You want to start an SEO adventure but you don’t know where to begin? Remember that SEO is evolving all the time – what 5 years ago could have an impact on the visibility of your website in search engines and resulted in the website appearing in TOP 3 search results, today may not have any impact at all. In this article, we will show you 20 steps on how to effectively optimize your website so that Google will love it!
The presented steps will be divided into 3 categories: on-site SEO, content, and technical SEO.
Also, what can help you while checking your website for all mentioned On-Page SEO essentials is a proper checklist. To make it easier here’s the On-Page SEO 2020 Essentials Checklist for both a single URL and the whole website audit. Just enter the spreadsheet!
1. User-Friendly URLs
Take a look at the URLs of the subpages and check what you think they look like. Based on them, can you guess what’s on that subpage? If not, then it means that URLs on your website are not user-friendly. It turns out that Google loves short and descriptive URLs that clearly show what content you will find on a given subpage.
Let’s see the examples of correctly optimized URLs:
Based on URLs, you can easily guess what content you can expect by clicking on the link. And those are the URLs Google likes! They should be above all: short, descriptive, without capital letters and underscores. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that correctly optimized URLs are one of the key elements of on-site SEO.
2. Title Tags Containing Keywords
Title tags are one of the most important elements of any website. This may be surprising for you – after all, this element is not strictly visible on the website. So where can you find it?
- in the page code
- at the top of your browser
- in search engine results
So what should a properly optimized title tag look like? Most importantly – it should contain keywords important for business and appearing on a given subpage. In short, it should (like an URL address) describe what we find on the subpage.
However, we have to remember that title tags must be the right length – unfortunately, there are limits on the number of characters appearing in Google. A correct title tag should be up to 60 characters long. Be aware, however, that the width of letters also matters – if there are many wide letters like w, m, and few narrow letters like i, l, t, then fewer characters will appear in Google’s results.
3. Meta descriptions
Recently, meta descriptions are becoming less important for Google, but this does not change the fact that they also have an impact on SEO and web traffic. What is a meta description? This is a short text appearing in Google search results that describes what you will find on the website. Its main job is to encourage the user to click on the link.
This is an example of a correctly optimized meta description. It encourages users to click on the link and explore its content. So, as you can see, a properly written meta description can make users choose your website. This will significantly increase web traffic – and that’s what we want! An optimized meta description should also include keywords and be of appropriate length (maximum 160 characters).
The most important for SEO are H1 and H2 headers. Pay particular attention to H2 headers – they divide the text into logical blocks. This makes your content more user-friendly – after all, nobody likes long and unstructured text blocks. What’s more, by putting several headings and dividing content into logically structured paragraphs, users will be able to navigate more easily – as a result, they will spend more time on your website.
Wondering what impact headings have on SEO? They can include your target keywords. Usually, there should only be one H1 header on a subpage, however, when it comes to H2 headers, there are no limits. Just remember two very important rules: H2 headers should look very natural and avoid putting the same keyword in every H2 header.
Putting keywords in the content is crucial for SEO. That’s what we’ve known for a long time. But what should you do to make Google pay attention to these keywords and know that they are the most important for your business? They should be optimized correctly. To do this, you should put keywords in <strong> and <em> tags – thanks to this Google will know that these are the keywords we want to focus on in particular.
However, remember that there is a difference between <strong> and <b> as well as <em> and <i> tags. Tags <b> and <i> do not have an impact on SEO – they only show users which elements of the content are most important, however, Google ignores them.
6. Internal Links
There are two main types of links: backlinks and internal links. This time I will skip backlinks, as they are part of off-site SEO.
What are the internal links? These are links usually placed in the text that lead to other pages on your website. For example, you have a description of one category – it is worth including a link to another category in the text. However, remember that internal links always should look natural, like here:
As this example shows, internal links should always lead to a related page and be helpful for users. The link that doesn’t interest users and no one clicks on it simply makes no sense.
7. External Links
External links in your articles show users that what you write is based on factual knowledge and that you support your words with data taken from other websites. In short, you show that your content is trustworthy.
The external link is provided here to show that the data we present is based on a study. The use of external links on the website is recommended, however, you should keep in mind that these links should be marked with “nofollow” tags. How does this tag affect SEO? As we learn from the Google support site: “Use the nofollow value when other values don’t apply, and you’d rather Google not associate your site with, or crawl the linked page from, your site.” (source: support.google.com)
There are certainly a lot of images on your website. They are usually placed on product pages or on the blog. Remember that each image on your site should have an alternative text. They are used to describe what appears on an image – this is especially important for website localization as alternative texts are read for people with visual impairment. Alternative text also appears when the image doesn’t load properly. Your image description should include keywords that describe the product or generally what appears in the image.
9. Social Sharing Buttons
It’s widely known that SEO and social media are a perfect match. Do you have social media accounts? That’s great! The more profiles you have on different social platforms, the better for you. Thanks to social media, you build brand recognition, and by putting links in your profiles or posts, more people will visit your website and as a result, you get more web traffic.
It is also a great idea to add social sharing buttons to your website. This will make it easier for users to share your content with others. You’re wondering what it has to do with SEO? That’s simple. If many people share your content, it gives Google a signal that the content on your website is valuable and worth noticing.
10. Content of the Appropriate Length
A common problem I notice on many of our clients’ websites at the beginning of our collaboration is the lack of good quality content – both on the home page and on subpages (category pages or product pages). Content on the website is one of the key aspects determining your visibility on Google. Simply, if there is not enough content on your website (optimized correctly, of course), you will not succeed in search engines.
Where to start? Create high-quality content for a home page of at least 500 words. Describe what your brand does, what products or services it offers.
As you can see, the more content on your website, the more likely it is that Google will love it. And it really works! Remember to optimize the content correctly and include keywords important for your business (both in the H2 headers and in the paragraphs by using <strong> and <em> tags).
11. Company Blog
One of the first things I recommend to our clients is to set up a company blog. It is a perfect place to post content related to the company’s activity. Blog is a great way to increase traffic to your website, and you also show up as an expert in your field. Share interesting, unique and engaging content – this will increase user involvement and, what’s more, they will spend more time on your website.
But there are some things to remember:
- post regularly (minimum 2 or 3 posts per month);
- optimize content for SEO;
- mention the author (name and image should be enough);
- insert the date of posting (this way, users will know that the content is up-to-date).
In recent years, many brands have chosen to include multimedia content on their websites. Statistics show that 62% of marketing experts consider video to be an effective form of content (source: contentmarketinginstitute.com). Moreover, it is more likely that users will be willing to share multimedia (video or images) in social media.
Video, like any other type of content, needs to be optimized for SEO.
Pay attention to the following elements:
- video title – here the rules are the same as for website optimization, a short title should indicate what is the content of this video, try to use keywords also,
- a full description – include here what viewers can expect to see, there are no limits to characters, that’s why you can use as much space as possible, even write a few paragraphs,
- thumbnail image – choose the relevant thumbnail image as it is one of the main factors that determine if users will turn on your video or choose others,
- subtitles – if the platform allows it and has this option, add subtitles; often users watch the video with the sound off (e.g. in public transport), thanks to subtitles they will be able to understand the content of your video.
13. Frequently Asked Questions
It turns out that the Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) section can help you considerably increase your web traffic and present yourself as an expert in your field. How is that? Have you ever heard of position 0 (also called featured snippets)? It’s a small element that appears when you enter a query in Google. It shows the most trusted and recommended response to your query.
As you can see, Google also shows the website where the answer comes from. This increases the chance that users will be more likely to visit your site.
What to do to appear in position 0?
- write information briefly, accurately and quickly get to the point,
- use keywords,
- respond to questions closely related to your sector,
- write H2 headings as questions.
14. Reviews and Comments
We all like it when users willingly leave some comments or reviews on websites (especially the positive ones, of course). This shows that the content we share is interesting and attracts users’ attention. Moreover, thanks to positive comments, our potential clients will have the opportunity to learn that we are a trusted and valued brand.
Adding a review scheme snippet which will include review stars is also a good solution. What’s important, thanks to them you will increase click-through rate (CTR)
15. Google Search Console
With no doubt, this is one of the most important tools in SEO. With Google Search Console, we are able to track the performance of your website in search results.
What can you gain from Google Search Console?
- add a sitemap,
- remove website errors (404 and 5xx),
- check how many users visit your website and how often it appears in search results,
- check which keywords are boosting traffic to your website.
16. Google Analytics
Google Analytics is the second tool without which you absolutely can’t begin your SEO adventure. If you want to know how many users visit your site, where they come from, how old they are, and so on, Google Analytics will tell you that.
What’s important, with Google Analytics, you’ll also know from which channels users access your website.
These channels are:
- organic search,
- paid search.
Of course, for SEO, the most important is organic search, i.e. how many users enter your website from Google.
WordPress is by far the most popular and most commonly chosen CMS. Currently, as many as 27 million live websites in the world use WordPress (51% of the total CMS market share), of which 9 million in the USA (source: websitesetup.org).
If you have also built your website on WordPress, you absolutely need to install Yoast plugin. This easy-to-use plugin will help you with SEO. It allows you to quickly change title, meta description or URL.
No wonder it’s one of the most popular plugins in the world. I highly recommend it!
If you want your website to be secure, you must protect it properly. That’s what HTTPS (HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure) protocol is for. This is a new version of the protocol (replacing HTTP) which provides better security for your site. HTTPS with an SSL certificate is able to encrypt all the information that is exchanged between the browser and your website.
This may seem surprising to you, but the choice of protocol (HTTP or HTTPS) also has an impact on SEO. After all, Google prefers certified and reliable websites.
I would like to recommend httpstatus.io tool, which will allow you to check if the redirections between the protocols are correct.
19. Page Speed
It turns out that page loading speed is one of the main factors contributing to user satisfaction (or lack of it). Even Google officially confirms that the speed of the site is one of the signals in the algorithms of the search engine that rank pages.
So what elements of the website should you optimize to increase the loading speed?
- page size-reduction,s
- image compression,
- reduction of redirects,
- reduction of plugins for CMS,
- improvement of server response time.
20. Robots.txt and Sitemap
Robots.txt is a text file whose main job is to instruct search engines which elements of the website should read and which should skip. WordPress users can easily optimize the robot.txt file thanks to the Yoast plugin (mentioned above).
An example of the correctly optimized robots.txt file:
Whereas, sitemap contains a list of pages in a given website. It tells search engines which content on the website is the most important, i. e. which can be crawled and indexed. As in the case of robots.txt, if you want to create a sitemap file, you just need to have the Yoast plugin installed.
To sum up
Here I have presented to you the 20 most important elements which you must consider in the first place if you plan to start your SEO adventure. Remember, however, that doing SEO on your own is more difficult than it may seem. As I mentioned in the introduction, SEO evolves all the time – the 20 elements listed above may lose their validity due to changes in Google’s algorithms. That’s why I strongly recommend you to start a collaboration with a professional SEO agency that will help you optimize your website properly. As a result, over time Google will love your website, you will appear in TOP 10 search results and the web traffic will increase. And all this, thanks to SEO!