Happy New Year friends. I’m thrilled to kick off 2020 with a simple blog that outlines 11 ways to optimise your website for Google search. Apply these 11 best practices to all the content on your website — every post, every image, and every page.
Note: This blog follows on from my earlier post 6 SEO steps to optimise a web page or blog post which was more focused on single pages.
What search engines value the most is unique, engaging, and relevant content.
The first (and most obvious) way to optimise your website for search engines is with the text. Google prefers websites with well written copy that accurately describes the products, services, and overall purpose of the site.
Begin your SEO with keywords. Every post and page on your website should have it’s own set of target keywords. Of course there’ll be keywords that are common to every page, but you should aim for each webpage to rank in it’s own right.
If this sounds a bit confusing let’s imagine you’re a Reiki Master and Teacher with a business in Cairns (Australia) — like my friend Julie Heskins from Rainforest Reiki. Julie teaches reiki courses and delivers reiki treatments from her home reiki studio in Cairns, so there is a number of different keywords she could to rank for. Examples:
- Home page – ‘Reiki Cairns’ ‘Reiki Master Cairns’ ‘Reiki Teacher Cairns’ “Learn Reiki Cairns’
- About page – ‘Julie Heskins Reiki Teacher Cairns’
- Reiki Course page – ‘Learn Reiki in Cairns’ ‘Reiki Courses Cairns’ ‘Reiki 1 Shoden Course Cairns’
- Reiki Treatments page – ‘Get a reiki treatment in Cairns’ ‘Reiki treatments Cairns’
Rather than just choosing a keyword phrase that sounds good, you can actually research keywords for free using Google’s Keyword Planner. The Keyword Planner will show you how many times people search for a keyword phrase every month.
In Julie’s case we found that less than 10 people per month were searching for ‘learn meditation Cairns’ but more than 100 were searching for ‘meditation classes Cairns‘. When it comes time to write the content for the meditation page on her website, Julie knows to focus on phrases like ‘would you like to join a meditation class in Cairns?’ rather than ‘want to learn Reiki in Cairns?’.
Google’s resounding advice for search engine optimisation (SEO) is to write for humans not search engines. This is because the job of a search engine is to find and show the most useful pages to the human reader who has just typed in a search term.
Write interesting content that helps your readers learn something or solve a problem. And solving a problem isn’t necessarily about calculating the circumference of a circle — it could be explaining where somebody could to buy a 4WD in Cairns (Australia) or helping a small business owner understand the difference between a copywriter and a content writer.
Other best practices recommended by Google include:
- Writing content that is easy to read and understand.
- Keeping the copy free of spelling mistakes, typos, and grammatical errors.
- Regularly posting fresh content to the site.
- Being clear about the ownership of the site and authority of the content.
REMEMBER: fresh content is something new that addresses the latest technology and trends, rather than a mere rehash of something you published 3 years ago.
Make sure the content on your website actually relates to the products and services you are providing. I made the mistake of spending too much time blogging writing tips for other freelancers (plus my community service work) then discovered this stuff was generating more hits on my website than the business related content. Don’t do this.
READ MY POST OF PAIN: What to do when your business is ranking for the wrong search terms?
Google displays a snippet of text (around 160 characters) in search result listings. These web snippets are an important piece of SEO text and should contain the pages’s primary keywords. Snippets work best when they:
- Are written in complete sentences, ensuring nothing is truncated.
- Repeat some of the keywords from the headline and page title.
- Include some of the text from the first paragraph of the post or page.
Snippets convince readers to click through to your website so they should sound professional and (if possible) include a few benefits for the reader. Resist the urge to stuff keywords into your web snippet, Google finds it confusing and it looks spammy to your readers.
Each page on your site should ideally have a unique title, which helps Google know how the page is distinct from the others on your site.
Ensure that every page on your website has a unique page title and URL that contain the page’s primary keywords.
5. Page titles
Your page titles are an important element of SEO and should accurately represent the content on the page or post. Page titles occur in two places:
- Title tab – this is the text which appears in the tab above the URL. Eg, in the example below the title is Website Content Writing Service | Melinda J. Irvine | SEO Content Writing. The page title is displayed in the search results listings (not the headline).
- Headline – this is the actual name of the page. Eg, in the example below the headline is Content Writing Service.
Many Content Management Systems (CMS) like WordPress automatically copy the text in the headline to the page title. So if you want to set a page title that is different to the headline, you may have to install an SEO plugin at the backend of your website. Ask your web developer if you are unsure — or I’m happy to take a look for you.
The Google algorithm includes the text contained in the page’s URL when indexing and ranking web content. So make sure the URLs you choose includes the page’s primary keywords — and describes the content of the page in a way a reader will understand.
If you are not sure what a URL is, here is the URL for this blog post:
It’s perfectly fine to have a long descriptive URL for blog posts and articles, but for static web pages (like your ‘Shop’ or ‘FAQs’) you might choose something short. And there are some URLs that are so commonplace that readers are already familiar with them. These include pages like:
Let’s say I am creating an ‘About’ page for my own website, the most logical choice would be to just use the simple ‘about’ suffix after my domain. Example:
I don’t want to stuff repetitive or unnecessary keywords in my URL otherwise it will look spammy and unprofessional — Google talks about this on their SEO recommendations page. Here’s a few awful examples (and I do see stuff like this all the time).
7. Heading tags
Google recommends using ‘heading tags’ to emphasise important areas of the copy, give the content some structure, and make the entire webpage easier to read. If you look a little closer in this post you’ll see I have use the heading tag structure recommended by Google.
- Heading 1 tag <h1> is the blog’s headline — ’10 Ways To Optimise Your Website For Google Search’.
- Heading 2 tag <h2> are each of the blogs headings — Headings, Text, Navigation, Images.
- Heading 3 tag <h3> are the numbered sub-headings — 1. Page titles, 2. URLs, 3. Heading tags etc.
Best practice is to use the page’s keywords in some of your headings — especially the headline (or <h1> tag). You can see I’ve used the keywords ‘Optimise your website for SEO‘ in the headline.
The navigation of a website is important in helping visitors quickly find the content they want. It can also help search engines understand what content the webmaster thinks is important.
Take the time to build a navigation system that allows your readers to quickly find what they want on your website. This will include a combination of static menus, pillar pages (I’ll explain pillar pages in another blog post because they are a bit complicated), and internal links.
The best way to explain navigation best practices is to examine the menu structure I have created on my own website. Check the image below for each of the following examples:
- Menu system that is consistently visible on all pages. Eg, no matter what page you are looking at, my readers always see the same menu bar across the top.
- Menu system that displays perfectly on mobile devices. Eg, all items in the menu bar display properly on all devices.
- Menu system that follows a logical sequence. Eg, I’m a professional writer so my menu tries to create the sequence a potential client might take:
- 1st menu item: links to each of my writing services (these are contained as sub-items in dropdown menus.
- 2nd menu item: view my writing portfolio
- 3rd menu item: read my professional bio
- 4th menu item: contact information
- Menu system that uses strategic keywords. Eg, my menu items like “Content Writing Service’, ‘Blog Writing Service’.
- Breadcrumb list that is visible on every page and allows readers to quickly navigate back to a previous section or to related content.
9. Internal links
Every page or post on your website should contain at least one link to another piece of content that has already been indexed by Google. That said, don’t stuff a link into every sentence (or even paragraph) and make sure the links support the actual content. Examples include:
- A blog post that links to a product you sell or service you provide. Eg, in this blog I have a linked to my content writing services page.
- A blog post that links to another blog on a similar topic. Eg, in this blog I’ve linked to an earlier post that explains how Google search actually works.
When linking to another post or page, make sure it supports the current webpage or blog post, and the anchor text says something about the page you are linking to. As an example here are two ways I could link to the post I wrote last week about how Google search works.
- Good example: Read my earlier post How does my business end up in the Google search results? for a better understanding of how this works.
- Bad example: Of course many business owners just don’t realise how their business ends up in Google search results.
The first example makes it clear where the link is taking the reader, and how it relates to the content they are reading right now. The second example just looks like a link stuffed into a sentence for the sake of it.
By adding more context around images, results can become much more useful, which can lead to higher quality traffic to your site.
Images are one the most underrated SEO factors that can improve your rankings with Google. I couldn’t count the amount of websites I visit and the company logo is called logo_123.jpg, when the file could be called amazing-dentist-cairns-logo.jpg. Don’t waste this opportunity.
- Including images that support the content of the page. Eg, you’re a tyre installation and repair shop so on the services page you display an image of a mechanic installing a set of tyres — rather than a picture of a car speeding along an open road.
- Using original images of actual photos from your business. Eg, you’re a bakery and on the products page display images of the actual cakes you serve– rather than stock shots of bread and pastries.
- Making sure images are high quality and visible in different display sizes. Eg, you’re a florist and get a professional photographer to photograph your signature floral displays — rather than uploading blurred shots that your brother took with his smartphone.
10. Image names
Any text associated with an image will be indexed by search engines and displayed in their search results, so don’t use generic file names for the images you display on your website (eg, IMG_123.jpg). it only takes a few seconds to rename a photograph of the entrance to your SCUBA diving shop to ‘front-entrance-jennys-reef-dive-cairns.jpg’.
Where possible give the image a caption that gives context to the image in relation to the text. Captions don’t always aesthetically work on a page, but when they do use the text strategically. Eg, A photo of the chef from your wedding catering business might have a caption ‘Head Chef Jordon Wong prepares the canapés for a spring wedding‘.
Finally, make sure each image has a suitable Alt-tag. Alt-tags assist people with visual impairments and are using screen readers to navigate a webpage, but the text is also used by Google (and other search engines) in their search algorithms. Example: you’re a bicycle shop and have an image of a new racing helmet called Hawke Hat 2020 displayed on your website. Your alt-tag for the image might be ‘Hawk Hat 2020 racing helmet — now available at Caleb’s Cycles Cairns‘.
11. Image size
Images can also work against your website’s Google rankings if the file sizes are big, and slow down the page loading time. Try to keep image sizes below 100kb. Try using image optimisation Apps and software to reduce the size of your images without losing visual quality.
In this post I’ve walked you through 11 areas on your website that can be optimised for Google search, but there are many, many more. Things like page speed and mobile friendliness will also impact the way Google indexes your website and how it appears in search results.
Remember, SEO is never finished and your website will always benefit from regular updates and publishing new content. If you’ve run out of blogging ideas or need some help optimising your own website, please get in touch today.
© 2020 Melinda J. Irvine