You’re busy, you have 100 things to do, so you need actionable advice to get going quickly on Google.
Here are the first steps to help you get on your way, with the most important tasks that won’t take too long.
This will get a bit technical, but it’s OK, I’ll guide you through it. Trust me, it’ll be worth it in the end.
Step 1: Check for errors
If there’s one thing Google really hates, it errors on your site. So, do yourself a favour and fix them to make sure you’re not penalised by the big G.
This is the first step because all of your further efforts will be with one hand tied behind your back if you have issues on your site.
They could be as small as buttons being too close together and generally making it difficult for visitors on a phone, or as big as a page completely blocking Google from accessing it.
There are many different online tools to help you with this, but Google’s own Search Console is one of the best because you get to hear about your website from the horse’s mouth.
Also, they automatically send out handy emails to alert you of changes so that you don’t need to remember to check.
Below is a screenshot of a site with some general errors that you could come across.
The timeline in the top half shows how long the errors have been happening and if they have increased or decreased over time.
The first error in this particular screenshot—’Submitted URL seems to be a Soft 404’—means that there’s very little content on the page; the content is pretty much non-existent. So, either delete it, or ask your web developer why it’s not a proper page with content that’s useful to a human.
‘Submitted URL marked noindex’ means that they have found a page on your website that you don’t want to show up on the Google search results. Click this error to check the list of pages affected in case you or the person who created the site has made a mistake.
‘Submitted URL not found (404)’ means that a page is missing. Again, it’s worth checking that there aren’t any important pages listed here—they could have been deleted from the website by mistake.
Search Console setup
To set up Search Console on your website, visit search.google.com/search-console and sign up.
Once your account has been created, you’ll see the screen below asking which website you’d like to add. Just enter your web address in the domain section on the left and click ‘Continue’.
The next screen you’ll see will ask you to verify that you do in fact own the website that you’re adding, and it’s not someone else’s.
Just copy the line in the middle at bullet point 2, and paste into the ‘TXT record’ part of your domain. If someone bought the domain for you, ask them to do it. If you did, ask the company where this should go. Alternatively, let me know in the comments where you bought your domain and I’ll help you out.
More details from common domain sites:
Once verified, the Search Console homepage will tell you if there are any errors that need your attention.
Step 2: Improve load times
Google found that once a page takes more than three seconds to load, the chance of visitors leaving before viewing other pages (bouncing) increases from 32% to 90%.
That’s not much extra time, but an exponential rise in bounces. So, this shows very clearly just how important it is to make sure that yours is lightning fast.
If you use WordPress, then this is a piece of cake as you can add one of the many performance plugins. I would personally recommend WP Fastest Cache, but in all honesty, they’re all pretty good — some are just slightly more convenient.
If you don’t have WordPress, then let me know in the comments for some personalised advice.
Also, images usually bloat a page, so if you don’t add a WordPress plugin, then make sure to run all images through TinyPNG before uploading to trim the size down dramatically.
Step 3: Add Meta Data
Meta Titles and Descriptions are what you see on Google when searching for websites.
Optimising these will result in more clicks through to your website. Google will take notice of this and if you achieve more clicks than the website above you, you’ll have a great chance of switching places.
You’ll need to invest time in finding the best keywords (words that people use to search) to use in your Titles and Descriptions though because if you don’t, you’re unlikely to see clicks increase as much.
To find good keywords, enter a product that you offer into Google and see what websites are writing on the first page. Don’t copy what they’ve written exactly — put it into your own words — but it’ll give you a good sense of how to construct your Titles and Descriptions.
Be concise, but descriptive. What would entice you to click through?
How was that? Hopefully not too bad.
SEO can be a time blackhole as the sheer number of tasks will, although worth it, take up all of your spare time and more.
Whatever you choose, please continue optimising your SEO, because your competitors probably will and you don’t want to be left behind.
How did you get on with the three steps on this page? Any problems? I’d love to hear in the comments.
Does SEO really work?
Yes. Websites that invest in SEO will see far higher numbers of visitors than those who do not—especially when reaching the first two pages of Google. A fast, easy-to-use website that publishes high-quality content with the right keywords will see steadily increasing long-term gains.
How long does SEO take?
If you’ve never made an effort before, then it’s possible that you could see relatively big changes within a week. However, for SEO to start increasing your bottom line, it could take 6-12 months.
How does SEO increase traffic?
Google wants to show the best websites first. This goes for the most relevant content and best user experience. Optimising your site for these will see your website climb up the rankings where more and more people are likely to see you listed and click through to your site.
How do I know if SEO is working?
Set up Google’s Search Console or Google Analytics for your website and the homepage Dashboard will show how many people clicked through to your site. This should increase over time if you’re making a regular effort.
Is SEO important in 2021?
SEO has always and will always be very important. Social media and advertising are great, but when also optimising for search engines in equal measure, you will find that most of the high quality visitors come from there.