Getting started with optimising your site
If you’ve read our piece on on-page SEO, you will understand the importance of optimisation and how it can help your site grow.
However, knowing where to start when optimising your website can be difficult and it often feels like you need to be a technical expert to get it right. But, that isn’t always true and following this step-by-step guide on how to optimise your website can help you make the changes needed to improve your SEO performance.
1. Write a user-friendly URL
Writing a user-friendly URL is the first step in creating a website that is SEO-friendly and can also help improve user experience.
Your URL should be kept short, no more than 5 words, and should include a target keyword. This will help search engines recognise what your website is about and it’ll also help the user remember the URL should they want to visit again.
You should try to avoid numbers and underscores in your URL, too. Google dislikes over-complicated URLs with multiple parameters so use hyphens to separate keywords if needed.
If you are wanting to optimise an already existing URL, you will need to change the slug and then set up a 301 redirect. This will catch the traffic that was trying to access the old URL and direct them to the user-friendly URL. If you’re using a CMS like Shopify or Wix, when you change a URL you will be asked if you want to set up this redirect automatically. If you’re using WordPress, you will have to set up a 301 redirect yourself but there are plugins that make this easy.
2. SEO-friendly titles and meta descriptions
Meta titles and meta descriptions are a key part of boosting your rankings in the SERPs. They are a great opportunity to use your target keywords and encourage users to click through from the SERPs to your site.
When you change a meta title or description on the back end, it can take a couple of days for the changes to show in the search results so this is worth bearing in mind when making changes.
Meta titles, or titles, are a key ranking factor in SEO. When written correctly, they improve rankings and can greatly boost your CTR. If you fail to add your own title, Google will show the H1 of the page which could limit progress as this will flag as duplicates.
Every page should have its own unique title as each page should have different content.
To write a title, you need to identify the primary focus of the page and combine this with a target keyword. Both of these need to be relevant to the page and have a clear link with its content. You should include the keyword in the first three words of the title.
A title should be between 50-60 characters. Luckily, if you’re using WordPress, Yoast will let you know if the title you’ve written is too long.
Taking this page as an example, the meta title is:
How to optimise your website to be SEO friendly | upUgo
You can see that the above title has followed all the instructions listed above. The keywords “optimise your website” is towards the beginning. The brand is separated by a vertical line. The structure of your meta title should be consistent across your website, so if you list your brand last and separate it with a vertical line you should do this on all pages.
Much like a meta title, a meta description is a very important SEO element and can help drive traffic to your site. However, if you fail to add a meta description, Google will show the first few lines of content from your page. This will show up in an audit as “missing meta description”.
The meta description is the “shopping window” view into what your site is about and what you offer. You should make sure that you summarise what the page is about whilst taking the opportunity to use the target keywords.
Your meta description should be between 150-155 characters long and end on a CTA. For example, “Find out more about us here!”.
H1s: How to write a H1
A H1 is the first, and primary heading, of a webpage. It should be unique, summarising the content of the page in a concise manner. It is important to ensure that the H1 includes the focus keyword of the page. There should also only be 1 H1 per page. Depending on your CMS, it will change how you format the text to act as an H1.
What to include in a H2
An H2 should include a longtail keyword that is specific to the section in which it sits above. An H2 acts like a subheading, and should separate different topic areas on the same page. Unlike a H1, you can have multiple H2s on one page.
What is an H3?
A H3, unsurprisingly, is a subheading for your H2 section. It does not mean the third subheading in the copy. This pattern of H1, H2, H3, H3, H2, H3, for example, carries on until the end of the text.
As part of your on-page optimisation, you should ensure that your primary and secondary keywords are used consistently throughout the entire page.
There is no specific formula on how many times you need to use your keywords, but it should be enough that Google knows what your page is about. A great tool to use to test this out is InLinks. This handy (and free!) tool can help visualise Google’s knowledge of your website so you can see where you need to improve in keyword usage.
However, be aware of keyword stuffing. If it sounds unnatural when reading and the keywords have been placed deliberately, Google will know this too. If you fall subject to keyword stuffing, this can negatively affect your rankings.
Every page on your website needs unique, quality content that is formatted correctly and keyword driven. Writing SEO friendly content is a key element in ensuring progress. It is not uncommon in the SEO world to hear “content is king”.
If your website is flagging as having duplicate, or similar, content but you believe each of these pages to have use, you must set up a canonical tag.
A canonical tag indicates to Google that a URL has greater importance than the other. Only the URL with the greatest importance will be crawled, solving the duplicate content issue.
You must not just delete a webpage if you feel there is a duplicate content issue. Deleting a webpage and taking no further action will result in a 404 error code. If you delete a page, you must ensure that a 301 redirect is set up to redirect any traffic trying to reach the deleted page. You should ensure the deleted page’s URL is the source URL, and the remaining URL is the destination.
You need to remember to write for the crawlers. Don’t forget to link out to relevant external pages where you can, whilst also linking back to other pages on your own site.
6. Images and video
When you are uploading images to your website, there are a few things to consider to ensure that they do not negatively impact the SEO efforts.
Size of an image
The size of an image on a website should be less than 100kb but ideally 50kb. If an image is bigger than this, it could impact the site speed. The slower the site speed, the less well your site will rank
You should compress your images on your computer or laptop before uploading. If this is not possible, there are plugins available on WordPress that help with this. Smush is a plugin that can compress images once they’re live on the site.
File names and Alt Tags
A file name should summarise what the image, file or video is about. Likewise, you should ensure the alt tag of the image describes the purpose of the image, regardless of what it is.
If you leave an alt-tag blank, this will flag in any SEO audits so it’s important to do this as you go.
The size of an image is not the only thing that can impact site speed. If you upload a video to your site, you can slow it down. This is because the loading power needed to load a video on top of the wider site is much greater.
However, we know it is sometimes important to include videos on your site. So, it is recommended that you upload your video to YouTube and embed the video via the link. This will prevent the site speed being impacted to such an extent but still allow the user to get all the information they need.
It is important to cater for all users when optimising your site, that is why it is important to add captions to any video to ensure that everyone can enjoy it. When writing captions, we recommend including them after your video, in an accordion. Use this opportunity to include your target keywords where possible that may have accidentally omitted in the video.
7. User experience
As Google algorithms change over time, one thing is becoming increasingly clear. Google is putting more and more emphasis on User Experience in each algorithm update. In May 2021, user experience is becoming one of the key web vitals in which Google will use as ranking factors.
To ensure that your website is user-friendly, you need to ensure that the on-page optimisation is as good as it can be.
Site speed is an on-page optimisation technique. You can test your site speed on GTmetrix, and get some useful feedback on how fast your site is and how to improve your site speed. As mentioned when discussing pictures and videos, they should be optimised correctly to ensure they don’t slow the site down. Likewise, the page size should be appropriate; do not place all your content on one page. Read our detailed guide to find out more about improving page speed.
Safe browsing is very important and being considered an unsafe site can be detrimental to progress. To ensure that your site is safe, you must have an SSL. This indicates that if a user is to input their personal information into your site, it is protected.
As part of your on-page optimisation, you need to ensure that your site functions on every device, including mobiles. Your layout should look good on both mobiles and desktop computers. Google’s Mobile Friendly Test is a useful free tool that gives you insights into issues with your mobile experience.
8. Call to actions
You need to ensure that your website has suitable call to actions to encourage the user to complete the desired action.
To encourage the user to complete the action, you should ensure it is very easy for them to do so. A golden rule is if someone has to think about what they are doing, they are unlikely to do it.
You should also ensure that the CTAs are placed strategically throughout the site. It is crucial that there is a CTA in the top left corner as this is where the eye naturally is drawn to. Placing a CTA here indicates to the user what they are meant to be doing.
9. Social media
As part of your on-page optimisation, you need to ensure that you include social signals to allow the user to share your content on their social media platforms. By including social media icons on your site, or using a WordPress plugin that allows for automatic social sharing, you can easily encourage social engagement. The more social engagement your site gets, the better, as it can improve your domain authority.
We hope you found these on-page optimization tips useful. If you’d like to find out more, head over to our hub for more SEO guides and resources.
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