Do you wish you could handle all your SEO in-house? Recently our SEO manager, Steve Miller, created a comprehensive Do-It-Yourself SEO guidebook, covering all 20 steps a business owner should take to get control of their page rank. Steve and Jason presented five of those tips on Youtube—and we’re sharing them here as well.
These are five of the most effective, most doable action steps to climb through the search results, with no technical knowledge required. #1: Make Sure You’re Not Blocking Google! In order to put you in the search results Google (or any search engine) has to index your site. And to do that, Google’s robots have to crawl your site—which they can’t do if you’re blocking them. Unfortunately, you could be blocking them without even knowing it. There are two ways you might block Google and it’s easy to check and fix both of them. They are:
- Robots.txt. The “robots.txt” file is a file that tells search engines whether or not to index your site. You may never have heard of the robots file, but you can get to by simply navigating your browser to yourdomain.com/robots.txt. If this page doesn’t come up, great; if it does come up then look and see whether it says disallow:/. If it does, get your webmaster to remove it immediately.
- Robots meta tag. Instead of a separate robots file, some websites talk to search engines with code (meta tags). This code is known as the robots meta tag. To see your robots tag, right-click anywhere on your website’s home page (except on images/media) and select “view page source.” This will bring up all the code underlying your page. Within this code, simply hit ctrl+F and search for “robots.” If nothing comes up, then you have no problem. If you do find a robots tag, it should either be blank or read index, follow. If it says anything else ask your webmaster to fix it.
#2: Use Clean URLS
The structure of the URLs on your website makes a big difference in both usability and SEO. Consider two possible URLs:
Clearly, the second URL is much simpler. It’s less confusing for a human being to navigate to, and it’s also less confusing for Google. But some websites, particularly older ones, nonetheless use the more complicated URL structures—a holdover from the early days of the internet. If your site is one of them, don’t despair. The solution will take some time, but it will be worth it for your SEO. You need to sit down with your web team and make new URLs for all of your pages, essentially “moving over” the content from the old pages to the new ones. You’ll also need to create 301 redirects, which will automatically send visitors from the old pages over to the new ones. That way links to the old pages will still work and the existing SEO power of the pages will transfer to the new ones.
#3 Use Enough Content
The phrase “less is more” doesn’t always apply to online content. In fact, outside of tweets and Tumblr blogs, the internet generally rewards more meaty, robust content. In other words, if the content on your pages is too short—including your blog posts—you’re missing out. So how much content is enough? For starters, let’s talk about what isn’t enough. Tiny posts of 100 words will not cut it: this is the kind of page Google flags as “thin content” under its Panda update, and it can hurt your SEO or even earn you a penalty. Generally speaking, 200 words is the bare minimum to not be seen as thin content. For most blog posts and static pages, however, around 500 words is a better choice—assuming it’s not just fluff. By adding more helpful information to a post or page, you increase its value and this can seldom be done in much less than 500 words. If you’re willing to put in the time to create very high quality content, much longer pieces can also pay off. User studies have shown that articles that take roughly seven minutes to read (about 1400-1600 words) are ideal for garnering backlinks. That’s because they’re long enough to hold a reader’s attention, and thus stimulate discussion, without being so long that readers drop out halfway. However, this depends on quality: a long article has to be detailed and helpful throughout, and broken up by pictures. To create this kind of content it’s often best to bring in a professional writer. Whether you go for standard 500-word blog posts or longer “must read” pieces, make sure to link out as much as possible. If you’re presenting helpful information you should have sources to refer to, which is helpful both to readers and to your link profile.
#4: Remove Dead Ends
No one likes hitting a dead end, and that’s as true on the internet as it is anywhere else. We’ve all had the experience of clicking on a promising link only to get an error message. This is frustrating to users, and doesn’t win any favors from Google. What counts as a dead end online? Most of the time, it’s one of those annoying 404 messages—you know, “Not Found.” But there are other kinds of dead ends, like a link that loads a default page instead of the one it pointed to or a “Permission Denied” message. Basically, anytime a link doesn’t go where it’s supposed to go, that’s a dead end. No one links to dead ends on purpose—but they still happen. Within your own website, it’s possible that you’ve changed or removed some pages but didn’t catch all the links that still point to them. And when linking to outside websites you have no control over whether a page gets taken down. The result is dead links. To fix dead links you need to find them, and the only way to do that is to perform a full site crawl. That will require a tool like SEO Spider, which is a paid service but gives you extremely detailed, useful information about your site (including whether you have any dead ends). Of course, if your site is relatively small you can also just go through each page by hand and click all the links to see if they work, but be warned: this will take a lot longer than you think.
#5: Don’t Cannibalize
This one is a little complex, but it’s an important rule in SEO:
When a page is targeted towards a keyword, make sure that exact keyword does not exist on the page as a link to another page.
Why? Because if you have to refer out to another page on your keyword (even an internal page), then the first page is not the authority on the keyword. In other word, one of your two pages is stealing SEO influence from the other. Actually, the problems run even deeper:
- This kind of double-upping confuses Google. If one page is about keyword X, why does it refer to another page on keyword X? Shouldn’t the first page cover it all?
- It looks manipulative, like you’re trying to load up your site with lots of pages about the keyword to game the system. (Hint: this doesn’t work.)
- It creates a bad user experience. If you have a page about a topic, then give your visitor all the information they need; don’t send them to a second page on the same topic.
Obviously, sometimes you will have several pages on closely related topics. If you have a landing page about House Cleaning in Atlanta, for example, you might have a second page specifically about Carpet Cleaning. It makes sense to link to the carpet cleaning page from the house cleaning page. But it would not make sense to have a second page about House Cleaning in Atlanta—it’s redundant.
15 More Steps to #1 on Google
While these five steps will get you started, they’re only part of the path to strong SEO. That’s why we’re giving away our 20-point DIY SEO guide for free. Just enter your email in the form below and get your FREE copy of all 20 tips today: