We would like to introduce a guest blogger: Bernardeta Taylor, owner of Bernardeta Designs & Production. You might have seen her around the WebTegrity space. She is part of the WebTegrity team and helps with Digital Marketing. She will be writing about onsite SEO.
You have a great looking website and now you need people to find it. So what do you do? You will need to dive into the abyss that is onsite SEO. Just kidding! Onsite SEO is relatively easy if you follow the steps I have listed here:
- Great user experience
- Have a call to action
- Research keywords
- Have great content
- Have internal linking
- Have external linking
- Optimize your images
- Install the Yoast plugin
- Add SEO title, keyword and meta description to the Yoast interface
But first, let start by defining SEO. It stands for Search Engine Optimization – techniques used to get you found on search engines and getting ranked by them. It has come a long way since the days when all you needed was to add keywords to your header to start ranking. Now, this is a much more complex task.
To understand how to get started, you first need to know that there are actually 3 types of SEO.
- Onsite SEO – any optimization you do on the backend of your site. If you are on WordPress, you will need to log in to your dashboard to start working on the tips listed in this post
- Local SEO – adding you NAPW (name, address, phone number, website) to sites like Yellow Pages and Yelp. Basically, the sites that people go to to find businesses, and getting an awesome postcard from Google when you create your Google My Business account and so forth
- Offsite SEO – this is the type of SEO that is the most intense and that takes the longest. Anything that you do away from your site to promote it constitutes offsite SEO; anything from social media to testimonials to press releases
In this blog post, I will be solely focusing on the onsite SEO portion. So let’s get started with these tips.
Onsite SEO Tips
Think of a time you went to a website and you couldn’t find the answer you were looking for and on top of that, it was ugly. This is an indicator of a bad user experience. If a user can’t find what they want or they see that the site looks old and unkempt, they will quickly navigate away from the page and go somewhere else. This is a clear indicator to Google that the page is not good so it will not rank the page well. You also need to be mindful of:
- Have appropriate navigation – make sure that people can easily go from page to page and that pages aren’t buried inside pages
- Colors – the colors need to be appealing to the eye. Avoid light text on light backgrounds, and colors that hurt your eyes if you stare too long at them
- Phone numbers clickable – when someone is seeing your page on mobile, it is ideal to have it clickable so a viewer doesn’t have to write the number down before they call you; you will get more engagement this way
- Your website needs to be responsive; this is now a must for Google. Everyone needs to see your page properly on a mobile device without having to zoom in to see elements on a page
Believe it or not, having a call to action is also part of onsite SEO. When someone goes to your page, you need to tell them clearly what you need them to do. Whether to call you, to come and see you, to fill out a form, etc. You want it as close to the top as possible and even on the bottom of the page if you have a lot of great content. It helps if your button has a very unique color to make it stand out from the rest of your page.
There are hundreds and hundreds of tools that will help you find the best keywords that you can use to help with your onsite SEO. One of my favorite resources is Ubber Suggest by Neil Patel (he is one of the SEO gurus I follow). To use this tool you will choose what’s called a “seed keyword”; basically what the blog post is about. In our case, our seed keyword is “cat toys”. After I put in “cat toys” in this tool and arrange it by order of search volume (how often a keyword gets searched for in a month), we see a lot of different options that relate to cats, and when it comes to toys, I see that “cat toys” has a search volume of 40500; so that is pretty good, I am going to use that as my keyword in the copy that I am going to create.
Number 1 rule on keywords…do not overuse them. Google will penalize you for what is called “keyword stuffing”. I am hesitant to give an example because of that fear. So, the best way to describe it is having the keyword repeated every 4 or 6 words in your copy…this is not only annoying to Google but to the user as well. Instead, I would recommend, you use the keyword in the copy about 4 to 5 times for every 1000 words. We haven’t talked about the Yoast plugin yet, but this will help you figure out if you have enough keywords in your copy. So, don’t worry about technically counting your keywords.
You can also add the keyword in your URL, SEO title, meta description, H tags, alt text; adding them in these spots do not count towards your limit (more on this later). By the way, if you didn’t know, H tags are HTML tags that are used to define headers in your copy.
Longtail keyword – it is best practice to instead of having one word for your keyword, you use 3 or 4 words instead of just one. Take a look at Neil’s article on keywords, he has a great explanation and a great graphic. For our example, we can extend to “best cat toys”.
So now that we have our keyword, let start writing content. Remember to sprinkle the keyword every once in a while so you can help Google understand what the page is about and have some areas were you will be able to add some links (see more about this on tips 5 and 6).
The first thing you need to think about when you are adding content to your website is what will it be about, how many words will it need to be, and if it will provide value to someone. Google is very big on providing value. Which makes sense, they are in the business of providing the best results for someone looking for something. If people searched for cat toys and the results were showing cars, then people wouldn’t use Google to get their information. Google has gotten a lot smarter when it comes to reading content. It also has the ability to know how long someone stays on the site. The longer someone stays, the more valuable Google thinks the content is, which in turn will help you rank better.
If you are writing an article on any subject, we will use cat toys as an example, you want to have a bare minimum of 300 – 500 words. However, I recommend more…like 1000 to 2000. When talking about content and onsite SEO, there are many SEO experts who have shown conclusively that there is a sweet spot when it comes to how many words to include. You can find your own sweet spot by starting with 1000 words and looking at your analytics to see how that page/post does. Then you can bump up the content to 2000 to see if there is any difference.
So now you are excited, you decided on your topic, how many words you will have, and what a great value it will provide someone. So, start typing away your magnificent and valuable content.
Internal linking refers to any page/post you have on your site. When writing your content keep in mind certain parts where it would be beneficial to insert one of your internal pages. For example, if you are asking people to contact you, adding an internal link will not only help your viewer go to that link directly, but it will help Google understand what other pages are important. Best practices: instead of linking the full URL, just put everything after the .com and start with a forward slag (/); so in our example, we would link to /contact-us. This is helpful if you ever change your domain so you don’t have to go back to all your pages and change it.
External linking, like the name suggests, is a link to a page outside of your site. I am sure you are wondering, why would I want to link to someone else’s site when I am trying to rank my own? Well, the simple answer is that by adding authoritative external links, this will show Google that you are an authority in the subject matter and will help it further understand what the page/post is about. If you can, refrain from linking to your cousin’s webpage school project for example; more than likely Google will not see it as a link coming from an authority. So, back to our example, if we are doing a blog post on cat toys, and you are talking about this amazing feather wand that you saw at Petco, you could link to that on their site. Best practices: make sure you have this link open on a new tab (after all, you don’t want people to leave your site).
Do you get frustrated when you go to a site and it takes forever to load…like more than 3 seconds? Cheez, we just don’t have that kind of time to wait for a page to load. Well, the page may be trying to load very large images. This is one of the main ranking factors for Google when it comes to onsite SEO. The quicker your site is to load the better. You can use sites like GTMetrix to see how fast your site actually is, and it will also tell you if your images are the culprit. The general rule, in my opinion, is to upload images that are less than 1MB. That is generally sufficient for just about any type of image you put on the site. The best tool to help with that is of course Photoshop, but if you don’t have that, you can use online sources like TinyPNG. You can also go to Envira Gallery 9 Best Free Image Optimization Tools for Image Compression to see other sources.
Now you have pictures that are smaller in size, great, what’s next?…well, hold on, you aren’t done optimizing your images yet. Before you upload to your site you need a few other important things.
- Filename – make sure that the file name means something. Don’t name it file00008.jpg; this will not help you at all. If you have a picture of a ball of yarn, label it ball-of-yarn.jpg (notice the “dash” instead of spaces, spaces are converted to %20 in an URL). Besides, how embarrassing would it be to see www.domain.com/cat-toys/file00008.jpg? If you can naturally include your keyword here, then go for it
- Title – now that you have uploaded this great looking picture, there are a few more things to do. In WordPress, go to media, and there you have the ability to open up your image to see other fields that you can fill out. One of them being the title of the image. Continuing using our example, you can label it “Ball of Yarn”. If you can include a keyword here as well, that is even better. So you can have instead “Cat Toy – Ball of Yarn”. You can have spaces here or dashes, it doesn’t matter here.
- Alt Text – In the same area as the title of your image on WordPress, you have another field called Alt Tag. This is primarily used for screen readers for blind people to hear what the image is about. Now, we also use this same field to have another opportunity to add a keyword. You can label it “red, blue, white ball of yarn cat toy”. Bam! two awesome uses for this field.
This is a powerful onsite SEO plugin that gives you an additional area on each page and post where you can add elements that will show in search results. There are other plugins out there that can do the same thing but I recommend Yoast as this has a very user-friendly interface and a great following.
It also has a color-coded system that tells you how well you are doing. A red light tells you that there is something that you need to correct quickly. Orange notifies you that there are some tasks that you can do better. Green, is the sweet spot. Many people have a goal to get all green and make a game out of it; me included! Let me tell you, it is a great feeling to have a blog post with all green lights…a definite sense of accomplishment.
There are many tutorials out there for Yoast, but the most extensive would be to go to their website to learn more about it. YouTube has many great resources, for example, go check out Kori Ashton Yoast playlist to get some great tutorials. Other than the interface (tip #9) you use to add your onsite SEO, you can also add your social media accounts. There are also many other settings you can do in the free version. Here is a great resource from Online Media Masters that has a lengthy explanation on what to modify and what each item is.
Now it is time to use the amazing plugin, Yoast – here is the best part. Go to a page/post that you have created and that you have already added your 1000 word content along with your optimized images. You will see at the bottom, the Yoast interface. Here you will add your keyword (cat toys), your SEO title and your meta description. Ok, so what is all of this. Well, when you go to Google and you type …yup! you guessed it…”cat toys” the results will show you a title that is in blue, the url and some text underneath it. The blue text is your SEO title and the words underneath is your meta description.
We will be filling out all of our fields. If you click on “edit snippet” you will see all of the fields. For the SEO title, we want to start it off with our keyword, then the company name, and if you have the room you can either put the city your business is in, or even a phone number. For the meta description, make it enticing and don’t forget to put your keyword in.
Let me show you what the interface looks like so you can see where to put it:
OK, so that’s it. See all the awesome green in the screen capture? This is what you want to strive for. You now have a few tips that you can use for your website to help you with your onsite SEO.
If you get stuck or do not understand a certain tip, feel free to reach out to me on my Facebook Page, or send me a message on Twitter @BernardetaDesgn . You can also reach out to the WebTegrity team if would like their help. Have fun.