We previously discussed keyword research – what it is, how to implement it, and why your business needs it to succeed – but for a website to succeed, keyword research is not the only factor.
Search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo take under consideration hundreds of factors in order to rank a page. Some of them are basic like a good title or unique content and some of them are technical and advanced, like Information Architecture and backlinks.
In this article, we are going to tackle tips for how to improve some of the most basic SEO ranking factors.
Tip #1: Optimize your titles & meta descriptions
The <title> tag is an HTML element that we use to specify the title of a specific page. Search engines such as Google or Bing use those titles to understand the contents of a page and provides rankings for the keywords used in them.
Search engines interpret the title tag represents the contents of the page and the query of the user then they show the title within the Search Engine Result Page (SERP). In some cases, engines try to accommodate the user query by changing the title to something they think represents your page best.
With titles, there are also some limitations set by the engines. Google, for example, sets a specific number of pixels that the width of the title could reach and after that, they truncate the rest. Even though that number seems to be changing from time to time the optimal pixel width is 580 – 600px.
Since characters can vary in pixels there is not an exact character limit but 55-60 characters is usually the golden ratio. By keeping your titles shorter than 60 you can make sure that 90% of your titles will be visible at all times within the SERPs.
How to change and optimize your titles
Depending on the CMS your website is using, the way to change your titles also changes. Usually changing your title is a straightforward process and a very easy one.
For example, if you are using a site builder such as Envato Sites, the title tag can be changed via the individual page settings on your sidebar.
On the other hand, if you are using WordPress as the CMS of your choice from one of the WordPress designs from Envato Websites, there are a many ways of changing a page title. If you are not using a specific SEO plugin then the title that you use when you create a page will also be used as a meta title. Often, people prefer the use of plugins such as Yoast SEO plugin to have full control over their titles.
Now that we’ve changed the title, we need to optimize our meta descriptions. The Meta description is the description that appears under your title within the SERP.
Even though it doesn’t affect your rankings in any way, it may affect the click-through rates (CTR) of your listing. By making it more appealing, you’ll increase the chances of someone clicking your result.
Like the title tag, the description has some limitations in length. If your description is too long, it will be truncated. As a rule of thumb, we use 160 characters long descriptions which will guarantee that the biggest percentage of our pages will have a visible description.
Tip #2: Write unique & valuable content
This part is a bit harder than the rest and even though not so technical, the difficulty lies usually on inspiration and time. Many times you might have heard that “Content is King,” which in a way is true.
Search engines crawl the entire web in order to find the right content for the right search query. Within that content, users find answers and build trust with brands. It is one of the main ways of communicating with your users (and with search engines).
For Google to even consider your content and give you rankings for it, the content must be unique. It’s easy to copy someone else’s content but Google is too smart to fall for that – so instead of giving you rankings, they take some back.
If that wasn’t enough, duplicate content among pages and sites could result in a penalty.
What is also important is that your content is valuable. I like to think that everyone can sit down and write a unique article for something they know well, such as their business product or the subject of the service they are offering. What’s more difficult is making that content valuable for the user.
What does your content offer or answer for the user that your competitors did not answer? Is there a simpler explanation? Have you provided something that no one else ever provided?
One of the examples I give is a lyrics website that made the difference a few years back. There are hundreds of lyrics website, but Genius came up with an idea of offering lyrics and knowledge of those lyrics on one page. Their content wasn’t unique but it was far more valuable than their competitors and they instantly became a huge success. Genius indeed.
Tip #3: Improve the UX (user experience) of your site
One of the most important things in order to rank is user experience. In the recent years Google has increased the significance of user experience in their ranking factor making it impossible for websites to rank if they do not firstly target users.
Many webmasters in order to improve their rankings built and maintained websites just for the engines making it very difficult for users to navigate. In today’s SEO world, in order to rank your website, it needs to be optimized for users.
User signals such as bounce rate, avg. time of site, and pogo sticking (going back to the engine instantly) tell a story to Google about what users think of your website. If you have a store with a high bounce rate and small conversion rate then you should identify those pages and change them in order to accommodate the needs of the user.
If you have a blog and you find out that the average time on site is lower than expected for a user to read your article, then find a way to make the post page a bit more interesting for the user to remain.
Tools such as Hotjar and Crazyegg can help you find out more about how your users and their journey throughout your website. Using their heatmap technology, you can identify which elements in your website are working best and which don’t.
You can record sessions and see the exact journey an individual user had within your site.
Tip #4: Speed up your site
The speed of your website plays tremendous role in how Google and the rest of the search engines will rank your website. Google has been hinting that website speed will be a ranking factor for nearly a decade, and for the past few years the significance of how they rank websites for their speed has increased tremendously.
Take a look into the ultimate guide to analyzing and boosting WordPress performance for more details of how you can optimize your site’s speed.