Announced Tuesday, December 12 on the Webmaster Central Blog is Google’s newly revamped “SEO Starter Guide.” The updated guide covers many relevant areas on to craft a more search engine friendly website. What makes it especially relevant is that the guide discusses many areas that often go overlooked.
It’s mentioned in the Webmaster Central Blog post that “the updated SEO Starter Guide will replace both the old Starter Guide and the Webmaster Academy. The updated version builds on top of the previously available document, and has additional sections on the need for search engine optimization, adding structured data markup and building mobile-friendly websites.”
You can check out the revamped SEO Starter Guide here. But before you do, we’ve provided a handful of SEO tips that align with key points made in the guide. You might find that these tips are more digestible and actionable as you go about creating a more search engine friendly website.
1. Organize Your Site to be Search Engine Friendly
There are a couple different perspectives when it comes to organizing your site to be more search engine friendly. However, the consistent underlying concept is to make your site easy for both users and search engines to navigate.
First, there’s the big picture perspective, which looks at your site’s hierarchy and how well your pages are organized. Typically structured through your site’s navigation, the hierarchy of pages not only helps search engines understand what content is most important, but it also helps visitors quickly find the content they’re looking for. The figure is a very simple example found on Google’s SEO Starter Guide. Take note of how pages are organized in a very logical and intuitive manner.
With user engagement metrics like average time on site, bounce rate, and average number of pages visited now key ranking factors that are become more significance, it’s critical to have your pages organized as best as possible. This will keep users on your site longer, helping facilitate a quality user experience that, at the very least, will help support your rankings.
The second perspective of organizing your site is a bit more granular. Here were focused on the layout of content, images, media, and links, which will also influence how well users engage with your site. This involves nitty-gritty aspects of how well your page is designed and how the content is presented. While I could go into great detail about page design components for a search engine friendly website, instead I’ll steer you toward a fabulous whiteboard presentation by Rand Fishkin of Moz titled Designing a Page’s Content Flow to Maximize SEO Opportunity. I encourage you to check that out here.
2. Strengthen Your Site’s Content
One of the most obvious things we’ve noticed over the past year in search engine friendly websites is the depth of content that’s offered. Consider this an extension from the previous tip on organizing your sites content and page design on a granular level. For example, we work with a law firm that’s in a very competitive local search landscape in Atlanta. A primary differentiating factor in the sites that rank atop the search engine results is content.
Yes, we still believe that content is king in world of SEO. Of course there are many applications of content. But in the case of top ranking pages, Google tends to favor content that’s unique and engaging, informative, and well-organized. The lawyers who are slaying the search results offer robust pages with over 1,500 words of copy rich with subheaders (H2’s and H3’s), quality images, voice search-optimized FAQs, and loads of supportive information.
The key takeaway here is simple. If you’re looking to rank atop the search engine results, your key money pages (those you’re trying to get ranked) need to have better content than your competitors. Such pages need to be deeper (more word count), richer (with compelling copy, images, and videos), and better organized (using an array of subheaders and supportive text).
3. Use Schema to Communicate to Search Engines
Schema markup, or structured data, is code that you can add to your sites’ pages to better describe your content to search engines. Think of schema as special tags that you wrap specific of pieces content around, communicating to search engines that this is an image or this is an address. In turn, search engines can better understand what’s on your pages.
Schema can be one of the most impactful improvements to making your site more search engine friendly. And yet, it’s one of the most commonly overlooked components in the world of SEO.
Not only does Google and other search engines better understand the content of your site, but certain types of schema markup can result in rich snippets showing for your search listings. For instance, the figure above is an obvious indication that DJkit.com is using schema to markup the price, reviews, inventory, and description of the product. In turn, this eye-grabbing listing is likely to see greater clicks than Amazon, despite DJkit.com not ranking as high.
From product descriptions and reviews to prices to address information, Schema comes in many forms. Sometimes it can be a little tricky to implement. So it’s often best to consult an experience developer or immerse yourself in the practices and concepts at Schema.org. All in all, it’s one component that can give you a massive competitive edge in the organic search results.
4. Optimize on All Fronts
When we think of keyword optimization (or simply including search phrases in specific areas of a page), the first thing that comes to mind is Meta data. This practice is centered around two key elements known as the page title and Meta description. These elements makes up the content visible in each page’s listing in the search results, but are not seen when viewing the actual page.
In addition to optimizing Meta data, it’s also SEO best practice to ensure the visible page copy is somewhat keyword relevant. This includes using target search phrases in the initial paragraph of copy and sporadically through the copy and subheaders where it makes sense. However one aspect of keyword optimization that’s almost always overlooked is media.
Yes, even images and videos can be keyword optimized for greater SEO impact. The techniques applied go beyond simply populating the ALT tag, too. Here you’ll want to optimize the media file properties before they are uploaded to the site or YouTube channel.
In the case of the figure above, we open up the video file’s properties to access the “details” tab. There are fields for Title, Subtitle, Tags, Rating, Comments, etc., all of which can be populated with keyword-relevant content. We also might name the actual video file to be aligned with our keyword targets. Once all of these fields are properly addressed, we can then upload the video to YouTube. In turn, the video will have greater potential to rank in YouTube’s search results, all while increasing the keyword relevancy of the page it’s embedded.
The same techniques shared above can also be applied to images. You’ll just want to ensure the image file is .JPEG and not .PNG.
5. Create Linkable Assets Moving Forward
By now it’s well known that consistent blogging or content marketing is considered SEO best practices in maintaining a search engine friendly website. Content marketing efforts have a number of benefits, such as:
- Helping build keyword relevancy by linking from blog posts to key money pages of a site.
- Increasing organic traffic by expanding the number of pages on a site that can potentially rank in the search results.
- Improve the rate at which a site gets crawled and indexed by search engines.
- Sharing relevant content on social media platforms, thereby sparking engagement and inbounding traffic from social channels.
- Earning links from other bloggers, influencers, and webmasters who find value in your content.
While all these benefits can positively impact SEO, the last bullet point is the most significant. Backlinks, or links from other external sources, are the true powerhouse behind top ranking websites. For this reason, your ongoing content marketing efforts need to focus on developing top-tier content that truly offers value, meaning, and purpose to others.
Not only must you choose topics that resonate with specific audiences, but the content and delivery of each piece needs to be better than your top competitors. Look at it from the perspective of a blogger who is writing about topic that relates to an article your writing. If they’re searching around for information or insights, whose article are they going to find most valuable and worth linking to?
Not to sound like some smug over-achiever, but to win the SEO game, your content needs to the best it can be. Take time to analyze the work some of your top competitors, and figure out strategies that are going take it one step further.