How To Optimize Your Website?
One of the most common requests I get is for help with On-Page SEO. Let’s go over what On-Page SEO is, and a few initial things you can do to give your website sort of an SEO audit.
First things first: Google, or any other search engine, is just an online robot that reads the code on your website. Your goal is to make sure the bot can read your website and, more importantly, can understand what your site is about. I’ve seen a lot of websites, especially e-commerce websites, that have no content on their pages but want to rank for specific phrases. How is Google going to know what a page is about if there aren’t any words on it? But just any content thrown up there isn’t going to work either.
Site Structure And SEO
The primary goal of On-Page SEO is to make sure every page on your website goes with the purpose of the site. For example, say you are selling shoes, and your site is structured like this:
Home > Category > Product
You may want to target the search term “Shoes” on the Homepage, “Men’s Shoes” in the Men’s Category Page and “Men’s Black Shoes” on the Product Page. Your structure will then look like this:
Shoes ( Home ) > Mens Shoes ( Category ) > Mens Black Shoes ( Product Page )
The reason I do this is that I want the search engine to know clearly what each page is about with the hope that we can get particular pages to rank for particular phrases. But how do we know what phrases, or keywords, to target on each page?
Keyword Research Is Essential
Keyword research is one of the first things I do when I’m auditing a website. I look for relevant phrases that have enough searches to justify dedicating a page to them. Here is a good example: “men’s black dress shoes” has 4400 using the keyword phrase to search, but “black dress shoes for men” only has a volume of 1300. “Mens black dress shoes,” of course, would be the keyword phrase to use.
Here’s what the volume of similar phrases looks like:
I generally spend a few hours researching keywords. I’ll normally open a Google spreadsheet and create 2 columns. Keyword & Volume. Then I begin thinking what terms would someone use when looking for the type of product or service this site sells.
There are many tools out there to help you with keyword research. I like semrush.com. You can also use Google’s keyword tool, Ahref, or Moz. There are many others.
My goal when doing keyword research is to compile a list of a few hundred keywords that I can use on the website. At this stage, I am just info gathering, and I’ll grab any keyword that is relevant.
Once you’ve done your keyword research, it’s time to see where to use them. This is called keyword mapping. What we’ll be doing is setting up the site structure and assigning keywords to each page. I like using a regular Word doc, and here is the exact format I follow:
URL – I write out the full link to the page here.
Target Keyword – After going through my list of keywords with a fine tooth comb, I will pick the best target keyword to assign to this page. It will be based on relevancy, then volume. I’ll list it here.
Variation Keyword – There’s probably a second best keyword from that list of a few hundred. If so, I’ll pick a variation keyword that I want to assign to the page, and put it here.
Repeat – For each page of your site, including the homepage, you’re going to repeat the same process.
Unique Titles And Metas
So you’ve completed your basic guideline. Great! What do you do now? This is where the fun part comes in. You will want to optimize each page on your website with a unique Title Tag, Meta Description, H1 tag and Body Content.
Duplicate Content KILLS!
I have a lot of clients, also in the e-commerce niche, that come to me with the same Title Tags and Meta Tags as thousands of other websites. Why? Because most people just fill these spots with generic material their supplier provides.
Let’s think about this. If there are 1000 websites out there with the same exact Title, Meta and Body Content. How does Google know which is the most relevant to rank if every site has the EXACT same text on their sites?
I recommend starting with the Homepage, then working down to your Category pages, then your Subcategory pages, and finally the Product pages. You do not have to do all this at once.
Remember that Word doc you did your Keyword Mapping on? Now you’re going to add your unique Title Tag, Meta Description, H1 tag and Body Content right in there. Having everything written out in a doc like this gives you a great format to follow, whether you are writing the content or you have a content writer handling it.
If you didn’t know what a title tag or meta description is, these are codes on your website that show up in the search engine.
Your Keyword Mapping template is going to get longer, like this:
URL – I write out the full link to the page here. In the case of Zappo’s home page, this would be http://www.zappos.com
Target Keyword – After going through my list of keywords with a fine tooth comb, I will pick the best target keyword to assign to this page. It will be based on relevancy, then volume. I’ll put it here.
Variation Keyword – There’s probably a second best keyword from that list of a few hundred. If so, I’ll pick a variation keyword that can be assigned to the page, and put it here.
Title Tag – Use your keywords to write a title for the page. In the example above, the Title Tag is “Men and Women’s Shoes, Shipped Free | Zappos.com” The Target Keyword inside of the Title Tag is “Men and Women’s Shoes.”
Meta Description – Here I use the keywords to write a description for the page. This will appear in the search results Google shows, under the Title Tag. In the example, it says “Boots Sandals Sneakers & Athletic Heels Flats Clogs & Mules Comfort”… etc. All are keywords.
H1 – Normally, I will use the Target Keyword as the H1.
Body Content – The Target Keyword should be used two to three times and the variation keyword one to two times within whatever article or text you put on the page.
This article is just the tip of the iceberg in optimizing your website with On-Page SEO, but it should give you a good start on the foundation of your website.