SEO. For many small business owners, the simple utterance of these three letters sends their minds spiraling into a state of total confusion and conflict. They know they need SEO (search engine optimization) to increase their rankings on search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo).
What they don’t typically understand is the what and how of implementing SEO best practices that matter.
To ease the confusion, we are going to break down the key elements that Google uses to rank your site. We’ll then dive deep into one of those factors – Technical SEO. We’ll help you understand what it is, why it matters and what steps you can take immediately to ensure your business website is optimized.
What SEO Ranking Factors Matter to Google?
Many of the small business owners that we come across still think that SEO is only about keyword and meta description settings on your website. Well, it’s no longer 2012, and Google is looking for much more.
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The top three ranking factors that we are going to focus on that we feel all small businesses can immediately implement and improve are:
- Technical SEO
(Let me be clear: we are not valuing one of these over the other in this list – they are all important. From our standpoint, however, we believe that from an implementation standpoint, it makes sense to start with cleaning up your technical SEO so as you start to develop content and look for backlinks, your website is already optimized and not impeding those additional efforts.)
So let’s define what each of these factors is.
Technical SEO relates to everything that impacts the performance of your blog and its relationship with search engine spiders.
Content relates to the creation of quality content that your audience finds valuable enough that they engage and share. The content should revolve around your keyword strategy (but maintain a proper keyword density – no stuffing!!) and follow other best practices including appropriate length, readability, and comprehensiveness.
Backlinks are links from outside domains that point to pages on your domain; essentially linking back from their domain to yours. Backlinks can significantly improve your rankings, especially if they are coming from authority sites.
Understanding Technical SEO
Here’s the reality. If your website doesn’t have a solid technical SEO foundation, it doesn’t matter how strong your on-page and off-page SEO is – your ranking will be affected. Website performance and user experience have become key factors in Google’s search engine ranking algorithms over the last 2-3 years. Ignore it – and you’ll pay the price.
And if you think, “My website is beautiful, and I paid a LOT of money to my designers for the best site possible,” – think again. There are a lot of web design ‘hacks’ out there who just don’t understand these technical aspects of web performance. They focus on making things pretty – not on making sure performance is optimized. That is why regardless of what you paid for your website, it’s crucial that you check the technical performance of your website.
So, what are we talking about when we say ‘website performance’? Here are some key factors to focus on and check for yourself.
Mobile Friendly Website
Does your website use a responsive design that makes it mobile friendly? We aren’t talking about merely having the ability to access your site via mobile devices, but actually optimizing the experience for mobile traffic.
Today, over 50 percent of online searches are done on mobile devices. Because of this, Google puts a high value on this as a ranking factor and gives preference to sites that are mobile friendly.
Not sure if your site is mobile friendly? Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool to check your website now.
Since 2010, page speed has been a ranking factor for Google, and they continue to penalize websites that have a poor TTFB – or Time to First Byte, which is the average time it takes to load the first byte of website data.
Want to test your site’s speed? Head over to Google’s Page Speed Insight tool and enter the URL of each of your website’s pages. You’ll want to see a score above 80 for both mobile and desktop speed.
Anything below 80 – you need to make some quick changes to your site. This could include optimizing images, using a caching tool like W3 Total Cache for caching and removing unnecessary plugins. Check the report results for the specific steps Google recommends. Then reach out to a qualified team who understands technical SEO to make the appropriate changes.
Host Your Site on Secure Servers
Where you choose to host your website can play a significant factor in your Google Ranking. If the server your site sits on is not secure or is poorly managed, you’ll want to look immediately to move to a more reliable service.
Remove Duplicate Content
Another factor that Google frowns upon is duplicate content on your site. This typically happens because of identical meta-descriptions on multiple pages.
To fix this, head over to the Search Console and look at HTML improvements under Search Appearance. Here you’ll find a list of any duplicate meta descriptions that need to be fixed.
Make Your Site Easy to Crawl
You want to ensure that you set up your site architecture so that it’s easy for Google’s spiders to crawl. You don’t want to have any content more than 3-4 clicks away from your homepage. A great way to do this is by using a silo structure.
Make a Move to HTTPS
One of the most recent factors that we are starting to see rise to the top of Google’s must-have list is HTTPS or the secure version of HTTP. Google is all about security, and while they have not definitively said that HTTPS plays a role in rank, they require HTTPS for secure data in Chrome.
Our suggestion – make a move to SSL now. It’s not complicated or costly to do, and it certainly won’t’ hurt.
If you are struggling to get more traffic to your website, take a few minutes today to check your site’s technical SEO. It could be affecting all of your other marketing efforts without you even knowing!
And if you need help checking your site and fixing the issues, let us know! We have some great packages available to help you boost your website performance and get you on the right track to increasing your site rankings!