Whether you’re looking to start a blog or an affiliate marketing website, without optimizing your website for search engines, your site will never be found. Therefore, learning how to optimize a website for SEO is crucial to your success.
Better SEO performance means more traffic, more leads, and ultimately more sales. But before we get into how to optimize your site for SEO, it’s worth quickly running over precisely what SEO is.
What is SEO?
SEO is an acronym for search engine optimization. It’s the process whereby you improve your website’s discoverability within search results, thereby increasing the number of visitors.
There’s perhaps no more important activity when it comes to marketing your website or your business’ online presence. When you consider that 81% of people search online for a product or service, you can begin to understand how vital it is to optimize your website to appear higher in the search results.
The number one search result achieves 31.7% of all site clicks. However, the click-through rate (CTR) quickly drops off after that number one position. If your site is currently languishing on the second page of search results for a particular keyword, a measly 0.78% of all searchers bother to view the second page of Google search engine results pages (SERPS).
Given that Google accounts for 86.05% of total search volume worldwide, this article will primarily focus on practices that will help to get your site towards the top of Google search engine rankings.
So without further ado, let’s get into what you need to be doing with your website to get it to appear near the top (or at the coveted number one spot) of search engine results.
Set Up Your Website’s Google Properties
The first step of any SEO process is to make sure that Google indexes your website. To achieve this step, you need to head over to the Google Search Console. Here, you can measure your site’s performance in search traffic results, fix performance issues (such as broken links) and make sure that your site’s pages and posts are indexed within Google’s search results.
Once you’ve run through the process to set up your site on the search console, the first thing you need to do is submit a sitemap. You can have a WordPress plugin such as Yoast do this automatically for you. If your website is using a different content management system, simply follow the steps for submitting your sitemap manually here. Once you’ve submitted your sitemap, Google will crawl your website and index the relevant pages and posts within a few days.
Next, it’s time to set up your Google Analytics. This platform monitors all of your traffic and spots opportunities for you to improve crucial metrics such as bounce rate (visitors who leave your website after only visiting one page) and conversions. As you progress your site’s SEO performance, you should start to see your visitor numbers improve over time.
Once you’ve set up these Google properties, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty to improve your website’s SEO performance. These SEO tasks can be broken down into three main categories, on-page, off-page, and technical SEO.
On-page SEO refers to optimizing your on-page content to better meet the needs of Google’s (and other search engines’) website crawlers. There is a range of elements you need to take care of, starting with the on-page text of your pages and posts itself.
First and foremost, it’s essential to understand that long-form content of more than 1500 words consistently outranks and outperforms shorter content in every way.
Secondly, make sure to include two types of links in your writing. One set of internal links should be focused on taking visitors to another page on your website, which keeps them on your website for longer and dramatically decreases those bounce rates mentioned above.
The second set of links should be out to other similar pages in your niche. These outbound links give Google a relevancy signal, so it knows which subjects it should be ranking your site for. You should take as much care over your external links as your internal links, ensuring they are from high-quality, well-respected sites within your industry.
Add Images and Video
Next, make sure to add images and video to break up your text on pages and posts. If you are presenting readers with blocks of text, then it is likely that you will witness high bounce rates and low dwell time. To meet Google’s on-page criteria, you need to provide at least two or three images. Video performs even better, with pages that include video accruing 157% more organic search traffic than those without.
Sprinkle in Keywords That You Wish to Target
Finally, throughout your text, make sure to sprinkle keywords for which you’re trying to rank your website. They should be made up of synonyms and related search queries.
Google search has moved away from exact keywords and focuses more on semantics these days. For example, if your chosen keyword is “WordPress Classes,” Google now understands that “WordPress Courses” and other similar synonyms are all talking about the same thing. So make sure to include them.
If you are unsure of what keywords to target, you can use a tool such as Jaaxy to ascertain your chosen industry’s keyword search volume and competition metrics. When your site is brand new, you need to target low-search-volume, low-competition keywords before building up to those with more competition, which have more established sites ranking in the top positions.
Title Tags, Header Tags & Meta Descriptions
When learning how to optimize a website for SEO, understanding title tags, header tags, and meta descriptions are crucial.
Starting with the optimization of the title of your post or page itself, you need to optimize your title tag correctly. This is the most crucial on-page SEO factor as it is what Google reads for your keywords. Place your focus keyword at the start of the title so it has the most weight it possibly can.
You then optimize even further by adding words like “best,” “guide,” or “review” because it will help you rank for long-tail versions of your keyword and help rank for similar semantic search queries, not to mention increase click-through rates (CTRs).
Next are header tags. You should place a header 1 (H1) tag around your title (WordPress does this automatically), followed by header 2 (H2) tags around your subheadings so Google’s bots can quickly crawl your article and see what it is about.
You should only ever use one H1 tag (it’s by far the most important), and then you can use multiple H2 and H3 tags, all the way down to H5 for the rest of your subheadings. It is up for debate how important headers H4 and above are, so it makes sense to reuse H2 and H3 tags for relevant keywords in your other headings.
Finally, while meta descriptions do not count as a ranking factor, they are still crucial as they are your chance to tell potential visitors what your site is about. If you manage to write an enticing and compelling meta description, you will see your click-through rate soar, which will boost your website up the rankings.
Off-page refers to elements that aren’t necessarily in your control as a website owner. The majority of your off-page SEO efforts will be focused on building credible backlinks to your website.
This is where you probably notice the results of your SEO efforts the most. By far, one of the most important ranking factors are links to your website. You can write the most unique, amazing, and perfectly-optimized content on the planet, but if there aren’t any links to that content, it’s highly unlikely that you will ever see any meaningful traffic.
There are many methods for building backlinks. Some are known as “black hat” because they deliberately circumvent Google’s guidelines. Today, these methods are more likely to land your site in trouble than increase your ranking positions. So-called white hat methods to build and insert links to your website include:
- Using social media
- Guest posting on other websites
- Contributing to forums relating to your topic
- Writing on your subject area for question and answer sites such as Quora or contributor sites like Medium and Buzzfeed.
- Adding your website to local and national directories
- Taking ownership of your Google properties (e.g., Google Maps listings)
Other Off-Page Factors
While backlinks are by far the most important off-page ranking mechanism, you can use social media to send signals to Google’s algorithm that your site is worth paying attention to. You can also use traditional marketing formats such as appearing on podcasts to promote your website and increase visitors, which will, in turn, suggest to Google that your site has content worth sharing with others.
While perhaps not as “make or break” as some of the factors listed above, you can make the following changes to your website that can put your site ahead of competitors if you perform similarly in other SEO aspects.
Often overlooked by site novices, you need to make sure your URL structure is as simple and to the point as possible. Google will find it difficult to assess the topic if your URL looks something like this:
Instead, optimize it so that it is no more than one or two stems away from your root domain:
This will leave Google in no doubt about your keyword topic and will help to push it further up the search result rankings.
Fixing Broken Links
Links that don’t go anywhere on your website, referred to as broken links of 404 errors, will harm your site’s search engine performance. Visitors that encounter these links will simply bounce from your site to another, looking for the information they require.
You need to use the Google Search Console to uncover any links of this type on your website and implement what’s known as a 301 redirect to make sure that they redirect to another page. Watch this tutorial to find out how you do that. Alternatively, if you’re running on WordPress, there are plenty of plugins available to handle this for you.
Optimize Mobile Performance
With more people accessing websites via mobile devices, you don’t want to leave those potential visitors with a bad user experience (UX) that impacts vital SEO metrics. In 2018, Google launched the mobile-first index, which means you those sites that perform better on mobiles outrank those that don’t.
Responsive design offers the most natural solution. You can download free and premium website themes with responsive design built-in, which means you don’t have to worry about adding any extra code. If you’re operating with a custom website solution, you will need to ask your website designer about this.
Reduce Page Load Speed
There’s no question that page load speed matters when it comes to SEO. If your website takes forever to load, visitors will abandon ship and try a faster loading site.
Fortunately, you can get a pretty good idea of how your site performs using Google’s PageSpeed Insights, which gives you valuable information regarding how fast your site loads across all devices and what specific things you can fix to make your site faster.
This article has given you an overview of what you need to be thinking about when it comes to the key pillars of SEO. Learning how to optimize a website for SEO is a continuous process, as the industry is constantly evolving. If you stand still with your website’s SEO efforts, you will get left behind by those continually tweaking, optimizing, and improving performance.
However, if you get SEO right, you could have a website that ranks number one for various terms, bringing in considerable revenue streams from advertisers, affiliate marketing commissions, and sales of your own products and services.
If you ever need a hand when it comes to your SEO, feel free to contact us, and we will be more than happy to help you out.
All the best,