With Google making more algorithmic changes in the past year (2012) than in the 10 years previous, SEO and particularly evergreen Search Engine Optimisation is key for any business looking to achieve high rankings with their website for the longterm.
So lets start with the basics: On-site SEO tips
All this means is all the changes you make (hopefully for the better) on any page of your website, meaning that you have total control of content, images, links, videos and so on that you publish (which means you can come back and edit at any time). Off-site SEO on the other hand is all the changes you make to other website pages that are partly and fully out of your control. We will talk about Off-site SEO in another post.
1) Website Speed
This is the starting point as it makes sure your foundations are set even before you have started to fill your website up with any content. Google does use site speed as a ranking factor, so the faster your site loads, the better it is for your rankings.
Firstly, make sure you have a good hosting provider preferably in the same country that you live in/where the majority of your target market is in. (It takes longer to access data if it’s located in the USA and you live in the UK).
You can also use a CDN (Content Delivery Network). This is a network that acts as a 2nd hosting provider. It takes your static files on your website (images, css code, js code etc) and “delivers” them from a number of servers based on the location of the user accessing your website.
Google has a page speed api that can be implemented on your website. A great service that will give you a breakdown of most technical aspects of what you need to do to increase your website speed is gtmetrix.com. All you do is enter your website URL and click GO!
2) URL Structure
Another factor that Google takes into account when ranking a website for specific keywords is the URL (Uniform Resource Locator). This needs to be in context with the content you have on the specific page. This is not only for rankings, but also for brand ability, memorability and share-ability. E.g. it is easier to remember a URL like “www.giantsizemedia.co.uk/seo/seo-tips-evergreen-onsite-seo/” (even though it’s quite long) than it is to remember “www.giantsizemedia.co.uk/products/object?cat=52&type=3&order=a”.
When building web pages and deploying content on them, look at your title and try and use it in your URL structure. When using WordPress this can be automatically done for you by simply going to Settings -> Reading and clicking on the “custom URL structure” and entering “/%category%/%postname%/. What this will do is take the category (if one exists) like on this post it is “SEO” and then take the title of the post (SEO Tips: Evergreen Onsite SEO) and implement them automatically into the URL structure. One of the reasons we love WordPress!
If you have written a post with a really long title, make sure you check for “stop” words (e.g. and, for, it etc) and remove them from the URL structure as they will clutter it and are not necessary there. In WordPress you can do this by clicking on the “Edit” button on the right of the end of the URL, which will then allow you to edit the post name part of the URL. WordPress ROCKS!
3) Meta Values, Titles and Headings
Firstly lets address the recommended limits. The SEO Title and Meta Description have a character limit. For the Title it is 70 characters and for the description it is 156. Anything above this and the search engines will cut it off and not display it in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). As for the Titles and Headings, when writing them, think of a newspaper article and how it is structured. The main Heading is at the top in the biggest font (this is your H1). This gives a total overview of the article and is the MOST important part of the text as it a major enticing point for someone to read the rest. The article is then broken down into sub sections, each containing a smaller heading (h2, h3, h4, h5, h6). These are “explore” points, where you delve into the theme of the content more and include more detail about the specific sub topic.
Make sure you have included your main keyword(s) and/or synonyms/related keywords in your headings, titles and meta values. This reinforces the topic and main keywords for the search engine spiders which makes your content more relevant (relevancy in descriptiveness is key as per Google’s mission statement)
Don’t copy the same title into your SEO title and headings. Make sure you are implementing variations of them. Search engines tend to not like duplicate content.
4) Canonical Tags
To me and you, giantsizemedia.co.uk and www.giantsizemedia.co.uk are the same thing and we wouldn’t think twice about it. However to search engines, they are 2 different sites. (Remember above I said that search engines DO NOT like duplicate content and penalise websites for it by dropping rankings.) Enter a canonical tag. This tells the search engines to discount either the non www version or the www version depending on which you have selected to be displayed. All a canonical tag does is redirects the search engines spiders using a 301 permanent redirect to the preferred version of your website.
Add a rel=”canonical” tag to the <head> of your non-canonical html pages. In english that means that if I wanted to have my main site display the www in front of it (www.giantsizemedia.co.uk instead of giantsizemedia.co.uk) i would enter the following code to the <head> of my non-www version (giantsizemedia.co.uk):
You can use GWT (Google Webmaster Tools) to specify which version of you website you want displaying, or if you use WordPress, you can get Yoast’s SEO plugin and it will do it for you. Wp 4 the Win!
Sitemaps, as the name suggests, are navigation pages that are primarily for search engine spiders to “make their way around” your website. Sitemaps come in 2 formats: XML and HTML. The most important for search engines is the XML (EXtensible Markup Language) version. What they are used for is to organise the hierarchy of your website pages and the importance given. E.g. the Home page is usually the most important one and is given a higher priority than this blog post.
Again, when using WordPress Yoast’s SEO Plugin has a little XML site map button that you click on and then tick the box and it will generate the XML sitemap for you.
HTML sitemaps are good for search engines but also for users as they will display a “tree like” order of the website’s pages, so can be used as an advanced navigation page.
1) Content (text):
Ok, so this is the number 1 form of communicating with prospective clients on most websites. It is the text you write (like I am right now). When talking about content (text) and SEO, Google is becoming ever more “clever” in detecting “good” from “bad” content. This means that what you write needs to be of a high standard and RELEVANT to your target audience. The ultimate aim is to write such superior content on your website that you become THE expert in your particular field. This requires time and effort which makes it a challenge for most business owners (if it was easy, everybody would be an “expert”)
Tip No 1:
When writing about anything, try to be as descriptive as possible. The more ways you can describe your content, the better, as it will get you what we call “long tail” keyword rankings and traffic.
Remember to use synonyms as well as related keywords. E.g. “on-site seo, on-page seo, seo techniques, seo strategy” and so on. The way to use them is you “sprinkle” them in to the content as you will no doubt be repeating these words, you can try and replace them by using synonymic and related terms.
Tip No 2:
Don’t worry about word count. A lot of people in the SEO space say that the magic number is a 500 word post/page. But if those 500 words are not good and don’t get a lot of views by visitors, you might as well have written less but better. Or even gone down the road of content curation, but that is another blog post. In summary, quality is always number 1 behind quantity.
Write about what you know. Sounds simple (and it is) but if you are in the SEO field and start writing about a medical device, then the content is probably not going to be as good as a doctor writing about the same thing.
2) Content (Images)
“A picture paints a thousand words”. Good quality, non-pixelated, extremely relevant and sometimes humorous images should be used preferably at the top as to catch the attention of the reader and make them want to continue to read the rest of the content (text). Images are more appealing than text in most cases and are visually more pleasing. Images with different colours create an emotional response and are used to create good conversions. Yellow for example is said to be a “buy” colour (which is why a lot of shopping cart buttons use Yellow as their colour.. Looks towards Amazon)
Upload quality images to your hosting server either using a browser and logging in or you can use FTP (File Transfer Protocol) Clients such as Filezilla for PC or CyberDuck for Mac. Then use the <img src> tag in order to insert an image into the html of a web page. Again, when using WordPress it is VERY simple. Leave the cursor where you want the image to display, then click on the “add media” button at the top and then find the image you wish to insert and drag and drop it into the “white box” area. You then wait a few seconds whilst the image is being uploaded and at the end click on “Insert”. Simples 🙂
Tip No 1:
Make sure you have named your image something useful and preferably contain keyword rich title. E.g. “Evergreen On Page SEO tips” and not “IMG1234555”. Google looks at this when it comes to getting your images indexed and help with your rankings.
Tip No 2:
Make sure you use the alternative text tag to insert some more keyword rich descriptions of your image. This is for search engines alone as they cant quite yet read an image and make sense of it as well as text.
Tip No 3:
Make sure you use an image size reducer so that it does not take up too much space and thus bandwidth (which slows your site down. Remember Site Speed and rankings correlation?). There is a plugin for WordPress called WP Smush.it that takes care of all of this. No Worries!
3) Content (Videos)
Videos are a great medium for guides, sales pages, demonstrations and in general SHOWING people how to do something/how to solve their problem. This can create interactions and comments and can be a great method to get targeted traffic to your website. (Youtube is the 2nd largest search engine after Google, and surprise surprise, it is owned by Google).
Youtube is not the only video hosting service. There are others like Wistia, Vimeo and Viddler to name a few also exist, although I do recommend hosting your videos on Youtube (if they are for public and NOT exclusive private use, like a membership site). The process of uploading a video on Youtube is very simple. As soon as you reach www.youtube.com there is an “upload” button to the right of the search bar with clear instructions on what to do. After a video has been uploaded to Youtube, the next step is to embed that same video onto the web page of your choice. Simply click on “Share” below the title and description of the video and then click on “embed” to get the embed code and insert it into your web page. WordPress has plugins to do this easier, or you can simply use the “text” tab to input it in. (More plugins clog up space and loading time so can slow your site down.)
Tip No 1:
It is a good idea to have some sort of watermark on the video as other website owners can embed your video on their website and thus generate traffic for your website for free.
Tip No 2:
Make sure you chose the correct dimension of your video on your website as you want to make good use of the space it takes up. By this I mean to make it look like it “fits” in the web page and doesn’t leave any white gaps, or looks too small/too big.
Tip No 3:
Make sure you add the URL of the web page you are embedding your Youtube video on in the description of your Youtube video. This will create a reciprocal like with Youtube and your website and is a good thing for users and search engine spiders too. More SEO “juice” can get awarded.
4) INTER LINKING
I have left the best (in my opinion) till last. WIth the massive changes made by Google in the last year, webmaster and digital marketing agencies have realised that good quality relevant links with varied anchor text are the key to higher rankings of your web pages. This is an Off Page SEO topic but is also linked (pardon the pun) to On Page SEO. The point is, what better place to get another relevant link than from your own website, which you can control. It is good for users as it increases interaction and engagement on your website and increases time spent on your website and page views plus it is also good for search engine rankings as it passes extra “link juice” (PageRank) to the page you wish to rank.
Use the <a href=””></a> tag to add a link to the text you wish (just as I have done above using “digital marketing agencies”). When using WordPress the process is very easy as all you do is highlight the text you wish to place a link on and then click on the link symbol (that looks like a chain link) and then type in the URL you wish to link to. You can select from a list of pages that the prompt displays if you don’t remember the URL.
TIp No 1:
Make sure that you are linking to pages that are relevant and that it “makes sense” to link to these. Pages and Posts that are within the same category are good examples to link to as this keeps the relevance of your website “tight” in Google’s eyes.
Tip No 2:
Just as in doing Off Page Link Building, make sure you vary the anchor text by using synonyms and relevant keywords.
Tip No 3:
If you are to link to a category that is outside your current one, I would recommend linking to the top Level (Main) Category Page, rather than a more specific page/post of that category in order to keep theme and subject relevance.
That’s it!!! WOW, that was a long post (2596 words) and hopefully I have covered quite a few areas on which you can get started on/implement on your own website. Please feel free to comment below or share this with people who will find it useful and let me know if I have missed anything.