Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving your website’s index on Google. This means that when users search for topics relevant to your site, your website is listed in the results. The better your SEO, the higher your site is listed—increasing the likelihood it will catch a searcher’s eye.
But why is Google prioritized over other search engines like Bing and Yahoo? Google searches account for the majority of searches on the internet. When you include image searches, map searches, and YouTube, Google makes up 90% of all internet searches, according to Moz.
Most businesses begin their SEO strategy by developing website content to describe their business. While a strong content strategy is important for SEO, it is important to make sure a few technical strategies are implemented on your website first.
Google does not read your site the same way a human would, so these technical strategies will help Google read—or crawl—your site. Picture spiders crawling the web, looking for the best information to answer search queries. That’s how Google figures out if your website is helpful, informative and credible enough to bring to a searcher’s attention.
This is the foundation of all good SEO strategies. If Google cannot read your site, none of your other strategies will matter.
Here are four strategies you should implement to launch a strong SEO foundation:
1) Make sure you have a clear navigation structure. One of the easiest ways to make sure your site can be crawled by Google is to ensure your navigation structure is clear.
A good navigation structure usually includes an About page, Contact page, and three to five additional category pages outlining your products or other high-level information. You may also have a blog with subcategories going into more detail about your expertise or relevant consumer trends.
Make sure any subpages fit neatly in a category or subheader of one of your main categories. For example, business insurance may be one of your main navigation categories with subcategories like workers compensation, equipment breakdown and business liability.
Your navigation should also be the same on desktop and mobile. Different navigations structures can confuse Google and make it more difficult for your site to show up in search results.
2) Create a site map and submit it to Google Search Console. Once you develop and implement a clear navigation strategy, submit your site map to Google Search Console. This will provide Google with a clear, easy to read map to make indexing your site faster.
Plus, Google Search Console can offer SEO-specific insights, including your most popular pages, as well as the amount of impressions and traffic by page. This is different from Google Analytics because this information is specific to SEO and does not include traffic from ads, social media or email marketing.
3) Clean up your 404 pages and redirects. If you update your navigation structure or important pages with new URLs, make sure your old URLs still work. If you have broken URLs, the commonly recognized 404 page will appear. Consider making a custom 404 page which includes links to the most popular information on your site to help people find what they might have been looking for.
That said, the most ideal situation is to make sure any old or broken links redirect to a new page that closely matches the topic of the old page. Be careful not to direct all old or broken URLs to the home page as this could create a poor user experience.
Most redirects are classified with the code 301 which tells Google that the old URL has permanently moved to the new URL. Most content management systems allow you to specify any needed redirects. No coding is required. If you are using WordPress, the Yoast plugin is a great tool to help manage your redirects.
If your site has too many pages to audit manually, consider downloading a free tool like Screaming Frog, which will tell you if you have any broken pages or current redirects in place.
4) Improve internal linking on your site. A good internal linking strategy on your site can help with user experience and guide people through your marketing funnel. Find one or two places on each page where you can link to another relevant page on your site. A strong internal linking strategy can also give Google more opportunities to find pages on your site.
It is important to make sure that your links are relevant to each page. For example, you may have a personal lines overview page that links to a blog or related page about home insurance or car insurance. If you have a robust blog or even just a handful of thought leadership pieces, consider finding ways to cross reference the information and include links as appropriate.