Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Web Marketing Today. Practical Ecommerce acquired Web Marketing Today in 2012. In 2016, we merged the two sites, leaving Practical Ecommerce as the successor.
Optimizing your website to attract search engine attention — a practice known as on-site optimization — is an often multifaceted and complex process. However, following three simple steps can help improve your ranking, which may result in more visits to your site.
The three steps are:
- Create quality content;
- Find and repair broken links;
- Optimize meta description and title tags.
1. Create Quality Content
Adding well-written content to your website is one of the most critical activities you can undertake. Marketing your business through the use of content can not only help improve search engine rankings, but is a way to influence buying decisions, particularly for research-intensive purchases.
Prior to creating content, set up a calendar listing topics about which you will write. Here is an example of a calendar created with Google Sheets, a spreadsheet application that is part of Google Drive.
Content can come in the form of blog posts, infographics, press releases, or even videos about your product or service. Maintaining a blog focused on a few key topics is an easy way to get started.
2. Find and Repair Broken Links
Google Webmaster Tools is an indispensable free tool for managing websites, granting insight into key measures of site health like page load times, volume of pages indexed in Google, and the site’s appearance in search results.
Using the “Crawl Errors” report in Google Webmaster Tools, take a half-hour per month to review the status of links pointing to your web pages.
In the image above, the three outlined sections show:
- Where to find the Crawl Errors report;
- What type of error Google detected;
- A list of errors identified in the report.
In generating the Crawl Errors report, Google attempts to follow all the links pointing to and throughout your site. If a link doesn’t resolve to a web page as expected, Google will report one of a few types of errors using a set of response codes, the two most common of which are:
- 404 – connection made; resource not found;
- 500 – connection to server unavailable.
(Moz, a marketing analytics software provider, has a complete list of response codes – also known as HTTP status codes – and their meanings.)
When you encounter a broken link, click on its line item and check the tab “Linked from.”
If the page was linked from somewhere on your site, go to that page and update the link to point to the new URL or correct page. If the linking page is on another website, email the site’s owner and ask him to update the link to point to the right section of your site.
3. Optimize Meta Description and Title Tags
Elsewhere in Webmaster Tools, spend some time reviewing the status of the “meta description” and “title” tags throughout your website.
The “title” tag is a piece of metadata that tells search engines the name of a web page. It’s also the blue link in a Google search result. The “meta description” tag is used to give potential visitors a short introduction to what the page is about, and makes up the plain text beneath the blue link in a Google search result.
Most content management systems (CMS) provide easy access to editing title and meta description tags. Refer to your CMS’ documentation if you need help finding where to edit them.
In the image from Webmaster Tools above, the three outlined sections show:
- Where to find the “HTML Improvements” report;
- Suggested changes for meta description tags;
- Suggested changes for title tags.
If you are in the process of building your website, use the report to perform an initial audit of your meta description and title tags after the site launches. On an on-going basis, use the “HTML Improvements” report to find pages where you failed to include these tags.
Click the “duplicate” or “missing” line items to see pages that share identical tags, and pages that lack tags of either type.
Follow the HTML Improvement report’s guidance to create direct response-oriented meta description tags and keyword-rich title tags to inform both search engines and human visitors.
In my next article, I discuss SEO activities you can conduct outside of your website that can boost your search engine performance even further.