On-site search engine optimization takes some ongoing maintenance to stay ahead of competing websites. Much of the heavy lifting is actually a matter of discipline, but sometimes things get messy. Site responsibilities change hands, you’re under a time crunch to post new content, life gets in the way, etc. Meanwhile your competition gains ground against you.
If your site is falling behind in search ranking, here are three quick tips to help get you back on track. I literally found some of these examples just browsing around on Google.
1. Your Images Have Default File Names
I know this place–a very nice place–but the website could use some attention (I really don’t like to be negative, so I’ve blurred the image a bit in case someone may recognize it). As you hover over the gallery images, you can immediately see the file names. There are two things at work here:
- From a design perspective, a title or other text in the overlay should either briefly describe the scene (e.g. Foyer Entrance) or not exist at all.
- The file name says nothing about the image. This gives search engines no reason to care.
How to be invisible to Google Images–and your customers.
How to show up.
Google, Bing and other search engines don’t recognize images the way humans do–yet. In order to “read” and produce them in search results, the search engines need text to help them out.
Rather than using file names like “IMG_5821”, use something that describes the image such as: “proud-african-american-entrepreneur-couple-in-their-coffee-shop.jpg” which accurately describes the image above. If you run a café, you’ll probably want to name your images in a similar way.
2. Your Meta Descriptions Are Poorly Optimized or Missing
Google may not take this into account for ranking purposes, but for customer click-through to your site, meta descriptions are very important.
Meta descriptions offer a brief summary of what your page is about. Notice I said “page” rather than “site” because each page should have its own description. This is often your very first opportunity to make a positive impression on potential customers or clients.
Search engines typically cut meta descriptions off after 160 characters, so you want to stay within that limit. Keep it short, but very clear as to what the page is about.
3. Your URL Structure is Poor
This is a common one. Unless you have a very specific reason (e.g. you have a massive news website), your URLs shouldn’t include the date. It’s just creating additional folders in your website’s structure and makes it a tiny bit more difficult for people to share. There’s no need to be complex. Keep it short and sweet.
Speaking of short and sweet:
reads better than…
The shorter version is much easier to read and share (people do still copy and paste links), and includes all relevant keywords for the topic.
Lastly, pay attention as you create new pages on your website. For this you’ll have to dig into the page settings and make sure the URL matches the page title, or they’re at least the same topic.
You want to avoid this kind of situation where your page title might be “Portfolio” but the URL might be “new-page” or maybe worse, “contact-us” because you re-purposed another page.
While it’s best to set this up properly from the beginning, things aren’t always that elegant. If you find your site has a link structure problem always fix it with proper 301 redirects.
Be sure to check out your own site and see if you have any of these issues.
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