A guest blog post by: Chris Work, Technology Lead, Harpeth Marketing
Once again, Google delivered a massive core algorithm update… this time in May. If you haven’t checked in on your website’s SEO health lately, there’s no better time than the present. And to help, here are some quick tips and tools you can use. The best part… it will take just a little time and the tools are free!
As a reminder, SEO encompasses three core elements:
- On-Page: This includes page titles, meta tags, and content
- Off-Page: External websites that link to you
- Technical: Broken links, mobile responsiveness, and site speed
These can be pretty technical topics and it would be easy to get deeply involved with any of them, so we’re going to look at a top-level approach that anyone can take, plus some free tools to assist you with each.
Step 1: On-Page Optimization
On-page optimization begins with defining a primary ‘keyword phrase’ you wish to target. This keyword phrase should be used at the beginning of the page title (or close to it), near the beginning of the meta description tag, and utilized in the page copy. More often than not, the page titles and descriptions are displayed on the search results page. Utilizing your targeted keywords will help increase page relevance and may impact your click rates. Pro Hint: Click rate is a ranking factor!
My favorite tool to quickly gather this data is Screaming Frog (https://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/seo-spider/). This nifty tool will crawl your website and allow you to export your site urls into a spreadsheet along with the title, meta description, and many other items so you can quickly get an overview of your keyword usage. The free version allows you to crawl and export up to 500 urls.
Doing that will give you a nicely formatted list of your site pages. But, what about keywords? We could write an entire post (or three!) on keyword research, but to get started, you’ll want to take a look at Google Search Console. If you haven’t verified your website with Google Search Console (https://developers.google.com/search), now’s the time. Search Console provides a ton of information on your website’s health, traffic, links, and more.
For now, we’ll focus on keywords. Under the “Performance” tab in Search Console you can generate a list of keywords (queries) for which your website is ranking. Pro Hint: Take a look at queries in position 11-20(sh) and the total impressions (when your site is included in a search result). You might be surprised to find out how close you are to locking down a solid ranking for a highly relevant keyword. That’s what I like to call the ‘low hanging fruit!’ Take a look at your pages or blog posts ranking in the lower search result pages for these keywords and begin optimizing your titles, meta descriptions, and content. Sometimes even small changes can quickly improve your rankings.
Step 2: Off-Page Optimization
While on-page optimization is extremely important, it’s off-page optimization (a.k.a. link building) that really moves the needle once your pages are properly optimized. It works like this… when another website links to you, Google views this as a vote or endorsement. The more quality ‘votes’ you have, the more likely you are to rank higher. So, who’s linking to you now? Under the “Links” tab in Search Console, you can see what websites are currently linking to you and what text they’re using in their links. Now that you have optimized a page(s), look up the url in Search Console and see how the page is being linked to from other websites. It’s ideal to have a combination of brand text, url, and variations of targeted keyword phrases for each page.
Part 3: Technical Optimization
Broken links. You never want a site visitor to have this experience: they finally find the web page on your site that addresses their need and when they get to the page, they see the dreaded “404 Page Not Found”. And when that happens, it’s doubtful they try to find the correct page… they likely just move on. Fortunately, your Screaming Frog report contains “Status Codes” for each page of your website. Now you can quickly fix the url or create a redirect to the new location.
Mobile responsiveness. Google now uses “Mobile First Indexing”. This means Google places priority on how well your website performs on mobile devices. In Search Console, you can click on the “Mobile Usability” tab to get specific details on pages which may not be responding properly for mobile users. Once you or your web person have made the necessary updates, you can submit the page for validation.
Page Speed. Google began rolling out ‘Core Web Vitals’ as a ranking factor in July 2021. This rewards faster-loading websites on (Yep, you guessed it…) mobile devices. Fortunately, Google provides a wealth of information on specific causes of diminished site speed. Each web page is important, but start by scanning your home page with PageSpeed Insights (https://pagespeed.web.dev/). If you passed, congratulations! If not, you can begin diagnosing the underlying issues to get your site “up to speed”.
If you need assistance with anything we’ve discussed or find yourself in need of a higher-level site audit, we’d love to have a conversation with you!
Chris Work has been optimizing websites for nearly 20 years and maintains Google Ads certifications for Search, Display, and Shopping campaigns. Chris handles all SEO and Google Ad work for Harpeth Marketing’s clients and has been on the Harpeth team for more than 5 years. Chris, along with his wife and kids, live ‘out in the country’ in Dickson, Tennessee. You can reach him at Chris@HarpethMarketing.com.