Let’s Talk About SEO

Posted by heatherlygraceshepherd on July 15, 2021 in On Writing | No Comments

SEO has been all the buzz following Google’s latest Core Update rollout. What does that mean for you? Let’s talk about it.

Google gave us some answers, easing concerns that we would have to completely shift our approaches to SEO. Fortunately, we don’t. Unfortunately, we can’t. They compare this update to a list of the top 100 movies in 2015. When the 2019 list comes out, the rankings will have changed as the judging criteria and competing content evolve. They advise us to focus on double-checking our SEO and perfecting our content.

Elevate your site elements

Meta descriptions are a great way to pull searchers into your site and elevate your site above the competition, despite not landing the #1 spot in SEO ranking. The ideal meta description has compelling content first and foremost, telling searchers exactly what your page includes and why they should click on your link. It should include two keywords, avoid non-alphanumeric symbols and fall between 155 to 160 characters.

Link descriptions are clickable words that are hyperlinks to other pages or media. To elevate your link descriptions, avoid generic words like “click here” and get straight to the point. For example, “To visit our services page and view our portfolio of past work, click here,” is not as attractive as, “View our portfolio of past work on our services page.” Think quality over quantity and use these links sparingly to avoid classifying your links as spam, and if these links are outbound, ensure they relate to the content of your site.

Elevate your site by optimizing its performance. Keep the total size under 3MB; compressing large media files and can help with this. Keep HTTP requests under 30 and response time under 5.3 seconds; compressing files and limiting backlinks can help with this. Keep your browser caching and redirects minimal, limit plugins and review your hyperlinks. Compress your JavaScript and your CSS through your web host. When your website is easy to manage on the back-end and easy to use on the front-end, search engines and searchers alike will prioritize your site above others.

What does the new Google Core Update say? Focus on content! If your website is user-friendly with an inviting meta description, users will come. Presenting useful, quality content in an aesthetically appealing way will get them to stay. Google is cracking down on spam, so if your site has seen a drop in visitors, review your content, keywords and structure. They advise us to assess our sites using E-A-T: Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. SEO guru Marie Haynes has many articles on improving your E-A-T and how those elements interact with Google’s algorithms.

If we’re happy with how our site performs and the content it contains, let’s make sure our SEO is in tip-top shape.

Define your navigation structure

HubSpot says, “The further away a page is from the original homepage, the worse it is for SEO.” Top-level navigation makes your site easier for crawlers to scan, which, we’ll discuss a little further down. Top-level navigation means your major pages are easily accessible from the top level with minimal branches to lower levels. This makes your website run faster, take up less room and perform more efficiently at the front- and back-ends.

Create a sitemap

Sitemaps are exactly that – maps of your sites that search engines use to navigate your page and stay updated on your changes. XTML sitemaps are a team project involving Marketing who defines the site structure, Development who builds the sitemap, IT who controls the server the sitemap lives on and Legal to ensure your site has no outstanding copyright issues or any other potential issues. The 4 elements your sitemap must include are the location, last modified date, change frequency and page priority.

Google crawls fairly regularly, so minor changes won’t require sitemap submissions, but any major changes will need to be followed with sitemap reviews and submissions to each search engine.

Submit to search engines

Now that you’ve done all the work to make your site readable to search engines, they can crawl (search and identify), index (file and categorize) and rank your webpages. Some servers automatically submit sitemaps, but not all do. For manual submissions head to site:yourdomain.com, verify your DNS through your domain name provider or copy the provided HTLM into your homepage and follow the steps to allow Google (and other search engines) to crawl your pages. To see how many pages are currently being indexed by Google, site:yourdomain.com will tell you approximately how many pages in the top, left side of the results.

Whew, that’s a lot to break down. So we did it for you with this downloadable check-list!

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