More than 99% of searchers stick to the first page when they search for anything online. That means that if you haven’t positioned your business on the first page, you’re cheating your business out of a ton of traffic. So how do you get there?Search engines are constantly updating their algorithms. That means that SEO best practices are constantly changing. After 7 years of the same old information, Google updated their SEO Starter Guide to update what they’re looking for in 2018. If you haven’t updated your strategy to match what the search engines are currently looking for, then you’re missing out on a significant long-term traffic source.We’re going to explore how you can apply Google’s suggestions to your site to get you ranked as highly as possible.
Does your site show up on Google?
In order to rank your site on page one, it needs to be found by search engines in the first place. The easiest way to figure out if your website is being shown is to do a search for your site specifically.
You can search for the name of your site, but it can be hard to sift through results to find your actual business. Plus, some businesses have a harder time than others when they have common or non-branded names. Get Found is the perfect example of a business name that could be many different things (although we happen to rank 3rd for the broad term “Get Found”).
A much better method is to search for your URL. Use the syntax “site:yourwebsiteurl.com” to see if there are any results.
Google will show you not only whether or not your site is indexed, but which pages specifically are showing up in search. It also gives you a good look at how your meta titles and descriptions actually appear when they’re displayed in search results.
Submit your sitemap for faster & easier indexing
Your sitemap is a list of pages on your website. Most websites generate one automatically. We use the Yoast plugin for our website, which generates a much better sitemap than the one from WordPress. You can see GetFound’s sitemap here.
It doesn’t look very exciting to humans, but it’s exactly what search engines are looking for. It updates automatically any time you add or remove a page, and when Google’s spiders crawl your website that’s the first place they’ll go once you add it to your Search Console.
If you have a new website or you’ve just recently turned on search indexing, your site might not be showing up yet. You can submit your sitemap to Google to speed up the process. The best part of sitemaps is that they’re set and forget. You just have to add them to your Webmaster Tools one time and then they update dynamically forever.
Secure your website for better rankings
You can secure your website by using a secure socket layer (SSL). It encrypts all the data between your web server and your visitors. It keeps anything they enter into your website confidential including credit cards, passwords, and other personal information.
By getting an SSL certificate, you’re protecting your customers. And now Google has made it official that if you take steps to protect your visitors and their information, you’ll do better in the search results. If you don’t collect personal information from your users you should still get an SSL. There are different “levels” of SSL certificates available.
Get Found’s high speed web hosting comes with SSL included. Or you can purchase an SSL certificate from your current site host at an average of $50 per year. It’s well worth the investment.
You’ll know if your website or other sites use SSL because the address bar will show a little padlock icon. You’ll also notice the web address starts with https:// instead of http://.
Site speed matters: is your load time under 2 seconds?
Moz ran a test on 100,000 different web pages found with 2,000 search queries and found some data that might surprise you. The time it takes to receive the first bit of data, how long it takes for the site to be functionally usable, and how long it takes the site to actually be fully rendered has no significant effect on page rank.
Then why does site speed matter so much?
A site that loads slowly on desktop or mobile results in a poor user experience and a high bounce rate. This means that people get impatient with waiting for your site to load and just leave without looking around. Google only likes to deliver results with high user experiences, and getting frustrated and leaving is definitely not a good experience. So your slow-loading website doesn’t directly lower your ranking, but it does indirectly influence a poor user experience that leads to lower rankings in the search results.
When your page takes an extra 3 seconds to load, the bounce rate increases by 32%. An extra 5 seconds increases the bounce rate to 90%. And an extra 10 seconds rockets it up to an incredible 123%.
Fortunately Google makes it easy to reduce your load speed with their Page Speed Insights that analyzes your site load speed and gives you optimization suggestions for both mobile and desktop.
Is your website mobile friendly?
As of 2016, more than half of all web traffic is mobile traffic. It’s no wonder that Google is considering mobile friendly websites more and more important as a ranking factor. And now voice-activated tools like Siri on the iPhone, Bixby on Androids, and Amazon’s Alexa are changing the game even more.
Since more people search on mobile, that means more of your page views are going to be on handheld devices and not a traditional desktop. If your site isn’t mobile friendly, users are much less likely to stick around.
Unfortunately mobile data networks aren’t always consistent with how quickly they deliver data. That means your website needs to be as optimized as humanly possible to give you a shot at new potential customers.
If your website is hard to use on a phone, you need to change to a mobile friendly website design ASAP. Any new web designs you implement should come from a mobile-first point of view, where the mobile user experience is considered before the desktop experience.
Post relevant, accurate, and engaging high quality content
Google has specifically mentioned that low-quality penalties included harmful or malicious pages, pages with a lack of purpose, deceptive content, pages designed to make money with no attempt to help users, pages with negative or malicious reputations, and pages created with no expertise or credible information.
They’ve been much more tight-lipped about what specifically constitutes quality content, but one thing is for sure: some magical word count is much less important that the actual quality of information. The content on your website needs to be useful to your users. If you post random keyword-centered content it’s more likely to come off as inauthentic. This results in less user interaction, and therefore a less favorable view from search engines.
Write content that addresses your users curiosity and concerns. Think about the type of content you like to share on social media. Would anybody share your content?
The information you provide should be useful and informative. It should outshine other information on the web by offering a unique perspective, diverse research, and proof of authority. You can add images and color to enhance how engaging your content appears. But flashy bells and whistles don’t make up for lack of core, central information that users actually find useful.
Add title tags, description keywords & alt tags
Meta titles and meta descriptions may not hold as much weight as they used to, but they’re still an important ranking factor. Your meta titles and descriptions are what show up in the search results when people look for your business.
Plus, when you post your link on social media accounts many of them automatically pull info from your title and description tags. So make them count!
Give each of your pages a unique title. Different pages should be ranking for different keywords. Plus, Google and other search engines look down on duplicate content, and identical page titles and descriptions are exactly that. If multiple pages show up in search results, you want your visitors to pick specifically what they’re looking for. Even if the links are available within your website, not all of your visitors will bother following your menus.
Anytime you include an image you should also include an alt tag with your keyword. Alt tags are what show up when people hover over an image with their mouse.
These alt tags on your images also help your page to show up in image searches. Search engines have changed up their linking methods, so when people click on an image it doesn’t just take them to the standalone picture – it actually loads up the page the image is on!
Those are the SEO best practices in 2018!
Google’s update to the SEO Starter Guide isn’t a completely new way of doing SEO. It’s more of a confirmation of what Google expects when you perform on-page SEO techniques on your website.
Now that you know exactly what Google and other search engines are looking for, there’s no excuse. Take care of your on page SEO now!