When you think about Search Engine Optimization, you probably think about how to increase your website’s ranking in Google. While that’s correct, it’s not as simple as it may sound, and there’s a lot that goes into the practice of SEO.
HostGator offered a free webinar about the 5 Steps to SEO Success to help website owners get started with optimizing their website for search.
We focused on on-page SEO and covered the following steps:
- Implement keyword research
- Set up metadata on all pages
- Create quality content
- Format URL structure and links
- Use schema, if appropriate
Missed the webinar? No worries. Check out the recording below.
Here are the top 10 questions about SEO that our webinar attendees asked.
1. Once you have a website, what is the #1 thing you should do to immediately increase your rankings?
The easiest thing you can do to quickly impact your search results and rankings is to register your business with Google My Business. Google My Business is the official business profile listing from Google that integrates with Google Maps and Google search. GMB is Google’s way of allowing you to control what shows up in search by giving you the space to provide as much information as possible about your business. You’ll want to make sure that your Google My Business listing is accurate and matches all your listings online.
2. I don’t have a physical address or storefront. Do I still need a Google My Business account?
Yes! If you want to be found online you should definitely have a Google My Business account even if you don’t have a physical address or storefront. In fact, when you set up your Google My Business account, you can note your business as a “service area business,” meaning you serve a certain cities or zip codes.
When you set up your account, one of the first questions will be ‘do you have an address where customers can visit you?’ Follow these prompts to indicate that you do not have a physical location. If you already have a Google My Business account, you can edit your physical location from the dashboard. You will see that “service area” and “storefront address” can now be edited separately.
3. How important are sitemaps? Do I need one?
Sitemaps help Google identify and crawl all of your site’s pages and URLs. Without a sitemap, Google might not be able to index all of your pages – meaning you could be missing out on a lot of organic traffic.
A lot of CMSs automatically generate sitemaps; or if you use the Yoast plugin for WordPress, it will create your sitemap for you. Manually creating a sitemap is a fairly intensive process, especially if you have a lot of pages. So if your CMS has the functionality to create a sitemap for you, take advantage of it!
It’s important to note that when SEO’s refer to “sitemaps” we’re typically referring to sitemap.xml not HTML sitemaps that you might find front-of-site.
4. How important are good Google reviews for SEO?
Google reviews are important for SEO! Essentially, Google reviews show Google that your business is real and that people have interacted with it. Additionally, reviews frequently contain relevant keywords which add to Google’s understanding of your business. The more context you can provide to Google about your business, the better.
5. For SEO purposes, is it more important to update existing content or create new content?
This is a great question and one that we debate at HostGator as well! You should do both! As content gets old, it may no longer be relevant, which then causes it to not rank well anymore (don’t forget, you want your content to be timely!) For example, an article about ‘top web design tips of 2015’ only holds value during 2015 because people always want the most current tips. To improve your rankings of that article, you should update the content to make it more evergreen and relevant to your readers no matter when they find the article.
Updating older posts is great because they typically have more SEO value, since they have been indexed longer and have more backlinks. If you do have to delete a post or page however, you’ll want to do a 301 redirect to a new, highly-relevant article. A 301 redirect indicates to Google that the page has permanently moved and allows you to pass 90-95% of SEO value from the original article to the new one. 301 redirects allow you to both maintain your rankings and update your content.
If you can, we recommend that you publish new articles on a regular basis to indicate to Google that your website is current, relevant, and active.
6. How many keywords should I have? And where do I put them?
The number of keywords you need is really dependent on your business. You should have a mix of both long-tail keywords (phrases or questions that are fairly specific) and head terms (general keywords with high search volume). For HostGator, our head terms include our products, such as web hosting and shared hosting, while our long-tail keywords include phrases like what is web hosting, how expensive is web hosting, and how to keep my website secure.
If you are a local business, be sure to include the city or state in your keywords to target people in your area. We covered keyword research in detail during the webinar – go back and watch from minute mark 7:05-12:45. As a reminder, you can target three to five keywords on any given page and the biggest tip we can offer is this – use your keywords naturally.
Finally, think about keywords like topics. Don’t just “say” them, talk about them. Write as much as you know about the topic and make the conversation natural.
7. How do I get backlinks?
Essentially, a backlink is when another website links to yours. The absolute best way to get backlinks is to develop quality content, like blog articles, and wait for other websites to link to your articles. If your content is helpful and original, this should happen naturally.
If you want to take a more proactive approach to building backlinks, you can find a website that might find your information helpful for their readers and actually ask them to link to it.
If you are a local business, you can consider partnering with another business on a promotion and exchanging links in return. Think of this like networking in real life – meet people who have similar interests and ask them to link to your articles, specifically if the content is helpful for their readers.
8. What are the best SEO plugins for WordPress?
Yoast is well-known as the best SEO plugin for WordPress. With a few short configurations, Yoast will manage your metadata, canonicals, sitemaps and your robots.txt. While Yoast automatically selects certain configurations for you, you also have the ability to fully customize your selections. Check out this article for eight more awesome SEO plugins for WordPress.
9. If I’m working with a contractor for SEO, what questions should I be asking my SEO person each month?
I always want to see metrics. While it’s important to note that SEO changes usually take a long time to see results, there are still analytics your SEO contractor could be sharing with you. Things you might be interested in seeing are:
- Month over month, or year over year keyword changes
- The number of keywords you have ranking on pages one and two
- Organic traffic, transactions and revenue
- Top organic landing pages
Chances are that your SEO contractor is already pulling this information to guide their strategy, so it shouldn’t be too much effort to share that information with you.
You and your SEO contractor should also be monitoring your competitors and any changes they may be making to their sites that could impact their rankings and therefore affect your organic traffic.
10. Are SSL certificates important to being found on Google?
An SSL certificate is very important for a few reasons! To provide context, an SSL certificate prevents a “middle man” from stealing information as it is passed through to your website. This is especially helpful for eCommerce websites where customers are entering their credit card information. Even if you don’t have an online store, an SSl certificate can protect the contact forms on your website.
SSL certificates are also essential for ranking highly in the SERPs. For many years Google has indicated that the presence of an SSL certificate will help your site rankings. Google further proved this statement in July 2018 when Google Chrome started flagging websites without SSL certificates; as of last summer, website visitors started receiving notifications when they visited a site without an SSL certificate. Obviously when visitors see this alert, they will quickly leave your website, which will increase your bounce rate and decrease your rankings.
Luckily, HostGator offers free SSL certificates with all hosting plans. Follow the steps to set yours up today!