SEO Fundamentals: How to make your website accessible for humans and search engines

Technical SEO is the foundation to your entire SEO strategy. In order for search engines to crawl and index your content, your site needs to be built and structured correctly. Website SEO fundamentals are key to running successful WordPress development and inbound marketing teams.

Serving your website over https

When a site is served over an https certificate, the connection between the end users device and the site is encrypted and secure. If your website has payment processing, this is a must have. If you want to get full referral data, and that requires https. It’s not all about privacy – HTTPS is a ranking signal for search engines.

Page load speed and how to leverage caching

50% of users expect a website to load in less than 2 seconds. But website speed isn’t only for end users. Google only allots a certain amount of time to index your website and the faster the site loads, the more pages will be indexed. A major factor in website speed is ‘time to first byte’ which is how long it takes for the server to respond to a call to your website. This is where hosting comes into play. You want a good hosting provider that will serve your website over a Content Delivery Network, or CDN.

Checkout webpagetest.org to see how your website is performing. Google PageSpeed Insights is a good resource as well which analyzes your website for best practices, providing actionable suggestions to speed up your website.

Website architecture and adding a sitemap

Search engines use spiders to crawl your website pages and index your content. Some pages you might not want indexed, like a resource library where you collect users email addresses in order to access the pages content. When beginning SEO work on a project, you need to check Google Search Console to make sure the website has first been registered. Next, you need to make sure there is a Sitemap XML file, a public facing table of contents for your website. If the amount of pages indexed is smaller than what it should be, you know something is wrong. You would need to check the robots.txt file to make sure some pages are not being blocked from being indexed.

You can learn more about how to manage your sitemaps here.

URLs, slugs, permalinks and how to use properly

Over recent years, keywords used in domain names have become less important in Google’s algorithm. Subdomain names and URLs for posts and pages have increased in response. Using hyphens and choosing long tail keywords in URLs demonstrates modern day website best practices.

SEO can be attached to particular posts and pages within a WordPress website. When changing the URL to a post or page, it is important to create a redirect, which will help end users land on the correct page. If other websites link to the old URL source, a redirect with the URL source, redirect type, and URL destination will need to be created to keep the original source link ‘SEO juice’ and prevent end users from visiting a 404 error page.

Duplicate content errors and how to avoid

Search engines frown upon having several pages on your website with duplicate content. Some sites do this with or without being known to the website owner. For example, www.domain.com will serve the same webpage as domain.com. Specifying which URL to use is important for website best practices in order to mitigate duplicate content errors and increase your SEO. You can try and go to dcdevshop.com, but it will redirect all end users to www.dcdevshop.com.

Resources for performing our own website audit

Webpagetest.org is great for testing load speed, Screamingfrog is a great broken link checker tool, and SEmrush website audit is a great tool for website audit. DCDS use all these tools when providing feedback to users who have requested a Website Audit from our team.

Page content is one of the most weighted items in Google’s search algorithm. Google is getting better at language semantics and understanding synonyms. This was done during the Hummingbird update of 2013 and has been fine tuned even more since then. Because of this, you should always create unique content with unique language that is useful and relevant to users.

Keyword research and optimizing website page content

Before optimizing pages on your website, you need to thoroughly research keywords. You don’t want to rank high for keywords or longform keywords if nobody is searching for them. Google’s Keyword Planner, located inside Google Adwords’ interface, is your best resource to use when performing keyword research. Ubersuggest and SEMrush are good tools for this as well.

Writing and optimizing content for search engines previously included placing keywords frequently throughout a website. Search engines now understand that this doesn’t provide users with a good experience and will actually hurt your website ranking. Remember to create content around questions users are asking, not around using the same words over and over again.

On page elements and how to use them

The title tag and first page heading (h1) are the most weighted page elements. Other headings like h2 and h3 are important as well and should be nested properly by hierarchy. Images need alt text and good naming convention, as well as should be small in file size, which helps increase page load speed for end users. If you have the option to customize the post or page slug, be sure to include keywords in the URL. Make sure you are initicing users to click through to your page as titles and meta descriptions are used to populate search results on Google.

Mobile First Indexing of Search Results

Mobile web user has exploded. In today’s world, mobile device users are more likely to purchase after a search than desktop users. In the past, search engines results were based off desktop searches, but starting in 2018, Google is now using a mobile first index. Now even searching on a desktop will give results that are based from mobile search results. You need to make sure you have content on the mobile version of your website if you want to rank and index for that content with desktop search users.

Mobile considerations with AMP and UX

AMP is short for Accelerated Mobile Pages, which strips down the html out of webpages. This strips out most unnecessary elements and only loads the text and images that are necessary. Google Page Insights is a great tool to reference when looking for recommendations on increasing page load speed on mobile devices.

Make sure phone numbers are clickable on websites (nobody wants to copy and paste your phone number to call you). For mobile sites, clickable elements need to take up enough space on the device for users to actually be able to click on it. Likewise, font sizes need to be large enough to read. Remember, you need to design with a mobile first mentality. Running A/B tests are great to identify which design elements users are more likely to interact with.

Local SEO and what you should be doing

Everybody gets different results if they search pizza delivery on their mobile devices, depending on where they are located. This is because of the local Google algorithm and leveraging local SEO best practices.

Your business name, address and phone number need to be the same across all web channels. These are used as a foundation for local SEO and built on with additional signals including your website. Content and topical relevance will remain the main SEO goal but you need to include local relevancy as well. Talk about what is going on in your community and how your content and topics relate to what’s going on around you.

Register your business with Google and ask your customers for reviews. Google looks at other review websites as well so spread your reviews across different channels. Respond to customer reviews and be genuine. How you handle disgruntled customers online is apparent to everyone reading your reviews – take your time and be well spoken.

This is a blog post from SEMrush Academy’s SEO Fundamentals Course with Greg Gifford.