One of the reasons people avoid dipping their toes in the SEO pond is the fear of keeping up with change.
“SEO changes all the time, I just can’t keep up,” they say.
But the truth is, that the more SEO changes, the more it stays the same.
While there are tweaks and updates to be aware of, most of the sites I look at (and I’ve looked at a heck of a lot), still haven’t mastered the basics.
So today I want to tell you the top seven areas you need to focus on in your SEO strategy (and one bonus newbie area so you feel you’re cutting edge too!).
Ready, let’s go.
1. Sexy Titles and Meta Descriptions
Yep, we’re still banging on about Titles and Metas. They never get old.
Why? Well because they are often the first piece of copy anyone ever reads about your brand.
This is how they appear in the Search Results pages on Google:
The blue link is the Title tag; the copy snippet underneath is the Meta Description.
Now yes, Google has an annoying habit of changing these depending on the search query and yes, they change the specifications of these two elements all the darn time.
BUT to give yourself the best shot at a smashing Title and Meta combination follow these tips.
The most common problems I see with sites include:
- Missing Titles and Meta Descriptions: If you don’t add them, Google will fill the space, usually with not particularly great copy dragged from your page.
- Too long and too short: Stick to around 60-65 characters, including spaces, for your Title tag and around 155 characters including spaces for your Meta Description – or they will truncate in the search results.
- Keyword stuffed: Incomprehensible blurts of keywords aren’t human-friendly. Instead front-load your Title tag with your chosen focus keyword.
- Boring as bat poo: Bland unenticing copy that doesn’t make me want to click but rather scroll to your competitor. Write your Meta Description as a mini-advertisement.
- Lack of flow: Make these two elements (Title tag and Meta Description) a power duo, like Batman and Robin, so one delivers the punch and the other follows through with the justification.
This neat little tool will help you check your tags before you add them to your site.
2. Clever keyword research
Smart keyword research is at the heart of all good SEO strategies.
Understanding what your customers are searching for, and going beyond the obvious, highly competitive, keywords is vital if you want a catin-hell’s chance of ranking.
The key steps are:
- Brainstorming: Develop a seed list of possible words you could use. The oddly-named Keyword shitter is a great tool to get you started.
- Research: Assess your chances of ranking; you’ll need high volume, low competition keywords – which can be tricky, so aim for longtail keywords (between three and five words).
- Grouping: Create groups of like keywords, a focus, and synonyms that can work together.
- Assigning: Assign keywords to your posts, pages, and products.
3. Speedy sites
If your page takes longer than 3 seconds, it could cause users to click away and find a faster site.
Put simply, speed matters. The faster your site loads, the better.
Speed up your web pages with the following tips:
- Remove chubby images, using tools like TinyPNG – it allows you to resize images without losing quality.
- Avoid overloading a site with lots of unnecessary code, Instagram feeds, endless plugins and apps, wiggly bits. Keep it simple.
- Reduce redirect – try not to create redirect chains on your site.
- Choose a better host – try to find a speedier host, ideally in the country where your target audience lives.
4. Hot headers
Put simply, Google users your page headers to understand what your page is about. Obvious huh? And guess what, humans do too!
The quicker you can get to the point and assure a human (and the bot) that the content is relevant to the search query they just made, the better!
So when thinking about headers try to:
- Incorporate your focus into your H1 (but never sacrifice readability or engagement just to squeeze it in)
- Make sure to properly label your heading (H1-H6)
- Write headers as if you’re answering a question or search query (extra special as you might earn yourself the featured snippet)
- Use subheaders throughout your content to clearly signpost what’s coming in the paragraph
- If necessary, sacrifice a bit of clever creativity for clarity, but ideally, if you’re a great writer, you can do both
5. Copy matters
Look, I wish I could tell you great copy doesn’t matter anymore.
That you can feed a few keywords into some cheap AI tool and expect superlative prose to plop out the other end.
It just ain’t true.
We know that OF COURSE, Google looks at your website content to understand if it’s a good match for the query.
If the content is thin, repetitive, poorly optimised, and spammy, Google knows it.
And look, even if you do manage to trick Google into ranking your crappy content, as soon as a human gets there and reads it, they’re going to be turned right off, so what’s the point?
Now I’m not saying you need to write 3000 words of epic content on every post, page, and product, but you do have to try hard to follow the basic ‘rules’.
- Include some copy on every page. How much? That’s up to you, but I’d personally recommend at least 100–200 words as a general rule of thumb. The more complex the offer or the higher the price, the more copy you’ll need to persuade.
- Use one H1 tag on each page. We talked about this above, so you already know this.
- Use H2-H6 tags: Add interesting engaging subheaders through your content, a great place to use those secondary keywords too.
- Don’t shoehorn keywords into your copy. Be aware of the keywords you’re targeting, but don’t force them where they don’t belong, and don’t overdo it; the more you add, the more likely you’ll be deemed keyword stuffing and your ranking will do a nosedive.
- Make sure spelling and grammar are on point. – no typos, please.
- Check your readability: Use a tool like the Hemmingway app to make sure your copy is readable – I aim for around Grade 7 readability.
6. Don’t forget Image Alt tags
Although Google’s the bomb, it’s not quite able to ‘see’ images as we do.
And obviously, there are a lot of humans out there who struggle with viewing web images too.
That’s where Alt tags come in.
Alt tags help humans and Google gets a better handle on what your images are all about and how they’re related to your content – your website will also display this text when an image doesn’t load.
So by all means, incorporate keywords into your alt text but don’t spam them, and again ensure you give a genuinely accurate, clear description of what the image is.
7. Be mobile-friendly
So, you probably know by now that Google is now a ‘Mobile First’ site, which means it ain’t even looking at the desktop version of your site.
Check your Google Analytics to see what percentage of visitors are viewing your site on a mobile or tablet, and I’m sure you’ll be surprised.
So, it’s time to stop thinking of mobile as an adjunct to your desktop site and start prioritising your mobile SEO first.
Here are a few practical ways to improve your mobile SEO:
- Take Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test (warning, it’s brutal)
- Fix broken links and incorrect redirects
- Compress any uncompressed (chubby) images
- Remove any intrusive interstitials (pop-ups to you and me) or delay them until exit)
- Improve mobile usability (text size, viewport configuration, tap target size)
Of course, these are just a snippet of the best mobile-friendly practices you can read more on Google’s mobile-first-indexing guidelines.
BONUS TIP: Core Web Vitals
Google’s Page Experience and Core Web Vitals is a set of standards that Google uses to evaluate if a page provides a good user experience.
These metrics are:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): Measures the speed at which a page’s main content is loaded. This should occur within five seconds of landing on a page.
- First Input Delay (FID): Measures the speed at which users are able to interact with a page after landing on it. This should occur within 100 milliseconds.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): Measures how often users experience unexpected layout shifts. Pages should maintain a CLS of less than 0.1.
It’s important to wrap your grey matter around CWV and how they impact your site.
A few simple tips:
- Optimise any large fat images at the top of your page so they load faster.
- Ensure you don’t have too many external files (Instagram feeds, for example) being called into your page
- Consider including elements that take longer to load further down your page so they don’t impact the load of your top of page content
- Host videos on a third-party site and embed them in your site.
So, there you have it, seven top tips (and a bonus tip) on how to make the most of your website’s SEO – because effective SEO is the best way to help your ideal customers find you.
About the author:
Kate Toon is an award-winning misfit entrepreneur, who works with small businesses and big brands to transform their online presence through powerful SEO, captivating content, and all the right digital marketing moves.
As a digital marketing and SEO educator, straight-talking copywriting coach, author, educator, speaker, and podcaster, Kate has helped more than 12,000 other businesses demystify digital marketing, grapple the Google Beast, and grow their success.
Kate was named Businesswoman of the Year at the national My Business Awards and has spoken at events around the world, as well as running Australia’s only dedicated copywriting conference, CopyCon. www.katetoon.com