SEO Website Optimization Guide

As Search Engine Optimization (SEO) consultants, a common question that comes up from the companies we work with is: "is our website optimized for SEO?" This guide addresses the most important aspects website SEO optimization and if implemented correctly can have a massive impact on your website's search engine ranking.

 

1. Optimize title tags

The title tag is the text that appears in the browser tab and lets search engines like Google know what your web page is about.

Screen_Shot_2019-09-11_at_8_40_31_AM

 

The title tag is also the most prominent text search engines use when displaying your website's listing in the search results:

Screen_Shot_2019-09-11_at_6_08_58_PM

 

Needless to say, title tags are vital to your website's SEO; they tell Google how to index the page and simultaneously let the searcher know if the content is  relevant to them.

 

How to optimize your website's title tags for SEO:

  • Your website’s title tags should be structured in the following way: Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand Name
  • Keep title tags at 55 characters or less in length, including spaces.
  • Use important keywords as close to the beginning of your title tag as possible.
  • The title tag should describe the content on the page - if the website were an email, think of the title tag as the subject line...

 

How do you update your website's title tag?

Have your web developer update this in the head section of your website's HTML code:

title tag in code

 

 

2. Create useful meta descriptions

Meta descriptions, while not as important in search engine rankings, are extremely important in getting users to click through from the search engine results page to your website. 

Search engines (in many cases) use your site's meta description in the text below the title of the search result:

meta descriptions

 

Meta descriptions should use keywords wisely, but more importantly they should include a compelling description that will entice the user to click.

 

How to optimize meta descriptions for SEO:

  • Write meta descriptions that describe the pages content in an enticing way that will encourage searches to click through to your website.
  • Use important keywords in the meta descriptions but make sure the text is  readable and informative to the user.
  • Keep the length of your meta descriptions around 150 - 160 characters in length.

 

How do you update your website's meta description tags?

Have your web developer update this in the head section of your website's HTML code:

meta source code

 

3. Make proper use of HTML headings (h1, h2, h3...tags)

HTML headings define the structure of your content to both the reader and the search engines. The <h1> tag defines the most important heading while <h6> defines the least important heading.

When Google is deciding what your website content is about, it looks at heading tags as the most important and relevant text on the page. We can use this to our advantage by adding important keywords to the page headings so Google is more likely to rank the page for those keywords.

In the example below, popular financial advice website nerdwallet.com is doing a good job optimizing their website content for SEO by using important keywords in their <h1> heading tag and using <h2> tags for additional headings of lesser importance:

nerdwallet headings

 

How to optimize your website's header tags:

  • Use your most important keywords in the page's <h1> tag as Search engines give this header the most importance.
  • Use <h2> tags as the headings for additional section of the site and try to include important keywords in these tags as well.
  • Use headings to break up content making the site easily scannable by the reader.

 

4. Use internal page linking

Internal linking refers to a link on a page that points to another page within your website. 

nerdwallet internal links

Internal linking is important because it helps strengthen those keywords internally for those pages, it allows users (and search engines) to navigate through the website, and it tells the search engines that the page is relevant for that keyword phrase.

When internally linking page content, use descriptive, keyword rich anchor text. For example, a link pointing to a page about "financial management" should favor the anchor text: “learn more about financial management,” over “Click here”.

 

5. Optimize image ALT tags and filenames

Alt tags define the description of the images on your website. 

Using alt tags is another good opportunity to add keywords to your site and they’re great for user accessibility too. If someone is using a screen reader to access your site, they'll be able to hear what that image is about if they can't see it.

Include keyword phrases in image alt tags, if possible, (but don’t overdo it) and image filenames should be SEO friendly which can improve your website’s ranking for image searches.

 

How to optimize your website's images for SEO:

  • Use important keywords in image alt tags when possible.
  • Name all of your images in a way that describes what they are.
  • Use dashes between the words, rather than underscores ( eg: mortgage-calculator.jpg rather than mortgage_calculator.jpg)
  • Do not use non-alpha characters in your image or file names (eg: %, &, $, etc…)

 

6. Optimize for page speed

Page speed refers to the time it takes to fully display your web page's content and is one of the signals used by Google's algorithm to rank pages

Page speed is also important to user experience as web pages with a longer load time tend to have higher bounce rates, lower average time on page and have also been shown to negatively affect conversions.

You can evaluate your site's page speed using Google's PageSpeed Insights tool which analyzes the content of a web page, then generates suggestions to make that page faster.

drive page speed

 

How to optimize your website for page speed:

 

Enable compression

Use Gzip, a software application for file compression, to reduce the size of your CSS, HTML, and JavaScript files that are larger than 150 bytes.

For images, compress them in a program like Photoshop where you can retain control over image quality.

 

Minify CSS, JavaScript, and HTML

By optimizing your code (including removing spaces, commas, and other unnecessary characters), you can dramatically increase your page speed. Also remove code comments, formatting, and unused code. Google recommends using CSSNano and UglifyJS.

 

Reduce redirects

Each time a page redirects to another page, your visitor faces additional time waiting for the HTTP request-response cycle to complete. 

 

Remove render-blocking JavaScript

Browsers have to build a DOM tree by parsing HTML before they can render a page. If your browser encounters a script during this process, it has to stop and execute it before it can continue. Google suggests avoiding and minimizing the use of blocking JavaScript.

 

Leverage browser caching

Browsers cache a lot of information (stylesheets, images, JavaScript files, and more) so that when a visitor comes back to your site, the browser doesn't have to reload the entire page. Use a tool like YSlow to see if you already have an expiration date set for your cache. Then set your "expires" header for how long you want that information to be cached. Google has more information about leveraging caching here.

 

Improve server response time

Your server response time is affected by the amount of traffic you receive, the resources each page uses, the software your server uses, and the hosting solution you use. To improve your server response time, look for performance bottlenecks like slow database queries, slow routing, or a lack of adequate memory and fix them. The optimal server response time is under 200ms. Learn more about optimizing your time to first byte.

 

Use a content distribution network

Content distribution networks (CDNs), also called content delivery networks, are networks of servers that are used to distribute the load of delivering content. Essentially, copies of your site are stored at multiple, geographically diverse data centers so that users have faster and more reliable access to your site.

 

Optimize images

Be sure that your images are no larger than they need to be, that they are in the right file format (PNGs are generally better for graphics while JPEGs are generally better for photographs) and that they are compressed for the web.

 

7. Optimize URLs for SEO

A well-crafted URL provides both humans and search engines an easy-to-understand indication of what the destination page will be about.

Favor a url like the one below which makes clear where the user is within your website and what your page's content is about:

https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/mortgages/how-to-refinance-your-mortgage/

 

Website URL optimization best practices:

  • Strip your URLs of stop words like ‘a’, ‘of’, ‘the’ etc. If possible, strip your URLs of verbs as well. Words like ‘are’ or ‘have’ are not needed in your URL to make clear what the page is about.
  • keep your URLs short but descriptive.
  • Use the keywords in the URL that describe the page's content.
  • Use dashes instead of underscores to separate words in the URL.

 

8. Create great content...

Keep your audience in mind: you are writing website content for people...and then for search engines — not vice versa.

 

Tips for creating great SEO Content in 2019:

  • Write content that solves your customer's biggest problems - this will help your company develop trust with your potential customers and they'll think of you when they're ready to take actions that are profitable to your business.
  • Make the content informative and easy to read - Make sure the language is neither too simple nor full of industry jargon.
  • Write shareable content - High quality content is inherently shareable. Take a step back and ask yourself if you would share it?
  • Content should be scannable - Use short paragraphs, callouts, bold text, bullet points, numbered lists, quotes and so on to make the text easily digestible.
  • Use titles - Create enticing, actionable titles that use keywords strategically and naturally in <h1> and <h2> tags.
  • Create better content than your competitors - Spy out the competition using tools like SpyFu to find pages currently ranking well for your target keywords and ask yourself if your content is better.
  • Keyword usage - Use keywords throughout page copy but be mindful of Keyword density - the percentage of times a keyword or phrase appears on a web page compared to the total number of words on the page. Many SEO experts consider the optimum keyword density to be 1 to 3 percent.

 

I hope this content was helpful and wish you all the very best on your website SEO optimization journey! 

And if you're in need of help with anything related to SEO, lead generation, website optimization and that sorta thing, head over to our Work With Us page to request a free consultation with an SEO expert!

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