6 Basic SEO Tasks You Shouldn’t Skip When Updating Your Website

Google campus with smoke

6 Basic SEO Tasks You Shouldn’t Skip When Updating Your Website

By the time you read this, there will probably be another Google update that means throwing out many of the old rules for getting your website to rise to the top in search results.

For most of us, following every utterance that comes out of Mountain View seems like waiting for smoke from a papal chimney, and just about as interesting. So leave that to the SEO pros to worry about.

Here are a few ways you can and can’t go wrong with your web content, and what I did to make my new mobile-responsive WordPress website “good enough” in terms of search optimization.

1. DO use Yoast SEO plugin.

Although my new WordPress theme came with built-in tools for SEO, Yoast is so easy that it makes sense to add this plugin. It pigeon-holes you into adding a Focus Keyword, grades what you’ve written and gives specific fixes, and provides fields for optimizing the post on Facebook and Twitter.

Yoast SEO dashboard

2. DON’T let SEO override readable content.

SEO of late is not about creating content for the search engine. It’s about creating content of genuine value to your audiences.

We have fortunately moved beyond slavishly parsing words to suit a big spider-crawling search engine. So do not become a whore for the Yoast green light. (The tool rates your SEO efforts on the dashboard with a red, orange, yellow or green dot.)

Don’t sacrifice natural language to move from yellow “OK” to green “Good.” Don’t resort to what you think are clever ideas like putting highlighted keyword phrases or title tags into your alt tags for photos.

Just plain English is better in terms of your web content performance. For example, putting simple, true descriptions of your photos in alt tags is better than using keyword phrases because a) your images can end up doing well in searches on Google Images, and b) Google penalizes keyword stuffing of content.

So optimize for user intention. Serve up your site so that it’s oriented to what the user wants to find, not just keywords. Here’s a good infographic summarizing.

3. Yes, you have to blog

The last thing I want to do after helping clients all day is to think and write strategically for my own business. So I’m not religious enough about it, and I find it pretty impossible to invest the same level of creative energy into it.

Still, nowadays, you can’t perform well in search without fresh content (along with lots of other things, like regular activity on social platforms). Even though there’s no way I want to or can compete with marketers who literally post content EVERY SINGLE DAY, I know that blogging is a must for businesses that aim to be discovered online.

Take Hubspot’s word for it:

Hubspot graphic blogging generates purchases

Hubspot graphic lead generation from blogging

Why blog graphic from Hubspot

Hubspot graphic Customer acquisition from blogging

Once you’ve put the time into writing a post, go the distance and share it around on your social platforms. Sharing content on Twitter or Google+ gets it indexed quickly; the Google spider will crawl it within seconds.

4. Pay attention to page speed.

It’s REALLY important to compress photos and make sure other media don’t slow your site’s page load speeds down. The tolerance for this on mobile devices is pretty much zero; visitors to your site won’t wait. Read this post on photo management and this post for tools that will tell you your page load speed.

5. Get listed in local directories if you’re B2C

David Mihm of Moz Local reported in October 2015 a few reasons B2C businesses better be paying close attention to performing well in local search:

  • There are now more Google searches on mobile devices than desktops (5.5 billion local mobile searches per month on Google). And that doesn’t even count searches inside apps like Google Maps, Trip Advisor, etc.
  • Three-quarters of local searches result in a purchase.
  • Google Local’s radius is getting tighter (think downtown Bend versus Central Oregon).
  • Google uses your search history and others who are searching in your area to give personalized results. And it tracks you as a searcher across both your desktop and mobile.
  • Local search results are served up in this order: first, sponsored ads, then the Local stack (the “three-pack,” typically listings with the best SEO), then organic results. The last two put a lot of weight on a website’s “authority.”

Adding your company to local directories is a good way to boost your site’s authority. Here are some tips from digital agencies Portent and Moz Local from fall 2015 on the main local search directories you’ll want to get listed on. (Change is the only constant in the SEO world, so mea culpa when this becomes outdated.)

  • Add your listing to Google My Business (formerly Google Places) – puts your business info on Search, Maps and Google+ so customers can find you on whatever device they’re using.

Google My Business screenshot

  • Make sure your business’ NAP  (Name, Address, Phone number) are identical to what’s listed on your website.
  • Add your listing to Google Map Maker.
  • Claim your listing on Bing Places for Business.
  • Get on Yelp for Business, and be aware that your company will get reviewed by clients glad and mad, so you’ll need to monitor this for customer service issues.

6. Get listed in directories in your business sector.

Beyond local, there are directories specific to your industry you’ll want to get listed in as well. For example, a search on environmental consultant directories turns up opportunities in national directories and state-level directories.

And a few more resources

According to Will Scott of Search Influence, fewer than 3 percent of people make it to page two of Google search results. So SEO and paid search are worth spending money on if you have a business that’s competing for the first page of search returns.

If not, here are a few extra resources if like me you’re a consultant or small business that gets your clients through other pathways, but still want to do a fair-to-middling job on SEO.

Hubspot’s 10 SEO Mistakes to Avoid During Your Next Website Redesign

Quicksprout’s What Every Marketer Needs to Know about Conversion Optimization

Coming next in my series on Why Updating Your WordPress Site to Mobile Responsive Will Drive You Insane: why things went horribly, horribly wrong with the first WordPress theme I picked. And had to get help to rebuild my new site in a different theme.


Merry Ann Moore

I'm a born creative trapped in an analytic's body. My work has spanned comms, content marketing, web development, branding, and political organizing. I will talk your ear off about Serie A, the Portland Thorns, croissants aux amandes, the latest thing my dog rolled in, and the genius of David Byrne.

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