Interested in ranking higher on Google? Of course you are! Who wouldn’t benefit from being on page one of a Google search?
Problem is you don’t know the first thing about search engine optimization (SEO). That’s ok! There are lots of simple things you can do to make some BIG IMPACT on your website’s Google rankings without having to be a technical or SEO wizard.
At its core, SEO is pretty simple. People search for a term or phrase and Google looks to see what webpages best match the search query based on a very complicated algorithm. While the algorithm itself is incredibly sophisticated, many of the tactics you can use to rank better under that algorithm are not.
Step 1 – Choose a page and keyword to optimize
If you don’t know what keyword you’re trying to rank for, Google won’t either. Take a moment to think what your webpage is about. For example, let’s say you’re a bakery called “Piece of Cake” based in San Francisco and you sell specialty cakes and cupcakes. You might think “Well I’m a bakery, shouldn’t I be trying to rank for bakery?” In short, no. The keyword “Bakery” is far too broad to even hope to rank in the top 50 search results. While “Bakery” most likely has a HUGE volume of search around it, it is also HIGHLY competitive and therefore extremely difficult to rank for. You’ll have much better success choosing a search term or phrase that is more specific to your business. Also, keep in mind people tend to search in questions or phrases not on single words. Search terms that are questions or phrases are called long-tail keywords.
Here’s where things start to get a little tricky. You want to optimize for more specific long-tail keywords but you don’t want to be too specific. With very specific long-tail keywords, it is much easier to rank highly but the search volume may be so low that you won’t benefit from being highly ranked. What you want to do is choose a keyword that has high search volume but relatively low competition. For example “Cupcakes in San Francisco.” It’s broad enough to include a decent volume of search queries but specific enough where the competition around the keyword may not be quite so difficult to crack. Now that we have our keyword, let’s start optimizing!
Note: I used Moz.com to lookup the search volume and keyword difficulty. But you can use Google Webmaster Tools and get almost the same information and it’s free!
Step 2 – Understanding Metadata
You may have heard of metadata before or maybe you haven’t. But if you haven’t, let me fill you in. Metadata is information that goes between the head tags of your page. It’s hidden from the user but search engines see it. In fact your meta title and meta description are what Google returns in their search results when someone searches for your webpage. Google also gives your meta data extra consideration as it expects the title and description to provide insight as to what your page is about. If your site is running on WordPress there are several great options that easily allow you to edit and update your meta data without ever having to touch HTML code. My favorite is Yoast SEO.
When crafting the language for your meta title and meta description you should be sure to use the keyword(s) you’re trying to rank for. In the page title, you want to include the topic of your page and the name of your company. For example “Specialty Cupcakes in San Francisco | Piece of Cake.” This tells people, and Google, what your page is about and what your company name is. You want to be sure to keep your page title between 50-60 characters to avoid Google cutting off your page title for being too long.
For the meta description you get a few more characters to work with, 156 characters to be exact. So again using our example above, your meta description may look something like this: “Piece of Cake offers the most delicious cakes and cupcakes in San Francisco. Choose from hundreds of designs, frostings, fillings, and more!” Notice how I used our keyword in both the page title and meta description? Now that we have our meta title and description complete let’s move on to our headings.
Step 3 – Properly Structuring Headlines
Your headings are the page titles and sub titles you see on your page. But rather than titles they are called headlines. They rank in order from 1 – 6. Headline 1 having the most sway with Google and 6 having the least. That said, Google will not recognize more than one Headline 1 or H1 as it’s most commonly referred to. The H1 is typically the same as your meta title, minus the company name at the end. Your second headline and 3rd headline can be used more than once. Think of your page in terms of an outline.
Your H1 is the main topic of your outline while your secondary headlines, or H2’s, are the points you’ll cover supporting your main topic. Your tertiary headlines, or H3’s, will be any topics or arguments supporting whatever you discuss under your H2 and so on and so forth. I very rarely move beyond h3’s. As with the meta description it’s great if you can work your keywords or phrases into your headlines but it’s not as essential for your h2 and h3 and often times you’ll need to force it to fit them in which isn’t good either. You want your page to flow naturally so it doesn’t disrupt your users experience on your page.
For Example, our page outline may look like this:
- H1 – Specialty Cupcakes in San Francisco
- H2 – Cupcake Design Options
- H3 – Sprinkles and Fondante
- H2 – Cupcake Filling and Frosting Flavors
- H3 – Choose From 80 Different Frosting Flavors!
- H3 – Choose From 25 Different Filling Varieties!
- H2 – Cupcake Design Options
That’s it! You’re now on your way to becoming an SEO wizard! If you’re interested in seeing what type of impact these types of adjustments have on your keyword rankings, I encourage you to sign up for tools like Google Webmaster Tools (free), moz.com (paid), or semrush.com (paid).
One last thing to note, search engine optimization is long term game. Your rankings won’t jump up over night. It may take Google a few weeks to properly index and rank your pages. So don’t get frustrated if you don’t see improvement right away. Your rankings should gradually improve over time. If you have questions or need help please contact us, we’d be happy to hear from you!