SEO Basics - Mini Series (4 of 4)

It's the last post in the SEO Basics Mini Series, and if you've made it this far, congrats! You're one giant step ahead of the competition. Today we are going to wrap the series up with some final steps you'll want to take to complete the SEO basics on your website. 

SEO Basics - Mini Series by Dapper Fox Design - How to Rank Higher On Google//   Website Design - Branding - Logo Design - Entrepreneur Blog and Resource

INCREASE THE VALUE OF YOUR SITE

Live I've mentioned before, you want your site to be as valuable as possible. The more valuable your site is, the more traffic you earn. The more traffic you receive to your site, the better! Google knows whether your site is a getting high or low traffic volume, and whether your bounce rate is high or low (which can indicate a possibly low-value website).

So how do you increase the value of your site? We've talked about adding a blog as a great way to do this. You can also reevaluate how you're presenting your information to better engage your audience. If you're noticing that your bounce rate is unusually high on a certain page, take a look at it with a fresh pair of eyes. Try to discover how you can create a better experience for the user. Perhaps adding an 'about' page that is interesting and helps your audience get to know you better. Or maybe add in a 'how it works' or 'process' page to captivate attention and educate your customer. 

LOWER YOUR BOUNCE RATE

What's a bounce rate?
A bounce rate is the rate at which people visit and then immediately leave your site. You want your bounce rate to be as low as possible. If you have a bounce rate that is 100%, it means that people are visiting your website, seeing one page, and then immediately leaving. No clicks, no browsing, nothing. Make your site more engaging, and you'll definitely see visitors staying for longer. 

Lower your bounce rate for SEO - Dapper Fox Design//   Website Design - Branding - Logo Design - Entrepreneur Blog and Resource

A few reasons people might be leaving your site:

  • If your site is too difficult or complicated to figure out how to navigate, the user will most likely give up and leave.
     
  • Another reason your bounce rate is high could be because your site simply wasn't what the user was looking for. If you think this might be happening on your site, take a look at what keywords you're optimizing each of the pages for. If you find that Google searches are bringing in traffic that isn't what the user is looking for, it might be time to reevaluate your keywords to better suite your content.
     
  • If you do feel like you have the right keywords, but still notice a high bounce rate, you could look at how clearly your page is representing what you're offering. Make it more clear to your audience exactly how their keyword search is relevant to your page. 
     
  • It's worth mentioning as well that if you have a pop-up banner that asks for an email address, or blasts your latest deal in the viewer's face, many people will just leave. Popups are notorious for freezing a page, increasing load time, and frustrating a site's users. We've all been there- sometimes dealing with an annoying pop up isn't worth staying on a site! Avoid pop-ups on your pages, and your audience will thank you.

For additional information, Hubspot has a great article and infographic on how to decrease the bounce rate on your site. There is so much psychology that goes into why readers will leave your site, so make sure to check out this article if you want to improve this important part of your SEO strategy.

CREATE A SITEMAP

So what is a sitemap? Basically, a sitemap is a list of pages that are on your website. A sitemap's job is to present the pages on your site so they are accessible to search engine crawlers. They are crucial in SEO because they allow Google to find and read every page of your site. 

Squarespace >> The beauty and simplicity of Squarespace is that you don't even need to worry about this step! Every theme on the Squarespace platform has a sitemap created on the back end for SEO reasons, so you're covered.

Wordpress >> Wordpress users need to be sure to create a sitemap so Google can properly crawl the site. One easy way to do this is to download the plugin I've talked about before, Yoast SEO. Navigate to the 'XML Sitemaps' button inside the plugin, and make sure the box that says 'Check this box to enable XML sitemap functionality.' is checked. Done!


Thanks so much for following along in this four-part mini series! You've made it through the basics of SEO strategy for entrepreneurs and small businesses. Follow all these tips we've talked about in the last four posts, and you'll be 100+ steps ahead of your competition. If you missed any of the previous posts, you can check them out below:

SEO Basics - Mini Series (3 of 4)

Thanks for following along with our SEO Basics Mini Series. So far, we've covered how to get started by choosing the right SEO-optimized platform, the importance of a mobile-friendly site, keywords and more. After today, you'll be one step closer to mastering the basics of search engine optimization!

SEO Basics Mini Series by Dapper Fox Design//   Website Design - Branding - Logo Design - Entrepreneur Blog and Resource

CREATE FRESH CONTENT

We talked about the quality of content in the last SEO Basics - Mini Series Post (2 of 4), and how you should be including your keywords carefully throughout your content. Your site needs to stay fresh and updated, and therefore relevant to readers. One way to achieve the task of generating relevant content is through blogging. You might be thinking, "I've heard this before," but it's for a good reason! Blogging allows your site the opportunity to be updated frequently while also providing a great reason to build links.

Keep your content fresh - SEO Mini Series by Dapper Fox Design

I love this article found on Moz about how fresh content can influence your search engine rankings. Shepard explains that "Google measures all of your documents for freshness, then scores each page according to the type of search query. While some queries need fresh content, Google still uses old content for other queries..." According to Shepard, these types of keyword searches are most likely to require fresh content:

  • Recent events or hot topics: “occupy oakland protest” “nba lockout”
  • Regularly recurring events: “NFL scores” “dancing with the stars” “exxon earnings”
  • Frequent updates: “best slr cameras” “subaru impreza reviews”

LINK BUILDING

One of the marks of a successful site is a decent amount of traffic. One way to generate traffic to your site is through link building. Link building can be both inbound and outbound, and both affect your SEO. With Yoast's SEO plugin for Wordpress, I've found that the plugin was consistently asking for at least one outbound link in blog posts or pages. Sometimes adding one was the final step it took to go from 'good' to 'great' on the plugin's meter. 

Build high quality links - SEO Mini Series by Dapper Fox Design
  • Outbound Links
    If you're going to be linking to other sites from your page, make sure they are absolutely relevant. When choosing what sites I link to, I think about what will provide the most value for my audience. I'm not going to include a link to my puppy's picture on Facebook (although he is pretty cute!). Instead, I read through my content with a careful eye to see if anything could use a supporting link to help clarify the subject.

I don't recommend going too crazy with outbound links if they aren't necessary to your page's objectives. Even just one outbound link per page seems to be enough for Google. However, if you're creating something like a round-up, it would make more sense to have a list of links. You'll be the best judge in determining what your audience will find most relevant and appropriate. 

  • Inbound Links
    Inbound links are an important aspect of your SEO strategy, and should not be neglected. They refer to the links that are found on other sites that mention and link to your website. I know I've said this before- high quality content contributes to the SEO, with inbound links! Having valuable content will help promote inbound links to your site by other quality websites. For example, if you're seen as a resource in your field, maybe a blogger will want to include a quote of yours in an article. Or maybe you're a new jewelry company, and a high-profile lifestyle blogger mentioned you (and your website) in their latest post. Awesome! You're link building!

It's certainly worth mentioning that you'll want to be very precise with your link building efforts. Blasting your site up on hundreds of directories, or throwing it up on spammy websites won't win you any favors with Google. Focus on building quality links with key influencers in your field and you'll also notice referral traffic as an added bonus to boosted SEO! 

AVOID FLASH LIKE THE PLAGUE

In the year 2015, there is no good reason I can possibly think of to have a site in flash. They load painfully slow, are rejected by Apple devices, and do nothing for your SEO. Flash sites don't appeal to search engines. When the name of the game in SEO is to make your site as attractive as possible to Google, you're not doing yourself any favors by choosing a flash site. Still not convinced? Check out this article on Digital Doughnut for 5 Reasons Why You Should Avoid Flash On Your Website. If your site uses flash, it's time to upgrade to HTML5. Squarespace sites are all HTML5, so if you're on SS, you're one step ahead already.


Missed any of the other posts in the SEO Mini Series? Read them here:

SEO Basics - Mini Series (2 of 4)

The second post in the 4-part SEO mini series is here! Today we are going to give you the lowdown on keywords. This is super exciting because keywords play a vital role in helping Google decipher what your site is all about. Personally, I think keyword strategy is one of the most important aspects of SEO that you've probably heard about but aren't quite sure how to implement.

So roll up your sleeves because we'll be going in-depth to give you the tools you need to improve your site with keywords. We're going to talk about how to find the right keywords and them work for you on your website.

SEO Basics Mini Series By Dapper Fox Design//   Website Design - Branding - Logo Design - Entrepreneur Blog and Resource

 

HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST KEYWORDS

First things first! When choosing which keywords you want to optimize, you'll want to ask yourself a few of the following questions I found from Moz's keyword guide:

  • Is the keyword relevant to your website's content?
     
  • Will searchers find what they are looking for on your site when they search using these keywords?

  • Will they be happy with what they find?

  • Will this traffic result in financial rewards or other organizational goals?

Doing some research to find out what keywords will be most beneficial to your business's goals will go a long way. Finding the right focus keywords and implementing them properly in your site can make or break your rankings on Google. Take some time to really dive into what your target audience will be looking for and what they will find most useful!

When brainstorming keywords, try to be reasonable with expectations. I'm not trying to crush anyone's dreams here, but the harsh reality is that Google's rankings are competitive. Ranking for one or two-word generic keywords is almost near impossible if you're not an established business with hundreds of thousands of visitors each day. Not that it can't be done, but it's certainly beyond the scope of basic SEO techniques.

If you're a brand new clothing company that is offering products nationwide, you're going to have a pretty hard time competing for a keyword like 'women's clothing' or 'summer sandals'. Try to be realistic with who your competition is, and understand how you can set yourself apart. Is your clothing hand-made in America with organic cotton? That would be a specialty niche you could capitalize on. So in that case, using a three to four-word keyword string like 'handmade organic shirts' could be most beneficial and have a higher chance of ranking in the top results.

Make sure your site is optimized for keywords that include your brand name.

I've found that it's a good idea to optimize your site using your brand name as your focus keyword for your home page. That way, when people search for your specific name in Google because they couldn't remember the exact URL, they will have no doubt they are choosing the right website in the results. I've experienced this personally with some sites that have been popping up recently with variations of my name, Dapper Fox Design. Ensuring that my site is optimized with the focus keywords, 'Dapper Fox Design', I am able to secure my spot as the first result for this search term.

Once you know what keywords you want to use, you can implement them in your site. Ideally, each page on your site would have a different relevant focus keyword. Let's talk about where to put these new keywords!

WHERE TO IMPLEMENT YOUR KEYWORDS

Page Title

Make sure you include your focus keyword at the beginning of this page title.

Wordpress >> You can edit the page title on Wordpress by using the box at the top of the page that looks like this:

Where to Enter Page Title for SEO - Dapper Fox Design

SquareSpace >> Take note that in SquareSpace, the Page Title can be different from the Navigation Title if you want it to be. This is really helpful! For example, I want my Page Title to include my focus keywords, 'Dapper Fox Design', but I want the same page in my navigation bar to just say 'Contact'. So I entered 'Contact Dapper Fox Design' in the Page Title section, and just 'Contact' in the Navigation Title section. Here's what it looks like:

 
Changing Page Title in SquareSpace - Dapper Fox Design
 

SEO Title

Left unchanged, the SEO Title is the same as your Page Title. In Wordpress, you have the option to change the SEO Title with the plugin, Yoast SEO. Get in the habit of using your focus keyword in your Page Title and you won't need to worry about changing your SEO Title to something different. In SquareSpace, there isn't an option to change the SEO Title, you simply add your focus keyword in the Page Title section.

Here is a site I've created in the past for Billy Blanco's in Wordpress. You'll see the SEO Title includes the chosen focus keywords:


Meta Description

Make sure you specify the Meta Description! If you'd like to know more about meta data, you can read my other blog post, Why Meta Matters. Meta Descriptions are useful in Google because this snippet is what shows up in search results. The portion of this description that shows up in Google is no longer than 156 characters. So plan accordingly when choosing what to say here.

Wordpress >> You can change your Meta Description using the Yoast SEO plugin mentioned above. Notice on the image above where you just entered the SEO Title, you can also change the Meta Description just below it. Include your focus keyword early on if you can. In the Yoast SEO plugin, you'll notice that when you enter in the description, it tells you how many more characters you have left.

SquareSpace >> In SquareSpace, you'll want to select the page you're working on, and click the settings button. Under Description, you can enter a description that includes your focus keywords. SquareSpace doesn't have a reminder about the number of characters Google will show, so remember to keep it around 2 short sentences long (156 characters). As long as you have your focus keyword, and a brief description of what your page is about, that's all you need. Here's what my description in SquareSpace looks like:

Meta Description in SquareSpace - Dapper Fox Design

Page URL

Don't forget to include your keyword in your page URL. This is one that is commonly overlooked, but makes a big difference. These are also known as your Permalinks.

Wordpress >> If you're using Wordpress, you'll want to change the Permalinks from their default setting. 

Permalinks on Wordpress - Dapper Fox Design

Go into Settings > Permalinks and select the option for Post Name. This will allow your keywords to show up in the URL, and help Google to better understand your site. 

Permalinks in Wordpress for Billy Blanco's - Dapper Fox Design

SquareSpace >> In SquareSpace, you can change the URL to include your focus keyword too! Just choose the page you want to work on, and select the 'Settings' button (a little gear icon). Under the box labeled URL Slug, you'll enter in the desired URL ending. Remember, this URL Slug is simply what goes at the end of your URL after the name of your site. So if my site is www.dapperfoxdesign.com, the URL Slug for the contact page in this case is /contact-dapper-fox-design. This creates a total URL that reads: http://www.dapperfoxdesign.com/contact-dapper-fox-design.

URL Slug in SquareSpace - Dapper Fox Design

Content

I'm sure everyone's heard by now, content is king. I've found content to be one of the most influential factors in search rankings. Having high quality, relevant content that is useful for readers is what Google loves. And for good reason- high quality content generates high quality traffic, and better serves your audience.

High Quality Content Generates High Quality Traffic - Dapper Fox Design//   Website Design - Branding - Logo Design - Entrepreneur Blog and Resource

Here are some tips to help you make the most of keywords in your content:

  • Include your focus keyword in your primary header (also known as Header 1, or 'H1' for short), as well as a sub-header if you can (H2, H3). 

  • Ideally, the copy of your body should have around 300 words. Create meaningful copy that meets the 300 word minimum, but don't try to cram extra words in just to fill the quota. Use your chosen keyword in the page's copy three or more times. I probably wouldn't recommend going too crazy with it beyond including the keyword fifteen or twenty times (maximum!) since Google will recognize that as spam, and even worse, your readers will see right through it! When you see keywords obviously crammed too many times in a site, it is annoying and will turn your audience away!

  • Try to include your focus keyword in the first paragraph of your page's copy.

  • The keyword will need to be written in your content paragraphs exactly as they are in search. For example, the search term, 'Dapper Fox Design' won't count if I use it in a paragraph as 'Design by Dapper Fox'. Using some keyword strings might feel a little awkward, so get creative on ways to work them in.


Image Descriptions and Alt Tags

Having the proper keywords included on your photos will help especially in Google image searches. Get in the habit of adding Image Descriptions or Alt Tags (also known as Alternative Text) to your photos on the site.

Wordpress >> You'll go to Image Details for each photo you include. Simply press the little pencil icon to get to this section. Under the box labeled Alternative Text, you're going to make sure you include your focus keyword. Here's what it looks like in Wordpress:

Alt Tags in Wordpress - Dapper Fox Design

SquareSpace >> In SquareSpace, you'll enter in a description as a Caption. You can then choose to display the caption or not. I've chosen not to display my caption, so when I exit the editor mode, the caption below my photo will not be seen by my audience. I also like to change the file name to include the keyword or at least a better description of the photo. This makes a difference when people Pin or save your images because this is the snippet that the file name will come from!

SquareSpace SEO on Images - Dapper Fox Design

And there you have it! Implementing the right keywords into each of these areas around your site is a great place to start. It might seem overwhelming to tackle all these areas, but this is well worth it if you want to rank higher on Google in the long run. 

Looking to learn more about basic SEO strategies? Check back on Friday for the next post in the SEO Mini Series.

Have a question about basic SEO strategies?

Feel free to leave any questions in the comments section below, and I'll be sure to answer them!