At this point, you should know that search engine optimization (SEO) is a foundational piece of the online marketing mix, but you may still be perplexed by the ever-changing best practices surrounding it. While this is not designed to be a comprehensive SEO checklist, I want to offer 5 things you can do to help improve your ability to rank.
For God’s sake, get an SSL certificate
This one is simple. It is 2019 and there is no reason your website should not have an SSL certificate installed. Since July 2018, Google has been giving preference to HTTPS sites over HTTP sites.
Forget about keywords
OK, not really, but stop focusing solely on this piece of the SEO puzzle. When it comes to on-page SEO, creating quality content that includes key phrases and search terms is still important–as long as you do it intelligently.
Before you begin creating content for a page, ask yourself these questions:
What would someone be searching for that would lead them to this page?
What question did someone type into Google that this page answers?
If you can answer either (or both!) of those questions, you should be able to create quality content. Granted, it’s not always that simple but it’s a start.
See what your searchers see
Do you know what people see in the search engine results page (SERP) when your website appears? If not, you should.
While meta descriptions are not a ranking factor for SEO, it is an important piece of information that attributes to your click-through rate (CTR). Using tools like Google Search Console can help with this, you can also use the following search parameter to see every page of your website in a SERP.
This will give you an exact view of how your page titles and meta descriptions look to a searcher and whether they are too short, long, or confusing.
Even though most sites suggest using between 50-160 characters for your meta descriptions, this method gives you an exact view of where Google may be cutting yours off. Make sure your descriptions are concise enough so that a searcher knows exactly what that page is about so they will click on it.
Don’t ignore the technical fixes
Technical SEO could have its own blog post (and soon will) but in the meantime, here’s a quick fix.
Check your HTTP Status Codes
Using tools like Google Search Console or Moz allow you to check the status codes of your webpages. The goal here is to make sure when someone clicks a link to your website, they will land on the page they’re looking for. The following codes should help you know where to start.
200: Everything is good. Nothing to do here.
301: The page has been permanently redirected to the new location and all is right with the world.
302: This is a temporary redirect. While they will land on the right page, you have lost all your link power from that page.
404: The page is missing. Hurry and redirect them to somewhere else.
500: DANGER! This is a server error and this page cannot be found. Contact your SEO specialist or web developer ASAP.
The goal here is to make sure all of your pages have a status code of 200 or 301 to ensure that searchers see what you want them to see.
Tie up the local ends
Have you noticed that there are more places to show up on a SERP besides the #1 organic spot? 36 to be exact. You can be in the knowledge panel, local listing, featured snippet, etc. We call that Position Zero and it is a good place to be. One of the best ways to get there is to make sure all of your local SEO is neat and tidy.
Just like technical SEO, there could be an entire blog series on local SEO, but one of the quickest and easiest things to do is to make sure your local listings are accurate and consistent.
Is your physical address listed as Suite 200 on your website but #208 on your Google My Business listing. Do you use your toll-free number in some places but your local number in others?
You may think this is no big deal, but guess who does? The Google Gods.
Having consistent and accurate listings increases your ability to rank higher in SERPs, especially in local results.
SEO is not a project
There’s a lot more to fully optimizing your website to increase your ranking ability than what’s covered here, but if you do these things, you’ll likely see some great progress.
SEO is not something you can pay someone to do for a month or two and expect results. It is a long-term commitment to doing the right things consistently, and when you do that, the results should come–hopefully in Position Zero.