Let's get straight to the SEO goodies.
How can I stress this enough? Everything Meta, Content, PPC, and even Outreach should start with competitive analysis!
Back before 2010, you could drop a location and talk about your business's services and rank. Now the internet is global and highly competitive. Instead of reinventing the wheel, you can scrape valuable data to target your audience and snipe your competition.
Our go-to tools for PPC & SEO Analysis is SpyFu. If you're on a budget and need in-depth details on backlink portfolios, trending keywords and PPC, try these guys first.
Your homepage should be informative first, sales second.
How often have you hopped onto an obvious affiliate site that is just plastered with empty paragraphs and call-to-actions? It's inefficient for conversions, and Google will notice the high bounce rate then penalize your rankings.
You should put information at the forefront, not just any data. It needs to fulfill the request of the search.
Are you looking for relevant questions in your niche? No Surprise, SpyFu has you covered.
Listen, I love SpyFu. I previously worked with software that cost over 100 USD/Month to do the same research level but with less versatility. When I wanted to find valuable questions related to my niche, I used to produce manual queries on Google combined with a few other 3rd party tools. When your time is money, you appreciate being able to stick with one tool for all the necessary keyword research.
Focus on questions that fit the intent of your primary keyword. Some questions may be so in-dept that you can expand on them in new posts. We suggest adding a brief explanation followed by "learn more here."
Don't become obsessed with keyword research. If you can't handle it, professionals like ourselves & large agencies can do the heavy lifting for you.
First view analysis - 'keep it above the fold' Users don't scroll past 35% of the page.
Try to keep the substantial information upfront. General information, legal information, or in-depth origin stories are better left at the bottom of the page.
You should still follow our philosophy:
I know 'boring fluff' may seem like a harsh characterization but look from the customer's perspective. A new client probably isn't too interested in your origin story. They want a service or information that helps them move on with their day. If they love your work, then they'll read the fluff.
Focus on 1 to 3 primary services (don't keyword stuff)
After doing some initial keyword searches, you may have a meaty list of potential keywords if you're thinking about using 5 or 6 of them for your thinly worded homepage, DON'T. Thin or stuffed content is the easiest way for Google to penalize your rankings.
Fifteen years ago, marketers would build 300-word homepages and stuff them with every keyword imaginable. Now it's best to focus on three major keywords that are relative and expand further in other pages/posts.
The goal is to make the homepage a proper sale copy, but leave the major selling to the 'sales funnel.'
Link to a services page
If you're providing any SaaS, paid content, or any other service, it's best left for its expanded page.
You should give a brief, compelling description of your services and link to the main page to discuss in more detail.
A robust "About" page
The same goes for a strong about page. Google unofficially loves 'About' pages. I've noticed considerable rank improvements and increase authority on websites that I manage when I include a good personable story on my sites.
At SEOexpert.Ninja, we have an extensive workflow and analysis process to determine the structure, content, and size of a homepage to maximize CTR and ranking. We hope this introduction will help some of you get your feet wet.
What's your Niche? Let's dig into it.
As you begin to do keyword research, you should first consider who your customer is. Your objective is to inform, and you can't inform if you don't know what type of customer you aim to acquire.
So let's say you're in the Finance Niche, what is your place of expertise?
Brainstorm and try to focus on the businesses solution you want to provide to customers. Do you want to help people with low or bad credit get credit cards? Great, so let's drill into that sub-focus and find three primary keywords to focus on your campaign.
I like to use smallseotools.com for my quick research. I use Spyfu for a more in-depth analysis, but we're going to focus on free solutions in this piece.
Starting from their suggestion tool, I'll go ahead and search
"low credit cards."
The first thing you'll notice is SST gives you an interest projection to help you know if you are in a seasonal niche and if it's growing in interest. Keep the Google Trend data in mind when you're focusing on content production.
So we have eight keywords that are quite general. Let's aim for:
'Low cred cards best'
'Low credit card APR'
'Low credit card processing fees'
At this level, with a new website, you virtually have no chance to rank for a broad keyword. We're going to plant a keyword tree with these topics on top, sub-topics below, and finally, long-tail keywords at the end of the root. You can start the long-tail research with all three seeds once you have at least 30-100 entries. Stop the search and export the CSV.
But wait! You're aren't finished yet.
It would be best to sort out what is an "easy" win and what you should consider a sub-topic.
At SEOexpert.Ninja, we use a particular method to find easy keyword wins called KGR. Doug Cunnington coined the Keyword Golden Ratio, and he goes in-dept on the technique on his site. Check it out here.
Suppose you're in a rush and don't have time for a manual research method. You can use AllInTitle to do a free search. You can search eight keywords at a time with the free version.
A quick guide on translating these metrics for the layman:
So pick three keywords that are above 1k monthly searches as your sub-topics. Any remaining keywords that fall below 1 KGR can be considered long-tail posts. It would be best if you focused on sub .25 posts first for easy wins. So you've found what keywords you need to focus on for your initial content research. Now you should focus on crafting posts that are no less than 800 words that are compelling and well researched. You should focus on fulfilling the search intent.
Someone looking for the "best low interest credit cards in Canada" doesn't need a winded 3 paragraph introduction to what credit cards are. Instead, write a brief intro into the types of people who may qualify for low-interest cards and descriptions of the cards that meet their criteria. Maybe even other finance guides towards the conclusion.
Not a bug, blame your design team.
So you've decided to make some changes to your website to increase speed. By now you've shot in a few directions to trickle up that Google PageSpeed from the teen to the 50s but you're still falling short of a "good" score.
If you're reading this, you're stuck on LCP. It's not psychoactive, but it just may drive you psycho. As people tamper with a website's structure to improve page speed, many people get stuck with a low LCP score. It's probably the hardest score to adjust for a more extensive website. Let's dig into why LCP is challenging and how to improve on it.
What is the LCP/FCP?
The "First Contentful Paint," aka FCP, is a metric that estimates how much time it takes to load an initial page. This could mean that not all contents are loaded, but some aspects can be seen like main text content, advertisements, and small images.
This is all based on the first render, the metric that determines the complete load is the LCP.
If you're scoring low on FCP, it's because it has determined that, on average, your page takes longer than 3 seconds first to render. In that past, this was a primary ranking factor in speed; now it's secondary.
Quick Actionable Tip: Move heavy elements towards the bottom of your pages to increase the FCP score.
Google - Why page performance matters
Why is Google Search Console now using LCP as a reference instead of the FCP?
Google has noticed that albeit users can visit pages and read some content at first render, it does not provide the best user experience consistently. To avoid partially loaded pages from interrupting the user, Google decided to prioritize pages that score high on LCP instead.
What is LCP? The suspense is killing me (and my metrics)!
Essentially, LCP is the end of the road of content rendering. 'Largest Contentful Paint' is a speed metric that observes the amount of time to render the largest element.
Essentially, if you have a massive infographic or embedded video on a post, you're going to be penalized by Google for a low LCP. Does that mean you should toss all media from your posts? No way!
If you approach your website with speed in mind from the initial build, you should manage this metric with ease. If you're inheriting large content and bulky images, you will have to take a different approach to reduce this metric.
So the goal is to remove the Google Search Console LCP error: longer than 4s.
It would be best if you start by reducing image sizes. You don't need a 4k 50MB photo on your homepage. Most users are mobile users for many sites; they can't even see you're pixel-perfect image on their smartphone.
How can you solve the LCP issue longer than 4 s?
Compressing images, videos, and audio content is probably the easiest actionable step for improving PageSpeed metrics.
As I mentioned in my PageSpeed Guide, I use Autoptimize to compressive my images, JS code & HTML code. The plugin is very straightforward and will inform you if you're making risky changes that may affect your site's UI.
What are the key differences between the three options?
Cloudflare: it offers a robust set of firewalls and CDN optimization free options for users and plenty of paid extras. It also allows you to defer JS to increase page speed.
Ezoic's Site Speed Accelerator +: If you're qualified for Ezoics advertising platform, you can use this feature for free. If you aren't an advertiser, the service will cost 30 USD a month. They claim to guarantee a PageSpeed score of 80+, that's a bold and busted claim. It is nevertheless an excellent service.
Taking this approach can save you hundreds of dollars. Most developers who focus on speed improvements will charge between 60-150 USD an hour to make these changes. Give your budget a break and spend that money on our outreach instead ;)
With the advent of Mobile-First indexing, Google announced it has has solidified what most SEO's have already known about page speed:
It is one of the most important factors in ranking.
Google utilizes a multitude of algorithms to determine the ranking; site speed is just one of dozens. To ensure their algorithms produce positive results in searches, they hire thousands of testers that follow a rigorous process to ensure quality.
If the website is loading slowly, a site owner cannot expect to rank highly. On the flip side, a website with under-optimized On-Page SEO & UI will not rank, even if it is dusting the competitors.
Most site owners should follow the old philosophy:
A jack of all trades but master of none.
As a website progresses and becomes more profitable, an owner should be able to lean on developers and specialists to fine-tune the website. Nevertheless, know the topics in enough detail to manage operations appropriately.
Managers researching how to improve their website's speed are accustomed to being swamped with technical terminology & paid solutions, at SEOninja.Expert, we decided to simplify the process to speed up the average WordPress website by using three simple methods.
But first remember this, our objective is not for site-masters to master the art of 'Technical SEO'.
By following these three methods, we increased one of our blog's speed performance from 8 to 92!
Reduce WordPress apps, take out duplicates.
WordPress, just like a computer or phone, has a large community of app developers that provide mostly free solutions to websites. If a site owner is not careful, they may find their site bloated with apps that provide redundant functions.
Consider removing the apps that offer the same solution but 'slightly' repackaged.
For instance, 'Yoast SEO' also has a redirect function, so there's no need for an additional app. Most themes and WordPress offer content management. An additional 'block builder' will bloat your website and decrease site speed. We also like to follow a standard of having no more than 15 but preferably less than 10 WordPress plugins on our websites. Our 'less than 15' policy forces us to consider the speed and focus on the website's purpose.
What do we mean by purpose?
A start-up or website should focus on selling the brand. Addons like forums, pop-ups, redirects & extra widgets are seductive distractions. However, they will more than likely reduce the site's functionality. Focus on centering the audience on blog posts that educate and sell the product to the customer.
Most web hosting platforms offer much of the functionality that WordPress apps offer. Look into what hosting services can offer instead of additional apps. We use SiteGround to host our blogs. They offer URL redirection, CDN integration, SG Optimizer, back-ups, security monitoring & caching solutions.
The only two apps a site owner ever needs for speed:
The Amp Project is an open-source initiative driven by lead developers & Google to help make the web Mobile-First. Accelerated Mobile Pages essentially strip down desktop centered objects and aim to provide more speed for mobile users. Additionally, the Amp Project's goal is to provide more compatibility to the vast array of mobile operating systems and hardware.
Google heavily focuses its search engine on mobile-first websites because most users access pages by mobile. Using this app will automate AMPifying a site & give a list of errors that need to be solved to stay AMP qualified and improve speed.
This plugin is compatible with all core themes, debugs errors, removed unused CSS & opts for server-side rendering. Rendering on the server helps improve the LCP (Last Contentful Paint) metric, which is incredibly stubborn to make improvements without development expertise.
Test it all with PageSpeed Insights.
Google offers an inhouse solution for scoring & improving efficiency. More importantly, it shows managers what code may block users from a fast & UI friendly experience.
At the core, PageSpeed insights provide a score evaluating how fast the page loads and how many blockades it has.
It is not all smooth sailing.
A developer is needed to fix AMP errors. For most AMP validation errors, most will need development assistance. If a site does not have any in-house staff to fix the website, many developers specialize in this solution.
SEOexpert.Ninja uses Upwork to find developers that can fine-tune our website. However, developers operate on Fiverr that can get that job done for as little as 5 dollars.
For the tech-savvy, check out this fantastic SEMrush piece that breaks down validation errors.
Apart from AMP validation, invest site resources into solving some of the other PageSpeed abnormalities that will block it from faster speed. An Upwork front end developer should not cost more than 50 USD for such a task. Many of those 'essential' WordPress apps will need to be slightly tweaked, theme JS & CSS code may need to be adjusted or blocked by crawlers.
Don't become obsessed.
Make an active effort and follow best practices. Between Google SpeedTest & Lighthouse, aim for scoring +80% consistently. After the 80% threshold, a site does not need to be concerned with rankings being affected or a high bounce rate due to site speed.
A key tip to take away from this is: keep it light, on apps, themes, CSS, JS and optimize.
Think of Amazon.com, a website that looks crowded and outdated. Amazon focuses almost entirely on content upfront & aesthetics come after. A fast website with a simple layout can dominate the competition.
Focus effort on on-site and off-site SEO practices. Make compelling content for readers and reap the rewards. Be sure to stay tuned for more advice and deeper dives!
Written By Mansa Brice
Learn, Do, Hone.