Clear URLs can help both people and search engines better understand what the webpage will be about. But what makes a URL clear? And what is the best URL structure for SEO? Here, I present 10 tips you can follow to create user- and search-engine-friendly URLs.

First, it is worth pointing out that the URL does not always appear in search engine results. Google typically displays what resembles more of a breadcrumb than a URL.

google url breadcrumb

Although this can change, Google search results typically display the domain name and then alter the file path to resemble a breadcrumb. This makes it easier to identify where the link lives in the hierarchy of the site. The full URL is not displayed but it still directly affects what is shown in the search results and can benefit from using an optimized URL structure.

How to Structure URLs for SEO

Make Them Easily Human Readable

Make sure your URLs are easy to read. They should include plain English words with no codes or IDs. This makes it easier to remember the URLs and recognize whether the page you landed on has relevant content for your query.

Include the Keyword

Ideally, whenever you write a new article, you will have performed keyword research and have a specific keyword in mind. Include that keyword in the URL. It is best to put the keyword as close to the beginning of the URL as possible.

Keep the URL Relevant to the Page

Make sure your URL is relevant to the page title and subject. Normally, this happens naturally, especially when you add the keyword to the URL. Still, confirm that the URL is relevant to the page and matches the content covered on the page.

Write in Lowercase

To standardize your URLs and prevent linking errors, ensure that all your URLs use all lowercase letters. This consistency in lowercase will make it easier for you and anyone to add links. Even if the same URL with uppercase letters redirects to the lowercase version, it can cause issues on digital analytics platforms. It is best to use all lowercase letters to avoid any potential problems.

Use Hyphens to Separate Words

Using hyphens to separate the words in your URL will make it easier to read. This way, both the user and the search engine can better understand the different words in the URL and gain a clearer insight into what the page is about.

Avoid using underscores. They cannot be read when the URL is underlined, making the hyperlink harder to read.

hyphens vs underscores link

Future-proof Your URLs

URLs are not something you want to change regularly. Once they start ranking well, changing the URL can cause a temporary drop in traffic, even if you add a redirect from the old one to the new one. While the redirect helps alleviate any long-term traffic drop, it is best to avoid any decrease in traffic.

To future-proof your URLs, do not include the year or date. They make URLs longer. Leave them off, and your URL can be more concise and reliable long term.

Avoid Dynamic Parameters

Avoid including dynamic parameters in your URLs. They make the URL awkward and unreadable. Moreover, if a different version of the URL gets indexed other than your primary version, it can cause duplicate content issues.

Limit Folders

Try to limit your folders in the URL to a maximum of one or two. The folders are the directories on your site where the file for the page lives. So, on ClearPath Online, most pages live in the /resources folder. Some pages live deeper in the /resources/seo folders. The deeper the page, the harder it is for search engines to understand its relevance and importance.

Keep URLs Organized

Keep your URLs organized and use a consistent naming convention. Before you start creating URLs, try to have an overall idea of what folders/directories will be used and how you will style your URLs (such as all lowercase with hyphens).

Shorter is Better

Remember, the shorter and more concise you can keep your URL, the better. It makes it easier to type and remember and unlikely to be truncated when people share it via Twitter and text message.

The best rule of thumb is to keep URLs concise and clear to make it easier for everyone.


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There are hundreds of different domain extensions you can choose from when selecting the domain for your website. They all vary in availability and popularity. How should you choose the right one for your website and which ones are the best domain extensions for SEO?

What is a Domain Extension?

Before we start digging into the best domain extensions for SEO, let’s discuss what a domain extension is. A domain extension is also referred to as a Top-Level Domain or TLD.

The domain extension is the part of your website URL that appears after the last dot. So, in the URL https://clearpathonline.com, the domain extension is .com. In the URL https://clearpath.online, the domain extension is .online.

Most Common Domain Extensions

The most common domain extensions are .com, .net, and .org. The .com TLD is used by 52% of all websites. Since .com is the most common, it’s also the most memorable and least confusing. That also makes it the most popular and makes it difficult to find the desired domain name.

What TLD Should I Use?

Try .com First

If the .com domain is available for the domain you want, then go with that. Since .com is the most common, it’s the expectation and is the easiest for people to remember. If it’s available, that’s the best bet. However, it’s becoming more and more likely that any desirable .com domain names will already be taken.

Use a ccTLD if You Have a Local Business

If the business you’re purchasing a domain for is a local business, consider purchasing the domain extension for your country code. A country code domain extension is also referred to as a ccTLD. Some examples are .us and .uk.

Use an Industry TLD to Keep it Relevant

Depending on your industry, there are hundreds of different domain extensions that you can choose from to help keep your domain name relevant to your industry. A few examples are .game, .beer, .app, and .health. If there is a relevant industry term for your business, this can be used to keep your URL shorter. For example, https://clearpath.online is shorter and easier to say than https://clearpathonline.com.

Don’t Use .co

The .co and .com domain extensions are confusingly similar. If you use .co, expect a certain percentage of people to type in .com by mistake, which will cause them to end up on the wrong site. They will either forget that your domain was only .co, or they will assume you forgot the m in .com.

Don’t Use Hyphens

When your first domain choice is taken, you may be tempted to add hyphens. Don’t do it. You want your domain name and website URL to be easy to remember and easy to tell people, whether you’re in person or on the phone. Don’t add confusing characters such as hyphens, or intentionally misspell anything.

Get Ideas with Domainr

If your first choice isn’t available, and now you feel stuck and need some domain ideas, use Domainr. This site allows you to enter the name you’d like for your domain, and then it suggests all of the different combinations of TLDs and even directories that you can use to get that domain name. For example, if I want a domain name that includes the phrase clearpathgame, it suggests that I can use clearpathga.me, clearpath.games, or clearpath.fun.

This is an easy way to see what other TLD options might be a good fit if .com isn’t available.

How Do TLDs Impact SEO?

No Boost From More Relevant TLDs

There are hundreds of factors that influence your rank on Google, and if domain extension is a factor, it doesn’t play a big role. When the industry-specific TLDs were released years ago, Google stated that they won’t provide a boost in search. They will return the best result for the user, regardless of what TLD the site is on.

Can Impact Credibility

The TLD your website uses does have a chance to impact the credibility and branding of your business. It’s hard to say what the future will bring. If you choose a TLD that is often associated with spam sites you can be negatively impacted. Even if Google doesn’t penalize you for it, people may start to recognize it as potential spam and stay away.

You can view which TLDs have the highest percentage of spam at Spamhaus. It’s common that they’ll all have some spam, but before you buy a TLD for your business, check and make sure it isn’t overflowing with spam.

Why I Choose ClearPath.Online

Here’s my own experience and my own reasoning that I went through when choosing the domain name for ClearPath Online.

As with many website name ideas, the .com was already taken for the name I wanted to use. I didn’t want to add a hyphen. I also didn’t want to change the name and I wanted the domain name to match the business name.

That’s when I started looking at different TLDs. I decided to go with .online since that would allow me to use the same original domain name idea (minus the .com) and even make it slightly shorter.

Years later, the .com domain became available. I bought it and redirected it to the existing .online website. I didn’t make it the main domain even though it was my initial choice years before. Since the website was already ranking there was no reason to try to change it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.


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There are several different platforms to choose from when you’re building your website. A few of the options include WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly. But which one is the best platform for SEO? Spoiler, WordPress is the best option. Instead of comparing feature to feature, we’ll explain why WordPress is our platform of choice to create a site optimized for SEO.

Non-WordPress Options

Let’s start by discussing some of the platforms you may consider other than WordPress.

Squarespace

Squarespace makes it simple to build websites. But with the simplicity comes constraints. To optimize your Squarespace site for SEO you don’t need to install any plugins. It’s all built into the system which is nice. It takes the responsibility off of you which can be good and bad. If you want to improve your page speed further than the default settings, you can’t. Squarespace also doesn’t include any prompts to assist in optimizing your onpage elements. They have a resource guide you can follow, but the page doesn’t keep track when you’ve successfully optimized each onpage element. And one last con to Squarespace, it isn’t free.

Weebly

Weebly includes the majority of basic SEO elements. They don’t by default allow you to add an H1 tag though. They do allow you to make HTML edits so there is a way around it but that is such a simple and important SEO aspect it’s silly it isn’t included by default.

Wix

Wix also includes SEO basics, but that’s where it stops. This is the bare minimum of SEO you’d want to do. You have very little control over truly optimizing for SEO. You can customize your URL, but then they append tags to the end so that isn’t ideal for SEO.

How WordPress Can Help with SEO

First, let’s clarify what we mean by WordPress. Throughout the article, any mention of WordPress is specifically the WordPress.org self-hosted option. The WordPress.com hosted option is not a good choice for a business website because it doesn’t give you enough control or ownership over your website.

WordPress Gives You Flexibility

In my opinion, WordPress is the only way to go. It gives you flexibility, and that seems to be the most important aspect. SEO is always changing. You don’t want to switch your web platform to accommodate new SEO changes. You also don’t want to be held hostage waiting for your platform to release an update to accommodate a new SEO change. You need a flexible platform that puts you in control.

The key to SEO isn’t as simple as adding a title tag. It encompasses much more than that including the entire user experience. Go with a platform where you won’t have constraints and you can build the perfect system for your community.

Grow Into Your Platform — Not Out Of It

Even if it doesn’t happen all in one day, WordPress gives you the option to build out your website to meet your needs. You want to be able to grow into your website platform, not out of it. This is not the type of thing you want to change as your business grows, so choose a platform that can grow with you.

Optimize with Yoast SEO

The Yoast SEO plugin will activate SEO tools that you can use to optimize your site yourself. On each post and page you’ll have a Yoast SEO interface that identifies what you need to do to improve your WordPress site for SEO. It not only lists the items but identifies when they’ve been completed. It also allows you to edit the title tag and a meta description.

In Summary

The best platform for SEO will be the one that allows you to create the optimal user experience. That’s why I lean on WordPress. It does have a bit of a learning curve at first, but it isn’t steep and the internet is filled with free WordPress resources. If you need help getting started, I’ve created a guide you can follow to build your WordPress website.

The bottom line is WordPress provides the flexibility you need to not only check off the SEO basics but also continue to grow and optimize your site throughout the years.


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WordPress is a great platform to create your website and optimize it for SEO. It has a vast amount of themes and plugins that allow you to manipulate and customize your site as needed. With that level of customization, comes the potential for issues as well. Though the system can be optimized for SEO, if you aren’t aware of the WordPress SEO basics you can unintentionally configure your site so it isn’t reaching it’s full SEO potential. Here are seven WordPress SEO improvements to add to your site.

Recommended SEO WordPress Plugin

Before we dig into the WordPress SEO aspects you’ll want to be aware of, let’s talk about Yoast SEO. Yoast SEO is a WordPress plugin. There are several SEO plugins available, and a few that aren’t too bad, but Yoast SEO is the one I go with because it has all the features you need in the free option. There are additional enhancements in the premium version, but they aren’t necessary. And you don’t need to run multiple plugins to optimize for SEO.

Many of the SEO improvements we’re going to discuss are easier to implement with Yoast SEO.

Check Search Engine Visibility

First, you want to confirm you don’t have your website flagged to be hidden in search engines. In WordPress, go to Settings > Reading > Search engine visibility. Make sure the checkbox next to “discourage search engines from indexing this site” is not checked. If you had to uncheck it, remember to click Save Changes at the bottom.

Optimize Permalink Structure

You want your website URLs to be human-readable and concise. You don’t want them to include any codes or IDs. If your URLs aren’t already human-readable, you can change this under the permalink settings.

In WordPress, go to Settings > Permalink. I like to use the Post Name setting. You can choose a setting that makes sense for your website and then click Save Changes.

The best time to take care of changing the permalink structure is at launch. If you change your Permalink Settings once pages and posts are already created, it will change the URL structure for every existing URL on your website. This means any website currently linking to you will now be linking to a broken link. All of the pages indexed in search engines will also now be broken links. If you go this route, you’ll want to have a plan to add 301 redirects from the old URLs to the new.

If your site is ranking well already, you may want to just leave it. The URL structure is one of hundreds of different ranking factors. If it isn’t completely optimized, you’ll still be able to rank. If it’s working for your website it’s fine to leave it, don’t stress about it.

If you do decide to change it, back up your site first. You can use the UpDraftPlus plugin to do that. Once you change the permalink, you can use the Redirection plugin to add 301 redirects.

Create an XML Sitemap

You’ll want to include an XML sitemap on your website to make it easier for search engines to index your website content. If you’re using the Yoast SEO plugin, this is as easy as clicking a toggle button.

In WordPress, go to SEO > General. Then click the Features tab at the top. Make sure XML Sitemaps is set to On.

Optimize Your Content

Each post and page you create should be keyword focused and optimized for SEO. There are a handful of on-page optimizations you’ll want to add to each article. If you use the Yoast SEO plugin, they make it super simple to identify and implement these optimizations.

Make sure you enter in your target keyword into the Yoast SEO section of the page. That way, the recommendations update. Now, you don’t have to go through and follow every single recommendation but they do provide a nice list to start with. The most important optimizations you want to make to your content is to add your keyword to the title tag, create a meta description and add your keyword to it, and include the keyword in the H1 tag and first paragraph of your article.

When optimizing your content for SEO, remember to think of the reader. Creating a high quality article is more important than checking off all the boxes in SEO best practices. If optimizing for perfect SEO makes the article less useful to the reader, then don’t do it.

Improve Page Speed

Improving the load times on your website improves both SEO and the user experience. You can run scans through Google PageSpeed Insights and GTmetrix to get a list of recommended improvements. Both tools will provide more information for each item and explain how to implement improvements. GTmetrix actually has an entire guide to optimize WordPress sites as well.

Make Sure Your Site is Mobile-Friendly

You’ll want to use a theme that is responsive so your website is mobile-friendly. No matter what device people are on (a computer, tablet, or phone) you want them to be able to navigate and interact with your website. If you aren’t sure which themes are responsive and not sure what would be a good fit, here are my recommended themes to get started with.

Leverage Tools

Lastly, you’ll want to make sure Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Bing Webmaster Tools have been configured on your website. These tools are all free and they provide data that you can leverage to improve SEO.

Google Analytics tracks website visits so you can understand where site visitors come from and what they do when they’re on your site. Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools are both tools created directly by search engines to provide webmasters with personalized information about how their site is performing in search. This is where you’ll receive messages from search engines, get notified about penalties, and view search impressions and crawl errors.

In Summary

Once you’ve tackled these items, you’ll be on your way to increased search rankings. The key will be creating consistent content and creating a routine to optimize that content each time.


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There are a few optimizations that can be made to each page on your website to help improve search engine optimization. Before you can implement the on-page optimization checklist, you need to make sure you’ve done your keyword research and understand the targeted keyword for the page.

You want to choose one primary keyword. The page will end up ranking for multiple terms, but you want to start by having a primary keyword to focus on for each page. And ideally, your pages will all focus on unique topics.

Once you understand the targeted keyword and write your article, you’ll want to follow this on-page optimization checklist to fine tune your article for SEO.

Add the keyword to the title.

Confirm the keyword appears in the page title. The closer to the beginning of the title the better. The page title tag is displayed as the main title in Google search results. To make sure it isn’t truncated in the search results, keep the title under 60 characters or less than 512 pixels. To see what the title tag code looks like and how to add one in WordPress, view the guide to HTML tags for SEO.

Add a meta description.

Make sure to add a meta description to your page. And make sure it includes your targeted keyword. If you’re using WordPress, you can add this using the Yoast plugin. The meta description appears below the title in the search results. It alone doesn’t impact your rank, but if it’s persuasive it can increase the likelihood of a user clicking on the link. More clicks do have a positive impact on rank. Also, the search engine will bold the search query if it appears in the description. So add a persuasive meta description that includes the keyword you are targeting.

Add keyword to URL.

If you have control over your URL make sure it includes your keyword. To optimize the URL for SEO, you want it to be human readable (meaning no confusing codes, just plain English) and concise.

Include only one H1 tag and add the keyword.

Make sure you only have one H1 tag. This will likely be taken care of by your website theme, but if you manually assign header tags make sure only the top most prominent title uses an H1 tag. Also, confirm your keyword appears in the H1 tag (closer to the beginning is best). Use H2 and H3 tags to format any other headings and subheadings throughout the article.

Add keyword to subheadings and paragraphs.

Review your article. Locate any instances where you can add in your keyword, topic, or any keyword variants. You don’t want to include the exact phrase every single time, but add similar relevant phrases. Don’t over do it, keep it subtle and natural. Try to incorporate the keyword in a few subheadings and paragraphs.

Make sure your keyword appears in the first paragraph.

As we just discussed, you want your keyword and keyword variants to be sprinkled throughout the article in a natural way. This is especially important in the first paragraph. Make sure the keyword appears in the first paragraph of the article.

Add images with alt tags.

Add at least one image to your content. Make sure to add alt tags to any image tags. This increases the chance that your images will appear in image searches. Also, this is another opportunity to try and add your targeted keyword or a close variant as another indicator to the search engines of how your article is relevant to the topic.

Add internal links.

Internal links have many benefits. Internal links create pathways for both readers and search engines to navigate your website. They help distribute the value of one page to another page. And they can increase the time users spend on your website.

Review your article and identify any part of the content where it would benefit the reader to add a link to an existing article on your site. Then, review your existing articles to determine if there are any places in your existing content where it would be a benefit to the reader to add a link to the new article. Here is a process you can follow to add internal links to your site.

Include more than 500 words.

There isn’t a hard and fast rule to use for length. Typically marketers aim for at least 500 words, and a lot of people recommend long-form content of at least 3,000 words. The best rule to follow is to write the amount of copy that makes sense for the topic. Quality is more important than quantity. But, if your page has less than 500 words, you may want to add more content to it if you’d like it to be ranked in search engines.

The User Experience is Always the Priority

Remember, you aren’t trying to hack your article to magically appear high in the search rankings. You’re just trying to make it a little easier for the search engines to identify what the article is about. Your target audience should always be first in mind. If optimizing for perfect SEO makes the article less useful to people, then don’t do it! Optimizing for the reader first is the only way to ensure long-term success.


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Performing an SEO audit on your website can help uncover items where your website can be improved to increase search engine rankings. An SEO audit leaves you with a checklist of SEO fixes and improvements. We’re going to walk through exactly how to do an SEO audit for your own website.

When to Perform an SEO Audit?

There are two primary reasons why you would perform an SEO audit on your own website.

The first reason is if you suspect you have an issue. If you aren’t happy with your traffic from search engines, if you feel your website isn’t moving up in search rankings, it’s time to perform an SEO audit and determine if there are any issues that need to be resolved.

The second reason is if you haven’t focused on SEO before. If you’ve recently decided you want to start leveraging SEO to grow your traffic, performing an SEO audit is a good way to get started.

The Tools You’ll Need

This audit is specifically designed to use a minimal amount of marketing tools. When you’re getting started, an SEO audit can be beneficial. However, when you’re getting started you also probably aren’t making as much money as you’d like and you have low to no budget. So, we aren’t going to use expensive tools for the audit. For each item we’ll list out a free tool you can use to accomplish that part of the audit.

Audit Components

We’ll break the audit into three different parts; the technical aspects, on-page elements, and user experience.

These will be the components of our SEO audit:

  • Technical
    • Check for duplicate versions of site
    • Confirm pages are indexed
    • Robots.txt
    • XML Sitemap
    • Site Speed
    • Broken Links
  • On-Page
    • Page Title
    • H1 Tag
    • Meta Description
    • URL Structure
    • Keyword Focused
  • User Experience
    • Mobile Friendly
    • Content Structure
    • Images / Video
    • Above the Fold / CTA
    • About Page

Technical Aspects

We’ll start by going over the technical aspects of the audit.

Check for Duplicate Versions of the Site

Let’s start the audit by checking for duplicate website versions. You only want to have one primary version of your domain. All other versions should redirect to the primary. The various versions include http, https, and the www and non-www versions. To test this, type each variation into a browser and make sure it automatically redirects to your preferred version. So, if my preferred version is https://mywebsite.com I would check and confirm these variations redirect to that domain:

  • http://mywebsite.com
  • https://www.mywebsite.com
  • http://www.mywebsite.com
domain variations

Since my preferred variation had https and non-www, I check to confirm the http and www versions of both redirect to my primary variation.

Ideally, you do want https to be the primary variation because you want your website to be secure. There is a minor boost in search rankings for having a secure site. There is no preference between the www and non-www versions. That is completely your preference. Neither option impacts search rankings either way.

Update your audit list:


If every version redirects to your primary version, great! Check this item off your audit list.

If any of those versions did not redirect, flag this audit item so you can come back and add a redirect.

Confirm Pages are Indexed

Next, we’ll confirm pages are being indexed in Google. There are two ways to do this, both of which are free.

The first option is to search directly in Google. Go to Google and use the site attribute to restrict the search results to your website. To use it, just type site: directly before your domain.

site:mywebsite.com

You will see at the top of the search it displays the number of results. It will say something such as About XXX results.

The number of results gives you an idea of the number of indexed pages for your website. If this search doesn’t find any results or if there are only a couple, there is likely a problem. If it finds a handful but you know your website has hundreds, you’ll want to figure out why there are so many pages missing. If it shows a few hundred, and you agree your site has a few hundred, then that helps to confirm pages are being indexed properly.

The second option to confirm pages are being indexed, is to use the Google Search Console. This is a free tool. But, if you haven’t already set this up, it won’t have any data in it yet. If that’s the case, it’s still a good idea to set up Google Search Console to use later, but use the first option to complete the audit.

If you already had Google Search Console configured, you can view indexed pages by going to Index > Coverage > Valid. This will show the number of pages your website has indexed in Google. The number should be steady or increasing.

Update your audit list:


If the number of indexed pages looks appropriate to you, great! Check this item off your audit list.

If the number of indexed pages seems too low, flag this audit item so you can come back and figure out why. You’ll want to check to see if there is a meta robots tag or robots.txt file causing an issue.

Robots.txt

Next, you’ll check your robots.txt file to confirm nothing pertinent is being blocked. To access your robots.txt file add robots.txt to the end of your website domain.

https://mywebsite.com/robots.txt

If you have a robots.txt file, this will display it in your web browser. Check to make sure there is nothing unexpected listed under disallow. If you aren’t sure what you’re looking at, you can view the full robots.txt file guide here.

If you don’t have a robots.txt file, that’s okay. It isn’t required. If there are pages you’d like to keep the search engines out of, you can refer to the robots.txt guide above and add one. The robots.txt file isn’t a guarantee that those pages won’t be indexed but it does guide the search crawlers so there is a better chance they will be able to index all of the pages you want indexed.

Update your audit list:


If the pages disallowed in your robots.txt file look appropriate to you, great! Check this item off your audit list.

If there are any questionable items in your robots.txt file, flag this audit item so you can come back and fix any issues.

XML Sitemap

Next, check to make sure you have an XML sitemap. The sitemap is another file that helps search engines understand what content to index on your website.

If you aren’t sure if you have a sitemap, sometimes your sitemap URL is included in your robots.txt file. You can look for it there. The sitemap is most commonly named sitemap.xml and located in the root file, so there is a good chance you can find it by going to https://mywebsite.com/sitemap.xml. However, this is not a requirement, so there is a chance it is configured differently on your website.

Similar to the robots.txt file, you want to review your sitemap and ensure the content listed looks appropriate. You want your sitemap to include the content that you want indexed in the search engines.

If you don’t have a sitemap, you want to create one. A sitemap can only be beneficial. It makes it easier for search engine spiders to crawl your website and identify the content that needs to be indexed. View the full sitemap guide to learn more about what a sitemap is and how to create one.

Update your audit list:


If you have an XML sitemap and the content looks appropriate, great! Check this item off your audit list.

If you don’t have an XML sitemap, or if the items included in your sitemap look questionable, flag this audit item so you can come back and fix any issues.

Site Speed

The speed of your website can impact both search engine rankings and user experience.

Run a couple of tests to determine if there are improvements you can make to improve the speed of your site. There are two tools you’ll want to use to test site speed, both of which are free.

You’ll want to run both Google PageSpeed Insights and GTmetrix. With both of these tools, you enter your URL, then it analyzes the page and gives you a report of how the page performed on various page speed factors. Each item that needs improvement includes information about how that item can be improved.

Update your audit list:


If the page speed tools found no issues, great! Check this item off your audit list.

If the page speed tools found any areas for improvement, flag this audit item so you can come back and determine if you can implement any of the suggested fixes.

Broken Links

The last of the technical items to review, is to check for broken links. To do this, you can use BrokenLinkCheck.com. It’s a free tool that will run a scan and report back any broken links. It identifies the URL that is not working, the type of error it’s receiving, and the URL of the page where the broken link was found.

Update your audit list:


If no broken links were found, great! Check this item off your audit list.

If there were any broken links, flag this audit item so you can come back and fix or replace each broken link.

On-Page Elements

Now we’ll move onto the on-page elements. For these items, it will be easiest to run a scan so you can easily identify any issues across your entire site. Checking each individual page would be much more time consuming.

To run the scan, you can use Screaming Frog. It is free for up to 500 pages. If you need to scan more than 500 pages, there is a one-time fee to purchase the software.

Page Title

You want to make sure every page 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 the targeted keyword for the page in the title tag. Also, keep the title tag under 60 characters or 512 pixels in length. That way it doesn’t get truncated in the search results.

To find this information, look at your website scan in Screaming Frog. It lists the title tag under Title 1 and then you can view the Title 1 Length and Title 1 Pixel Width. If you click on the Page Titles tab at the top, you can easily filter the results by various categories such as duplicate titles and titles with over 60 characters.

Update your audit list:


If every page has a unique title tag that is less than 60 characters or 512 pixels, great! Check this item off your audit list.

If any titles were duplicates or too long, flag this audit item so you can come back and fix any issues.

H1 Tag

The header tags create the hierarchy of your page content. The most important header is called the H1 tag. There should be only one H1 tag on each page. And, you want to include the targeted keyword for the page in the H1 tag. The rest of the 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.

To identify if you have one (and only one) H1 tag on each page, refer back to your Screaming Frog scan. Under the H1-1 column you’ll be able to see all of your H1 tags. There should not be an H1-2 column. If there is, review any pages that have data in that column. Those are pages with more than one H1 tag.

To quickly review H1 tags, click the H1 tab at the top. There you will be able to filter the results to quickly identify pages with missing or duplicate H1 tags.

Update your audit list:


If every page has a unique H1 tag, great! Check this item off your audit list.

If any page is missing an H1 tag or has a duplicate, flag this audit item so you can come back and fix any issues.

Meta Description

The meta description does not impact search ranking but it is used as the description that appears on the search results page. It can help convince people to click through to your site.

Similar to title tags and H1 tags, you want meta descriptions to be unique on each page. And the meta description should be under 155 characters so it isn’t truncated in the search engine results.

To identify if your pages include meta descriptions, refer back to your Screaming Frog site scan. The meta description is listed under the Meta Description 1 column. There will also be a column titled Meta Description 1 Length which lists the character length of each meta description.

If you click the Meta Description tab at the top you’ll be able to filter the list by meta descriptions that are missing, duplicates, or over 155 characters.

Update your audit list:


If every page has a unique meta description below 155 characters, great! Check this item off your audit list.

If any page has a missing, duplicate, or long meta description, flag this audit item so you can come back and fix any issues.

URL Structure

URLs should be human readable. They should not include IDs or codes. If possible, they should also include the targeted keyword for the page.

If you edit any URLs make sure you add a 301-redirect to the old URL so it redirects to the new URL and any existing links do not break.

Update your audit list:


If the URL structure is human readable and does not include cryptic codes, great! Check this item off your audit list.

If the URL structure is overly complicated and difficult to read, flag this audit item so you can come back and determine if there is a fix. Depending on the content management system you’re using, you may not have much control over the URL structure. If you do have control and can fix it, create a plan to take care of it. If you can’t control it, don’t worry about it too much. It only has a minor impact and it isn’t worth breaking your existing URLs.

Keyword Focused

You want to make sure you’re focusing on optimizing for phrases people are searching for. If you aren’t sure what people are searching for, you should conduct keyword research.

Take a look at some of your most important pages. These are likely category pages and popular articles and guides. Are these pages optimized for keywords people search for? Or, do they use generic terms and have no consistent keyword theme?

Update your audit list:


If the content pages are all keyword focused, great! Check this item off your audit list.

If the content pages are not optimized for a particular keyword or phrase, flag this audit item so you can come back and make improvements. You’ll want to do keyword research and optimize your pages for a relevant keyword.

User Experience

Moving on to our last section of the audit, user experience. The user experience plays a big role in SEO. The goal of the search engines is to provide an optimal user experience by providing high quality relevant results. If your website provides a high quality user experience then you are helping align with the goals of the search engines and setting your website up for long-term SEO success.

Additionally, if you’re spending time to improve SEO to get more traffic to your website, it only makes sense to also improve the user experience. Once you get those people to visit your website, you want to make sure your website can convert those people. Otherwise, the traffic doesn’t provide much value.

Mobile Friendly

Make sure your website looks good on mobile devices as well as desktop. If you aren’t sure, you can use the Google Mobile-Friendly Test to find out if your website is mobile friendly.

Update your audit list:


If the site is mobile friendly, great! Check this item off your audit list.

If the site is not mobile friendly, flag this audit item so you can come back and make improvements.

Content Structure

You want your website easy to scan. People like to review the headings and bullets on the page to see if the content is worth reading. Additionally, having your keyword in headings and emphasized throughout the page helps search engines understand its importance.

Update your audit list:


If the content is easy to scan, great! Check this item off your audit list.

If the content structure is all one block of text and doesn’t include subheadings or lists, flag this audit item so you can come back and make improvements.

Images / Video

Make sure your content includes relevant images and video where appropriate. The images should also include alt tags. The alt tags should include the keyword for the page or a keyword variant.

Update your audit list:


If the content includes images and/or video, great! Check this item off your audit list.

If there are no images or videos, flag this audit item so you can come back and make improvements.

Above the Fold / CTA

What you see without scrolling when the page first loads, is referred to as “above the fold”. You want to make sure that from that first screen people understand what you do and what you want them to do. That means, you need a call-to-action at the top of the page and a clear message about the value you provide.

A call-to-action could be a sign up button, a purchase button, or a download button. It’s whatever action you want people to take next. It doesn’t have to get them to the end goal, it just needs to get them off the homepage to the next stage.

Update your audit list:


If the above the fold area includes a call-to-action and a clear value proposition, great! Check this item off your audit list.

If the area above the fold is missing a call-to-action or a clear value proposition, flag this audit item so you can come back and make improvements.

About Page

The about page is normally the second most commonly viewed page after the homepage. People like to buy from people. Make sure to have an About page in your main navigation and make sure the page clearly shares your story.

Update your audit list:


If the site has an about page in the header and the about page shares your story, great! Check this item off your audit list.

If the about page is not in the header or if the about page doesn’t share your story, flag this audit item so you can come back and make improvements.

Complete Your List and Take Action

Once you’ve reviewed all of these audit items, make sure you document your findings. Whether you use the provided template or not, you’ll want to take notes so you can make sure to take action and correct any issues found during your audit.


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When you’re working on growing an organic audience for your website, SEO is a big deal. And when you sit down and create some goals for yourself and your business, you’ll want to include some goals for SEO. But what does that mean? What should you focus on? Here is how to set goals for SEO.

Create Goals that You Can Control

I’m going to start by making this really clear. To set goals for SEO, don’t focus on reaching a target for any particular metric. Instead, set a goal for yourself that you are in complete control as to whether or not it gets completed.

Don’t get me wrong, metrics are important. And it’s important to measure results. But first, let’s create an SEO goal for you.

The most common SEO goal is going to be content related. To be successful with SEO, you need content, you need web pages that are worth ranking. So, decide what type of content you’re going to build out. How often are you going to post? Weekly, bi-weekly, monthly?

This will be your primary SEO goal. Create a goal for how often you will publish new high-quality content on your website so you have pages worth ranking in search engines.

If you focus on creating consistent content, the numbers will improve. You can instead set a goal of improving metrics by a certain amount, but this seems backwards. How will you improve those metrics? Instead, create your goals based on the action you will take to improve your metrics and any improvement you see will only further motivate you to keep improving your website.

Don’t Stop at SEO — Set Goals to Improve Conversion too

Don’t only focus on improving SEO. Getting search traffic is important but it’s only half of the puzzle. Once those people visit your website you want to make sure they convert. If you focus solely on getting search traffic and you don’t work on improving the experience when people visit your site, you’re wasting your time. For SEO to be successful, you need to get people to click on your website, and then your website needs to convert those people.

So, when you’re making goals for SEO, don’t stop at considering how you will grow your organic traffic. Also create a goal to improve your conversion rate. You need to improve CRO in addition to SEO.

To do this, first you need to understand what you want people to do when they access your site. What do you consider a conversion? You likely have multiple conversion paths. Your primary conversion may be for people to make a purchase or register for an account. Before they get to that point, there are likely numerous micro conversions that they are more likely to take on your website. Some of the smaller conversions could be watching a video, downloading a free guide, or signing up for an email course.

Ideally, your micro conversions will exchange a content item for an email. Once someone gives you their email, you then continue the conversation. You offer value, and then more value, and then even more value. Then, you share how your product can help. Then you keep providing value and continue communicating in that manner. Over time, people will become more familiar with your brand and when they’re ready to make a purchase, they will go back to your website.

These are the conversion paths you want to optimize to grow your SEO. The smaller points that take more time to convert to your primary conversion. Someone coming to your website from search likely isn’t going to buy your product today. There is a much better chance they will download the free PDF guide you have available. So start by offering a high value freebie and building trust and authority with your site visitors.

Just like with the SEO goals you created earlier around your content creation, create conversion optimization goals in a similar fashion. Don’t create a goal of improving your conversion rate by a certain percent, instead create a goal you can control.

Do you already have a freebie to get people on your email list? If not, start there. Create a goal to make a conversion path with no barriers to start building trust and authority. If you do already have a freebie, how can it be improved? Is it noticeable on your website? Is it clear what problems it solves and why it’s worth getting? Can the actual item be improved? Do people open the emails you send after the fact or should the subject lines be improved?

Create a goal for yourself to improve the desired conversion path you want people to take after they visit your site from search engines. Once you complete the goal, you’ll be able to monitor conversion rates to see the results and understand the impact of the change. But, set your goal as the action you can perform and use metrics to measure the result.

Optimize Existing Efforts

Getting SEO traffic from new content is great, but don’t forget about the pages on your website that are already bringing you SEO traffic.

Go to Google Analytics, and go to Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages. Add a secondary dimension of Medium. And then use an advanced search to only include the medium dimension of organic. This will show you the top pages people land on from organic search traffic.

top organic landing pages

Look at the pages where you get the most sessions. Review those pages. Is the content still accurate? Could you add any charts, images, or videos, to improve the content on the page? Are there any free templates or guides you should offer on this page in exchange for an email address?

Create a goal to review and update the pages that currently bring in the majority of your organic search traffic.

Understand the Metrics to Measure for SEO Results

So now you have at least three SEO goals that you have complete control over if you achieve them or not. You have an SEO content creation goal, a conversion optimization goal, and a goal to improve the current top SEO content. Now, you need to understand the metrics you can measure to determine the impact your goals had on your site performance.

The two main metrics you will monitor are traffic and conversions.

Metrics to Measure Search Traffic

When your website is brand new, your search traffic will probably be very low. And if you just spent months or even a year building content to improve SEO and your traffic numbers are still low, that can be discouraging. Just because your website doesn’t have much traffic yet, doesn’t mean your efforts aren’t having an impact.

When your website is brand new, monitor search impressions instead of traffic. Search impressions will be the first metric that starts to climb when you focus on improving SEO. Your content will start to display more in search engine results pages which increases your impressions. This is positive growth that you should be proud of. Keep going down that path and this will eventually turn into clicks and website visits.

To monitor your search impressions, go to the Google Search Console. Under Performance, click on Search Results. This will show you both the total number of impressions and total clicks. Though clicks will always be much lower than impressions, this will show you if you are trending up or down. So, start by monitoring these impressions when your visitor count is too low to notice an impact.

search impressions

Once you consistently post content, this will change and your website traffic will increase. The time it takes to start getting search traffic will vary depending on how competitive the industry is and how often you update your website. It could take months or it could take years.

To view the amount of traffic you get from organic search on your website go to Google Analytics. Navigate to Acquisition > All Traffic > Source / Medium. You’ll want to look for your organic traffic sources. This will likely be listed as google / organic and bing / organic. You can view the number of sessions to see how much traffic your site is receiving from search engines. Compare the date range to the previous year to see how your efforts have improved.

organic traffic

Metrics to Measure SEO Conversions

Lastly, you’ll want to measure conversions. In the same Google Analytics report you just looked at to view traffic (Acquisition > All Traffic > Source / Medium) you’ll see on the right hand side there are conversion columns. You can use the dropdown at the top of the conversion columns to select the conversion point you want to measure. This can be e-commerce related or any of the goals you have set up. This will allow you to view the conversion rate and number of completed conversions by the acquisition source such as google organic search traffic.

traffic conversions

Sometimes organic search traffic can play a role in the conversion path even though it wasn’t the last piece. For example, someone can find your site using organic search, then they start following you on social media. They eventually convert based on a social media ad which gets credit for the conversion. However, organic search did play a role in the beginning of the process. You can view this information under the Multi-Channel Funnels report. Go to Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions. Here you can view how the various channels play a role towards conversions.

multi channel funnels

In Summary

To set goals for SEO, focus on the actions you’re in control of. Set your goals based on what you will get done. Then make sure you know the metrics you can measure to determine the results of your work.

Get the work done, then measure the results. SEO is a long-term game, success doesn’t happen overnight. Stay consistent and be proud of any wins you see.

What SEO goals have you set for yourself? Share them with us in the comments!


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HOW TO DO SEO YOURSELF

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The idea of SEO can be overwhelming in the beginning. The internet is flooded with free marketing resources. And though it’s great to have so much knowledge available, going through countless articles can be daunting and it’s hard to know which are trustworthy. To make it simple, I’ve outlined the SEO basics you should know to get started. And, I’ve identified the SEO guides to follow to dive deep into the key tactics you’ll need to learn SEO.

What is SEO?

The first and most important thing to learn is what SEO actually is. SEO is an acronym for “Search Engine Optimization”. Moz defines SEO as “the practice of improving and promoting a website to increase the number of visitors the site receives from search engines.” Basically, SEO is meant to improve your website rankings in search engines and ideally receive more website traffic in return.

Now that we know the meaning of SEO, let’s define some other jargon terms you might come across when learning about SEO.

Commonly Used SEO Jargon

Algorithm

According to Google an algorithm is “a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.” Where SEO is concerned, an algorithm refers to the rules a search engine uses to rank websites.

algorithm

Crawler

“Crawler” is a generic term used to describe programs that automatically run to scan websites. The crawlers are sometimes referred to as “robots” or “spiders”. A crawler discovers websites by crawling from one link to another. Google’s main crawler is called Googlebot and Bing’s main crawler is called Bingbot.

Keyword

Keywords or keyphrases are the query terms people enter in the search engine to try and find a web page or site to match their search intent.

keyword search

Organic

Search engines have two types of result listings, paid and organic. The organic results are the free listings which you rank for naturally.

paid vs organic

SERP

SERP stands for Search Engine Results Page. It is the page that occurs with the results after you perform a search. There are typically ten organic listings on each search engine results page.

SERP

White Hat and Black Hat

White Hat and Black Hat are opposite types of SEO tactics. White Hat strategies follow the rules and guidelines set forth by search engines and are the most beneficial long-term. Black Hat tactics are frowned upon. They are intentionally sneaky and meant to trick search engines. Black Hat strategies aren’t long lasting as search engines are constantly changing algorithms to improve search quality.

Why Does Everyone Focus on Google?

According to comScore, over 64% of search queries come from Google. Since the vast majority of searchers are using the Google search engine it makes sense to focus on Google.

search share

With that being said, over 20% of search queries do come from Microsoft products so you certainly shouldn’t ignore Bing. However, Bing and Yahoo generally have similar rules and guidelines to Google so by catering to Google’s standards you are likely setting it up to rank higher on Bing and Yahoo as well.

How Do Search Engines Work?

A search engine has an organized index of content. You can think of it as a library. The search algorithm acts like the librarian. When a book request is made to a librarian, the librarian attempts to select the book that is the best fit. Similarly, when a search query is made in a search engine, the algorithm attempts to provide the most relevant and useful results. The search algorithm sorts through the content every time a search query is performed.

The search engine is always trying to find new ways to provide the perfect match to every search. That is why some searches return pictures, videos, and maps. The ideal result varies depending on the search.

And this system is constantly getting better and better. That is why the search algorithm is always being changed. It is being improved in order to return the best search results possible.

If you want more information on how search engines work, go directly to the source. Google has put together an incredible video providing a behind the scenes tour of how Google search works. It is both entertaining and informative.

Pages are Ranked, Not Sites

It’s good to know that SERPs list web pages, not sites. This is important because it means that every page matters. This gives you many more opportunities to rank for different keywords, since each group of keywords can have a particular page associated with them.

Relevance is Key

It’s important to remember that relevance is key in the search engine’s eyes. When a user enters a keyword, the search engine wants to display results that are relevant to that keyword. Similarly, when the user clicks on a link the search engine wants the contents of that page to be relevant to the text displayed on the result and the original keyword.

Learn SEO for Free

As mentioned earlier, there truly is an abundance of free SEO resources online. Some of them are better than others and it can be hard to weed through them all, especially when you’re first starting out. Here are a few resources that I personally find to be the most useful if you’re looking to learn SEO for free.

Google

Whenever possible, I find it best to get my information directly from the source. Though it isn’t extensive information, Google does provide documentation on how to make your site “Google friendly”. They also offer Webmaster Guidelines Best Practices.

It’s worth the time to read through both of these so you get a clear understanding of what’s important to Google.

Moz

Moz has excellent resources for learning SEO. Though every MOZ resource really is beneficial, I would start out with the Beginners Guide to SEO. The guide has a nice A through Z overview on everything SEO related.

Guide to SEO

Neil Patel

Another great resource is Neil Patel. He offers a lot of good SEO knowledge as well as broader digital marketing information and is even responsible for the UberSuggest tool. Neil Patel offers several free digital marketing video courses including one specific for SEO called SEO Unlocked.

These are all great resources to get in-depth guides on SEO best practices.

Where to Focus Your SEO Efforts

Google has stated that there are over 200 ranking signals. Though there is some suspicion as to what those 200+ ranking signals are, there is not a definitive list from Google and signals are subject to constant change.

If you aren’t sure where to start, you can always begin with an SEO audit. In no particular order, the following aspects of SEO are the ones where I choose to direct my focus.

Keyword Research

Keyword research is a good place to start. It will help you make decisions when it comes to content and on-page optimizations. Performing keyword research will ensure you aren’t wasting your time when writing content. Instead, it allows you to focus on topics people want to hear about.

Performing keyword research doesn’t have to involve expensive tools. Here is a simple keyword research system you can follow. It includes a Google Sheets template and uses non-paid tools and resources anyone can access.

On-Page Optimizations

There are several elements on your web pages that can affect search rankings. Some of the main on-page elements that can and should be optimized are meta tags and html elements such as title tags, header tags, and image alt tags.

If you’re looking for a tool to audit your current on-page elements, I’d recommend Screaming Frog. With Screaming Frog you can easily see your on-page elements as well as the length and pixel width.

Another great tool to identify on-page optimization best practices is Bing Webmaster Tools. And it’s completely free. Bing actually offers a URL Inspection tool in their Webmaster Tools. You enter any URL on your site and it identifies SEO and indexing issues.

To learn more about on-page elements, view the on-page optimization checklist.

Content

As mentioned earlier, the SERPs display web pages (not sites) which makes the content (including blogs) very important. With that being said, it’s also important to know that high quality content is far more important than quantity.

You can use your keyword research to identify topics that are important to your niche and build out relevant pages corresponding to those terms. You can also generate content ideas based on audience feedback. What are the most common questions you get? What do you hear people struggling with? Write content to support their needs.

Sometimes you can even find a few ideas from tools. You can use the HubSpot Blog Topic Generator or Portent’s Content Idea Generator to try and trigger some ideas.

Content Idea Generator

When creating content, spend extra time writing the title. The title is one of the most important pieces of your content because it is one of the primary factors as to whether or not the article will be read. We’ve put together a 7 step system you can follow to create a catchy title for your content.

When it comes to creating content for SEO, remember to focus on the reader. Don’t get too carried away with SEO best practices. It’s more important to create interesting and valuable content for your ideal reader.

Backlinks

Backlinks are both important for SEO and difficult to obtain. Like the content, it isn’t the sheer volume of backlinks that is important, but rather the quality. The best backlinks come from authoritative, relevant sites.

There are several link building strategies you can use. Yet, I don’t focus on building links. It’s extremely time consuming and I’ve found it isn’t a good use of my time. I focus on building high quality articles and then get the word out naturally to anyone following my brand. That is primarily through email and social networks. This does slowly build up links. It is a long process but it is the result of efforts that I would be doing either way.

Page Speed

Google has stated that page speed is one of the many ranking factors they use. There has been page speed research done which shows that the particular page speed metric Google measures for ranking purposes is Time to First Byte (TTFB).

Time to First Byte Ranking Chart

Furthermore, optimizing page speed is always a good idea because it leads to a better user experience.

Some of the best tools to measure and optimize page speed are:

Technical

There is a whole slew of technical SEO aspects that are worth your attention. Some of the main ones include an XML sitemap, robots.txt file, the URL structure, schema tags, broken links, and HTTP status codes.

A good tool to use for many of the technical aspects is the Google Search Console. Within the Google Search Console you can upload your sitemap, view what is being blocked in your robots.txt file, create schema tags and check current tags for issues, and find crawl errors caused by broken links and 404 error codes.

A nice tool to easily identify broken links on your site is Broken Link Checker. As a side note, this tool can also be used on sites you don’t own. You can then reach out to the site owner and offer a replacement for the broken link with a comparable link to your site.

Another important piece of technical SEO is identifying any penalties that have been placed on your site. You can check the Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools for any manual penalties, but they won’t notify you of algorithmic penalties.

Some tools to try and identify if your site has been affected by an algorithmic penalty are:

Google has recently added more emphasis to the importance of SSL and domain security. Having an SSL certificate can boost your search rankings, though not substantially. To check the security status of your domain you can use the SSL Server Test tool.

Mobile

Google has a mobile-first index. Your ranking is determined by your mobile site. If your site isn’t mobile friendly it won’t rank as well.

There are several different ways to make your site mobile friendly. Google’s preferred methods are amp or responsive design. Google actually offers an entire guide on making your site mobile friendly and mobile SEO best practices.

The most important thing to keep in mind is any URL should be providing the same value and content to the user, but in an optimized output based on the device viewing the URL. Mobile users don’t want to automatically be sent to your home page, they intend to reach the specific relevant topic that matches their search query.

Listen to the Search Engines

When optimizing your site for search it’s important to listen to the search engines. Both Google and Bing offer webmaster tools. These tools are essentially the search engines attempting to communicate with you. It’s important to verify your sites within the tools so you can listen to the feedback you’re receiving directly from the search engines.

Stay Current on SEO Knowledge

The world of SEO is constantly changing and evolving. If you really want to learn SEO, you’ll have to continuously educate yourself and stay up-to-date on SEO. To fully understand SEO you must immerse yourself into the industry.

This is a complete list of my favorite SEO resources.

Make SEO Changes that Won’t Become Outdated

At the end of the day your SEO changes should make sense for your community. If you want your SEO efforts not to become outdated, focus all changes on what is best for your audience. The search engines are doing everything they can to provide the best results and best user experience. If you have the same goal in mind, any algorithm changes in the future should only help your site and not hurt it. If your website has a page that is truly the best option for that user, then search engines will eventually rank it higher than all other options.


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