Five tips and tools for SEO in 2017
You are probably aware that SEO has changed a lot in the space of a year. You can no longer get a high ranking in Google search results by clogging the page titles and meta descriptions with the same keyword. Google is becoming a lot more sophisticated.
SEO needs to carried out efficiently to help Google understand the content on your website. In turn, Google can better determine when the content on your site will appear when users do a search. The better you are with SEO, the greater the probability that your website gets a good ranking in search results.
We recommend five things that should be on your checklist when using SEO.
- Page titles and meta descriptions - Google Search Console
- The speed of the site - Page Speed Insights and Pingdom Speed Test
- Domain - HTTPS rather than HTTP
- Get started with semantic markup - Markup Helper
- Content with quality - Google Analytics
Let’s now consider these further.
1. Page titles and meta descriptions
Page titles and meta descriptions are essential elements on a web page as this is what Google shows in search results. Therefore, it is important that you optimise them on all pages of your website. All page titles and meta descriptions should be unique and relevant to each page because Google penalises duplicate ones by moving the content further down the search results.
Write a good SEO page title
Page titles are important because they affect your website’s ranking and visibility in search results. The page title will also be crucial in determining whether a user will engage with your content. A good page title contains:
- A maximum of 50-60 characters
- The most relevant keywords from the page
- A good reason for the user to visit the page
Write a good meta description
Meta descriptions do not have a direct impact on your website's ranking, but since the meta description is visible in the search results, it is possible that it can influence the user’s decision to click through to your website.
Consider the meta description as an advert for your site. If this is equally as compelling and relevant as your title, then you increase the chances of click-throughs to the site. We recommend these few rules when creating your meta descriptions:
- Maximum of 135-160 characters
- Use the most relevant keywords. Sometimes Google will highlight the keywords in bold, and it has a positive impact on Click Through Rates
- Write accurately and credibly. The meta description must be coherent with the contents of the page
Find missing page titles and meta descriptions with Google Search Console
Search Console is a free tool from Google that can be used to find errors in page titles and meta descriptions. In Google Search Console just click ‘Search Appearance’ and then ‘HTML Improvements’. It will generate a report where you can view the pages on your website that have:
- Missing page titles and meta descriptions
- Short or long page titles and meta descriptions
- Duplicate page titles and meta descriptions
2. The speed of your website
Visitors to your website and Google do not like slow sites, and they both do not wait. Google rewards fast websites with better rankings in search results, so you should focus on correctly implementing SEO to optimise the speed of your site. Websites that load rapidly tend to have higher conversion rates. Therefore, taking the time to improve the speed of your site is imperative.
At Novicell we recommend Page Speed Insights. It is a free tool that Google provides, enabling you to test your website for items that can be optimised to ensure that the speed of your website increases. Page Speed Insights does not test load times, but only analyses the technical elements that can be optimised. To test and compare your site's loading times you can use Pingdom Website Speed Test.
Using Google Page Speed Insights
Enter the URL of your website in Page Speed Insights and click 'Analyse' and it will begin assessing your website.
When the analysis is complete, you will be given a score from 0 to 100 for its performance on mobile and desktop respectively. The higher the score, the better the performance of your website is. If your score is below 100 (and it probably will be), Google suggests actions that can improve your score and thus increase the speed of your website.
The common suggestions for improvement are:
- Compression of images
- Caching in the browser
- Server response times
Some of the optimisation ideas can be implemented by you as a web administrator (e.g. compression of pictures), while other options for optimisation may require a developer. It is important to be sensible when making the suggested changes. If your website’s design is highly depending on the visual elements being high quality, you risk getting a questionable visual result if you compress the images.
Your site's domain is the primary way to your website. Your domain should only respond to one URL. Consider for example all the ways that the user can type the URL for your site.
Only one of these URLs must be accessible in the browser so that Google and users always hit the same version. The remaining URLs must be set up with 301 redirects to the version you want to be the primary.
At Novicell we recommend that you use HTTPS rather than HTTP as mentioned in this article. Part of the reason why we say this is because data between your website and the browser is encrypted with HTTPS and HTTPS has a positive impact on your site's ranking in Google search results.
4. Getting Started with semantic markup
Semantic markup is a method that helps Google understand the content on your website. For example, you can tell Google that Novicell is an organisation with locations in Aarhus, Copenhagen, London and Barcelona. You can also get Google to realise that the CEO is a person who is a prominent figure in the organisation.
According to Google, semantic markup does not affect your website's ranking in search results. It amplifies your visibility because data with semantic markup can be displayed as either a rich snippet or a knowledge graph. Visibility becomes more dominant in search results on mobile, as there is already limited space here. We have learnt that users are inclined to click on links with semantic markup. Consequently, both visibility and traffic can increase by using this.
Semantic markup quickly becomes very technical, time-consuming and requires some knowledge of the documentation behind the method. Fortunately, Google offers Markup Helper; a small, intuitive tool that can auto generate semantic markup to your website.
To use Google Markup Helper
Markup Helper can help you start marking data on your site - for example, articles, events and products. You can also markup data related to your business; this information is highlighted in the search results when searched on Google.
To get started, choose the type of data you want to mark and then paste the URL or HTML source of the page you want to mark. You can tag sections of text or images on the page by highlighting the section and right-clicking.
Once finished, use Markup Helper to create a copy of your site's HTML, but now including the semantic markup. Send this copy to your developer who can subsequently implement the code.
Useful links about semantic markup
If you want to start using semantic markup more, we recommend that you familiarise yourself with the documentation. Google has written several articles that provide a thorough introduction to semantic markup, and with them, you will be well on your way to understanding semantic markup further.
5. Content with quality
Quality trumps quantity. It has not always been the case with SEO, but it is now. For your website to obtain a respectable position in Google's search results, it must contain content with quality and provide an excellent user experience.
It is not wise to set a target to produce additional content for your website every day if it is still only possible for you to publish unique and thorough content once a week. It takes some time to produce quality content, but then Google rewards your website with better rankings when your content can retain and engage your visitors.
Therefore, it is a good idea to examine how users engage with your content. You can use Google Analytics to investigate how long users read your content and other behaviours on several pages of your website. All these actions are signals that Google uses to rank your website in search results.
There has also been a paradigm shift concerning the length of web content. We have observed that the Internet pages with 1200 to 1500 words on average get the most traffic, often shared by users and ranked better in search results. One reason is that the longer web content takes longer to read and contains more words and pictures, which can contribute to the site's ranking in search results.
Into the SEO jungle
With these five methods, you are now well equipped to engage in SEO activities and improve your site's ranking in Google search results. At Novicell, we are always ready to advise you on the best practice for your particular solution so feel free to get in touch!
We offer free SEO competitor analysis. For more information contact Anders Holt.