The steps are essential when begining to optimise your site for the search engines. You need to create a baseline from which to measure future success and the accomplishment of your stated goals.
We can do this with a variety of tools and the selection of which tools to use will be dependant on the goals and targets that you have in mind. I will only deal with those that I find to be essential in this article to save those who are new to SEO from confusion.
Some sort of analytics platform is absolutlely essential to the process of benchmarking and setting realistic goals. Whilst Google Analytics is only one such platform, it is free and there is lots of good training available too.
One other alternative which is fast approaching Google in terms of features is Piwik, the open source alternative.
Analytics allows the business owner to see exactly where his site visitors come from, what they are interested in, how they interact with the site and the purchasses they make.
Using this data, we can then alter the content and design to facilitate visitors to spending more time on site, increasing engagment or buying more stuff.
Webmaster tools is another platform provided by Google that provides a wealth of information to the average Irish business. It reports the number of clicks from web queries, linking websites and a whole lot more.
It is also the avenue through which Google notifiys a site owner of a penalty and once set-up should be checked on a regular basis.
The XML sitemap is used by search engines to understand an internet site’s structure and allows the spiders to quickly discover new content for indexing. It is very important that this file be clean and well edited.
Some platforms such as WordPress, Magento and Joomla will automatically generate this file but often this version is sub par and can be optimized better.
This file is important to restrict the search engines web spiders from crawling parts of your site that you don’t want them to.
For example, if you have a page on your site that contains a list of all the articles written by an author, then you don’t want this to be indexed. Indexing this page will cause your site a penalty due to the fact that the content is already published elsewhere and it will trigger a ‘duplicate content’ penalty.
Out of the box, WordPress has numerous problems from an SEO perspective. Without tweaking certain aspects you will have a number of the afore mentioned ‘duplicate content’ issues and you may run into the problem of over optmising your site for your keyword.
That’s where a good SEO plugin comes in handy and whilst there are many available that can do an admirable job, Yoast have been king of the hill for a number of years.
Users hate waiting for a site to load. So do you I bet. And the search engines know this too. If your site doesn’t load in under 2 seconds, your rankings will begin to be effected.
There are several services available to check your site speed. The one that I prefer is www.webpagetest.org. It has a wealth of options that the pretty competition don’t have and I’ve found it to be more accurate too.
A Website audit is really a kind of general term used to talk about spidering your site and seeing if there are any glaring problems like broken links, over optimized internal linking, images that don’t have alt-text, etc. You can take a look here for some of the most common SEO mistakes.
Usually this is done with a private web crawler or spider. And again the king of this little seo hill has been ‘Screaming Frog’ which does a really excellent job at finding the site issues.
This is a tedious task but absolutely essential for a myriad of reasons. First of all thorough keyword research into a topic is essential to uncovering the main themes that become the site silos. And also finding the keywords that might not seem important but are needed to signal to the search engines that the topic has been covered in detail and that your site is the authority on the subject.
And there are many ways to do this. But the general idea is to spread the net as far and wide as possible and then to manually reduce that list down and group the keywords into their relevant semantic topics.
A great place to start is SEMrush. Find the most authoritative sites in your niche on SEMrush and use it to scoop up the keywords they are ranking for. This is a great way to generate a set of seed keywords
You can then take these keywords to tools like Ubersuggest which uses Google’s autosuggest feature to pump out a huge list of associated keywords.
There are many other methods of generating keywords lists and I plan to do a post in the near future on just this topic. But for now that will do.
At this point you have to remove any keywords with geolocation terms in them, cities and countries and the like. Then you should try to identify the brands and remove them.
At this point, your key themes and the main hero pages should be apparent. Now you must start grouping the keywords into the correct silos. When this long and arduous task is finished, these keywords must be worked into a content plan.
But most sites are not starting from scratch. So before the content plan is drawn up, a content audit must be performed.
Stop Losing Customers to Your CompetitionStart
A content audit is the process of looking at the current and best performing content on a site. You can’t promote content via white hat outreach if the content isn’t worthy of a link.
So the content audit looks at all content on the site and recommends which content can be updated to use in an out reach campaign.
Which content can be altered or reorgainsed into the new site structure and which content is rubbish that should be put in the digital bin.
Once the content has been reorganized, and an On Page SEO audit has been carried out, a content creation schedule can be worked out and writers hired to meet the schedule.
Again, this topics is beyond the schedule of this post but I may update this later as time permits.
The ever searched for list by paranoid seo’s that worry that they forgot something simple. Here is a quick rundown of the basic on page things that are essential for being allowed on page one. If you don’t have these right, then you might as well be shooting yourself in the foot.
A quick note on over optimization. Yoast is great but by filling all the green boxes you run the risk of over optimising your page. Particullary if you have and exact match domain or to a lesser extent a partial match domain.
To avoid over optimization, use the rule of 2 out of 3 when doing your on-page. Only use your keyword in 2 of the 3 most important on page ranking factors. That is…URLTitle TagMeta Description
Title tags should be no more than 60 characters long and should include your keyword and or LSI keywords if possible. Many companies use their Brand name in the title tag to boost brand awareness.
Meta-descriptions are the part that (usually) show up in the search engine results. You have 155 characters to ‘sell the click’. You should again use your keyword and associated LSI keywords you discovered during the keyword research phase of the process.
First off, you should use pretty links and not the numerical or date based permalink structures that are default in WordPress. Try to use your keyword in the url structure but be aware that having an EMD will likely tip you over into the realm of over optimized content.
Information on permalink structures can be found at the WordPress Codex.Ugly – http://example.com/?p=NPretty – http://example.com/category/post-name/
The H Tags (h1, h2, h3, h4) are where you should be using your topic keywords and LSI keywords. Having a clear structure to your content signaled by the use of good H tags that deals with the topic and it subtopics in detail shows Google your article is highly relevant to the search and their intent.
The keyword in the h4 header tag is a greater ranking factor than including it in any other h tag! Fact or fiction?
Images can be used as another signal to Google about the topic of your content. Whilst Google is making great inroads into image analysis, it can’t yet work out whey your image is relevant to the article. This is where the image title and the alt-text come in.
You should have at least two images per article and they should have different filenames and alt-text based on relevant LSI keywords that you found from your keyword research.
Whilst these lists always contain the same advice on images, don’t forget that embeding a relevant video or Slideshare can also be another signal to Google that you are an authority on the chosen topic.
This is a great long term strategy that will put you on top and keep you there.
But it’s outside the budget of many businesses.
There have been many on page SEO studies that longer content ranks better. But I have a slightly different opinion then the accepted truth on this. Longer articles contain more associated LSI keywords and keyword variations.
If the article is well written and the topic is interesting the reader will be more engaged but this does not mean that it is the length of the article that effects ranking.
The shorter advice is of course is write well, and cover the topic in detail.
If you are following the advice of Bruce Clay and creating a highly themed site, then you should only be linking to content within that silo. Unless of course the link is highly relevant.
But cross link your pages and posts where it’s relevant.
Outbound relevant links that are beneficail to the reader and call attention to a resource that adds to yours is excellent