The Best Ways to Improve Your Website SEO
Getting your website ranked at the top of a Google search is an important way to bring in more customers. If people can’t find you online, they’re unlikely to do business with you. Fixing your SEO just takes a few steps and you’ll be on your way to the top of Google.
If you’ve got “fix my SEO” on your to-do list, be sure to grab my free SEO Checklist here.
What exactly is SEO?
If you’re embarrassed to ask what SEO is, I’ve got you covered. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and it’s the methods and tricks that business owners use to make sure their websites, blogs and social media accounts are listed at the top when someone does a Google search for certain terms or phrases.
Why does SEO matter?
If you sell a product or service, or you want to make money from your blog, you need people to find you, right? Let’s say you run a skydiving company called Zoo Skydiving in Kalamazoo, Michigan. To reach your potential customers, you want to make sure when anyone searches for “skydiving in Kalamazoo” that your website comes up at the top of the results.
If you offer a service like bookkeeping and you want to attract customers outside of your city or state, it’s important that you know the terms and phrases that those customers will search for, so that you’ll appear at the top of their search results.
How does SEO work?
Search engines like Google have a big job in cataloging the entire Internet. Google wants to maintain its dominance as THE search tool, so its results need to stay reliable and accurate. It has to constantly track which websites, images and videos go with which keywords.
New content is added to the Internet every second of every day, so Google scans for important keywords and key phrases in of all this content. Then, it categorizes each website, image and video according to those keywords and key phrases.
You want to make it easy for Google to find your keywords and key phrases and categorize you appropriately. Otherwise, your customers won’t be able to find you.
SEO today vs. SEO long ago
Back in the old days of 2001 when no one had mobile devices and we could only access the Internet on a desktop computer (How did we survive?!), SEO was super simple. Google was still young and the only thing a website owner had to do to get a top ranking was repeat his or her desired keywords in certain areas in the website’s code (called meta tags and the description) and in the site’s text. Some people would simply paste a word like “skydiving” over and over and over again in hidden areas on a website, so Google would push it higher in search results. It was called keyword stuffing and it worked.
But friends, Google is smarter today! It knows that a single repeated word is not how humans speak, and it will penalize anyone who keyword-stuffs by ranking the website lower (or even blacklisting the site). So that technique isn’t used anymore.
Today’s SEO best practices include more than just adding keywords to your code and text. Google search results display not only a website link, but also a short description. We have social media sites like Facebook that are treated separately from our website. We also have local SEO and Google Business Pages, which are critical for companies that depend on local business and visitors, like our skydiving company in Kalamazoo.
I’ll focus on your website SEO in this post, with later posts about social media SEO and local SEO.
What is bad SEO?
When your SEO isn’t working, you’ll show up on the dreaded Page 2 and beyond of Google’s search results. When was the last time you searched for something and A) scrolled down to view results beyond the top of the page or B) got to the bottom and clicked on Page 2 of the results? If you’re like most people, the answer is rarely. Most searchers don’t click beyond Page 1 of their search results (even if there are literally millions of results available), much less scroll down to see beyond the top 5 links.
How do I fix my SEO?
If you’re not thrilled with your rankings, let’s get you moved up on on Google! We’ll follow these steps:
Submit your site to Google Search Console
Select your keywords and phrases
Add your keywords and phrases to your website
Request backlinks to your website
Review your rankings
SEO Step 1: Submit your site to Google
First things first: submit your URL and sitemap to Google Search Console. Log in or create your account, then follow the easy submission steps. This sends a request to Google to start scanning your website.
Squarespace auto-generates sitemaps for all of their websites. If you have a Squarespace site, you can view your sitemap by adding /sitemap.xml to the end of your URL.
If you don’t have a Squarespace site, you can use a tool like XML Sitemap Generator to create your sitemap.
SEO Step 2: Select your keywords
Now, decide which terms and phrases you want to rank for. Let's look at our made up skydiving company called Zoo Skydivers in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
If we think like a potential customer, which words and phrases would someone be looking for? If they've heard of the business, or know people who've gone skydiving, they might search:
Zoo Skydivers (the business name)
Skydiving in Kalamazoo (includes the city)
Kalamazoo skydiving (a variation of the above)
If they don't know there's skydiving in the area, but they're looking for adventure in Kalamazoo, they might search:
Fun things to do in Kalamazoo
Top adventures in Kalamazoo
Because of inventions like Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant, voice search is becoming more and more popular. Which questions would a would-be skydiver ask their device? Things like:
What can I do for fun in Kalamazoo?
What are the top tourist attractions in Kalamazoo?
How should I celebrate my birthday in Kalamazoo?
Try searching for words and phrases that you think your audience might be using. Pay attention to the suggested autofill words and phrases that pop up when you start typing in the Google search bar. These are terms that others are actually searching for, so consider adjusting your keywords and phrases to include these terms. You’ll have a stronger list this way.
Pick 5–7 keywords and phrases that you want to rank highly for in Google. This might feel like a small number, but Google will automatically put you in the company of similar words and phrases. For example, you don’t need both “skydiving in Kalamazoo” and “Kalamazoo skydiving” on your list. Google knows that these phrases are similar.
SEO Step 3: Add your keywords and phrases to your website
Now that you know your terms and phrases, you’ll start adding them to key areas on your website. The trick to adding these terms is to do it naturally, the way humans actually speak. Once you have your text in place, re-read it and send it to trusted friends and family who can tell you how it reads.
As I mentioned, keyword stuffing is a thing of the past. So instead of using the phrase “fun things to do in Kalamazoo” over and over, you’d explain in your text about how visitors to Kalamazoo have so much fun skydiving with your company and that you’re ranked as a top tourist attraction in the area, if that’s true.
Put your keywords and phrases in these areas on your website:
Body text on each page
Headlines and subheads (called H1 and H2 tags)
Page descriptions or summaries (make each one unique)
Page titles (use more than About Me, Contact Us, etc.)
Photo & video names/titles (make each one unique)
Business Info (for Squarespace sites)
Anywhere else where you can add text
SEO Step 4: Request backlinks to your website
You’ve got your text finalized, your images renamed and all your descriptions completed. Now it’s time to share your URL with the world. The best way to get Google to rank your website higher is by getting your URL listed on other websites. These are called backlinks.
Any time you have the opportunity to put your domain in a list or a profile area on social media, do it! These all count as backlinks and the more you can get, the better. Can you get listed on a blog post that features the top things to do in Kalamazoo? Or is there a local tourism website that would find your URL helpful? Reach out to as many relevant websites as possible to get your own site listed.
SEO Step 5: Review your rankings over time
Give Google some time to discover your keywords and start ranking you appropriately. This might take several weeks, but eventually you’ll see your ranking change over time. If you’re consistently ranking lower than you’d like, take a look at the higher ranking sites and see how they are using keywords and key phrases. Use what they’re doing as a model for your own site and make adjustments.
Remember that the better and more relevant your content is, the higher Google will rank you. Now go whip that website into shape!