Search engine optimization (or SEO) is of vital importance for any business with an online presence. Unfortunately, when it comes to SEO, it’s not a one-and-done deal. The land of website optimizations is ever changing. Even if you had a brand new website created only a few short years ago, chances are, it’s time for an SEO update.
To help simplify the complex world of on-page optimizations, we’ve created a list of the most current SEO strategies and best practices. Remember, if this ever feels overwhelming or continues to be pushed down on the priority list, it’s well worth it to hire an SEO expert to optimize your website and keep your organic search engine rankings in good standing.
1. Title Tags
This is the title text that appears on a search result (as seen below), as well as on your browser tabs.
A title tag is considered one of the most important SEO elements because it’s the first thing potential customers are seeing in a search result, and the GoogleBots place a heavy weight on title tags being relevant to what visitors are searching for. In terms of length, it’s suggested to create titles within 70 characters as to be seen on all screen sizes and viewing devices.
2. Meta Descriptions
Your meta description is the snippet of content that shows up under the title in search results. It’s important to make sure your meta description is written in such a way that includes your most relevant keywords while being sensible and logical, so that when read the user is able to understand what that particular page or post is about.
There are always changes to character length but it’s currently suggested keeping your meta descriptions between 50-300 characters. Towards the end of 2017, Google lengthened descriptions to now average 230 characters.
Ideally, your company’s keywords are the most relevant search terms and phrases that your potential customers are typing into search engines. You want to focus your website copy on being high quality, relevant, with your keywords woven throughout.
A word of caution on keyword stuffing: SEO used to be all about keyword stuffing, but not only is this an out of date practice, it can actually hurt your rankings today. Today’s best practice with keywords involves using long tail keyword phrases, trying to target those exact phrases people are typing into search engines, and including those key phrases within relevant content.
Also known as “H tags”, the various page headers (H1, H2, H3…) are used by Google to better understand the structure of a page. Think of your headers as a way to organize content on a page. Notice, this blog uses headers to distinguish each of our SEO elements. As with all of your website copy, be sure your headers are well thought out in terms of relevant keywords and creating an organized page structure that will be easier to read.
5. Alt Tags
Make sure all visuals on your pages have an alt tag (alternative tag) so that the Search Engine Bots can still “read” what your image or visual is about. You’ll notice alt tags, or the lack thereof, when you hover over an image and it gives you a small snippet of content. These tags are increasingly more important as the use of visuals has become such common practice.
A shorter URL is always better. When it comes to publishing new pages and blog posts, you want to try to keep your URL as short as possible with the most relevant keywords pertaining to your page or post. You can do this by choosing one keyword to display after your domain. Alternatively, you can remove common words from a longer page title to keep it short and to the point.
7. Cross Linking
Linking out to other sites is really what makes the Internet go around. Additionally, by adding internal links to cross reference pages, you are helping the Search Engine Bots understand the relevance and hierarchy of your website. Google, as well as other search engines, likes to understand how your content connects and which pages are most important.
A few tips: Send the most links to the most important pages on your website. This is going to reinforce the importance of certain pages and the entire website hierarchy. Just remember though, you do not want to spam every page with a lot of links. This will work in the opposite direction for your SEO efforts, similar to keyword stuffing.
8. Page Load Time
Everyone loves a fast loading site! In terms of search engine optimization, you can think of it like this – the faster your website loads, the more pages the “Bots” can crawl. Also, from a user standpoint, you’re going to see people spending more time on your site, and getting more value if they’re able to read content quickly and browse pages with ease. To see how quickly (or slowly!) your website is loading, you can use a tool like PageSpeed Insights to test your site.
One of the best ways to ensure your website is loading at optimal speed is to upgrade to a fully responsive website design. This means that no matter what device you’re using to look at your site, it looks great and loads and displays quickly. Additionally, be sure all images and files are optimized for the website. Large files will slow your site down!
While there are countless conversations to be had in terms of SEO strategies and best practices, we hope this has sparked your attention and encouraged you to take a look at your current website to see if there are opportunities to increase your search engine rankings.