There’s no shortage of quick start SEO guides out there, but how many of them actually make sense? In the spirit of making things as simple as possible, we’ve put together this plain English guide to 9 different SEO factors you need to consider. I will explain WHAT you need to do, followed by WHY it needs to be done.
Here’s our complete SEO expert guide to on-page analysis starting from the top down.
What? – Update your title tag to include your target keywords and a description of the page. It’s never a good idea to use site-wide title tags, so make sure you customise the title tag for every important page on your site. Google displays around 55-70 characters or 580 pixels. You can use this tool to check your title tag length.
Why? – The title tag is used by search engines to index the page. This is where you tell Google what the page is about. It’s also the first thing users will see when your site shows up in the search engine results page. Make sure it’s something worth clicking on.
What? – Make your URLs readable to humans.
Why? – Ditching the numbers and other nonsense in favour of a descriptive URL that includes your keywords can help your site rank for a keyword or phrase.
What? – Specify a unique meta description for every page. Include your target keywords and a description of what the page is about. Google displays between 150-170 characters, but some results are now showing even longer 300 character descriptions.
Why? – Like your meta title, the meta description is like a mini advertisement for your website on the SERP. You want to make it descriptive for search engines, but user-friendly so people actually want to click through to your site.
What? – Remove keywords from the meta keywords element.
Why? – Adding keywords to the meta keywords element does nothing for your ranking positions. If anything, all it does it show your competitors which keywords are most important to you.
What? – Clean up your code. Your site should ideally be built on HTML5 and CSS. If it’s built using Flash or any other outdated web design trends, you could be penalised in the rankings.
Why? – Search engines don’t see what users see, so even if your website is stunning to look at, search engine crawlers need to be able to parse all the code and see what the page is about. Some outdated web design practices don’t allow this, so make sure your site is up to speed.
What? – Make it easier to navigate your content by adding tags. H1 tags should be used for the most important information on the page, followed by H2 tags, H3 tags and so on. Header tags shouldn’t be used solely for design.
Why? – Header tags improve the user experience and also give search engines an indication of what content is most useful on the page.
What? – Check you have an active XML sitemap and that everything is included in it.
Why? – The XML sitemap should be submitted to Google and Bing to ensure the search engines know what content is on your site. The Yoast WordPress plugin can automatically generate a sitemap for you.
What? – Install Google Analytics and ensure it is tracking correctly. Set up goals to see how successful your website is at converting visitors.
Why? – Google Analytics can help you to see what is working and what isn’t. It can also help you to identify problems with the user experience and which content is most valuable to your visitors.
What? – Check for canonical tags.
Why? – Sometimes, you need to have duplicate content on your site. This shouldn’t be a problem, provided you tag everything correctly using canonical tags. Used incorrectly, canonical tags can actually hurt your rankings, so make sure everything is set up correctly.
I'm Paul Gordon an SEO freelancer who has spent the last 16 years helping businesses expand and grow through effective SEO strategies.