This Facebook Live segment features Senior SEO and Conversion Specialist David Caffey as he discusses the latest updates, new trends, and what to look out for in SEO and digital marketing.
So, what should you know about SEO? Here are David's thoughts.
If you had just one hour per week to do SEO, what would you focus on?
This is a question I get a lot because the reality is that a lot of people don't have a lot of time for SEO. There are a few things you can do to make sure you are covering the bases, especially stuff that is really old-school SEO tactics.
More than anything is getting into Google Analytics, getting into Google Search Console. The type of data that you can get in there gives you a better idea of where your audience is, who they are, what search terms they are using. On the other side of that – specifically in Google Search Console – there is data to make sure that Google can actually find your site. I come across a lot of websites that don't realize they are blocking Google's crawler from actually accessing the site.
One, make sure you are exposed to Google so that it can access your site and that you don't have any settings – what we call no-index or Robots.txt file – that are blocked.
It's pretty common if you are in the website build process that before you launch the site, we usually turn on. But, it's pretty common to leave stuff like that off.
If you have an hour, look through that data and make sure there is nothing weird. Make sure you are actually appearing in search. Keep the site health together, making sure that broken pages and broken links are fixed.
You can invest hours and hours of time into putting a great website together with great content, but if Google specifically cannot access it, your organic searchers are not going to be able to either.
Trent Erwin, Host: Google Search Console and Google Analytics are both free tools. They can be complicated to get set up correctly, and we can help you out with that.
Should I have a blog on my website?
If you have the time to invest, you should absolutely have a blog. One of the things that Google has looked for on your website since 2012 is a consistent stream of good, rich, resourceful, quality content.
It is not necessarily a quantity thing. It's a consistency thing. If you are able to put something out regularly, go for it completely if you have the resources to do that.
I would advise against taking a month and writing 20 blog posts, then putting them all out at once. Pace yourself. You might get a traffic increase and visibility bump, but that isn't sustainable.
The blog should be the place where you are putting out the content that can acquire new people. At the end of the day, a blog can serve a lot of purposes. It can be news about your organization, but it can also answer people's questions – very specific questions that you don't really have any other content on your website for.
This is what we call long-tail searches. These are people that ask very specific things. They may not be asking about your business type, but something related to your business. You can be very flexible on the blog in that way.
The best blog content I've ever gotten is from asking experts, business owners, and people in a specific type of business to sit down and talk. Record it, then write it word for word.
Everybody has the knowledge, but nobody has the time to write it down. You don't have to sit down and write a masterpiece. Just get that knowledge in your head that your salespeople are being asked or you are being asked. Get that on a blog post, and you can find benefit out of that.
How long should my meta descriptions and page titles be?
This has changed pretty drastically. If you search for something on Google, you usually get those 10 standard, blue link results. When you see a result, you see the link to the website. Under that is a snippet of text that describes what's on your page. That snippet is a meta description.
Previously, there was a hard limit of 165 characters. That has expanded to 265-300 characters. That's a big deal because most sites that have descriptions prepared for each page were short. There's a big mad dash in the SEO community to expand those descriptions.
Google has officially come out since and said that the move is still flexible, saying it may display 300 characters, but it may display less.
What I'm seeing is that it's better to be safe than sorry. If your competitors are expanding their meta descriptions to 300 characters, they are going to take up more real estate in the search results and get more visibility.
If you have the time to sit down and write a unique meta description for every page, you should. I want to reinforce that you should not use the same meta description for every page. They should be unique. If you have the time, push those meta descriptions out further.
The core purpose of the meta description is to describe what is on the page and entice the user to click. That's your front window or your quick pitch to somebody that is looking for you in search results.
UPDATE: Google has recently reverted to showing shorter meta descriptions in search results. While Google has not officially stated or specified a preferred length, we have noticed that lengthier meta descriptions – which were shown in full months ago – are now getting cut off. We will continue to monitor this trend and adjust accordingly.
How often should I post content to my website?
I'd reinforce consistency. It's what you're able to do. If you can only get one blog per month out, make sure you are getting that one per month out. I've seen some sites go up to two blogs per day while some do once per week.
It depends on your audience and what you are able to do.
If you are putting out one blog per day and are not seeing the page views or engagement from social or from organic, it may be time to cut the blog posts down. If you are putting out one blog per month and seeing tons of activity, start increasing your number of blog posts.
At the very least, if you can get something regularly out and build an audience, that's what I would recommend.
What SEO myths are not effective anymore?
A lot of Google technologies have gone by the wayside. One section is the meta keywords field. That field is still in content management systems like Wordpress, but that practice was back in the day when you told search engines what specific keywords you wanted to target. That is something that doesn't do anything anymore. If you were to load that meta keywords field, your competitors could look at the source code of your page and see what keywords you are targeting. If you do that, you are giving out free keyword research.
There used to be thought that engaging and sharing on Google Plus resulted in higher rankings. That is totally by the wayside.
If you have been out of the SEO world for awhile, Google around. Start with Google's Webmaster Central blog to understand the latest requirements and practices are because it changes so frequently. If you have been away for just a year, you might be going into with some outdated practices.
Does site speed matter?
It always has. If a user lands on a website and is slow, they might leave.
Recently, Google has announced that mobile site speed is an official ranking factor. That's a big deal. Usually when Google announces that it is going to consider something six months from now for ranking your site, that means it is going to be a big deal.
Having sites as fast as possible is something in the SEO community that we have always tried to make sure of. This is a good experience for the user. There has always been talk that it's a ranking factor, but now that it is officially on paper – if you are going to focus on any major initiatives this year, make sure the mobile version of your site is fast is one I would stress.
Google has tools like the AMP Project and is trying to get pages to load instantly on a mobile device because that is the standard.
If you go to Facebook or Amazon, those pages load instantly because that is the standard. People are used to this because they spend more time on those sites. Small businesses and medium-sized businesses are going to have to be on that same level of technology to compete.
Erwin: Make sure that your images on the site are not massive. If you get professional photos, they are likely going to be several megabytes in size. Make sure that you reduce that resolution down so that it's below one megabyte and, really, way smaller than that. There are several tools online that you can use to optimize the size without losing quality. We encourage people to compress images.
Caffey: I think this is Google challenging folks in the technology and development community to make sites as fast as possible. On our end, there are a few things we can do. But, it's really going to come down to the technologies we are using and the people building them for us to figure out how we can make sites even faster.