Just having a website is kind of like having a phone number. Just because you have a phone number doesn’t mean your phone will ring and it’s the same with your website. The difference now is that the phone book for websites is search engines and everyone’s competing for the top spot.
Google can only put one website at the top (you can buy pay per click ads, of course) and if you’re Google, you want to put the best result there. If Google puts a lousy result at the top, they’ll lose people’s trust. If that continues, people would then start using a different search engine. So it may not look like it but Google is working very hard to give the best results.
So how do you make sure your website is at the top of searches?
This process is called search engine optimization (SEO). It’s the process of optimizing your website to rank higher. It’s essentially helping Google put you at the top. There are a lot of facets to SEO. You could study it a long time and still not be an expert but there are some main or important factors that will give you the best bang for your buck/your time.
There’s both on-page SEO and off-page SEO. On-page are factors within your control since it’s your website and you control that. Off-page are factors having to do with other websites linking to you. Some of this is within your control and some isn’t.
This article will mainly cover on-page SEO factors since that is where you want to always start.
1. Web Page Load Speed
Your website has to load quickly. Will Google rank a website that takes a long time to load as number one? No way. They’ll lose trust with people that use Google, right? You have to get your website loading as fast as possible.
The first place to start is with your hosting. Make sure you have your website on a server that’s fast. Pay extra if you have to. It should be using SSD (solid state drives), which are very fast. It should have a power processor(s). The network should also be fast. To test your server’s load time, create a simple text file, upload it to your website and then test that URL in a tool like Pingdom. Your website should already have a file like this called robots.txt, so a URL like this should be all you need:
https://[YOUR DOMAIN NAME]/robots.txt
For example, here’s the one for this website:
Here’s the one I ran for MadisonClick:
Next, run the same test with your home page or another page on your website, like here:
It then came up with 3.6 seconds, which is alright. You’re aiming for 3 seconds or less. If I ran it a few more times at different times of the day, I could come up with a more accurate average. We know that the minimum we can bring this down to is 0.3 seconds (our baseline) so there’s about 3.3 seconds we can try to optimize.
Tools like Pingdom do give you a list of what you should improve. Some of that may look like Greek to you and using a good website developer would be in your best interest because you don’t have time to learn this stuff, you have a business to run.
If you’re using WordPress for your website, there are various plugins to use to do things like “minify” files (take out all the spaces and combine files) and things like caching but the first step is to optimize images since that’s easier and you get instant savings. Do that by downloading images, run them through Optimizilla and then replace images on your website with the smaller versions. You’ll probably want to use FTP or else just go into each article/page, remove the image you have and then upload the new image.
This is a task you do once that you keep benefiting from, so it’s definitely worth the time to do it – even though this task could take a lot of time.
2. Are Your Forcing Every Page to Be Secure?
Although this isn’t the most important, on-page ranking factor, it matters. You need to make sure that every page of your website loads with HTTPS instead of HTTP. The only version that should work is HTTPS. In other words, if people click on a link that’s HTTP, your website should force them over to the HTTPS version.
Google wants all websites to load using the SSL certificate, not just banking / shopping websites or web pages that take in secure information but all pages. If you don’t, people coming to your website may see a message that says “not secure” or see a broken lock symbol in their browser’s address bar and that just doesn’t look good.
3. Is There Just One Version of Every Page?
This goes along with the previous point about SSL and forcing non HTTP connections over to HTTPS. You want to make sure there’s just one version of every page and that every page has original content.
For example, your website should just load with the “www” version of the domain or the “non-www” version but not both. The “www” version of your domain is a subdomain and could technically be seen as a separate website, which would mean you have the same content on 2 websites, earning you a duplicate content penalty.
Another example is your home page loading with and without the actual page name. The actual page may be “index.html” or “index.asp” or “index.php” or something similar. You need to forward those URLs to your home page that’s just the domain name or else that’s 2 (or more) addresses (URLs) where you home page can be found and again… a duplicate content penalty.
4. Do You Have Enough Content on the Home Page?
Two paragraphs of text isn’t usually enough for a search engine to set you up as an authority in your niche. You need good, original content on your home page and lots of it.
If you work with any SEO company, one of the first things they’ll do is order some content written for your home page if there’s not enough. This is because it really does give you about the biggest bang for the buck.
5. Keyword Research
How do you know where you’re going if you don’t have a goal or directions to get there? This is what good keyword research does for you. Go for keywords that have enough searches in your area – not just the ones you think are the best, because… they might not be.
You also most often get more searches for longer tail keywords. I’m talking about keywords with 4-5 or more words in them. Add all of these searches up and you’ll get more traffic than your main keyword pretty easily. This is a great place to start. Work on these keywords first and rank for them in order to build some authority.
You’ll be using these good keywords in your titles, meta descriptions, and headings – as well as sprinkling them around the content of your articles/pages.
Google is actually measuring how well your website converts traffic into leads and sales. The better it does, the higher it’ll rank. They watch things like “dwell time” (how long people stay at each page) or if they bounce off your page (go back) and try the next result. Your pages need good calls to action of varying degrees that are getting clicks. In other words, you just can’t “wing it.”
Not putting resources into a website and then wondering why it doesn’t rank well should be no great mystery. Today’s websites are yesterday’s yellow page ads. Remember spending hundreds or thousands on those per month? Are you doing that now with your website? Greats websites convert visitors into traffic. If your website doesn’t do that, it’s time for some expert help.
There is a lot to getting your website to rank high. SEO is a huge topic and it’s changing all the time. One, main constant is your content. People go to websites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and news websites for one thing… content. You go there and you know there will be something new. People do searches because they’re looking for content. It’s still all about content/information.
Write your content well. Give it a great, compelling headline. Use links, use images, use videos. Spend time writing it. Proof read it. Do research. Add more to it. It’s going to live on your website indefinitely and your website is like a salesperson, so make it a good salesperson, not a bad one.
If you need help with ranking higher, contact a website developer in Madison who can guide you and take care of getting your website more traffic that converts!