Solid onsite SEO is absolutely necessary for the success of your digital marketing campaign. It’s the foundation for frontpage rankings and free organic traffic.
As Google gets smarter and it’s capabilities evolve, what it deems important also evolves. Being aware of priority factors can help you achieve success quicker.
The majority of onpage SEO advice around the web revolves around the same stuff – using the exact keyword you want to rank for in the title, H1, meta description, optimize content, graphics, good website architecture, etc – what about some up-to-date, actionable info for 2016?
Below I have my 15 most important onsite SEO factors for 2016. If you want your business to be successful online, use this article as a checklist and go one by one addressing each factor.
If you have a question let me know in the comments and I’ll get back to you.
- Use Google Analytics – Google Analytics is a powerful tool for checking the performance of your online content and reviewing how your website is engaging visitors. It provides valuable insights into your website’s audience and their online behavior. Below are some common GA reporting features that can help you identify trends and opportunities in your traffic:
- Page Views – The number of views a webpage receives. This is a simple metric that can tell you how popular your page is.
- Average Time on Page – The average time a user spends on your specific page is important. The more time the spend on the site the better your rankings will be.
- Bounce Rate – The percentage of single-page visits where users leave your site without engaging with any content.
- Exit Page – The pages where the reader disengages from your website.
- Demographics – It breaks down your site’s traffic according to the location of visitors. Male vs female, income, etc. this shows many more factors available as well.
There are tons of free tutorials for learning Google Analytics out there you should invest the time and learn it this should be the backbone of your marketing efforts and learning what works and what doesn’t.
- Use Google Search Console – Formerly and commonly known as Webmaster Tools (I still say it), Search Console is another free service by Google. It can be seen as an extension of Google Analytics and it generates data and insights about organic traffic and search results for your website.Search Console helps webmasters monitor indexing status and optimize the visibility of their websites by getting a glimpse of how Google sees the site – associated keywords, broken links, impressions, click through rates, etc. This info can be used to optimize its performance in search results.If your websites not in Search Console, go now and add your website in the search console as a “New Property”. Add both www and non-www versions one by one and and verify ownership.
- Optimize Meta Information – Title Tag, Description Tag and Image Alts – Optimizing your meta information is the single most important SEO factor for you to do. They should be both keyword rich and compelling – you want enticing copy in the description that makes people choose your website over others in the search results.Your title tag is the most important factor in telling webcrawlers what your site is about. Your Title Tag should be >65 Characters.Your Description Tag needs to have compelling copy that gets people to click your link. You should add a call to action and if you are a local business add your phone #. The description tag should be >155 characters.Search engine crawlers cant “see images” so we use the alt text to describe what an image is.
- Optimize Your Website’s Loading Speed – If your website doesn’t load within 3 seconds, 40% of users abandon it. Loading speed is a critical factor for improving UX (user experience) and user engagement. Execute the tasks below to see a significant improvement in your website loading speed:
- Check the speed of your website with Google Pagespeed Insights you want both mobile and desktop to be around 85/100.
- Use a CDN (Content Delivery Network) for static components (images, background images)
- Choose a fast hosting company
- Minify your CSS and JS files
- Replace PHP with static HTML wherever possible
- Disable hotlinking of images
- Minimize round trip times (RTTs)
- Compress and Optimize Images using online/offline tools
- Use G-Zip encoding to compresses the size of the webpage and elements
- Optimize caching and minimize cookie size for enhanced loading speed on your users subsequent visit.
- Use Google Analytics -> Behaviour -> Site Speed to measure real-world load times instead of the lab results.
- Make Your Website Responsive so it’s Desktop, Mobile & Tablet Friendly – Mobile is taking over. There will always be room for the desktop but the internet is gradually moving towards a mobile-focused model, so it’s important that your website is mobile friendly.Responsive Website Design is an approach that allows web content to flow freely across various devices, screen size and resolutions. A responsive website looks great on desktop, mobile and tablet. Design your website to implement responsiveness or use pre-designed templates that include it. Some tips to cater to mobile User base:
- Tappable buttons instead of linked content
- Mobile friendly, touch centric navigation
- Use imagery instead of long texts
- Drop down menus and hierarchical structure
- Fix Dead Links and 404 Errors – Broken links are terrible for your website’s overall SEO. You need to check for:
- Broken links within the site (page to page)
- Broken outbound links (you linked to a site that doesn’t exist anymore)
- Broken links from Search Engines (when a search engine serves your site as a result and it brings a user to a broken page – this is a 404 error)
Update external dead links and internal dead links by linking to a new appropriate page. Use free online broken link checker to find these on your site and fix them ASAP.
Update 404 Errors using Search Console and learn how to apply 301 redirects. Redirecting is an efficient and SEO friendly way to keep your linking, valid and useful and fix broken links in time.
- Create an XML Sitemap and Upload it to Search Console – One of Search Consoles features is the ability to submit a sitemap directly to Google. You can create a list of all the links on your site and submit straight to Google for inclusion in it’s search results. Awesome right? Follow these steps:
- Create an XML sitemap manually or using third party sitemap generators
- Test your sitemap with an XML sitemap checker tool before uploading it.
- Go to Search Console and select the appropriate site. In the left sidebar, click on Site Configuration-> Sitemaps
- Click Add/Test Sitemap button in the top right.
- Click Submit and boom your sitemap is uploaded
This allows for easier website indexing and Google bots’ ability to crawl through your pages and list it in the search results.
The quality of your content, keywords, and user engagement plays the key role in telling Google’s bots that your content is top notch. Such details are regularly updated by bots in the index which in turn result in the good SEO of your page.
- Add an SEO Plugin – While SEO is an intensive and continuous process, there are certain plugins which can instantly boost the discoverability of your content. One of these is Yoast SEO. It’s an awesome SEO plugin that does many things but at its core it allows novices to tell whether or not their pages are well optimized.It allows you to add an SEO title and meta description, and meta keywords to each post or page of your site. When you create the copy for these tags, Yoast gives visual feedback showing how well optimized your page is with a green light and red light. Check for Yoast’s useful feedback and apply it to improve your content SEO.
- Create a Robots.txt File and Upload to Root Folder – The Robots.txt file is a text file placed in the website root directory that tells search engine crawlers which pages to index and which to ignore.It’s fairly simple but if you mess it up it can have severe consequences so BE CAREFUL.Here is the Robots.txt I use:
Copy + paste that into a new text doc, save as Robots.txt. You should test the robots file before uploading it, then upload to the root folder of your directory and you are good to go.
- Check Your Website to Make Sure You’re Not Penalized – Google doesn’t only improve website rankings. If you’re caught engaging in Blackhat SEO or anything that Google deems violates their guidelines, you can be penalized. Sometimes it’s a drop in rankings other times you can have your entire websites entire presence wiped off the internet overnight. Sounds awful right? It is. Use these tools below to check your site and find out if you’ve been penalized. Check if your IP is blacklisted – Purchasing shared hosting from a sketchy provider may lead to issues with spammy servers. Whole servers and IP blocks can get identified as spam servers if other customers are misusing it, and guess what if your site is on one of those servers – your site gets dinged.Google adds penalties and negative ranking for violating guidelines. Check to see if your website is penalized by either Google or Bing
- Optimize the Website Internal Linking Structure – Internal Linking builds an information hierarchy and helps visitors and search engines identify important pages on your website. Your website navigation bar and links in the copy of your website are the most common forms of interlinking. Optimize your internal linking structure by doing the following:
- Identify the 3 most important pages on the site that you want to rank
- Link to those pages consistently as you post new content to the site
- Switch up the anchor text and use new descriptive keywords and phrases, make it natural
Good internal linking identifies priority pages on the website and improves indexing, makes it easy for visitors to navigate your website and keeps users on your site longer. Great signals for Google.
- Go HTTPS – Install an SSL Certificate – Installing an SSL certificate can be tricky and causes a temporary drop in rankings but in my humble opinion I would suggest to bite the bullet and do it asap (in most cases).An SSL Certificate is a text file you install on your server so that you can encrypt the transfer of your customers sensitive data. You’ve used HTTPS if you’ve ever made an e-commerce purchase these days it’s more common every type of site – not just e-commerce.
- Request for an SSL certificate on your Domain provider
- Download the certificate
- Install it on your server
- It can take some time for verification up to 48 hours
- Different combinations of webhosts and domain registrars have different guidelines and processes, make sure to call support and figure out the smoothest way for for your particular arrangement.
I suggest using the SSL that comes available with your existing domain registrar vs using a 3rd party vendor (which you may try to use to save a couple $$).
If you haven’t started your project yet choose a Domain service which provides SSL service rather than the third party vendors.
- Validate Your HTML and CSS – Whether you design your webpage using a CMS or code directly in HTML with simple text editor, it is highly recommended to validate (or test run) it. Validating your HTML and CSS is debugging your code and ensures clean, valid website structure. The HTML validator checks to make sure that your HTML code complies with W3 consortium standards. The CSS validator checks your CSS sheets and makes sure it complies to W3 standards.
- Test the Load Capacity of your Website – A website that breaks under traffic is a bad look. Anytime someone comes to your website and immediately bounces it’s a bad signal and can trigger a drop in rankings.Your website, when visited by huge traffic may start to malfunction due to various reasons. For instance if you’re a bike rental company at the beach that gets a ton of summer rentals online, or some other seasonal traffic surge, your website can’t crash! Check the load impact on your website to make sure your server can handle a flood of traffic. Better websites build better businesses.
- Build Trust Online by Claiming Your Business Profiles – Online trust is Google’s #1 priority these days. From switching to HTTPS for all their products to the Penguin algorithm update before that, Google has made clear it’s important to build online trust.For local businesses and website alike it’s important to build trust across the internet by claiming your business across various high-authority domains. These days if you are a real business it’s common for you to be on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, local directories and review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc.Think about it from a customers point of view – before they whip out their credit card they may Google a bit – if you have zero presence besides the page they are on, it’s likely to give them second thoughts about a purchase. Same with a search engines. Why would they serve your website over another more trusted website with many high-authority trust signals?Make sure to claim your brand on social media properties and post to them frequently to build trust.
Online Marketing is now the first abode for advertising a product. Businesses are trying every nook and corner for getting ahead of competition and leave a mark on the landscape. But sometimes they neglect the most basic element, or the bona fide soul of online marketing, SEO