No SEO on Staff? Check These 4 Things
Search engine optimization (SEO) is an important part of “internet hygiene.” Maintaining the SEO part of your website is like maintaining your car: you can’t just fill it with gas (or content) and expect it to keep running safely. You’ve got to change the oil, check the brakes, top off the fluids, and so on.
And just as with car maintenance, there are certain SEO best practices that almost every website can benefit from. More importantly, I’ve noticed that many startups aren’t currently following these best practices.
Why? Probably because they don’t have an SEO on staff to notice them.
Or else some SEO gave them a list of dozens of technical changes to make without explaining the potential business impact of making those changes.
Here, I’ll outline four kinds of low-hanging SEO fruit, offer tips on how to “harvest” that fruit, and explain how making the changes I outline can help your business.
1. Update folder structure to make it more user- and spider-friendly.
- Root domain: website.com
- Folder: anything separated by a slash. In website.com/blog, “/blog” is a folder
- Spider: bots that crawl web pages and send information back to search engines
Often, I see websites that have a blog (website.com/blog), but the blog posts URLs come right off the root domain: website.com/post-1, website.com/post-1, website.com/post-3, etc.
A better way to organize content is to use folders: website.com/blog/post-1, website.com/blog/post-2, etc.
Organizing content into folders like this is an SEO best practice. It helps users find content and helps Google index and serve content more effectively. When a blog post is right off the root domain, URL-wise, you’re indicating that its importance is one step below the root domain – meaning that each blog post off the root domain would have the same importance as website.com/about or website.com/products. That’s confusing to Google because it’s clearly not the case.
Folders also make it easier to monitor the performance of your site with tools like Google Analytics. With folders, you can easily look at a group of related pages and compare their performance to other groups.
If your site has all blog URLs off the root domain, I recommend these changes:
- Create a /blog folder.
- Move all blog posts to the /blog folder (so the URL would be: website.com/blog/blog-title). This can be achieved via 301 (permanent) redirect. Create all new blog posts in the /blog folder.
2. Update title tags and meta descriptions for every page.
- Title tag: the text you see when you hover over an internet tab
- Meta description: the text you see below a link on a SERP
- SERP: search engine results page – the page you see when you Google something
I often see pages that don’t have title tags or meta descriptions, which means that in search, Google pulls random text from the page to describe what’s on that page. That means that searchers won’t necessarily have a good sense of what the page contains, and so it’s kind of a gamble of whether or not they’ll click.
A great tool to use here is Screaming Frog, which can crawl your site and pull every URL with its current title tag and meta description so you can see where you are and what needs to be updated. Screaming Frog’s free version will show you this information.
Once you know what’s missing, you can write or rewrite these page elements in batches and add them to the HTML pretty easily.
3. Optimize h1s and h2s (and other on-page elements)
- On-page SEO: every SEO component you can control on your own website
- h1: the title of a page that you see when you’re on the page (coded like this: <h1>Title Text</h1>)
- h2: subtitles throughout a page (coded like this: <h2>Subtitle</h2)
On-page SEO is a big beast, but a few small tweaks could make a difference for both spiders and users.
One on-page SEO element to consider is your h1 (heading 1) tags. Generally, the h1 should be the “main topic” of the page. The title tag is the title of the page: what appears in the internet tab and on SERPs; the h1 is what the user sees when they get to the page. So these two should be related but not identical.
Most of the time, the key is to actually use h1 and h2 coding. A lot of companies just use bold or underlines to make text stand out. But using the H1 and h2 coding signifies not only to readers but also to spiders what the key topics of a page and an article are, which can help your page show up in relevant searches.
(Find out what your website uses by right-clicking the page and clicking “view page source.” Then do a find for <h1>. There should be no more than one <h1> per page, but you can have multiple headers at other levels.)
4. Plan future content
You can’t have SEO without content. Planning content with SEO in mind is like planning your next car purchase while also identifying a mechanic you trust and establishing a realistic maintenance schedule.
The right content for your site will depend on a lot of variables, but here are a few tactics that may help:
- Segment blog, press, case studies, and other types of content. Before creating any new content, make sure distinct types of existing content are segmented in appropriate folders. Different content types appeal to prospects at different parts of the buying cycle, so they should have different CTAs and probably different follow-up strategies. Segmenting them improves UX and simplifies things on your end. For example, when you’re looking at analytics, you can see conversion rates on the /case-studies folder and try to improve it by changing the CTA. When all case studies are grouped, you have a reasonable expectation that users visiting these pages are in a similar part of the buying cycle and may want a similar type of information next, so you can test things a little more reliably.
- Create content strategically. Some tips to keep in mind: write for readers in transition, write to solve your customers’ problems, write for the level that your target reader is thinking at. Keep a list of amazing topics and aim to create one or two blogs per month that address those topics. Work with the sales team to generate these ideas. Do a little keyword research, but let customer interactions lead the way.
- Create conversion funnels. Every page should have an obvious way for visitors to convert (aka move to the next step). That might be “get in touch,” “learn more,” “read product specs” – whatever it is, there should be a clear path for site visitors to move forward with you. Creating automated paths from these CTAs is also really helpful (like automated emails from salespeople), but the specifics will depend on your backend systems and internal processes.
- Refresh old content. Creating new content is time- and labor-intensive. Refreshing old content takes less time and effort and can have a substantial positive impact on traffic to your site.
- Focus on great content. That’s easier when you’ve got lots of money to blow. But even if you don’t, it’s doable. Try focusing on producing less content that’s really excellent rather than a large quantity of so-so content (and certainly better than bad content!). In the long term, it will serve you far better.
Hungry for More SEO Knowledge?
SEO is a huge and constantly evolving topic. Moz.com has a wonderful and in-depth Beginner’s Guide to SEO. If you’re interested in diving deep into this topic, I recommend starting there.