This post is a series of articles I am writing to help startups or anyone else who has recently launched their website and hoping to get listed by Google in search results.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) sounds like a complicated thing to do, but it's not. It's simply a series of steps to do and once done, they run on mostly auto-pilot. Although simply setting up your technical SEO is not going to drive up traffic or your site's listing on Google, it is a required step everyone must do.
I've also shared some tips on what to do to help drive traffic to your sites.
So, does all this work? Yup! In one of my previous startups "BigEngage", we created an email marketing platform for bloggers. We were small fish in a lake with large fish like Constant Contact, MailChimp, ConvertKit, etc. We couldn't spend ad dollars against them, but we could try to win on the SEO, content and backlinks battle.
The work paid off. After 6 months, some of our articles worked them way up for page 3 of Google to being on page 1, and some actually ranked higher than MailChimp's articles. That was a big win for us. This brought in high quality traffic for free!
So, yes, it works. You just have to do it. Below is my guide. Lets get to it.
BTW, the below takes time, so if you are busy, bookmark this page and come back to it.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) technical work helps search engine bots (such as Google's bot) crawl and discover your site's pages, discover the content on your site and understand it's structure. Once this takes place, a user can search for a keyword or topic and Google may return results from your website.
I won't write too much history or background into why you need to do SEO. There are tons of articles written about this. My goal here is the layout steps you the startup founder or team members should do to get your site SEO friendly. Some of the points may not have enough clarification, however, if you simply Google search for it, you will find the details.
Lastly, I personally feel every startup founder should make sure these basics exist on their website. The items I list are less than 2 days task and it will pay off for years.
Google Analytics Account
Google Analytics is free for everyone. It is the most basic analytics tool that any website can use. Once you have Google Analytics tracking code on all your website pages, you can track # of visitors, where they came from (geolocation and source of traffic), what time do they visit, which page did they land into, time spent on a page, etc.
Get Google Analytics: https://analytics.google.com/analytics/web/
Google Search Console
Google wants to help you the website owner improve your site's performance and content. It is a free service. Once you have created an account and added their code, they will share with you site issues, a listing of pages crawled, let you upload your sitemap, list crawling errors, etc.
Best of all, they will show you where your site's content is ranking for particular keywords. By knowing this data, you can improve that page's content and monitor it moving up in ranking.
Get Google Console: https://console.cloud.google.com/
Here are the basic URL string rules to be SEO friendly.
- your page urls should contain keywords related to that page. Don't stuff it, just use a limited few keywords.
- use hyphens (-) in your url string, don't put underscore. Ex: www.mysite.com/keyword-string-string-string.html
- don't make the url string a full sentence. For example, if your article title is "Advice and tips on SEO that you can implement today.", don't use that as your URL string, change it to "advice-tips-seo-implement."
- try not to stuff your product url with SKU, page #s etc
Learn more: https://backlinko.com/hub/seo/urls
20% of searches on Google are via the image section (images.google.com). So you need to make sure your images are optimized to appear on this part of Google.
- use PNG of JPEG images
- optimize your images for the web. Use free tools like TinyPNG to compress.
- name your images with keywords. Don't name it 1.jpg, name it instead SEO-tips.jpg
- put alt text on every image
- add your images to your sitemap
Be friendly to Google's crawling bots by creating a sitemap. Sitemaps tell crawler the urls on your site and then, they go visit them.
You also need to submit your sitemap to Google Console (read above). To make a sitemap, your developer can quickly code it, or try one of several free online sitemap tools.
Sitemaps need to be maintained. As you add more pages and sections to your site, you should update your sitemap.
A robots.txt file tells search engine crawlers which pages or files the crawler can or can't request from your site.
Its easy to make and in most cases you can just use a generic version.
I shouldn't have to mention this, as this is quite common now. Responsive pages are Html pages designed so that they render on desktop or mobile, and any screen size. Bascially, the page adjusts itself to respond to the user's device screen size.
Mobile First Website
Users and moving away from desktop usage to mobile usage. Google has declared that if your site is not mobile friendly, they are not going to list you on Google.
Being mobile friendly is easy. If you've created a responsive site thats the first step. Next is to optimize it for speed on mobile internet. Lastly, render the page so that on load the most important parts of your site load up first. Read more on that below in the intermediate section below.
Check your mobile friendly webpage score.
Terms and Conditions Page
Depending on your product or service, you will need to create specific terms of your site usage and your product/service. I'd recommend getting legal help on this. CYA.
Contact Us Page
Google will think something is wrong if you don't have a way for customers to contact you. So make a dedicated page for "contact us", don't stick an email in your footer. You can have it there, but also dedicate a page for it.
AMP stands for "Accelerated Mobile Pages". It was started by Google and Twitter to make super-duper fast mobile pages. You can identify if a page is made with AMP tech on Google, just look for a small lighting icon at the end of the page title.
AMP Page high-level info:
- Stripped down HTML (lightweight)
- AMP specific HTML tags
- You can maintain an AMP version site and non-amp (use rel tags), or be 100% AMP
- AMP pages can be cached by Google, so 2nd time load is even faster
- Supports ads
- Amp email components
Who uses it?
CNN, The Washington Post, Wired, TeslaCarSearch.com, Gizmodo, BMW, and more.
Why did Google start this tech? So that mobile users can get to their content quickly. According to KISSmetrics, 40% of people will leave a web site that takes more than 3 seconds to start loading.
- AMP pages are shown higher in rankings that standard pages.
- Amp pages will be shown on mobile browsers vs non-AMP pages. Meaning Google may not display your standard html page at all on mobile browsers.
I've mentioned in the past, Google is consumer friendly. They want the user to search and find their answer quickly. Faster loading webpages is part of that equation.
Intro to Amp video by Google
Google's tools for AMP pages: search, analytics, ads, adsense, youtube video
Amp component examples
AMP page example
Results from Google mobile Chrome search
The best way to explain this to you is to first have your try it. Go to Google and search for the below 2 and you should see the below.
"what is in a keto diet"
"top 10 productivity tips"
You should see the below in your search results. This is a snippet (aka Position Zero). Google extracts key content from your website and displays it to the user so that they can quickly get their answer before exploring sites in the search results.
Open Graph Tags
Results from Google deskotp Chrome browser search
Why you should own this spot in Google results?
Think about it. You are on TOP of Google results, you don't even have to pay to be there. You are beating other companies who pay $1-$75 a click to be on top. It's free.
Now that you know the power of this, how do you get up on top?
It's not such an easy thing, but you'll never get listed in position zero unless you put some work into it, and be patient. So here is what you need to do.
Decide what type of snippet you want to render on the search page. Check this page for snippet examples.
For Google to read your site content, it needs to be structured. To structure data, you need to use schema markup. The full list of schema types is here. Scan it and read the details on how to set up schema tags for your site content.
If you are using Wordpress for your site, check the plugins section. There are plenty of pluggins made that support Schema markup.
Once done, check if you did it right using Google's structured data testing tool.
Last step, keep working on your site content, get backlinks, create some web history and be patient. Google is not going to list a site's data on position zero if that site hasn't been around for a while, has lots of topic-related content and doesn't have lot of inbound traffic from quality sites. Their goal is to give this position to the best.
That being said, did this ever work for me? Yes. I displaced 2 competitors and took over their position. It took over 6 months to get my content listed on the SERP and be granted position zero.
We just touched upon this in the above point. Schemas are a specific way of writing your HTML so that search bots can read the content, and all the rich elements around it and then display it to users in the SERP.
Schema is how you see stars ratings in front of an electroinc product you search for. It's also how you can search for a flight on Jetblue right on Google's SERP instead of from Jetblue.com
Everything you need to know about Schema markup is here and so is all the coding details.
Optimize Your Images
I've touched on this in the past, but let's spend more time on it here.
Key reasons to optimize your site's image:
#1) 20% of US searches happen on Google Images.
#2) Optimized images will cause your page weight to drop and lift your site load speeds. Google likes this :)
How to optimize images:
1) Use jpg or png images: I would say use jpg over png because the file size tends to be smaller.
2) Reduce the size of your image: Most likely you don't have a wallpaper download or photography site, so you don't need to display high pixel images. Reduce your image pixel based on where it is going on a site. If it's part of a blog post, perhaps the largest width of the image can be 600 px. Or if it's a heading, the largest can be 1600 px.
3) Remove unwanted image meta data: If you are using stock photos, or images you've take, that image has tons of data (ex: time/date, geo location, photographers name, etc). Reduce the image size as stated in step 2 above and next, remove all the unnecessary image data. Right-click on the image and view the details.
To view, all the additional info in your image go here.
To delete all additional info in your image go here.
4) Rename your images: Most stock images and even your local pc will rename your image. Rename your images to match keywords. Imagine if someone searched for "cell phone charger", if you want your image to appear on images.google.com, Google needs to understand your image is related to that topic. So you should name your image to match that topic's keywords.
5) Write Alt tags: Alt tags are text descriptions of an image. Back in the days when the internet was slow and an images didn't load and your browser couldn't render the image, it would display the name of the image instead. This name came from the Alt tag.
Today this is an additional way for Google to understand the topic of your image. So make sure all your images have it. I know it's a lot of work, but its a 1-time task and it's worth it. If you want to get legal about it, Alt tags are required according to the American Disability Act.
6) Keep images in /images folder: It's the default for most sites and it makes Google's job easier. However, if you want to change it for some reason, make sure you put that URL in your sitemap.xml file
7) Sitemap for images: You can create a sitemap just for images. You can do this if you like. However, I'd recommend this step mostly for sites where images are part of their business. Ex: stock photo sites, photography sites, infographic site, etc.
Open Graph (OG) Tags
When content is shared on Facebook and Twitter, the shared item usually appears with the image, title, and description. The content is displayed by the social networks by consuming Open Graph (OG) tags in the site's HTML.
This is a must do step, so don't skip it. Your share content will look mr
Read more here about the basics of OG tags
Visit the Open Graph Protocol website for detailed info.
Simple online Open Graph generator
OG tag example
A canonical link tells search bots the original source of your content on your site. Your site may have duplicate content, so canonical tags can help.
Examples of when you need canonical tags:
- your site pages have http and https access
- your site pages are available with or without www prefix
- there are multiple versions of a page on different urls on your site
Google's explanation of canonical tags and how to implement them.
Matt Cutts' explanation. He used to work at Google.
1) Titles across site content:
- Each page should have it's own unique page title
2) Remove Duplicate Meta Tags
- If you are using Meta-tags (recommended), use unique ones for each page.