SEO is always changing. And you have limited time. How can you make sure your time is spent focusing on the SEO tactics that matter most? Here are four simple ways you can stay up to date with SEO trends.
1. Follow Industry News
The first tip to stay current on SEO tactics, is to follow SEO industry news. You can subscribe to marketing resources to hear the latest changes.
You can find this information in whatever medium you find easiest to consume. You can get SEO news from blogs, podcasts, and email digests. To find links to my favorite marketing news sources, view the full digital marketing resource guide.
The key here is to subscribe to only enough sources to stay informed, not overwhelmed. If you aren’t sure how much marketing news you can add to your current routine, start small. Choose one blog or one podcast or one email digest to follow. Then, start to add more as you find the time.
If you instead follow as much as possible and start to feel overwhelmed, you will end up ignoring all of it.
They are free tools, and there is no reason not to sign up and start benefiting from the extra data and communication.
3. Use a DIY SEO Tool
Another way to stay up to date on SEO trends is to leverage a tool. You can use a DIY SEO tool (such as ClearPath Online) to follow SEO tasks for your website.
Instead of you spending time to figure out the best SEO tactic to tackle, a DIY SEO tool will guide you through every task step-by-step. And when a search engine algorithm changes and completely disrupts the standard SEO tactics, you don’t need to know.
You just keep following the tasks in the DIY SEO tool which update to reflect the newest trends. That way, you know you aren’t wasting time doing something that improved rankings a few years ago, but now can hurt rankings.
4. SEO Periodic Table
Lastly, you can download and reference the SEO Periodic Table. The SEO Periodic Table is a graphic created by Search Engine Land. It visually describes the most important SEO factors. They update it annually.
It’s nice to look at and provides a good overview of what’s important for SEO this year. It won’t keep you updated daily, but it’s still a nice overview of what is the most impactful for SEO this year.
No matter how you choose to do it, if you want to be successful with SEO, you’ll need to find a way to stay up to date with the latest SEO and digital marketing trends. Hopefully one, or multiple, of these methods will be able to help you do so.
What is your favorite way to stay up to date on SEO trends? Let us know in the comments!
Do you want to listen to this article? Here’s the podcast episode:
Creating content takes time. That’s why you want to make sure you’re writing content that people want to consume. To do that, you need a keyword research system. We are going to walk through a simple process to find the keywords worth writing about.
Create a Spreadsheet to Track Your Keywords
Use a spreadsheet to track your various keyword ideas. If you don’t already have one, you can use this Keyword Research Template.
To start, you’ll want a column that you can use to document all of your keyword ideas. Create a column with the heading of Topic / Keyword. We’ll add more columns later in the process. Right now, just focus on generating ideas.
Brainstorm Content Ideas
Think about your business and your target audience. Start listing any ideas that come to mind in the first column. Don’t worry about details at this point. We’ll refine the list later, just add some topics as a place to start.
Use Tools to Refine and Grow Your Keyword List
Next, look at some data. There are a number of tools that you can use to help grow your keyword list. We’re going to go over some of the non-paid tools you can leverage. If you already pay for a keyword tool, that’s great, and you should certainly use that data. But, we won’t be discussing any specific paid tools here.
Find out what’s trending. Go to Google Trends and enter in one of the topics you jotted down. Now, you can enter in a similar topic to see which one is more popular, or scroll to the bottom to find related topics and related search queries. Reviewing the related terms can provide new ideas to add to the list. Comparing similar terms can allow you to fine-tune your list.
Next, go to Google. When you start typing in keyword ideas there will be a dropdown that tries to predict your desired query. Take a look at the suggestions and add any relevant ideas to your list.
Similar to Google Suggest, you can use the YouTube auto suggestion feature to generate more ideas. Go to YouTube and start typing in your keyword. A dropdown will appear with suggestions, just like Google. Use those suggestions to add more ideas to your list.
Google Related Searches
Go back to Google to get a few more keyword ideas. Perform a search with one of your keyword or topic ideas. Scroll to the bottom of the results page and you’ll see some related searches. Take a look at the related search terms and add any relevant ideas to your spreadsheet.
Go to UberSuggest and click on Keyword Ideas to start to refine your list. This is a good spot to enter in some of your vague topic or keyword ideas and replace them with popular search terms.
UberSuggest will show you keyword suggestions, related terms, questions, prepositions, and comparisons. This data can provide new ideas as well as assist with refining existing terms.
Another useful tool to find specific topics is AnswerThePublic. This tool expands on a keyword and groups it out in several different variations including questions, prepositions, and comparisons. The result returns a visual chart that makes the data easy and fun to look at.
This is an amazing resource to be able to drill down on some of your topics and find content ideas that are more targeted than your initial thought.
Ubersuggest also allows you to view questions, prepositions, and comparisons now but these two tools don’t always provide the same data. It’s good to look at as much data as you can get your hands on.
This will give you an idea of the queries your website already ranks well for. These are the topics Google already sees you as an authority on.
Review these terms to find if there are any phrases that don’t already match content on your website. You likely already have content for the majority of these phrases. But, you may be able to find a topic where you have a gap or be able to expand on the topic.
Add Data to Your Keyword Ideas
Now you have an extensive list of keyword ideas. Next, we need to add some data so you know which terms and topics are worth your time. Let’s start adding more columns to this spreadsheet.
Group your topics into categories. If some topics or keywords are too similar, you’ll most likely want to target them on the same page (or only use one). Creating categories makes it easy to determine where you have overlap.
It’s also nice to have categories clearly defined so you can choose to launch an entire topic at once. You can publish multiple articles in the same category and add internal links so users can jump back and forth where appropriate.
For each keyword, identify if there is an opportunity to rank for a particular type of content. Perform a Google search for your keyword. Make a note whenever the top of the search results displays images, videos, products, or local listings. If they do, you can leverage this information by making sure to include that type of content on your page.
Go through each topic and determine what the business value is for you. I would recommend doing this by assigning numbers to your funnel stages. If a topic is at the top of the funnel and the reader of that topic would have a very low chance of converting, than assign it a number such as 1. If the topic is extremely relevant and would likely attract someone in the buying stage, assign it a higher number such as 4. I’d recommend keeping a key with the exact criteria you use to assign the various number ranks so your data could be as objective as possible.
Search Volume & Difficulty
It’s nice to get a rough idea of the average monthly search volume to include on your spreadsheet. This data is easy to get with UberSuggest.
If you have a different tool you prefer this data, that’s not a problem. Just use the same tool to capture the metric for all keywords so you are comparing apples to apples. Even if the numbers aren’t exactly trustworthy, it’s still a great comparison metric to determine which of your topics are more popular than your other topics.
To use UberSuggest, simply enter in your keyword. Then, record the Search Volume and SEO Difficulty metrics found on the Overview tab. These metrics give you an idea of how popular each topic is and how competitive it is to rank for the topic.
Once you have all of the data, sort by category and add some conditional formatting to the business value, monthly searches, and competition metrics to make it easy to review and prioritize the ideas. (If you’re using the template that has already been configured.)
Plan Your Publish Dates
Now that you have the keywords you want to create content for, commit to a timeline. Assign publish dates for the various topics and get started writing that content!
This system generates a great list of ideas to start with. As you continue to think of new ideas follow this system and add them to your spreadsheet. This process is intended to be repeated on a quarterly basis. That way it remains current and full of fresh ideas.
What is your favorite way to generate a new keyword idea? Please share it with us in the comments!
The best long term SEO strategy is to align the goals of your website with the goals of the search engines.
Search engines are trying to provide the best experience for the user. If your website can provide the best solution for the keyword then your website will rank at the top.
Keep the User in Mind
You can try the next new SEO gimmick but any traffic boost you gain won’t last. Google updates their algorithm more than 500 times a year. At the end of the day, they provide the best result and experience possible for the user.
With each change you make, you need to keep your desired audience in mind. If you are always improving your website for your users and providing a high-quality experience, you will see long term success.
Create an amazing experience for your users because you and Google both want them to be satisfied. Always prioritize the needs of your readers over specific SEO tactics.
With that being said, now we can dig in to some specific items that can be done to provide a good user experience.
Publish High Quality Content
Content is important. For over a decade people have been preaching that ‘content is king’. With such a large stress on more content, it’s easy to publish low quality content.
For content to be a successful SEO tool, it needs to be high quality. Write content people want to read.
Don’t worry about keyword density or word count. Use the keyword as many times as you need to for the article to make sense. And keep the content to the word count you need to express your point clearly. Don’t add fluff just to add words. Don’t worry about metrics like these, just write a good article.
What does high quality content look like?
A high quality article will be easy to read. It gets to the point and provides information the reader cares about.
In addition to the content, a high quality article should be formatted in a way that’s easy to read. Most online readers like to scan content before they read it in its entirety. To make it easier to scan make sure you include subheadings, bullet point lists, and bold text.
Adding media elements such as images, charts, graphs, and video also enhances the content and makes it more appealing to people.
Add Content People Care About
The other piece of the puzzle to long term SEO success is to write about topics people care about.
You know you need to write high quality content. But, if no one is looking for content about that topic than you’ve wasted your time.
So, you have content your readers care about and you’ve spent some time to make that content outstanding. Now, make sure there are no other hurdles for your readers.
Make Your Site Easy to Navigate
Make it as easy as possible for users to find the content they need on your website.
Not only should your main navigation menu be clear and concise, you should also include internal links. Whenever an article mentions a topic discussed in one of your other articles, add a link if it would be a benefit to the reader.
This will help SEO and make it easier for search engines to crawl your website. But, the main reason to add internal links is it will keep readers on your site longer as they browse more and more resources. If you have information that will help them, make it easy for them to find.
Google has a PageSpeed Insights tool that will analyze the page speed of your website. Just enter your URL and it will analyze the page. You will then receive results that display the current speed and a list of changes you can make to improve it.
You can also look into implementing AMP to improve your mobile page speed.
Make Sure Your Site is Great on Every Device
You want your site to be mobile friendly. But, even more than that, you want your site to work great on the resolutions your readers use.
You can find out what resolutions are the most common for your website in Google Analytics. Just go to Audience > Technology > Browser & OS. Then, on the Primary Dimension text link tabs (directly above the data) click Screen Resolution. This report will show you the most common screen resolutions for your website.
Review your website on different devices and resolutions to make sure it’s always a great experience.
Remember: SEO is a Long Term Strategy
It’s important to be patient when trying to improve your SEO. Any SEO strategy worth doing will take time.
If you find a hack that provides quick SEO results, it will probably only help you for a short time.
If you want to see long term success, you need to have a long term plan. Don’t think of SEO as a one-time project. Instead, create habits and routines to make SEO part of your everyday strategy.
What routines do you have in place to make SEO an ongoing part of your marketing efforts? Please let us know in the comments!
Do you want to listen to this article? Here’s the podcast episode:
When you try to find SEO competitors you may discover they aren’t who you expect.
SEO competitors are competing for search traffic by targeting the same keywords. This means they’re going after the same audience. But, they may not have the same product.
It is likely that your SEO competitors will differ from the companies you normally consider to be your competitors.
We’re going to go through a process to find your SEO competitors without using any paid tools. If you already have a paid competitor analysis tool, great! You should use it. But, if you don’t have the budget for a paid tool yet that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck.
The best place to find your SEO competitors is on Google.
Perform a search on Google with one of your targeted keywords. (I’d recommend using your browser in incognito mode so the results aren’t personalized.)
The websites that rank on the first page of Google for the keyword you want to target are your SEO competitors. This method will allow you to identify both your paid and organic competitors.
Here are the steps to identify your SEO competitors using Google:
Go to Google.com and perform a search with one of your targeted keywords.
Review the results on the first page.
Track the organic competitors on a spreadsheet. The organic listings are the standard (non-paid) blue links. List all of the organic websites found on page 1.
Optional: If you want to track paid competitors as well, start a new tab on your spreadsheet. List all websites that appear on page 1 of Google with an ad.
Repeat the process with another one of your targeted keywords.
Analyze Your SEO Competitors
Once you know who your competitors are, you should analyze a few key metrics to get a better understanding of how you can compete.
If you have a paid tool such as SEMrush or Ahrefs, use it to analyze the competitors. Since we’re focusing on free methods, we won’t go into the details to use those tools. But, it’s great to utilize all of the resources you have available.
You can use Ubersuggest to get a ton of competitor metrics at no cost. Go to Ubersuggest and one by one, enter the URLs on your SEO competitors spreadsheet.
For each competitor, track their domain score, number of backlinks, number or organic keywords, and organic monthly traffic. All of this data can be found in Ubersuggest.
Remember to get the same metrics for your domain as well. That way you can compare and identify what areas need improvement.
In addition to Ubersuggest, you can get competitor metrics using the free version of the MozBar.
Some metrics you may want to consider including in your spreadsheet from the MozBar are:
Page Load Time
External Followed Links
Linking Root Domains
Analyze Competitor Keywords
Using Ubersuggest you can review the keywords your competitors receive traffic from. Go to Keywords under Traffic Analyzer. Scroll down and click Export to CSV.
Create a new tab in your spreadsheet to track the keyword data you export.
To import the keyword data into Google Sheets:
Navigate to the tab you are using to collect the keyword data.
Go to File > Import.
Click Upload and then select or drag the file into the window.
Under Import location choose Append to current sheet. Leave the other settings at default and click Import data.
If this is not the first time you’ve done an import to this tab, scroll down to the new header and delete the row. (Keep the header from the first import at the top, any others are unnecessary.)
You’ll want to export the keyword data for each competitor and add it to your keyword data tab. As long as you choose the setting to append the data it will add it to the bottom of the list.
Once you have the data, you can analyze it with a pivot table.
Use a pivot table to easily make sense of the data. Set the keyword as your rows. Set the count of keywords as your primary value and use it to sort your table in a descending order.
This allows you to identify the keywords that multiple competitors are leveraging to drive organic traffic.
Add more values and adjust your sort to get more keyword ideas.
Here are the values that can help you make informed decisions:
Count of Keyword (number of competitors that receive traffic from that keyword)
Sum of Estimated Visits (total combined traffic competitors receive from that keyword)
Max of Volume (the average monthly search volume that keyword receives)
Max of SEO Difficulty (how competitive the keyword is)
Review Platforms Competitors Leverage
In addition to your competitor analysis spreadsheet, take a look at your competitors to see which platforms they leverage that you may be able to take advantage of.
Do they have a Google My Business listing? If you perform a search in Google do they have a local listing.
What social platforms are they on? Check Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest. How active are they on these platforms? Do they just have a profile or do they actively post and engage with an audience. How large is their audience?
Do they have a YouTube channel? How many subscribers do they have? How often do they post a video?
Do they have a podcast? How often do they post a new episode? What topics do they cover?
Find out what your competitors are doing and what’s working for them. Then figure out what you’re missing. Does your competitor’s strategy make sense for your audience and business goals? If so, come up with a plan to implement it.
How do you like to track your competitors? What competitor metrics do you find most useful when analyzing SEO competitors? Let us know in the comments!
Google Search Console provides a wealth of information about your website. It is the tool Google leverages to communicate with webmasters. Search Console can notify you of issues and allows you to make requests of Google. It even reports crawl errors. Let’s discuss how to fix crawl errors using the Index Coverage report in Google Search Console.
Finding the Index Coverage Report
To access the Index Coverage report navigate to the property (website) you want to view in Google Search Console. Under Index on the left hand menu, click on Coverage.
The Type of Data Included in the Index Coverage Report
The Index Coverage report will list out four categories of web pages found on your website. Pages with errors, valid pages with warnings, valid pages, and excluded pages.
Pages with Errors
The 1st Tab in the Index Coverage Report
The Error tab should be your highest priority in the Index Coverage report. This is where you’ll find crawl errors. This is the list you need to concentrate on first because these pages are not being indexed.
Valid Pages with Warnings
The 2nd Tab in the Index Coverage Report
These pages are being indexed but Google has identified a potential issue with the page.
The 3rd Tab in the Index Coverage Report
These are the pages currently indexed for your website. This list should steadily increase as your website grows.
The 4th Tab in the Index Coverage Report
These pages are not indexed, but that’s okay. These pages are duplicate or alternate versions of a page that is valid and already indexed.
So, How Do I Fix My Crawl Errors?
Now that we know where the Index Coverage report lives and what data it provides, let’s dig into fixing crawl errors.
Each of the four tabs (error, valid with warning, valid, and excluded) will group pages by a specific type. So, first choose one of the four tabs at the top and then click on a row at the bottom to view the full list of URLs.
The fix for each crawl error will vary depending on the particular type of error. Let’s go over how to fix the various types of issues you’ll find in the error tab.
Fixing Server Errors (5xx)
This error means that Google tried to crawl your site and received some type of 500 error. This was caused by an error at the server level.
The first thing you should do is try and access the page. If it loads for you the issue likely has already been resolved.
If the page is inaccessible try contacting your IT team or hosting company to see if there are any outages.
Fixing a Redirect Error
This error means that there is a broken redirect. This could mean there was a redirect loop or a redirect chain that was too long.
Redirect issues can eat through crawl budget which isn’t good for Google or your website.
Having a redirect in place is not an issue but make sure your redirect goes from point A to point B. Over time your site structure can change and sometimes redirects become longer. When this happens, you just need to clean up your redirects so there are no chains or loops.
Fixing this will vary depending on how the redirect was implemented in the first place.
If you use a CMS such as WordPress you may be utilizing a plugin to implement redirects. If that’s the case you just need to review the current redirects for the URL and clean them up so the redirect is as direct as possible.
If the redirect has been added to the .htaccess file you will need to contact your site admin to assist. To streamline this process have documentation ready with the original URL and the final URL you want the redirect to point to.
Fixing a Submitted URL Blocked by robots.txt
This means that there is a URL you have submitted (in your sitemap) that is being blocked by your robots.txt file. Google can’t index the URL because you have blocked it.
If you want it indexed, then open your robots.txt file. Find the line blocking the URL in question and remove it.
If you don’t want the URL indexed, then take a look at your sitemap.xml file. Find the URL, remove it, and you’ll be good to go.
Fixing a Submitted URL Marked ‘noindex’ Issue
Similar to the previous issue, you have submitted a URL (in your sitemap) but you have marked the URL as noindex either in the meta tag or HTTP header.
View the source code of the page and do a search (ctrl+F) for noindex. This should locate where the issue is on the page.
If you use the Yoast SEO plugin in WordPress you can control this setting under the Advanced tab.
Fixing a Submitted URL Seems to be a Soft 404 Issue
This means you submitted this URL (in your sitemap) but it didn’t get indexed because the page is likely a soft 404.
A soft 404 is what Google uses to identify a page that technically is not an error page (has a 200 status code) but the content makes it appear like it should return a 404 error page instead.
Review the page content. Is there a broken element? Does the page have thin content?
Either update the page, redirect it to a different relevant page, or remove it entirely so the URL goes to a 404 error page.
Fixing a Submitted URL Returns Unauthorized Request (401) Error
This error means you submitted a URL but the page requires credentials and Google can’t proceed.
You don’t want pages that require user logins to be indexed. The best fix for this error is to find out where on your website Google found the link and remove it. Start by reviewing your sitemap.xml file.
Fixing a Submitted URL Not Found (404) Error
This means the URL you submitted for indexing does not exist, and therefore can not be indexed.
If the URL should exist, then check the page. There is likely a type-o in the actual URL or submitted URL. Add a 301 redirect so both versions exist.
If the URL should not exist then find where Google found the link on your website and remove it. Start by checking the sitemap.xml file.
Fixing a Submitted URL has Crawl Issue
You can troubleshoot the error by using the URL Inspection tool in Google Search Console.
How to Tell Google You’ve Fixed the Issue
Go through the errors one type at a time. Review and fix each reported URL in the type list. Once completed, click Validate Fix at the top of the error type page.
This will notify Google that you believe all reported page errors for this error type have been corrected. This will begin their process to confirm the fix and get those pages indexed!
These errors should be a top priority. Once they’re fixed it’s good to continue moving through the tabs and fixing any other potential problems.
Fixing the Warnings
Under the Valid with warnings section you’ll find one type of issue: Indexed, though blocked by robots.txt.
You’ll want to address these because even though the page is indexed, it’s going to be a sub-optimal display in the search results page. Google won’t be able to pull the meta information to include in the search snippet.
If the page should not be indexed, then add a noindex meta tag to the page.
Now we’ve addressed both the errors and warnings. Let’s move on to the valid pages to make sure everything is optimal.
Optimizing Valid Pages
The report under the Valid tab separates the pages into two types. The pages are either submitted and indexed or indexed, not submitted in sitemap.
For pages in the submitted and indexed category your work is done. There is no further action needed. You submitted a page, it was indexed. Done.
For pages in the indexed, not submitted in sitemap category you can take another step to optimize these. Google found these but you could have made it easier for them.
Add these pages to your sitemap. It makes it easier for Google which will only help you. It can increase the crawl frequency which could have an impact on rankings.
Review the Excluded Pages
Now all of the errors and warnings are fixed, plus the valid pages are configured optimally. Let’s just review the excluded pages list to make sure everything looks right.
This list will list pages that have been excluded in robots.txt and with the noindex meta tag. It will also include duplicate pages.
Same as with the other tabs, you can click on any row to view a complete list of pages that fall under each type.
Reviewing this Index Coverage report on a regular basis will keep you on top of any crawl errors so you can fix them and get every page indexed.
Do you have any strategies you like to use when reviewing the Index Coverage report? Let us know in the comments!
Staying on top of technical SEO must-dos can get overwhelming; especially for a non-technical person. Maintaining your website is important, but what should you do about 404 error pages? Do 404 errors hurt SEO? Let’s dig into the 404 error details that matter when it comes to SEO.
Short Answer is No — But it’s Complicated
No, 404 error pages do not have a direct impact search rankings for your website. Every webpage has 404 error pages, they are a normal and expected part of your website.
If you go to your website and then append any random phrase to the end of the URL you will likely get a 404 error page. This is the proper result for the action since it’s unlikely there was a relevant page for your random phrase. Search engines understand this and do not penalize for it.
Your 404 Error Page Will Not Rank — But Your Website Will Not Be Impacted
Just to be clear, if the page you are trying to rank does not exist and returns a 404 error, than it will not be indexed by search engines. It seems like this would go without saying but a page needs to exist to be ranked.
However, merely having 404 error pages will not negatively impact the SEO performance of your website as a whole.
404 error pages can affect link equity and user experience. These are the problems you want to pay attention to regarding 404 error pages as they can negatively impact your SEO efforts.
Broken Links Can Hurt SEO
If you have links pointing to a 404 error page than your website now has a broken link. Whether the 404 error page is on your website or a different website you want to fix this.
Having a broken link on your website is a bad user experience. The 404 page itself won’t cause SEO issues, but if you link to it you can create SEO problems.
I like to periodically test my website to see if there are any broken links. A good tool you can use to search for any broken links is Broken Link Check. Run a scan and review the list. Remove or replace any broken link on your website.
Ensure Your 404 Error Page Offers a Good User Experience
Just because the user got to a 404 error page doesn’t mean you want them to go away. Create a custom 404 error page so you can make the user experience as good as possible.
Add a call-to-action (CTA) to your 404 page to make it easy for users to continue. Most likely, your CTA will direct users to your homepage. But, you may have a search page or category page that makes more sense for your website.
Blank Pages Can Be Indexed If They Don’t Return a 404
If a page loads successfully (200 status code instead of 404) it can be indexed by search engines. It is possible that certain elements don’t load correctly and you essentially have a blank page.
Google classifies these as soft 404s. They are not technically 404 pages but they have broken elements that require attention.
If you want to check to see the status code of a webpage (404 vs 200) you can use the URL inspection tool in the Google Search Console.
To view the status code in Google Search Console:
Enter the URL in the URL inspection tool.
Click View Crawled Page.
Click the More Info tab on the crawled page panel.
The HTTP Response section will indicate the code.
Add Redirects for Common 404 Errors
If you have other websites sending traffic your way you don’t want to miss that opportunity. Yet, sometimes websites accidentally type the URL incorrectly and then you have potential users going to an error page.
If you notice this happening, you can either contact the website and ask them to update the link or you can add a redirect. Chances are a redirect will be the simpler choice.
You don’t want to redirect a 404 error page to your homepage or a different generic or irrelevant location. But, if there is a clear page that users would want to land on when that URL is entered than add a redirect to optimize the experience.
If you find 404 errors for pages that you have a relevant existing page, then add a redirect. If the page is truly no longer there or never existed and not related to your website, then just ignore it. There is nothing wrong with having some 404 errors when they make sense.
Finding 404 Errors in Google Search Console
To find 404 error pages in Google Search Console go to Index > Coverage. Then, look at the pages listed under the Error tab.
Finding 404 Errors in Bing Webmaster Tools
To find 404 error pages in Bing Webmaster Tools go to Reports & Data > Crawl Information. The tab selected by default on that page lists the 400 errors so you will see any 404 errors listed at the bottom of the page.
404 error pages alone won’t hurt your SEO. But, the user experience is always important. So, make sure your 404 page guides the user to the right place and fix any broken links.
Do you have a custom 404 error page? What did you do to try and optimize the user experience? Please share in the comments!
What are redirects? What do redirects and SEO have to do with each other? We’ll go over the various types of redirects, which one is best for SEO, and how to create and test your redirects.
What is a Redirect?
A redirect is when one page URL forwards the visitor to a different page URL. A redirect can be in place because the original page is no longer available and there is a different relevant page that the visitor will likely be interested in.
A redirect can solve a 404 error page. If the page no longer exists, instead of giving the visitor an error page, redirect them to a relevant existing page.
Types of Redirects
The 301 redirect means that the page has been permanently removed. It means the original page is gone forever, and instead you should view this other page.
The 302 redirect means that the page has been temporarily moved. This type of redirect is not as common as a 301 redirect. With a 302 redirect you are telling search engines that you only have this in place short-term. This type of redirect can be used to perform a test.
A meta refresh is a type of redirect that is controlled on the page instead of on the server. This type of redirect is slower and you will often see a message that says “You will be redirected to…”.
Which Type of Redirect is Best for SEO?
For SEO purposes you want to use 301 redirects. A 301 redirect actually passes link equity from the original page to the new page.
Google has stated that both 301 and 302 redirects can pass link equity. However, it can take longer for a 302 since it has to first be determined that it is being used permanently instead of temporarily.
When Do You Add a Redirect?
When a Page Has Been Removed
If you remove a page and you have a different relevant page on your site you can add a redirect. The key here is relevance. You don’t want to add a redirect if the new page is not a good replacement for the missing page.
If a page is removed and there isn’t a good replacement page it’s okay to leave it as a 404 error page. Or, you can change it to a 410 page to show that it has been intentionally removed.
To Streamline URL Entry
Another scenario where a redirect could be beneficial is to confirm your website visitors are accessing the preferred URL. If you have a secure site using SSL and your domain can be accessed via https, make sure the http version redirects.
Similarly, you should redirect the www subdomain to the non-www subdomain or vice versa. Either way is fine, just choose a preference for your site and stick to it.
How to Add a Redirect
Understanding how redirects are implemented at least from a high-level perspective is beneficial. We’ll try and describe the different methods that can be used but not dig into every detail.
If you have an Apache server (which you probably do unless your website uses ASP.NET) you can add redirects in your .htaccess file. This file should be found in the root directory of your web server.
If you don’t have the file already, all you need to do is make a blank file in a text editor such as Notepad and name it .htaccess. Make sure it doesn’t add the .txt file extension when you save it.
To add a redirect just add a line to the .htaccess file like this:
Redirect 301 /old-page.html /new-page.html
Configure Through Web Host
Depending on who your hosting provider is they may allow you to add a redirect through their system. Sometimes the hosts will have an interface that allows you to enter in old URLs and choose the type of redirect and the new URL you’d like to send the traffic to.
Add Redirects in WordPress
If you have a WordPress site there are plugins you can download to make the process as simple as possible. I’d recommend using the Redirection plugin.
The Redirection plugin allows you to manually add in redirects through a simple to use interface. It also has an option to monitor changes to post and page URLs. When a URL changes, it automatically adds a redirect from the old URL to the new URL. This is a very convenient feature because it saves you from having to worry about it.
Test Your Redirects
Fix Redirect Chains
A redirect chain is when an internal link on your website directs to an old URL that is now redirected to a new URL. This is fairly harmless but it can increase load time. It’s better for search engine spiders and users to clean up your URLs when you notice a redirect chain.
To find them, you can use Screaming Frog. Screaming Frog is a downloadable desktop tool that can scan your website to help uncover technical website details. It’s free for up to 500 URLs.
To determine if you have redirect chains that need to be fixed:
Run a Screaming Frog scan on your website.
Under the first Internal tab change the filter dropdown to HTML.
Click the column header to sort by Status Code.
If any 301 redirects appear in the list it’s because a page somewhere on your site is linking to it and causing a redirect chain. Click on a row to get more details.
At the very bottom click the tab called Inlinks. This will list the pages on your website that link to this old URL.
Go through and update the links on your website where necessary.
Fix Protocol Errors (http vs https)
Another common redirect problem you want to test for is when you link to the wrong version of the web page. This is similar to a redirect chain. It isn’t a real problem but it isn’t a great experience for the user so it should be fixed.
To identify protocol errors:
Run a Screaming Frog scan on your website.
Under the first Internal tab click the column header to sort by Address.
If any URLs are using the wrong protocol on your website they should now be grouped together at the top. Click on a row to get more details.
At the very bottom click the tab called Inlinks. This will list the pages on your website that link to this old URL.
Go through and update the links on your website where necessary.
Redirects can be very helpful when you’re trying to keep your website organized and easy to navigate. However, implementing them in a manner that causes no issues could sometimes be tricky. Just remember to keep the user in mind and do what creates the best user experience and you’ll be in a good situation.
Do you have any SEO related redirect tips? Let us know in the comments!
Understanding some basic HTML tags for SEO purposes will be beneficial when you’re adding content to your website. Don’t be scared, HTML doesn’t have to be overwhelming and complicated. There are some simple tags that a beginner can learn. These will go a long way when it comes to optimizing your content for SEO.
What is HTML?
HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language and it is the code used to build web pages. It is the basic building blocks of any website.
Why do I need to use HTML?
If you’re adding content to a website it will be added using HTML. If you don’t understand HTML, your content management system will likely input it all in paragraph tags. If you understand some basic HTML components you can format your content.
Formatting your content in HTML will benefit both the readers and search engines.
When you add in headings, bullets, bold text, and hyperlinks you are making it easier for the reader to scan the article to identify what it is about. That structure is also having the same impact for search engine spiders.
Formatting your content with the proper HTML tags will make your article make more sense to your readers and search engines. It’s a win-win.
Let’s go over some of the most important, and simplest, HTML tags to include in your content.
HTML Elements You Should Know
Why the Title Tag Matters
You want to make sure each page on your website has a unique title tag. The title tag is one of the elements search engine spiders can use to identify what the page is about. The title tag is also the text that is used to display as the main headline in search results.
Make sure to include your targeted keyword in your title tag. Also, keep it under 60 characters long. That way it doesn’t get truncated in the search results.
What the Title Tag Code Looks Like
The title tag is found in the <head> section of the HTML code. You will find the title wrapped in a <title> tag. Here is an example:
<title>This is an Example Title</title>
How to Add a Title Tag in WordPress
To add a title tag in WordPress, all you need to do is insert a title in the page title field on your new post or page.
Now, this does depend on your website theme. It’s possible this has been modified on your theme. To confirm that the page title worked as intended, save your work and view the new page or post. If the title tag updated properly the title will be displayed in the tab at the top of your browser. Or, you can view your source code and search for <title> to confirm it is accurate.
There are a few important meta tags you should be aware of, specifically the meta description. These tags help communicate details about the page content to search engines.
If you’re using a content management system such as WordPress, you won’t need to know the HTML to implement these tags. You still want to be aware of them so you remember to insert them and optimize them. Here is a full guide on what meta tags are and how to optimize them for SEO.
Why Header Tags Matter
The header tags create the hierarchy of your article. The most important header is called the h1 tag.
There should be only one h1 tag on each page. And, you want to include your targeted keyword in your h1 tag.
The rest of your header tags will be h2, h3, h4, h5, or h6. The higher the number, the less important and lower in the hierarchy the header is.
It’s common for an article to have one h1 tag and every other heading uses an h2 tag. I often will have h3 tags and sometimes even h4 tags if that’s how the article is naturally structured.
It’s uncommon to go all the way to h5 and h6. Normally using bullets or numbered lists at the point is more effective. But, there is no rule against it. Use the level of headings you need for the article to be beneficial to the reader.
What the Code Looks Like for Header Tags
Header tags wrap the header text with the level of heading you want to assign to the text. Here is an example for each header level:
<h1>This is an h1 tag</h1>
<h2>This is an h2 tag</h2>
<h3>This is an h3 tag</h3>
<h4>This is an h4 tag</h4>
<h5>This is an h5 tag</h5>
<h6>This is an h6 tag</h6>
How to Add Header Tags in WordPress
Adding header tags in WordPress is simple, but the process varies depending on which editor you use.
I like to use the code editor. So, to add a header I just surround the header text with the code from the example above.
If you use the visual editor (which is the default) you can click the plus icon to Add Block. Then select Heading. You can then insert your heading text and select the level such as h2, h3, or h4.
If you already have entered the text, just select it. You will see an editor appear with a dropdown and can select a new heading level from the dropdown menu.
Image and Alt Tags
Why do Image and Alt Tags Matter?
Images are important because they provide a better experience for the reader. They also are important from an SEO perspective because they can allow your page to rank in image searches.
Alt tags provide a text description of the image. These are important because they provide accessibility for vision impaired visitors to be able to understand what the image is about. They also communicate the relevance and meaning of the image to search engine spiders.
What Does the Code Look Like for Image and Alt Tags?
The alt tag is an attribute of the image tag. Unlike a header tag that has an opening and closing tag, the image tag does not need to be closed. Here is an example:
<img src="image.jpg" alt="example image" />
How to Add Image and Alt Tags in WordPress
To add an image to your WordPress page you can go to Media > Add New. Upload your image. In the fields provided, make sure to include a description under Alt Text. Then, just copy the image URL to paste in your article.
If you’re using the visual editor you can also add an image by clicking the plus icon to Add Block. Then select Image and follow the prompts.
Why Links Matter
Including links in your articles will help both readers and search engine spiders. Both readers and search engines will use the links to navigate from one article to another.
What the Code Looks Like for Links
To add a link you use an anchor tag. The anchor tag surrounds the item you want to link. This can be text or an image. When it surrounds text, this text is referred to as anchor text.
Links can vary depending on if they open another webpage, send an email, or jump to a different section of the same webpage.
To add a link that jumps to another part of the same page you need the link as well as an ID on the section you want the link to jump to. You can add in ID to an existing paragraph tag or create a new div tag. Here is a an example:
<p id="top">This is the top of the page.</p>
How to Add Links in WordPress
In WordPress you can select the text you want to add a link to and click the insert / edit link button.
Why Lists Matter
Lists make it easier for readers to digest complicated or process oriented content. Lists make it easier for people to scan the article and quickly understand what it’s about.
In HTML, you can create either an ordered list or unordered list. An unordered list would be a bulleted list. An ordered list would be a numbered list.
What the Code Looks Like for Unordered Lists
Here is an example to create an unordered (bulleted) list:
<li>Here is a list item.</li>
<li>This is another item on the list.</li>
<li>This is the third and final item.</li>
What the Code Looks Like for Ordered Lists
The HTML code for ordered lists is very similar to unordered lists. You still list out the list items (<li> tags) but instead of wrapping it in <ul> tags you use <ol>.
Here is an example:
<li>This is the first item in the ordered list.</li>
<li>This is the next item.</li>
<li>And the last one.</li>
How to Add Lists in WordPress
To add a list in WordPress you can click the plus icon to Add Block. The select List and follow the prompts.
Or, you can select your text and click the Bulleted List or Numbered List icon in the formatting menu at the top.
Bold and Italics
Why Bold and Italics Matter
Similar to lists, bold and italics help the reader scan the article and quickly understand the key topics. Emphasized text does also help with SEO. It’s good to bold or italicize text with your targeted keyword if it comes across as natural and beneficial to the reader.
What the Code Looks Like for Bold and Italic
You can use <b> to bold text and <i> to italicize text but these tags are antiquated. It’s best to use <strong> for bold and <em> for italics. Using <strong> and <em> does help with SEO.
Here is an example:
This word will be <strong>bold</strong> and this one will be <em>italic</em>.
How to Add Bold and Italic Text in WordPress
To bold and italicize in WordPress simply select the text and click the Bold or Italic buttons.
How to Review Your HTML Code
If you ever want to check the HTML on your page (or anyone else’s page) the best way to do it is to check the source code.
To view the HTML source code of any website right click on the page and select View page source. From there you can press ctrl (cmd) + F to search for any specific tags you want to review.
These are just a few of the important HTML tags that can help you optimize your SEO efforts.
Are there any important tags that I left off this list? Share your thoughts in the comments!