There are a lot of different “optimize your SEO” articles on the web, with 5, 10, 15 or so steps on them. That’s fine, that’s good, though a lot of them end up repeating the same tips over and over. I decided to do everyone one better and show off just how many options you have for improving your SEO. I’m not going into detail with them, but rather I’ll link to various more expansive guides you can check and follow. I’m sure pretty much everyone can find something they can do to their site for added benefit.
This first section is the smallest, because these changes are all very major undertakings that have the potential to backfire of you make a mistake while implementing them. However, the boost they can have to SEO is quite significant, so if you’re able to make one of these changes, go for it. Just take the time to research how to do it right first.
- Migrate to SSL. Full site security is a search ranking factor, but it’s potentially dangerous to switch. Keep the risks in mind before you attempt a migration, and make sure you redirect your URLs properly.
- Make a mobile responsive site. Responsive design ensures that your site works and looks good on virtually every possible mobile device, ranging from tablets to cell phones to wearable tech. It’s practically a penalty to not have one these days.
- Start a blog. You know, if you don’t already have one. I assume by now that everyone has a blog, but if you don’t, it’s a huge boon. It’s also a huge amount of responsibility, so make sure you can handle it.
- Start using a CDN. A content delivery network ensures that your images, scripts, and pages load as quickly as possible and that you’re protected from most potential denial of service attacks. It’s worthwhile to pick one and make use of it.
- Adopt a human-readable URL structure. The more readable a URL is for a human, the more they’re going to trust it. If all they get is some URL parameters, they’ll be skeptical and might not even click on it. A good URL structure isn’t difficult, but you have a lot to consider.
- Check for existing search penalties. If you don’t check your email frequently and haven’t logged into webmaster tools in a while, you could be penalized and not even know it. It’s worthwhile to double-check potential penalties. Fix ‘em if you find ‘em!
- Implement navigation breadcrumbs. Better site navigation shouldn’t be difficult to add, so why is it under the difficult migrations section? Some sites might find they need layout work to get breadcrumbs to work properly.
- Migrate to a better web host. You want a web host that supports modern features, has good security, and loads quickly. It’s also beneficial to have a dedicated IP, DDoS protection, and as close to 100% uptime as possible.
These are semi-major changes you can make to your site, or additions to the site that will bring value above and beyond the usual basic blog post. Some are one-time additions, while others are things you need to add to your general publication checklist. In both cases, they’re quite valuable.
- Add a sitemap. It’s really easy to make a sitemap. You can use any of a number of different web tools and plugins to map out your site in a place you can then…
- Submit your sitemap to Google. When Google knows where your sitemap is, it’s easier for them to index new content when it shows up. All they have to do is see what’s new on the map.
- Add a site search. A site search is easy to add to your site and it helps people find content they either know you have and can’t find, or hope you have.
- Add a favicon. A favicon isn’t a huge deal, but it’s a minor element of trust and investment in your site, so people like to see it.
- Add contact pages. A page full of contact information helps Google trust your site. It, along with the next couple tips, are informational pages that are useful to your users and valuable to Google.
- Add about pages. An “about us” page can be merged with a contact page, or you can make it separate. Tell your story, tell who you are, tell why users should trust you.
- Create an infographic. Infographics don’t have to be expensive to create. A good graphic design, some compelling information, and a bit of clever narrative can bring you a lot of viral exposure.
- Write more blog posts. Just write more. Publish at least one per week, more if you can support it on an ongoing basis. Pay for the content if you have to; content is king.
- Perform industry interviews. You can get a lot of bonus exposure just by asking influencers in your industry for their opinions on a subject before you write your post. This post is old, but covers some great points.
- Implement schema markup. Schema is a Google-supported rich data initiative that makes it easier to parse and make use of certain kinds of rich data, like star ratings, in a way Google can use in the search rankings. If your site can use it, make use of it.
- Make podcasts out of blog posts. It’s pretty easy to just read out a blog post in perhaps a more conversational tone, record the audio and post it on various podcast apps.
- Optimize content for skimmers. Remember, most of your readers are going to be skimming the content, not reading it in-depth. Bullet lists, bolded and italicized sections, and frequent headlines are all beneficial.
- Focus on longer content. These days, I feel like 1,500 words is an absolute minimum for a good blog post. Studies seem to back me up as well; longer posts perform better and have more engagement.
- Embed more rich media. Embed things like YouTube videos, Tweets, and multimedia content whenever you can.
- Remove broken embedded media. As a caveat to the above, make sure you screenshot tweets; they’re frequently taken down. The same goes for Instagram and even some videos, just in case.
- Use a related posts plugin. A plugin that automatically generates internal links like that can be a big help in minimizing bounces and keeping people on your site for longer than just one visit.
- Encourage user comments. User generated content, particularly links, might not be a huge boost to your SEO, but it’s still a lot of extra content you didn’t have to write. Insightful comment chains can give a lot of benefit to your site as well as giving you ideas for future content.
These are smaller tweaks, changes, and optimizations you can make on your site, either across the site as a whole or in individual blog posts. Most of them will be one-time checks or scans, but some are additions to your checklist of things to do when you publish a new post.
- Optimize meta descriptions. Your description helps determine your snippet in the Google search results, so it’s important to do it properly. Yoast has a great guide here. Keep in mind that Google recently increased the acceptable length for meta descriptions!
- Optimize meta titles. The Yoast guide also covers titles, which are if anything more important than your descriptions. They’re like bright blue calls to action so you need to do them properly.
- Add a caching plugin. Caching your files allows browsers to store those files for future use, which speeds up subsequent loads of a site for hours, days, or even weeks. Site speed is important, so caching can be very valuable.
- Minify CSS. All the spaces and line breaks in your code are necessary for you to view it, but not for a browser to render it. Taking out all the extraneous information in CSS is a process called minification. Minifying your scripts makes them load and execute faster.
- Minify HTML. Believe it or not, you can even minify your HTML. It makes anyone trying to “view page source” have a hard time, but who cares? Google, by the way, has recommended tools for all three kinds of minification here.
- Smush images. Smushing images removes unnecessary color variance that you can’t see with the human eye or that you can’t see on a computer monitor, but that nevertheless takes up space. By smushing images, they too load faster. Page speed is important, folks!
- Optimize image meta information. Your image alt text and caption are both important for accessibility and for image search indexing. Specify that data properly whenever you get the chance.
- Lazy load scripts. Setting your scripts to load when called for, rather than when the page loads, allows a page to display content more quickly. This supplies the illusion of a full load earlier than is necessarily true, and is a factor in user perception of site speed.
- Fix broken internal links. Broken links look bad, and broken internal links look worse. Thankfully, it’s not too difficult to run a spider like Screaming Frog over your site, identify broken links, and fix or remove them.
- Audit existing content. A content audit can look for thin content, duplicate content, and just pages that aren’t doing well. You can then decide to improve or remove them, as necessary, to improve the overall quality of your site.
- Research new keywords to target. Doing some keyword research annually can help you keep up with trends and developments in your industry, so you can keep producing content that matters to your audience.
- Scan for duplicate content. Run something like Copyscape over your site to look for both content copied across your site and content stolen on other sites. Copied content can hurt you with duplicate content penalties, so you want to implement canonicalization.
- Use valid WhoIs information. Google sometimes says that hidden or invalid WhoIs information (like through a protection agency) is a sign that the site may be hiding something else. It’s not a penalty, but it is a loss in trust.
- Minimize ads and affiliate links. Too high a density of ads across your site can be very detrimental and can even result in being dropped from the index in extreme circumstances. Limit yourself to just a couple ads in each page at most.
- Work to minimize bounce rate. Google doesn’t directly take bounce rate into consideration – or do they? – but at the very least it affects user actions, which can cascade into other metrics that do affect SEO.
SEO doesn’t end at the borders of your website. These are some of the factors you can check about your web presence outside of your site, and ways you can improve that presence.
- Write guest posts. Going out of your way to write good content for other sites brings in links, traffic, brand mentions, networking, and a whole lot more benefits you can use when building up a site.
- Create a facebook profile. Facebook is a good hub of trust; people will check out a brand and see what they look like on Facebook to see if they’re likely to be trustworthy. If they have a dead or inactive Facebook page, or no page at all, it’s a sign of less trust.
- Create a Twitter account. Twitter can be excellent for fast response, for news and announcements, and for customer service. It’s perhaps one of the best social networks to use if you want to keep in touch with your audience on a reliable, immediate basis.
- Analyze and disavow bad links. It’s pretty easy to pull a backlink profile from a few different services and compile it. Go through it with a link audit and figure out which links are bad. Then add them to a disavow file and submit it to Google.
- Write an industry relevant eBook. Writing a good resource can be an extra source of traffic and income, if it’s good enough. You can also give it away free if you want to build a mailing list.
- Scan for stolen content. I mentioned Copyscape above; use it to see if anyone else has tried to steal or scrape your content, and file copyright claims to get it taken down.
- Build more high quality links. More links is better than fewer links. A diverse link profile can build a lot of trust, traffic, and value.
- Monitor and engage with trends. Keeping on the ball is essential for any good business. The last thing you want to do is fall out of touch. Trends can be good sources of traffic and reputation, so don’t let them pass you by.