Understanding Google SEO – 2018 (Part 3 of 9)
This is the part the most people think of as SEO, the words on the actual pages of your website.
In this chapter, we get a bit technical. If you can handle it, great. If not, there are literally millions of programmers that can help you.
In essence, your on-page SEO is where the keywords you worked so hard on in the last chapter shine.
Turning the Lights On
While you’re building your website, there is often a question that it will ask you, “Do you want your website visible to search engines?” You should have answered yes, but if you didn’t, now is the time to go back and change that.
On WordPress, Wix, and Google Sites, in the administration area, you can find a toggle that turns this on and off. With Wix, Squarespace, and other WYSIWYG (“what you see is what you get”) website builders, you are often asked with each page.
The Basic Structure
The basic structure is all about making the website a better experience for your readers. The better that experience is, the better that you will rank with Google.
URLs – As you should already know, the URL is the address in the address bar of the web browser. Make sure that this makes sense when you’re readers are looking at it.
You want your URLs to readable by a human. Many sites still have some type of letter and number code hanging off the end, but if you can eliminate that, it will be much better.
Navigating – How people get around your site is very important. Here are a few things that you should and shouldn’t do:
- DO have a menu in words across the top or down the side.
- Do NOT have a menu that is made of just images. (Google can’t read it.)
- DO include links to pages on your site that you want to rank in SEO in the text of the homepage.
- DON’T force your readers to watch a video or deal with pop-ups. (In fact, Google has made it clear they will mark you down for these annoying habits.)
Remember: Better for humans means better for Google. There might be some backpage stuff that Google likes, but what the public can see, Google wants them to like and be able to make sense out of.
Keywords on the Page – Now that you have your keywords and a basic page layout you can use the keywords that you came up with.
The best way to put those keywords on the page is to use them conversationally like you were talking to a customer:
“My Tire Site is the best place to get truck tires on the internet. Low prices and high quality, with free delivery, mean that you will have your Dodge Ram 2500 tires faster and cheaper than the competition. If you need rims, balancing, and installation of your tires, we can do that too.”
Never do “keyword stuffing”. It’s like this:
“My Tire Site is the best place for high-performance pickup truck tires for Dodge Ram 2500 pickup trucks. The Dodge Ram 2500 tires are here and we offer free shipping on tires for the Dodge Ram 2500 pickup tires, all high performance.”
Better for people is usually better for Google.
Oh, and don’t let your web designer allow you create a giant list of all the towns and cities you are near. Google can find you on a map based on your address (which should be in the footer of every page). You don’t need to list every tiny town and village that is near you.
When you’re writing your web pages, make sure that you’re using those LSI words that we discussed in Chapter 2. Those related words will make it easier for Google to find you.
If you want some help finding what words are related, there’s https://ubersuggest.io/. This website will take your keyword and create a related word cloud for you. That will make it much easier for you to write the copy for your website.
The meta tag is another one of the fancy words that means something really simple. The meta tag for your page is the simple summary of what the page is about.
“Welcome to mytiresite. We offer truck tires with free shipping and fast service in the Houston metro area.”
Nearly every web design site makes this very easy. If you don’t write your own meta tag, Google will grab one for you. At best, it will be the first few words of the page. At worst, Google grabs some random computer code off of your page that you can’t even see, but the machine can read it. Worst of all is having nothing in there at all. People tend not to click on blind links.
You only have a couple of pieces for this:
Title Tag – This is about 70 characters that you can use to title the page for Google.
Meta Description – You are given about 155 characters to describe what’s on your page.
Meta robot tags – These are a few words, sometimes called a slug, that let people know what your page is about. On most website platforms, you can change this yourself pretty easily, otherwise, you will need a web designer or need to know HTML.
Google is all about the user experience (UX) and one of the biggest detractors from a website’s success is a slow load time. If your website takes forever to load, it will rank lower than a similar site that loads quickly.
There is a whole science on how to get your page to load quickly, but here are some tools and hints:
https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/ – This is Google’s own page speed measuring device. This is the place you want to score a perfect 100. The closer you get the more likely you are to rank well. You will increase your site conversion rate by 7% for every second you take off of your load time.
https://tools.pingdom.com/ is another tool that measures the speed that your pages load. It will even point you in the direction of what loaded slowly so you can correct it. It also shows you the number of files that visitor needs to loads to see your site.
How to fix a slow load: The best way to fix a slow load is to decrease your file sizes. For example, make your images smaller. On the internet, you can compress your images without losing quality. Most website hosts have plugins that can do this for you. Any image over 200 kb can usually be shrunken without losing anything.
The MIssing Pieces
Often, the biggest missing pieces are the sitemaps.xml and the robots.txt.
Don’t worry. Most of the major platforms will make these for you, but you need to know what they are.
Sitemaps.xml is the directory of your website that the Googlebot can read. It tells it what pages are on your site and how they are arranged.
To make sure that you have a sitemaps.XML file, go to https://yourwebsitename.com/sitemaps.xml. If it doesn’t pop up, you will need to create one.
You can do this at www.xml-sitemaps.com. Get your web developer to upload it for you or you can build one yourself. Just Google how to and there are lots of guides.
It needs to be added to your Google Search Console. If you don’t have one, you can sign up for one pretty easily. Here’s a guide from Google: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/34592?hl=en. Follow that step-by-step and you will have it all done.
By the way, Google has lots of tutorials on how to do almost everything so if you search there, you will usually find a very simple explanation of what you need to do.
Robots.txt is a simple file that tells Google which pages not to look at. If you type in https://yourwebsitename.com/robots.txt.
You usually want it to look like this:
If there are some pages disallows, like your admin page, that’s fine.
This is bad!
This means that Google will not look at anything. You might need it when you’re building your site, but otherwise, that’s bad.
This is another one of those things that should be obvious, but you don’t want the same page being accessed by multiple URLs. Using your Google Search Console, you can see what pages it can see and you should look for them.
The way to fix this is the rel canonical tag. Boy, does that sound important. It is, but it’s not complicated. It is simply a way that your website can tell Google which version is the right one.
Rather than get too deep into it here, this is Yoast’s instructions on how the rel canonical tag works: https://yoast.com/rel-canonical/. This is not a difficult job, but it can be a bit confusing. This is only important if this is something that you have a problem. Again, many of the platforms, like WordPress, make it easier than it used to be.
Usability and Readability
There are entire books written about this, but we can boil this all down to a single sentence: Make your site friendly to humans and it will be friendly to Google.
For usability, make your site easy to navigate. It’s better for you to have a simple site without a lot of backlinks and authority than to have a complicated and messy website that has a lot of backlinks to it. Google wants users to be able to use your site easily.
Shhh! Here’s the big secret of how you can find out how usable your website is – Ask your friends and family to look at it, play around on it, and be honest. If they tell you that it’s complicated, then it’s too complicated.
Readability is just what the name says: how readable is your site. In general, you want your website to be readable by 13 to 15-year-olds. Too simple and Google doesn’t like it. Too complex and you will only get PhDs stopping there.
Here’s an easy tool to check the readability of your website: https://www.webpagefx.com/tools/read-able/
You can use that and change your site’s words if you need to.
Other hints and ideas:
- Pop-ups and ads – Please, you’re killing us. Is there anyone that doesn’t hate pop-ups? Go easy. One might be survivable, but a bunch will get people to go away. And don’t do those persistent ones that keep popping up every minute you tell it to go away. I didn’t want to sign up a minute ago; I want to punch the computer now.
- Good quality content – Whether you write it or you pay someone else to write it, it’s all about good content. Don’t steal content and don’t simply throw up anything. Regularly post good content and Google will love you.
- Clean code – Go to https://validator.w3.org. This will analyze your site for broken and ugly code. If you get a lot of it, get a web designer to help you clean it up.
- All devices – Almost 90% of all web searches are on mobile devices now. If you can’t be seen on a smartphone, you can’t be seen. Go to: https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly. That is will tell you if you meet Google’s standards. If you don’t talk to your web developer right away.
- Operability – Here’s where we get into some the more technical stuff. If your website is tossing out lots of 404 errors, etc., you need to fix it. Go to https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/, click on your site, and click on “Crawl Errors.” Those are pages that are broken. They need to be fixed. This is a web designer thing again, but if you want to tackle it, google “Fix 404 errors” and find the latest ideas and suggestions.
That’s the basic stuff. Most of it’s not too complicated. These are really the heart of SEO. From here out, it’s about learning a bit more detail.
Using Fresh Content to Rank with Google
The biggest key to ranking for SEO is fresh content. Google wants you to update your website consistently. Here is a brief and simple list of how to rank with fresh content:
Post on regular basis – Posting regularly is the key. There is no optimal schedule that Google has ever shared, but posting at least once a week is very important.
The hardest part of posting regularly is having the content to do the work. The key here is to hire people to write for you. There are several places that you can choose:
People per Hour
Problogger Job Board
The hardest part of finding the right person to write for you is finding someone who does it well. That can be trial and error. The one site listed above that is different is Textbroker. If you put in a request and tell them what you’re willing to sell and how technical and well-written you need the work to be. The editors at Textbroker make sure you get what you want.
Use your social media accounts – Everything in the world revolves around social media. From Facebook to Twitter to YouTube, social media is consistently the busiest website. You need to be putting your message out onto social media so that you are speaking to your readers wherever they are.
Using blog aggregators
A blog aggregator is a directory of available blog articles. They are designed to allow the user to search for blog subjects on thousands of blogs at once.
Here are a few blog aggregators that you can try out:
BlogEngage – http://blogengage.com/
Alltop – http://alltop.com/
BizSugar – http://www.bizsugar.com/
There are also blog aggregators that are specific to your niche. Search for those sites and try to get your blog posts picked up there.
When you go to Google and you enter a question, you will often get a “Featured Snippet” that answers your question. In essence, when you type in a question like “How do I make a blog?”, Google shows you an answer that fits your answer. These featured snippets are a powerful way to get traffic your website.
There is no code or simple way to get your site listed, but people who spend their time guessing what Google is doing do have some hints:
- You need to have your main keyword in the form of the question that you want to rank on the snippet for.
- Your answer has to be clear and concise. Notice how it’s answered with a numeric list in most case.
- Make your answer simple and direct
- Your page has to be doing well in general. You don’t have to be number one, but you have to make sure that you’re doing your SEO well.
- A Q&A or how to section is a requirement.
In essence, on-page ranking on SEO is easy. Despite the technical parts, it’s the easiest part of SEO.
Whether you’re a small or large business, the keys are the same:
- Post good content that humans want regularly
- Make sure that the technical stuff is done on your site
- Stay focused on what your keywords are
- Don’t try to take shortcuts; they don’t work for long