SEO – The Bare Minimum Requirements

Ok, I get it. You’re crazy busy, and SEO is just not at the top of the priority list right now. It’s a bit of a learning curve, and algorithm updates are always happening. Plus it’s hard to focus on learning technical strategies when you have a million other things to do right?

But at the same time, you know you it’s a critical element to the success of your business. Therefore you basically have two options: Option 1 – invest in an SEO specialist to help you or Option 2 – learn the bare minimum requirements yourself (at least until you can afford Option 1).

With that in mind, we’ve pulled together five of the most popular and useful strategies by some of the best SEO experts found on Google – found because of their SEO strategies! Read on to learn the bare minimum requirements to get your website ranking well.

Page speed

First things first, make sure your website loads as fast as possible. According to surveys done by Akamai and Gomez.com, 50% of users abandon a site that hasn’t loaded within 3 seconds.

Not only is this is bad for sales, but it also affects your ranking in search engines.

“Speeding up websites is important – not just to site owners but to all Internet users. Faster sites create happy users… which is why we have decided to take site speed into account in our search rankings”. (Google Webmaster Central blog).

Test your page speed with Google’s PageSpeed Insights and action any optimisation suggestions you can.

Quite often images are causing a slow load time. This can be easily solved by compressing them in an image editing program such as Photoshop, or if you don’t have access to that, you can use online tools such as Compressor or Tiny PNG.

Over-use of plugins and scripts can also cause a slow load time. Every couple of months review your plugins and if you’re not getting much value out of them consider deleting them. Keep your external scripts, such as pop-ups, to a minimum as well.

Always work on your page speed, every little second you shave off will make a difference to your ranking and, more importantly, your bottom line.

Mobile first

Having a mobile responsive site is nothing new but did you know Google is currently rolling out “mobile first” indexing?  This means it will use the mobile version of a webpage for “indexing and ranking, to better help our, primarily mobile, users find what they’re looking for.”

Don’t panic. This doesn’t mean you need to build a whole new website. It’s mobile-first, not mobile only. However, it does mean moving forward you need to prioritise the mobile user experience over the desktop one.

How? Check your website from a couple of different mobile devices and look for anything that detracts from the experience.

Is your page speed ok? Are your buttons “finger friendly?” Does the copy read well or should it be broken up into smaller paragraphs? Does the content display correctly? Are popups causing problems?

Take note of anything that’s not quite right and work on resolving them to provide the best possible mobile user experience. The ultimate goal here is to engage your user – the longer they stay on your website, the more relevant Google interprets it.

Solid structure

A good site structure means great user experience as information is organised, logical and easy to find. It also leads to a better understanding of your site by Google as its crawlers can quickly link content together and return your pages in search results.

According to Yoast, your site structure should look like a pyramid with a homepage at the top and category pages beneath it.

Unless you have a huge site like Amazon, try to have no more than seven categories. They should be fairly even in size – if one category is a lot bigger than the others, split it into two.

Make sure all your critical content is towards the top of the pyramid. The fewer clicks it takes to reach important content, the more user-friendly, and therefore SEO friendly, your site is considered to be.

Another important element of your site structure is the correct use of headings. Google puts particular emphasis on your H1 heading so make there is one on your homepage, ideally featuring a keyword or two.

External links

Collecting external links is one of the oldest and most effective SEO tactics. In fact, according to Moz, “top SEOs believe that external links are the most important source of ranking power”. Pages with quality links pointing at them are considered to be popular and relevant, earning high rankings in search engine results.

Some links are inherently more valuable than others. If you get a link back to your website (known as a backlink) from a trustworthy, high authority site, you gain instant credibility. However, if you get a link from a website that’s not related to your content in any way, the link won’t be as valuable.

One of the best ways to get quality backlinks to your website is by guest posting. Look for well-known industry publications that accept article submissions and pitch an article to them. Make sure you create content that is genuinely valuable to their audience.

Provide a link to your website within your author bio and if possible, the main text of your content, but only if it feels natural to do so. You don’t want users to think you’re spamming them.

Another way to get backlinks is to get listed in industry-relevant directories. Look for quality, hand-curated directories that review business listings before publishing them.

Keywords

One of the best ways to increase your ranking is to be considered an authority in your field by Google. You can do this by creating good content, promoting it to others and attracting links naturally.

There’s one ‘key’ ingredient you need to master, however, and that is the strategic use of keywords. Keywords help people find your content via search engines.

Your goal is to find relevant keywords your users type in search boxes and use them strategically in your content. This will show Google and other search engines your content aligns with their search query.

So how can you find these keywords? One of the easiest (and free) ways is to use Google. Whenever you enter a phrase into Google’s search bar, you will see a list of suggestions appear underneath. These suggestions appear because they are often searched by Google users – meaning they deserve consideration in your keyword planning.

There are plenty of standalone tools you can explore as well. Google’s Keyword Planner is great if you don’t want to invest in paid keyword research tools. However, it’s only available if you plan on advertising. Other popular tools include Keyword Tool and Semrush. Both will allow you to try before you buy.

Once you’ve defined your keywords, you need to put them to work. Try to include relevant keywords in high attention areas of your website such as:

  • The title of your page
  • The page URL
  • In the page copy
  • In the meta description
  • In any image file paths and images alt text
  • As the anchor text in links back to the page

Careful though, don’t subscribe to keyword stuffing. Only use them when they are relevant to your content, or you risk getting penalised.

So there you have it, a bare minimum approach to search engine optimisation. Have you noticed a common thread with all these strategies? A little hint, it’s to do with user experience.

If you can deliver a great user experience, full of value and relevance, your users will appreciate it and spend more time on your website. Google will notice this and interpret your site as being important, ranking you well and enabling you to attract more users.

So basically, if you put your users’ needs first, search engines will reward you. When you think about it that way, SEO is not that technical after all!

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Michelle Tickle

michelle@startupstrong.com.au

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