Over the years, I’ve helped many clients optimize their sites to make it easier for Google to find them.
When I’m the one creating that content, I usually optimize it as I go. But if my clients do content marketing on their own, they often crave a little self-sufficiency. That’s when they’ll ask me for tips on how to optimize their new posts themselves.
In response, I’ve prepared quick-and-dirty checklists for them. I’ve shared best practices that they can immediately implement, without paying for special tools.
Today, I’ll share those tips with you.
A quality SEO professional will often begin a new mandate with a full audit to spot site-wide issues that could hurt your rankings.
The tips you read here definitely aren’t a substitute for that site-wide audit. In this post, I won’t be addressing site-wide factors you need to look for and address. I’ll recommend tactics to optimize a specific page of your site.
Having said that, there are a few things I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention. Here are a few basic actions I recommend to anyone who is launching a new website.
Install Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a free utility that provides powerful insights about your site visits. The type of analytical insights that can help you grow your traffic and turn more of that traffic into revenue.
To get started, create a GA account, add your Website as a property, then copy the Google “tracking code” into your site. Click here for instructions on how to set up Google Analytics on a WordPress site.
Install Google Search Console
Google Search Console is an indispensable free tool that keeps your site in peak form. Google Search Console flags site errors, shows you how people are finding your site, and much more. Click here to find out more about what Google Search Console has to offer. And click here for a beginner’s guide on setting up Google Search Console.
Connect Google Analytics to Search Console
Once you’ve set up Google Analytics and Search Console, you can squeeze even more value out of them by connecting them. You’ll be able to access some Search Console data – like the queries that drive traffic to your site – right inside Google Analytics. And you’ll also see some of your GA data from inside Search Console.
Click here to find out more about associating Google Analytics and Search Console.
Create and Submit a Sitemap
A sitemap is a document that lives on your server. Submit it to Google to make it easy for them to find and index your different pages. There are free utilities that you can use to generate your sitemap. And you can use the Google Search Console to submit the sitemap to Google. For detailed instructions on doing exactly that, click here. Or, if you’re on WordPress, you can save yourself the hassle and install the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress. More on that below.
Configure your Robots.txt
Robots.txt is another file that resides on your server. You can use to block spiders, including Google’s, from crawling some of your files and folders.
A misconfigured Robots.txt file can be a dangerous thing. On many occasions, I’ve met new clients who lamented that their site received no organic traffic. The culprit? A Robots.txt file that blocked Google from crawling their entire site. Click here to find out more about configuring your robots.txt file.
Install Yoast SEO
If your site is WordPress-based, I highly recommend that you install the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress. Yoast is the gold standard of SEO plugins. Set it up, and it will hand-hold you or completely take care of several of the above steps. The plugin will also make SEO recommendations for each page, test the readability of your copy, and much more.
And if you spring for a Premium version of the plugin, you’ll gain access to several valuable bonus features. One notable such feature is a redirect manager that sets up redirects when you delete a page. Another is the ability to check your on-page optimization for more than one keyword per page.
Before you can optimize your page, you need to decide which search terms you’re optimizing it for. Optimizing a page without a target keyword is a bit like planning a trip without a destination. It leads nowhere.
Keyword Selection Criteria
The keywords you select need to meet several objectives simultaneously. They should:
Be closely related to the content of your page. Ask yourself if the person searching for the term will find what they want on your page.
- Have a clear meaning. Steer clear of terms that could have a double meaning.
- Demonstrate strong intent to take an action. Look for terms that suggest the searcher wants to do something, for example:
- To learn something (e.g. “what is X“)
- To do something (e.g. “how do I X“)
- To buy something (e.g. “buy X“)
- Be searched a relatively high number of times each month. Every industry is different. High search volumes are relative. In some very specialized industries, 50 searches per month may be the best you could hope for. Compare search volumes of your keyword contenders.
- Not be so prohibitively competitive that your chances of ever ranking for them are slim.
Expand your Keyword List
Start by expanding your keyword list to make sure you don’t miss out on any great keyword opportunities. Spend time brainstorming ideas. Use free tools like Ubersuggest.io and the Google Adwords Keyword Planner to generate additional keyword ideas.
Make sure to consider “long-tail keywords”. These are longer search phrases that are highly specific in meaning. (Think “buy gluten-free chocolate bunnies” instead of just “chocolate bunnies”.)
Long-tail keywords tend to have lower search volumes but shouldn’t be dismissed: they also tend to be higher in intent and less competitive.