You want customers to find you
People have a problem, they go to Google for answers. When they do, you want them find you and call your number or fill out your form. They rarely go to the second page of search results so if you aren’t on that first page, you’re dead.
How Do You Get on the First Page?
That’s where SEO comes into play. SEO is that mysterious three letter acronym that everyone and no one knows what it really is. I do know this: Without it, you won’t be found.
It’s not a silver bullet though. To be found you must have a digital strategy that includes meaningful content that answers your customers questions and is presented in a manner that is easy for them to use. If you have good content, on a fast website, that is easy to read, and formatted for desktops, tablets, and smartphones, you’re 90% of the way there.
SEO is That Last 10%
There are two halves of the optimization equation: On-site and Off-site. We’ll discuss the later in a different post. This is about the onsite things we can do ON our website insure we’re found.
Here’s the reality: Most websites are not SEO friendly. Not even remotely.
One: Baseline Your Website AND Your Competition’s
“What gets measured gets managed.” The old adage from Peter Drucker (or Sir William “Kelvin” Thomason or Sean “P. Diddy” Combs – the Internet is undecided on this) is true – start with a baseline so you know what you’ve got, what you don’t, and what you need to do.
There are numerous services you can pay for if you choose. Start with Website Grader and Varvy.
Website Grader by HubSpot (https://website.grader.com/) is quick and easy. Just enter your URL and get your grade. [side note: you do NOT have to enter your email address to see your report. Only enter your email address if you want to have HubSpot call you.] How did you score? You’ll get a grade and some suggested next steps. Do you have Page Titles, Headings, and a Meta Description? What about that Sitemap?
Here’s a recent report on Modthink. 94 out of 100. Not too shabby. Check marks on all the high level SEO stuff. I need to work on that performance score – we’ll cover that another time.
Varvy SEO Tool by Internet Marketing Ninjas (https://varvy.com/)is my personal favorite. A little more technical information, great tips/recommendations, still easy for the non-technical person to use. You don’t get a score of grade. You do get a checklist with all the things you have right and areas for improvement. What I like most about Varvy is they give you the list and then give you truely valuable recommendations.
It is also a smart lead generation tool for Internet Marketing Ninjas. They give you a great report with actionable recommendations and useful blog posts to do the basics (aka 360™ digital marketing strategy).
- Save both of these reports
- Now run reports on your competitors.
How did they score? Are you beating them? If not, let’s fix that!
Two: Friendly Paths to Your Pages and Posts
“The Google” scientists are super smart. Their search algorithm is incredibly sophisticated and evolving all the time. It uses signals to determine if your content is easy to read, not by crawl bots… by humans. The URL path is one of those things.
If you look at the URL of this post, you will see:
You and I can read that. You might be searching for “how do I get people to find my website?” and I’m hoping this blog post helps answer your question. So I’ve made sure to name my blog post in a sentence structure. There are several benefits:
- This gives Google a signal about the content in your post and can better match it to the people searching about your topic.
- The average person can remember that URL better than a gibberish of numbers and hashes.
- When the article is shared the receiver has a signal about the content they’ve received and can make a judgement as to whether they will follow that link our not.
Three: User friendly images
Go back to that Varvy report and find the Image Alt Text section. Alternate text is what you see when a website doesn’t load properly, typically because of a bad connection, and no images are showing up. This is the copy that is show instead. Google wants to know your visitor will be able to read your website in the words conditions.
The alt text copy is also used by screen readers for blind or visually impaired people. Having a meaningful message here that is relevant to to your visitor is another clue Google is looking for to know you are creating content for real people in the real world.
How you name your image is also an opportunity to send the Googlebot a message. When you are creating images, give the file a meaningful name: Instead of img_432-12-17-2006 (something the camera or phone robotically assigns to it), name the file “It is important to name your image files something meaningful” or something like that. When you import your file, WordPress will automatically add all the dashes so it is website friendly.
The file name can also be included in your sitemap.xml.
Four: Have a Sitemap.xml
If you type into your browser:
you will see the sitemap for our website. I have ours setup to use sitemap “indexes” to breakdown the sitemap into neat little sub-sitemaps. You don’t have to do that.
For this example, it makes it easier to see what is included in our sitemap: Posts, pages, authors, categories tags, and attachments.
Follow any of those links and you will get a list of all of those items that I’m telling Google to be sure to index.
You will also find that you can read those indexes. Check out the attachment index. Attachments are all the media files including PDFs, videos, and images. We make sure we put information into those filenames that are meaningful to the intent of the page or post they are attached to.
The sitemap is one more thing Google is using to determine if you website gives a better answer to a potential visitor’s query over the answer your competitor is giving.
So how is a sitemap created and how to you update it? If you look at our website, you’ll see I’m using a tool called All-in-One SEO from Semper Plugins. All-in-One SEO includes a Sitemap Module that lets you configure your sitemap to fit your sites specific requirements.
Sitemaps, friendly images, and pages with readable names are only a few things you should do. Ultimately, the answer you provide is the biggest clue Google is using. Still, the Googlebot is searching your site to see how well you’ve organized it.
Five: Structure Your Website So People Can Use It
There are multiple things you can do to organize your website in a user friendly way. Images, layouts, navigation, and colors are all part of the package. There is an entire industry that works just on UX or User Experience and how people interact with your website or app. For this article, we’re looking at the structure of a page/post.
Back in the days, when Hyper Text Markup Language (aka HTML) was created, the designers built in simple organizing structure. Heading, subheading, sub subheading and so one. Just like a Roman numeral outline. This simple organization is a universal truth. If you follow it, people will be able to follow it and easily read your blog article.
The rules are not that tough. Use H1 for the Title of the page. Only use it once on each page. Be sure the title includes some of the words your visitor might be using to find their solution. Use H2 to show main headings. Use H3’s and down to continue organizing your article.
Many times designers and writers will use the Heading tags as their formatting tool. “H1 is bigger so I should use it for everything I want to be big.” That’s the mistake. If you need to emphasize a topic or point, there are other ways to do it. Use the header tags to organize your ideas. Use style formatting for presentation.
SEO is not as simple as just pressing a button. Thought needs to go into what you are doing based on what you are wanting to accomplish. There are tools and best practices you follow to get the basics covered. Hardly anyone is actually “doing” SEO so take advantage of that and get your basics covered.
The tool I use for creating sitemaps is an add-on to the All-in-One SEO plugin for WordPress. I’ve tried Yoast, SEO Framework, and a dozen others. AIOSEO is what I use as my go-to onsite SEO tool for all our clients. It’s well designed, easy to use, well documented, and the support (for the paid product) is fantastic and fast. You can get the free version, which includes the Sitemap add-on, to try it out. You can buy the Pro version here.