Google uses a complex algorithm to drive website traffic. If you do not have the right mix of content and optimization on your site, then in algorithm parlance Google will find you boring and show your competitors on their search. To avoid this we want to review 10 on-site search optimization tips that will drive more traffic to your site. Many of these are lessons we learned over the past decade creating thousands of pieces of content for clients. Some are simple and straight to the point, while other tips are a bit more advanced.
As always, we assume people using the on-site search optimization tips will have a WordPress site. If you do not have a WordPress site, learn more about how you can get one at DragandDropSite.com.
10 On-Site Search Optimization Tips
1. Content Optimization
I believe you want a website where prospects can find you, correct? If so, you need to optimize the text on your site in a way that makes it easier for prospects to connect with your content.
For example, what keywords do customers use to find you? Let’s say you run a real estate company. You want home buyers looking for a place to live in Chicago. You could optimize your content for Chicago real estate or focus on Chicago buyer phrases like “buy a home Chicago.”
Now that you have the keyword you want to use, you need to determine how often to use this phrase and its associated synonyms. If you use the keyword too often, you could be over-optimizing your content. If you do not mention the keyword enough, you might not get any search traffic. Tools like Yoast SEO and All in One SEO help you monitor these numbers.
The key is to not write content for the search engines. Although you want search traffic, you must write content for your readers. Otherwise, you will not only bore Google with your content but also your readers. The longer visitors stay on your site, the more Google and other search engines believe you deliver high-quality content.
Finally, break up your content. No one wants to read a block of text a mile long. If you are writing lengthy paragraphs to look sophisticated, I am sorry to tell you the jig is up. You failed. People online don’t want you to show off. They want you to provide them with valuable information in the quickest way possible.
To help them with this, use things like:
- Header tags (H2, H3, H4, etc.) to separate different sections of your content
- Keep your paragraphs to 2–3 lines long
- Use bullet points when you have a list of items
2. Image Optimization
We live in a visual world. To compete for search traffic, you have to optimize your text and visuals.
This starts by saving your images correctly. For example, when I save images on my phone, the metadata (date, location, exposure settings, etc.) of the image is saved.
Then the image is given a pretty filename like 20190915_193759.jpg. While that might be great for organizing images on my phone, it is not helpful in the least to Google and anyone with a special need.
The first step is to improve the file name. Sometimes you can include a keyword you might want Google to index for your site. Therefore, an image like the one below could be saved as a “digital marketing landscape” file instead of “20190621_181602.jpg.”
The second step is to condense your image. Most images on a camera or phone are photo-ready. That is great if you want to print out an image but bad for websites. That is because photo-ready images are larger files that slow down your website. As we discuss in the next item, site speed is vital to your on-site search optimization campaign.
The third step requires that you add meta descriptions, title tags, and alt-tags to your images. Similar to how you help Google with specific keywords in your content, you need to help search engines see the text behind an image so that they know how to show your image to the right people in their search engine.
3. Site Speed
We talked about speed briefly in the previous item. However, we want your site to be like Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights.
However, according to Unbounce, only 15% of websites are below the 5-second load time threshold that Google considers ideal for a site. Visitors don’t know why your site is slow. They don’t care. Therefore, you need to make sure your site loads as quickly as possible.
There are a few things you can, fortunately, do to help your site load faster.
First, if you don’t understand how fast your site loads currently, how can you improve your speed? The best way to do so is to test your site speed on Google PageSpeed Insights. As you can see below, I scored 84 on my desktop. That said, my mobile has much to be desired.
Despite loading in 3.3 seconds on mobile devices, I had a score of 45. I have some work ahead of me if I want to impress Google. I also need to work with a CDN for my images. While I would love to tell you I am perfect with on-site search optimization, I am not perfect. You can always improve your score.
Second, there are several options for using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) like Amazon, MaxCDN or Cloudflare.
A CDN helps you securely store your images offsite so that your website host does not have to load the images. Since CDN companies probably pay more for their hosting than you do, it will load faster.
Keep in mind that many of these services are not free. However, if you want to get search traffic, it is worth the investment. If you don’t want to use a CDN, use software to smush your image sizes. A great plugin for images is WP-Smushit.
4. What is Robots.txt?
Robots.txt is the file that search engines and other web bots use to scan a site. Your Robots.txt file tells a search engine like Google which pages they should index on their site and which to skip. It is another guide to help search engines understand the best way to drive search traffic to your site.
Furthermore, Yoast SEO has a robot section under tools in their plugin. You can quickly set your robots.txt file in minutes without having to know the technical code.
Finally, you only need to set it up once, and then you are done. The rest will take care of itself. It is one of the easiest on-site search optimization tips.
I am by no means a Schema expert, so I will keep this section brief. That said, Schema is very important in a world where voice search and relevant search results matter.
Furthermore, Schema provides many of the rich snippets Google uses often to keep visitors on their search engine longer.
For example, if someone just needs a few basic tidbits of information (movie times or addresses), they will look to rich snippets to find this information.
Schema helps you create this information. Fortunately, you can use a Schema plugin instead of hard coding this information into your website.
Every site should focus on ways to drive inbound links from third-party sites. However, that does not mean you should not rely on internal links as well. The benefits of internal links are plentiful and take a few seconds when you are adding text to your WP site as you can see from the image below.
Now just because you can add internal links does not mean you should just go hog wild. Instead, use the links as a way to connect relevant content on your site.
That way, you can keep visitors on your site longer and get them to see more pages of your site. Both are ranking factors that can help you drive more traffic. Therefore, it is in your best interest to keep users on your site longer with internal links.
Finally, make sure that you fix broken links. For example, this blog is almost 10 years old. Because of the age of the blog, certain things have changed.
For example, I added an SSL certificate about two or three years ago (see SSL Certificate below) when Google changed its algorithm a few years ago. Additionally, I used to put the dates of the article in the URL. That has all changed. However, Google might not always recognize this change. Therefore, you have to use a Redirect URL to help your customers.
I use 301 Redirects. However, if you have the pro version of Yoast, you can also get redirects for your site.
Something worth considering is that you also want to make sure that any internal links that come from third-party sites are correct.
From time to time, you can use tools to make sure you are not sending someone to a dead site somewhere on the internet. The best way is to use a plugin like Link Checker to which third-party links no longer work.
7. Meta Description
Once you finished writing the copy/content for your page, it is time to create a summary paragraph. You can often take the meta description from your introduction. However, you might want to customize it partially to fit your needs. After all, the meta description will show up under the title of your page to let visitors know what your page is about before they click on your site from Google.
Fortunately, when you use Yoast or All-in-One, it is easy to add a meta description. You just need to fill in the meta description box and then check what the preview snippet looks like before you publish it. Search engines want everything to be clear for their clients while searching. Therefore, you have to spend time giving prospective customers the tools they need to make sure your site can help them.
Of the 3.75 Billion people using the internet this year, 86% will access the internet through mobile devices according to eMarketer. If your site is not mobile responsive, you will struggle nowadays.
Fortunately, WordPress is automatically responsive. The coders who work on the WordPress core do this because they understand how important it is for your site to get traffic.
I know that close to half of my website visitors generally come through mobile devices. That is because that little phone has become our go-to for most of our Internet needs.
To ensure you get even more mobile traffic, you might want to consider adding a Google AMP plugin to your WordPress site. Google AMP makes it even faster for Google to display your site on mobile devices.
The tool strips some of the unnecessary code that might slow down your site on a mobile browser compared to a desktop to focus on your content. This is a great plugin for bloggers and small businesses with copy on their site who want readers to focus on important components of their site first.
Just make sure it does not strip key components of your lead generation strategy. That is because Google strips several sidebar widgets, pop-ups, and other conversion-generating tools that make your business money in the quest to make your site faster.
9. Clean HTML and CSS Code
For example, I had to update my WordPress site to PHP 7 recently to keep my site in line with expectations from Google. Fortunately, I have a quality host that makes this process easy.
Still, the plugins take care of optimizing your site without you having to do this regularly.
Additionally, I have had several errors because of the plugins I use. Although I can minimize these errors by choosing specific plugins, far too many of these plugins are integral to my blog’s operation.
Therefore, take the results with a grain of salt. Do what you can to improve the quality of your site’s code and then focus back on growing your search traffic.
10. SSL certificate
The final item is to add an SSL certificate to your website. This is vital because Google now uses the security of your site as a ranking factor—something it never used to do.
This is a small annoyance but good in the long run. Why do I say that? Picture it. You run a blog that helps entrepreneurs improve their digital marketing skills. The challenge is that the blog does not take transactions on the site.
However, you are now held to the same standards as an eCommerce site that regularly takes payments. Although it does make my site a little more secure, it is not necessary except as a ranking factor.
Fortunately, my host provides this as well.
Final Thoughts for On-Site Search Optimization Tips
Now that you have a solid understanding of how to improve your site rankings, I thought it would be good to do a visual review. I found the following graphic as I was on my way to make one myself: