10 Actionable Search Engine Optimization Tips for Newbies

SEO or search engine optimization is an umbrella term that includes all the efforts taken by a team to ensure that their online business or the website gets higher visibility in search result pages (SERPs). There are many ways that help you get a higher ranking in SERPs. The main goal of an SEO is to find a way that helps optimize the page organically.

In case you were new, here are the 10 SEO things you need to know (and do) when optimizing your site for better search rankings.

1. Improve your page load speed

What do you do if you land on a page that takes too long to load?

You will hit the back button and open a different website. If this is happening for your website then it's a cause for alarm, as page speed is one of Google’s ranking factors.

Slow loading page is a big no. Even if you think page speed won’t matter in the ranking, you have to think about the user experience. In the end, you want a satisfied user, and a slow loading page is not something a user would like.

So, increase the page load speed by decluttering is important.

SEO Basic - Improve your page load
Google PageSpeed Insights analyze your web page content and give suggestions to improve it.

To check your website’s speed, you can use Google PageSpeed Insight. It will help you check the speed of your page, one at a time, and provide feedback on your page performance. Both desktop and mobile versions. This information is helpful to you when optimizing your page.

Here are some ways that can help you increase your page speed:

  • Reduce the image size: Compress your images, so that they don’t take much space. Do not decrease the quality, only reduce its size. You can use Canva tool for editing and compressing your images. For WordPress users, some plugins can compress and optimize your images automatically.
  • Remove useless HTML: Cut down useless HTML code can help to improve your page load speed. Tools such as HTML Strip and StripHTML can help you to clean up the messy HTML tag and formatting.
  • Get a better web hosting: Switch to a high-performance business hosting is the quickest way to increase page speed. TTFB and server uptime are two major factors to check when looking at the server performance.

2. Generate useful content

When writing content for your page, focusing only on search engines is a big mistake. At the end of the day, users are the people who pay your bills. So, you have to write content that is relevant and of importance to them.

Google and other search engines understand the importance of quality content. They want content that has a long-term vision and understands the need of users. Instead of focusing on keywords, they want content that matches the user's intent.

That does not mean that using keywords is not important. You have to write for humans and optimize for search engine by using keywords that show the user's intent.

Search engines today are smart enough to understand what a user wants when searching. By making use of LSI keywords, it gives more context to your content.

SEO Basic - use LSI keywords in your content
LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords are words commonly found together within a single topic and semantically related to each other.

Google related search terms that show up at the end of SERP are a very good source to find these LSI keywords. LSI Keyword Generator is one more useful tool to find out LSI keywords as well as Long Tail keywords.

With LSI keywords, you stand a chance to boost your content visibility on the search engine.

3. Optimize for mobile

Nowadays, a lot of people are using mobile to visit websites or blogs, thus Google has made mobile optimization one of the ranking factors. It means that you have to make sure your website has a responsive design for mobile and loads quickly on it.

To improve SEO and user experience, it's important to optimize your pages for mobile as well as different browsers.

Here are three easy ways to know whether your site is optimized for mobile or not:

  • Google Chrome: Open your website in Chrome and right-click on the page. Choose Inspect and find the Toggle Device Toolbar icon. Click on the icon to check for your website responsiveness. You can drag the border to see if the website looks proper in different sizes. If the content looks jumbled up or images pixelated, it is not mobile-friendly.
  • Webmaster tool: Google's webmaster tool can show the mobile usability report about your site. It will show you which page have usability problems when viewed on mobile devices. You need to verify your website ownership with Google console before using this.
  • Google test: Google offers a website where you can check the mobile-friendliness of a page even you don't have access to Google console. You just copy and paste the URL of your page and click on Test URL. It will tell you whether the particular page is mobile-friendly or not and why.

To make a mobile-friendly site, here are the tips you can follow:

  • Use fluid layouts that your website design can adapt to all screen sizes and types.
  • Use compressed images so that the site loads up fast on mobile.
  • Reduce or remove all unwanted code from your website.
  • Don’t use flash for your sites as mobile users cannot view flash elements on their phones.
  • Limit the use of pop-ups on mobiles.
  • Use more white space in your design as users can focus on reading your content.

4. Keep your URL short

There are two types of URLs, one something like https://www.xyz.com/articles/322345.php and the second one like https://www.xyz.com/how-to-lose-weight.

Now, tell me which amongst the two URLs is easy for you to comprehend? The second one because it clearly states that it is about how to lose weight, but the first one keeps you guessing.

SEO Basic - Keep your URL short
Shorter URLs tend to rank better compared to long URLs.

From an SEO’s perspective, it is important to use a URL like the second one – something which is short and descriptive. Why? Because:

If a site is built upon WordPress then changing a URL structure is very easy. Simply go the pages and edit the page permalinks with your desired URL. That’s all you have to do to change the URL structure.

If you have modified the URL, make sure you add 301-redirect to your old URL. So, there's no traffic lost and your visitors won't bump into a 404 error page when visiting the old URL. You can either add code in .htaccess to redirect the page or using a plugin such as SEO redirection.

Actionable SEO tip #4 - Keep your URL short! - Shorter descriptive URLs tend to rank better in SERPs. #SEOtips tell a friend

5. Make website navigation simple

Website navigation holds what are arguably the most important links on the site. The navigation links help users to find content on your site. At the same time, the links also tell search engine crawlers which pages are important to you. 

In short, it's a crucial SEO practice to simplify your site navigation for both users experience as well as search engine crawlers. Prioritize your content by telling users and crawlers about your important pages. Give an easy way to get to those pages.

Here are some common types of site navigation:

  • Single-bar navigation
  • Double-bar navigation
  • Dropdown navigation
  • Dropdown navigation with flyouts

The best website navigation is whatever's best for the user experience.

This is because, if users can't find stuff easily on your site, they will leave immediately. This will increase the bounce rate, which is bad for SEO.

6. Add descriptive image alt

Besides aiding users with visual impairments, adding alternative text (alt tags) can provide images with better context. The alt tags in the image can help search engine crawlers to index an image properly.

If an image fails to load, the descriptive alt tag will help users to understand what the image is all about. What you need is to make sure the description and file name of the image is relevant and accurate.

SEO Basic - use alt text
The highlighted text shows the alt text (alt attribute) of the image.

Although search engines have improved over the years, search crawlers still can't “understand” the images on a website. You might miss out on the chance to rank for your images if search engines didn't interpret your image correctly.

Here are a few tips to write a good alt text:

  • Be as specific as possible when describing the images
  • Use the keywords in your image
  • Keep the description relevant
  • Avoid using images as text

Writing a descriptive alt tag is the SEO basic that help the search engines understand your image and indent it accordingly. If you want Google and other search engines to rank your image higher, you need to optimize it.

7. Use schema markup

Schema markup helps Google understand what your page includes. A page in Google search results with images, reviews, and stars is an example of schema markup.

People tend to check out link with images or stars, and hence the CTR of those pages will increase with a schema.

SEO Basic- Use schema markup
Example of schema markup in SERP.

According to the case studies, retail firms can get up to a 30% increase in organic traffic by using structured markup.

With proper use of schema, you can tell a lot more about your page, like the author, location, cost, ISBN, and so on. Even though it doesn’t affect rankings directly, it can have a positive impact on the page which is a good idea.

SEO basic - use google's structured data markup helper
Using Google's Structured Data Markup Helper to generate schema.

Here’s how you can implement schema markup in your page:

  • Go to Google‘s structured data markup helper.
  • Select the data type you want to markup from the extensive options you see.
  • Paste the URL of the blog/article you to markup and then click on start tagging.
  • Highlight the elements you want to markup like the name of the article.
  • Add as many element markups as you can such as name, author, date published, etc
  • Click on create HTML once done.
  • Go to your CMS or source code, and then add the highlighted part in appropriate spots.

Besides Google's Structured Data Markup Helper, there are other alternative tools:

To find out which pages need scheme markup, look for top pages for the same keywords you are targeting. Remember your goal is to perform better in the SERP and in front of users.

Actionable SEO tip #7 - Use schema markup! - By using structured markup, you stand a chance to increase 30% in organic traffic. #SEOtips tell a friend

8. Increase content readability

Google has started ranking pages based on user signals like time spent on the page. If your writing is too difficult to understand, then the user will leave your page and that affects your rankings.

To ensure it doesn’t happen, use simple language. Most users want to read content that is easy to comprehend, so don’t overuse big words or technical jargon in your article. Here are some tips for keeping the writing simple:

  • Use simple language. For instance, if you can use the word ‘near’, then write that instead of using ‘proximity’.
  • Keep the sentences short.
  • Write informally, like you are speaking to the audience. Don’t make your content like writing an essay.
  • Always use active voice in your content.

Now consider the following two sentences and tell me which is more concise and would interest you? For example, I have many books. Or, I have 20 books in my personal library.

I prefer the later one.

Writing in clear and concise sentences will definitely help increase the content readability.

Here are some tools that can help you in writing better content:

  • Hemmingway App: Gives you an idea about your writing style. How easy it is to read your copy. The complex sentences you have that make your writing difficult to understand. Also, avoid using passive sentences in your writing.
  • Grammarly: For editing your article for spelling and grammatical mistakes.

9. Write good title and meta description tags

The meta descriptions and title tags don’t affect your SERPs ranking directly. But the well-written meta tags can help increase users click-through-rate (CTR) – which is important. Google will consider you as a good result if more people click on your links in SERP. As a result, your page will rank higher.

The study shows that the percentage of CTR has direct relevance to the position (source).

A meta description is the short description (maximum 156 words) of your page. The descriptions will appear as a paragraph under your URL in the search results. Your meta description should be clear and relevant to your content. You can also include keywords and a call-to-action such as Find out more! to encourage users to take action.

The title tags, on the other hand, are displayed on search engine results as the clickable headline. They are a major factor that helps search engines to understand your page. Often, title tags are the first impression users have of your page.

Keep your title tags short (recommended under 60 characters) and include primary keywords. The keywords you use will be highlighted in the search results. So, choose your keywords wisely but don't overuse them. While Google didn't penalize for using long titles, you create a bad user experience for stuffing your title with keywords.

Here are a few useful tools you can explore:

10. Moderate your comments

Don’t turn off your comments; instead, keep them on as it helps to build a community. When people comment on your post, it shows that they care about it and are reading it. You just need to filter out spam comments.

The SEO community agrees with the fact that comments have an impact on SEO. Comments are basically user-generated content on your web page. It stands a chance to increase the quality of the page.

Here is the featured snippet that pulled from the user's comment.

Some comments are high enough quality that Google skipped the main content on the page and pull from the comments for a featured snippet. The ongoing conversation on your web page is also the thing that keeps your content up to date. By allowing comments on your blog, it shows that you value your reader’s thoughts.

Besides, a blog commenting service gives you an opportunity for internal linking as well.

On the other hand, you can use blog commenting strategy to drive traffic back to your site. Write an insightful comment and drop a link back to your website if there's a chance. Using comment is a great way to build a relationship between websites.

Read - 10 Actionable Search Engine Optimization Tips for Newbies by Kavita @dreamerkavita from @canva #SEOtips tell a friend

Conclusions

To recap, here are the 10 basic SEO tips that will help you to up your SEO game:

  • Improve your page load speed
  • Generate useful content
  • Optimize for mobile
  • Keep your URL short
  • Make website navigation simple
  • Add a descriptive image alt
  • Use schema markup
  • Increase content readability
  • Write a good meta tags
  • Moderate your comments

When it comes to SEO there are tons of techniques you can use. But, the above tips are good enough to get you started.


Kavita Paliwal is the Outreach Specialist cum Content writer at Canva. When not glued to her laptop, she can be found making travel plans that rarely happen. Connect with Kavita on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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