You don’t have to be an SEO expert, but you do have to follow basic SEO guidelines. These SEO tips are all the average small business needs to know to have a decent presence on Google.
Tip #1 Check Theme In W3C Validator
SEO is built into your website at a structural level. It begins with choosing a SEO-friendly theme. Generally, this will be a paid theme sold by a major developer with an ongoing pipeline of new themes. The W3C validator website checks your theme or website to see if the code follows valid formats. If a theme does not use valid formats, it will be difficult for Google to parse. Do not be surprised if your theme has errors; most do. The question is how many errors are present and whether or not they are serious. If the HTML is not compliant, then your theme is not SEO optimized.
Tip #2 Inspect H Tags In The Source Code
Every page needs to have a H1 title to tell Google what the page is about. There should only be one H1 per page. Further, the Heading tags should appear in descending order… H1, H2, H3, H4 etc. Search engines interpret the importance of the content by referring to Heading tags.
Tip #3 Use Succinct Title Tags
Title Tags are your page titles as they display in Google. The point of a Title Tag is not only to get ranked in Google, but to encourage users to click your page over a competitor’s page. So, keywords have to be combined with salesmanship. Title Tags are limited by Google to the number of characters that will fit in a 512-pixel display. This generally works out to about 55 characters including spaces. It is much better to have Google display your whole Title Tag, rather than truncate it with ellipses (…). Google will usually include your brand name, which can push your Title Tag to the end where it will get cut off. The solution is to craft every Title Tag by hand. You can use the Snippet Optimizer to do this or a WordPress plugin such as Yoast. By the way, you can use special characters such as © and ™.
Tip #4 Use Short, Enticing Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions are the two lines of text that appear below a Title Tag in Google search results. This is “money copy” and it should be no more than 141-160 characters. Meta descriptions for recipes, reviews, health information are now being displayed with up 200 or more characters. This may be related to Google’s attempt to expand its Knowledge Graph. Meta descriptions should have keywords that relate to the Title Tag and thus to search term queries. Further, meta descriptions are your elevator pitch to get people to click on your page.
Tip #5 Use SEO-Friendly URLs
Even though Google uses HTML to parse the content of your pages, it uses your URLs to identify what the content topic is about. Keywords in your URLS will help your page rank better than equivalent pages with meaningless permalinks like http//sitename.com/post-124386. Don’t make the mistake of trying to keyword stuff your URLs, because that no longer works. Also, if you have a long title for your page, it will automatically be used as part of your URL unless you redefine it. You can do this easily in WordPress by reducing the URL to the significant keywords instead of the full post title.
Tip #6 Use Contextual Site Links
Google pays attention to the links in your navigation and to specific contextual (content) links, for example from one post to another. It tends to ignore site-wide links like blog categories and date-based archives as unimportant. Crafting internal contextual links will help Google identify important content within your site. Also, archives of post pages should display excerpts, not the full post. A best practice when dealing with archive pages for categories and authors is to add some new interesting content at the top of the page. Using the Yoast plugin (see below), you can instruct Google to not index author and date-based archives, yet follow for any important links. Remember, the pages in the archives have already been indexed once.
Tip #7 Have A Responsive, Fast Website
Google gives precedence to mobile-friendly websites. If your website is not responsive and easy to use on mobile, it will not only impact your users’ experience, it will also impact your rankings in Google search. Google uses a separate algorithm for mobile devices, and speed is a critically important aspect of this algorithm. To improve speed, you need a good host, content delivery network, caching, and to optimize things like big images. You can check your mobile website by using the Google Developers Mobile-Friendly Test.
Tip #8 Install and Use Yoast For WordPress
Yoast is the most popular WordPress SEO plugin, with more than one million active installations. The free version is adequate for even professional SEO use, yet it is relatively simple to use.