If you want to optimise your website to be found in search engines, there is a collection of techniques you can implement that range from the very simplest to the most complex. While most people focus on the easy tweaks they can implement to draw users to their site, it’s essential to move beyond these to truly take charge and attract new audiences. Here are our top 30 techniques that only the very elite specialists get right.
1. Optimise the speed of your desktop site
When users click on your site, they’ll expect the bulk of it to load in under two seconds, according to recent studies. If it loads too slowly, they’ll click away to a competitor. Optimise your site’s speed with a tool like GTmetrix, which analyses the load rate and gives you pointers on tweaks you can make to significantly speed your site up.
2. ...and do the same for your mobile site
When it comes to speed, the page load time on mobile is a whole different ballgame, and it’s important to know which tools to use. Google’s own PageSpeed Insights tool rates your website out of 100, with scores at the lower end of the spectrum indicating a slow load time. Like GTmetrix, PageSpeed Insights also gives you recommendations on what to do to make your site faster.
3. Design a responsive user interface for mobile...
Mobile is fast becoming users’ primary method of accessing websites and if you don’t make your site mobile friendly you’re missing out on a key audience. Google’s Mobile Friendly Test tool lets you enter your URL, and gives you a report on how it ranks.
4. ...and for desktop
Even on desktop, screen sizes vary. Whether someone’s browsing on a tablet or an iMac, or something in between, they want the website to fit perfectly in their browser window. As search engines can easily determine if your site is a good fit for their screen, it’s important to optimise for changing browser sizes. Set the content to sit at 50% of any browser.
5. Calculate your domain authority
The domain authority of your website is a score that predicts how well your website will perform on major search engines. MozBar is the perfect way to do this, and it’s the definitive guide as Moz are the ones who developed the score in the first place. Simply install the plugin the site provides and you’re good to go.
6. Compress the size of images
While images are essential to your site’s user experience, they can also be heavy if you don’t compress the size. Large images slow down the load speed and frustrate users. Before you upload your chosen images, take the time to run them through a compressor like Tiny JPG, Compressor.io or Compress JPEG. Then upload them to your site’s gallery.
7. Optimise each URL
A long and unwieldy URL can make or break the user experience. If they’re too confusing, users may find it hard to navigate your site and - what’s more - search engines will struggle to identify what each page is about. Avoid punctuation, extra characters and shorter words like an or of, include relevant keywords, and try and keep the whole thing under 60 characters.
8. Use your sitemap for structure
Just like it’s helpful to have a map to take you from A to B and recognise landmarks in between, a comprehensive sitemap can be useful for users and search engines alike. Search engines will be able to see how each page interlinks and build a better picture of what your site contains. Build an XML sitemap at XML-Sitemaps.com, then upload it into Google Search Console to index your site.
9. Create categories and silos for your content
As well as building a sitemap, you can also structure your website around content silos. HubSpot is a perfect example of this; they build out several key content categories under which all their blog posts and pages fall. Think of it like blog categories or tables of contents; they help someone navigate a document with ease.
10. Take note of and remove your duplicated content
While it might be easy to replicate content across your site, duplicating content is a sign to search engines that you’re not making the effort with your user experience. It also means that all the search engine rankings that might have been sent to one page are distilled across multiple pages. Identify each page of duplicate content using a tool like Siteliner, then rewrite it to be unique.
11. Install canonical tags
If you really can’t get away from using duplicated content, signal to search engines which is the primary or most important page by using the rel=”canonical” HTML element.
12. Don’t rely on stock-standard 404 pages
When a user lands on a broken link, ensure that they’re able to find their way back to your site with ease by creating a custom 404 page. Don’t rely on users to know what to do; build your page out with your site’s navigation and branding so they can seamlessly slip back into the user experience without getting lost. This will increase time spent on site and boost your search engine rankings.
13. Locate and remove broken links
It can be difficult to know where the broken links are on your site, so locate them with the W3C tool, which flags them to you. Then, find them on your site and replace them with the right link to point your audience in the right direction.
14. Negate the need for redirects
When users are being shunted between pages on the site, this can slow their experience and cause frustration. Minimise your use of redirects between pages so that they can get to where they need to go quicker.
15. But if you need them, make sure they work...
When you have separate mobile and desktop sites, ensure your audience is able to navigate around just one of them. If they’re on their mobiles, don’t redirect them to a page designed for mobile that doesn’t fit on their screen, as this will impede their user experience and may cause them to leave the site. Check for faulty redirects with Google Webmasters Tool.
16. ...and choose the right type of redirect
Once you have determined that you really do need that redirect, choose the right one. A 301 redirect is a permanent kind, while a 302 is temporary. Opt for the former, as this indicates to search engines that the page has permanently been moved, and transfers the original page’s ranking directly to the second one. Redirect Path is a tool you can use to determine which kind of redirects have been used across your site.
17. Minify the codes on your site
18. If you have a series of posts, use pagination
Indicate that your posts are part of a series - and not standalone pieces of information - by using pagination. This links the pages together and helps search engines know which is the first page in a series.
19. Cater for different languages with meta tags...If you have a site that attracts people who speak different languages, add a tag that flags each language. Including a tag on each page of each language’s specific pages on the site means local search engines will have an easier time determining which of your content is useful to their users.
20. … or use HREFLANG Tags to do the job
If you prefer, you can also use HREFLANG tags for international SEO, to do the job. Simply insert this HTML tag into each page that belongs to that particular language, and indicate once again to search engines that your pages are useful to their audiences.
21. Install blog scheme markups
It can be hard for search engines to know how to read each blog post; help them do it with a schema markup that guides them through the structure of each post. Just utilise the Schema App and tag each element of the blog post to guide search engines around.
22. Regularly check your site’s ranking and optimise accordingly
You could put in a whole bunch of effort in optimising your site, but unless you’re checking the ranking on a regular basis, it can be difficult to know if you’re making an impact. Use the tool SEO Centro to check how your website is ranking for each specific keyword you’re optimising for. Then, if you notice a low ranking or a drop, work on ways to boost it up again.
23. Dive deep into the data
It pays to get your head around the amount of data available on your site, and the application Screaming Frog is the perfect way to do this. Download the free desktop version and gain information on how well your code’s working to your images’ performance and more.
24. Ensure people can find their way by linking between pages
Search engines and users alike want strong, robust websites - but they also want it to be super easy for them to locate the information they need. In fact, studies show that if a user can’t find the information they need in three clicks or less, they’ll opt for another website. Work on the internal links of your website to make it easy for users to click around and find exactly what they need. Go back through your old content and determine how to point it towards your new content. Bonus: regularly updating the pages flags to search engines there’s something new worth crawling.
25. Adopt a secure server
In the modern day, internet security is more important than ever, especially if you’re operating an ecommerce store or collecting private information. If you deal with people’s data, ensure your website is encrypted with HTTPS: a secure version of the HTTP we’re all familiar with. The secure system is built with an SSL certificate that flags to users and search engines that you’re keeping their data safe.
26. Pepper your data with keywords
Strategically think about where you can put keywords to get the most impact. Look at the title and the meta descriptions to see where you can insert keywords that instantly let users know what the page is about.
27. Install plugins that optimise your site’s performance....
As well as the other tools we’ve mentioned, there is a whole lot of tools you can utilise to optimise your site’s performance. Plugins like Akismet, WPOptimise and P3Profiler are ready to be installed on your website, and allow you to build a comprehensive profile of your site’s behaviour.
28. ...but don’t overdo it
It comes hand-in-hand with minimising your site’s HTML codes; installing too many plugins means your site’s load time will slow. Limit yourself to just a few of the most essential plugins to ensure you’re maximising your site load times, and don’t overburden it with unnecessary toys.
29. Stay away from ads that pop up in the user’s face
As well as annoying the user, pop up ads can be detrimental to you’re site’s search engine performance, and can drastically affect the user experience on mobile. Instead of relying on intersitual pop up ads, think strategically about other ways you can attract users and provide offers to them.
30. Stay away from Flash!
Flash is a thing of the past; the best way to upload videos and files if you want to remain search engine friendly. Using Flash will instantly mark your website as outdated, as the graphics software often doesn’t even load on modern browsers.