Having your own website, or simply having the capacity to create one, is so commonplace today. There are numerous ways to etch out a corner of the internet. Depending on your needs and skill level, you can use a Content Management System like WordPress, or go with the simple and free Wix and Squarespace visual website builders, and of course, there’s the old school HTML build-from-scratch site.
However, what hasn’t crept into the everyday digital psyche are the ways to make your site stand out and above in search engine results.
Because we want your star to be the brightest, we’ve put together 5 easy steps that will put you on the search ranking path.
1) Keyword Planning
Pumped to get your website moving up the Google ranks? Press the brake pedal!
Before you go anywhere, you need to begin with identifying which keywords you want to be ranking for. This may sound simple. After all, if you set up a page for ‘running exercises’, it’s natural to want to be there when people search ‘running exercises’. Unfortunately, if your site is new and you’re just beginning to focus on SEO, you’re likely to run into a wall of competition for the same keyword.
Instead of trying to overcome the competition, think about reducing the competition. Explore keywords that are more specific or longer, often called long-tail keywords. An example of a blog post may be ‘burst training running exercises’ if that were to be what you’re writing about. These keywords often don’t have the same search volume as a short-tail keyword but because of that, there’s likely to be less competition to overcome.
Now, it’s time to implement!
Make no doubt about it, content is king in SEO. Let’s go over the basics!
Relevance & Quality
First, your content needs to be relevant. If a user visits your site and sees an inconsistency with what’s on your site vs. their search query, they will quickly move back to the search results. This is a quick way to having your page down-ranked.
It’s important that your content is also high quality and deep. It may sound scary but a good target for a blog post is the 2,000-word mark. The key to producing long content is to go break down topics and explore subsections in-depth. By putting in the effort, you can be the resource that answers the question the user is looking for. This keeps users on your site longer, builds up your credibility, and allows you to offer more information than your competitors.
3) On-site Optimization Basics
Page titles, meta descriptions, alt tags, heading tags and a sitemap, oh my! It doesn't take long to learn the concepts and you’ll want to acquaint yourself with them. By having a good understanding of each of these elements, you’ll be able to identify their role in optimization and bringing traffic to your site.
Page Title – exactly how it sounds – it’s the title of a particular page on the website.
Meta Descriptions – simply a short blurb of what your page is about.
Alt Tags – not typically seen unless you use a screen reader, these tags act to provide context for each image.
Heading Tags – used to visually structure the content of the page through a hierarchy of H1 through H6 headings.
Sitemap – a file in the xml markup format that’s used by search engines and lists all your website’s pages.
4) Mobile Friendly & Page Loading Speed
Google has officially begun their mobile-first search index. This new mobile index means that when making ranking decisions about your website, Google will look at the mobile version of your website first for content and optimizations.
If you don’t already have a responsive site or a mobile version, now is the time to be putting your resources into developing them.
Going hand-in-hand with being optimized for mobile is website loading speed. Loading speed is a signal that Google takes seriously so it’s critical that your website loads as fast as possible. According to Google, if a site takes more three seconds to load, over half the users will abandon it.
5) Auditing & Tools
It can often be overwhelming to read about SEO simply because it may seem like a lot of guesswork without clear direction.
The way to lessen this sense of mystery is to make use of industry tools. There are great tools available that range from finding the keywords and tracking performance to performing an analysis on your competitors and finding their keywords, as well as website auditing tools which scan your site for areas to optimize.
Many of the high-end tools require paid subscriptions but also offer trial periods. Taking advantage of trials is a great way to gain access to the tasks you’ll need to perform.
A Few Favourites:
SEMrush for its deep on-page auditing feature and the keyword magic tool for keyword research.
Ahrefs for its keyword tracking and powerful backlink auditing capability and competitor analysis.
Google Search Console to submit your sitemap while also gaining insight as to how Google sees your site from a crawling perspective and if there are any errors that need to be fixed.
Google Analytics to track website stats, set up goals, and view how well the site is performing for organic search traffic.
Pingdom to gain insight into your website loading speed from various locations while also receiving a breakdown of all the website elements that are loading on your site along with improvement tips.
Yoast SEO if you’re using WordPress. This is a great plugin that will let you edit the page title and meta description while also pointing out holes in page optimizations.