Ever been asked to Google yourself?
It’s a fairly common tip these days, especially now that recruiters, headhunters and human resources types use Google and social media channels as a means of screening job candidates. For businesses, Googling yourself is all about discovering the results of your SEO, universal search placement, and getting onto the first page of results for your most important keyword terms.
Take a deep breath – this is an in-depth post. At the end you’ll find recommendations for how you can put this into action!
Walking Into the SEO Forest
SEO is impacted by both technical aspects (your website code, inbound link building from quality sources, et cetera) and your organic content creation. We’ve learned enough about SEO over the years to have constructive conversations about it – we’re not ninjas at it, but we do well in minding the 80/20 rule and getting the most important few things as right as possible, with an awareness that SEO is al part of a bigger online picture of success.
Thinking in terms of the 80/20 rule for SEO, the top four on-page factors for improving your website’s keyword-focused SEO are:
- Title tags
- Meta descriptions
- URL structure (the words in your “http://” link)
- H1 HTML header text (what tend to be the headlines on your page)
We were asked earlier this year to help a company overcome a bit of nervousness and take the dive into social media that they said was overdue. As a tune-up/prep exercise (because social is just one part of the larger picture), we looked at their website and found a number of areas where they could improve. Their identifying information has been removed to preserve their anonymity.
We’re sharing this with you, dear Reader, because this is something you can do with your own website, to tune it up and keep it running well for years to come as you add more and more content to it.
1. The title tag for their homepage was only an acronym of their business name, which is not a commonly known brand. They should have had 1-2 of their most important keyword search phrases in that space, on every single title tag for each page of their site.
The good news is that they had a blog which was set up to create title tags and the URL structure of the HTML links correctly. The static pages of their site hadn’t, for the most part. Not only do properly created title tags help Google decide what results to serve for a given search, it also provides a visual prompt for the searcher, telling him or her which results are more relevant to the search term he or she used.
2. Speaking of the URL structure, WordPress by default creates new links for posts based on a number system (i.e. www.yourdomain.com/?p=1234). You have to change that setting when you (or your web person) sets WordPress up for the first time. The best way to go is to base those new links on the titles of your posts – which should include a relevant keyword/phrase you want to rank for. The folks we reviewed in this case were doing this well for their blog posts, but not for their pages – the static sections of their site that talk about who they are and what they do. A “www.yourdomain.com/what-we-do” link is much less useful for SEO than a “www.yourdomain.com/[insert keyword]-services-for-[insert target audience]” link.
3. The only content on their website that used an H1 header – which flags what the on-page headline is for search engines – was the phrase “Bringing Consumers and Producers” up in the top banner of the pages. That text was the first part of a mission statement – and not related to their keywords.
Their H2 tags, which are like subheadlines, would be next in order of importance. Looking at one specific page of theirs, this is what their H1 and H2 lines were saying to Google:
- Bringing Consumers and Producers
- What We Offer at [acronym]
- Professional Help
- Top Value
- Targeted Marketing
Some of these phrases reflect important qualities that are important to a lot of people in a business-to-business climate. But these certainly aren’t the words prospects are using when they fire up Google to search for this particular service.
4. None of their site’s pages had meta descriptions. When Google isn’t exactly sure how to serve and rank your pages by looking at title tags, H1 and H2 headers, and on-page copy, it looks to the meta description tag in the header of a webpage’s HTML. But their site had nothing there. What’s more, meta descriptions are often what Google displays along with the link to your website on its search engine results pages (“SERPs,” in the lingo).
Think of the person sitting in front of their computer who has to decide, from a page full of results, which link to click. A link with a description beats one without it. A description which also includes the keywords the person used in his/her search is even better, since those words are bolded on the SERP, giving a visual clue to the searcher that a given result is even more relevant.
Wrapping Up With Action Steps
If you’re like us, chances are you’ll be asking someone for help with this. Like I said before, we know enough about SEO to have constructive conversations about it, and we hope this post helps you to do the same. So make time to talk with your website manager and cover these topics:
1. Keyword analysis. Have you done one for your site? If not, is your web person qualified to do this? And if not, does your web person have recommendations for someone he/she has worked with who knows their way around SEO?
2. URL review. Do you use a relevant keyword or phrase in the links for all the pages on your website? If not, this will be an area that needs to be upgraded by your web person and/or an SEO consultant. Please check out this awesome, in-plain-language article about changing links to help educate yourself before you have this conversation with your web/SEO peeps.
3. Source code. Looking at your own website code is not as fearful as it sounds – it’s just not always easy to find the option. If you don’t want to do this yourself, just ask your web/SEO peeps what’s in your title tags, meta descriptions, and H1/H2 tags.
If you’re the DIY type, or just want to see it yourself before you have the SEO conversation, Here’s how. Go to any page on your website. Then use the source code viewing option for your browser. In Firefox, it’s under Tools > Web Developer > Page Source. In Chrome, it’s View > Developer > View Source. In Safari, it’s easier: View > View Source. That’s how you’ll be able to see the source code for that particular page. (Different browser versions may vary – search the help section of your browser for “view source” or “page source” to find yours if you’re having trouble.)
Once you do, you can use the Edit > Find option to search for “title,” “description,” “H1,” and “H2″ to see what appears there. Don’t find them? Well, it’s possible that they’re not there…and they need to be.
Again, we know this is a lot to absorb, but this will help you get found online for the reasons you want to be found. It’s a finite project for your website that you’ll only undertake every year or two, and it will change your thinking as you add new content to your site in the interim, improving your organic SEO over time.
Thanks for reading this! If you have more 80/20-rule-type easy SEO tips that you love, please share them in the comments – we’d love to hear from you!