As a writer and ‘content person’ I have often been daunted by SEO but known that doing it is important to my survival.
The theory of SEO and learning about its latest developments seem easy enough but it can be scary to think ‘”right, I’m going to do some actual SEO today.”
Well having done what I consider to be the basics for a little while, I thought I’d share them.
Find and compress heavy images
Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test will help you find images that are slowing down page load. Compress the originals in photo editing software (a hack job can be done with a combination of Word and Paint if necessary) and upload back into the CMS.
Remember that image libraries can often slow sites down, too (I’m thinking Umbraco and WordPress sites). Don’t forget to purge the library of images you no longer need.
Change 302 redirects to 301s
A 302 code indicates a temporary redirect (usually cross-domain). These can be harmful to your site ranking if used incorrectly instead of 301 permanent redirects. Some content management systems will allow you to set 302 or 301 redirects, so this mistake is easy to make.
A tool such as Screaming Frog (use this if you don’t want to ask for your techies’ help) can help you crawl your site and find all 302 redirects in place. You can then work with your CMS or tech team to change these where necessary. 301s tend to be the default and preferred redirect.
Audit your metadata
If you didn’t write all of your site’s metadata, you might want to manually audit it. Although editing your metadata will affect search performance, it needs to be relevant to your product or service, so get it right.
Start high, with your category and landing pages. Remember that title tags and meta descriptions should differ, page to page.
Duplicating phrases may lead to lower ranking and more importantly, confuse the searching customer. Webmaster Tools should alert you to pages that appear as duplicated content. This can be an issue of canonicalisation but may also be down to metadata.
Doing some keyword research is essential to improving metadata. Even after years in a given industry, your intuition is not enough to cover all angles. Here’s a list of some tools to help.
Be vigilant with 404 and 500 error codes
Check webmaster tools regularly for 404 (page not found) and 500 (internal server error) codes (ask your tech team for a login if you don’t know how to access the Google search console).
If you work with a large or creaking site, 404s will be generated fairly often. They’re not always a bad thing, especially if you have a helpful 404 page, but finding and editing or redirecting broken links should improve customer experience.
500 error codes will let you know when something has gone wrong with a particular page. Depending on the size of your website and tech team, content personnel can be helpful aids when troubleshooting 500s, especially where errors stem from a content management system.
Maintain consistent URL structure
If you’re creating product pages, you must maintain a consistent URL structure. You need to be precise. Don’t mix /product/ and /product.aspx. Don’t mix /great-brand/ with /greatbrand/.
This is fairly obvious stuff, but if there are multiple people working in your CMS and linking isn’t handled efficiently you could damage search appearance and customer experience.
Increase that internal linking
Internal linking increases page views per visit, increases ranking signals for those pages you link to and is generally an easy but effective hygiene factor when it comes to SEO.
Include them where appropriate and make sure your anchor text makes sense. It needs to create the right context for the target page.
Get longwinded with product copy
You might have written product copy hundreds of times. Still, that’s no excuse to take shortcuts. Making the most of product copy is important for search and customer experience.
Don’t just describe the product, detail its uses, its provenance, its importance.
Perform content gap analysis
This is similar to keyword research but done tactically to grab search traffic by being agile with content creation.
Using the Google AdWords keyword planner can help unearth untapped key phrases that may not represent your core business but can be used to target customers.
Using manual searching to see where your ranking could improve, or looking at search analytics in Webmaster Tools, you can make a land grab for tangential keywords that may still convert.
Don’t forget alt tags
A work-a-day task, adding alt tags to images is still something that needs keeping on top of. Your system may automatically create alt tags from image file names but these are not always descriptive enough.
For a whole lot more advice on SEO, read the Econsultancy SEO Best Practice Guide.