Hey SEO pros!
I know some of you have been getting value from my lists so I created a post of 31 things I’ve learned about SEO that I wish I would have known when I started.
With that being stated, let’s get something clear, SEO is marketing. It’s not some magical unicorn that gets you or your clients to page one on Google for any keyword by sprinkling mystical fairy dust onto a website.
SEO should be expected to work like any other type of marketing, NOT GUARANTEED.
At the end of the day, you and your clients should be concerned about one thing: Return on investment.
Furthermore, Organic traffic alone is a major liability. You need to figure out other ways to market your brand on separate platforms besides just Google.
Let’s dive in.
Understand the basics.
SEO isn’t what it used to be where you could just build links to a page and rank it.
These days you need to focus on creating content that people actually want (user intent optimization) and building authority in the niche you’re going for. Consistency is key to building authority.
2. Learn The Different SEO Acronyms
to get caught up on the lingo, this is something I wish I would have learned right away when I first got into SEO. I created a post of all of the acronyms you’ll want to know here: chasereiner(dot)com/blog/seo/google-acronyms/
3. Understand Basic On Page SEO
Here’s a quick cheat sheet of important on-page factors you need to look at from greatest to least importance:
MC and SC
Images With Alt Tags
Video (depends on search)
Now let’s break down each of them into quick optimizations (this list is not extensively covered by any means)
4. Page Speed Optimization
The two best things you can do for page speed, is to compress your images with Tinypng(dot)com or use a WordPress plugin like Smusher and get good hosting like Siteground(dot)com Make sure to head over to GT Metrix and run a scan, if your page speed is still terrible to follow the suggestions listed there.
5. MC (Main Content) and SC (Supplementary Content)
This one is straight out of Googles Page Raters guidelines. (https://static.googleusercontent(dot)com/media/www.google(dot)com/en//insidesearch/howsearchworks/assets/searchqualityevaluatorguidelines.pdf)
Main content is the content that will not be included on multiple pages (is not for UX) This is the content Google weighs in the most into its algorithm.
Supplementary content is content such as “recent posts” or menu links which is used for UX purposes and is weighed in the least by Google.
6. Word Count (based on averages)
If the top pages ranking on Google have 1000 words and you only have 300, you might want to optimize for the average. I have a software called Bench Marketer that does these calculations for you if you don’t feel like eyeballing the results.
7. Mobile UX
This is easy enough these days, if you’re using a content management system, just make sure the theme you go with is mobile friendly.
8. Title Tag Optimization
Title tags are easy enough to optimize as long as you include your main keywords and some sort of qualifier to hook people in. For example: SEO For Dummies (I Wish I Would Have Known This) Also, try to keep your titles under 75 characters and over 45 in length.
8. Heading Tag Optimization
The most important heading tag you need to always include is an H1. Your H1 should usually represent what is in your title tag otherwise your users may get confused with what they clicked into. Other heading tags should be structured so that people who want to skim through your copy can easily navigate to different sections. As far as different heading tags like h2’s, h3’s, etc. being more important, I would just try to match what others are doing on the front page.
9. Internal Linking
If you want to pass valuable page rank influence to the other pages on your site internal link 2–3 times per 500–1000 words. Remember not to over internal link, you will end up diluting all of your links the more links you put into your copy.
10. Images With Alt Tags
Images can really help keep people on your pages and lower your bounce rates / boost your dwell times. Just make sure that if some of your visitors are blind, they can see what your image is about by using a screen reader to read alt tags. Don’t keyword stuff your alt tags, just say what the images are actually showing.
11. External Linking
External linking actually improves your relevancy, just make sure you’re not pointing to some spam site. I recommend 1–3 external links per page or post (this also depends on intent, some pages require more).
12. Video Optimization (depends on search)
Video isn’t always the best option but I have seen it improve rankings before and lower bounce rates. I’ve also seen it do vise versa, again it depends on the intent. There is something really cool my lead SEO at my agency figured out, how to load videos instantly without reducing page speed. If you want a tutorial for this, leave a comment and let me know.
13. Meta Description Optimization
Just make sure you are including your keywords, this will help you boost your CTR’s from the bolding they will get in SERPs. Your meta description should be about 155 characters long.
14. Schema Markup Optimization
Schema Markup is a language created by Google, Bing, and Yahoo which they can interpret on a page to understand what it is about. I will need to create another tutorial for this section but Schema Markup can boost your CTR’s like crazy. If you want to begin an experiment with Schema you can do so by getting a free plugin such as the WordPress Jason-LD Schema plugin. (Here is a little bit outdated tutorial I made a year ago going over advanced Schema Markup (https://www.youtube(dot)com/watch?v=Awejeglf3xQ)
15. OG Data Optimization
OG data is your social share data and is very important if you’re going to be aggregating your content to other platforms (which you should). To manipulate this data you can use a WordPress plugin called WPSSO, I highly recommend it.
Now that you know a bit about on page basics let’s get a little bit more technical.
16. User Experience Optimization
Google obviously wants its users to be happy, so it’s very likely that if your website isn’t providing a good UX for its users, you’re not going to rank well.
Here are some things you need to pay attention to in greatest to least importance:
* Click Through Rates
* Bounce Rates
* Conversion Rates
Let’s break down some of the ways you can optimize for each of these:
17. Click Through Rate Optimization
For CTR optimization, try to find ads that are ranking on Google for similar keywords, because advertisers are spending a ton to get a good quality score and low cost per click’s you can copy similar titles into your titles and meta descriptions. Alternatively, if your page has been ranking for about a month, go to Google Search Console, see what your page is getting the highest CTR’s for and include those into your title. Also, as mentioned previously, make sure you include qualifiers.
18. Bounce Rate Optimization
To lower your bounce rates, The best thing you can do is:
A) Increase page speed.
B) Focus on creating a design that exactly represents what your target visitor is intending on finding.
C) Video and images may also help reduce bounce rates.
Utilize the free tools offered by Google
18. Conversion Rates
To boost conversion rates, make sure your page is clear with what you want your users to do. You may also put a call to action above the fold on your website which will probably help as well.
19. Utilize Free Tools
The top free tools are as follows:
Google Search Console
Google Keyword Planner
Yoast SEO plugin
There are plenty of other tools I could have listed here but these are the first I’d say you need to get right away.
Let’s go over each of them.
20. Google Search Console
GSC gives you the ability to see if there are any problems going on with your website, submit URL’s to get indexed, analyze incoming links, but most importantly, it’s the only tool which is going to show you how many clicks and what CTR’s you’re getting for the keywords you’re ranking for.
21. Google Analytics
GA is going to help you see what your UX is on your sites such as bounce rates, conversion rates, pages per session, traffic from different sources, unique user data, and a whole lot more.
22. Google Keyword Planner
GWP enables you to find keyword data for what people are searching on for on Google and what their search rates are.
23. Screaming Frog
Screaming Frog helps you quickly identify on page issues with your website (up to 500 URLs for free).
24. Google Sheets
GS is just amazing for tracking your data and auditing websites.
25. Yoast SEO Plugin
I honestly don’t care what SEO plugin you use, Yoast is great because it doesn’t only give you the ability to optimize your titles and meta but adds extra functionality such as utilizing canonical links and automatic redirects (if you get pro)
26. Utilize Paid Tools
If you have the budget, get the following tools by order:
Ahrefs or Semrush
Screaming Frog Pro
Chase Reiner SEO Audit Template
Cognitive SEO Content Analyzer
Bench Marketer or Cora
Ahrefs or Semrush
Ahrefs and Semrush are great for a competitor and keyword analysis. If I could choose one over the other it would definitely be Ahrefs as their data seems to be a lot more accurate and I prefer their interface over the other.
28. Screaming Frog Pro
Screaming Frog Pro is important to get if you’re going to start auditing / optimizing sites with over 500 URLs (which you probably will)
29. Chase Reiner SEO Audit Template
I’m only promoting one of my own products because I’ve spent countless hours creating an SEO template that tells you what you need to check for when auditing a website with something like screaming frog. https://chasereiner(dot)com/products/seo-audit-service/
30. Cognitive SEO Content Analyzer
Cognitive SEO Content Analyzer shows you what words you need to mention more of in your copy in real time. This is really nice when you’re doing on-page SEO for a niche you might not know a ton about.
31. Bench Marketer or Cora
I initially created Bench Marketer because I only wanted to see word count, image count, etc. instead of the thousands of factors Cora shows you.
Here are the pros and cons of both:
Bench Marketer pros: (super fast crawl, a lot cheaper than Cora (only $49 a month opposed to $249 a month)
Bench Marketer cons: Still sort of in beta and occasionally crashes, doesn’t have nearly scan nearly as many factors as Cora.
Cora pros: (Gives you an insane amount of data (including link data if you have AHREF’s subscription)
Cora cons: (Super slow for crawls and having data such as (number of Pinterest shares) doesn’t seem to be helpful. Cora is also pretty expensive and sort of confusing to setup / understand).
So there you have it, a quick list for beginners, I hope this was helpful to some of you.
Until I see you all next time, happy SEOing!