We would never (ever!) say that SEO is easy, or that long-term organic success can be achieved through a series of minor tweaks. (Somedays we wish it were true, that we knew the magical formula for achieving number one ranking on Google. But come on, how much fun would it really be to have all the answers?!) There are, however, a number of small yet essential changes that you can make as part of a larger strategic plan, which can result in significant improvements. Following are eight of these changes:
1. Add Keywords to Beginning of Page Titles
For anyone that knows about organic optimization, this is a no brainer. But you’d be surprised at how many sites don’t adhere to this best practice. Including relevant, high-volume keywords at the beginning of each page title, and writing unique titles for each page of the site will increase potential for ranking on a wider range of beneficial terms.
2. Write Engaging Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions should be considered your ad copy in organic search. It’s your opportunity to speak to the user, and entice them to click through to your site instead of the others they see in organic results. Meta descriptions don’t necessarily need to contain keywords--it won’t directly impact ranking--but should if it’s relevant to your message. As with page titles, write a unique meta description for each page of your site.
3. Write Engaging H1 Tags Using Keywords
Creating keyword-rich header tags for each page is important for the optimization of your site. Header tags can be phrased as questions to leverage Google’s Hummingbird algorithm update, which delivers results based on how people speak, versus how they type. It’s Google’s way of preparing for mobile and thus spoken search, and people often speak in questions when searching (e.g., "How do I install a wireless doorbell?" or "Where is the closest sushi restaurant?"). Unique and relevant H1s should be written for each page.
4. Implement Basic Schema
Schema is a language of microdata that essentially labels specific information for the search engines to better interpret their meaning. In some cases, these can result in rich snippets, which are additional pieces of information included in a search result that can attract a higher click through rate. Simply having schema implemented has not been shown to directly impact ranking potential, but the higher CTR does, so there are ranking benefits in the end.
There are numerous types of items and properties available with Schema. The basic properties to implement are:
5. Create an XML Sitemap & Submit to Search Engines
You likely already have a human readable sitemap, which is essential for helping users better navigate your site. You should also have an XML sitemap. This sitemap is not for site users, it’s for search engines. It provides more information about your site and how to index it. An XML sitemap is made up of a list of all the URLs found on your site, priority for the various pages, and other important information to indicate how frequently the engines should come back to crawl for new information.
6. Optimize Images
Image file names and alternate text should contain descriptive terms, and where possible and natural, your keywords. As with every other aspect of SEO, don’t keyword stuff here either.
Image file names must be changed on your local drive before uploading to your site, which makes optimizing existing images a time consuming process. You’ll need to resave images with a new name, delete the image on your site, then reupload the same image that’s been saved with a new name. However, doing this moving forward is quite simple and quick. Optimizing alternate text is much easier for existing images, as it can be updated via code or CMS.
7. Add Facebook Open Graph Protocol
Open Graph Protocol is Facebook’s version of schema—it labels information for Facebook to better interpret and index content, and creates richer shared messages on Facebook. Google even uses Open Graph on Google+ if they cannot find or read schema.
As with schema, it won’t directly impact ranking potential, but will create more engaging social posts, thus helping to increase CTR and drive more traffic, which ultimately does impact ranking potential.
Again, there are numerous properties, but we recommend:
- Site Name
- App ID (allows for website data in Facebook Insights)
8. Add Interesting & Substantial Content to Your Site
Google’s only way of knowing what’s on your site, and thus how relevant it is to any search query, is by the content it finds on your site. All other things being equal, if your competitor has a good amount of high quality content and you don’t, they’re more likely to show for a relevant search query.
You need to ensure that, at the very least, your most important pages contain unique text-based content that can be read by the engine’s spiders. Content should be informative, and written naturally for users, not keyword stuffed for search engines.
Additionally, you should be creating interesting content and updating your site with this content on a frequent basis. Adding fresh content tells Google that your site is active and current, and it creates opportunities to send returning and new visitors to your site.
SEO is a dynamic and ever-changing process that requires ongoing attention and changes. Making these eight simple yet foundational changes will help to position your site for increased visibility and engagement in organic search.