Recently I was chatting with a friend about rebuilding a mutual client’s website. She asked me to remind the client to stop putting all her copy in images because it’s not good SEO practice. It’s always been a balance between empowering independent clients, and getting it right. I was aware of the issue but had chosen to let it go. But there is a third option. I could make an easy coaching guide, so here is a guide to SEO for lazy marketers.
Most people reading this should understand the benefits of SEO (or search engine optimization). For me, 43% of the traffic to Tap Dancing Spiders comes from search engines, and 41.5% specifically from Google. That’s a big traffic chunk that I wouldn’t have if this site wasn’t optimized. Some people try to cheat the system to get more traffic, so Google (along with Bing, Ask and the others) have to continually change the rules. Over the last few years, the rules have changed to focus more on behavioral measures (time on site, number of pages viewed) rather than technical points. However, the technical points are still important to ensure you’re speaking google’s language.
This post will look at the basic things you can do to ensure you’re speaking Google’s language. In other words, SEO for lazy marketers. I’ll throw in WordPress examples where possible because the intended lazy marketer’s website is on WordPress. Along with the other 15.9 million websites.
Choosing a keyword helps to focus your writing. If you choose the one that your intended audience is likely to search, then it also helps you be found. When a search is made, the search engine looks at the search term (a keyword from the searcher’s perspective) and finds content that matches it. Landing pages and a single focus or message help make the match.
Titles, Headlines and Meta Titles
This is the heading on the search results page, so it needs to be compelling. Use the keyword for the people side. If they see the word they want, they are more likely to click. Oh, and the search engine does the same. It’ll display the most relevant content.
A WordPress shortcut for lazy marketers is to use the headline for the meta title. Yoast SEO makes it easy and copies the headline into an editable field. This also means you can change the meta title to anything you want without coding. But, why would you?
I’ve covered this a little earlier in Keywords. Make it tight and focused. Use the keyword a couple of times, but remember you’re also writing for people so keep it natural.
There’s no consensus on post length. Some cite research saying that posts with more than 700 words rank better. Many say as long as you have 300 words, you’ll rank OK. John Mueller of Google has said there’s no minimum word count, and I’d say it’s true from Seth Godin’s blog. His concise posts are barely a paragraph but rank brilliantly. It’s all about the quality.
Search engines use the number of links to your site as a measure of its popularity. Brands and bloggers exploited this with link exchanges and paid links. If you’re using affiliate links or promoted posts, then add rel=nofollow tags on your links to avoid search engines marking them as spam.
There’s no easy way to add the tag to WordPress posts. Ultimate Nofollow is a plug-in that lets you set the tag link-by-link.
Search engines love fast sites, and images can slow down sites. While code can display smaller images, the full-size images must load first. Responsive sites mean I haven’t really found a perfect image size. I’ve been reducing mine to 400px on the longest edge and about 100kb in size. It seems to work well. Thanks to Kristie at Blog Ambitions, I’ve just discovered EWWW Image Optimizer, a WordPress plug-in. I just ran it now and it optimized nearly all my images so we’ll see if there’s a benefit over the next few days.
Image file names help search engines understand what it’s a picture of. Using a descriptive file name will help it appear on a Google image search.
Titles and Alt Tags
These also help Google see what’s in the image. You can pad these a little more with keywords. At least one image should use your keyword to show the relevancy between the image and the copy.
Technically the meta description isn’t SEO. It’s a short summary of the webpage’s contents that appears in search engine results. An enticing (and accurate) description will help people choose your site over another.
Yoast SEO makes this really easy in WordPress. Add the snippet and be on your way.
Extra Resources for Lazy Marketers
If you’re not as lazy, here are some deeper resources.