When was the last time you made it to the fifth page of Google trying to find the best answer to your search? I’m going to guess rarely. Why? Google has become proficient in matching websites listed on its search engine to user’s searches. You typically don’t have to click past page one. Google is constantly evolving and your SEO techniques should be too.
Before I get into examples and tips on how to improve SEO, the most important and best way to improve SEO for your website is to increase traffic through quality content. Google’s algorithms are constantly being updated to act more human. Google is reading your content and analyzing it. The days where “keyword stuffing” to cheat the ranking algorithm and increase your website’s ranking are long gone. Users who search on Google are who you should cater your content towards because visitors to your site have the potential to become customers. Google is your first critic, determining your content’s level of quality. Let’s make it painless for the critic to critique.
How Does Google Critique?
Crawling → Indexing → Serving
To understand Google’s ranking process, let’s use an analogy to simplify the concept.
Overarching Analogy: Google is a person looking for books in a library. Your website is a book. The library is every discoverable website.
“Crawling” is Google’s means of finding a website.
Crawling Analogy: A person (Google) is searching for a book (website) in a library and finds it.
Just as there are ways to make finding a library book easier, there are ways to make finding a website easier for Google.
Ways to help Google crawl your site:
A Backlink is a hyperlink to your page’s website that redirects the visitor from the website they are reading directly to your website.
Ex: This would be considered a backlink to Mirabel’s Marketing Manager.
Why do content writers use backlinks in their content? It provides credibility to their content by referencing your work. Google equates backlinks as an authoritative and credible source. Backlinks also help your website to be discoverable by Google.
↑ quality backlinks = ↑ Google ranking
Backlink Analogy: A professor (another credible website) reads your book (your website) and recommends it to the person (Google) looking for the best book on that topic.
ii. Submit a sitemap to Google
A sitemap is a file that you can submit to Google explaining the content you are providing and details that hint at your website’s relevance and importance. Some of the details that can be highlighted for Google are modification dates, files you find essential and information on videos and pictures that Google may not be able to interpret. (More on Google’s video and picture interpretation capabilities below.)
Submitting a Sitemap Analogy: The author (you) of the book (your website) provides a synopsis to the person (Google).
iii. Submit the URL of your homepage to Google through Search Console
Copy and paste your URL to Google and it adds that URL to its crawling queue.
Submission of a URL to Search Console Analogy: The author (you) hands the person (Google) a copy of the book (your website).
Indexing follows crawling. Indexing is when Google bots analyze your website’s pages and content, ranking the quality and importance of your website.
Indexing Analogy: The person (Google) reads the book (your website) to understand what it’s about and determines whether he or she likes it.
It’s easy to fall into the black hole of endless ways to improve your article’s SEO, but the main priority is always providing high-quality, organic content. Let your high-quality content shine by making it easy for Google bots to understand the content.
Ways to emphasize what your website is about for Google Indexing Purposes:
i. Keywords and Semantics
Put keywords in headers and fill the content with semantics. Keywords and semantics will help Google match user’s searches (queries) to your website. With that being said, don’t go overboard. Google looks for quality over quantity and can see through you overstuffing keywords to try to obtain a higher rank.
Ensure that each page title tag is distinctive, descriptive and brief. Sounds like an oxymoron, right?
Make the description meta tag a comprehensive summary of what your web page is about in 160 characters or less. Notice how I say page -- each page should have a unique meta tag. Refrain from saying phrases like “this webpage is about,” and NEVER copy and paste a page’s entire content into the meta tag. Try to start with a verb, like “Find,” “Read,” “Shop” or “Learn.”
Oh, and remember, time is precious. If readers can get their answer from the meta tag, chances are, they won’t click to enter your website. Make your meta tag tease, not answer.
Notice how the page title text provides answers to:
- Topic? “Best Sales & Marketing Ideas”
- What? A blog
- From who? Mirabel’s Marketing Manager
The meta description is short, descriptive and begins with a verb inviting readers to click.
In H1 header tags, include those keywords we mentioned earlier. Avoid using too many headers, and make sure they aren’t too long.
Here is an example of what a good page title tag and meta tag might look like:
This H1 header includes the key phrases “lead generation” and “inbound marketing.”
iii. Using structured data markup
Structured data markup means labeling each element of code so the website can be found in different search variations. In doing this, you mark every piece of information you are providing so Google knows exactly what it is. Follow Google’s structured data markup guide to see the best example of this.
Then, use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to spot any potential errors before publishing.
After you publish, use Google’s Rich Result Status Reports to ensure everything continues working correctly.
For further education, check out Google’s Structured Data Codelab to help you learn more about determining the best practices in structured data markup.
iv. Use more text than pictures and videos
Google is skilled at reading and understanding text, but it isn’t quite as skilled at understanding pictures and videos. Therefore, if you plan on putting many pictures and videos on your website, add captions or video transcripts.
Your website has been crawled and indexed. What’s next? Serving. In this step, Google is the liaison between your website and the end-user. Google plays matchmaker, pairing the question or phrase being searched for with accurate information provided by indexed websites.
Serving Analogy: The person (Google), who has found and read your book (your website), has now read the whole library (all discoverable websites). A friend (user searching Google) asks this person a question, and this person pulls out a few books (top page search results) for the friend to read, which may answer their question.
Ways to increase your serving chances are:
- Increasing the page loading speed
- Ensuring content is mobile-friendly
- And, as if you haven’t heard it enough, featuring quality content
To wrap it up, SEO is vital to anyone with a website because more traffic means more potential for conversions.