Jill Kurtz, Owner, Kurtz Digital Strategy
Search Engine Optimization is nuanced, with best practices being influenced by your industry and your target customers. However, there are best practices every brand should follow. Common SEO mistakes that I see: slow site speed, content not optimized for keywords, lack of metadata, and no attention to the mobile experience.
Fast Sites Win
Search engines give the best rankings to fast websites. Why? Because people expect fast websites. Slow sites don’t meet expectations, no matter how great the content may be.
The faster your site, the better. Google has a free tool to check your site speed: Google PageSpeed Insights. This tool gives you a speed rating as well as suggestions on how to boost your speed.
A common recommendation is to optimize your images. Large images take a lot of time to load. Resizing your images can speed up the loading time. If you have a WordPress site, you can do this easily by installing a plugin that does that for you.
Speaking of WordPress, the activated plugins can also impact speed. Less is more. The fewer plugins that are activated, the faster your WordPress website will be.
Incorporate Keywords in Content
Put simply, keywords are the words and phrases that your target customer is using when looking for a business like yours. Use those words! If you aren’t using the words that people actually use when searching, you aren’t going to be found.
Make your keywords as specific as possible. For small businesses, you need to look beyond your business area (such as real estate, plumbing, recruiting, etc) and find more specific phrases that reflect your business. Otherwise, you’re competing with similar businesses all over the world, which is impossible to do!
The longer and more specific the keywords are, the higher your chances of ranking. Search volume will be less, but since the keyword is accurate for your site, click through rate will likely be high. Your site will eventually gain more traffic for your keywords, than it ever would if you optimized for one broad keyword.
Provide Content People Need
Your website needs to provide the content people need. Your website is actually not about what you want to say, it is about what your target audience needs and wants.
Every page of your site that you want searchers to find needs at least 300 words. Google won’t rank a page highly for a topic unless there is sufficient content about that topic.
Write for your visitors and not for Google. Google seeks to provide the best answers possible to every search query. Therefore, writing quality content for your audience will lead to good search rank.
Provide Useful Metadata
Meta data is still important for search rank. When the meta keyword field was abused and set aside as a ranking factor, many people mistakenly assumed that no metadata mattered. The meta page title and meta description are important search rank factors.
The page title is still one of the most important ranking factors for Google, so you have to make sure it’s optimized correctly for every page. This means adding the relevant keyword to each particular page and making sure that your page title isn’t too long. If your page title is too long it will get cut off in Google. You don’t want potential visitors to be unable to read the full title in the search results.
The meta description is not a ranking factor, but it does play an important part in your click through rate (CTR). Meta descriptions that are optimized with clear and attractive extracts on what potential visitors will find on your page, increases the likelihood they will click your result. If searchers think your site will provide an answer to their search query, the more traffic your page will get.
Tell Visitors What to Do Next
Once visitors are on your site, you want to keep them on your site. The best way to encourage visitors to click further into your site is to create call-to-actions (CTA). These are usually presented as a button. “Read more,” “Buy now,” and “Visit xxx” are common CTAs.
Make sure that every page has one call-to-action. If you have multiple buttons, you lose the focus of the page and your visitors won’t get where you want them to go. Know the goal of every page, and include a call to action that achieves that goal.
Make sure that the CTA stands out from your design and is clearly visible. If the button blends into the design of your page too much, it will get fewer clicks.
Pay Attention to Mobile
Google looks at the mobile version of your site to decide how high you should rank. So if the desktop version of your site is awesome, but your mobile site is jumbled or spans off the side of the screen you won’t rank well at all.
Google offers a mobile test to give you an indication if your site is fit for displaying on mobile devices. Also, be sure to visit your site on your mobile phone and have others with different devices do the same.
Many SEO best practices are easy to implement once you know what they are. However, sometimes site structures are outdated as compared with the expectations of search engine crawlers. And, there are often specific requirements based on the type and scope of a business. If your SEO efforts aren’t getting the results you want, it may be time to get some professional SEO support.