Landing near the top of the search results page has become so vital to business success that there’s an entire industry dedicated to getting it right.
Unfortunately, many small businesses find themselves without the resources to bring on a search engine optimization (SEO) expert. But adhering to some of Google’s most basic rules shouldn’t require additional resources.
Though its search algorithm is always changing, Google provides a variety of tips, tools and fair warning periods any time they decide to make a change.
So here are six of the most important rules to follow, including some that will be coming into effect soon.
1. Don’t ignore your search console
Perhaps the most vital free tool provided by Google is its Search Console, previously known as Webmasters, as it is the primary service for monitoring and improving a site’s presence on the platform’s search results.
The Search Console helps provide an overview of a website’s SEO and can provide tips on how to improve its performance. For example, it allows users to confirm that Google can access the website for search purposes and provides users with the ability to remove content they don’t want to be shown in search results.
As well, it allows users to create content that delivers visually engaging results, make changes to the site with minimal disruptions to its search performance and stay on top of any malware or spam issues that may negatively impact the site.
2. Address errors promptly
Equipped with the Google Search Console, website owners can receive notifications whenever an error occurs on their page.
While broken links and error messages make websites look unprofessional, they also serve a more important purpose in the SEO universe, as they signal to the Google Search algorithm that the page is less worthy of being found.
When a 404 error, broken link, malware or spam notification comes your way, it’s important to address the issue promptly, or it may jeopardize your search standing.
3. Speed matters
Another indicator that is taken into consideration by the Google algorithm is load time, as slow-moving pages are less desirable to search users.
Fortunately, Google’s free PageSpeed Insights tool can measure how your website is performing, both on desktop and mobile, and makes recommendations on how to increase speed, and by extension, search performance.
4. Use a meta-description
While Google is capable of scouring your page for clues about what sort of search queries it’s capable of answering, the most accurate way to communicate the potential uses of your website is by including a meta-description.
The 160-character explanation of what’s on the page should include a number of keywords that you want to highlight for the algorithm, increasing the chances of it sending users your way when they search for relevant terms.
5. Preparing for the mobile-friendly index
For years, Google has said that it’s going to start giving priority to mobile-optimized websites, a drastic transition that the SEO marketing industry has dubbed #mobilegeddon, and it looks like the change is poised to take place at some point in 2018.
In the lead-up, Google has published materials instructing website owners about how to optimize their website for mobile responsiveness, as well as a free tool that can measure a website’s mobile friendliness.
While the transition hasn’t yet occurred, it’s important to consider a mobile-optimization strategy for the inevitable transition that might be just around the corner.
6. Test, re-test and test again
It’s important to approach any website updates slowly and cautiously, as any major change could have a negative impact on search result rankings.
Before any major update, re-launch or change, it’s important to put each new element through an SEO audit to see what impact it will have. Free audits can be conducted through websites like SEMrush.com, rankingCoach.com, seoptimer.com and mysiteauditor.com.