10 Jan 5 Takeaways from Google’s SEO Starter Guide
You’ve seen a ton of articles explaining “SEO best practices.” But if you’re trying to please search engines, wouldn’t you like to hear what practices Google, the world’s leading search engine, wants you to follow?
Luckily, Google has made that information available online with its Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide. This 32-page document may be a bit technical for small business owners trying to get started with SEO, so we’ve narrowed it down to the five most important tips.
1. Create Unique and Accurate Page Titles
A page title—also called a title tag—describes an individual page and shows up on search engine results (in the example below, you can see the page title in blue). In HTML, you can add the page’s title in the header with the <title> tag. Most popular content management systems (CMS), such as WordPress, make it easy to change the title of a given page.
Because the title shows up in Google’s search results, you want to follow these steps to get the most out of your title tag:
- Include the page’s target keywords in the title tag without looking too spammy.
- Accurately describe the page’s content.
- Make it unique from the title tags on other pages of your website.
- Use fewer than 65 characters.
If they search using Google, your users will see your page titles first, so make them count.
2. Make Use of the “Description” Meta Tag
Similar to the title tag, the meta description tag is an attribute on every page that shows up in the search results. And just as you can edit the title tag, most CMS platforms allow users to easily edit the meta description for each page. In the example below, you’ll see this attribute in black text.
In HTML, you can edit your meta description within the header. The content from this example looks like this:
Your meta descriptions play a large factor in convincing people to click on your search engine result. If your page appears to answer the questions users have, or if the description includes a strong call to action, users are more likely to click. Google outlines the following tips for writing your meta description:
- Include the page’s target keywords without looking too spammy.
- Summarize the page’s content.
- Make this description unique from the meta descriptions on other pages.
- Use fewer than 160 characters.
You want to increase your search rankings, but no matter how high your result appears, you still have to convince users to click. Meta descriptions, in conjunction with title tags, improve SEO and bring customers one step closer to a sale.
3. Offer Quality Content
As you’ve read about search engine optimization, how many times have you heard “content is king”? This phrase has become quite popular in the SEO world—even on our own blog—and for good reason. Your website’s success in the search engines depends on the quality of your content.
Once again, pay attention to Google’s advice in writing page content:
- Write fresh (a fancy word for up-to-date) and unique content.
- Stay organized and on point around a given topic. For example, if you write content about your teeth whitening services, you should focus on teeth whitening rather than jumping to root canals.
- Make your content easy to read. Use short paragraphs and bulleted lists to break up the text. Use dark text on a white or light gray background.
- Gear your content toward your users. Your content should answer the user’s search query—in other words, the question the user came to your page to answer. If they want to buy a certain product, provide information on that product. If they want to call your company, provide the number.
In the end, Google answers to its users. If your content satisfying the actual human reading it, your content will satisfy search engines too.
4. Optimize Images
Images enhance the text on your page and engage readers—but search engines can’t read them. Therefore, you should make your images more SEO-friendly using the “alt” attribute. If a user’s browser doesn’t support images or if the user uses a screen reader, the user can still receive information about the picture with the alt text you assign. With this attribute, Google can understand your image better too.
You can edit alt text easily through WordPress and other popular CMS. With HTML markup, you need to add the “alt” attribute within your <img> tag. With either method, simply add a phrase or sentence to describe the image.
5. Use Heading Tags Appropriately
Headings emphasize important text—for users and search engines—and organize a given page. In HTML, you can separate headings by using a tag like <h1>. This heading tag makes the chosen text larger than the normal text on your page and draws the reader’s attention more. The following example shows what the code of a heading tag looks like:
Headings quickly show users the purpose of your page. Use them sparingly across the page to separate different sections. Because heading tags emphasize important text, they should also include keyword phrases in a natural way.
Google has given you the steps you need to start optimizing your website for search engines. Improve your website’s content in these five areas, and you’re on your way to the number-one result.