For the last decade, search engine optimisation has proven to be the most cost effective investment any company can make.
And heading into deeper into 2020, this doesn't look like it's going to change.
It's hard to know where to start and what to do to actually get results.
To date are over 386 million pages ranking about search engine optimisation 🤯
So after helping thousands of website rank higher Google, this is everything you need to know to rank higher on Google broken down into the most simple and effective steps.
Understanding Google 💡
To understand SEO, we need to understand Google. Google's whole goal is to ensure that the people using Google search will get the most relevant useful results.
More specifically, it wants the number one result to essentially be the most relevant result for the searcher.
So it's up to us to make sure we format our content in a way to help Google understand who we want finding out content, and why we should be in that number one spot.
In this guide, we're going to break down exactly how a start-up or small business can perform an SEO audit for their own website, and improve their results without having to spend thousands on a professional.
And to make this even easier to digest, we're going to go through the process in the same flow your customers will discover and and get the most out your website.
We'll review and improve our website, Hello Mellows, during this post so you can see and learn from exactly what we're doing.
Bonus: The other, more important, outcome you'll achieve going through this process is also making your website much more accessible to the visually impaired! You're awesome, nice work 👏
How Do You Currently Appear On Google? 🤷
The first question to ask yourself is how you currently are appearing on Google.
Give your business a quick Google search and take a look at the results.
Below is what it looks like at the moment for us!
Meta Titles & Descriptions ⚡
So now we know how we look when our audience is searching for us, first we're going to take a look at our meta titles and meta descriptions.
This is one of the most important factors because it's what your website visitors will see before they click on any result.
The meta title of the result is the main title and labeled #1 in the image above.
The meta description is the description below the title labeled #2.
Each result has it's own meta title & description.
Meta Title Optimisation
It's important for your meta title to include a keyword, be catchy, and be 60 characters max. Hope you've been practicing with your Twitter posts!
Numbers, emojis, call-to-actions, are just some of the fun ways you can make your title pop.
At the moment our home page title is "Hello Mellows: Marketing Software For Smart Marketers 👏"
This could be changed to "#1 Marketing Software For Smarter Marketers | Hello Mellows"
Meta Description Optimisation
For your meta description, you'll notice the keyword (what you searched on Google) is in bold, in this case our companies name 'Hello Mellows.' Although you don't need the keyword in your meta description, it does make your result pop. The other factor that you should include is a call to action! Encourage people to click on your result.
Your meta description needs to be 160 characters max.
At the moment our home page description is "Hello Mellows helps you grow your business, track your results, impress your managers, and align the company."
This could be changed to "Hello Mellows is one of the best ways to grow your business, track your results, impress your managers, and align the company. Click here to find out more."
Every page on your website has a meta title & description so it's important to make sure you're updating this for each page.
On top of this, even blog post you launch will have one as well. The catchier and more effective your titles and descriptions the more likely you are to appear higher on Google.
One of the factors Google takes into account is how many people are clicking on your result versus others that are usually in your position.
So if you are ranked #7 on the first page of Google, on average 4.15% of searches will click on your results.
But if your title and description are eye-catching and on-point and Google is seeing that in fact 7% of people are clicking on your result, it's a great indication to Google that you should be ranked higher people your result is so relevant to these searchers.
Your Google My Business Page 🏡
If you've gone through our other experiments, you've probably heard a lot about the Google My Business page. This is a free tool by Google to help companies not only rank higher in their local area, but also display more information about your business to searchers.
If you don't have one already, head over to Google My Business and create one!
It's absolutely free and as you can see, adds so much added real estate on the first page of Google for your business.
Also it's such a great way to reinforce your brand through posts, reviews, photos, and more.
The four ways main ways to improve your Google My Business (GMB) page are:
- Adding more photos! At the moment you can see we don't have any photos so it's just displaying the front of our office, and a Google Maps image. How boring.
- Adding your main keyword to your name. If you're a call tracking startup called Call Rail your GMB should be 'Call Rail Call Tracking' so when people search Call Tracking you have a better chance of appearing.
- Getting your customers to leave reviews! This will dramatically improve your visitors connection with you if they can see that you are a highly rated customer even before they click on your website.
- Make updates and posts. You can also include offers, services, offers, and more. Again, all this appearing on the Google search 🤯
Here's an example of an optimised Google My Business page. Lots of reviews, personalized photos, and they even have their products and categories displaying when you search for them!
H1, Alt Tags, and Schema Oh My 🐻
Okay, so now we're actually going to click on our homepage and take a little sneak peek into what Google sees.
For this, we're going to recommend you go ahead and grab Detailed's SEO extension. It's completely free and is super easy to understand.
So here we can see our new and improved meta title and description.
Okay, we're going to ignore most things on the overview page for now and just straight into the headers tab.
Since Google can't actually see, the programmers at Google needed to figure out a way to help the algorithm understand what to look for when it's trying to figure out what the page is about, and whether or not it should show the page to its searchers.
One of the bigger factors are the title tags, like the H1 and H2 tag.
On most website builders, you probably played around with these to change font sizes, but they can actually have a bigger impact on whether or not you're ranking.
The most important thing to mention is every page should have only one H1 tag.
In your blog post, this will be the title of the post.
But on the main pages of our website, sometimes we can get carried away with making our fonts bigger and having multiple H1 tags 😂
So, firstly, have a look at how many H1 tags your pages have.
The second thing to take into account is does your H1 tag include your main keyword?
Sometimes, usually on homepages, it doesn't make sure to try shove the keyword in there, for us, I'm more than happy with our H1 tag, even though it doesn't say 'marketing software' it still says 'marketing,' and we mentioned software right below it which will give Google some more context.
Now with H2 tags, these are the second most important title tags that Google takes into account.
H1 should be what the page is all about.
H2 are the supporting sections to build up the H1.
So for us, the H2 tag 'Hello Mellows gives you...' is pretty terrible.
It doesn't add any value, it doesn't include any keywords or synonyms of that keyword, overall that's a fail.
Great H2 tags could be 'Marketing Software for Startups,' 'Tracking To Improve Your Agencies Growth,' etc.
Essentially building up the fact that we sell marketing software, and including either our features that people might search for, or include the target markets we're trying to help.
So if people are searching for 'marketing software for startups' we could rank for that.
Or if they're searching for 'marketing guides for startups' we could also appear!
You can have multiple H2 tags, as long as they keep in line with supporting your H1 tag.
Continuing on H3 tags are supporting tags for your H2s, and H4s are supporting tags for your H3s etc.
Now a massive thing to mention is that making sure your pages information hierarchy is set up properly is also amazingly helpful for people who have disabilities.
Clear tags helps people using a screen reader to navigate your site much more effectively.
A screen reader would traditionally tab through the H1 titles, then the H2 titles, until the reader wants to read that section. This can be incredibly frustrating navigating through a site with a terrible information hierarchy.
Take the screenshot above.
Each H2 tag says nothing about the section below.
There's an H4 tag that is just a waving emoji.
This creates a very unpleasant experience for both Google and the visually impaired in this case. How are they ever going to quickly find the information they're looking for, in this case, whether or not Hello Mellows can help them.
The same goes for your blog posts and content. If they're browsing a recipe page, can they quickly navigate to the ingredients they need? Or the recipe? Or is it hidden under a poor information structure.
Above you can see the header tags for this blog post.
This is so much easier to navigate!
Just like title tags, alt tags/texts help create a website that is both more accessible and has a higher chance to be ranked higher on Google.
To access alt tags, click the 'Images' tab on the Detailed SEO Extension.
Google can't yet recognize images, so it relies on the owners of the website to declare what the images are about.
This also helps improve accessibility because it allows the visually impaired to understand what the images show as well.
So it's amazingly valuable to add alt tags to every image you upload onto your website with a short description about what the image contains.
As you can see, if it wasn't for this audit, we would be in a terrible spot!
Before this, we both didn't have clear title tags AND all of our images were without alt tags.
It's no wonder we weren't doing that well on our rankings before.
Most website builders and content management systems make it super easy to add alt tags.
While adding keywords or synonyms can be important to add to some images on each page, it's important that your prioritize accessibility and usefulness over keyword stuffing.
Google knows when you're mentioning keywords for the sake of trying to rank.
Content & Backlinks
Finally, let's work through content and backlinks.
The final two biggest factors to mention is content length and backlinks.
The more content (video, written, and audio) a page has, the longer a visitor might spend on the website so Google has learnt that more content tends to lead to higher visitor satisfaction!
And while this isn't always true, it is a good rule of thumb.
So while we can understand that a good amount of amazing content is a key to ranking on Google, how does Google itself rank #1 for a ton of terms with only 20 words on it's homepage, where others might require thousands of words?
The other, probably most important factor, is trust.
Google has millions of websites around the world linking to its homepage so it doesn't need to do much to make sure it ranks #1.
Because your website might not yet have millions linking to you, you need to go about this a little different.
Every website in the world has a homepage.
And because every website tends to always point back to the homepage no matter what page you're on, and most external websites linking to your website will link to the homepage, this tends to be the most trusted page.
Essentially, a website tends to funnel the trust always back to its homepage, and that's why homepages can get away with less content, and context.
But what happens when you try to rank for a new search term?
Let's say we wanted to rank for the term 'SEO for startups.'
Well, we don't want to change our homepage to be only about SEO for startups since that's just a fraction of who we could help.
So we would probably have to either create a new page on our website, or maybe create a blog post... like this one? 🤯
But since websites funnel trust to the homepage, we need to figure out other ways we can help this page rank.
The two main ways (apart from fantastic on-page SEO by following the above steps) is through content & backlinks.
Traditionally, we aim for at least 2,000 words of juicy, A-grade content.
How do you know if it's A-grade content?
Ask your users!
Who ultimately decides whether you should rank or not though is your users. How do they find the content? Are they reading it all and sharing it? Or just closing the window because it's boring or doesn't actually help them in any way.
Google is placing more and more importance on what happens when people land on your page.
So we need to ensure we're adding as much value as possible to the users who are looking for information about startup SEO or SEO audits.
This also ensures that we're giving Google as many signals as possible that we're going to be helping the users it shows our content to.
The other factor is backlinks.
A backlink is when another website links to your website.
This is one of the main trust signals that Google basis its rankings off.
It's essentially like if I gave you a recommendation for a job. The more people you can get recommendations from, and the more trusted those people are, the more likely you are to be hired. It's definitely not the only factor, you still need to be able to do what you said you can do!
And the more trusted the website who is linking to you, the more emphasis Google places on that backlink.
Getting backlinks is a whole guide in itself though so we'll save that for later.
But if you're keen to get more backlinks today, here's the strategy we recommend.
Our only advice is please don't buy backlinks. Backlinks need to be earned and the quality of what you can just buy outright will be the reason you can't rank in the future.
As you can see, SEO doesn't actually need to be that hard!
It's all about making sure your website is accessible and useful.
So whenever you create a new page or blog post, here's a quick and simple checklist to go through to ensure Google can't help but rank you!
✔ Meta Title is short and sexy
✔ Meta Description includes a call to action, and a clear reason explanation of what the page is about
✔ Your page only has one H1 tag and the information hierarchy is clear
✔ Every image on your page has a clear alt-tag that isn't full of keyword stuffing
✔ You're confident you have a good amount of content and that your users really enjoy it