6 Simple SEO Steps That Will Improve Your Rankings
Improving your website ranking on search engines particularly the Google Search Engine Result Pages should be a priority for every website owner. Everyone wonders and makes efforts on how to do this and website owners have been plagued by this challenge ever since the days of Lycos and AltaVista.
The real secrets to good performance in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) remains with Google. However, based on clues available from the Google Webmaster Guidelines and experience, we can introduce you to a few SEO basics you might be overlooking, and that should be enough to provide your site’s search engine performance with a nice boost.
In this article, we’ll cover six simple steps that anyone can put into action to improve their site’s search engine rankings. Let’s get started.
Step #1: Include Meta Descriptions for Your Pages
Meta descriptions are the brief snippets that appear below the links you see in search engine results. The point of these descriptions is to tell search engine users what your page is about. The focus should be on conveying the value of the page and convincing visitors to click on it.
Forgoing meta descriptions is a terrible idea – doubly so because adding them is quite simple. Simply use your favorite text editor and add a meta description tag within the head of the document. Here’s an example:
<meta name="description" content="Your meta description goes here.">
If you’re a WordPress site user, things are even easier. You can write custom meta descriptions by using a dedicated plugin – such as Yoast SEO or All In One SEO – to add an SEO meta box below the editor of each page or post:
Just type your custom meta description into the appropriate field, and it will be added to your web page markup.
How to Write a Good Meta Description
Now that we have an understanding of meta descriptions, you’re probably wondering: what are the best ways to apply this knowledge to your business?
First, focus on what would compel a searcher to click on your title tag. That requires answering two questions:
What are you offering?
Why should I buy from you?
For product pages, the first query has a simple response: you’re offering your product. The second will be resolved by the simple fact that you’re the one selling the product.
Meta descriptions for your home page are a little trickier. The best thing is to repeatedly emphasize your brand. That’s the one thing your website offers, and it’s the reason they should buy from you.
Let readers know what you do, tell them about your unique selling proposition, and convey this information multiple times, because the meta description isn’t a place for subtlety. Struggling to come up with an effective meta description for your home page is common, so it’s best to be patient and think hard about your brand.
If you've been around for awhile, what do returning customers say about your business? And if you’re new, what made you think this business would get customers?
Talk to people about your business, formulate the description like you would an elevator pitch. You’ll probably want to go through a couple drafts. It’s important to get things right, because this will be the first exposure many customers have about you and your brand.
Step #2: Make Good Use of Internal Linking
Internal links marry up the content of one of your posts or pages to related content on the same website. For example, if you’re reading this article, you might also benefit from our guide to Basic Website Speed Optimization Guide.
That’s a good example of internal linking because it follows two basic rules:
- It links to relevant content, which is always better than dropping generic links to your homepage. It provides value and makes it easier to find relevant content.
- We used an anchor phrase instead of generic keywords such as click here. That helps search engines determine the subject of the linked page (plus, it just reads better!).
These are great benefits, but that doesn’t mean that you need to go overboard with internal linking. As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t include internal links just for the sake of including them. Use internal links, but only if they are actually relevant.
Internal links have become very important Here is a quote on How Google Treat Internal Links extracted from an earlier post we did on Best Internal Linking Strategy to Boost Your SEO
How Does Google Treat Internal Links?
Generally, it’s enough to just do internal linking in order to benefit from it. That’s because many people ignore it completely! However, it’s important to understand exactly how Google treats internal links if you really want to take advantage of them.
PageRank, although it sounds ancient, is still used. So when you link to a page from another page, be it internally or externally, you pass PageRank. It’s Google’s score for… ranking pages.
When you add more than one link, the PageRank splits evenly. This means that if, hypothetically, the PR score was 100 and you added 3 external links, each would get a score of 33.3.
The way Page Rank works has changed over time. Normally, a while ago, people would ‘sculpt’ Page Rank by using rel=”nofollow” tags. This meant that you could link to 50 pages but only follow one link to pass the entire equity to it. However, when you use a nofollow tag today, that PageRank will vanish, so you won’t win anything.
The PR algorithm is complicate, but it’s important to understand that it doesn’t only apply to backlinks, but also to internal links.
You can create really strong pages by linking them in boilerplate content.
However, as Nikola Roza mentioned in a comment, you should take note that only the first link’s anchor text is taken into account by Google.
This is very important when thinking your internal linking structure, especially if you’re trying to rank for multiple keywords.
For example, it doesn’t really matter that you link to the domain analysis tool under a different anchor text now, because the navigation already links to it under the anchor text “Site Explorer” in the navigation section.
Don’t take this assumption for granted though! Many tests have been made and Google officials ‘kinda confirmed this, but as of today we aren’t really sure if that’s still the case.
In SEO, things might change over time. The truth is that it’s hard to believe Google only takes the first anchor text into account, especially because Google keeps endorsing the contextual links found in the body. However, it’s safer to assume at this point that the first link is the one that matters, so make sure you use the most valuable anchor text if you plan on adding important pages to your Navigation.
Quick Tip 1: If you want to avoid that, you can just link to a general services page (without any drop-downs to separate services) where you can then list each service and link to its specific page.
Quick Tip 2: If you do link to your important pages in the navigation section, consider diversifying your off-site links (backlinks) anchor texts in order to target multiple phrases. So if you secure a guest post, don’t link back to your article always using the same anchor text as in the navigation (although you should use it from time to time as well).
If you want to check your internal links’ anchor text distribution, the CognitiveSEO Site Audit makes it really easy. Just go to the Site Architecture section > Linking Structure and then go to Anchor Text Distribution. Make sure to view the Internal Links.
Link Location / Position
Google treats links differently depending on where they are located on the website. From what we know, Google values contextual links in the body of the page more.
It’s also important that the link is positioned higher in the content (but not necessarily in the Header section).
What also matters when you interlink between your pages is the click depth. If a page is only found 27 level deep in your website, there are big chances that Google will consider it less important.
A thing that can also help you build a good interlinking strategy is your site URL path structure. We know that shorter URLs tend to rank better in Google.
However, when stuffing all the URLs immediately after the root domain, it’s harder to see the bigger picture when you’re trying to segment sections of your website.
Having a root only URL structure might work well for a blog, but having a hierarchy in your URL path might be more helpful for an eCommerce site.
Broken Links & Orphan Pages
A very important thing regarding your internal linking structure is taking care of your broken links & orphan pages.
Broken Links are actually 404 pages. They can be easily fixed by replacing them or by using 301 redirects.
Google doesn’t like broken links & pages because it sends users to an unsatisfying location.
Oprhan Pages are pages that aren’t linked to from anywhere in the site. The CognitiveSEO Tools can also help you find some orphan pages:
However, the truth is that it’s impossible to identify all orphan pages on a site because… there are no links to them. Usually, there might sometimes be backlinks to them pointing to other sites (but no internal links) or they might be in the sitemap but not in the site structure.
Step #3: Name Images Properly and Use Alt Tags
Naming your images using relevant keywords and adding alt tags can improve SEO scores in some cases, and it’s also a good practice from a usability standpoint. Take the following image for example:
If you inserted that image into a blog post, naming it something like red-flower would be preferable to using a random string of letters and numbers. In addition, you should add an ‘alt tag’, also known as alternative text. In this scenario, a good alt tag would be “A photo of a red flower.”
Here’s why filenames and alt text are so important:
- Descriptive file names and proper alt text give search engines an idea of what the image contains, and influences the appearance of the image in image search results.
- Search engines recognize hyphens as word separators, not so with underscores. Use hyphens in your image file names, not underscores.
- Screen readers use alt tags to help visually impaired users navigate the web.
When it comes to alt text, try to include relevant keywords, but write them using natural language in sentence case.
How to write good alt text?
- Describe the image as specifically as possible. Alt text is, first and foremost, designed to provide text explanations of images for users who are unable to see them. if an image truly doesn't convey any meaning/value and is just there for design purposes, it should live within the CSS, not HTML.
- Keep it (relatively) short. The most popular screen readers cut off alt text at around 125 characters, so it's advisable to keep it to that character count or less.
- Use your keywords Alt text provides you another opportunity to include your target keyword on a page, and thus another opportunity to signal to search engines that your page is highly relevant to a particular search query. While your first priority should be describing and providing context to the image, if it makes sense to do so, include your keyword in the alt text of at least one image on the page.
- Avoid keyword stuffing. Google won't dock you points for poorly written alt text, but you'll be in trouble if you use your alt text as an opportunity to stuff as many relevant keywords as you can think of into it. Focus on writing descriptive alt text that provides context to the image and if possible, includes your target keyword, and leave it at that.
- Don't use images as text. This is less of an alt text-specific best practice and more of a general SEO-friendly web development tenet. Because search engines can't read text within your images, you should avoid using images in place of words. If you must do so, explain what your photo says within your alt text.
- Don't include "image of," "picture of," etc. in your alt text. It's already assumed your alt text is referring to an image, so there's no need to specify it.
- Don’t forget longdesc="". Explore using the longdesc="" tag for more complex images that require a longer description.
- Don’t neglect form buttons. If a form on your website uses an image as it’s “submit” button, give it an alt attribute. Image buttons should have an alt attribute that describes the function of the button like, "search", "apply now", “sign up,” etc.
Step #4: Keep Your Permalinks Simple and Meaningful
Let’s talk about permalinks. From an SEO perspective, it’s far better to use descriptive permalinks rather than random strings of letters and numbers.
For even better SEO results, you should also consider adhering to these two rules when it comes to permalinks:
- Don’t include stop words. Search engines tend to ignore them, and they can make your URLs too long.
- Try to place important keywords earlier in your permalinks so that search engines will give them more weight.
Best Practices For Writing Permalinks
Permalinks should be made as short as possible and contain keywords that are relevant to your business website or article. For example, for an article titled “How to Make a Small Business Website in 5 Simple Steps.” An ideal permalink for this is yourdomain.com/small-business-website/.
For one, the URL should be shorter than 80 characters, roughly the maximum length Google can display in search results. Secondly, it should contain two to four keywords that are relevant to the article’s topic. This makes it easy to remember and tells potential visitors and search engines what the article is about, improving your chances of ranking in search results.
Step #5: Use Consistent Headings and Subheadings
Making the most of your headings and subheadings is a good practice from both an SEO standpoint and to improve general readability. When it comes to SEO, headings provide search engines with information about the main topics that each page covers. For the best results, you should try to include keywords in headings and subheadings without making them sound forced.
SEO benefits aside, good heading structure also acts as sort of a table of contents. It makes it easier to scan content and breaks it down into natural sections.
On any given page, you should include a single H1 header to denote the title, and stick to H2 and H3 subheadings for the rest of the content. Subheadings go all the way up to H6, but anything beyond H3 suggests you should consider a simpler content structure.
Step #6: Focus on Creating Relevant Content
While the five steps we covered above are crucial to improving the SEO of any website, it’s essential to remember that they are only as effective as the quality of your content. Search engine algorithms get better all the time, and if you create posts or pages that try to game the system, your ranking will suffer as a result.
Instead, focus on creating the best possible content for your readers. Good content will attract backlinks over time, which will help improve your site’s search engine performance organically.
Improving your search engine rankings isn’t an overnight journey. For these steps to succeed, you need to publish high-quality content consistently. If you can do that, you’ll be on the path to higher rankings. Just follow the six steps we’ve mentioned for the best possible results:
- Include meta descriptions for your pages.
- Take advantage of internal linking opportunities.
- Name your images properly and flesh out their alt tags.
- Keep your permalinks short and meaningful.
- Use proper heading and subheading structure.
- Focus on creating good content above all else.
What’s one tip you’d like to share with everyone else when it comes to SEO? Tell us in the comments section below!