7 Simple Changes to Make Your Website More Visible in Search Engines
Whenever you need something -- a product, a piece of information, a contact number -- what’s the first thing you usually do? You pull up a search engine and type in your query, right? Google processes more than 3.5 billion searches every day. So, it’s no wonder that so many companies are scrambling to get involved in search engine optimization (SEO), a strategy that helps businesses rise to the top of search rankings for queries related to their business, products or services.
To the outside observer, SEO often seems complex, intimidating and bogged down with technical logistics. But it doesn’t have to be.
Here are seven quick and easy ways to make your site more visible to search engines:
1. Optimize every page of your site with rich content.
This is by far the most complicated item on this list, but it’s fundamental. Without it, you’ll be hard-pressed to get visibility in search engines at all.
All of your pages, especially your main lineup (home, contact, etc.), need to include concisely written, descriptive content. Ideally, this content will be optimized for specific target keywords and phrases (as long as the text doesn’t seen unnatural). If you have pages without much content, prevent Google from indexing them by using the “noindex” attribute, and “nofollow” any links to those pages, as well.
2. Write unique title tags and meta descriptions for every page.
Title tags serve as the headlines of your pages in search engine results pages (SERPs), while meta descriptions serve as the descriptive text. Not only do these constructs inform Google about the content and purpose of each of your pages, they also dictate how your pages appear in search results.
In this way, they serve a dual purpose: They rank your pages higher and increase click-through rates from users on search engine results pages. You can use a web-based tool such as Siteliner or an in-depth site crawler such as Screaming Frog to get an accurate assessment of each page on your site, including title tags and meta descriptions.
3. Weed out 404 errors.
404 errors are annoying for users and may interfere with the number of pages Google can index. By themselves, they’re unlikely to hurt your rankings, but it’s still usually worth setting up a 301 redirect or restoring the page if you notice a 404 error where there shouldn’t be one.
Google Search Console has a great tool for checking this: Look under “crawl errors.” If your website is on Wordpress, you can download one of a number of plugins designed to automatically make 404 pages fun and useful, or automatically 301-redirect them to another page, such as your home page.
4. Make your content easily shareable.
This is a simple change, and if you haven’t done it already, you’ve probably missed out on some significant opportunities. On your blog page, feature social share icons so your users can actively and easily share your content socially. Social shares don’t contribute to rankings directly, but can make your pieces more visible, making it easier for them to earn more inbound links.
This benefit was recently confirmed as one of the top two ranking factors in Google’s algorithm. If your site is Wordpress-based, there are a number of plugins that can add social share buttons to your website dynamically.
5. Optimize your images.
You’re probably using images in your content marketing campaign, but are you optimizing them effectively? It doesn’t take much to get your images into optimal shape for search engines; all you have to do is title your images accurately; write an accurate, keyword-rich description; and include alt tags and a caption to categorize and describe the image’s role on your page.
If optimization is done correctly, your image will be indexed and searchable in Google Image Search -- an indirect, but valuable route for online searchers to get to your site.
6. Make your site load faster.
Site speed isn’t a crucial factor for search engine visibility, but it certainly does count. Plus, a faster site usually leads to a better user experience, which means a higher conversion rate, among other benefits.
You can improve your loading speed by: optimizing your images, using the right types of images, using a good caching plugin, deleting unnecessary meta data and using only using plugins you truly need. For more help with speeding up your website, see "10 Unique Ways to Make Your Website Load Faster."
7. Include structured markup.
Okay, to be fair, this one isn’t that simple, but it is an effective (and more or less straightforward) way to get your site more visible in search engines. At some point, you’ve performed a search and seen some stand-out answer for your query located above or to the side of the typical results; this could be a mini calendar, an encyclopedic entry or a short summary-style answer.
These are rich snippets, and if you want to get featured like this, you’ll need to include structured markup for various types of content on your site. I don’t have the space to get into the technical requirements, but Schema.org is the industry standard and it's got some great guides on the subject.
Now, don’t think these seven strategies are the full extent of SEO. In fact, they barely scratch the surface of what on-site SEO is about, and they don’t even take off-site SEO into consideration. Nor will these tactics net you a dramatic difference overnight, but they are simple to execute, and can provide a meaningful spark of growth in your website’s search visibility.
Take them for what they are, and remember that even though SEO is complex, it can also be learned by the willing marketer. For further help building and executing your online marketing strategy, see The Definitive Guide to Marketing Your Business Online.