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How To Improve Website Usability With These 7 Ways

How To Improve Website Usability With These 7 Ways

How To Improve Website Usability With These 7 Ways

Have you went to a website before and just feel lost?

You don’t know where to find the navigation bar. And when you finally found it hidden as a drop down menu, the categories tab brings you to another confusing page where you can’t find a single product.

Now, we would never want that for our website visitors.

Here’s where website usability comes in.

“The user experiences usability first and pays later.” – Jakob Nielsen, The King of Usability

Website usability is how easy an average person can navigate your website to achieve specific goals. Be it getting to your blog post or complete a purchase.

What you need to know is,

The final aim of usability is to create a navigational and informative website. The website can not only retain visitors but also make them into recurring visitors. Thus, help to build a user community on your website.

Ignoring usability means you’re neglecting your users. What will they do when they have difficulty navigating your website? They’ll leave, there are plenty other websites out there.

A website with a good usability should be simple, natural and easy to use.

Let’s look at usability more closely, it is made up of 5 smaller segments.

Learnability
How easy it is for a first time visitor to navigate and accomplish a task.

Memorability
How easy it is for someone to navigate and accomplish a task on your website after having left for a period.

Efficiency
How quickly someone can complete a task after getting used to your website.

Satisfaction
How pleasant it is to use your website.

Errors
How many errors the user made, how serious those errors are and how easily can they recover from the errors.

A successful website combines both the company’s and the user’s usability goals.

Keep this in mind,

A company’s goal is tangible and can be presented by numbers, like conversion rate, revenue, page ranking etc.

While the user’s usability goal is a little less tangible to measure, which includes their satisfaction and efficiency.

It is crucial to test your website usability every time you have a new update or a redesign. That is because you need to strike a balance between the two goals.

The importance of testing website usability includes:

Helps predict user behavior and map out visitor path
What you think is user behavior may not be the actual user behavior. When you carry out a test, you have actual data to build your visitor path on.

Accurately predicting user behavior is crucial in increasing web page dwell time. You can use the real data to smooth out and guide your visitor’s exploration process on your website.

Helps retain visitors by lowering bounce rate and exit rate
Testing out website usability let you learn where and when a user decides to leave your web page. Not only that, you can also know whether your CTA (click-to-action) is working as they should.

When you know what’s working and what’s not working, you will have a better idea on which part of the design to start fixing to retain visitors.

You get happier users and increase conversion rate
Website usability is all about creating a good and fruitful experience for your website users, which, naturally leads to happier users.

When you take what you learn from the test to improve your website design, you can ultimately increase your conversion because of the good usability that leads to good user experience.

Testing can be carried out in multiple stages of a website development. There are ways to test it out before the website is created or when the website has matured.

Here are 7 ways to test your website usability
1. Paper prototype

(Source)

This is the most cost effective way to test your website usability. Since you only need some papers, drawing skill, someone who understands how the system works, a facilitator and 5 real users who are willing to help you carry out the test.

Paper prototype can be used at the early stages of or before development to test out different concepts instead of scrutinizing detailed features.

Create the screen and all the different features of the website, like a burger menu in separate papers. Create a list of scenarios for the users to follow. The human computer a.k.a the guy who knows the most about the system will then adjust the papers accordingly to mimic a real prototype. All while the facilitator takes care of the whole process.

2. Heatmap

The confetti report from Crazy Egg offers an unique heatwave report based on individual clicks.

Heatmap is a visual analyzing tool that can be used on live and running websites. The idea of a heatmap is to use a cool to warm color spectrum to show you the most clicked or viewed spots on a webpage by tracking real user behavior.

Website redesign can benefit a lot if you can get real user data from a heatmap to see the browsing habit of your visitors and which elements interest them to click on the most. You might be surprised how different it is compared to where you think they’d click.

Heatmap tools like CrazyEgg offers more personalized data on every unique visitors’ clicks with their confetti feature. You can further customize your data by selecting the matrix like search term, search engine, time of day etc.

3. Remote Usability Testing

(Source)

As the name suggested, the users are not in the same room as you when the test is carried out. This gives a test result that is closer to the real thing because some users might behave differently subconsciously when they’re face to face with the researcher compared to when they’re on their own.

This type of test can also give you a wider pool of users since they can be recruited online instead of having to be physically present for the test.

The remote test can be done either moderated or unmoderated. You can share-screen, or be on a conference call with the users while they’re testing, that is moderated. While an unmoderated user gets a list of tasks, an automated software to carry out the test while their screen and voice is recorded while saying out loud what they think.

4. Online Website Survey

If your website is already established and have a good size of visitors daily, you can implement a survey to ask them directly how their experience on your website is.

This method is easier and cheaper to implement since your visitors will be free volunteers who answer your questions. However, how effective your data can be used depending on what questions you ask. If your questions are too general, you won’t get usable data; if your questions go too technical or complex, the visitors might not answer it at all.

For example, don’t ask Do you like the dropdown menu?, instead, you should ask Does the drop-down menu has everything you need?.

So the best way is to base the survey questions off a set of data you want and offer your estimations as the options for the users to choose from. Instead of giving them open-ended questions with no options that require more time and effort to answer.

5. Expert Review/ Site Audit

This is straightforward, you hire someone, usually a UX designer to go through your website and tell you what they think. What is good, what is bad, what should be changed, what can be better etc.

The thing with accessing your website through the eye of an expert is they already know what the users will be looking for. While the users may not be able to tell you what they really want unless it’s presented as an option for them.

Expert Review can happen at any stages of the website development and when a website is already established. The cost will also be cheaper than planning for a full-fledged test hiring real users. The User Is Drunk is one of the more unique expert out there that will carry out a review on your website and also give you a good time while watching it.

6. Focus Group

To create a focus group for your usability test, you will need to gather 6 to 8 users from your targeted market that fits your buyer persona, and also a moderator. This is a technique better used on the early planning stages because it helps immensely in deciding the direction your design will follow.

First thing’s first, you need to state a clear focus of the discussion. Sit the participants down before the discussion starts to make sure they understand what they need to be talking about. Set the length of the session to no less than 2 to 3 hours, especially when you have a bigger group nearing 10 people so every participant has a chance to voice out.

To fuel the session, you can ask a few open-ended questions. Note the word open end, you don’t want in any way influence their answer because the data you gather will be skewed.

7. One on One Usability Testing

(Source)

Like the remote usability test, one single user will be testing out your website. But instead of using means like screenshare or screen and audio recording, you will be in the same room as the user to observe the testing process directly.

To accommodate the tester/ user, you will have to set up the space and equipments to carry out the test. You will also need to create a set of tasks beforehand for the user to accomplish, together with a set of question regarding the user’s opinion on your website.

Take into account the time the tester takes to accomplish certain tasks because that speaks volume on the usability. Also, prepare a subjective scale to easily gauge the level of ease to accomplish each assigned tasks. The test can be carried out repetitively throughout the course of website development and also on an established website.

Now that you have some brief idea about why and how to carry out some tests for your website’s usability, we have some tips that can help you make the whole process easier…

1. Less is more
5 is the magical number that you’re looking for. According to the usability expert Jakob Nielsen, you can get enough usable insights to work on from having just 5 testers.

2. Run multiple tests
He also suggests that you should carry out more small tests instead of one big, complex, elaborated test. Remember, you’re testing for the improvement of the website design, not recording weaknesses.

3. Don’t be too choosy
Every website has their targeted audience, but not every user visiting your website will fit your targeted persona. Keep that in mind when recruiting testers or volunteers, have a basic requirement and stop there. Getting diverse opinions is more important than getting the opinions you want.

4. Before the fold is the most important part
You want to put the most effort on the part that greets your visitors when the website is first loaded, that is before the fold. How pleasant and clear the navigation is at the first glance means a lot in retaining visitors.

Here comes the conclusion…

A website doesn’t have to be fancy, but it needs to be easy to use. Having a good website where visitors can actually get to where they want and what they want, is the very first step of having some happy people that might become your happy customers. So start testing and improve your website usability to be a bigger conversion magnet!

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Rewriting the Beginner’s Guide to SEO, Chapter 4: On-Page Optimization

Rewriting the Beginner’s Guide to SEO, Chapter 4: On-Page Optimization

Posted by BritneyMuller

Chapter Four of the Beginner’s Guide to SEO rewrite is chock full of on-page SEO learnings. After all the great feedback you’ve provided thus far on our outline, Chapter One, Chapter Two, and Chapter Three, we’re eager to hear how you feel about Chapter Four. What really works for you? What do you think is missing? Read on, and let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Chapter 4: On-Page Optimization
Use your research to craft your message.

Now that you know how your target market is searching, it’s time to dive into on-page optimization, the practice of crafting web pages that answer searcher’s questions. On-page SEO is multifaceted, and extends beyond content into other things like schema and meta tags, which we’ll discuss more at length in the next chapter on technical optimization. For now, put on your wordsmithing hats — it’s time to create your content!

Creating your contentApplying your keyword research

In the last chapter, we learned methods for discovering how your target audience is searching for your content. Now, it’s time to put that research into practice. Here is a simple outline to follow for applying your keyword research:

Survey your keywords and group those with similar topics and intent. Those groups will be your pages, rather than creating individual pages for every keyword variation.
If you haven’t done so already, evaluate the SERP for each keyword or group of keywords to determine what type and format your content should be. Some characteristics of ranking pages to take note of:

Are they image or video heavy?
Is the content long-form or short and concise?
Is the content formatted in lists, bullets, or paragraphs?

Ask yourself, “What unique value could I offer to make my page better than the pages that are currently ranking for my keyword?”

On-page optimization allows you to turn your research into content your audience will love. Just make sure to avoid falling into the trap of low-value tactics that could hurt more than help!

Low-value tactics to avoid

Your web content should exist to answer searchers’ questions, to guide them through your site, and to help them understand your site’s purpose. Content should not be created for the purpose of ranking highly in search alone. Ranking is a means to an end, the end being to help searchers. If we put the cart before the horse, we risk falling into the trap of low-value content tactics.

Some of these tactics were introduced in Chapter 2, but by way of review, let’s take a deeper dive into some low-value tactics you should avoid when crafting search engine optimized content.

Thin content

While it’s common for a website to have unique pages on different topics, an older content strategy was to create a page for every single iteration of your keywords in order to rank on page 1 for those highly specific queries.

For example, if you were selling bridal dresses, you might have created individual pages for bridal gowns, bridal dresses, wedding gowns, and wedding dresses, even if each page was essentially saying the same thing. A similar tactic for local businesses was to create multiple pages of content for each city or region from which they wanted clients. These “geo pages” often had the same or very similar content, with the location name being the only unique factor.

Tactics like these clearly weren’t helpful for users, so why did publishers do it? Google wasn’t always as good as it is today at understanding the relationships between words and phrases (or semantics). So, if you wanted to rank on page 1 for “bridal gowns” but you only had a page on “wedding dresses,” that may not have cut it.

This practice created tons of thin, low-quality content across the web, which Google addressed specifically with its 2011 update known as Panda. This algorithm update penalized low-quality pages, which resulted in more quality pages taking the top spots of the SERPs. Google continues to iterate on this process of demoting low-quality content and promoting high-quality content today.

Google is clear that you should have a comprehensive page on a topic instead of multiple, weaker pages for each variation of a keyword.

Duplicate content

Like it sounds, “duplicate content” refers to content that is shared between domains or between multiple pages of a single domain. “Scraped” content goes a step further, and entails the blatant and unauthorized use of content from other sites. This can include taking content and republishing as-is, or modifying it slightly before republishing, without adding any original content or value.

There are plenty of legitimate reasons for internal or cross-domain duplicate content, so Google encourages the use of a rel=canonical tag to point to the original version of the web content. While you don’t need to know about this tag just yet, the main thing to note for now is that your content should be unique in word and in value.

Cloaking

A basic tenet of search engine guidelines is to show the same content to the engine’s crawlers that you’d show to a human visitor. This means that you should never hide text in the HTML code of your website that a normal visitor can’t see.

When this guideline is broken, search engines call it “cloaking” and take action to prevent these pages from ranking in search results. Cloaking can be accomplished in any number of ways and for a variety of reasons, both positive and negative. Below is an example of an instance where Spotify showed different content to users than to Google.

In some cases, Google may let practices that are technically cloaking pass because they contribute to a positive user experience. For more on the subject of cloaking and the levels of risk associated with various tactics, see our article on White Hat Cloaking.

Keyword stuffing

If you’ve ever been told, “You need to include {critical keyword} on this page X times,” you’ve seen the confusion over keyword usage in action. Many people mistakenly think that if you just include a keyword within your page’s content X times, you will automatically rank for it. The truth is, although Google looks for mentions of keywords and related concepts on your site’s pages, the page itself has to add value outside of pure keyword usage. If a page is going to be valuable to users, it won’t sound like it was written by a robot, so incorporate your keywords and phrases naturally in a way that is understandable to your readers.

Below is an example of a keyword-stuffed page of content that also uses another old method: bolding all your targeted keywords. Oy.

Auto-generated content

Arguably one of the most offensive forms of low quality content is the kind that is auto-generated, or created programmatically with the intent of manipulating search rankings and not helping users. You may recognize some auto-generated content by how little it makes sense when read — they are technically words, but strung together by a program rather than a human being.

It is worth noting that advancements in machine learning have contributed to more sophisticated auto-generated content that will only get better over time. This is likely why in Google’s quality guidelines on automatically generated content, Google specifically calls out the brand of auto-generated content that attempts to manipulate search rankings, rather than any-and-all auto-generated content.

What to do instead: 10x it!

There is no “secret sauce” to ranking in search results. Google ranks pages highly because it has determined they are the best answers to the searcher’s questions. In today’s search engine, it’s not enough that your page isn’t duplicate, spamming, or broken. Your page has to provide value to searchers and be better than any other page Google is currently serving as the answer to a particular query. Here’s a simple formula for content creation:

Search the keyword(s) you want your page to rank for
Identify which pages are ranking highly for those keywords
Determine what qualities those pages possess
Create content that’s better than that

We like to call this 10x content. If you create a page on a keyword that is 10x better than the pages being shown in search results (for that keyword), Google will reward you for it, and better yet, you’ll naturally get people linking to it! Creating 10x content is hard work, but will pay dividends in organic traffic.

Just remember, there’s no magic number when it comes to words on a page. What we should be aiming for is whatever sufficiently satisfies user intent. Some queries can be answered thoroughly and accurately in 300 words while others might require 1,000 words!

Pro tip: Don’t reinvent the wheel!
If you already have content on your website, save yourself time by evaluating which of those pages are already bringing in good amounts of organic traffic and converting well. Refurbish that content on different platforms to help get more visibility to your site. On the other side of the coin, evaluate what existing content isn’t performing as well and adjust it, rather than starting from square one with all new content.

NAP: A note for local businesses

If you’re a business that makes in-person contact with your customers, be sure to include your business name, address, and phone number (NAP) prominently, accurately, and consistently throughout your site’s content. This information is often displayed in the footer or header of a local business website, as well as on any “contact us” pages. You’ll also want to mark up this information using local business schema. Schema and structured data are discussed more at length in the “Code” section of this chapter.

If you are a multi-location business, it’s best to build unique, optimized pages for each location. For example, a business that has locations in Seattle, Tacoma, and Bellevue should consider having a page for each:

example.com/seattle
example.com/tacoma
example.com/bellevue

Each page should be uniquely optimized for that location, so the Seattle page would have unique content discussing the Seattle location, list the Seattle NAP, and even testimonials specifically from Seattle customers. If there are dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of locations, a store locator widget could be employed to help you scale.

Hope you still have some energy left after handling the difficult-yet-rewarding task of putting together a page that is 10x better than your competitors’ pages, because there are just a few more things needed before your page is complete! In the next sections, we’ll talk about the other on-page optimizations your pages need, as well as naming and organizing your content.

Beyond content: Other optimizations your pages need

Can I just bump up the font size to create paragraph headings?

How can I control what title and description show up for my page in search results?

After reading this section, you’ll understand other important on-page elements that help search engines understand the 10x content you just created, so let’s dive in!

Header tags

Header tags are an HTML element used to designate headings on your page. The main header tag, called an H1, is typically reserved for the title of the page. It looks like this:

<h1>Page Title</h1>

There are also sub-headings that go from H2 (<h2>) to H6 (<h6>) tags, although using all of these on a page is not required. The hierarchy of header tags goes from H1 to H6 in descending order of importance.

Each page should have a unique H1 that describes the main topic of the page, this is often automatically created from the title of a page. As the main descriptive title of the page, the H1 should contain that page’s primary keyword or phrase. You should avoid using header tags to mark up non-heading elements, such as navigational buttons and phone numbers. Use header tags to introduce what the following content will discuss.

Take this page about touring Copenhagen, for example:

<h1>Copenhagen Travel Guide</h1>
<h2>Copenhagen by the Seasons</h2>
<h3>Visiting in Winter</h3>
<h3>Visiting in Spring</h3>

The main topic of the page is introduced in the main <h1> heading, and each additional heading is used to introduce a new sub-topic. In this example, the <h2> is more specific than the <h1>, and the <h3> tags are more specific than the <h2>. This is just an example of a structure you could use.

Although what you choose to put in your header tags can be used by search engines to evaluate and rank your page, it’s important to avoid inflating their importance. Header tags are one among many on-page SEO factors, and typically would not move the needle like quality backlinks and content would, so focus on your site visitors when crafting your headings.

Internal links

In Chapter 2, we discussed the importance of having a crawlable website. Part of a website’s crawlability lies in its internal linking structure. When you link to other pages on your website, you ensure that search engine crawlers can find all your site’s pages, you pass link equity (ranking power) to other pages on your site, and you help visitors navigate your site.

The importance of internal linking is well established, but there can be confusion over how this looks in practice.

Link accessibility

Links that require a click (like a navigation drop-down to view) are often hidden from search engine crawlers, so if the only links to internal pages on your website are through these types of links, you may have trouble getting those pages indexed. Opt instead for links that are directly accessible on the page.

Anchor text

Anchor text is the text with which you link to pages. Below, you can see an example of what a hyperlink without anchor text and a hyperlink with anchor text would look like in the HTML.

<a href="http://www.domain.com/"

<a href=”http://www.domain.com/”></a>
<a href=”http://www.domain.com/” title=”Keyword Text”>Keyword Text</a>

On live view, that would look like this:

http://www.example.com/

Keyword Text

The anchor text sends signals to search engines regarding the content of the destination page. For example, if I link to a page on my site using the anchor text “learn SEO,” that’s a good indicator to search engines that the targeted page is one at which people can learn about SEO. Be careful not to overdo it, though. Too many internal links using the same, keyword-stuffed anchor text can appear to search engines that you’re trying to manipulate a page’s ranking. It’s best to make anchor text natural rather than formulaic.

Link volume

In Google’s General Webmaster Guidelines, they say to “limit the number of links on a page to a reasonable number (a few thousand at most).” This is part of Google’s technical guidelines, rather than the quality guideline section, so having too many internal links isn’t something that on its own is going to get you penalized, but it does affect how Google finds and evaluates your pages.

The more links on a page, the less equity each link can pass to its destination page. A page only has so much equity to go around.

So it’s safe to say that you should only link when you mean it! You can learn more about link equity from our SEO Learning Center.

Aside from passing authority between pages, a link is also a way to help users navigate to other pages on your site. This is a case where doing what’s best for search engines is also doing what’s best for searchers. Too many links not only dilute the authority of each link, but they can also be unhelpful and overwhelming. Consider how a searcher might feel landing on a page that looks like this:

Welcome to our gardening website! We have many articles on gardening, how to garden, and helpful tips on herbs, fruits, vegetables, perennials, and annuals. Learn more about gardening from our gardening blog.

Whew! Not only is that a lot of links to process, but it also reads pretty unnaturally and doesn’t contain much substance (which could be considered “thin content” by Google). Focus on quality and helping your users navigate your site, and you likely won’t have to worry about too many links.

Redirection

Removing and renaming pages is a common practice, but in the event that you do move a page, make sure to update the links to that old URL! At the very least, you should make sure to redirect the URL to its new location, but if possible, update all internal links to that URL at the source so that users and crawlers don’t have to pass through redirects to arrive at the destination page. If you choose to redirect only, be careful to avoid redirect chains that are too long (Google says, “Avoid chaining redirects… keep the number of redirects in the chain low, ideally no more than 3 and fewer than 5.”)

Example of a redirect chain:

(original location of content) example.com/location1 >> example.com/location2 >> (current location of content) example.com/location3

Better:

example.com/location1 >> example.com/location3
Image optimization

Images are the biggest culprits of slow web pages! The best way to solve for this is to compress your images. While there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to image compression, testing various options like “save for web,” image sizing, and compression tools like Optimizilla, ImageOptim for Mac (or Windows alternatives), as well as evaluating what works best is the way to go.

Another way to help optimize your images (and improve your page speed) is by choosing the right image format.

How to choose which image format to use:

Source: Google’s image optimization guide

Choosing image formats:

If your image requires animation, use a GIF.
If you don’t need to preserve high image resolution, use JPEG (and test out different compression settings).
If you do need to preserve high image resolution, use PNG.

If your image has a lot of colors, use PNG-24.
If your image doesn’t have a lot of colors, use PNG-8.

There are different ways to keep visitors on a semi-slow loading page by using images that produce a colored box or a very blurry/low resolution version while rendering to help visitors feel as if things are loading faster. We will discuss these options in more detail in Chapter 5.

Pro tip: Don’t forget about thumbnails!
Thumbnails (especially for E-Commerce sites) can be a huge page speed slow down. Optimize thumbnails properly to avoid slow pages and to help retain more qualified visitors.

Alt text

Alt text (alternative text) within images is a principle of web accessibility, and is used to describe images to the visually impaired via screen readers. It’s important to have alt text descriptions so that any visually impaired person can understand what the pictures on your website depict.

Search engine bots also crawl alt text to better understand your images, which gives you the added benefit of providing better image context to search engines. Just ensure that your alt descriptions reads naturally for people, and avoid stuffing keywords for search engines.

Bad:

<img src=”grumpycat.gif” alt=”grumpy cat, cat is grumpy, grumpy cat gif”>

Good:

<img src=”grumpycat.gif” alt=”A black cat looking very grumpy at a big spotted dog”>
Submit an image sitemap

To ensure that Google can crawl and index your images, submit an image sitemap in your Google Search Console account. This helps Google discover images they may have otherwise missed.

Formatting for readability & featured snippets

Your page could contain the best content ever written on a subject, but if it’s formatted improperly, your audience might never read it! While we can never guarantee that visitors will read our content, there are some principles that can promote readability, including:

Text size and color – Avoid fonts that are too tiny. Google recommends 16+px font to minimize the need for “pinching and zooming” on mobile. The text color in relation to the page’s background color should also promote readability. Additional information on text can be found in the website accessibility guidelines. (Google’s web accessibility fundamentals).
Headings – Breaking up your content with helpful headings can help readers navigate the page. This is especially useful on long pages where a reader might be looking only for information from a particular section.
Bullet points – Great for lists, bullet points can help readers skim and more quickly find the information they need.
Paragraph breaks – Avoiding walls of text can help prevent page abandonment and encourage site visitors to read more of your page.
Supporting media – When appropriate, include images, videos, and widgets that would complement your content.
Bold and italics for emphasis – Putting words in bold or italics can add emphasis, so they should be the exception, not the rule. Appropriate use of these formatting options can call out important points you want to communicate.

Formatting can also affect your page’s ability to show up in featured snippets, those “position 0” results that appear above the rest of organic results.

There is no special code that you can add to your page to show up here, nor can you pay for this placement, but taking note of the query intent can help you better structure your content for featured snippets. For example, if you’re trying to rank for “cake vs. pie,” it might make sense to include a table in your content, with the benefits of cake in one column and the benefits of pie in the other. Or if you’re trying to rank for “best restaurants to try in Portland,” that could indicate Google wants a list, so formatting your content in bullets could help.

Title tags

A page’s title tag is a descriptive, HTML element that specifies the title of a particular web page. They are nested within the head tag of each page and look like this:

<head>
<title>Example Title</title>
</head>

Each page on your website should have a unique, descriptive title tag. What you input into your title tag field will show up here in search results, although in some cases Google may adjust how your title tag appears in search results.

It can also show up in web browsers…

Or when you share the link to your page on certain external websites…

Your title tag has a big role to play in people’s first impression of your website, and it’s an incredibly effective tool for drawing searchers to your page over any other result on the SERP. The more compelling your title tag, combined with high rankings in search results, the more visitors you’ll attract to your website. This underscores that SEO is not only about search engines, but rather the entire user experience.

What makes an effective title tag?
Keyword usage: Having your target keyword in the title can help both users and search engines understand what your page is about. Also, the closer to the front of the title tag your keywords are, the more likely a user will be to read them (and hopefully click) and the more helpful they can be for ranking.

Length: On average, search engines display the first 50–60 characters (~512 pixels) of a title tag in search results. If your title tag exceeds the characters allowed on that SERP, an ellipsis “…” will appear where the title was cut off. While sticking to 50–60 characters is safe, never sacrifice quality for strict character counts. If you can’t get your title tag down to 60 characters without harming its readability, go longer (within reason).

Branding: At Moz, we love to end our title tags with a brand name mention because it promotes brand awareness and creates a higher click-through rate among people who are familiar with Moz. Sometimes it makes sense to place your brand at the beginning of the title tag, such as on your homepage, but be mindful of what you are trying to rank for and place those words closer toward the beginning of your title tag.

Meta descriptions

Like title tags, meta descriptions are HTML elements that describe the contents of the page that they’re on. They are also nested in the head tag, and look like this:

<head>
<meta name=”description” content=”Description of page here.”/>
</head>

What you input into the description field will show up here in search results:

In many cases though, Google will choose different snippets of text to display in search results, dependent upon the searcher’s query.

For example if you search “find backlinks,” Google will provide this meta description as it deems it more relevant to the specific search:

While the actual meta description is:

This often helps to improve your meta descriptions for unique searches. However, don’t let this deter you from writing a default page meta description — they’re still extremely valuable.

What makes an effective meta description?

The qualities that make an effective title tag also apply to effective meta descriptions. Although Google says that meta descriptions are not a ranking factor, like title tags, they are incredibly important for click-through rate.

Relevance: Meta descriptions should be highly relevant to the content of your page, so it should summarize your key concept in some form. You should give the searcher enough information to know they’ve found a page relevant enough to answer their question, without giving away so much information that it eliminates the need to click through to your web page.
Length: Search engines tend to truncate meta descriptions to around 300 characters. It’s best to write meta descriptions between 150–300 characters in length. On some SERPs, you’ll notice that Google gives much more real estate to the descriptions of some pages. This usually happens for web pages ranking right below a featured snippet.

URL structure: Naming and organizing your pages

URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. URLs are the locations or addresses for individual pieces of content on the web. Like title tags and meta descriptions, search engines display URLs on the SERPs, so URL naming and format can impact click-through rates. Not only do searchers use them to make decisions about which web pages to click on, but URLs are also used by search engines in evaluating and ranking pages.

Clear page naming

Search engines require unique URLs for each page on your website so they can display your pages in search results, but clear URL structure and naming is also helpful for people who are trying to understand what a specific URL is about. For example, which URL is clearer?

example.com/desserts/chocolate-pie

OR

example.com/asdf/453?=recipe-23432-1123

Searchers are more likely to click on URLs that reinforce and clarify what information is contained on that page, and less likely to click on URLs that confuse them.

Page organization

If you discuss multiple topics on your website, you should also make sure to avoid nesting pages under irrelevant folders. For example:

example.com/commercial-litigation/alimony

It would have been better for this fictional multi-practice law firm website to nest alimony under “/family-law/” than to host it under the irrelevant “/commercial-litigation/” section of the website.

The folders in which you locate your content can also send signals about the type, not just the topic, of your content. For example, dated URLs can indicate time-sensitive content. While appropriate for news-based websites, dated URLs for evergreen content can actually turn searchers away because the information seems outdated. For example:

example.com/2015/april/what-is-seo/

vs.

example.com/what-is-seo/

Since the topic “What is SEO?” isn’t confined to a specific date, it’s best to host on a non-dated URL structure or else risk your information appearing stale.

As you can see, what you name your pages, and in what folders you choose to organize your pages, is an important way to clarify the topic of your page to users and search engines.

URL length

While it is not necessary to have a completely flat URL structure, many click-through rate studies indicate that, when given the choice between a URL and a shorter URL, searchers often prefer shorter URLs. Like title tags and meta descriptions that are too long, too-long URLs will also be cut off with an ellipsis. Just remember, having a descriptive URL is just as important, so don’t cut down on URL length if it means sacrificing the URL’s descriptiveness.

example.com/services/plumbing/plumbing-repair/toilets/leaks/

vs.

example.com/plumbing-repair/toilets/

Minimizing length, both by including fewer words in your page names and removing unnecessary subfolders, makes your URLs easier to copy and paste, as well as more clickable.

Keywords in URL

If your page is targeting a specific term or phrase, make sure to include it in the URL. However, don’t go overboard by trying to stuff in multiple keywords for purely SEO purposes. It’s also important to watch out for repeat keywords in different subfolders. For example, you may have naturally incorporated a keyword into a page name, but if located within other folders that are also optimized with that keyword, the URL could begin to appear keyword-stuffed.

Example:

example.com/seattle-dentist/dental-services/dental-crowns/

Keyword overuse in URLs can appear spammy and manipulative. If you aren’t sure whether your keyword usage is too aggressive, just read your URL through the eyes of a searcher and ask, “Does this look natural? Would I click on this?”

Static URLs

The best URLs are those that can easily be read by humans, so you should avoid the overuse of parameters, numbers, and symbols. Using technologies like mod_rewrite for Apache and ISAPI_rewrite for Microsoft, you can easily transform dynamic URLs like this:

http://moz.com/blog?id=123

into a more readable static version like this:

https://moz.com/google-algorithm-change

Hyphens for word separation

Not all web applications accurately interpret separators like underscores (_), plus signs (+), or spaces (%20). Search engines also do not understand how to separate words in URLs when they run together without a separator (example.com/optimizefeaturedsnippets/). Instead, use the hyphen character (-) to separate words in a URL.

Geographic Modifiers in URLs

Some local business owners omit geographic terms that describe their physical location or service area because they believe that search engines can figure this out on their own. On the contrary, it’s vital that local business websites’ content, URLs, and other on-page assets make specific mention of city names, neighborhood names, and other regional descriptors. Let both consumers and search engines know exactly where you are and where you serve, rather than relying on your physical location alone.

Protocols: HTTP vs. HTTPS

A protocol is that “http” or “https” preceding your domain name. Google recommends that all websites have a secure protocol (the “s” in “https” stands for “secure”). To ensure that your URLs are using the https:// protocol instead of http://, you must obtain an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate. SSL certificates are used to encrypt data. They ensure that any data passed between the web server and browser of the searcher remains private. As of July 2018, Google Chrome displays “not secure” for all HTTP sites, which could cause these sites to appear untrustworthy to visitors and result in them leaving the site.

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations on surpassing the halfway point of the Beginner’s Guide to SEO! So far, we’ve learned how search engines crawl, index, and rank content, how to find keyword opportunities to target, and now, you know the on-page optimization strategies that can help your pages get found. Next, buckle up, because we’ll be diving into the exciting world of technical SEO!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

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Annelieke’s Analytics: How to create a Google Search Console dashboard

Annelieke’s Analytics: How to create a Google Search Console dashboard

Dashboards. There are a lot of people out there that absolutely love dashboards. And I agree, creating a good dashboard can save you a lot of time as an analyst. It’s very useful for monitoring data and reporting back to your colleagues. And dashboards can make clear when something’s off the charts, the moment for you to show the rest of your company what kind of analyst you are. In this post, I want to show you how you can create a Google Search Console dashboard in just a couple of steps using Google Data Studio.

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What’s Google Data Studio?

Google Data Studio is part of Google’s marketing platform. It’s a free tool you can use to create dashboards and reports. It helps you with visualizing your data and lets you share it with whomever you want to share it with. For instance, you can connect Google Data Studio easily with Google Analytics, or Google Sheets. You can import a lot of types of data and play with it in Google Data Studio. This tool can make your data come to life. Not just for you but also for the people you want to share your data with. It’s highly customizable and has a lot of cool features. So if you haven’t looked at it yet, you’re missing out.

Create a Google Search Console dashboard
Connect Google Search Console and Google Data Studio

Google Data Studio is part of the Google suite and because of that, connecting with other Google tools is very easy. This means that connecting Google Search Console and Google Data Studio is very, very simple. There are a couple of things you need though, a Google Search Console account with your site verified and a Google Data Studio account obviously.

There are a couple of ways to connect Google Search Console with Google Data Studio. The screenshot below shows you the homepage of Google Data Studio.

I’ve highlighted a couple of features that you can use to add Google Search Console to the data studio tool. Since you want to import data from Google Search Console, you can do so by clicking on ‘Data Sources’ or ‘Connect to Data’. But Data Studio will also ask for a data source when you want to create a new report, or dashboard if you will. You can do so by clicking on the ‘plus’ sign at the top or at the bottom.

I’m going to show you how to connect Google Search Console with Google Data Studio through the ‘Connect to Data’ option. If you click on that, you get the following screen:

Here you can see all types of data you can connect with for free, there are paid options as well, allowing you to connect Data Studio with Facebook Insights for instance. But in this post, I’m going to focus on just Google Search Console. If you click on that item, it’ll connect with Google Search Console and you can select the website you want to create a dashboard for.

You then need to choose between Site Impression and Url Impression. You can actually add both to one report, but this means adding two Google Search Console data sources. One for Site Impression and one for Url Impression. Select one and click on the blue Connect button at the top. You’ll then see an overview of all Google Search Console variables it’s making a connection with:

You can then click on ‘Create report’ or ‘Explore’. If you click on the ‘Create report’ you’ll be asked to add the data to the report. Click on the blue button and voila, you’re good to go!

Use a Google Search Console template

I can understand that the first time you create a dashboard with this tool, it can be a bit hard to understand. Because just like Google Analytics, there are so many options here. Read posts or watch video tutorials about Google Data Studio, that really helps.

You can also choose an existing template Google Data Studio is offering. I really like these because you can see how they did it, and then repeat it yourself. Or adjust the existing template to your likings of course.

At the top of the Google Data Studio homepage is a template section, including a Google Search Console template. If you click on that, you see an example of the report. And you can use this template and connect it to your own Google Search Console data.

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If you click on the ‘Use template’ button, you’ll be asked to select a new data source. In this case, you want to select your own Google Search Console data source, the Site impression as well as Url impression.

Once you’ve added the correct Google Search Console data sources, click on ‘Create Report’ and you should see a Google Search Console dashboard with data about your site.

In this dashboard, you can find impressions, clicks, CTR, and position in a more understandable way than in Google Search Console itself. It also lets you compare date periods. And you can filter the data by country or device. You can see how your site’s SEO is doing in just one place. No need to click around in Google Search Console a lot. And you can share this dashboard with others, no need to add people to Google Search Console itself anymore!

Conclusion

Google Data Studio is a very neat data visualizing tool that lets you create dashboards and reports for Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Google sheets and so on. It’s very convenient to have this kind of information in one place. With all the options available, you can choose the best visualizations for your type of data. You don’t have to add accounts to Google Search Console anymore to let others see that data; you can create a dashboard in Google Data Studio and share it with them. No hassle, no fuss!

Read more: The beginner’s guide to Google Search Console »

The post Annelieke’s Analytics: How to create a Google Search Console dashboard appeared first on Yoast.

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How to blend SEO and creativity for content marketing success

The SEO kills creativity mantra isn’t uncommon among content writers. Likewise, SEO experts often voice complaints that creative writing should take a back seat to SEO perfection.

The reality is that the best types of content marketing combine creativity with SEO value. Here’s a guide on the best ways to merge creativity and SEO for content marketing success.

How SEO got a bad rap – and why it’s stuck

Content marketing is still a new and shifting industry, and content creators who have been around for more than five years will remember its ugly early days. Many writers were first introduced to the world of SEO during the dreaded “content farm” years, when nothing mattered except how many keywords you could cram into a 300-word article.

Fortunately, this practice has pretty much died (because Google’s algorithm makes it a very risky practice). But for writers who worked on these content farms, the scars are deep and ugly. Sadly, a lot of strong writers turned their back on the digital marketing world during these days and never looked back.

If you’re in charge of recruiting or training writers to assist with your SEO goals, then make it a point to let them know you aren’t looking for keyword stuffing, and that you value creativity and writing talent.

The SEO tricks all writers need to know

Writers don’t need to be trained in every single aspect of SEO. If you’re hiring someone for their creative talent, odds are their interest in phrases like “robot.txt” and “sitemaps” is going to be pretty low.

Rather than trying to teach a writer how to be an SEO expert, instead, teach them the quick tricks they can use to optimize their content on their own. There are three key skills that all writers who want to work in digital need to know:

How to find relevant keywords
How to format articles for SEO (using the appropriate headers, bullet points and charts for position 0 opportunities, etc.)
How to create well-optimized metadata.

If you can teach writers these skills and why they matter, then you won’t overwhelm them with SEO techniques that don’t apply directly to their writing. Writers may grit their teeth, but equipping them with simple tools (like Ubersuggest or Keywords Everywhere), you’ll be able to get them to focus on SEO without having to hold their hand through every piece of content they create.

It’s easy to teach a creative basic SEO tactics, but next to impossible to teach someone who doesn’t have a creative streak how to make something unique.

Show content creators results in their language

It’s useful to include your content team in your regular reporting, but once again, try to tailor the information to what is most important for them. Show them how their use of certain keywords or content structure is improving and succeeding.

Every passionate writer wants people to read their words; show them results in this context. It’s not a big leap to say that increased organic traffic means a bigger audience reading their work, or that longer time on page means people are truly enjoying what they read. When a writer sees evidence that his or her content piece is getting attention, they’ll be more willing to include SEO-strong tactics in future work.

The boardroom: where creativity goes to die

There’s a vicious cycle played out in marketing teams every day. A content creator comes up with a creative idea. Maybe it’s a bit cheeky, or weird, or off-beat, but it’s very clever and has great potential to connect and surprise the audience.

Several other people on the team see the idea and love it. They think it’s hilarious. But then, the chisels come out.

“Could we change this word?”

“And maybe use a different image?”

“I’m not sure we want to say that, some customers might find that offensive.”

“I don’t get the joke.”

“This is totally off brand.”

And then the SEO team comes in:

“There’s no keyword in that headline. Can we add one in?”

The next thing you know, what was once a winning creative idea has been watered down by everyone else in the business. While it’s important that writers stay on brand and communicate a company’s message, it’s also important that people in the upper echelons of a business let the creatives be creative.

This applies to the SEO team. It’s vital that the content creators and the hardline SEO team work together to understand the intention of any given piece of content. Is it more important to drive people to the page via organic traffic, or is it more important to engage them once they get there? For most content pieces, you’ll have a blend of these two goals. But if you are focused on making sure you keep your bounce rate low and your time on page high, then sometimes you have to sacrifice clunky or awkward SEO-based phrasing for creativity instead.

There’s no reason SEO and creativity can’t go hand in hand, provided content creators and SEO leaders are willing to work together and compromise. Writers who want to work in digital marketing must be willing to learn the basics of content optimization. SEO experts need to learn when it’s appropriate to sacrifice SEO elements for creative engagement. Meeting in the middle on creativity and optimization is a recipe for success.

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HTTP to HTTPS Migration Guide | Do SSL Certificates Affect SEO?

HTTP to HTTPS Migration Guide | Do SSL Certificates Affect SEO?

Google has recently released version 68 of the Chrome Web Browser. In this version, websites that don’t run on HTTPS will be marked as Not Secure. This might lead to the following question: does Google value websites with SSL certificates more? Will they rank better? Is it worth to make the switch?

 

In this article you’ll find out whether SSL certificates matter for SEO or not. You’ll also learn exactly how to migrate your website from HTTP to HTTPS without suffering any ranking drops. Yes, you heard that right. If you’re not careful, you can mess up your rankings!

 

 

Warning: Switching a website from HTTP to HTTPS the wrong way can heavily mess up your search rankings! There are many things that must be taken into consideration. The guide at the end of the article will help, but if you’re not sure what you’re doing, please contact an SEO professional who can assist you with the migration. We can not be held responsible if things go wrong!

 

SSL Certificates, HTTPS & Their Importance
How Does HTTPS Affect SEO?

HTTPS as a ranking factor
User’s trust
GDPR issues

How to Switch from HTTP to HTTPS

Acquire & Install an SSL Certificate
Add HTTPS Version to Search Console
Set up 301 redirects
Change All Internal Links
Make Sure Everything Works Properly
Resubmit Disavow File & Change Your Backlinks

 
SSL Certificates, HTTPS & Their Importance

 

I’ll try to keep it short. Cryptography isn’t something easy to digest, but without having a general idea of how it works and what problems it solves, we can’t really understand its importance. If you have any specific questions, ask them in the comments section and I’ll do my best to reply.

 

HTTP stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol. What you need to know is that it’s a protocol that web servers, data centers and browsers use to transfer information across the web.

The S at the ending of HTTPS just stands for Secure.

The security comes through the use of SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). Sometimes, it might also be referred to as TLS (Transport Layer Security). It’s a method of securing the data which need to be transported.

 

The method through which the data are secured is called Cryptography. By encrypting a message, only the ones that know the decryption key will be able to read it. For example, if we both decided upfront that A = 1, B = 2, C =3 and so on, I could send you the message 8 5 12 12 15 and you would read it as Hello. This is called symmetric cryptography.

 

The issue with symmetric cryptography is the fact that both parties must know the encryption / decryption key upfront in order to properly communicate, so at least one secret meeting must be arranged prior to messaging. Pretty difficult to do when you want to chat with someone across the Globe.

 

 

So, to overcome this issue, we can use asymmetric cryptography. This type of cryptography uses 2 keys. A private one and a public one. They can both decipher each other. This means that any message encrypted with the public key can be read using the private key and vice versa. 

 

What are SSL Certificates?

 

Well, SSL certificates are only used to confirm the identity of a website. These certificates are emitted and signed by certificate authorities with their private keys. Before getting a certificate from them, you must somehow confirm your identity and prove you are the organization and website owner.

 

There are different types of Secure Sockets Layer Certificates, but the most common ones are Domain Verified Certificates. These certificates can even be obtained for free these days (keep reading and I’ll tell you how). The verification process is pretty simple and very similar to the Google Search Console one. There are also other types of certificates, such as Organization Validated (OV) or Extended Validation (EV) certificates. They are more expensive, but require further verification, which involves company documents and IDs.

 

Web Browsers come packed up with a bunch of public keys from certificate authorities. They check if the certificates have been signed with the proper private keys, therefore confirming that their identity has been verified by a trusted authority and not by some random certificate generator. If the certificate is expired or not valid, a red warning will show up. 

 

 

This will definitely turn the user down, so make sure that if you run through HTTPS, your certificate is valid and working properly!

 

It’s better to run through HTTP than to run through HTTPS with an expired SSL certificate!

 

After the identity of the website has been confirmed by the browser, the web server and the client then establish a secure communication channel. Asymmetric cryptography is used to send a symmetric key which only the server and the client know. Then, the communication channel is secure and any attempt to read the information which is passed between the server and client will require the decryption key.

 

So why is this so important? Why are people so crazy about HTTPS?

 

Well, when your users browse your website, they often send information, through contact forms for example. Without encryption, that information can be intercepted by what people call “Man in the middle.” Although contact forms only contain names and e-mails, things get worse when we’re talking credit card information or bank accounts and passwords.

 

By using an SSL Certificate, webmasters can improve the security of their websites and better protect their users’ information.

 
How Does HTTPS Affect SEO?

 

Now that we better understand what HTTP is, we can take a glimpse at its importance. There are multiple ways in which SSL Certificates and HTTPS can impact search engine optimization and rankings. Some of them are strictly algorithmic, while others can be less direct, but very meaningful as well. Let’s start with what we know for sure:

 
HTTPS as a ranking factor

 

First, you have to know that, theoretically, SSL Certificates do affect SEO. This is actually an official Google statement from 2014. They are considered a ranking factor, out wide in the open.

 

Why? Well, there are many reasons, but the main one is definitely security. If Google provides its users with better security, it provides better value and the users will be pleased. The fact that internet credit card fraud is on the rise definitely pushed Google into this direction.

 

 

Google has tested its results with HTTPS as a ranking signal and has seen positive results. This could also mean that webmasters that take security seriously might generally present better websites. They care about the users.

 

Although this impact is fairly small, affecting less than 1% of websites, many webmasters have adopted HTTPS. Not long ago, less than 10% of websites were secured with an SSL certificate. Now, more than half of all websites are probably secure.

 

 

Why didn’t Google do this earlier? Well, to be honest, I think it’s because it would’ve been a little bit unfair. Back in the day, SSL Certificates were not so easy to obtain and some of them were quite expensive. Today, however, almost anyone can secure their website with a free one. This means that money won’t really have a say in this.

 

Quick Tip: Basic SSL Certificates can be obtained for free. If you’re just starting out, don’t spend unnecessary money.

 
User’s trust

 

Another way in which SSL Certificates could affect SEO is related to the user experience. Some users might have no clue what’s happening, but others prefer to browse websites that are secure. This is where an Extended Validation SSL might come in handy. Here’s the difference between a regular, Domain Validated SSL Certificate and a more expensive Extended Validation SSL Certificate.

 

Regular Domain Validated SSL Certificate (easily obtained for free)

Extended Validation SSL Certificate (more expensive)

 

Starting with Chrome Version 68 (24th July 2018), the browser now shows the warning Not Secure when you access a website through HTTP. Users will now definitely ask themselves more questions when seeing that message instead of just the Information icon.

 

Screenshot from the Chromium Blog

 

Who knows, in the future you’ll probably going to see a red warning, just like the one with invalid SSL certificates.

 
GDPR issues

 

As of May 25th 2018, GDPR has also had a huge impact on websites. GDPR specifies that any personal data should be handled securely. This forces webmasters that have even the slightest contact form to switch their website from HTTP to HTTPS to ensure the security of their users’ personal data.

 

So, not only can it benefit your rankings if you switch to HTTPS, but it might also get you a fat fine if you don’t. Although usually you will see some ranking boosts, if you mess up your redirects and don’t implement HTTPS correctly, your entire site can drop from the rankings. Make sure you know what you’re doing before you start.

 
How to Swtich from HTTP to HTTPS

 

Switching from HTTP to HTTPS can be a hassle, especially if you’re not running on a popular CMS, like WordPress. However, you can take a look at the following guide to make sure you don’t make some of the biggest mistakes.

 
Acquire & Install an SSL Certificate

 

The first step is to acquire an SSL Certificate and install it. You might already have one, even if your website isn’t already running on it. Some hosting providers also offer free SSL Certificates. To find out, just go to https://yourdomain.com instead of the regular HTTP. If you see a red warning, you probably don’t have one (or it has expired). Then, just click the Information icon:

 

 

If the popup says Certificate: Valid then you have an SSL Certificate. Click it to see more details about it, such as for how long it is valid. If you don’t see the word Certificate there, then you probably don’t have one.

 

You can get an SSL Certificate anywhere. Just search Google for SSL Certificate and you’ll find plenty of providers. Search for the best deal and also look at user reviews. However, if you want to get a free one, you can try Comodo or Let’s Encrypt via Zero SSL.

 

You’ll have to provide some sort of verification, usually by uploading a file on your web servers (just like with Google Analytics or Google Search Console). They usually provide step by step guides on how to verify your identity. There’s more than one method, so pick the one that’s easiest for you.

 

Once you get the certificates, you’ll have to install them in your cPanel in the SSL Certificates section (Generate, view, upload, or delete SSL certificates). The process is pretty simple. Just scroll down and add the certificate. You should also be able to purchase certificates directly via the cPanel, if you’re looking for an EV Certificate, for instance.

 
Add HTTPS Version to Search Console

 

The next step is to go to your Google Search Console and add the HTTPS version of your website. You can also set the preferred version, but I highly recommend that you let Google choose for now and only do this after you’ve successfully implemented the HTTPS.

 

You should also make sure that the Google Analytics or any other web analytics software you’re using are also able to track HTTPS from now on.

 
Set up 301 redirects

 

This is the crucial step. If you don’t redirect properly, your rankings will drop! Why? Because Google will have to deindex the old HTTP site and index the HTTPS one, without having any idea that they’re actually connected. Also, users that land on HTTP versions (from old backlinks for example) will never get to see the HTTPS version.

 

To redirect from HTTP to HTTPS, you can either use a plugin or do it via the server. If you’re running on Apache Web Server, you can set the redirects via the .htaccess file. However, it’s a little technical and, depending on other functionalities, conflicts may occur.

 

If you’re running on WordPress, you’re lucky! You can use the Really Simple SSL plugin and it will do everything for you (set up 301s, change main domain to HTTPS and change all the links from the database to HTTPS).

 

So make sure that all HTTP versions will properly redirect to their HTTPS counterparts. Take into account www, non-www, slashed vs non-slashed and parameters.

 

Here you should also change the main URL of your website to HTTPS. This is usually done in some sort of configuration file. In WordPress, it can be changed in the General Settings area. The Really Simple SSL plugin will do this for you, anyway.

 
Change All Internal Links

 

Even if you change your main URL to HTTPS, some static content might stay unsecured. You have to make sure you fix this, otherwise some issues may occur.

 

Internal links: If don’t change the links from HTTP to HTTPS, you’ll get a mixed content warning; for instance, if you add one image on your homepage with HTTP (http://yoursite.com/image.jpg) but try to run the homepage through HTTPS (https://yourdomain.com). The mixed content warning shows the Information Bubble in the browser.

 

If you have mixed content, the green lock and secure message won’t appear, even if you have a valid SSL certificate installed.

 

The Really Simple SSL plugin should fix this on WordPress. However, if you ever added custom HTML into your site via a PHP file or HTML template, the links there won’t change. The plugin only changes the links that are found via the Database. You’ll have to search your website for internal HTTP URLs and Images and edit all those files to replace the HTTP with HTTPS.

 

Canonical Tags: Canonical tags are often forgotten. If you’re running through HTTPS and your canonical tag points to the HTTP version, Google will think that it has to index HTTP. The problem is that if HTTP 301 redirects to HTTPS then Google will get into a loop and it won’t be very pleased.

 

To find out if your canonical tags are properly set up to HTTPS, press CTRL + U while on your website in Google Chrome to view the site’s source, then search for canonical with CTRL + F.

 

Hreflang: Same thing as with canonical tags, the hreflang tags should point to the correct HTTPS counterpart, even though 301 redirects are in place. Make sure you check that in the source of the site.

 

Most of the times, this won’t happen when you’re using a popular Content Management System, but it can often happen on custom platforms and the effects can be devastating. Make sure everything is in order.

 

Other things that should be taken into account are XML sitemaps, external tools and e-mail systems (that might’ve run through unsecured channels).

 
Make Sure Everything Works Properly

 

Switching to HTTPS can often cause issues with plugins, APIs and other functions within the website. Make sure you browse your website properly for a couple of hours and test every segment of it. Access every page to see if it loads and test if the contact forms, online orders and filtering/search features are working properly.

 

You can also now set HTTP as your preferred version in Google Search Console. WWW vs. non-WWW is irrelevant, but non-WWW tends to be shorter, so there will be more space for the URL when it shows up in Google. However, if you’ve been running on WWW so far, it’s a good idea to keep the WWW even with HTTPS.

 
Resubmit Disavow File & Change Your  Backlinks

 

Many forget that they have to resubmit the disavow files. If you have ever suffered from a negative SEO attack you must download the disavow file from the HTTP version in Google Search Console and upload it into the HTTPS version. Although the 301 redirects are in place, it’s really important not to forget this step!

 

A final step would be to change as many of your old backlinks as possible from HTTP to HTTPS. Even with the 301 redirects in place, a small percentage of the link equity might be lost. Start with your social media profiles and backlinks you know you can change for sure in very little time.

 

It’s not worth it to spend countless hours and e-mail everyone to switch your URL from HTTP to HTTPS, but if you have some way of managing it faster, it’s worth a shot.

 

Conclusion

 

Merging from HTTP to HTTPS can definitely help you improve your search rankings. Even if it doesn’t work right away, you’ll definitely see an improvement over time thanks to a better user experience. To be honest, the only downside of implementing HTTPS on your website is the fact that it’s a little bit of a tricky process. However, once you get over it and implement it correctly, nothing bad can happen.

 

What’s your experience with HTTPS? Have you encountered problems when merging your domain? Have your rankings increased/decreased? I’m curious. Let’s talk about it in the comments section!

The post HTTP to HTTPS Migration Guide | Do SSL Certificates Affect SEO? appeared first on SEO Blog | cognitiveSEO Blog on SEO Tactics & Strategies.

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SEO 101: 11 tips you need to know when you optimize your site

SEO 101: 11 tips you need to know when you optimize your site

SEO can boost the traffic to your site by paying closer attention to what your visitors want from you. It can help you create the content that your readers will enjoy while optimizing your pages to be as useful as possible.

The first steps towards search engine optimization can be scary, but you can start implementing small changes to improve your rankings in search results.

After all, SEO success doesn’t happen overnight, so it’s better to start with the small changes that will gradually lead to greater success.

Defining SEO success can be subjective, but in general, we want to:

Be more relevant for our target audience
Increase the search traffic coming to our site
Build awareness from search results
Use the opportunity to improve the site’s user experience
Find new business prospects by beating competitors in search results.

11 tips to keep in mind when you start optimizing your site
Focus on your content

A good start to search engine optimization is to pay attention to your content. Keywords can help you become more specific to your search objectives, but you still need to create quality content.

Your content should make sense to your readers first, rather than the search engines. It used to be a common suggestion to add all your keywords throughout your copy but this risked the chance of alienating your audience. The modern approach to SEO requires you pay attention to the quality of your content to stand out with your copy.

Understand your keywords (but search like a human being)

You need to perform a keyword research to find the best keywords that will bring you success. The next step is to include them in your copy in the most natural way. It’s important to understand that your keywords are your search terms that people will search for your site. They need to make sense and they shouldn’t be too general.

Think the way you’d perform a search. Would you search for ‘search engine optimization tips’ or ‘best tips for SEO beginners’? The more specific you get, the higher the chances to find your niche audience.

Think like a user

Once you start searching like a user, the next step is to also think like a user when you’re improving your site. You don’t have to be an SEO expert to make small tweaks to your site’s performance.

For example, how fast is your load page? If your site is too slow then this will also affect your search rankings. Moreover, if your site is not optimized for all devices, then Google probably won’t place you high in the search results.

User experience becomes more important than ever and you need to consider all the changes that will make your site easier for your visitors. Seek suggestions from people who visit your site for the first time. The feedback can be valuable.

The art of the headline

Your headlines should be short but descriptive. It’s suggested you create headlines of 50-60 characters. This is the limit of what search engines access so even if you create longer headlines, the rest won’t be tracked.

Use the headline to describe your content and the page that the visitor will access. Make it appealing, but not misleading. Feel free to be creative, provided that you still stay loyal to the context.

Add internal links

Internal links help you highlight the value of your content. It’s a good way to increase your traffic while boosting your SEO, one page at a time. Every link should have a different focus keyword to avoid cannibalizing your own content.

Add external links

External links can also bring value to your site provided that you use them in moderation. You don’t want to lose your readers by leading them to a page that serves as your competitor. Make sure you’re only linking to pages of high authority to increase the process of building trust while adding further value to your content. Treat link building as a strategy and avoid the temptation of over-stuffing your content with external links.

Involve social media for authority building

It’s common to ask whether social media affects your SEO strategy. Although there is no direct correlation between the two, it is still useful to build your social presence while improving your search rankings.

The more visible you are, the higher the chances of building your credibility by reaching a wider audience. After all, tweets can show up in search rankings and social success can still lead to multiple benefits.

Create fresh content but don’t forget your older content

Fresh content can serve as a ‘signal’ that you’re regularly updating your site. Whether it’s a blog post or any tweaks to keep your messaging new, it’s good to add new content from time to time.

Except for new content, it’s also useful to revise your existing copy. Your older blog posts can end up having bigger value than your latest ones. SEO takes time to work, which means that the older your post, the higher it can land in rankings.

Make sure you create good content and you use the right keywords and keep an eye on the performance of your older posts to keep them up-to-date. This can be a good tactic to boost your site’s traffic without necessarily creating new posts.

Add meta tags

Title tags describe the content of your page. It’s the language that helps search engines understand what your site is about. This is where you need to add the right keywords that are more relevant to your page.

Moreover, a meta description provides the right context for your title tags helping both search engines and people to get a quick glimpse of your content. A meta description should be no more than 160 characters and you need to pick your words wisely. This is the copy that may convince users to click on your page.

Optimize your images

SEO is not limited to written text, but it can also extend to images. As visual content becomes more popular, it’s critical to optimize your images to make them easier for people to find them.

Luckily, it doesn’t take time to optimize your images, here’s a guide to help you improve image optimization.

Think of image search as a new chance of building traffic to your site.

Local SEO

Local marketing is gaining ground as more marketers try to reach more targeted audiences. As Google invests in local advertising, there is also a growing space for local SEO. Keyword strategies focus more on local audiences and the copy can be optimized to fit different targeting.

A good way to keep up with local SEO is to learn as many details as possible about your target audience. Think what their local needs are and what keywords could bring you more traffic to your site.

Overview

SEO nowadays is all about providing an excellent user experience by paying attention to everything that includes the copy, the design, the keywords and the insights from your target audience.

Always think like the user and try to be relevant and useful with your content. Don’t ignore keywords but make sure you use them only when appropriate.

Last but not least, SEO takes time so don’t lose hope if you don’t see any difference in rankings after your first tweaks.

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