By Neil Ford of Ely Website SEO, Ely, Cambridge
If being found on Google and the other main search engines is important to you and your business, (which it is not for everyone), it is important that you have an understanding of search ranking. This is the case whether you manage your business website yourself or pay someone else to do it for you.
For the vast majority of searchers, you included I suspect, if what they are looking for is not on page 1 of Google for both desktop and mobile, they will look elsewhere. So if you know your site tends to come up on page 3 or 4, it is pretty obvious that work needs to be done to move you up significantly.
Obviously, there are factors that may inhibit your improvement. It is important to have an awareness of these rather than use them as an excuse for not achieving page 1 status.
I will look at this in more detail later on.
At the bottom of the page I have included a simple checklist that covers all of the website and on-page SEO points made.
Generally, if a site is listed on pages 2 to 5 things need to change. Helpfully, having your site listing at this level means that with some good site analysis and some appropriate tweaks, you should be able to improve things without too much effort. The proviso being that you appreciate that the climb to the magical page 1, is unlikely to happen overnight.
The on-page basics like keywords, file name, page name, meta description and localisation must be effective. Without them being to a high standard on any of your key pages, improvements in search listing position will be a tough, frustrating journey. However, before committing a stack of time on them, it is critical that you confirm some of the key attributes of the site itself first.
Is Your Website Sound?
Some of the main factors that seriously impact on status improvement relate to the website itself, not to SEO and appropriate keywords.
- Is the content on-subject and is there enough of it?
- Is the content helpful or informative?
- Is the site well constructed and fault-free?
- How quickly does it load? Particularly the mobile version?
- How does the website score in online site analytics software?
Yes, you can spend time on SEO and the like but if you know there are issues under these headings your efforts may not bear the returns you hope for.
Having Adequate Content
Some SEO experts insist that page content is not as important as it was originally considered to be. I don’t agree. For me, if I want Google to promote the pages I am working on, there needs to be enough decent content for it to understand what any given page is about. It needs to be written for the intended reader, on subject, and relevant to the page title. Otherwise, how is Google supposed to evaluate it?
Content Connection With On-Page Elements
If the content is of a good quality there is then a very simple process to follow that will help confirm to Google that what it understood from the content, is precisely correct. This is the wording connection between the page content, the page file name, the page title, the meta description, the very first words in the first paragraph of the page and the content sub-headings.
If this technique is not used consistently then, again, achieving page 1 stardom will be a very slow and frustrating path.
Is Your Page Informative?
Google puts huge value on your page being useful to their customers, the searchers. If you appreciate the importance of this, then you need to ‘test‘ the page. Read it as the potential customer or buyer.
Does it inform, enlighten, or advise?
Is it written in everyday language, avoiding jargon?
If it does, and Google recognises it too, you are in a good place.
As you would imagine, site structure plays a part. Technically it needs to follow build guidelines for the most part. For the User it also needs to be easy to move around and know where they are. Good menu structure and internal page linking generally helps massively in this area.
A useful free Google tool called Lighthouse can be run for both desktop and mobile web page appraisal. Your page is given a score for various elements and, best of all, provides suggestions for improving your ratings.
Website Loading Speed
Website loading speed is important, however, I wouldn’t get hung up on it too much.
The most common cause of poor loading speed is the use of un-optimised images. For example, using an image 4000 wide when, for both desktop and mobile, 800 would work perfectly.
Bearing in mind that the majority of websites use images extensively, 8 or 10 unnecessarily oversized images will slow loading quite dramatically.
One of the reasons site owners and managers don’t ‘see’ this problem is they need to open their website on a number of different devices that are not connected to them or their business in any way. This way they are more likely to see what a searcher sees.
Another way to get a ‘true’ visitor load is to turn off your Google account and open a new page using Incognito mode.
As mentioned earlier, website or page analytics software can provide a good insight into how your website stands.
Google Analytics and Google Search Console are free and highly recommended, not just by me. Google Lighthouse is good and Google PageSpeed is helpful – both free too.
I sometimes use the free version of SEOptimer, and the free versions of SEOquake (by SemRush), and WooRank.
Like so many things on the web, there are numerous free and premium downloadable and online programs available. Take a look around, read the reviews, and go for those you like the look of.
It would be great to think you have confirmed that all of the above areas are in fine condition. The reality is that very, very few websites have every single item covered off. That said, it’s great if you can improve or address most of them.
Individual Page SEO
With this check behind you, we can now start to look for opportunities to promote individual key pages. I generally keep to just a few key pages initially. First of all, if they are key pages, I want to see them climbing up the search listings as soon as possible. I also believe that a page containing worthwhile content that has links to other pages in your site will, once found, almost certainly lead to more of your website being visited than you expect.
Covered here is:
- Identifying Keywords
- File Name
- Page Title
- Meta Description
- Page Heading
- Image Optimisation
The first task is to identify the likely keywords a searcher might use to be presented with it in Google. I would urge you not to overthink this. Too many site owners want Google to tell them what to use from the outset rather than brainstorming first and then look at Google’s suggestions afterwards.
Be aware of ‘industry speak’ when working on this. To be ‘found’ you have to be using common, everyday terminology too.
Once you have a good selection of words and phrases to use it can be useful to revisit the page content to be sure some of them sit naturally in the text. It is also important to identify the top two to use in the ‘top of the page’ structure that follows.
On-Page SEO Elements Of Your Key Pages
My simple approach to effective on-page SEO is to remind Google with each page element that the subject of this page is “this”!
To illustrate this concept over the next few points I will use a fictitious product offered by an equally fictitious shoe shop, Johnson’s Shoes in Newmarket, Suffolk. They have some really nice ladies red leather shoes that they feel would sell well via their online business. They have created a very attractive web page which has some great images and some excellent text and descriptive content. Now we need to do the on page SEO elements.
First, having decided that ‘ladies red leather shoes’ is their key phrase, the file name is going to be very powerful if it includes the words ‘red leather shoes’.
Creating The Page Title
Next the Page Title should start with ‘Ladies Red Leather Shoes’ and might also include the business location and finally the business name. These are options so long as they don’t go over the 55 – 60 characters recommended for effective page titles.
So the Page Title might read: Ladies Red Leather Shoes | Newmarket | Johnson’s Shoes.
Using Keywords And Location In The Meta Description
Now we go to the meta description which we are told is for humans not search engines. For me, it’s just a case of keeping the continuity. So my version might look like this:
‘Ladies red leather shoes with leather soles and laces. Ideal for everyday wear and looking great for those more dressy occasions. Johnson’s Shoes, Newmarket.’
So far we’ve made it clear to the world that this page is likely to feature red leather shoes. Hopefully Google has latched on too!
Including Keywords On The Page
My approach to the page content is to use my keywords sparingly but to include them at the very start of the first paragraph, and to possibly use them in the heading and subheadings down the page. The message being, “Don’t overdo it”.
Final point. It is rare for webpages not to have images and logo’s, and these too can carry the red leather shoes message in the <ALT> tags or alternative text whatever the image. Try to make it flow as something readable.
Using Google Search Console
If you are running the free Google Search Console (GSC) it provides a brilliant tool for re-indexing your pages. It is recommended that you do this when you have finished making some changes so that Google has the latest version of your page.
Open your site account in GSC and go to ‘URL Inspection’, the third one down on my screen, and type in the whole page address and click enter. You will be asked if you want it to index this address. Click to go and wait a few moments for Google to finish taking it in. It’s a brilliant resource from this and many other points of view. It is worth getting to know.
OK, so if you do all of this I am pretty confident that your key page(s) will soon be up there on Page 1. I wish you good luck.
- Do you have adequate content?
- Is your content helpful and informative?
- Is your website structure sound?
- Does your site load without undue delays?
- Have you run your site through site analytics?
- Have you identified your key pages?
Individual Key Pages
- Identify by brainstorming a small group of keywords
- Avoid industry speak
- Revisit the page content to ensure those words are in there
- Use your best keywords in the file name
- Include them in the Page Title
- Ensure they are the first words in the content
- Include in the page heading and subheadings
- Complete the image <ALT> tags with your keywords
- Use and get to know Google Search Console
For further advice, guidance or suggestions, do please get in touch.
Ely Website SEO
Neil Ford of Ely Website SEO – I started working on website promotion in 2001. My key focus is local and regional SEO, and website promotion, including Google Ad’s support. The SEO business area is not regulated; however I have always followed industry best practice guidelines in my dealings with my clients and their pages or websites.