SEO Basics: How To Improve Your Search Rankings

Having a hard time get your site ranked on Google? Don’t worry… we have all the SEO basics to help make your site into a traffic generation machine!

I understand how tedious it can be to get your site ranked on Google… especially getting to the first page!

That’s why we have created this basic guide to completing the SEO needed for your website.

So without further ado – let’s take a look at the different ranking factors you can easily change to help get you found on search engines.

SEO Basics: Meta Titles & Descriptions

Meta titles and descriptions are what we see in search engine results pages (or otherwise known as SERPs). They tend to look like this.

SEO Basics Google snippet example

The top part is the meta title and gives a brief description about what the page is about.

Underneath is the URL for the page, and then the meta description.

The meta description tells users what the page is about in more detail.

Google will also highlight any keywords that show up in the description to help users see how relevant different pages are to the query they searched.

How To Optimize Your Meta Titles & Descriptions

Meta titles are simple to change and fix.

If you are using a CMS (content management system) like WordPress to manage your website – you can use a plugin like Yoast SEO to make all the changes you want.

You will notice that your pages will have a snippet preview box at the bottom of the page after you install the plugin.

Yoast Example Snippet

Use the designated boxes to change your meta title, slug (the URL for the page), and the meta description.

Tip & Tricks for Optimizing Your Meta Titles

  • Meta titles should be under 55 characters in length
  • Whatever keyword you are going for should be present in the title
  • Keep your keyword at the beginning of your meta title
  • Put any company branding at the end of your title. Such as the company/domain name

Tip & Tricks for Optimizing Your Meta Descriptions

  • Meta descriptions should be 120 – 158 characters in length or 920 pixels
  • Try to interest potential customers with engaging descriptions
  • Do not try to “trick” search engines by stuffing descriptions with keywords
  • Use different descriptions for each page on your website

How To Optimize Your URL

A URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is the file path used to access a page in web browsers or when we click a link.

Google loves well made URLs because they help users distinguish what a page is about in an easier fashion.

It is keen to remember – when someone sees a page they would like to visit with a user-friendly URL they are more likely to visit that page.

SEO Basics for Optimizing Your URLs:

  • Keeping URLs to a maximum length of 60 characters.
  • Making URLs human-readable
  • Avoid using underscores in page and image file names
  • Include keywords
  • Remove extra words

Let’s take a look at some examples. Which page would you rather go to?

https://www.example.ca/123654-cat/098765/name_page.html

Vs

https://www.example.ca/category/page-name.html

So what is the difference between the two? Both URLs do the same job and the user will end up at the same place.

However, the first one looks untrustworthy and misleading to users in results pages. Its file structure goes to deep, it isn’t readable by humans, and its length is too long.

This is a bad URL in Google terms!

The second URL looks much better to Google’s bots. The structure is strong, can be read by humans, and clearly dictates where the user is going.

It is easy to tell which categories this page falls under and demonstrates a strong sense of trustworthiness.

So make your URLs short and user-friendly. You will not regret it.

How To Optimize Your Images

Most people when they start their websites fail to see just how important optimizing your images is.

From file names to alt tags – there is a ton you can do to make sure your images are helping your sites rankings.

Image File Names

Your image file names should follow the same formula for URLs.

Each image should have a proper name free of any underscores, extra words, and capitals.

Image Alt Tags

Google uses alt tags for several different reasons.

Firstly, your browser uses alt tags to tell visually impaired users what image they are seeing, and to help them navigate pages easier.

Secondly, Google uses alt tags to tell their bots what the image is about and how it relates back to the content on your website.

Alt tags are a huge factor that Google looks at, and if you can complete these steps correctly – you could see a big change in your websites rankings.

Image Size

Google also rates your site on how fast it loads, and one of the main reasons for slow-loading websites is large image sizes.

Check and see to make sure your image file sizes are under 1 MB.

Anything above this will slow down your site exponentially.

You can use a plugin like Smush to compress your images as soon as they are uploaded to your WordPress server.

Alternatively, you can use a program like Adobe Photoshop to manually optimize your images.

Tip & Tricks For Optimizing Images

  • Give your images human-readable file names
  • Keep your images under 1 MB in size
  • Do not include special characters like under scores “_” and use hyphens instead “-”
  • Stay away from using capitals in file names
  • Fill out every alt tag on all your images that are directly displayed to your user
  • Include your keywords in your alt tags anywhere you can

Image example

Links

And last but not least… Links!

Back in 2016, Google’s Search Quality Senior Strategist, Andrey Lippatsev, said that links and content are the top 2 ranking factors in Google’s algorithm.

This means that your outgoing and inbound links should be a top priority.

But how do these links affect mine and others websites?

Every time another website links back to your website, it shares its power with you.

A strong backlink profile filled with high-authority domains (popular and trustworthy websites) will allow you to piggyback off of the power of other sites.

Forbes’ & Apple’s websites are great examples of strong, popular sites with a high-authority on the web.

A great way to garner backlinks is by developing strong content that users will want to spread around and share.

Try creating a blog and put all of that industry knowledge to the test, and send out your articles to other bloggers and news sites.

You never know what might happen!

Tip & Tricks For Link Building:

  • Create diverse and original content that users will want to share
  • Develop an email outreach campaign and send personalized emails to different blogs or industry professionals that may be interested in your website/content
  • Reach out to local businesses with similar interests and trade links
  • Submit your business to online business directories

Conclusion

Throughout this topic we talked about the following SEO basics and how they can help optimize your site so that shows up in search engines:

  1. How to optimize your titles and descriptions
  2. How to optimize and format your URLs
  3. How to optimize your Image and Image alt tags
  4. How to optimize your link buildings techniques

And that’s the basics of search engine optimization! From here, you can start to monitor the traffic that is coming into the website, and make decisions on what direction to head.

Throughout all of these sections there is common theme that rises. User Satisfaction and Usability.

If you aren’t keeping your users at the forefront of your marketing strategy you are bound to fail.

Optimize your site so that it gives the client the best experience you could possibly hope for – and they are sure to return.

And remember – if you need any help with optimizing your website – feel free to contact us anytime to talk about how we can help you get the rankings you deserve.

Liam Abbott

AvatarLiam is a SEO/SEM Specialist & Web Designer from Calgary, Alberta. He maintains a passion for contemporary design and everything search engine related. He is an avid gamer, and enjoys collecting entertainment memorabilia.

If you have questions or inquires for Liam, feel free to contact him by email anytime liam@topshelfmedia.ca

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