SEO services can cost a lot of money, and while it can also deliver great return there is a lot that you can do on your own to improve SEO before you hire somebody. If you get these things done yourself you will accomplish 2 things (besides improving your onsite SEO).
- You will look smarter and savvy to any SEO that you hire so that you will be taken more seriously, and the SEO will be less likely to try and sell you “shady” products
- More important, you can free the SEO up to accomplish more in-depth, more complicated SEO efforts, using tools that they have and you might not have access to. This will help maximize the value of your engagement with the SEO you hire.
1) Improve SEO by Optimizing On Page Cues
These SEO tips have been covered before on the Confluence Digital blog, but a brief reminder helps remind readers of the importance of this action
a) Title Tags
For Title Tag, the recommended structure is different for the home page than all of the others.
On the home page, Brand Name comes first, followed by keywords, on all other pages, this is reversed.
Brand Name | [Core Keyword] + Qualifying Term(s) < Homepage[Core Keyword] + Qualifying Term(s) | Brand Name <All other pages
The targeted keyword should be placed earlier in the title tag. Recommended title tag length is 70 characters. The title tag shows at the top of a browser and is the link at the top of a search results page listing. Do not “keyword stuff” title tags. Over use of keywords in a non-natural way will be penalized by search engines. Write first for the human user. Use of the pipe “|” is more of a stylistic inclusion and does not have SEO value.
The Meta description is less influential in SEO, but it is extremely important to attract qualified visitors to your page. The Meta description should include features, benefits and a call to action using keywords as necessary to a maximum of 160-170 characters. I have filled in some, to use as a guide
c) H1 tags
Use a single H1 tag per page. Additional header tags can be utilized as needed. Where appropriate include the page’s targeted keyword and include that term in the first sentence or two if grammatically feasible.
2) Improve SEO by Putting Contact information on ALL of your pages
This is especially relevant for local search, for organizations that do business in a physical space more than just online. Putting your contact information, address and phone number, on each page reinforces your location for when someone searches for “Baltimore Florist”, to make sure that the site ranks well in search results.
Another critical element is to make sure the contact information is consistent across directories and social media. If you abbreviate the name of your state, or choose to use “ave” instead of “avenue” make sure that when you register with Google+, or Yelp, or any online registry, when you create a Facebook profile, be sure to make the address information match exactly. This consistency helps the search engines recognize that all are references to the same business, and improves credibility, page rank, and quality score for your site.
3) Improve SEO by Paying Attention to Secondary Content
One of my pet-peeves about photos people use of themselves, often on dating and social networking sites is a myopic focus on the subject of the picture with total disregard for the background. You, and many of your friends may focus on your handsome face, but an awful lot of people will be distracted by the pile of dirty laundry in the back-ground, or the random dis-array of lotions and tools on the bathroom sink.
SEO can be similar if your page is full of “secondary content”, like thank-yous and acknowledgments. We recently reviewed a site to see what keywords it was ranking for, and none of the intended keywords appeared on the page more often than the word “photograph”, because the site developer was crediting the photographer, the models, and acknowledging that the people in the photos were all actual clients. One tool that I love is to create a “word cloud” of your page content using sites like http://tagcrowd.com/ or http://www.wordle.net/ to see which words actually show up most on the page. If you aren’t paying enough attention to secondary content, the results can surprise you.
4) Improve SEO by Avoiding Conflicting Links on Same Page
Search rankings are based, in part, on how many links go to a certain page, so it would make sense that adding several links would be GOOD for page rank. Before 2004 this was true. In 2004 the concept of the “reasonable surfer” replaced the “random surfer” and the value of inbound links became tied to the likelihood that an individual on a given page clicked that link. In other words, if your page has 3 different links to an item in your catalogue (say “BBQ Tools”) some viewers who want BBQ tools will click one link, while others may click another. You might argue that including multiple links is friendly to surfers because it makes it easier to find a link to BBQ Tools, but in practice the value of that link gets split between all of the anchors, and the total value of them all is less than it would be for a single link.
5) Improve SEO by Maintaining Fresh Content
Google gives web content a “freshness score” based on a patented algorithm (US Patent application 60507617), which degrades over time as the content ages. For different types of searches and at different times the freshness of the content may matter more or less. Imagine a search for “Seattle Mariners Score” in July or August and you can see why 2 or 3 day old content isn’t going to satisfy the searcher. Searching for “most fuel efficient car” will return results which change less frequently, while “Best Italian Restaurant in Cleveland” might stay the same for several years.
Google’s algorithm behaves as if it “understands” that readers are looking for new things to read, and it rewards newness with higher rankings. If you want to rank well, you should post or update frequently.