Foundational SEO Best Practices
The majority of the work we do at cohort.digital falls into the Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and digital/social advertising categories. However we do receive the occasional request to explore and make recommendations on clients’ Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Making sure your website or online presence is optimized for search is truly foundational to the success of any organic digital marketing efforts.
The guide below outlines best practices for writing website metadata and steps to take for implementing those efforts to let your SEO work for you.
Tools for Search Ranking
We recommend beginning your foundational SEO work by checking out your current search ranking and taking a look at what metadata search engines are currently able to pull for your website. You can do this by utilizing one of a few online tools that will tell you where your site or presence currently ranks. Tools we’ve used and would recommend are:
Knowing where you currently rank gives you a starting point to refer back to after implementing some of the foundational steps below. We recommend checking in after completing this work in 30 days, 90 days, 6 months, and 1 year.
The best way to influence how your website’s pages will be shown on organic search listings is to make sure you’ve populated each page’s metadata. While it’s not a guarantee that Google or Bing will use your metadata, if it’s a strong representation of your page’s content and will help the searcher find the solution they’re looking for, it’s quite likely. If you’re starting a site fresh, you’re in luck and can set this standard from the very beginning of your new site’s launch. If you’re making these changes to a current site, not to worry! While this work can be tedious, it goes a long way for the long term of your site. Below you’ll find a visual example of what this looks like and recommendations on where to focus your efforts.
This is the headline search engines use for the listing of that web page. The copy will appear in the browser tab.
- This should include keywords for the page & site.
- You don’t want to use closing punctuation in most cases.
- Punctuation like colons, semi-colons, hyphens, and ampersands help draw attention, separate thoughts, and save space.
- This should be 50 – 60 characters in length (spaces count in the character total.)
This is the copy blurb below the headline in a search engine’s listing for the page. The description should explain what’s on the page to help a searcher understand if it’s going to provide the answer to their query.
- Each description should include page keywords.
- Contractions and ampersands are common to help save space.
- Include a call to action where possible.
- This should be 50 – 160 characters in length (spaces count in the character total.) We’d recommend shooting for closer to 160 characters to maximize the potential characters you can be searched for.
Unlike the SEO copy work above, Header Tags are typically actual content (headlines) that appear on the pages of your website. Because of this, changes directly impact the site design and will require more collaboration than the other SEO content.
- Should include page keywords for the reader to establish quick understanding of page content.
- Should be between 20 – 70 characters (spaces count in the character total.)
Google Search Console
Upon implementation of your SEO work, you should establish or update your Google Search Console account and upload a sitemap so Google can help you get all pages indexed. This will give you access to your organic search results, including:
- Clicks, impressions, click-thru rate, top queries, etc.
- Alerts if there’s an error causing problems with the search crawlers.
Once Google Search Console is set up, you can import your sites and set up Bing Webmaster Tools to get access to Bing’s search results information.
Managing your SEO isn’t a one time effort, and you should know that the steps you take may not garner immediate results. Properly managed SEO is a strategy for the long haul, but it will pay its dividends over time.