Google is such a household word that sometimes we forget that other search engines even exist. Google has become practically synonymous with the internet and SEO at large, and with constant updates to its search algorithm, it’s hard to keep track of what your business should be doing to increase its ranking factors.
We’ve put together a guide that’s simple enough to implement but that will pack a punch when it comes to optimizing your website’s ranking for Google.
Complete & Optimize Your Content Descriptors
When you create content, there are a lot of descriptors that you can fill out—so many that oftentimes they get skipped over or skimped on. Plus, how can you know which ones are really important for SEO, and how exactly to optimize them to get an SEO boost?
Let’s start with meta descriptions. Meta descriptions are the tagline for a web page that shows up under the title in a Google search:
While a meta description doesn’t directly impact your ranking on Google, it does impact your click-through rates (CTRs). That’s because the meta description is what people see when your website pops up in their search results and likely influences whether or not they actually visit your website.
Google can sometimes rewrite meta descriptions. As a matter of fact, they do this over 70% of the time because they are trying to match the meta description to the keywords that someone is searching for. However, when Google does this for you, they are just guessing at what might be a match by pulling from random snippets on your page that they think might be relevant. This can often make you end up with some funky meta descriptions that might even turn a user off from clicking on your site.
Many times, people don’t even bother to write them, thinking that they don’t impact SEO and that Google will just rewrite them anyways. However, meta descriptions are less likely to be rewritten the higher your search volume is—so if you write a quality meta description and your website is ranking well, it’s pretty unlikely Google is going to scrap that hard work.
Here are some quick and easy tips for writing meta descriptions worth keeping:
- Keep them between 150-160 characters for web pages or between 138-148 characters for blog posts or pages with publication dates.
- Put the most important information about the post or page in the first 100 characters, such as keywords.
- Summarize the web page or post in simple, accessible terms without keyword stuffing.
- Be specific. Avoid gimmicky sales talk and really focus on what a potential user might be searching that your web page would be a good match for.
If you haven’t already been writing meta descriptions, now’s the time to start - and we also suggest going back to previous pages and creating them. This can increase your CTR for older pages and content.
Next, let’s talk about alt tags or alt descriptions. These are HTML attributes that are applied to images to provide a text alternative for those images. These have two purposes:
- First, search engines cannot read images, so providing alt tags allows Google to interpret the content of your images and include this in their indexing information.
- Second, alt tags allow people who are using screen readers or browsers due to sight disabilities to “read” the images.
Creating alt tags directly impacts your SEO in two important ways - by allowing Google to index your images and because Google favors ADA accessible websites.
Be sure to keep your alt tags simple and specific. Explain what’s in the image so that someone who couldn’t see it would be able to visualize it themselves. Avoid keyword stuffing or simply adding more description and focus on describing what the photo is.
The last content descriptor we’ll address is titles and boilerplates. Now, titles may seem pretty straightforward, but there’s actually a lot of nuance to designing a title that’s effective for Google’s SEO.
It’s worth testing out some different title formats to see which ones seem to have better CTR’s and rankings. We recommend front-loading your keywords in the title and adding dates in title tags (if it makes sense to do so).
You may also want to try out titles with (or without) boilerplates. Boilerplates are part of a title that repeats with every post you make.
Help Google Crawl Your Website
It’s important to realize that if your website isn’t indexed properly, it won’t even appear in Google’s search results at all. Indexing is what lets Google know that your website exists. To see if your website is already indexed, search “site:yourdomain.com” in Google and see if there is a list of results that are similar to your domain name. If there aren’t any results, that means that your site hasn’t yet been properly indexed.
Google also has a tool that lets you check the indexing of a specific page of your website: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/9012289?hl=en
You’re also going to want to set up schema. Schema is a form of microdata that you add to your webpage to create a rich snippet of a page that appears in search results. This has become especially important since the recent Google algorithm updates like Hummingbird and Rankbrain.
Schema doesn’t directly improve search rankings, but it does likely have an impact on your CTR. Only about 1/3 of Google results currently include a rich snippet with a schema, which leaves this open as a big opportunity for your website to take advantage of. Google has a structured data testing tool that lets you see, test, and modify your schema.
Another tip to help Google crawl your website is to be sure that all of your webpages work on mobile as well as desktop, and that they use the same links. Google moved to a mobile-first index in 2018, so whatever you see on mobile is the only thing Google can see, and that’s what’s going to determine your ranking factor.
Oftentimes businesses will actually reduce their site for mobile, making a separate version of their content, but this would cause you to lose out on the benefits of all that desktop content.
Having a mobile-friendly website is part of your Google ranking factor and also makes it more accessible to increase your CTR. Google has an easy mobile-friendly test you can use for each of your web pages.
Finally, you’ll also want to ensure that your website is ADA compliant which also impacts your ranking directly (for example, with alt tags as we mentioned above) and indirectly through increasing your website’s accessibility. It also can protect your business from potential lawsuits, which can be directed towards any business with 15 or more employees that operate for more than 20 weeks out of the year according to Title I of the ADA.
How can you know if your website is ADA compliant? There’s a lot that goes into this determination including alt tags for images, ease of access, PDFs that are convertible to text, and closed captioning and transcription of videos.
Make the Most of Your Content
Content is king, but that doesn’t mean you should just keep churning out content mindlessly. Relaunching top content using the same links can actually improve your SEO and get new traffic to older posts. You can also receive an SEO boost from editing and updating old content.
Google favors long-form content that’s heavy with internal and external links that use a lot of headers. Rather than creating tons of short-form blogs, consider creating fewer more extensive “guides” and returning to them to update and add on to rather than starting fresh.
You can also get more internal link action going by releasing similar topics so that you can link from one to the other. Don’t forget to link back to previous content in new posts, and also to go back into previous content and link it to new pages as well.
You might also consider deleting old pages and content that isn’t performing well. More is not always better. Your ranking signal is in part based on link equity, which is an average rating of how often your links are clicked. So, if you have tons of pages but some of them get almost no traffic, this is actually bringing down your ranking.
And of course, when it comes to SEO for Google, you should always do your keyword research. Be aware, however, that you want to avoid too much of a good thing—as “keyword stuffing” can negatively impact your SEO. A good strategy for this is to optimize each piece of content around one keyword—ideally a “longtail” one if you’re newer to the game. Longtail keywords don’t get as much search volume, but they are much less competitive, giving you a better chance of ranking higher by using them.
You’ll want to use the keyword in the first 50-100 words of the content and a handful of times throughout as well as in the title, page URL, and alt text for any images on the page. Don’t go overboard—using synonyms and variations of the keyword will be helpful as well.
Once you have a keyword, think of different questions that someone might search revolving around this keyword, and plan to make content around this. There’s a useful tool called Answer the Public that will take a specific keyword and map out commonly asked questions about it for you.
It doesn’t hurt to put some love into your page links either. Customized links on social media tend to have better CTRs, which indirectly affects SEO, and Google favors shorter URLs as well. There are tools for shortening links like Bitly.
You’ll also want to go through every so often and make sure that you don’t have any broken links. Using tools like Dr. Link Check can do this for you pretty quickly.
Use Google My Business, Search Console, and Analytics
Last month, we wrote about how to claim, set up, and optimize a Google My Business (GMB) page for your business [ https://www.seotuners.com/a-guide-to-optimizing-your-google-my-business-gmb-listing.html ]. Even though this is one of the easiest ways to gain web traffic and customers, 53% of local retailers haven’t done it!
For the Google Local Pack, GMB is the #1 ranking factor. But before you start a new profile you’ll want to check if your business already has a listing. If it’s already been claimed, Google has steps for you to follow to contest ownership.
The two most common ranking issues are duplicate GMB listings and inconsistent Name, Address, and Phone information (NAP), so you’ll want to check these things carefully.
You’ll also want to set up Google Search Console to track your site’s Google ranking, submit a sitemap to Google to help it crawl more efficiently, fix website errors, and see which keywords bring you the most traffic. Similarly, Google Analytics will also make your life easier by telling you how many people find and use your site, how much traffic you’re getting, and on which pages, your bounce rate, and dwell time.
Make Your Website Secure
Google is all about security and even maintains a list of sites that have been hacked or are suspicious. There is also a boost for webpages that are Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secured (HTTPS). Although most desktop and mobile pages have adopted HTTPS, some of them still aren’t, and most browsers now signal that a page is insecure, which can deter potential traffic and decrease your CTR.
If you didn’t set up your website as HTTPS originally, never fear, you can still secure it with HTTPS without hurting your SEO.
Timing is Everything
You don’t want it to take a long time for a user to get to your webpage when they click it, but you do want them to spend a long time on it once they’ve arrived. Dwell time, or the amount of time someone spends on your page is indeed a ranking factor and is tracked by Google Analytics.
While site speed isn’t a ranking factor yet officially, it likely will be soon. According to research, 40% of users will exit a web page if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. You can check your site’s speed using tools like Lighthouse or Cloudfare if you’re on WordPress. PageSpeed Insights will rate your site’s speed and even give you tips on how you can improve it.
Google SEO is a monumental and ever-evolving beast, wrought with a changing algorithm and a whole lot of unknowns. But you don’t have to navigate it all on your own.
Do you need assistance optimizing your web pages? Get in contact with us today. SeoTuners can offer an affordable solution for your business to increase exposure and SERP rankings with organic SEO strategies like keywords. We’re confident we have a solution for all your marketing needs.