Improve Your SEO: The Ultimate Guide
Learn what makes your website do well or what is holding it back when it comes to search engine traffic and optimization.
Photo by Miltiadis Fragkidis on Unsplash
Major Website Problems for SEO
If you already understand the factors that negatively impact your chances of increasing your organic search traffic, skip this section and find out the tools to easily evaluate your traffic problems. The solutions come immediately after the following list of problems.
Google shares pretty clearly in their SEO Starter Guide what factors play a role in getting high quality organic search traffic:
- Your website isn’t in Google’s index.
- Important pages on your website aren’t being found by Google or other search engines.
- Google and users can’t understand your content.
- The content on your website isn’t ranking well for the terms your users search for.
- Your website content isn’t really that great in terms of quality.
- On your website, images aren’t optimized.
- Pages on your website are not easily accessible on mobile phones.
- Your business or website are new or undiscovered by your target audience and need some promotion.
How to Identify and Fix the Problems
Below, I’ll share some helpful tricks and tools that will give you easy and accurate ways to check on your site’s SEO health.
Is my website on Google?
If you want to quickly check if your website is in Google’s index, try typing
site:mydomain.com into the search bar. If Google shows no search results, then your site is not in their index.
This would be a very big and obvious reason why your site is not getting organic search traffic.
Fix: you just need to sign up form Google Search Console, verify ownership of your website’s domain, and then ensure your site remains accessible and attractive to their crawlers and to your visitors.
Is Google able to find my most important pages?
If you have a very large website that is updated often, then Google suggests that you may need to submit a sitemap.
Google has a good article that helps you learn more about sitemaps (to see if you really need one), and another article that describes how you can build a sitemap yourself.
However, if you are just starting out or have an underperforming small to medium size website (like, less than 500 pages), then you probably don’t need to worry about a sitemap right now,
Google will automatically crawl all your website pages that are linked to via your website’s navigation menu or footer links.
However, if you have a larger website that is updated often and maybe you want to verify if your SEO person actually created a sitemap for you, usually it will be available at one of the following URLs:
- For WordPress sites using the Yoast SEO plugin: https://mydomain.com/sitemap_index.xml
- For WordPress sites using the RankMath SEO plugin: https://mydomain.com/sitemap_index.xml (it’s the same as the Yoast SEO URL)
- For a regular HTML site, you can try: https://mydomain.com/sitemap.xml
- If the above aren’t working, try searching
site:mydomain.com sitemapand something may come up
If you want to submit a sitemap anyway, it couldn’t hurt, and it basically signals to Google that you think your site will be big and important eventually. Then, you’d have to actually follow up with regularly updated content that meets users’ needs in order to prove your value as a search destination, but that’s another issue for another day.
What if Google and users aren’t able to understand my content?
First, there are different reasons why Google and users may not be able to understand your content:
- Can Google see your site the same way users do?
- Try visiting https://mydomain.com/robots.txt and see if any of your major site assets are blocked (anything ending with .js, .css, or types of images like .png, .jpg, .gif, etc.)
- You can also use the URL inspection tool provided by Google in Search Console (you will be taken to your account in GSC. If you don’t have one, you can create an account or ask your SEO person for access to theirs, where they likely have your domain already set up)
- Do you have unique, accurate page titles?
- Hover your mouse over the browser tab of your website. You should see something that represents your business well
- I suggest to always have your business or brand name first on your homepage’s title tag if your brand is well-known
- If you are trying to get more brand recognition still, front load your value proposition rather than your brand name (mine is “Website & Conversion Specialist – Woodruff Multimedia”)
- You can change this in your Yoast SEO WordPress plugin metabox (usually found below your Gutenberg editor interface on the page editing screen), or in the
<title></title>tags in your HTML website
- Do you have a well-written title tag, such that Google doesn’t try to replace it with something else?
- Google will replace your title tag or title link snippet in search results if they think it isn’t accurately describing the page or won’t get many clicks
- Accurately describe the page’s content
- Make sure each page has unique title tags
- Don’t make titles too long
- Do you make the best use of your page’s meta description tag?
- The text in this tag appears below the title tag (blue link for your page in Google Search)
- You should accurately summarize page content and make it appeal to those who would be interested in your topic
- Don’t just use salesy copy here, phone numbers, or other boiler plate
- You shouldn’t just copy the page intro section and plop it in there
- Each page’s description should be unique
- Do you use sub-headings (h2-h6) effectively on your pages?
- Lots of people try to ensure their main keywords are in heading tags, but this is not necessary
- Google doesn’t particularly care what text is in your headings, as long as you use them effectively to make the page more sensibly organized for visitors
- They should help you create a hierarchical structure for the page content, where appropriate (h2 for section heading, h3 for sub-topics within that section, etc.)
- Treat your content headings like an outline for a paper back in college, in which you indent each sub-topic within its parent topic
- Make sure they go in order (follow h2 with h3 for sub-topics, but follow h2 with another h2 if it’s a separate section)
- Don’t use headings excessively, make them too long, or just to make your text match a certain style
To be continued…