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November 19, 2013

What You Need to Know About SEO

seo

There are several reasons your content isn’t getting seen, and it all comes down to SEO.

Did you know that 75% of internet users never scroll past the first page of search results? Or that companies with blogs receive 55% more web traffic? And that addressing common site performance issues like broken links and slow loading speeds can increase your site traffic by 40% or more?

No matter how great your content is, unless you know SEO, it’s likely that what you share will get lost among the 27 million pieces of unique content shared online daily. Yet a strong understanding of SEO — that you’ll get a jump on by reading this article — unleashes the power of the internet and gives you a winning hand to play every time.

seo

How To Show Up In Google Search

Optimizing your content to be displayed in search engines starts with your website as a whole, rather than the exact page your content lives on. While the elements on this page are important, they are only one piece of the pie.

There are many factors to consider that will require the attention of several on your marketing and web development teams. To ensure my team was informed and able to contribute to our SEO, I wrote an SEO e-book and shared it with them. I’ll take some highlights from that and show you what you need to know about SEO!

For starters, understand that everything on your site — from page titles to content to the URL of the page — needs to have an intended solution to a question, problem or inquiry. Each step you take to optimize your site must be intentional. Start by building your sitemap and the keywords or phrases you want each page to rank for. Then use a tool like Ahrefs.com or SEMrush.com to enter your proposed keyword. Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer offers information across major search engines.

ahrefs keyword explorer

You’ll receive a list of keyword variations and the search volume of each. The search volume is how many times the keyword is searched in a month.

keywords
Use the highest volume version of your keyword (that is an accurate description) in your map, and be sure to always think about the intent of the searchers entering that query. This is called user intent.

Learn to Pass Google’s Tests

There’s a reason why Google knows just about everything. It uses a series of tests to decide if the answer it gives is, in fact, the best answer. It measures how many times the webpage is clicked on from the search results pages (SERPs), how long users stay on the page and even if the user clicks the back button (bounces). These are called user behavior metrics (UBMs), and they are vital to search engines. To test your site’s UBMs, connect Google Analytics and Google Search Console to your site to access to this data.

While Google isn’t always keen on sharing the details of its tests, or algorithms, testing and research can guide your conclusions. To test results, go to each page and use its keyword in the page title, the h1, in the content two or three times, and in the meta description, then use Google Analytics to monitor the users, sessions, bounce rate, click-through rate, average time spent on the page and conversions to see what works! Use Google Search Console to monitor your impressions — how many times you show up the SERPs — and clicks, as well as the keywords searchers entered before finding and clicking your page.

The meta description mentioned above is a snippet of content, or preview, that shows up in search results pages.

seo

This is important for click-through rates, as you want to (in 150 to 160 characters) describe the page to searchers and encourage them to click with a call to action. If Google sees that your page is getting clicked on at a higher rate than others, it will begin to rank higher.

Also important is the page title, as this will be shown in the SERPs as well. To rank for a keyword, use the keyword as close to the beginning of your page title as possible, and be careful not to add extra words, as this could confuse the search engines. Use an exact match whenever possible, and then reinforce that match by using it again in your first header.

I like to make my h1 as close to the page title as possible, without duplicating it.

Another important factor is the page’s word count. Search engines prefer to display pages that are educational and contain ample information for searchers on the subjects they are asking about. For optimal on-page content, use 800 to 1,200 words for informational static pages and blogs. If you have an e-commerce site, expand your product descriptions. If you offer more services, expand your services pages, and always use keyword-rich content on your homepage, as this is the page that will most often be displayed for your highest volume broad phrase keywords.

Google Ranking Factors

Remember how I mentioned page speed and broken links? Also important to Google is the overall health of your site, as it does not want users to have a bad experience. Use a crawling tool like Screaming Frog to audit your site. You’ll be given lots of data that may look confusing, but don’t be discouraged! Take it step by step, and research anything you don’t understand; first what the problem is, and then, the SEO best practices to resolve it. SEMrush.com also has a great site auditing tool that offers tips to resolve errors.

google ranking factors

  • Pay special attention to these areas:
  • The 4XX errors. Your site should be free of 404s and any “page not founds,” so use a 301 redirect, and redirect the page to a similar page.
  • Missing meta descriptions.
  • Duplicate meta descriptions. This can cause neither page to rank well.
  • Large images. These can cause a site to load slowly.
  • Duplicate page titles. If these are pages you want to show up in SERPs, they can cannibalize one another for the same keyword, causing neither to be displayed (much like duplicate meta descriptions).
  • Page titles the same as h1s.
  • Multiple h1s. You should have one h1 on each page.

When you have an error, export the list of pages containing the error into a spreadsheet and work through the list one by one. It can be time consuming, but SEO is an ongoing effort, and continuously making updates has the added benefit of refreshing your site in Google. The search engine will want to test your site again after each update to see if the changes affect UBMs.

I like to say that Google is a test, so your goal is to be an active test subject. If your traffic goes up after an update, that is great! If it goes down, revert to the original version or make other adjustments. Don’t count your eggs until the traffic begins to even out, as Google’s tests can cause volatility in the early days or weeks after updating.

With SEO, there’s always more to consider. It’s also important to monitor your backlinks (the links pointing to your site), good and bad. Additional technical SEO factors include markup for SERP prominence, file compression for fast page loading, mobile responsive design for indexability and load speed, redirect chains, canonical tags, robots.txt and much more! Stay tuned for more about these topics and read my e-book, “The Layman’s Guide to SEO,” for a more detailed explanation of today’s topics.

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Mario Medina
About Mario Medina

Mario is the Creative Director of madison/miles media. He has a wife, two kids, a dog, a fish (but it might be dead — hard to tell) and an unhealthy obsession with Batman.

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