With Google looking at over 200 factors when ranking a website, how do you know which ones to focus on?
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Or better yet, what steps do you need to take in order to improve your rankings?
Blog submission involves in submitting your blog links or blog post links in order to get links, more exposure to your content and other SEO benefits. Blog submission is pretty simple. All you need to do is to visit the sites (blog submission directory sites) where you want to add links, and click on “Add URL or Submit Blog URL” buttons in. The descriptor “correctly” refers to SEO-friendly URL structure that is optimized for search engines to both promote PageRank and enhance the user experience. As you probably already know, keeping user experience at the forefront of your mind is perhaps the most important of all SEO efforts. Oct 01, 2019 While proper URL Structure isn’t exactly the holy grail of SEO efforts, it is still possible that creating SEO-friendly URLs can let you gain an edge over your competitors in rankings. Therefore with this in mind, let’s understand the definition of URL and what are the different parts of a URL.
In order to help you with your on-page optimization, lets get started with an infographic I created that shows you how to make each of your web pages search-engine-friendly.
As you can see there are many factors involved in creating a perfectly optimized page. On-page optimization can go to a deeper level than just making sure your meta tags are filled out. And you can go to that deeper level without having to be a veteran SEO.
Tactic #1: Search for synonyms using Google
The use of synonyms in creating an SEO plan for your blog or website is pretty common. Finding those synonyms, however, is not always easy or is done properly.
I think the best way to search for these terms is to use Google. The reason for that is that you get to see not only the synonyms themselves but also how they are ranking in competitors’ pages.
To search for synonyms on Google, simply put the tilde symbol (~) before your search term. Here’s what it looks like if I search for synonyms using “~small budget marketing.”
This is actually how I looked up the terms I used in the internal links section to find synonyms for my web page.
If you want to look up synonyms without the phrase in the results, do this: “~ + phrase – phrase.”
This will give you synonyms without returning back your original search phrase. You can then take these keywords and integrate them within your copy, wherever it flows smoothly and organically. By using synonyms within your content, you’ll notice that you start ranking your website for more relevant long tail keywords.
Tactic #2: Link to high authority sites
We all know that links from high authority sites are important. They tell the search engines that your site can be trusted because a high authority site is linking to it.
What is a high authority site? They are the information/content sites like Boing Boing, CNN, Drudge or Huffington Post. There are also other forms of content sites like .edu and .gov sites.
A link from these sites tells search engines that you can be trusted. But did you know that an external link going out to these high authority sites can boost your SEO?
When search engines crawl your site, see a link and follow it to CNN or Huffington Post, they weigh it as a positive. The trick is to find organic ways to link to these sites, like I did in this post.
Adding them into an anchor text will make them even more natural. For example, if “getting a link from CNN can crash your servers” was a link, with that link going to the specific CNN page, that would be a very natural external link.
By adding these authority links to your website, you will show search engines that your website can be related to these high authority sites.
Tactic #3: Pay attention to sentiment search signals
Even though it is an emerging science, the idea of search engines paying attention to the mood, emotions and attitudes of web content can’t be ignored.
What exactly is sentiment?
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If I get to a page about a motorcycle part, and I am like, “God, not only is this well written, it’s kind of funny. It’s humorous. It includes some anecdotes. It’s got some history of this part. It has great photos. Man, I don’t care at all about motorcycle parts, and, yet, this is just a darn good page. What a great page. If I were interested, I’d be tweeting about this, I’d share it. I’d send it to my uncle who buys motorcycles. I would love this page.” That’s what you have to optimize for. It is a totally different thing than optimizing for Did I use the keyword at least three times? Did I put it in the title tag? Is it included in there? Is the rest of the content relevant to the keywords?
So, if you want to produce healthy results, here are some things you can do:
- Reviews – Search engines are looking at product reviews to gauge the feeling of the content plus all of the on-page content. This means, however, that large response to content, whether by actual recommendations or a vote, will carry more weight. This may seem out of your control, which it is, but in reality you can use this information to make your product or content better.
- Content – Stay on top of the ever-changing landscape of what search engines view as relevant content. For example, for the longest time, searchable content was limited to text. That’s beginning to change as search engines are discovering ways to define video content.
- Context – Search engines are also learning how to figure out the meaning of content by its environment, asking questions like “Was the response to the video positive or negative?” “Were the tweets in response to the video good or bad?”
- Personality – You must make the content on the page feel as if a funny warm-blooded human being wrote it. Or someone who is constantly angry. In other words, it must show it was written by a likable person, and not a machine.
This technique is pretty advanced and does require sentiment analysis software.
Tactic #4: Give Google fresh content on a web page
We know that search engines like fresh content. And we know that pushing out fresh content on a daily basis builds traffic and drives leads to our door. That’s why we spend so much time creating new blog posts.
But don’t forget about the fresh content on a single page. That in itself is a signal to search engines that you’ve updated a page, and quite possibly will continue to update the page, so they’ll visit more often.
And the more they visit, the more trust you get and, hopefully, the higher rankings to go along with that. If you don’t update often, the spiders will extend the time between visits.
Just take a look at Wikipedia…Its entries dominate the rankings. Most of its pages are updated frequently.
Another thing you can do is include a Twitter update on your home page. Or a list of recent comments or the top commenters:
The popular posts widget can do the trick too:
For non-home pages, you can freshen up the content by adding to the story through updates, more statistics, a growing portfolio of projects, case studies or even comments.
You can do this by identifying a handful of your strong link-worthy pages and then mapping out a strategy to update them on a regular basis. You should try to update these pages at least a few times a month.
Tactic #5: Use Dublin Core metadata elements
The jury is still out on whether and how much search engines give weight to keywords in metadata. Most experts agree that you should add keywords to your metadata, just in case. And it is important that your keywords match throughout your metadata, from title to description, in order not to get punished. It’s the same with using Dublin Core metadata.
Dublin Core is an open source movement started in Dublin, OH. It is created to help prepare content for discovery for the future of the web, namely the semantic web.
The benefit of using Dublin Core metadata, the theory goes, is that maybe search engines look at this code as an extra step that the content creator is taking to make his or her content as relevant as possible to a particular search.
The other benefits of Dublin Core include the following:
- It can help with some internal search engines.
- It can help with your SEO efforts.
- It is easy to implement.
- It does not bloat your code.
To install Dublin Core metadata into your website is easy. You place it in the HTML header of your page, i.e., within the <head>, right after you add the normal HTML data.
Here’s what it looks like:
<link rel=”schema.DC” href=”http://purl.org/dc/elements/1.1/”>
<meta name=”DC.title” content=”SEO with Dublin Core”>
<meta name=”DC.description” content=”How to embed Dublin Core metadata in a web page to provide a standards-based approach to search engine optimization (SEO) that complements HTML metadata.”>
<meta name=”DC.subject” content=”seo dublin core, seo dublin core tips, search engine optimization with dublin core”>
<meta name=”DC.language” scheme=”ISO639-1″ content=”en”>
If you want help adding it to XML and XHTML code, head to the SEO with Dublin Core page. By the way, you should test your SEO efforts against a baseline to determine whether there are any benefits to using Dublin Core on your site. Don’t just take my word for it.
Tactic #6: Define content absolutely
If you do a search for “Dublin Core,” the first four search results are for dublincore.org. The fifth is for Wikipedia.
If you do a search for “meta data,” the Wikipedia entry is at the top.
Search for the word “strategy,” and the top five results have three Wikipedia and two dictionary entries:
This simple little demonstration shows you what’s called “relevance authority.” Search engines view these sites and their pages for the keywords as dead-on matches for the keywords.
Why is that?
It’s because the entire page is geared to defining the keywords. The lesson for you is to get into a habit of creating pages that “define” keywords like authority sites like Dictionary.com and Wikipedia does.
It will be difficult to compete against these authority sites with competitive terms, but with less competitive terms, it will be easy to rank high.
Using these on-page optimization tactics will give your current tactics a boost and help you gain better rankings in the search engines. So, give them a try. They are actually pretty easy to implement.
The biggest mistake I see companies make is mess up their URL structure. If you are strapped for time, focus on fixing that first. It’s one of the hardest things to fix, but it will pay off in the long run.
The rest can be fixed over time, and it isn’t as complicated. For example, improving load time can be done with the help of Google PageSpeed.
URLs. They’re one of the most basic elements of SEO. Yet they’re vitally important.
In fact, Backlinko reports that URLs are a significant ranking factor.
- URL length is listed as #46 in Google’s top 200 ranking factors
- URL path is listed as #47
- Keyword in the URL is #51
- URL string is #52
So when you put it all together, URL optimization is kind of a big deal.
And it seems simple enough.
Enter a few words into the URL slug, throw in a keyword or two and you’re good. Right?
If only it were that easy.
In reality, there’s an entire science behind proper URL optimization.
But after tons of research and a lot of trial and error on my end, I’ve come up with what I think is a rock solid formula.
It covers all of the bases and aims to satisfy both search engine bots and of course human users.
In this post, I’m going to explain the science behind creating URLs for maximum SEO as well as the logic behind each tactic.
So let’s get to it.
Choose a top level domain
Let’s start from the beginning.
There’s an infographic from Search Engine Land that covers the ins and outs of friendly URL structure.
One thing they point out is that using a top level domain (TLD) is usually your best bet.
This simply means that it’s ideal to use a “.com” domain rather than “.biz,” “.pro,” “.tel,” etc.
Now I’m not saying that you’re doomed if you use anything other than “.com” for your domain.
In fact, TLD doesn’t directly impact rankings.
But what it does tend to do is increase trust for human users.
And this is huge.
When people trust your domain, it’s going to trickle down and have a positive impact on your overall SEO.
I realize that making this point doesn’t do you a lot of good if you already have a domain other than “.com.”
I also realize that it’s simply not realistic to be able to land your brand name with a “.com” domain (there were over 124 million “.com” domains of 2016), but it’s something to keep in mind if you’re choosing a domain in the future.
This post offers some insight on what you can do if the domain name you want is already taken.
HTTPS is ideal
Online security is a huge issue these days.
With cyber crime and identity theft on the rise, Internet users want to know that they’re using a secure connection.
Just look at how the monetary damage reported by cyber crime has increased from 2001 to 2015.
As a result, I really recommend using HTTPS rather than HTTP.
If you’re unfamiliar with the difference, HTTPS stands for “HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure,” which is the secure version of HTTP.
This simply means that information on a website is encrypted, which heightens security significantly.
Here’s an illustration of the difference between HTTP and HTTPS.
Not only does this keep your visitors at ease, it has actually become a ranking signal.
According to Searchmetrics, “HTTPS is becoming more relevant and even a ranking signal for Google. Encryption is primarily important for sites with purchasing processes or sensitive client information to increase trust and conversion rates.”
And in my opinion, this is likely to become an even bigger ranking signal in the future.
If your site hasn’t yet received an SSL certificate, I suggest taking care of this ASAP.
This is especially true if you actually process customer orders and capture sensitive financial information online.
You can learn about the details of this process here.
There are several companies you can choose from to buy an SSL certificate.
One of the top providers is Namecheap.
First, you choose a plan to buy.
Then choose the number of years you want your SSL certificate to last.
Then confirm your order.
Once it’s activated, you’ll need to install your SSL certificate and update your site to use HTTPS.
This is fairly technical, but you can find pretty much everything you need from this resource.
It will walk you through step by step.
Now that we’ve gotten the more technical aspects of URL optimization out of the way, let’s get down to the nuts and bolts.
The element I’d like to address first is length, and it’s a biggie.
But when you really break it all down, deciding on the length of a URL is quite simple.
The shorter the better.
According to Backlinko, “Shorter URLs tend to rank better than long URLs.”
To prove this, they performed some extensive testing on one million Google search results.
Here’s a graph that shows how Google rankings decline as URL length gets longer.
It’s pretty cut and dry.
Notice how the number one position has URLs with roughly 50 characters.
But once you move down to the number 10 spot, the average URL has 62 characters.
So somewhere around 50 – 60 characters is a pretty good number to shoot for.
If you go way beyond (say 80+ characters), this is likely to have a negative impact on your ranking.
How many words should you use?
I personally try to shoot for around three to five words per URL because it’s simple and gives users a pretty clear idea of what a particular piece of content is all about.
Here are a couple of examples from NeilPatel.com
See what I mean?
I keep the number of words in these URLs to a minimum, but you can still get a sense of what you can expect to find by clicking on those links.
According to an interview with Matt Cutts, this is a pretty good formula to stick with.
Here’s a snippet from the interview.
The bottom line is that you want to condense the essence of your content into roughly three to five words and try to use a max of 60 characters.
If you consistently implement this formula, you should be good to go.
Like I said earlier, there’s a correlation between user-friendliness and overall SEO.
They’re forever intertwined.
And this is most definitely true when it comes to URL optimization.
Or as Moz puts it, “A well-crafted URL provides both humans and search engines with an easy-to-understand indication of what the destination page will be about.”
This brings me to my next point.
You should strive to structure your URLs for maximum readability.
While I realize that this is an inherently subjective term, I think that this “scale of readability” illustration explains it quite well.
Notice how the first example is short, to the point, and easy to understand?
Without even clicking on the link, it’s clear that it contains images of adorable puppies that are confused by a rainbow.
So it probably contains something like this.
But notice how the examples get increasingly more confusing.
The third example gives you absolutely no idea of what you’ll get by clicking on the link.
In fact, it could quite possibly be a nefarious link that will infect your computer with a terrible virus.
But let me elaborate just a bit more on the importance of readability.
Say that someone links to one of your posts.
While they may initially replace the naked URL with their own anchor text like “cute puppies confused by a rainbow,” there’s a good chance that the URL will be copied into other sources somewhere down the line.
At some point, it will probably be pasted as the original naked URL.
If it’s easily readable with http://mydomain.com/puppies-adorably-confused-by-rainbow, it will still be easy to understand regardless.
But if it’s ugly and long winded like http://cdn07.mydomain.cc/9rf7e2/i?HXID+iaj34089jgt30hgqa3&qry=f#loaddelay, no one is going to have a friggin’ clue what it’s about.
I dare you to click on that link.
So the point here is that simplicity and clarity are what you want to aim for when creating URLs.
If it can be easily understood with a quick glance, you should be good to go.
Fortunately, you’re a human, so it shouldn’t be all that difficult to structure your URLs for other humans.
Use hyphens, not underscores
When it comes to putting spaces between words, you have two main choices.
You can use either hyphens or underscores.
So what’s the best choice?
That’s a no-brainer. Always use hyphens.
Here’s advice straight from the horse’s mouth.
If this is what Google prefers, you can rest assured that it’s the best option.
Use lowercase letters
Okay, this is probably obvious to at least 90 percent of you.
But I thought that I should mention it just to be clear.
Always stick with lowercase letters.
Using uppercase letters can potentially lead to redirects or 404 errors on certain servers.
So just don’t do it.
Here’s a topic that’s received a substantial amount of debate.
To use stop words or not use stop words? That is the question.
First of all, what exactly are stop words?
They’re words like:
These are basically “filler” words that connect the essential words that are the backbone of your URL.
For a long time, stop words were viewed by many SEOs as an unforgivable sin that simply could not be forgiven.
But you know what?
It’s really not that big of a deal.
In fact, it’s unlikely that you’re going to be penalized for using them.
However, they’re not going to do you any favors either.
Stop words are basically ignored by search engines and don’t carry any real weight as a ranking factor.
So here’s what I recommend when approaching stop words.
Don’t use them if you can help it.
If your URL structure still makes sense and is readable, including stop words is only going to make your URL longer and more complicated.
But if you feel like you need to include a stop word for your URL to make sense and more readable then go ahead and include it.
The key word here is “readable.”
If it makes it easier for people to read, then that’s usually your best option.
Just use your best judgment when deciding which route to go.
Use “safe” characters
And here’s another point I need to make.
It has to do with using “safe” characters in your URL rather than “unsafe” characters.
The easiest way for me to explain the difference between the two is to simply show you a graph from Perishable Press.
It’s pretty simple.
You’re totally fine using safe characters in your URL.
But you definitely want to stay away from unsafe characters.
The reason is because they can create issues for browsers, which creates usability issues.
Use a max of two folders per URL
If you’re unsure of what I mean by “folders,” they’re simply the slashes you see between text in a URL.
Like most other aspects of URL optimization, it’s best to keep it simple with the number of folders you use in your URLs.
In other words, less is best.
According to Moz, “It’s not that the slashes (aka folders) will necessarily harm performance, but it can create a perception of site depth for both engines and users, as well as making edits to the URL string considerably more complex (at least, in most CMS’ protocols).
Here are a couple of examples that Rand Fishkin provides to clarify matters.
Users can still tell what the content is about with the second, restructured URL, but it contains fewer folders.
And if you really want to get specific in terms of the number of folders to use, stick with one or two.
This makes your URL way more eye appealing, and it’s easier for search engines to decipher the meaning.
Target 1-2 keywords
You should have known that this topic would surface at some point in this post.
So what’s the best way to handle keywords when creating URLs?
Should you still include them?
If so, how many can you include before it’s seen as spam and you get penalized?
Well here’s my take on things.
First of all, you should definitely still include keywords in your URL.
Although this practice is unlikely to skyrocket you to the number one spot, it should give your ranking a slight boost.
And from a user standpoint, including keywords serves a very important purpose.
It enables the URL to serve as the anchor text when your content is copied without including anchor text to clarify.
This way people can instantly tell what your content is about at a quick glance regardless of where they find the link.
Even without anchor text, it’s good to go.
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This takes the guesswork out of it and will encourage more people to inevitably click on your content.
But here’s the deal.
You by no means want to shamelessly stuff keywords into your URL.
This should go without saying.
That would be a recipe for disaster.
But exactly how many keywords should you target?
Is there a specific number?
According to Brian Dean of Backlinko and John Lincoln, CEO of Ignite Visibility, you should aim for one or two keywords per URL.
Adding more and “Google will not give you as much credit.”
And let’s be honest.
Keyword stuffing in any way is never a good thing.
You wouldn’t use keyword stuffing in your content, so why would you use it in your URL?
In terms of positioning, it’s generally regarded as best practices to include your target keywords located toward the beginning of your URL.
Avoid keyword repetition
Here’s one last little detail.
Never repeat your keywords (or any words for that matter) in a URL.
Repetition is pointless because Google will in no way reward you for using a keyword that appears more than once (what is it 2005?).
In fact, this could potentially be seen as a form of manipulation, which obviously isn’t good.
Moving beyond that, it’s probably going to make your content look spammy, or at the very least, diminish your credibility in the eyes of search engine users.
Moz offers a great example.
It just looks ridiculous to have the keywords “canoe puppies” listed back to back between two folders.
So stay away from this tactic at all costs.
While it may seem easy enough on paper, the URL optimization process can be quite tricky.
There are several variables that must be addressed when structuring URLs to appease both search engines and human users.
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It starts with the more technical aspects like choosing a top level domain and getting an SSL certificate so users know that your site is safe.
You should then work your way down to finding the optimal number of characters and words to ensure that your URL has “human-readability.”
There’s also the issue of proper formatting so to not cause problems for browsers.
And of course, you want to make sure that you’re correctly targeting your keywords without teetering on the edge of anything black hat.
So yeah, it’s a little complicated.
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But when you break things down step by step, URL optimization becomes much more manageable.
And when you really analyze it, the process largely boils down to a lot of common sense principles that can be encapsulated into three main words.
Short, simple, and readable.
If you create URLs with these objectives in mind, you should be golden.
Can you think of any other URL optimization strategies?