Okay, so you’ve built yourself a great website for your business or startup and you’ve been regularly contributing content, but when you search for your business’ name (aka your ‘keyword’) online, your site is nowhere to be found! Although you might be checking off all the right boxes when it comes to creating great content and actively sharing it, you may have started off on the wrong foot altogether by not using SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to ensure that your site is properly optimized so it ranks well in search results.

It’s also important to follow the compliance rules Google has laid out so you appeal to their search algorithm – if you aren’t playing by the rules, your site is going to be penalized.

To make sure everything’s running smoothly and your site has the best chance of being found, it’s a good idea to conduct a SEO audit. Since about 65% of all searches are made on Google, here are some key rules to pick up during your audit and implement:

  1. Make sure your site is indexed.
    • First and foremost, your website might not be ranking within Google search results because it hasn’t yet been crawled (or read) by Google and added to its index. Unless you submit a site to be indexed, it can take Google anywhere from hours to weeks to finally crawl and catalog your site. To check if your site has been indexed, type “site:” directly followed by your website URL into your browser search box. If your website appears in the search results, you’re good to go. Otherwise, if you don’t see your site or you receive a “could not be found” result, you’ll need to submit the site using the Google Search Console.

  2. The landing page needs a full-length biography about your business.
    • If you want Google to be able to see what your website is about, you’re going to need to show it, primarily through the landing page. This is the page you ‘land’ on when you search for a site directly using the URL. For example, when you go to Stuart-Ross.com, you land on my homepage which gives you some information about myself as well as my mission statement. There is a lot of text here for Google to crawl, showing it that this is an authoritative page on the subject of “Stuart Ross.”

  3. Make sure all appropriate headers are in place.
    • There are two main headers that you’ll use when it comes to optimizing your sites: H1 headers and H2 headers. H1 headers are typically the largest and most prominent on a site; think of them as the primary headers, telling you what each page on the website is about. Each page should feature its own H1 header, and you’ll always want to make sure that your business’ search term is included in full in the landing page H1 header. H2 headers, or subheaders, give a bit more information into the site and what each page is about. So, if I wanted a site to rank for Digital Experts Academy, I would want ‘Digital Experts Academy’ to be in the H1 header, with an H2 header reading “What Will You Do with Your Digital Life?”

  4. The front page bio should be optimized and of sufficient length.
    • Earlier I mentioned including a full-length bio on the landing page. A full-length bio is one that’s usually at least 400 words, though keep in mind that 1,000-2,000+ word bios — as long as they’re relevant, non-duplicated content — will provide your site with all that much more power and relevance. You also want to organically include your keyword throughout, with approximately one mention for every 90-100 words. Added to that, make sure that you include the full keyword within the first 50-100 words of the biography as well, keeping in mind that the closer the keyword is to the top of the page, the more relevance it has to Google.

  5. All images should be properly labeled.
    • On your website, the labels and tags that featured elements have also play a key role in optimization. Any images that you include on your site should be labeled with your keyword as the image name, the description, and the ‘alt text’. When Google crawls your site, it’s also crawling the images, logos, and other media files that you incorporate. When these elements are properly tagged, they tell Google that they’re also relevant to the subject of the site, giving everything a more cohesive look overall.

  6. Check if the site is mobile-friendly.
    • Google is continuously releasing updates to its algorithm that influences how sites will rank, and in April of 2015, it released the Mobilegeddon update which started to reward users for having sites that were mobile-friendly on top of being optimized for desktop use. Mobile searches have now outnumbered computer searches, accounting for 51-60% of all searches on a daily basis. Since searchers are often restricted to data use when searching from their phones, mobile-friendly sites need to be lighter and quicker than computer searches. In order to make a site mobile responsive, you want to make sure images are sized properly and no aspects of the code or elements of the website are slowing it down. Google provides some great insight into making sure your site is responsive across multiple devices.

  7. Check your website’s page speed.
    • If your page is super bogged down, it’s not going to do well on mobile devices or on computers. One way to check and see if your page is running slowly is to use Google PageSpeed Insights which gives your site a percentage grade to indicate how well it responds on a given device. You’ll also get suggestions on how to improve the speed, like compressing images so they take up less space and minimizing CSS which can slow a site down a lot.

In working to optimize your site for Google, you’re going to come across many ‘black hat’ tactics that will promise you speedy results with little work. But it’s best to avoid this because it’s not worth Google penalizing your website. When all’s said and done, the best way to help your site rank is to work within the Google guidelines and play by the rules of search engine optimization. Optimizing your site won’t help it rank overnight, but think of it as an investment which will see returns over the long run.