SEO Basics: Rank Higher On Google For FREE!
With each passing day, the Google algorithm is improving. It’s constantly becoming better at selecting relevant websites to be displayed on that higher exclusive first page of Google (known to SEOs as the ‘SERP’, short for the Search Engine Results Page). The trouble is, the internet has A LOT of websites for the algorithm to choose from! A simple search term such as ‘Plumber in Norfolk’ brings up over 19 million results – meaning that it is by no means easy to rank highly on Google!
With this in mind, how can you give yourself the best chance of scoring a top-ranking position? Wouldn’t it be handy if there was a specific group of digital marketers whose speciality it was to understand this algorithm and optimise websites in accordance with it?
You’re in good hands, that’s my job! While working in a growing digital marketing agency, I’ve completed countless hours of SEO research with the aim of developing a checklist perfect for both me and our clients. Over time, I’ve noticed a few tasks that I immediately jump to if I have a new client, or one with fewer SEO hours available. I call these my ‘quick wins’ – the best of which I’ve compiled into a simple, whistle-stop guide designed to help you rank higher on Google.
1. Keyword Mapping
What Is Keyword Mapping?
I almost always start my SEO client work by producing a keyword map – a very simple task that involves conducting keyword research for each page on a website, and noting down the results in a sitemap format. This is one of the best possible ways to identify those all-important high-performing keywords (the foundation of SEO) before making tune-ups.
How Does Keyword Mapping Help Me Rank Higher on Google?
Although producing a keyword map won’t directly help you rank higher on Google, it will inform your SEO strategy, and is a great tool to reflect on when looking at keyword trends and patterns.
As you’ll see throughout this SEO guide, keyword mapping is a core foundation for several SEO tasks, meaning that completing one early on can save you a lot of time and repetitive research in the long run.
Additionally, compiling all of your keywords into one, neat document can reduce the risk of keyword cannibalisation, which occurs when two or more pages have duplicate target keywords, creating needless internal competition and reducing your ranking chances. It’s important to ensure that each page has its own unique keyword set – both in order to combat the above, and to help to find opportunities to combine content.
Your map will also make a great point of reference for content updates – helping you select the most relevant, up-to-date keywords to target throughout your writing. After all, achieving a higher ranking can be as simple as putting forward the right set of informative, keyword-driven content to Google.
What Tools Are Required for Keyword Mapping?
GlooMaps is an excellent tool for clearly formatting your keyword research. It’s free and very easy to use… be warned, though, that you will need to periodically hit save and copy your URL so that you can reaccess your keyword map, as no account is created to save it to. Once you open up GlooMaps, add each page of your website to create the sitemap. From here, you can fill the notes section for each page with your keyword findings to refer back to.
To discover keywords that your site already ranks for, look at its Google Search Console (GSC) performance data. You can include the ‘exact page URL’ by adding a page filter. Once you’ve sorted your data, export it to a Google sheet so that you can read through the list of keywords, highlighting relevant terms that have the correct search intent for your page.
Once you’ve whittled down your keyword list in Google Sheets, you can copy these keywords into your keyword map.
PAID TOOL: I also use the Mangools Keyword (KW) Finder to search for keywords to add to my map. This is a great tool to identify new keywords directly related to those you input, helping you find new opportunities in your industry. I enter my best Google Search Console keyword from each page into the KW Finder tool, and copy over high-performing, associated keywords into my GlooMaps document. This is a paid tool, so is not a required step, but you can sign up for a 10-day free trial to gain access to the numerous Mangools SEO tools, which I would strongly recommend (we like free things here!).
Although this may be quite a long process if you have a big website, make sure to map every page (excluding ‘thank you’ pages after form submissions, and other pages you don’t want to index and rank for), as this will help you with your other SEO tasks. If you are limited in time, focus on key landing pages, such as the homepage and any service pages.
2. Metadata Optimisation
What Is Metadata?
Metadata is the little snippet of text that you see on Google when you search. The heading of the snippet is called the ‘meta title’, and the description is very aptly named the ‘meta description’. Together, these two components make up ‘metadata’.
How Does Metadata Optimisation Help Me Rank Higher on Google?
Metadata is often the first impression a user will get of your website and the information on it, so it needs to be engaging, descriptive, and informative in order to boost click-through rates. As such, many businesses choose to include a call to action (CTA) here if the character limit allows, such as a phone number.
You’ve probably noticed websites that have unoptimised metadata scattered throughout SERPs. In these cases, the meta title and description are pulled from the site content automatically. The meta description is often long, and trails off the end of the screen before it even tells you what the website is about. This isn’t the best first impression, and won’t encourage users to click on your website, which is why it’s important to manually optimise your metadata yourself, rather than leaving it to Google.
Metadata optimisation involves creating relevant and engaging titles, descriptions, and URLs within Google’s character limits. Most importantly, you need to include relevant keywords in your metadata. This is where your keyword map comes in handy. Not only does this show Google that what is on that page is relevant, but it also tells the user that you have exactly what they are looking for.
Additionally, compiling all of your keywords into one, neat document can reduce the risk of keyword cannibalisation, which occurs when two or more pages have duplicate target keywords, creating needless internal competition and reducing your ranking chances.
What Tools Are Required for Metadata Optimisation?
It’s worth noting that I have experience in performing SEO tasks on WordPress, and therefore the advice I offer regarding metadata optimisation is based on WordPress websites.
The Yoast SEO WordPress plugin is by far my favourite SEO tool. It’s very easy to install from the WordPress plugin menu, and the free version covers a lot of bases for quick SEO wins. Integrated into the Yoast SEO plugin menu is a metadata optimisation feature. Here, you can easily write and preview your meta title. To find the YoastSEO feature once installed, go to the backend of WordPress on your website and click on the ‘Pages’ tab, select the page you want to optimise metadata for, and scroll down to the YoastSEO page section.
PAID TOOL: Another tool that I find beneficial is Mangools SERP Simulator. It gives you tips on how long to make your metadata, and previews it alongside where you are writing. While I do find that SERP Simulator is a great place to draft and perfect your meta title and description before you copy it into WordPress, I wouldn’t purchase Mangools specifically for the use of this tool – as it is not much different from the metadata features of the YoastSEO WordPress Plugin.
3. Image Optimisation
What Is Image Optimisation?
Image optimisation involves both compressing the quality of the images on your website to enhance the load speed, and improving your UX. There are two easy and quick ways to do this: optimising your image sizes and manually inputting image alt text.
Image Size Optimisation
One aspect of image optimisation is image size optimisation. This is a great way to quickly increase your website speed. Having huge image files dotted throughout the site will drastically slow it down, and image optimisation is the process of making sure that images used on the site (such as photos or downloaded images) aren’t too large. It’s a very quick win!
Image Alt Text Optimisation
Another aspect of image SEO is optimising alt text. Adding alternative text to images on your site is a principle of web accessibility, as it ensures that all users and bots can understand your website content. Alt text also appears in place of an image if the image fails to load.
This tool works to boost rankings as the text added describes the contents of images to Google bots, helping them index and rank them properly in image search. In order to benefit from these rankings, it’s very important to optimise your alt text, ensuring that Google understands your images’ place in search.
Where possible, make sure to include keywords in your alt text. However, don’t do so at the expense of the alt text making sense or being accurate.
How Does Image Optimisation Help Me Rank Higher on Google?
A recent survey undertaken earlier this year (2022) by digital.com revealed that 1 in 2 visitors will abandon a website that takes longer than 6 seconds to load. The desired load time is supposedly even shorter for e-commerce sites, as approximately 50% of users expect an online shop to load in less than 3 seconds! So, in order to prevent potential customers from leaving your site before they’ve even seen your brilliant, keyword-filled content, it’s important that your pages load as quickly as possible. Reducing your image size is one of the easiest and most effective ways to do this.
Post image size optimisation, Google should pick up on lowered bounce rates (fewer people clicking off of your site immediately) and improved loading times – both of which give the algorithm all the more reason to move your site up the rankings.
To further this, optimising your image alt text will help Google to see that your images (and in turn, your landing pages) are relevant to the searched term (keyword), whilst helping all users understand what the image, even if it fails to load – improving UX and accessibility.
What Tools Are Required for Image Optimisation?
Bulk Resize Photos is an excellent free online tool that allows you to customise the size, dimensions, and export quality of your images. It’s very simple to use and gives you complete control over quality! Just drag and drop your image into the box when prompted, optimise it to be below 200kB and at least 95% of the original quality, and save the end result as a JPEG. From here, you can replace your old, slow-loading images with shiny new ones at a fraction of the size and speed. TOP TIP – Ensure the new filename is descriptive, include applicable keywords, and use hyphens instead of spaces to separate words.
In terms of alternatives, there are several WordPress plugins that can optimise your images – automatically compressing them and using the smaller sized version on your website. This can save you a lot of time, but gives you less control over final image quality. The most popular image compression WordPress plugins include; ShortPixel, Imagify and Smush.
Your final image- related step, alt text optimisation, is straightforward to complete. The only required tool is WordPress itself! To get started, navigate to the media gallery in the WordPress left-hand menu. From here, you can see all of the images that are used on your site. Clicking on an image will allow you to edit the alt text. Select alt text that is descriptive, while also including a keyword where possible.
What Are FAQS?
FAQs are great additions to any website. They’re used to answer the most commonly asked questions from users – but can also drive huge amounts of relevant traffic. It may surprise you to learn that including frequently asked questions on your website is one of the simplest ways to improve its SEO.
How Do FAQs Help Me Rank Higher on Google?
Adding FAQs to your key landing pages (such as your homepage and service pages) gives you the opportunity to answer common questions asked by your target audience – drawing them into your site and service. In providing high-quality answers to relevant questions, you can establish your website as a trusted industry source in the eyes of both users and Google, boosting your SEO and sales.
FAQs are also an easy way to include keywords on your website in a natural format. Think about it – focal questions around a certain topic are going to be relevant to the webpage itself, and provide ample opportunities to slip in some high-performing keywords.
If this wasn’t enough to get you frantically researching some of your frequently asked questions, note that writing a short and snappy response to your FAQs (approximately 100-200 words) could also get you featured as an answer to a question on Google’s equivalent of the FAQ section – people also ask! For example, when you search ‘How To Do My Own SEO’ on Google, this appears:
If you can write an informative response to a commonly asked question, there’s a chance that Google may even use your answer as a featured snippet, which will result in a lot more traffic being driven to your website! As shown in the image below, rich results also take up more space in the search results and include eye-catching features such as an image or FAQ list. This will draw attention to your listing, and increase the number of visitors to your landing page.
What Tools Are Required for FAQ Writing?
Sourcing FAQs is much like keyword research. In order to find the most relevant, hard data is required.
One effective free tool you can use to discover the most searched FAQs is Answer The Public. Using your keyword map, input your top keyword pick into the search bar. From here, an array of FAQs related to your keyword will appear. You can export the questions to an Excel spreadsheet by clicking on the export icon on the right, which will bring up a lot more results. Make sure that you choose your keywords wisely though, as you only have 1 search per day!
Another free tool I find beneficial is Google Search Console. This will allow you to find FAQs that are relevant to your website, not just your business sector. To find FAQs on Google Search Console, click the ‘Performance’ tab, ensure that the data range is set to the longest possible time frame to get the most data, and add a new query. Input a key question word (‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘where’, ‘why’ or ‘how’) and search.
The simplest way to upload the FAQs to your WordPress site is to use a plugin. I use ‘FAQ Schema For Pages And Posts’, which can be found in the WordPress plugin menu. Simply download the plugin, and input each of your FAQs into the applicable boxes. The joy of this option is that it automatically formats the FAQs on page for you.
Add Listings to Local Business Directories
What Are Local Business Directories?
Local business directories are effectively the online version of the yellow pages. Many people turn to online directories to find local businesses. Some well-known business directories include Yelp, TrustATrader, Bing Places and many more.
How Do Local Business Directories Help Me Rank Higher on Google?
Uploading your business to directories has a number of benefits. Particularly for small, local businesses, having company listings on numerous local directories will help to improve rankings in Google’s local search results.
In adding a variety of business details to directory listings, you’ll inform both customers and the Google algorithm of your contact information, products, and services, improving your likelihood of appearing in search results for relevant locations and purposes.
When you list your business on local directories, you also have the opportunity to add your website address to your listing. This will count as a backlink to your website. Google views backlinks from high domain authority websites as a sign of quality content and trustworthiness – meaning the more high-quality backlinks you can get through domain listings, the better your chances of moving up through the SERP ranks.
What Tools Are Required for Business Directory Optimisation?
Truthfully, you don’t need a fancy, paid tool to list your business directories online. If you have a system or tool with this functionality (such as the SEMrush Listing Management Tool), then certainly use it, however, the only thing you really need to list your business on local directories is Google itself! Plan out your business description, prepare your featured images and write down all of your business’ contact details beforehand in a document. When it comes to finding where to list your business online, get stuck into all of the reputable articles, blog posts and websites you can find, there are hundreds telling you all of the best free online directories.
Many business directory websites also offer free listings, so you can gain lots of visibility without paying a penny!
What Have You Learned?
To summarise, If you take just one thing away from this article, remember that you don’t have to be an expert with a vast knowledge of the Google algorithm to get some quick SEO wins on your website, and therefore rank higher on Google. Small and simple tasks often produce the biggest results, particularly at the start – when your website hasn’t been consciously optimised.
However, I’m hoping you take more than one thing away today! So, to recap…
Keywords are key! Google is a bot, not a real person. The algorithm uses keywords to identify good content. Use them whenever you can, but don’t cram them into every sentence, you still need to sound natural!
Optimise your metadata yourself, don’t leave it up to Google. You know your business best, which puts you in the best position to write this important descriptor.
Make sure your images are a reasonable size. You don’t want users clicking away from your website before it has even loaded!
Inform your customers. Conduct research to get to know the questions your target customers are asking, and show them that you know your stuff!
Get your brand name out there! List your business on reputable directories to generate high-authority backlinks.
Most importantly, it’s OK to ask for help! If you have actioned these basic changes and want to take your SEO to the next level, or need some extra help and advice regarding your Search Engine Optimisation strategy, contact a knowledgeable SEO specialist for support (such as me!).