By: Becky Harris
Digital Marketing and Fundraising Professional
Whether you are developing a new website, or completely redesigning an already existing one, focusing on how to improve your website’s SEO should be among your top priorities.
According to statistical research by WorldWideWebSize, the web contains over 6 billion indexed web pages as of 2020. What does this mean for your website? That there is a heck of a lot of competition out there.
Luckily, Google and other search engines have grown pretty advanced over time in how they scroll the internet and segment information for users based on location, key search terms, previous searches, and other key factors. This article is not meant to be a completely exhaustive list of everything you should do to improve your website’s SEO, but it is a good starting point.
Disclaimer: Some of these tips apply to pages on your website, and some apply to posts. Additionally, I am going to use WordPress as the example content management system.
Review and Streamline Your Menu Structure
Search engines only crawl pages four levels deep onto your website. This means if you have pages that live five, six, or seven levels beneath the homepage, they are ignored by Google. No website should need more than four levels of page hierarchy. A simple solution to this: re-image your sitemap. Cleaning up a sitemap will not only help improve your website’s SEO but it will make the user experience much easier and lead to lower exit rates. Read this helpful article for instructions on how to build a sitemap.
Clear Your Website of Old Pages
Sometimes, when your website goes through multiple iterations, old pages with inaccurate information fall through the cracks. Google still crawls old pages from your website, and this can affect your search performance for new pages if Google is still sending readers to old pages.
Review all of the pages on the back-end of your website and make sure they are still relevant to your organization. Delete old pages (or save them as a draft if you do not want to lose the content) so they no longer show up in search. You only want the most current, accurate information appearing in search, so as not to confuse potential clientele.
Redirect Old URLs to New Links
This is a step that is commonly forgotten when adding new pages and deleting old ones from your website. Make sure any old URLs that no longer lead to a live page have been set up with a redirect to send people to a new, existing page on your site. This prevents user frustration and helps to improve your website’s SEO. One example: If you had an event, and then took down the events page once it ended, redirect people from http://www.mywebsite.com/specificeventname to the general events page or something similar on your website. You can use the Redirection plug-in to set these up.
Add Meta Descriptions and Keywords to Each Page to Improve Your Website’s SEO
These components tell Google more about the content of each page on your website, and they are what show up in your Google search result.
A meta description should be short, between 50 and 160 characters optimally. It is a description of what a user will find on this page. This description should include keywords that you want your page to rank for on Google. This description shows up underneath the title of the page that appears in Google search.
A keyword is a word or phrase that gives some description as to the content of a webpage. You should add keywords to every page on your website based on the terms you think people will search to find you, or what you want to rank for. For example, if you own a carpet cleaning company, and you want your homepage to appear in Google search for “carpet cleaning in [YOUR LOCATION],” then carpet cleaning should be a keyword on your homepage.
However, do note that there is high competition in Google for certain search terms. If there are 50 carpet cleaners in your area, are you truly likely to rank as #1? To beat the competition, you may need to think outside the box in terms of keywords. In this example, people searching for carpet cleaning may also search for “upholstery cleaning,” so you may want to select that as a keyword.
Ensure Footer Links Work Properly
A website footer is a classic example of “set it and forget it” where it is painstakingly developed but then ignored. Chances are, you have made some changes to URLs, navigation, or even removed pages completely since last reviewing the footer. Any broken link is a strike against a website’s SEO, and any broken link in a footer only multiplies it because it exists on every page.
Differentiate Between Post Tags and Categories
Conventional wisdom suggests you should add as many tags to blog posts as humanly possible while also duplicating some as categories. However, duplicate tags and categories lead to keyword cannibalization and will harm your site’s SEO. While there is no evidence to suggest one over the other, it is important to refer to your analytics and design before making a decision. If your site search is widely used, then you should give preference to tags. On the other hand, if category pages are a core feature of your theme, then they need to be optimized for usability.
Resize All Images to Be Under 1MB
Site speed is paramount in the new Google update and large images are the number one culprit of slow pages. Homepages and other landing pages are most often impacted by this issue, so start by reviewing those most commonly visited pages. For larger websites with many photos, try a plugin like Smush.it which will reduce file sizes while maintaining dimensions and quality.
These tips are merely a start to improving your website’s SEO. If you would like to expand your knowledge on the topic, check out this post we wrote about semantic SEO. Have questions or need further explanation? Leave us a comment below!