Give Google What It Wants, And They Will Come

This time last year I went all out on a plan. I had known for some time the website was not providing what Google wanted, the way it wanted it. The site was 10 years old now, and the content missed the target SEO-wise as far as Google was concerned.

What SEO?

Simply put, SEO is optimizing a site so Google can crawl it, and understand it. There are very technical aspects to this, like 1) giving Google a map of where the new stuff is (learn about sitemaps) and 2) tuning-up your site to run as fast as possible (see best performance practices). Near the top of the SEO list of things to do is “on-page” stuff. That is, to rank well against a search phrase the content of the page needs to must match what the reader is looking for. Good on-page SEO helps Google know what your page is about.

Think of it this way. Search Engine Results are a race, between you and your competition. SEO is your training plan so you don’t suck wind on race day. Who ever trains the hardest wins. Sure, you can jump in on a 5K, without training and make it to the finish line. But, you will likely walk some of it. You are surely not going to win (unless no one else shows up). The same goes for Search Results.

On-Page SEO – What Not To Do

I see this mistake all the time on small business websites. Say your business offers golf related services, like custom fittings, restoring, and repairing clubs, that kind of thing. The very common SEO mistake I see is to make a page called “services” and dump everything you can do in there. It’s a hodgepodge. The problem with this page is it does not match what Google wants. Google’s goal is to send the reader to a page that answers their specific question. If the readers wants “golf club restoration“, is a page called “services” that covers everything the best possible match? Nope. Most of the time, a page covering a wide range of things does not show up in search results.

Make Each Page About Something Specific.

Staying with my previous example, if you want your web page to rank for “golf club restoration“, make your page about “golf club restoration”. That should be the page’s title, included in the page URL, and backed up in detail by the content of the page. A hodgepodge of a page about “services” (even if it includes “golf club restoration”) is not a match for this search phrase.

TrailsNH On-Page SEO

On the old TrailsNH website pages were not about one specific thing or place. Most pages covered multiple summits that are hiked together. Searching for “Mt Washington” my page about “Mt Monroe and Mt Washington” (usually hiked together) started off at a disadvantage. The topic of the page did not match the search phrase. If Google Search is a race, every little screw-up like this cost me a few seconds. Think of it as skipping training days for the race coming up. With each 0-mile day you take your pace gets a little slower.

On the new TrailsNH pages are created for specific locations. The page title includes the place’s name. The place name is also in the URL, and refereed to and backed up by the page content. Google can easily tell the one thing each page is about.

This years traffic is many times higher than last years. SEO has a lot to do with that. Mostly from slicing up the content into specific topics. Cleaning up pages so Google knows what they are about. And in many cases creating new pages so Google can find these hidden gems the old site had buried in a hodgepodge.

TrailsNH US Rank – 2021 over 2020

Page Speed Helps Your SEO

The new was tuned-up following Google PageSpeed recommendations. Some of the recommendations are simple and make a huge difference. Another speed improvement came from my site hosting, which relocated to the Google Cloud. The move was actually a total pain in the ass. I had to modified a lot of code, but sometimes those training miles is gonna hurt. In the end the effort paid off. Looks like I took 2nd Place on race day (scored 99 out of a 100)

You have To Start Somewhere

I don’t want to miss lead you. SEO is not simple, but you have to start somewhere. There are many many factors that go into Google’s page ranking algorithm, and it is a secret. Some tips that worked years ago, don’t work any more. My advice, start with these four:

  1. The page needs to be about one specific topic, that people search for.
  2. The page topic needs to be:
    a) in the URL
    b) in the <title> tag
    c) in the <h1>
    d) expanded upon in <h2> tags
    e) explained in detail in the page content
  3. Make sure the page (or page nearby) has in-bound links (also called back links).
  4. Make sure the site is fast, and gets high Google PageSpeed marks.

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Kimball is a website designer and developer in Goffstown, NH.

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