How to Optimize & Maintain a Great Website
A great website is a perfect relationship between art and science. Interesting stories, stunning pictures, high-quality videos, and other valuable content creates the art that draws readers into a useful website and has them coming back from more. A website has no future without the art that gives it life.
Then there is the science—the nuts and bolts behind that scenes that keeps your site functional and gives it visibility on the Internet, especially Google. Website optimization is the key to driving people to your fantastic content, and it’s difficult to build an audience if no one knows your site is there. As you build your website and fill it with good content, follow these tips to make sure it’s optimized for maximum visibility through Google.
As you build your website, follow these tips to maintain, optimize, and customize a mobile responsive design that gives your site the most visits and engagement possible.
How Long Will It Take?
With the right website builder, you can build a basic site in fewer than 30 minutes. It’s really that simple. But when you start adding the bells and whistles and spend time on optimization and great content, the timeframe goes from minutes to days, to even weeks. The general rule is that you get out of a website what you put into it, but website builders are user-friendly platforms to help you along the way.
How Often Should I Update?
There is no limit or rule to how often you can update a website. If you manage a blog and find that three articles a day yield a high amount of views and shares, then that number is certainly not overkill. As long as the content is fresh and up to date, then you can update at your own pace. Some website owners also like to create content that is “evergreen,” meaning it can be reposted and still be relevant no matter the time.
Don’t Lose Sight of the Real Priority
Before you get started with optimization, keep in mind that there can be too much of a good thing. Content should be written for readability first and optimization second. If your website is so technical for search engine optimization (SEO) that it makes articles and copy dull, it doesn’t matter where you rank on a Google search. Always keep art in front, and add in the science where it applies.
You Can’t Trick Google
Optimizing a site is best done with guidelines, not rules. The truth is that while experts have a good idea of which tactics help boost websites the most, no one truly knows the science behind Google’s sophisticated search algorithms, and the company is continually updating the way it indexes websites. If you chase the “trends” of SEO and put all your eggs in that basket, one update could completely crush your hard work. But Google will always reward website for best practices, and that’s what you should focus on when building your site.
Target the Right Keywords
If you try to make your website everything to everyone, it is destined to be nothing to no one. There’s no realistic expectation that your website will rank for every relevant keyword, and to even attempt such a feat would be costly and time-consuming. The idea here is to research the right keywords that will benefit your site the most and focus exclusively on those. Use the Google Adwords tool to search for key phrases in your industry to see where you could potentially rank well.
Focus more on topics and less on specific keywords. For example, if your company sells mattresses, don’t try to rank for “mattress” and target specific types of beds or something more niche that could draw those interested to your site.
TIP: Never force keywords into your content—everything should be completely natural. Not only does this tactic no longer work, but it also butchers the readability of your content and can even have a negative impact on your optimization.
Don’t Underestimate Long Form Content
The good news for great content is that Google rewards copy that people actually want to read. Forcing keywords into a 300-word nugget is nothing compared to a 1000-word article that carries real value. So in this sense, there is no compromising art to achieve the science. Authoritative pieces longer than 1000 words (2000 words is even better) rank very well on Google so long the subject matter fits in your industry and the keywords you’re targeting.
Page Titles & Header Tags
Now down to the nuts and bolts of optimization—creating page titles and headers that will help your content rank well. Engaging titles fewer than 70 characters will perform best in search results. If you are writing an article about sleeping tips, a title like “5 Ways To Sleep Better At Night” will be very effective. Google will still index page titles longer than 70 characters, but they will be cut off in search results.
Header tags are the big, bold headlines in article and page titles. They’re also used for sub-heads used to separate sections of content (like “Page Titles & Header Tags” above). In HTML coding, they’re sandwiched by <H1>, <H2>, and so on depending on the size and importance of the header. Google puts more emphasis on these tags than body copy for optimization, so it’s a good idea to use desired keywords when applicable but don’t force it. The same rules for natural keywords apply twofold for header tags.
Optimize Your URLs
This is another delicate balance between effectiveness and overkill. If you’re in the business of selling mattresses, then, of course, mattresses.com will rank well for a primary keyword search. But a URL like online-mattress-beds.com/mattress/buy-mattress-here is so overloaded with forced keywords that Google won’t give it much credit (hyphens in the domain name should also be avoided if possible).
At the same time, using part or all of your page title in the URL can help the piece rank well for particular words and phrases. For example, mattresses.com/5-ways-to-sleep would rank well for the suggested page title mentioned above. Once again, it’s all about balance.
Link to Good Content (Even Your Own)
Internal linking not only helps with site navigation but it can also boost your sites optimization, but don’t shy away from linking elsewhere if the information is relevant. A good practice is to start linking within a page with no optimization in mind, then go back and trim for SEO. Link to relevant internal pages as well as authoritative content on other websites builds value to your own content, which in turn is rewarded by Google when indexing your site.
Responsive Design is Key
Although desktop users still spend more time reading long form content, more than half of web traffic in 2016 comes from mobile devices—smartphones and tablets. If your website isn’t responsive, which means it’s visually and functionally optimized for mobiles use, none of the above information matters. Choose a website builder and template that offers responsive designs (most do) so that your website will be visible on all platforms. Not only does Google reward responsive designs when indexing websites, but it’s simply more pleasant for visitors which helps drive lasting traffic.