5 simple tips to improve your websites SEO performance
It's that age old question, how do you increase your websites natural search ranking without spending a fortune in the process?
I can guarantee that every webmaster, blogger, online marketeer, small business owner and well… anyone with a vested interest in a websites performance has asked themselves this question.
Of course there's no single answer and like all aspects of marketing, a good strategy needs to be re-evaluated frequently to ensure continued progress.
Today's blog post is a summary of some of our favourite 'go to' SEO best practice tips that will, broadly speaking, be beneficial for most websites. However keep in mind that there is no magic bullet here.
As mentioned in a previous blog post 'A less cynical look at search engine optimisation', ultimately to rank well your site needs good content that appeals to a specific audience. Without that, every suggestion mentioned here is simply polishing a, well, you probably know that saying.
Lets get started…
1) Make your content as accessible as possible
I'm not going to bang on about the importance of website accessibility again, but if this topic is new to you, feel free to look back at our 'Website accessibility, what it is and why your business needs it' blog post.
What I will do is briefly cover how website accessibility impacts search engine optimisation and look at a few key areas of consideration.
Make sure your site looks good on all devices
If you do any web browsing from a phone you'll have seen Google's "mobile-friendly" notifications in search results. These provide users with a simple method to distinguish if a site will play nice on small screens. This is an obvious visual clue that Google is taking an active interest in how your site displays itself across devices.
Although crucial for accessibility, the direct impact on search rankings is arguably minimal at the time of writing, however this is likely to change as Google updates the algorithms they use to rank content in the future.
In the meantime users on phones are significantly more likely to click on a search result if they know it'll display correctly on their device. As an additional bonus, these users are also statistically more likely to create conversions, so updating to a responsive website already has huge advantages.
Unsure if your sites responsive? Give Google's mobile friendly test tool a try.
Remove frames and plugins
Search engines can't read content embedded in third party plugins (such as Flash and Java), nor will they associate content in frames as belonging to the page they're embedded in. Basically if you want to rank well in search engines make sure your content is native HTML. As a bonus staying clear of plugins will also increase compatibility, letting Android and iOS users see your content as intended.
Keep your page URL's nice and clean
Ever tried to verbally tell someone a URL only to be met with 120 characters of obscure nonsense?
Not only is it annoying to readers, its also bad for SEO. Instead break the page down into a clear structure. In Wordpress this can be achieved by going to settings > permalinks > and selecting the 'Post name' radio button.
Another common mistake is to use underscores instead of hyphens in a URL's structure, something Google specifically advises against.
It's also best to avoiding ending a URL structure with .php, .aspx, .html etc. Using them has absolutely no benefit to users or search engines, so why include them at all?
2) Make sure you've signed up to Google's 'Search Console' (formally known as webmaster tools)
From website speed to broken links and sitemap usage, Search Console is a one stop shop, covering lots of essentials you'll need to keep you site in top form for SEO. In particular take a close look at the 'Crawl' dropdown and make sure you don't see any problems under 'Crawl Errors'. After all you want to make sure Google is indexing all your lovely content!
Keep an eye out for Malware
Another important feature here is 'Security Issues'. Make sure there are no known security problems with your site, if Search Console detects any Malware Google will warn Chrome users that your site has been blocked and will place a notification under your Google search results with a warning to all users that your site might harm their computer.
Clearly keeping your website safe and secure should be a priority, so if you're using a content management system like Wordpress, make sure it and any plugins and themes are always kept up to date.
Monitor your inbound links
Inbound links (otherwise known as backlinks) are crucial for SEO. They act as trust indicators to search engines, so the more you have from good quality sources the better.
To find out who's already linking to you click on 'Search Traffic' > 'Links to your site'. Any surprising results? Great, that's information you can use going forwards.
While you're in 'Links to your site' it's also worth taking a look at what your most linked to pages are. This information can be used to refine your content strategy and increase its relevance to your targeted audience in the future.
Be canny with keywords
Take a look under 'Google Index > Content Keywords' then download the data to Google Docs or a spreadsheet format of choice.
Here you can see how your keywords are broken down and gives you an idea about how search engines (and in particular Google) are viewing and ranking your content. If you find that a crucial keyword is missing from the top 10 results, or generally has low significance, you might want to increase that particular words usage on your site alongside high quality associated content.
3) Keep content fresh and specific
Like getting information that's up to date, accurate and relevant? Google does too.
In fact Google, Bing and Yahoo all prioritise fresh content. By doing so they aim to provide users with the most current information possible. As an example when important 'breaking news' occurs search engines are clever enough to spot the new trend emerging and will often boost the predominance of these stories in their search results, making it easier for search engine users to find.
Create new content
To make sure you're getting the most from your website its important to provide frequent content updates that your readers find genuinely interesting. A great way to do this is through a company blog that gets updated frequently.
If you do create new pages you'll want to make sure they get noticed. To do this its really important to make sure they are correctly internally linked, for instance from similar pages on your site, your sites sitemap or its navigation structure (ideally all three!).
Take to social media
Search engines also measure content freshness via the rate of new inbound links coming to your site. For instance if you've just published an amazing article that hundreds of people are linking to, search engines are likely to pick up on this trend.
A great way to encourage this behaviour is by taking to social media. By using relevant hashtags and targeting an established social media community with relevant content, it's possible to increase page views and fresh inbound links rapidly via shares and retweets.
Make your content interesting
Fresh content needs to have a purpose. Search engines measure performance in a range of ways, one of which is by the time spent on the page.
If users are clicking through and spending real time reading the content, Google and other search engines will know that this content is potentially of interest to other users. By contrast a high bounce rate (people visiting your site and leaving abruptly) may indicate the information presented has a low level of both quality and relevance.
4) The 'Title', 'meta description' and 'canonical' tags
There's a lot of miss information when it comes to meta tags. For instance I still stumble across the odd site that encourages use of meta keywords as a way to rank better in organic search results, despite most search engines not taking this information into consideration at all.
But thats not to say that there are no useful meta tags…
Although adding a title and meta description is unlikely to directly help much in search engine ranking (the order your site is displayed on a search engines results page), correctly using both these tags is crucial. Together they act as a comprehensive on-page preview that shows up directly within search engine listings. For instance Googling 'Proactive Code' will show this site in Google's search results.
The first thing that's displayed here is our sites page title followed by our URL address. Next is the pages meta description. In other words by updating these elements we can directly alter what users see when they Google our site. This can have a strong influence on click through rates.
Oh, and don't go forgetting about the canonical tag
This is an often-overlooked meta attribute because it has no direct bearing on search engine performance, however its indirect relevance can be huge…
Say your site is mygroovysite.com, but users can reach it via any of these addresses:
Which one is the correct one? Which one should search engines index?
That's where the canonical tag steps in. By adding the following canonical tag you're indicating to search engines that this is your one and only home page: <link rel="canonical" href="https://www.mygroovysite.com/" />
This ensures that this particular page will only get indexed once by search engines, so any other URL variant wont get flagged as an entirely separate page. This is important as duplicate pages can create lots of SEO problems and lower your visibility in organic search results.
5) Use a good hosting service
I cannot stress this enough. A good hosting provider will help your site stay fast and responsive, even when its getting lots of traffic. They'll also be able to offer more help and support should things go a bit pear shaped, which lets face it will inevitably happen at some point.
By contrast a cheap host is likely to have a higher risk of downtime and slower overall performance. These are things that for the sake of usability and SEO performance you really want to avoid!
The bottom line
Although SEO is a hard subject there are easy to utilise 'best practice' tips you can start using today. These will encourage search engines to look favourably on your content and hopefully boost your websites visibility. However this list is only designed to get you started on a process that shouldn't ever end.
Ultimately your goal should be the creation of quality content that ties itself to a long-term search strategy.
After all the real power of SEO comes in its long term gains and not short terms wins.
Got any thoughts? Please let us know in the comments section below.
Back to the blog | Published