One Easy Thing You Can Do to Improve SEO

There’s so much talk about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) going around, it’s impossible to keep up. Chances are, if you’re a busy entrepreneur or small business owner, you have no time to waste learning the SEO tricks of the moment. You just want to improve SEO so your site has better search results, right?

When I was learning SEO, there was one thing I learned to improve SEO that made it instantly click for me. Are you ready to learn it too? I promise, once you see how simple it is to make some very basic changes to your pages, you’ll wonder why you ever felt so overwhelmed by SEO in the first place.

Your Page Title is Arguably the Most Important Piece of SEO Juice on the Page

See, there are things called meta tags in the code of your site. They give search engines information about your pages so they know how to list them in their indices. For years, it was a common practice to fill the meta keyword tag with a long list of keywords. I certainly hope you haven’t paid anyone to implement the same strategy for you, because it couldn’t be more wrong. Google recently (in 2009, in fact – so not all that recent) stated that they do NOT even consider keywords in rankings.

Bummer, that really puts the time many people spend coming up with all these keywords to shame. Don’t be sad, though. This actually means search engines have become much smarter and rankings are based on much more than your ability to create a list of words. It prevents those who stuff their pages with keywords to trick search engines, from ranking above content that’s actually useful and relevant.

But how do I change the title of the page and how does it impact my rankings?

That’s an excellent question. First, it helps to understand more about the page title code. There’s code in the header section of your website pages that contains your title wrapped in tags like this: <title>Your Page Title</title>. This is the same text as the first line in Google’s search results. See the image below; this is what most of us look at when deciding whether or not to click a result. It’s no coincidence the page’s title tag appears here. It makes sense the title has the most impact since it’s the first thing that appears in search results, doesn’t it?

The page title is arguably the most important piece of SEO juice on the page.

In search results, the URL comes after the title. This is another great place to include keywords, but you’ll rank higher if you choose one keyword to optimize for (And by keyword, I mean phrase. Individual words usuallyhave too much competition to be worth your effort.) Use that keyword or phrase in both your title and URL, and you’ll be climbing up the ranks.

Lastly, the meta description tag contains the 2 lines of description that appear right underneath the URL.

Are you amazed it’s so simple? Click the Tweet button and share your discovery!

Learn How to Edit the Titles on Your Website

The easiest way to do this with a WordPress site is a plugin. I prefer the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin, which makes it really easy to check if you’re correctly naming things to optimize for a specific keyword. If you’re not using WordPress, you’ll need to edit the code title and meta description tags on your site.

It’s really that easy. But let’s take a closer look at how the Yoast plugin works.

Let Me Show You How Achieved a #1 Ranking For My Social Media Calendar

Click to enlarge.

The most popular post on my blog is my Social Media Calendar Template download. I attribute most of this to the fact that I achieved a #1 ranking on Google for the term, Social Media Calendar Template. I’ll walk you through how I did that.

In addition to WordPress being search-friendly (Google can recognize when a site was created in WordPress and automatically knows how to browse it. It allows Google to index it more quickly and easily.), editing the pages you want to rank with specific tags for that page is critical.

Within the Yoast plugin, on each post or page you’ll see this panel (see below). The first item in the panel is a snippet preview of how your page will appear in Google results.

Click to enlarge.

The next section allows you to input a focus keyword to check against your entries. This doesn’t have any impact on your page for search engines; it’s just a tool to see if your keyword is placed in the page properly.

For my calendar post, the plugin shows my focus keyword appears in the article heading (whatever is in an <h1> tag). I have my page title set to be an H1 tag, but you can put it in the body of your page too.

I also use the keyword in the Page title, which is the field labeled “SEO Title”. The keyword appears in the first few paragraphs in the content of the page and also in the meta description (note, I’m not sure why the plugin checks for keywords in the meta description, because Google doesn’t check meta descriptions).

The only place my keyword doesn’t appear is in the page URL. I posted this before I was optimizing for this keyword, so I used a different URL. However, now I have many external links to this page, so I don’t want to change the URL because the links will no longer work. I’m pleased with my results, so I’m not going to change a thing!

Some Things to Remember When Working on SEO

  • Think about what people are going to search for and do some research by searching those keywords to see what comes up.
  • It’s difficult to optimize your pages for more than one or two phrases at a time because search engines only display about 70 characters of the title. The title should still make sense to your readers, so don’t just stuff it with key phrases
  • Along with the outdated keyword meta tag, the description tag isn’t read by search engines, even though keywords appear bold in results. Use these lines (150-160 characters) to entice your reader to click on your page.
  • Submit a sitemap to Google to allow it to find your site more quickly. The WordPress plugin I mentioned does this automatically and alerts search engines each time you update your site.
  • It takes time for Google to find you and list your site, so be patient.
  • Once you appear for the phrases you chose, watch how you move around the rankings. Experiment with other phrases and determine what gives you the highest ranking and best results.
  • Not seeing results? Maybe your key phrase is too popular. There are other things you should implement in addition to title and meta tags, so maybe it’s an indication you need to take your SEO education a step further. I recommend this beginner’s guide by SEO MOZ. It’s hefty and gets technical, but is worth the read if you’re serious about learning yourself. Otherwise, I’d consider hiring an SEO professional to help you (be sure to contact Ekcetera for info on packages).

Now I have a bit of homework for you.

I want you to choose one page of your site – pick the one you want people to see more of that has a golden nugget in it. Copy and paste the URL of that page in the comments below. Along with a link, tell me the keyword you’re going to optimize that page for. Bookmark this article so you can report your results later.

Go and optimize that page for your key phrase. Give it one month to work its way up. Then, come back to this post and leave a comment on your results. I want to see how it works for you! In fact, if you leave your email address, I’ll even personally email you to remind you to post your results in a month.

Let’s get to it! I know you’ll feel such huge gratification from watching your efforts reward you.

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  1. southerninstitute on August 15, 2012 at 7:42 am

    Great article!! I can’t wait to do this today!

  2. Jessie Powell on August 15, 2012 at 11:17 am

    Thanks! I’m visiting from SITS, and I can use all the help I can get about SEO!!

  3. Momamusings on August 15, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    I always get a sinking feeling when it comes to SEO – it is all just so damn confusing. I can’t thank you enough for this information!! Visiting from SITS.

  4. Kim on August 15, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    Stopping by from SITS.

    I’m still so incredibly confused. *sigh* I use the plugin listed and while I think my rankings have gone up with my SEO, I am not entirely sure. I’ll have to re-read this article later and apply it accordingly to various pages.

    It’s a great article but I’m an SEO dummy and it’s been one of the most confusing things for me to learn for my blog.

  5. Iuliana Blakely on August 15, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    is there a plugin that works for Blogger?

    • Naturalfitandfrugal on August 15, 2012 at 8:51 pm

      I would like to know this too:)

  6. SupaStars3 on August 15, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    Clear as mud 🙁

  7. Kristen Daukas on August 15, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    I use Yoast on my site and love it. I have one question for you though.. When you say keywords, are you referring to tags as well?

  8. Paula Robinson on August 15, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    Yup, still confused! Thanks for the effort though!

  9. Hodgepodgeofstyles on August 15, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    Great article. I use page title and keyword all the time but not bother with meta description. Does it matter? Thanks for the link on SEO MOZ. Will look be my night time reading.

  10. farmnwife on August 18, 2012 at 10:37 am

    I agree with the others. You said one simple thing but the info you gave was anything but that.

    • Kelly Garrett on August 20, 2012 at 9:46 am

      Sorry to hear it wasn’t clear for you. This is only one aspect of SEO and I was trying to break it down to help those who want to dig in with small chunks. If it’s not something you find interesting or grasp, you might consider hiring a consultant to help optimize your site. I always think it’s better to hire out the things you don’t especially like or excel at and spend your time doing what you do best.

      If you have any specific questions, send my team a message and we’ll try to help: Thanks for checking out the article.

  11. Robin @ Farewell Stranger on August 25, 2012 at 10:50 am

    This is great. I use that same plugin and in the last week or two I’ve been meaning to look up some info to see if I was doing it right. This was what I needed to know! Thanks, Kelly (and SITS!).

    • Kelly Garrett on September 27, 2012 at 3:27 pm

      Glad you liked it!

  12. Sara Ivy on August 29, 2012 at 9:51 am

    When I’ve done SEO in the past, the advice for page titles was “if you wanted this specific page to pop up in Google what would words would you put in the box?”

    For example: I have a weekly feature titled “Wednesday Want List” where I make a graphic on polyvore of 6 things I have on my wishlist. Each week is different.

    For example my theme this week is Suitcases. So my page title for this week’s feature is “Wednesday Want List: Suitcases” so if I type all of that in Google, guess what pops up?

    Even when I just put “Wednesday Want List” the top result is my most popular Wednesday Want List post. That’s pretty good.

    Not everyone is going to have it that easy but maybe this will give some of the people here who are having trouble a little bit more perspective? Let me know if that helps. The post is kind of confusing because of the example. SEO is really complex and I just kind of got forced into it when I worked for a media company but that was the advice given by my mentor and it seems to be doing alright. I think you lost people at the meta descriptions.

    • Kelly Garrett on September 27, 2012 at 3:26 pm

      Sara, Thanks for the example. The only comment I’d have is that unless people know you call your lists “Wednesday Want List” – it’s unlikely they’ll search for that. So, to reach to a bigger audience, what terms could you use that might reach more people? Top suitcases list…must-buy suitcases…etc. Have you checked your analytics to see how many people are searching for you with the current term? Play around and see how it affects your results.

      • Sara Ivy on October 2, 2012 at 12:12 pm

        Unfortunately my search terms aren’t ideal. One of them is “hip bones pizza” and I’m not even going to entertain why people search for that but the reason it comes up on my analytics is because I had a rant about “thinspo” at one point.

        I have been trying to use more attractive headlines for other posts but I am sticking to the catchy titles for my two features. It’s what I want them to be known for.

  13. egandal on October 14, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    Thank you so much! It’s like a light bulb went off. Can’t wait to see the results.

  14. Luci Gabel on February 5, 2013 at 9:33 am

    Stopping over from SITS. Thank you. That was great info!

  15. Maya on February 5, 2013 at 11:06 am

    I have a question. Are focus words supposed to match our title, or what we think people will search for to find the post? For example, I am looking at this post: I assume that people will find this by searching for gluten free enchiladas. But, I see this:
    Your focus keyword was found in:
    Article Heading: No
    Page title: No
    Page URL: No
    Content: No
    Meta description: Yes (1)
    Does this mean I need to change the focus word to match my title? Because that doesn’t make sense to me. Or since the focus phrase is so similar to the title is it ok that it doesn’t match exactly? Thanks!

  16. kelly@mysoulfulhome on February 24, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    Maldon sea salt
    I just started blogging 5 weeks ago…any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I am going to try to do what you suggested, but I need to read it over again.

  17. CathyPaper on March 4, 2013 at 7:39 am

    Thanks for all the good tips. I’m going to explore the keyword hire a speaker

  18. Trina Morgan on June 27, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    Thanks alot for the tips

  19. Kelly Louise on July 18, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    hmm, well now I know what SEO actually IS. I understand that now. But I have blogger so I’m still confused. I thiiiink I might get it so I’m gonna try it and see what happens… eek!

  20. Anil Kumar on October 12, 2013 at 7:00 am

    I use Yoast on my site and love it. I have one question for you my web page show two time meta description why ? plz

  21. Craftybegonia M. on April 30, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    Great Tips, thank you! I found a link to your blog on The SITS Girls and I’m glad I did.