When consulting with businesses I am most often asked these 3 questions:
Q) Do I Really Need To Hire An SEO?
A) This is the most asked of all. Depending on your website and your industry the answer is usually yes, at least periodically every 3 months.
As an SEO I realize that not all businesses are the same, and some can’t afford to hire an SEO on a full time basis. However it is a good idea to ask if they can do a quarterly SEO audit and keep your pages optimized and code up to date.
True SEO is not just changing a few snip-its of code and making sure the meta tags are right, there is a certain method and order to optimizing a website. Done correctly the results can be wonderful, however done incorrectly the results can be devastating to site’s rankings. Most designers, developers and marketers have a basic knowledge of SEO but it is best to hire a professional SEO if possible.
Q) Is there anything we can do on our own?
A) The answer to this question is YES. There are basic SEO steps that anyone with a little knowledge of a website can do to improve their rankings and optimize pages on their website. As I stated before this can be devastating to your site if you are not careful, especially with the meta tags. Never put this in the hands of a developer or designer only. Developers and Designers often don’t understand the complexities of SEO and can create entirely new problems while trying to fix a few.
Q) Isn’t there just some kind of code you can put in that will automate the process?
A) If you are using WordPress or other CMS systems the answer is YES in a way. For WordPress for instance there are several different plug-ins you can install that will automate SEO in your meta data. Although helpful these plug-ins use your title and content to come up with a description and keywords, I have not seen one yet that doesn’t need a little editing to insure the proper information is in the meta data. ** Important: Do Not Rely Solely On The Plug-ins Interpretation.
Following these 5 simple strategies will help to optimize your websites content.
1)Optimize Your Tags:
For this you will need access to your sites back-end or code. **WARNING the wrong information here can be devastating!
On each page, you want to make sure every tag is unique and representative of the content of that particular page. This is where most sites have either the wrong information or none at all.
- Title: The title of the page can sometimes be confused with the button name. I don’t know how many times I have went to a website and the title of the page is “Home”. This will never show up in the search results. If your page is about shoes then your title should be something relative to shoes (ex. Discount Shoe Store – Dallas TX). The title is not a place for a sentence, it should be decisive and to the point. Most search engines use a maximum of 60 chars for the title. (See Diagram)
- Meta Description: This is what the search engines use as the description below your title. (See Diagram) This is a good place to optimize for search, This is the place for a sentence. Here you want to describe what your page is about and what you are targeting. This example is using the title above, (ex. Discount shoe store in Dallas, TX has a variety of shoes, Women’s shoes, Men’s shoes and Children’s shoes check out our discounts and specials. (123) 456-7890) this example has 159 characters with spaces. Most search engines use a maximum of 160 chars for the description. As you can see this would be for a local business in Dallas TX targeting not only shoes but Women’s, Men’s and Children’s shoes, Discount Shoes and shoe specials along with a phone number. So in one sentence we are actually targeting 6 different searches.
- H1 Headline Tag: The H1 tag is probably the most forgotten and is one of the most important tags. This is your main headline tag for your pages and should either be located in the Header or the first piece of text at the top of the website. This is your main headline, this should include a main keyword and just like your page title be decisive on what the page is about. (ex. Discount Shoe Store). Headline tags are exactly what you would think them to be with H1 at the start followed by H2, H3, H4, and H5. These would be at the start of a new paragraph describing what the paragraph is about. These should be descriptive so if someone is scanning your content they can quickly read the headline to determine if they want to read the rest of the content in thet section or paragraph. Search Engines will also use these to find important information on your page.
- Alt Tags: For SEO and optimizing images the alt tag is the least used and most important for optimizing images. The alt tag describes to the search engine what your image is without it the search spiders have no idea other than it’s an image. This is a good place to insert keywords to help optimize the page. An example of this would be the image of a pair of tennis shoes to the right, for the alt tag you could just put Tennis Shoe. But lets take it one step further and optimize a little here (ex. White and Blue Nike Tennis Shoes, Sneakers). This not only tells the search engines what the image is but the Brand, Color and also includes Sneaker. Now the search engine knows what the image is and this could also come up in an image search. Now you can see how important image alt tags are not only for the purpose of SEO, but also describing your content to a search engine spider.
Content is necessary for SEO and optimization period!
Without content you have nothing to optimize. It doesn’t have to be paragraph after paragraph but you do need content on your pages. I know everyone likes to look at pictures but people also like to read about a product or a service to see what it is about or what service you provide that your competitor might not. My take on this is, if someone wants to read more to be more informed before purchasing and you are not providing that information they will just leave and find someone who is providing the information they are looking for. Also content is a place to include keywords and search phrases related to your product or service.
- Rule #1: Use original content. You don’t have to be a writer to come up with original content, simply do your research and put what you have learned into your own words. DO NOT JUST COPY & PASTE. Although this is the quickest way to generate content you are using someone else’s material that may be copyright protected and is already on the internet.
Lets put it this way, you searched the internet for the content and found it probably on the first or second site you visited most likely not past the first page. Don’t you think the search engine knows that content is there? That is why you found it on the first page. Refrain from copying and pasting, put in your own words just like if you were describing to someone sitting across from you what you read. Not everyone looks at things the same. Congratulations: “You have now created your own original content.”
- Rule #2: Using Someone Else’s Content. Sometimes there is just no way around using others content in this case give credit where credit is due. You can always provide a link back to the content or just give the author credit at the end of the content. (ex. Written By: Specialty Web Designs Inc.) This can go a long way, in that you are giving credit to the original author, and it might also save you a lawsuit for copyright infringement. Besides it’s just the right thing to do.
3) Duplicate Content:
Duplicate content can be a killer for a website. WordPress sites are famous for this because they create an Archive folder for past posts, resulting in two identical pages. The same applies to e-commerce sites when it comes to products and what is known as breadcrumbs.
Another problem is, companies using the same content on different pages thinking they are creating branding when in reality they are creating duplicate content. In some cases this can’t be avoided such with the same product only with different sizes etc.. I would however try and rephrase it and be creative so it is not so obvious . Again e-commerce sites can be a nightmare to fix these issues but it can be done with work and will definitely pay off in the long run.
4)Top Navigation Buttons:
What is really necessary for your top navigation? This is where a lot of companies and designers fail, creating the navigation for the site in the beginning stages of a web design. Most users when they reach your site it is because they have searched a specific term or keyword, and the last thing they want to do is try and find a button or link to that information on your site. Your top level navigation should be easy to navigate without the use of drop-down menus if possible.
For companies providing services: If your company provides more than one service, try and list your services across the top, not under one button that has a drop-down menu (ex. under one button named “Services”). If you have to move your “About US” button to the footer that’s fine because if they want to read more about your company they will find the information. Another mistake is not providing a “HOME” button, not all people know that your logo may be linked back to your home page.
If you have to many services or products think about a secondary menu below the main menu, but don’t use buttons here, you can use text links.
Naming Your Buttons: This is very important! Make sure when a user looks at your navigation it is clear which button they need to click on. Think of one word that your page is about and that should be the name of your button. (Be clear and precise)
Move what pages are not necessary for top level navigation to the footer:
- Contact Us
5) Mobile Friendly:
By now your site should be mobile friendly! If you are still one of the procrastinators and haven’t mobilized your site yet “Why Not?”
Google announced early in April 2015 anyone not having a mobile friendly site may incur penalties in the search results. The recommended design is a “Responsive Web Site”. This eliminates having to zoom in and out to read text and is a uniform design for any device.
The newest coding out for mobile design is AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages). This is still in the development stage, but there are several companies who have already committed to testing this fast mobile platform. Google has already started ranking these mobile friendly pages as you can see in the screen shot to the right.
Mobile friendly websites are a must for 2016. Google reported that more than 50% of searches were on a mobile device. Also, when it comes to designing for mobile devices, speed is imperative!
Page Speed or Load Time is more important than ever! Sites with large images and or a lot of Java Script will result in a slow load time. There will definitely be a decline in users staying on your site. This will also result in a high bounce rate and an overall lower page score and ranking position. To test the speed of your page you can visit: Googles Page Speed