The Ultimate SEO Guide: Optimise & Future-Proof Your Website
Your CEO innocently asks, ‘Did you read about that upcoming Google update? I presume our website is ready for it?’ – cue nodding, panic, the sweats and the frantic Googling of ’what Google update is this now?’
Let’s face it…SEO is a pain to perfect. The world changes so fleetingly fast that digital marketing professionals can barely catch a breath, never mind a break. But there’s no need to have a breakdown – we’ve compiled a handy and simple guide to help you optimise your website for 2015 and beyond.
The Overall Premise:
Although content is king, SEO is still its faithful servant. Put simply, the creation of quality content alone cannot work in isolation. You need both the relevant words and the technical tools to satisfy your users’ search queries. This is the whitehat (and customer-focused) SEO work Google will continue to reward.
Step 1: Master The SEO Basics First
1. Conduct Longtail (& Logical) Keyword Research:
It’s still quite important to carry out proper keyword research for your industry. But instead of focusing on individual keywords digital marketers now need to focus on that bigger picture coined ‘intent.’ That means you need to identify what your ideal customers are searching for – and yes, that means the phrases they choose but also the meaning behind their search queries.
Google’s Hummingbird update shifted the focus from targeting individual keyword phrases to understanding what the context of the keyword phrase may be. Some call these longtail keywords, but put simply: it’s all about making sense at the right time, in the right place to the right person.
How to Conduct Longtail Keyword Research:
To identify what terms and keywords your customers are searching for, you can use Google Keyword Planner. This tool will help you find the most relevant keywords for your website.
Google Autocomplete is a really handy tool that helps you to find the right longtail keywords that will solve your target audience’s problems. To find yours, simply type them into the search box related to your products and services and don’t press enter. Google will then suggest keywords for you that are relevant to your business.
WordStream’s Free Keyword Tool is also worth a try. It generates a significant number of relevant keywords and suggests multi-word longtail keywords you can use to attract your ideal audience to your website. Simply enter the word you want to research (and build longtail keywords around) and the tool does the rest of the work for you.
2. Master the Basic On-Page SEO Elements
Just because SEO has advanced so much in recent years doesn’t mean that the basic SEO elements still don’t matter. It’s still just as important as ever that you remember to fill in every meta data box available to allow the search engine spiders to make sense of your content.
For example, you need to ensure each page on your website has a unique page title (65 characters/512 pixels), original meta-description (160 characters or less), header tags and optimised URL. The most important thing to bear in mind is that each of these should contain your target keywords – the longtail terms your customers are most likely to search for.
Read This to Master the SEO On-Page Basics: 6 Steps to Help Your Blog Post Climb the Google Ranks
3. Add Relevant (& Useful) Internal Links:
Ensure you’re linking to relevant internal pages on your website as it will be useful to your customers and they’ll pass link equity to deeper pages within the architecture of your website. What counts as useful? Relevant information, stats or blog posts that add extra value for your customers.
4. Get your Site Architecture Right:
Try to keep your website architecture as flat as possible. This should be no deeper than three tiers for important pages on the website.
5. Create Quality Content That Answers Search Queries:
As Google continues to tweak it’s algorithm, it’s website owners that focus on high quality in-depth content that are being rewarded. But you can never forget about the basics. Even great content can become lost if basic SEO factors are not considered.
What does this mean for businesses? Whether it be on-page copy for a product page or a blog post you’re writing, you need to ensure that it satisfies the user search query. It’s also important to keep the most important content above the folder on the page and to eliminate any basic spelling and grammar problems. Your content will need to answer your customers’ questions, solve their problems and address their needs.
Top Tip: Conducting persona research with the help of HubSpot’s Make My Persona tool will help create quality content that addresses your customers’ needs.
Step 3: Tackle the More Technical Elements
6. Use Google Webmaster Tools:
Use Google Webmasters Tools to help you analyse the more technical elements of your website’s SEO. You’ll need to ensure you’re checking for any basic crawl errors on your website – once identified you’ll need to focus your attention on fixing them. It’s also important to correctly geo-target your website for the country you’re operating in. And it’s essential to add an XML sitemap as this will significantly improve the crawlability and indexability of your website. Verify that you have your robots.txt file setup correctly by using the robots.txt testing tool.
7. Ensure Your Website is Mobile-Friendly:
Google has recently made a tweak to its algorithm to reward websites that are mobile friendly. They don’t necessarily need to be responsive; separate mobile websites are also fine. Use the Mobile-Friendly Test from Google to identify whether or not your website meets the requirements. If not, prioritise the pages to fix on your website that receive the highest volume of mobile traffic by checking in Google Analytics.
8. Conduct a Backlink Audit:
Ensure you disavow any poor quality backlinks to your website. As Google continues to release updates to its Penguin algorithm, you will need to pay attention to the external websites linking back to you. Any poor quality (and irrelevant) websites linking to you may result in a hefty penalty, causing your site to drop in the search rankings.
How to Disavow Poor Quality Backlinks:
Step 1 – Download List of Links to Your Site:
- On the dashboard of your Webmaster Tools home page, click ‘Search Traffic.
- Click ‘Links to your site.’
- Go to ‘Who links the most’ and click ‘More.’
- Click ‘Download more sample links.’
Step 2 – Upload List of Links to Disavow:
- Visit the disavow links toolpage.
- Choose your website.
- Select ‘Disavow Links.’
- Select ‘Choose File.’
Additional SEO Reading:
To find out more about how to optimise your website for this year and beyond, we’d recommend the following reading:
- Guide to Future-Proofing Your SEO: Get Inside Google’s Mind: Future-Proof Your SEO
- Moz Guide: The Beginners Guide to SEO
- Rand Fishkin’s SlideShare: Why SEO That Used to Work Fails