SEO often masquerades itself in an air of mystery, but the truth is that SEO isn’t too difficult for the non-expert to accomplish. Among the small business owners we work and connect with, we’ve heard some of the following concerns:
- “I understand the importance of SEO but investing in a large digital marketing or SEO agency just isn’t feasible for us right now.”
- “I don’t know how to do SEO.”
- “I can perform SEO tactics myself but I don’t know where to start.”
While it’s best to have a complete SEO strategy and campaign for your business, there are dozens of “one-off” tasks you can complete in an afternoon to bolster your overall site health and technical SEO. As such, we’ve created this guide with 10 actionable SEO tactics you can implement immediately.
Quick SEO optimizations you can make to your website
1. Add schema markup to your site
Schema markup is microdata that provides context to an otherwise ambiguous page. It’s a type of code you put on your website to better describe the content means and where the page should be filed in a search engine’s catalog. The most common types of schema markup recommended for websites — regardless of industry — are breadcrumb schema, organization schema, FAQ schema, and article or blog schema.
How to add schema markup to your site
Adding schema markup can be especially easy if you have access to edit pages. I love to recommend using this schema markup generator for those who know the importance of SEO but might not know how to write code or SEOs looking to save time. To generate the code:
- Access the website.
- Choose which type of schema code you’d like to create from the dropdown.
- FIll out all required fields (and any additional fields you have information for).
- Copy the script to your clipboard.
- Paste the script on the page you created it for. Note: depending on your CMS, implementation processes will differ. We use Elementor on our site and simply edit the page, drop the “Custom HTML” element in the top of the page, and paste the schema markup code into that element — then hit publish!
Time: 20 minutes to generate schema markup and implement it for one blog post
2. Check Google Search Console for errors and insights
If you haven’t signed up for Google Search Console and added your website(s) to your account yet, do so following this guide from Google.
Google Search Console is one of the most reliable (if not the most reliable) source of information when it comes to your site’s health. The information Google Search Console offers website owners includes the number of pages indexed on Google, what enhancements the website has, and the performance of each page in search results — among many other metrics.
Recently, Google Search Console began adding an Insights banner at the top of user dashboards:
This functionality allows SEOs to see rich reporting on how specific pages and content strategies are performing “in the wild.”
How to check for errors and insights
To check Google Search Console for insights, either click the banner on the top of your dashboard that reads “See your site’s top queries on Google Search” or type “https://search.google.com/search-console/insights/” into your URL bar as a shortcut.
To check your site for errors, first navigate to your Search Console dashboard. Then, choose “Coverage” from the left navigation.
Once at the coverage screen, toggle the first box labeled “Errors” to view the number of errors Search Console has found while crawling your website. Below the chart, under “details,” you can find more in-depth information about the error (if you have any), how to fix it, and how to let Google know to recrawl the page after you’ve solved the issue.
Time: 15 minutes to comb through errors and insights. Time varies on solving errors based on what the error is.
3. Update your Google My Business information
If you haven’t set up a Google My Business account, follow this guide to do so.
Once logged into Google My Business, navigate to the “Info” toggle on the left navigation bar. After clicking on “Info,” you should see your business’s knowledge card with small pencils next to most of the information.
Take some time to read over what you currently have written in these sections. Is your contact information correct? Are there special holidays your business observes that you’d like to add specific hours for? Would you like to add pictures of your physical location, products, special offers, or internal team members?
If your business identifies as women-led or has other minority-based attributes, you can add them in this screen. Furthermore, Google My Business has created COVID-19-centric health and safety attributes to appear when your business’s knowledge card is returned in a search so prospective customers know what to expect when visiting your physical location.
Time: 10 minutes
4. Analyze your title tags and meta descriptions
Using a free tool like Screaming Frog, pull up to 500 URLs from your website and audit them for length, clarity, persuasiveness, and keywords. Title tags should be around 60 characters and meta descriptions should fall between 150 and 160 characters to ensure the entire tag is visible on search engine result pages.
It’s best practice to have the target keyword or phrase of a page in the title tag and the meta description, though Google has declared that meta descriptions are not considered a ranking factor. However, meta descriptions heavily influence click-through-rates (CTR) so it’s in a business’ best interest to include the relevant keyword or phrase and make the copy persuasive to encourage searchers to choose their company’s search result.
We recommend making a spreadsheet to keep track of the changes in title tags and meta descriptions for historical data when figuring out what works best for ranking.
Time: 5 minutes to pull a report, time varies on how many title tags and meta descriptions you want to edit at a time.
5. Check for multiple H1 tags
While pulling that Screaming Frog report, take notice of the number of H1 tags you have on a page. SEO best practices recommend only one H1 tag per page that should be optimized with that page’s target keyword or phrase. Not only does this act as an important ranking factor for Google and other search engines, it will help the reader of your content understand what the overarching theme of a page or article is.
Time: You’ve already pulled the report so time will vary on how many H1 tags you’ll want to edit at a time.
6. Figure out what you’re ranking for
If you’ve purchased a paid subscription to online SEO tools like Moz, SEMrush, Ubersuggest (or others), this item can take no time at all and is probably an existing part of your day.
However, if the cost of a paid subscription like that is too steep at the moment (and for many small business owners without a dedicated SEO team, it is), there are several free ways to get the same information — though it will not be as in-depth. Discovering the keyword phrases your website ranks for — and which pages rank best — is integral to building out a digital marketing strategy that focuses on helpful, optimized content.
Free ways to find out what you rank for
Use these sites and their free trials to get a sense of what your website ranks for in the marketplace.
- The HOTH: In my opinion this is the best free tool, especially for digital marketers who have at least an intermediate level of knowledge of SEO but don’t have the budget for a paid subscription. Not only does it give you over 50 keywords, the HOTH’s tool also allows you to download your rankings and see which page ranks for which keyword; a feature I love about SEMRush’s paid services.
- SEMRush: Speaking of SEMRush, its trial is a great tool for one-off projects. However, it limits you to 10 searches a day and doesn’t offer near the amount of helpful information as its paid service does.
- Ubersuggest: Ubersuggest allows only three searches a day but the information returned in each search is incredibly valuable. You’ll be able to see historical traffic data, top SEO pages, and more.
- Ahrefs: If you have a specific keyword in mind you’d like to check your rankings for, try Ahrefs free keyword rank checker. Though you won’t be able to see a comprehensive list of every keyword your website ranks for, it’s helpful to know where your website stands on a handful of important, core keywords to your business.
Time: 30 minutes
7. Create content for featured snippets
Somewhat like schema markup, creating content for featured snippets provides searchers answers to their questions on the search engine result page itself and entices them to click through to your website for more in-depth explanations. SEOs lovingly term these snippets to hold “position #0” because they appear above all the search results. Featured snippets cannot be paid for or requested. Instead, Google chooses which website wins a featured snippet by determining which website provides the best answer for a search query. The most common type of featured snippets include paragraphs, lists, tables, and videos.
How to win a featured snippet
There’s no formula to win a featured snippet but there are a few ways to influence Google to pick your website as the best resource (and pull a featured snippet from your page).
- Find the keyword phrases that currently have featured snippets.
- Create content that easily and fully answers queries or questions.
- Add structured data to your page.
- Use one H1 and multiple H2s through H6s to break up and define content.
Again, nothing can guarantee your content will get chosen for a featured snippet, but performing research and writing great, user-focused content can dramatically improve your chances.
Time: 20 minutes to figure out the featured snippet to rank for
8. Implement rel=canonical tags
Before the term “rel=canonical” sends you screaming for the hills, let me simplify the term: it deals with handling duplicate web pages. If interested, you can learn more about rel=canonical from Google Developers here.
Rel=canonical, also known as a canonical tag, is vital to your website because it tells search engines which page is the “master” for all the potential duplicates of it. For example, if LMP’s website has the following links, a human would (and could) safely assume this is all one page.
However, search engines aren’t human and see each as a unique page on the website. Not only will a search engine pick it’s favorite “top” page (which may not be the one you’ve chosen), it will also see duplicate content on the others and note it as part of ranking factors. That’s where putting a canonical tag plays an important role. If a search engine thinks our homepage has two other duplicate pages, our rankings — among other technical SEO factors — will see a decrease in performance and a host of SEO issues can, and probably will, ensue.
How to implement canonical tags on your website
I could spend a lot of time and words on this, so I’m referring you to Moz.com for the how-to.
To identify if your website needs canonical tags, however, I’m sharing a really easy way to identify if you have a canonical issue. Type your website in every form it may have (list for help below) and pay attention to if it redirects. If each form redirects to https://www.yourwebsite.com, you don’t have a canonical issue. If it doesn’t, there’s a good chance you have some sort of canonical issue.
Time: 20 minutes
9. Find pages with thin content
It’s time to break out Screaming Frog again! This time, take a look at the word count of each page. Any web page with less than 400 words should be prioritized in your content queue to bolster the copy on the page and optimize it for SEO. It’s important not to add fluff to the piece; instead, take a look at your content strategy and identify two or three additional subheads with supporting information you can add that’s persuasive and/or educational for your audience.
Time: 10 minutes
10. Check to see how many pages of your site are indexed
One of the easiest ways to check how many pages of your site are indexed — without going through Google Search Console — is to navigate to Google and search “site:[yoursite.com]” in the search bar.
In seconds, you’ll see the total number of results Google has in its catalog of your site. Once the number of results is returned, ask yourself:
- Should there be a lot more results than this?
- Should there be much fewer results than this?
- Is every page that’s appearing in the results something I want appearing in search results?
Ensure that the pages you want potential visitors to be able to find are appearing in results and take note of any pages you want to remember to take down or ask Google not to crawl.
Time: 5 minutes
Why is SEO important, anyway?
We all know the power of the internet and how it connects us with friends, family, and businesses. Instead of throwing jargon at your face or spewing numbers, think about how you search as a consumer. Do you ever click over to the second page of search results? What about the bottom of the first page?
SEO is important because it’s the best organic way to create visibility for your business on search engines. SEO is built on providing an unrivaled user experience, answering questions, and finding solutions. By investing more time into SEO tactics, you’ll help your business shine and reach a new audience who never knew your business provides exactly what they want or need.
Related article: 8 Tools to Help With Your Keyword Research
Put your best foot forward with our SEO content audit
Still struggling with where to start, or to figure out where you’re ranking in your industry online? Lightning Media Partners our SEO content audit. Book a discovery call with us to learn more.
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