Basic SEO is critical for websites looking to maximize inbound organic traffic. Here are some easy tips and tools to help you analyze your basic SEO. To simplify things, I’ve broken it down into three categories:
- SEO Signals
- Performance and Security
- Other SEO Factors
Keep in mind that SEO goes much further than this, but these tips should help you get started improving your website’s organic potential.1
Every page of your website should have these three important SEO “signals” that help search engines (like Google) understand what your website is about and what search phrases (“keywords”) match them. If you don’t at least take care of these three, you might as well go home.
1. Title Tag
<title>This is the title of my web page</title>
This HTML element (or “tag”) serves three purposes.
- The text between <title> and </title> is considered to be one of the most important SEO signals you can send to search engines. Make sure every page has a unique title that describes the page well.
- If present, Google often displays the page title as the clickable first line in a search result for that page, but will cut it off after about 50-60 characters. So, keep the title shorter than that.
- The title is displayed in the tab of your browser.
With the massive number of similar websites you’ll likely be competing against no matter what your page is about, you can make the title a “long-tail” keyword to help you stand out from the crowd. One suggested format is “<primary keyword> <secondary keyword>”. Try to put the primary keyword close to the beginning. So, “Basic SEO Tips to Improve Your Website” might be better than “Improve Your Website with these Basic SEO Tips”.
Pro Tip: Closely match the page name to at least the primary keyword in the title, with the words separated by hyphens (not underscores). Some pros recommend no more than three words, but some content management systems by default automatically name the page the same as the title (dropping common words like “the” and “and”). For example, a page with the title:
Basic SEO Tips to Improve Your Website
might be named
2. Meta Description Tag
<meta name="description" content="This is the description of my web page, which is longer than the title."/>
This seems to be less critical for SEO than the title tag, but still serves at least two important purposes. It can provide additional context to search engines about the content of the page. SEO experts think search engines don’t get much keyword information from it, but Google often displays the description as the “snippet” in search results.
That means the description is the first bit of content users might see about your page, so get it right. Expand on the title to summarize the entire page. Make it catchy and compelling, without being “salesy”. You want to hook users with the title and reel them in with the description.
Pro Tip: The suggested length used to be about 155 characters max. Google is apparently now displaying snippets about twice that length, so you’ve got more room to play. SEO experts suggest making each page description unique and safely up to about 270-300 characters.
3. H1 Tag
<h1>This is the First Heading</h1>
The H1 (Heading 1) tag is another html element that may be used by search engines to determine what your page is about. On a well-designed page, the H1 tag should briefly summarize the page and is usually shorter than the title tag. A good start is to boil down the title tag to its essentials. Also, put the H1 tag at the top of the main content section of the page.
Pro Tip: Experts mostly agree that you should have one and only one H1 tag on each page. More than one might confuse search engines as to which one you think is best. It’s surprising to see how many websites still don’t have an H1 tag or have more than one. Both are no-no’s.
Performance and Security
The performance and security of your website can also affect its ranking, and there are a number of free tools that you can use to check your site.
4. Mobile Friendliness
Google has been imploring website owners for years to make their sites mobile friendly, with responsive design as the preferred technology. Mobile search is only growing and could soon outpace desktop search. Mobile is even growing in the B2B sector, so pretty much no business can afford to ignore it.
Google’s free tool checks if your website is mobile friendly or not, and can alert you to problems like loading issues that need fixing. You want to see this:
5. PageSpeed Insights
Google also encourages website owners to optimize their website code and other factors so the most pertinent information displays first, images load quickly and more. This is important to you because faster-loading pages might appear higher in search results, especially for mobile.
Google’s free tool checks your page’s performance for best practices and scores it 0-100% for Mobile and Desktop. It also grades each as Good (80-100%), Medium (60-70%) or Low (0-59%).
Google even provides some great tips on how to improve your score. The higher, the better, but 100% is difficult to achieve. Try to get both your mobile and desktop scores above 80%.
Pro Tip: You can conduct a more detailed performance test from a different perspective with this free online tool from WebPageTest.org. It grades your webpage’s performance on an A-F scale for a number of different factors and provides a detailed waterfall chart of the time it takes for individual elements to load. That can help you identify and resolve bottlenecks.
6. Secure Access
Website owners are strongly encouraged to secure their sites (with an SSL/TLS certificate) so information is encrypted in both directions. That’s what the green lock means when you’re using online banking, accessing your credit card account, etc. The security helps visitors trust your site and your business. Failure to secure your site could be lowering your organic rankings otherwise hurting business.
For more info, see Web Fundamentals > Security and Identity
Other SEO Factors
Here are some other factors that can affect your website’s ranking and traffic.
7. Site Index
In your browser’s search box, type “site:” followed by your domain (without a space in between). That lists all the pages in the domain that Google has indexed. It also shows you how they might be shown in search results. This is really useful to verify that your site has been properly indexed.
Try it with your domain to see if your titles and descriptions are being picked up and if they could use some improvement. If you see strange results (like many foreign characters), your web site may be infected with malware and you should contact your web developer, IT person or other appropriate professional immediately.
8. Responsive Design
Mobile optimization is becoming more and more important for SEO. There are several ways to make your site “mobile-friendly”, but responsive design is the preferred technology. It’s superior to maintaining a separate, mobile-dedicated site (e.g., “www.example.com” and “m.example.com”). There is less duplication of content and effort, less risk of mistakes, and it works seamlessly across all devices.
Pro Tip: Look into mobile-first responsive frameworks like Bootstrap. It’s free and open-source. There are tons of free and inexpensive themes available for standalone sites and even for popular CMS like Drupal and WordPress!
9. Local Search
Every business that has a brick and mortar store, especially local businesses, should verify their address and other info with Google My Business. You may have already done that, but it’s just the beginning.
You also want to have positive reviews, a picture of your building, hours and other information to help improve local search ranking. A good SEO consultant can help you develop a strategy designed to increase the number of reviews on your site, by utilizing your built-in brand promoters.. your already happy customers!
Need Help with Your SEO?
If this seems overwhelming, gotlerTech is here to help with your web design, SEO and more. Contact us anytime.
1This blog post is meant to be informational only and is not intended to guarantee any particular results. The actual algorithms used by search engine companies are known only to themselves. The information presented here is merely the author’s opinion. Optimizing your website for organic results can largely be trial and error. Google and other marks are the property of their respective owners. No endorsement by third parties is implied.