We live and breathe SEO everyday. Over the years, we’ve learned a lot about SEO that we wish we would have known when each of us started. Our goal is to maintain a beginner’s mind for everything. With this article, we hope to help others looking for guidance on this otherwise foggy topic.
But let’s get something clear: SEO is marketing. It’s not some magical unicorn that instantly gets you or your clients to page one on Google for any keyword by sprinkling mystical fairy dust onto a website. It takes a lot of resources to do SEO right – including consistency.
Two quick facts about SEO:
- SEO is expected to work like any other type or channel of marketing – and NOTHING is guaranteed.
- At the end of the day, everyone is concerned about one thing: Return on investment.
Focusing on growing organic traffic alone cannot be your sole focus in marketing. SEO is a long-term approach to growing your company, which means instant gratification (ie: a positive ROI) is not so instant. Social media, email marketing, and even paid media should be part of any company’s marketing program if they wish to grow.
Now, back to these really cool SEO tips that can help you increase organic traffic to your website.
Understand the basics of SEO
Google’s algorithms get smarter over time. SEO isn’t what it used to be where you could just build links to a page and rank it.
These days you need to focus on creating content that people actually want (ie: user intent optimization). It’s also about building authority in the niche you’re going for, which does include having a qualitative and quantitative backlink portfolio. Consistency is key to building authority.
- Take a look at our list of different SEO terminology and acronyms to get caught up on the lingo. This lexicon of words and terms related to SEO is something I wish I would have learned right away when I first got into SEO. Naturally, I created such a post here: https://frascadigital.com/common-seo-acronyms-terminology-and-definitions/
- Understand variables associated of On-Page SEO
If you’re taking notes, here’s my quick cheat sheet of important on-page factors that are organized from greatest to least importance:
- Page Speed
- Main Content (MC) and Supplemental C
- Word Count
- Mobile UX
- Title tags
- Heading Tags
- Internal Linking Structure
- Images With Alt Tags
- External Linking
- Video (depends on search)
- Meta Description
- Schema Markup
- Measurable, Long-term 1st-Party Data
Now let’s break down each of them into quick, on-page SEO optimization solutions:
Page Speed Optimization
The two best things you can do for page speed, is to compress your images with Tinypng.com or use a WordPress plugin like Smusher and get good hosting like Siteground.com.
Make sure to head over to GTMetrix and run a free website performance scan. The results from a test like this can really help you get started and can act as a pulse check for your website’s health.
MC (Main Content) and SC (Supplementary Content)
This one is straight out of Googles Page Raters guidelines:
Main content is the content that will not be included on multiple pages (ie: is not for UX). This is the content Google weighs the most into its algorithm because this is what most people are searching for with their query.
Supplementary content is content such as “recent posts” or menu links which is used for UX purposes and is weighed in the least by Google.
Average Word Count
If the top pages ranking on Google have 1,000 words and you only have 300, you might want to optimize for the average word count.
Quick and easy ways to add content to your website:
- Weekly Blog Posts (1,000+ words each)
- Add relevant FAQ content at the bottom of each landing page
- Ensure each landing page on your website has at least 500 words
- Become more detailed with your services or products
This is easy enough these days, if you’re using a content management system, just make sure the theme you go with is mobile friendly.
Title Tag Optimization
Title tags are easy enough to optimize as long as you include your main keywords and some sort of qualifier to hook people in. For example: SEO For Dummies (I Wish I Would Have Known This) Also, try to keep your titles under 75 characters and over 45 in length.
Heading Tag Optimization
The most important heading tag you need to always include is an H1. Your H1 should usually represent what is in your title tag otherwise your users may get confused with what they clicked into.
Other header tags should be structured so that people who want to skim through your copy can easily navigate to different sections. As far as different heading tags like H2’s, H3’s, etc. being more important, I would just try to match what others are doing on the front page.
If you want to pass valuable page rank influence to the other pages on your site internal link 2-3 times per 500-1000 words. Remember not to over internal link, you will end up diluting all of your links the more links you put into your copy.
Give Your Images Alt Tags!
Images can really help keep people navigate on your pages and inspire more engagement with your website. and lower your bounce rates / boost your dwell times. Just make sure that if some of your visitors are blind, they can see what your image is about by using a screen reader to read alt tags. Don’t keyword stuff your alt tags, just say what the images are actually showing.
Alt text is also a requirement for website ADA Compliance. Screen readers require this information in order to relay a description of what a website’s photo is.
A more accessible internet is a win-win for everyone, including SEO.
External linking actually improves your relevancy, just make sure you’re not pointing to some spam site. I recommend 1-3 external links per page or post (this also depends on intent, some pages require more).
Video Optimization (depends on search)
Video isn’t always the best option, but I have seen it improve rankings and reduce bounce rates. I’ve also seen it do vise versa: again it depends on a lot of variables and user intent.
A great strategy for optimizing video is to embed them on your website page speed. If you want a tutorial for this, leave a comment and let me know.
Meta Description Optimization
Just make sure you are including your keywords, this will help you boost your CTR’s from the bolding they will get in SERPs. Your meta description should be about 155 characters long.
Schema Markup Optimization
Schema Markup is a language created by Google, Bing, and Yahoo which they can interpret on a page to understand what it is about. I will need to create another tutorial for this section but Schema Markup can boost your CTR’s like crazy.
If you want to begin an experiment with or implement Schema, you can do so by getting a free plugin such as the WordPress Jason-LD Schema plugin.
If you’re more technical, then Schema.org is the place for you!
Open Graph (Social) Data Optimization
What is Open Graph data? Open Graph is an internet protocol that was originally created by Facebook to standardize the use of metadata within a webpage to represent the content of a page. Within it, you can provide details as simple as the title of a page or as specific as the duration of a video. These pieces all fit together to form a representation of each individual page of the internet.
Open Graph data is your social share data and is very important if you’re going to be aggregating your content to other platforms (which you should). To manipulate this data you can use a WordPress plugin called WPSSO, I highly recommend it.
Now that you know a bit about on page basics let’s get a little bit more technical.
User Experience Optimization
Google obviously wants its users to be happy, so it’s very likely that if your website isn’t providing a good UX for its users, you’re not going to rank well.
Here are some things you need to pay attention to in greatest to least importance:
- Click Through Rates
- Bounce Rates
- Conversion Rates
I believe Click Through Rates (ie: CTR – number of clicks divided by number of impressions) to be the most important because that is the first sign of someone interaction with your website. And this first user engagement establishes a data point that can be improved, which ultimately leads to higher conversion rates.
Let’s break down some of the ways you can optimize for each of these:
Click Through Rate Optimization
For CTR optimization, try to find ads that are ranking on Google for similar keywords, because advertisers are spending a ton to get a good quality score and low cost per click’s you can copy similar titles into your titles and meta descriptions.
Alternatively, if your page or new website has been ranking for about a month, go to Google’s Search Console. Once there, see what your page is getting the highest CTR’s for and include those into your title.
Bounce Rate Optimization
To lower your bounce rates, The best thing you can do is:
- Increase page speed.
- Focus on creating a design that exactly represents what your target visitor is intending on finding.
- Video and images may also help reduce bounce rates.
Free tools are offered by Google to help you measure all of these KPIs: (Google) Analytics, Search Console, and Google Tag Manager.
Conversion Rate Optimization
To boost conversion rates, make sure your page is clear with what you want your users to do. You may also put a call to action above the fold on your website which will probably help as well.
Utilize Free Tools
As mentioned above, there are a lot of free SEO tools that can help you along your journey to measure success with SEO:
- Google Search Console (GSC)
- Analytics (GA)
- Google Keyword Planner (GKP)
- Screaming Frog
- Google Sheets
- Yoast SEO plugin
There are plenty of other tools I could have listed here but these are the first I’d say you need to get right away. SEMRush is also an essential tool, but this is $199/mo and for people who are more than just starting out with SEO.
Let’s go over each of them…
Google Search Console
GSC gives you the ability to see if there are any problems going on with your website, submit URL’s to get indexed, analyze incoming links, but most importantly, it’s the only tool which is going to show you how many clicks and what CTR’s you’re getting for the keywords you’re ranking for.
GA is going to help you see what your UX is on your sites such as bounce rates, conversion rates, pages per session, traffic from different sources, unique user data, and a whole lot more.
Google Keyword Planner
GWP enables you to find keyword data for what people are searching on for on Google and what their search rates are.
Screaming Frog helps you quickly identify on page issues with your website (up to 500 URLs for free).
GS is just amazing for tracking your data and auditing websites.
Yoast SEO Plugin
I honestly don’t care what SEO plugin you use, Yoast is great because it doesn’t only give you the ability to optimize your titles and meta but adds extra functionality such as utilizing canonical links and automatic redirects (if you get pro)
Utilize Paid SEO Tools
This is if you have the budget. These are the most important paid SEO tools to keep handy:
- Ahrefs or Semrush
- Screaming Frog Pro
- Chase Reiner SEO Audit Template
- Cognitive SEO Content Analyzer
- Bench Marketer or Cora
Ahrefs / SEMRush
Ahrefs and SEMRush are great for a competitor and keyword analysis; backlink analysis; and a ton of other great utility required for any SEO worth their salt. If I could choose one over the other it would definitely be Ahrefs as their data seems to be a lot more accurate and I prefer their interface over the other.
Screaming Frog (Pro)
Screaming Frog (Pro) is important to get if you’re going to start auditing and/or optimizing websites with over 500 URLs. This application runs on your computer and crawls websites to retrieve all the SEO meta data you could possibly want: page titles, header tags, 404 pages, meta descriptions, and so much more
Cognitive SEO Content Analyzer
Cognitive SEO Content Analyzer shows you what words you need to mention more of in your copy in real time. This is really nice when you’re doing on-page SEO for a niche you might not know a ton about.
Cora SEO Software
Cora shows you wanted to see word count, image count and thousands of factors regarding the health and SEO friendliness of your website. It’s a bit overwhelming to be honest, but the data Cora provides is very valuable.
If you’ve taken the time to sift through this article, you can probably assert that SEO isn’t difficult – there’s just a lot going on. This doesn’t mean SEO is easy, but a vast majority of the principles therein are quick to pick up.
So there you have it, a quick list of SEO tips for beginners and small business owners alike. I hope this was helpful to some of you, and if you’d like to learn more about our monthly SEO packages and services, contact us today!