Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a popular topic, and for good reason. We all use search engines every day to help us find websites relevant to our searches. Naturally, if you have a website, you will want it to show up in those search results. SEO can help you make sure, at the very least, that your site (through code or content) will do no harm to your chances of ranking. But the job of creating good content, which is one of the most important ranking factors, is your main task.
This chart will give you some basic SEO checks you can review at any time. But, if you want to dive deeper, and further develop your SEO judo, then proceed further to the “going deeper” section:
Going Deeper With SEO
SEO is like a big tree with long thick branches. Each branch is itself a complete and whole topic with its own branches. So when you’re learning about SEO it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Accept that SEO will be an ongoing effort made up of small projects.
Taking Care of Your Content
The quality of your page content is one of the most important indicators for success with SEO. It can also be the most difficult to achieve. Quality content that is also relevant to the purpose of your site can be difficult to create.
First of all, consider the purpose of your site, or why your site exists. If the purpose of your site is to support your bagel restaurant, then you need content that is relevant to bagels. Think about how many subtopics you can generate from bagels: types of bagels, ingredients, baking, toppings, spreads, etc. The key is to keep the content relevant and linked to other content on your site.
Consider Content Architecture
How do you the pages on your site link to each other? Do subpages support the “pillar” pages? Remember, it’s not wise to link to your home page (example.com), but it’s wise to link to a subpage (example.com/about-us).
Included in your content architecture is the URL structure of the site. It’s generally considered a best practice to have as few subdirectories, or forward-slashes, as possible. The structure of
example.com/bagels/products/baking/important/dough/types-of-dough/ suggests a very complicated site structure with 6 levels of depth. It’s best to stick to 1 or 2 levels.
Page Content Headings
Individual pages on your site are not just pretty layout and text mixing attractively for the reader, but they are structures of information. An information structure obeys a hierarchy.
This is why heading level 1 (or,
<h1> in HTML markup) should always hold the title of the page, and there must only be one. Any other important headings must be reserved for the heading level 2 (
<h2>). And any “children” of level 2 should be reserved for the level 3 header (
Obey the markup hierarchy and your pages will be better absorbed by your human readers (including readers with disabilities) and the search engine crawlers who will derive meaning from your page structure and serve your page accordingly.
Below are some good guidelines for how many H2 and H3 headings you should include in a piece of content to keep it organized:
- 3-4 or up to 10 if 3000+ words
- 6-8 or up to 15 if 3000+ words
Your content needs will vary, but the above should give you a good frame of reference for what a complete and authoritative piece of content should include.
Using Keywords In Your Content
Remember, doing proper keyword research means discovering and evaluating keywords (or, search terms) that are appropriate for your website and using them in your written content. This is part of how search engines categorize your site and present it in search results. So keyword selection is important, but keyword representation is also important, and it can be tricky.
You don’t want to abuse keywords or “stuff” them in everywhere you can. To take the example we used earlier, let’s examine keywords related to bagels. Let’s say you’re doing SEO for a bagel cafe website.
Each related keyword may be a separate page, or perhaps a blog post. You might have a page called “Why We Love Bagels.” Likewise, there could be a page called, “History of Baglels in the USA.” Both of these titles use the word “bagels” and that’s OK, but it’s also a good idea to use variations like “Top 10 Breakfast Ideas,” which is sure to include, yes, bagels!
The important question to ask yourself is: does the content on the page answer the search query that someone might have used? If you can do that, the chances are your pages will eventually rank well for those terms.
It’s recommended that you use a page’s keyword phrase in the main (H1) heading and the URL slug. Likewise, exercise control when using your keyword in the page content itself and the meta tags (title and description).
Awareness of Technical Concerns
As mentioned in the checklist, there are technical as well as aesthetic concerns to consider.
It’s your job to make sure there is only one H1 heading on your page. This may seem like an aesthetic concern, but for many websites it’s a technical one because the page template generates the content dynamically. For example, if you use WordPress, which most websites do, then you do not control the HTML title tag directly. This is controlled by the WordPress theme. Other technical issues may include:
- Creating a sitemap
- Introducing schema markup
- Using proper 301 redirects
- Rewriting URLs
- Resolving HTTP errors
- Installing and configuring pages for SSL
Technical SEO can be tricky. So it’s best to work with a web developer if you are unfamiliar with how your site is coded.
Keeping the SEO Game Alive
SEO changes all the time, so you should make it a habit to keep current on SEO news. Some good references to bookmark are websites like Search Engine Land, Moz Blog, and others. As you read articles on these sites they will link to others you can, over time, build up a list of favorites.
Also keep in mind, SEO is a marketing tactic, and no matter how good your SEO is you must have a valuable website that people want to visit. That remains, as always, the greatest challenge.