SEO tips

Snippets of SEO insight

I’ve put this list of SEO tips together to give you a flavour of the things you might like to apply as you plan the optimisation of your website and content.

People think SEO is free, or cheap, that’s not true. SEO is affordable when considered and applied at the start of a project. It’s usually more expensive to add SEO later. Avoid costs by including it as part of your website development plan early.

If you’d like help with your SEO needs, get in touch with Damien Anderson. I can consult with you on the technical, content and promotional elements of your SEO initiative, creating a plan and strategy to win results, generating value for your business.

  1. Redirects – A permanent ‘301’ redirect sends all requests to a new location and is cached by web browsers. A temporary ‘307’ redirect is not normally cached, sends all requests to a new location and tells search bots to continue to request the old URL. Having these different types of redirect gives you some flexibility when creating product release plans. You can build in rollback plans to how you redirect users and search bots.
  2. Google Search Console – Google gives website owners a platform to help improve their SEO visibility: Google Search Console. Sign up for free and see how users find your webpages, the areas of your website to improve, and the issues that can kill your SEO.
  3. Focus on basics – Successful SEO often results from a focus on basics — things like broken links that are within your control. Find and fix these errors to improve the user experience. Set aside regular time to get the basics, like broken links right.
  4. Internal Links – Internal links help users find and get to your most important content. Great anchor text, the copy of the link, prepares users for what they’ll find if they click. Internal links tell search bots about your site structure, and what you deem important enough to link to.
  5. Content Ideation – Google ranks content matching user searched keywords and their context, for example: location and search activity history. Before you write, check the search results for your target keyword phrase and take stock of the types of content Google prefers to rank.
  6. Page Speed – The speed of your web pages play a part in how search engines decide to rank search results. Test your web pages today with Google’s Page Speed Insights tool: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/
  7. Mobile Friendliness – Usability matters to SEO performance. Considering how mobile friendly the user experience of your web pages is can improve your SEO. Check your web pages today using the Mobile Friendliness tool from Google: https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly
  8. Core Web Vitals – Google has introduced Web Vitals. The three launch metrics are: Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay and Cumulative Layout Shift. They’re available in Search Console, Page Speed Insights and Chrome User Experience Report.
  9. First Input Delay – FID, First Input Delay, is the R of the RAIL model, it measures the delay in event processing. When debugging, throttle the CPU setting to experience the page more like a user might. It will help explain some of those issues you might not see otherwise.
  10. Improving Experience – Your product performance is critical. Fast web page experience is great for users and for SEO, but they take time and resource to implement. Google recognise this and has committed to update Web Vitals at most, once per year – don’t delay to enable scope.
  11. Page Experience – Google will use ‘Page Experience’ signals from 2021 to adjust search rankings. They include existing search signals: mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS, and intrusive interstitials. The signals quantify perceived experience, not just informational content.
  12. URL Prefix Matters – Four different URL prefixes: http://example.com, http://www.example.com, https://example.com, https://www.example.com – Make sure your website uses just one variation, preferably an HTTPS version of www or non-www for better security and SEO.
  13. AMP – AMP is an open-source framework to make web experiences fast. Add ‘amp-script’ to your AMP pages to use custom JavaScript. An AMP page can have a maximum of 150kb of ‘amp-script’ and each ‘amp-script’ element a total of 10kb of custom JavaScript.
  14. Keyword Research – When more words are used in a search query, you learn more about the users’ intent. Broad searches usually set off dozens more specific searches telling you more about user needs. Use keyword research to guide your content responses.
  15. SEO Audit – An SEO audit is an opportunity to start conversations. It’s more productive to frame problems as opportunities, as psychology shows us that emotional reactions can shape our decision making. Positively projecting issues can remove the ‘fear of blame’.
  16. SEO Competition – Your company has vertical competitors who do the same as you, and horizontal competitors who do similar to you. All can appear in SEO results, so analyse the sweep of competitors in your market to structure your SEO approach effectively.
  17. Answer Questions – Create content ideas easily and directly using the search results in Google. Search for your keyword phrase on Google, then zero in on the ‘people also ask’ and ‘related searches’ sections. Build out your content idea by assessing the page one results.
  18. Old Content – As a user, finding ‘out of stock’ product or old content where reliability is not evident is a buzz kill. Your job as a site owner is to build user trust and the conditions for positive outcomes. Audit your content often and minimise it based on data.
  19. Mobile First – People search with a purpose. They expect websites to cater to their specific needs and implicit expectation of experience. Invest effort to speed up your website, create beautiful content experiences and design mobile-first experiences.
  20. User Context – From strings to things, Google wants to understand the context to serve users best. From the implicit search history of a user to the entities and things featured in web pages. The future of search is understanding these contexts and delivering positive outcomes.
  21. Quality Ratings – Search engines use algorithms to rank content, and they use direct and indirect signals and inputs to measure the quality of those algorithms. Directly they monitor clicks away from and returning to search results. In-directly they use human quality ratings.
  22. Entities – Soon, search experience will rely profoundly on ‘entities.’ Search engines are focused on understanding people, places, things, and their relationships. Start today. Decide the relevant schema you add to your content.
  23. Desktop v Mobile – Most users now access the internet on a mobile device and have less than half the internet bandwidth of a desktop user. Think about the costs linked to a flakey internet connection and varied user context. Plan functionality to be ‘mobile-first’.
  24. Mobile Impact – Companies whose mobile sites or apps allow them to make purchases quickly, 77% of smartphone shoppers are more likely to make a purchase from a fast site. Test your website today with this impact calculator tool created by Google: https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/feature/testmysite/
  25. Website Migrations – Do you have a website migration on the cards? When planning the migration, do it in stages. It is best not to mix optimisations and migration, as you’ll be able to judge the migration more effectively. Don’t forget links in content need updating too.
  26. Revise and Reprise – Before you create new content, check how the content you already have performs. Even the simple act of re-reading your content will prompt you to think about ways to consolidate it, refresh it or even bin it. More content is not always better.
  27. Canonical Links – Cruising the web relies on URLs, the links we click on. Boost the efficiency for users and search engines by having a single URL for each page you publish. Suggest the URL to search bots by having a self-referencing canonical link element in your page code.
  28. SEO Skills – Technical skill and tactical know-how are essential to improve SEO but being human is by far the most critical quality. When you suspend assumption and truly listen, then ‘doing’ SEO becomes a collaborative, everybody gains and results flourish.
  29. Synonymous Relationships – Google uses synonyms to connect what you search for and what appears in documents. Synonyms are added in the background to return better results search, like an OR search. Using synonymous terms within your content rounds out your topic coverage.
  30. Internationalisation – Got webpages in different languages or regions? Use hreflang to tell search bots which pages are for where to rank effectively. If you use the on-page method, include all the language ‘alternate’ in the head of every page, even the language you’re defining.
  31. Featured Search – If you define structured data in your webpages, you’re eligible to show in ‘search features’, Google will extract content. If you prefer not to have your content shown in these spaces, add ‘data-nosnippet’ to any div, span or section elements.
  32. Search Trends – If you’re stuck for content inspiration, try Google Trends today. It’s a free service that highlights what users are searching for across Google. Explore the search trends for the last 24 hours here https://trends.google.co.uk/trends/trendingsearches/realtime?geo=GB&category=all
  33. Search Algorithms – Search engines have hundreds of algorithms that slot together and function like gates. One group of algorithms check the intrusiveness of your webpage layout. If you make it hard for users to see or get to your content, you are going to have SEO problems.
  34. User Needs – Search engines are always on the lookout for new content. Does this mean you should create new content for the sake of SEO? No, not at all. Create content to meet the needs of your audience and not to chase an algorithm.
  35. Duplicate Content – Presenting a printer-friendly version, multiple URLs pointed at the same content or targeting different devices can create duplicates. Duplication creates a confusing experience for users, and search engines choose between them, if at all.
  36. Robots.txt – Using robots.txt file at the top-level directory of your site with ‘Disallow:’ directives, will stop search bots from crawling your content. It won’t remove the page from ranking in search results, use on-page noindex instead.
  37. Optimise the Experience – Analysis by @TheMarkup found 41% of the first page of Google search results is taken up by Google products. It’s vital to optimise your site and content, appeal to your audience needs. Focus on your users and not the algorithms.
  38. HTTPS Secure – Make sure your site is HTTPS secure. Being secure also means auditing and removing third-party scripts, trackers and cookies which are insecure. Be sure your resource files are HTTPS secure too. There is a small SEO reward, too, when you’ve got a secure website.
  39. How Search Works – When a search engine takes your search it compares your query to their view of the web, the index. A series of re-ranking and clustering algorithms make further refinements to what you are shown. Many have baselines and gold standards for the evaluation.
  40. Content Syndication – News and features publishers care deeply about how and where their content is shared across the web and syndicated to different editions. Using ‘Signed HTTP Exchanges’ retains attribution and integrity of distributed content.
  41. Variable Connectivity – In the mobile-first web, each bit of information has to travel across network connectivity that is often low-speed and unreliable. Think first about how to reduce the bits sent over the wire or air to your users, it’s the best speed optimisation.
  42. Search Guidelines – Search engines publish content, quality and technical guidelines to help you build and maintain your website. Their goal is to include content from websites that offer genuinely useful info and experiences to their users: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/9526064?hl=en
  43. User Delight – Improving SEO visibility means, among other things focusing on the needs of users, not chasing an algorithm. Obsess over the little details that create experiences. Those things matter most and are much more rewarding and fruitful.
  44. Critical Render Path – Do you know how to get to the fastest critical rendering path? Shave time off slow loading page templates by knowing how to best impact the largest contentful paint (LCP), first input delay (FID) and cumulative layout shift (CLS).
  45. Google Stories – Good stories engage empathy. Studies using fMRI to measure cognitive activation show our brains light up implicitly and in overlapping ways when we encounter emotional stimuli, allowing us to share emotions.
  46. Copywriting – There’s a marketing truth of ‘sell the sizzle and not the steak’. This short video is a good illustration of a focus on the experience and emotion. https://buff.ly/32uGaDb Talking about benefits above features engages a force-multiplier.
  47. Emotional Response – Emotion drives every decision we make. Often we won’t be conscious of the feelings a story provokes. The best stories aim to trigger an emotional response, to make us feel something and to move us to take some action.
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