A Brief, In-depth SEO Guide

Brad Matthews tech and digital category

The purpose of this SEO guide is to briefly explain the essentials. There are hundreds of guides, articles and videos online, and plenty of companies offering to provide SEO for you – some ‘white hat’ (honest strategies), some ‘black hat’ (dishonest tricks that will do more harm than good in the long run). This guide is only concerned with honest strategies.

That said, let’s get started.

On-site SEO Guide

On-site refers to visible elements on your website or within the code that is read by search engines.

Keywords

Choose the right keywords for your website and use actual search terms that real people use. The following resources will help you: Google Keyword Planner, Google Trends and Google Insights. The Keyword Keywords Tool requires an Adwords account now, however free alternatives (of potentially dubious quality) exist.

If you offer online services it likely makes sense to focus on the national level, if you operate from a physical location you will probably stick to surrounding suburbs. Try key phrases which include your location (e.g. “accountants Joondalup”). If you operate online, you need to set yourself apart from competitors. This might mean going for keywords with less search volume but also less competition.

Use the keywords you want to focus on slightly more in your web copy (homepage, blog posts, articles, other static pages etc). Make sure content is readable for humans first and foremost. Going too heavy on targeted keywords will make you look untrustworthy and illegitimate to people and cause search engines to dump you.

Unique Content

Second to keywords, it is important for your site to have unique content. Quotes and excerpts are fine so long as they do not make up a significant portion of your site. A link of attribution to the original site is best practice too. While it is important that your static pages, product descriptions and blog content be unique, many instances of duplicate content occur unknowingly. This happens when your site serves the same content over http and https protocols or due to a trailing ‘/’ at the end of your URL.

These can be remedied by modifying your https configuration and using a 301 redirect to avoid serving duplicate content.

Fix Broken or Dead Links

Search engines will penalise broken and dead links – if their robots cannot crawl your site it will be assumed that the user cannot navigate either. Thankfully, a solution exists to remedy this issue.

Simply submit your site to this broken link checker and fix or remove links which are not functional.

Submit an XML Sitemap to Google

Googles crawlers need to be able to navigate your site. If every page on your site is navigable via text links (either from page to page or through a HTML sitemap on your site) this is not necessary. However, it is still best practice to submit a sitemap to Google to ensure everything is indexed. If you use image links and interactive elements it is a must-do.

To create your XML Sitemap click here, run the script and upload it to your site’s public_html/ folder. Then let Google know you have a sitemap by creating a Google Webmaster account and adding your sitemap URL.

Choose Appropriate Page Titles

In selecting a page title, you want to:

  • Include your keyword(s)
  • Feature your business or website title at the end
  • Mention target location if relevant
  • Inform readers about the content on the page
  • Follow web convention for displaying titles by using vertical dividers
  • Keep the title below 65 characters so it will not be truncated in search results

An example following these rules might be: Top Motorcycles for Learners – Sydney | 2Wheelz Magazine

(assuming ‘Motorcycles’ is one of your keywords).

Remember, your title can be different to your page headline. The title is what is displayed by search engines. Headings are the words on your website at the beginning of the article. Headings allow greater flexibility in that they can be longer than 65 characters. Titles are typically condensed versions of the headline with the locality and brand added.

Yoast (WordPress)

If you use WordPress for your CMS, the SEO Yoast plugin will be immensely useful. At the bottom of the post editor a SEO checklist will display, allowing you to confirm you are hitting your keywords. It also provides information and recommendations about your content to help improve your SEO.

Have a Word based URL for Blog Posts

You will rank better on Google if your URLs are meaningful (readable).

There is a difference between bradsmells.com/28012016/pid=112 and bradsmells.com/explanation-why-brad-smells-so-bad. The latter is descriptive and if ‘brad smells’ is your SEO keyword it helps your rank too. Your URL does not need to be your heading verbatim – it’s best if it does not include small words like ‘the’, ‘ if’, ‘of’. If it is too long search engines will truncate it.

If you are using WordPress, click the ‘settings’ menu in your dashboard and navigate to permalinks. Select one that includes the post name and all future posts will feature the title as their URL (which can be modified in the blog editor prior to publishing).

Use Alt Text to Describe Images

Search engines use alt text to understand the context of images. A few words describing the image in alt tags will enable the image to feature in image searches and inform those using screen readers what the image is about.

To add alt text in WordPress, click on the image in visual mode, then select the edit icon. Search engines value knowing what your images are about and doing so demonstrates your site’s legitimacy.

Have a Responsive Website

Responsive means it will display nicely on mobile and tablet devices as well as a laptop or desktop. If your site is not optimised for mobile display you are leaving traffic (and potentially money) on the table.

Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test is the friend that will help you get that money back.

Optimise Page Load Speed

Slow loading pages will be penalised by search engines. To diagnose and fix any issues you might have, Google have this wonderful tool. Any ‘! Should Fix’ issues need to be addressed ASAP. Any lower order issues can be tackled when convenient. I would aim for a mobile speed of 80+, if you are using a free WordPress theme however, this may be difficult.

Include your Primary Keyword in your Homepage Title Tag

Best practice is a short, sharp description of your website including your main keyword.

Off-Site SEO Guide

Off-site refers covers aspects beyond your webpage – primarily social media interaction and links from other sites to yours.

Backlinks

Links from other websites to your website build credibility, relevance and importance in the eyes of search engines. The more other people are linking to you and sharing your content, the better you will rank. You can help get this going by linking to your site from your company’s social media pages, sharing content on social media, and linking to your site from business directories. Note: excessive backlinks from web directories may result in Google flagging you as illegitimate. Ensure these links never exceeds more than 1/3 total links to your website. Be sure to share content on social media and ask friends, vendors, suppliers, customers and clients ‘like’ and link to you. You can even speak with competitors and link to each other as it is mutually beneficial (though more optimised and heavily trafficked sites have more link power). This will build up backlinks from a variety of sources, raising your Google rank and ensuring the web-directory-to-other-sources link ratio will never be an issue.

Trust

Trust is determined by search engines on your authority, your history and your future. Authority comes from producing content (blog posts are a great way to do this) on a regular basis – once a week or more is ideal. Shares, ‘likes’ and links to your page from others sites also factor in here. History means that you have been producing content and getting traffic for a period of time. You wont reach the front page of Google after a week (unless you use a very obscure keyword). Future is demonstrated, long-term commitment to the site. This is achieved by registering your URL in advance by at least 2 years. At about $7-15 per year, this is a low cost way to signal commitment to your site to search engines.

Have Google My Business and LinkedIn Business pages

Hopefully this doesn’t require an explanation.

Post on Relevant Forums

Spend an hour or two per week on Q&A sites or industry related forums offering genuine advice, educating and helping others. This will build your authority as well as backlinks to your site. Make sure your posts are worthwhile and informative – don’t just drop a link to your site and bail.

Disavow Bad Links

Check that dodgy sites haven’t linked to you, if they have you could be suffering a penalty from Google. To learn more about that click here.

 

That about sums it up, I hope you learned something!

 

If anything here is incorrect or I’ve missed something that should be included, please leave a comment or contact me.

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