Latest SEO Starter Guide of Google
You might have missed this.
They decided to revamp their official SEO Starter Guide for the first time in over seven years.
The new Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide is full of useful and interesting information we can all benefit from.
Unfortunately, some of the content there isn’t clear or specific enough.
It’s not that Google is hiding something from you, it’s that they don’t want to tell you exactly what you need to know to rank higher in their search engines.
They prefer if you discover that on your own.
But fear not, in this article you will learn everything you need to know from the new SEO Starter Guide and how you can implement that information on your site.
Making Your Site Show Up on Google
The first step to rank on Google is having your site in their index. To do so you need to make your site crawlable and indexable.
To help you achieve that, Google suggests you ask yourself a few questions which will help you find out whether your site is being crawled and indexed-
- Is my website showing up on Google?
- Do I serve high-quality content to users?
- Is my local business showing up on Google?
- Is my content fast and easy to access on all devices?
- Is my website secure?
Let me help you answer each of these questions.
Is Your Website Showing Up On Google?
This question is easy to answer. Simply search for your company or website’s name on Google and see if it shows up.
If you don’t find your site, make sure you check outside page 1.
Also, if your name is similar to a large company or if it represents a broad term (for example, if my pizza place was called “London Pizza,” it’d be hard to rank for that term for obvious reasons), don’t despair.
It’s not an SEO problem so much as a naming one.
Are You Serving High-Quality Content?
You probably know that creating high-quality content is a prerequisite to rank these days.
Defining “high-quality content” on the other hand isn’t easy.
But way back in my zero link building experiment I noted that Matt Cutts had defined it as-
- Something that is unique/different/original
- Useful/helpful to the community
- Answers common questions in your niche
- Original research
- Create videos
- How to guides and tutorials
- Create lists of helpful resources
Another way to define the quality of a piece of content is to tie it with its popularity.
If your content attracts links and social shares then we can define it as high-quality.
At the end of the day, people don’t link or share with the content they deem low-quality.
So, taking this idea into consideration, let’s check how many links and shares your content is getting. We are going to check your content’s link popularity with Ahrefs.
Just drop the URL in Ahrefs Site Explorer to check the number of backlinks you have received and the number of referring domains.
There’s no right or a wrong number of backlinks and referring domains but if you see zero links, you should review the quality of the content.
Next, we are going to check the social popularity with another great tool, Buzzsumo.
Just drop your URL into the search bar and then check how many shares your content has gotten.
As you can see with the link results above and the popularity on social media we can conclude this is high-quality content.
Don’t worry if you don’t have any links or social shares – it could just be your content promotion that wasn’t very effective.
But you should certainly pay close attention to these pages and review them against competing for search results for relevant keywords.
Is Your Local Business Showing Up On Google?
Note: If you don’t have a local business, you can skip this part.
Local SEO is extremely important if you run a local business, as it works differently than non-local SEO.
Both local and non-local SEO need on-site optimization and links to rank high in the search engines. The main difference lies in that local sites also need citations.
A citation is an online reference to your business’s name, address and phone number (NAP).
Citations work like links because Google uses them to evaluate the online authority of your business. What makes citations different from links is that the former don’t need a link pointing to your business’s website in order for you to be credited for them.
Getting a NAP is already enough.
To check your local business, repeat what I showed up before; that is, search your business on Google.
Continuing with the pizza place example, I see they show up in the local results.
You should then check to see if your business comes up in listings for popular keywords, like “Pizza London” for example.
If your local business doesn’t show up for your target keywords you can use the WhiteSpark Citation Service to get a boost in local rankings.
If you don’t find your place anywhere, you need to add your company to Google My Business.
The process is straightforward:
In the Google My Business website, click on the “Start Now” button.
Once you do so, you will have to add your company’s information, including your business name, your location, the kind of business you run, and your company’s phone number and website.
The process won’t take you more than 5 minutes and will help you get your company listed on Google Maps.
Is My Content Fast And Easy To Access On All Devices?
Your website’s speed not only affects your rankings but it also has a huge impact on user experience.
A 1 second delay in load time can lead to a 7% drop off in conversion and 11% fewer page views.
To check your page speed, you can use a tool like GTmetrix.
Once you have added your site, GTmetrix will tell you:
- The performance score
- The load time
- The page size
- The number of requests (i.e., how many requests did GTmetrix have to make to load all your site’s elements; the fewer requests, the better)
In general, you want a load time under 2 seconds, and a page size under 1 megabyte.
If you find your site to be above those two thresholds, focus on solving the problems GTmetrix shares with you.
Some of the most common problems related to a site’s speed performance are the lack of browser caching, progressive rendering, HTTP compression, among other problems.
If you want to learn more about the most common speed problems you can face, you can read Google’s own PageSpeed Insights rules.
Fortunately, you don’t need to become an expert in speed optimization to make your website faster.
With the help of W3 Total Cache, a WordPress plugin with over 1 million downloads and 2,700 5-star reviews, you can optimize your site’s page speed in a few minutes.
Once you install it, you will find there are a large number of sections within the plugin you can check.
Before you get overwhelmed, remember you want to optimize for the problems your site has, not for every single possible you may face in the future.
To that end, you want to go back to GTmetrix’s performance review and check the problems they found.
With Pizza Union, you can see they only have one problem: landing page redirects.
In other words, they have a problem with duplicate content, something that can be easily fixed with the help of Yoast SEO.
But if your website has other, more pressing problems, like lack of browser caching (which allows a user’s browser to “save” a page’s version in their “memory”), you want to use W3 Total Cache.
If that was the case, you’d need to go to Browser Cache, which is the seventh element in the menu as shown above.
Generally speaking, W3 Total Cache fixes the most common problems as default, so you may not need to do anything.
Once you have installed W3 Total Cache, you should see an immediate improvement in your site’s speed.
If you don’t, and you don’t know what to do, you should talk to a developer who specializes in site speed optimization (or learn to increase website speed yourself) to help you out solve the problems GTmetrix indicates.
Another common issue is the lack of a Content Delivery Network (or CDN), which would make the user download your site’s elements from the location of your server.
That means if your servers are located in Liverpool, and your user is in Los Angeles, Bangkok, or Cape Town, it would take their browser more time to load your page.
But if you used a CDN like MaxCDN, they could download all the elements from the closest server, making the site’s download speed much faster and efficient.
If you click on W3 Total Cache’s General Settings section, you can select the CDN type you want to use, and the plugin will do most of the hard work for you.
Both the use of W3 Total Cache and a CDN will make your site speed much faster, improving your user experience as well as your rankings.]
You could also use a free plugin like WPSmush to optimize all of your images and reduce your overall page size in just a couple of clicks.
Is My Website Secure?
Back in 2014, Google added the use of SSL to their ranking factors.
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. Basically, having a domain with SSL will certify your site’s security.
Because of the use of SSL impacts in your rankings, you want to make sure you are using it on your site, especially if you accept payments on your site.
You can use the Let’s Encrypt service which allows you to add an encrypted certification for free.
The easiest way to add a free SSL certification to your site is by using a server that’s already integrated with Let’s Encrypt, which includes WPXHosting, Siteground & Kinsta.
Once you have the SSL certificate installed on a server level you can use a plugin like Really Simple SSL to enable it on the WordPress level.
If your business is running on WordPress, check out How To Switch From HTTP To HTTPS (13 Simple Steps) from Cloudliving.
Finally, Google talks about making your content easier to find. On that end, they recommend the use of sitemaps:
A sitemap is a file on your site that tells search engines about new or changed pages on your site.
A sitemap tells Google which pages they should crawl, as well as determine the canonical version (i.e., the correct version) of each page.
Creating a sitemap is easy, you can use a tool like XML Sitemap Generator or, if you use WordPress, a plugin like Google XML Sitemaps or Yoast SEO.
Once you have the sitemap, you want to add it to the Google Search Console as they explain in this article.
Hiring An SEO Expert
SEO takes a lot of time.
If you are a busy business owner, or if you prefer to focus on other parts of your business (like sales and operations), you want to hire an SEO expert.
As Google says in the Starter Guide:
Many SEOs and other agencies and consultants provide useful services for website owners, including:
- Review of your site content or structure
- Content development
- Management of online business development campaigns
- Keyword research
- SEO training
- Expertise in specific markets and geographies
Finding a trustworthy SEO consultant can be hard.
To help you find the right one, you want to check for the following things:
- The results they have gotten to their past and current clients. Ask for case studies and references. Make sure they show specific results (e.g., “Our link building campaign attracted 15 high-authority links which helped driving the organic search traffic 20% in 3 months”).
- The person in charge of your site. You want to make sure the company doesn’t outsource the work or give it to a junior executive with little experience. Make sure you talk to the person in charge of your site before signing off.
- The link building tactics they use. Make sure they don’t use black hat tactics, unless that’s what you need (for example, if you are in the gambling industry). Ask them to show you specific links they’ve gotten and how they got them.
- The timeline and deliverables. SEO takes time, but you want them to make progress on a month-per-month basis. At first, they should focus on keyword research, on-site optimisation, and technical SEO. Later, they’ll focus on link building and content creation. Tell them to tell you exactly what steps will be involved and the time each one will take.
(If you are in doubt which company to hire, you can contact my team for help. Feel free to browse our case studies, the tactics we’ll use, and the time you can expect to see results.)
Another important thing to take into consideration, is to get started with SEO before you need it.
As Google mentions in the Starter Guide-
If you’re thinking about hiring an SEO, the earlier the better. A great time to hire is when you’re considering a site redesign, or planning to launch a new site. That way, you and your SEO can ensure that your site is designed to be search engine-friendly from the bottom up. However, a good SEO can also help improve an existing site.
Optimise Your Title Tags and Meta Description
You can have the best content in the world, but if neither Google knows what your page is about nor people understand the content of it, no one will visit your site.
That’s where title tags and meta descriptions come to the rescue.
As you may know, title tags are one of the most important on-site elements of your site.
Meta descriptions, on the other hand, will help people (and Google) understand what your page is about.
If you do your job correctly, your click-through-rate (CTR) will skyrocket, increasing your organic traffic (even if you don’t rank number 1).
Here’s how you optimize your title tag and meta description.
Title Tag Optimisation
First and foremost, your title tags need to have the main keyword of your page.
You can use an exact match of the keyword (that is, the exact keyword for which you want to rank), or simply use it within a phrase.
For example, if you wanted to rank for the keyword “Pizza London,” like in the case of the company we’ve been using so far, you’d need to add that keyword within the title tag.
Blog source: Matthew Woodward | Google’s New SEO Starter Guide: What You Need To Know