags and meta descriptions.
Title tags show up in two different places–in your browser’s window tabs and as the title in Google’s search results. Meta descriptions are the short blocks of text below the title tags that Google shows in its search rankings.
It’s very important that your title tags and meta descriptions are relevant to your webpage and what you want to rank for.
You should audit your titles and descriptions for each page of your website. Check your meta tags using the page source feature of your Web browser; titles are between <title> tags, and descriptions are found in the tag starting with <meta name=”description”.
Each title tag should include the most important keyword term for each page. For example, the title tag for a shoe store’s webpage about men’s running shoes should include the term “men’s running shoes.”
Meta descriptions should be unique and compelling so you get more interest and clicks in the search rankings.
Check your H1 header.
A properly designed webpage has a single prominent headline that captures the theme of the page content – that’s the H1 header.
Check your H1 headers in the page source and look for the <h1> tags. Just like with title tags, your H1 headers should include the most important keyword terms for each webpage.
When auditing your H1 headers, don’t assume that each page only has one of these headers. Novice Web designers often use multiple H1 headers because they’re bigger and bolder by default. If you find additional H1 headers on a page, replace them using other header tags such as <h2> or <h3>.
Keep content real.
Back in the Wild West days of SEO, Web masters filled their websites with keyword-stuffed content designed to score big with automated Google bots. Those days are long gone.
Now, Google’s algorithms are tuned to recognize the traits of relevant, well-written content. In fact, stuffing each page with an unnatural number of relevant keywords will actually hurt your search engine rankings.
Ideally, you should have at least 500 words of relevant content on each page of your website – and research shows 1,000 words per page is even better for SEO. But don’t add more content just for the sake of increasing your word count. The overall goal is quality. Any content that doesn’t add real utility to your webpage probably isn’t going to help. Also, make sure each page has unique content, as Google will only rank one version of duplicated content.
Localize your website.
Optimizing websites for their local areas – not just their cities, but their districts and neighborhoods – has never been more important for small business owners. More people are making on-the-fly searches for goods and services in their immediate areas. You could be missing out if your website isn’t optimized for these hyper-local search queries.
Local SEO can be a complicated undertaking. But baby steps are infinitely better than doing nothing, and these steps can greatly help your rankings in localized searches:
- Make a Google My Business page so your site appears in Google’s map-based results, which people use to compare businesses in their areas.
- Make sure your updated contact information appears the same on every page of your website. This information should match exactly with your Google My Business page.
- Register your website with popular online review sites such as Yelp and AngiesList. Again, confirm that your contact information on any third-party site matches exactly with your Google My Business page.
Of course, there’s a lot more you can do to localize your website. You can dive into blogging or get immersed in social media. But, the above tips will start to put you on the map.
Check for domain canonicalization.
This one is simple – go to a page of your website and check if you see “www” before your domain name. If you do, then delete the “www” and try reloading the page. If your website is canonically correct, the page will reload and automatically add the “www” in the url. If the page reloads without the “www,” then your site isn’t canonical, and that’s a problem.
If you do this test and your page does not include the “www” to start, then try adding it and see if you are automatically redirected to the page without the “www.”
From Google’s standpoint, the sites www.mycanocialsite.com and mycanoncialsite.com are two different websites. If your page loads at both sites, then you’re watering down your SEO. You’ll want to redirect one to the other so that only one version loads and all traffic is tracked to a single site.
Fix broken links.
Google’s algorithms place a premium on user experience, and a site that doesn’t function properly isn’t as user-friendly as one that does. That’s why Google’s algorithms penalize websites that have broken links.
You have two options for auditing your links. If you have a smaller website, you can do it the old fashioned way and just click your links manually. The easier option is to download an audit tool, such as Screaming Frog, that can scan your links for breaks in a matter of minutes.
Keep an eye on load speed.
I can’t stress enough how important the user experience is for SEO. That’s why a slow-loading website could end up hurting your search-engine rankings.
Google offers a tool called PageSpeed Insights that can help you learn more about whether your load speeds are adequate. Talk to a Web developer if you have concerns about your load times.
Search engine optimization is a never-ending competition where the rules always change.
Achieving and maintaining a high search ranking isn’t easy. However, auditing your site and mastering these fundamentals can get you in the game and keep you there for the long run. Periodically audit your website to make sure you’re not undermining your larger SEO strategy.
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The Complete SEO Audit: How to Pinpoint What’s Preventing Your Website From Ranking #1 in Google!
Thursday, July 14, 2016 at 12pm – 1:30pm Eastern time
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