1. Use Different Meta Titles and Descriptions for All Subpages
Anyone who has ever used a search engine has seen meta titles, or meta tags. They’re the small snippets of text that come up beneath each page title. Unless you’ve studied SEO, you may not realize that they’re also most consumers’ first contacts with new brands.
Meta tags are important, but they offer little wiggle room for communicating unique value propositions. That’s where meta descriptions come in.
Meta descriptions need to be clear enough to convey the brand’s message quickly and effectively, so make sure they stand out from the crowd. The same old “we do it better” tag lines just won’t cut it.
Each subpage on an effective website has a distinct purpose. Even subpages that have similar goals, such as location pages for franchises, need unique content. They also need unique meta tags and descriptions.
Properly optimizing metadata is one of the quickest ways to avoid serious SEO issues, such as:
- Website content that is inconsistent with consumers’ expectations
- Limited long-tail keyword range
- Cannibalization of other subpages
Even high-quality content won’t help site managers attract more visitors if no one can find it. Optimizing metadata doesn’t just provide valuable information to potential customers. It also improves search engine rankings, so it’s worth the time to create unique tags and descriptions for each subpage.
2. Make Sure Graphic Elements Are Optimized
SEO isn’t just about text. Graphic elements need to be optimized, too. Don’t think it really matters? A recent study conducted by Hubspot proves that it does. According to the researchers, 80 percent of the participants preferred online content that contained graphics in addition to text.
The most effective graphic elements for most webpages are photographs, illustrations, infographics, and charts. When designing and embedding these elements, make sure to keep both user-friendliness and SEO best practices in mind. Each element should:
- Convey important information
- Increase search engine results page (SERP) exposure
- Keep visitors interested enough to generate the desired call-to-action response
There are a few simple steps to ensure that a graphic element meets these goals. Here’s what you can do:
Choose the Right Filename
Don’t use a randomized series of characters. Instead, choose filenames related to the topic and try to include extra keywords for important graphics.
Keep File Size Manageable
Slow loading times drive browsers away and harm SERP performance, so keep file sizes manageable. Try to balance the need for quick loading times against consumers’ preference for high-quality graphics.
Choose the Right Extension
Use formats that will appear correctly in all web browsers and search engines. Avoid unusual file formats like .wmfs and stick with formats that are compatible with just about all mobile and desktop browsers.
Choose New Generation Extensions
Avoid using older formats like standard JPEG and PNG extensions. Newer equivalents like JPEG 200, JPEG XR, and WebP offer higher quality images and better compression.
Use Image Compression
Google tracks browsers’ behavior and translates it into ranking signals, so use multiple resolutions to ensure that users can view the images on any device. Using lossless compression is a great way to reduce file size for faster loading times without negatively affecting image quality.
Take Advantage of Captions
Captions, the text labels that appear directly beneath images, are three times more likely to catch casual browsers’ attention than text blocks. Take full advantage of them.
Include Alt Text and Titles
Users won’t see alt text and titles unless their browsers are unable to properly load the graphic elements, but that doesn’t mean they’re not important. Include alt text that accurately describes each graphic.
A Note About Stock Photos
Let’s face it: stock photos have gotten a bad rap. They may not constitute 100% original content, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still enrich a webpage and keep browsers more engaged. When stock photos are the only affordable option, there’s no good reason to avoid them.
3. Keep Load Times Short
Google’s ranking algorithms are designed to prioritize sites that offer a positive user experience. That’s where user experience (UX) design comes in. In the context of SEO, this process involves optimizing individual pages so they generate positive UX signals that perform well against ranking algorithms.
Website speed is one of the most important aspects of UX design. Today’s browsers aren’t willing to wait even a few seconds to access even the best content. Here are a few quick stats from popular websites that prove the point:
- Decreasing load times on Pinterest pages by 40% leads to a 15% increase in conversion rates.
- 10% fewer BBC readers and viewers stick around when load times are increased by just one second.
- 53% of mobile browsers leave DoubleClick pages when load times exceed three seconds.
Feeling convinced yet? If so, there are a few user-friendly tools you should check out.
Lighthouse: Lighthouse is a free Google Chrome extension that lets users check websites’ load times. It can be used to trace loading progress for any website. You can also use it to evaluate subpages’ performance on different devices.
GTmetrix: GTmetrix lets users analyze sites’ loading processes from different devices, but it goes beyond just indicating load times. This tool also grades pages’ loading processes on a scale from 1 to 100 and indicates specific elements that users can optimize to improve page speeds.
Google Speed Insights: Google Speed Insights lets web developers test their page speeds in a laboratory setting to get more detailed information about loading performance. Use it regularly to get a better understanding of individual factors that influence load times like time to first meaningful element, CPU inaction time, and others.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Get Technical
Many of today’s business owners and bloggers shudder at the thought of dealing with the technical aspects of their websites. Unfortunately, technical settings can have a significant impact on UX and SERP performance, so site owners can’t afford to ignore them.
Don’t panic! Follow this simple, three-step process to ensure optimal technical performance:
Step One: Update PHP Version
As a general rule, newer PHP versions perform better. Site managers can change their PHP versions in their servers’ admin panels. Just make sure that the site isn’t running on outdated architectural services, as updating the PHP version under these conditions can cause losses of functionality.
Updating the PHP version is an easy technical tweak, and there’s really no way to get it wrong. If your PHP version update causes the site to lose functionality, just reverse the changes until you can figure out why it happened.
Step Two: Implement Gzip, Deflate, or Brotli Compression
The right compression methods can improve loading times dramatically. Gzip and Deflate offer similar levels of efficiency, while Brotli compression outperforms them both by 20%. Ultimately, it’s up to site managers to decide which form of compression they prefer.
Step Three: Avoid Redirects
When a user requests a resource, usually by clicking on a link, and is informed that he or she is being sent to another URL, that’s called a redirect. His or her browser must make another request, which takes extra time to complete. Multiple redirects can negatively impact both UX and SERP performance, so avoid them by using a diagnostics tool like Redirect Checker.
5. Take Advantage of Web Caches
Web caches save data from websites on users’ hard drives. This allows browsers to pull relevant information from the cache while visitors are navigating through different subpages, decreasing loading times.
WordPress users can change their sites’ cache settings by using a plugin like WP Fastest Cache. If you don’t use WordPress, you’ll need to configure the cache directives from the admin panel or the FTP Server. You can find them in the .htaccess file.
6. Ditch the Slow Server
Server quality impacts everything from time to first byte (TTFB) to PHP script execution speed, data processing, and more. In other words, it’s important.
There’s little you can do about a slow server beyond changing hosting plans or providers. It’s definitely worth the hassle, though. Just decreasing the TTFB improves UX metrics like conversion rates and bounce rates, and it makes the site’s pages easier for Googlebot to crawl and index efficiently.
7. Build Outbound Links
Most well-performing content contains outbound backlinks, and with good reason. Linking out to authoritative outside sources validates information and makes the content look more trustworthy. Plus, it helps with SERP rankings.
Before you start throwing random links into your content, you should know that linking to low-quality websites can negatively impact SERP rankings. Focus on placing relevant outbound links to trustworthy sites instead of adding as many links as possible. It’s about quality, not quantity.
The Bottom Line
If you’ve been paying attention, you should now have all the tools you need to start performing your own SEO and improving both your site’s UX and its SERP rankings. Building an army of brand enthusiasts takes time, but driving more traffic to your website will help.