Google Search Console (previously called Google Webmaster Tools) is your website's SEO dashboard. It is a free web service that Google provides to help you monitor your indexing status and optimize the visibility of your website.
The first thing you want to do on your quest for SEO greatness is to add and verify your website on Google Search Console. Shortly after doing so, you will receive an e-mail from Google with suggestions to improve your website's search presence (don't worry, we'll go over the important tasks with you).
If you want to know more about Google Search Console, I recommend reading this article on the Moz Blog. Although it was written almost 2 years ago, most of the content is still relevant today and very easy to go through.
" A sitemap is a file where you can list the web pages of your site to tell Google and other search engines about the organization of your site content. Search engine web crawlers like Googlebot read this file to more intelligently crawl your site." - Google
Don't worry, you are not going to have to create that file yourself. There are two possible options:
If you created your site with a website builder like Weebly or Wix, your sitemap will be generated automatically. All you have to do is add "/sitemap.xml" to your website's URL.
If this isn't the case, you can generate one for free with a tool like xml-sitemaps.com.
Next, you have to submit your sitemap on Google Search Console. To do so, simply click on the "Sitemaps" tab under the "Crawl" category.
Click on the "Add/Test Sitemap" button, fill in the blank with the url corresponding to your sitemap and hit submit.
Whether you just launched your website, created new pages or made significant changes, you are going to have to request an indexation of all this new content.
On the left hand side of your screen you will find different categories. Select the "Crawl" category and click on the tab "Fetch as Google".
You will be able to request the indexation of all the pages of your website. Start with the home page. To do so, no need to edit the existing url, simply click on the "fetch" button.
If the status is "Complete" you can request indexing. A window will pop up asking you whether you want Google to crawl only that page, or also crawl all its direct links. I recommend (for the home page at least) choosing the second option. The latter will enable you to index your whole website automatically.
If some of your pages are not directly linked to your home page you will have to index them manually. Once again the process is very straightforward. Add the missing part of the URL, click on fetch, request indexing and choose the option "Crawl only this URL."
Google will send its robots to crawl your page and fetch all the information. Changes should be accounted for within the next few days.
The titles of your pages are extremely important for your SEO. I cannot stress that enough. Luckily, on most website builders they are very easy to change.
The first question you have to ask yourself is: "What is the web page about?". The second one is: "What search query do I want to target?"
Once you've answered both, finding the right titles for your pages will be very easy. Let's go through the process together. For the sake of this article, let's imagine I am a realtor in Madison, WI.
Let's start with my listings page
This page is all about the homes you are selling. You want to make sure that the title reflects the content of the page. Trust me, there is no point in trying to trick Google with title pages that do not match the content of your website. First of all, it will simply not work. Secondly, you will be flagged and your SEO efforts will be useless.
What are people typing in Google when they want to find a new home in Madison or the best realtor in town? You can't know for sure, but you can make an educated guess.
This is where keyword research comes into play. The aim of the game is to find the keyword that will attract the most qualified visitors to your website. However, you must be careful, you don't want to aim for keywords that are too general (like "homes for sales" or "real estate") for two reasons:
It will be impossible to compete for those keywords. Too many websites are already targeting them.
The goal is not to attract as many people as possible on your website. The goal is rather to attract quality leads.
Using a tool like Google Keyword Planner will enable you to check the popularity of certain keywords.
In this example, "Homes for sale in Madison", seems to be a good fit for our listings page.
Like in any fight, it's good to know who you are going up against. I recommend doing a search for the keywords you selected.
In this case, we are going up against large real estate companies like Century 21 or ReMax. But that doesn't mean it's impossible to rank on the first page! They are doing a pretty good job, but we can definitely do better!
Before you start writing down ideas for titles, I want you to keep several guidelines in mind:
I came up with an example to show you a title that takes into account everything we previously discussed.
The Best Homes For Sale in Madison, WI | Joe Doe Realty
A meta description is a short text (of approximately 160 characters) that provides a concise description about the contents of a web page.
Meta descriptions do not affect the ranking of a specific webpage on a search engine. But, as the title suggests, a good meta description is critical to ensure people click on your link.
Let's go back to the previous example I used.
As you can see the meta descriptions of these 3 pages are very different. Let me ask you a question: Which link would you click on? The first one right?
The reason is simple: it follows the basic guidelines of a perfect meta description.
I'll finish this section by giving you an example of a perfect structure for your web page.
I hope you will find these tips useful and will be able to use them to rock your SEO! If you have any questions or want to add something to the discussion, make sure to leave a message in the comment section below.
In the second part of this guide we will talk about URLS, on page content, image descriptions and much more...