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Top 10 Essential Website Optimization Strategies
Google officially launched 24 years ago in 1998.
A lot has changed since then, but one thing remains the same. If you simply focus on the basics, you can still be highly successful online.
Of course, the basics in 2022 are much different from the basics in 1998. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and distracted. It has never been more important to be disciplined in one’s approach to SEO.
So, the obvious question is this: What are the factors to concentrate on? How can one boost rankings? How can anyone build traffic in such a competitive environment?
This post will delve into which factors carry the most weight and how to optimize for each.1. Search Intent
As machine learning, artificial intelligence, and deep learning continue to evolve, each will carry more weight in the Google Core Algorithm.
The end goal for Google is to understand the context of a given search query and to serve results consistent with the user intent. This makes advanced-level keyword research and keyword selection more important than ever.
Before spending time and resources trying to rank for a phrase, you will need to look at the websites that are currently at the top of the SERPs for that phrase.
A keyword’s contextual relevance must align with a search query. There will be some keywords and queries that will be impossible to rank for.
For example, if Google has determined that people searching for “Personal Injury Attorney [insert city]” want a list of lawyers to choose from, then a series of trusted law directories will appear at the top of the SERPs.
An individual or single firm will not supplant those directories. In those cases, you will need to refine your strategy.2. Technical SEO
The foundation for technical SEO is having a solid website architecture.
One cannot simply publish a random collection of pages and posts. An SEO-friendly site architecture will guide users throughout your site and make it easy for Google to crawl and index your pages.
Once you have the right architecture in place, it’s time to perform a technical or SEO audit.
Thanks to the many SEO tools available, an SEO audit is no longer a daunting task. That said, the key is to know how to interpret the data provided and what to do with it.
For starters, you should check the following and fix any issues that are uncovered:Check for status code errors and correct them. Check the robot.txt for errors. Optimize if needed. Check your site indexing via Google Search Console. Examine and fix any issues discovered. Fix duplicate title tags and duplicate meta descriptions. Audit your website content. Check the traffic stats in Google Analytics. Consider improving or pruning underperforming content. Fix broken links. These are an enemy of the user experience – and potentially rankings. Submit your XML sitemap to Google via Google Search Console. 3. User Experience
User experience (UX) is centered on gaining insight into users, their needs, their values, their abilities, and their limitations.
UX also takes into consideration business goals and objectives. The best UX practices focus on improving the quality of the user experience.
According to Peter Morville, factors that influence UX include:Useful: Your content needs to be unique and satisfy a need. Usable: Your website needs to be easy to use and navigate. Desirable: Your design elements and brand should evoke emotion and appreciation. Findable: Integrate design and navigation elements to make it easy for users to find what they need. Accessible: Content needs to be accessible to everyone – including the 12.7% of the population with disabilities. Credible: Your site needs to be trustworthy for users to believe you. Valuable: Your site needs to provide value to the user in terms of experience and to the company in terms of positive ROI.
Multivariate and A/B testing is the best way to measure and create a better experience for website users. Multivariate testing is best when considering complex changes.
One can incorporate many different elements and test how they all work together. A/B testing, on the other hand, will compare two different elements on your site to determine which performs the best.4. Mobile-First
Google officially began rolling out the mobile-first index in March 2018. Smart marketers were taking a mobile-first approach long before the official rollout.
According to Google Search Central:
“Neither mobile-friendliness nor a mobile-responsive layout are requirements for mobile-first indexing. Pages without mobile versions still work on mobile and are usable for indexing. That said, it’s about time to move from desktop-only and embrace mobile :)”
Here are some basics for making your site mobile-friendly:Make your site adaptive to any device – be it desktop, mobile, or tablet. Always scale your images when using a responsive design, especially for mobile users. Use short meta titles. They are easier to read on mobile devices. Avoid pop-ups that cover your content and prevent visitors from getting a glimpse of what your content is all about. Less can be more on mobile. In a mobile-first world, long-form content doesn’t necessarily equate to more traffic and better rankings. Don’t use mobile as an excuse for cloaking. Users and search engines need to see the same content. 5. Core Web Vitals
In July of 2021, the Page Experience Update rolled out and is now incorporated into Google’s core algorithm, as a ranking factor.
As the name implies, the core web vitals initiative was designed to quantify the essential metrics for a healthy website. This syncs up with Google’s commitment to delivering the best user experience.
According to Google, “loading experience, interactivity, and visual stability of page content, and combined are the foundation of Core Web Vitals.”
Each one of these metrics:Focuses on a unique aspect of the user experience. Is measurable and quantifiable for an objective determination of the outcome. Tools To Measure Core Web Vitals: PageSpeed Insights: Measures both mobile and desktop performance and provides recommendations for improvement. Lighthouse: An open-source, automated tool developed by Google to help developers improve web page quality. It has several features not available in PageSpeed Insights, including some SEO checks. Search Console: A Core Web Vitals report is now included in GSC, showing URL performance as grouped by status, metric type, and URL group. 6. Schema
Schema markup, once added to a webpage, creates a rich snippet – an enhanced description that appears in the search results.
All leading search engines, including Google, Yahoo, Bing, and Yandex, support the use of microdata. The real value of schema is that it can provide context to a webpage and improve the search experience.
There is no evidence that adding schema has any influence on SERPs.
Following, you will find some of the most popular uses for schemaArticle. Book. Breadcrumb. Event. FAQ Page. How-to. Job Posting. Local Business. Logos. Medical Condition. Movie. Organization. Person. Product. Recipe. Review. Subscription and paywall content. Video. And more…
If you find the thought of adding schema to a page intimidating, you shouldn’t. Schema is quite simple to implement. If you have a WordPress site, there are several plugins that will do this for you.7. Content Marketing
It is projected that 97 zettabytes of data will be created, captured, copied, and consumed worldwide this year.
To put this in perspective, that’s the equivalent of 18.7 trillion songs or 3,168 years of HD video every day.
The challenge of breaking through the clutter will become exponentially more difficult as time passes.
To do so:Create a content hub in the form of a resource center. Fill your resource hub with a combination of useful, informative, and entertaining content. Write “spoke” pieces related to your resource hub and interlink. Write news articles related to your resource and interlink. Spread the word. Promote your news articles on social channels. Hijack trending topics related to your content. Promote on social media. Use your smartphone camera. Images and videos typically convert better than text alone. Update stale and low-trafficked content. 8. Link Building
Links continue to be one of the most important ranking factors.
Over the years, Google has become more adept at identifying and devaluing spammy links, especially so after the launch of Penguin 4.0. That being the case, quality will continue to trump quantity.
The best link-building strategies for 2022 include:Utilization of Resource Pages. Broken Link Building. Backlink Mining. Link Reclamation. Claiming Unlinked Mentions. 9. Test And Document Changes
You manage what you measure.
One recent study showed that less than 50% of pages “optimized” result in more clicks. Worse yet, 34% of changes led to a decrease in clicks!
Basic steps for SEO testing:Determine what you are testing and why. Form a hypothesis. What do you expect will happen because of your changes? Document your testing. Make sure it can be reliably replicated. Publish your changes and then submit the URLs for inspection via Google Search Console. Run the test for a long enough period to confirm if your hypothesis is correct or not. Document your findings and any other observations, such as changes made by competitors that may influence the outcome. Take appropriate actions based on the results of your tests.
This process can be easily executed and documented by using a spreadsheet.10. Track And Analyze KPIs
According to Roger Monti, the following are the 9 Most Important SEO KPIs to consider:Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). Content Efficiency. Average Engagement Time. Conversion Goals by Percent-Based Metrics. Accurate Search Visibility. Brand Visibility in Search. New And Returning Users. Average Time on Site. Revenue Per Thousand (RPM) And Average Position.
The thing to remember about these KPIs is they are dependent upon your goals and objectives. Some may apply to your situation whereas others may not.
Think of this as a good starting point for determining how to best measure the success of a campaign.Conclusion
Because the internet has no expiration date, mounds of information and disinformation are served up daily in various search queries.
If you aren’t careful, implementing bad or outdated advice can lead to disastrous results.
Do yourself a favor and just focus on these 10 essentials. By doing so, you will be setting yourself up for long-term success.
More Resources:12 Essential On-Page SEO Factors You Need To Know 14 Mobile Optimization Best Practices You Need To Know The Complete Guide To On-Page SEO
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Google Tag Manager: A GA4 Beginners Guide
Learning a new skill, like Google Analytics 4, is intimidating. Add to this the fact that there’s a looming deadline, and you can’t afford to be dragging your feet on getting started.
I’m sharing an easy-to-follow beginners guide for setting up GA4 using Google Tag Manager to get you up and running.
In it, we’ll take a look at how Google Tag Manager works, followed by an easy five-step GA4 setup tutorial with pictures.Google Tag Manager Defined
Google Tag Manager (GTM) is a free tag management solution that allows you to add and edit segments of code (tags) that collect and send data to Google Analytics.
For example, “back in the day,” marketers would receive a segment of code from a third-party vendor – like Facebook Ads.
This code would collect and send information about how users from Facebook Ads engaged with the site back to Facebook.
Site owners and marketers relied heavily on developers to install the code directly on the website.
But if we use Google Tag Manager, all we need to do is place one snippet of code on the website, and that container acts as a middleman between your site and third-party vendors.
Any tags we need to add or edit can be adjusted from within the GTM interface.
Aside from ease of use, the major benefit is condensed code and a much faster site.Difference Between Google Tag Manager And Google Analytics
Google Tag Manager (GTM) and Google Analytics (GA) are completely different tools that work together to get you the data you need to make smart marketing decisions.
Google Tag Manager is used for storing and managing the code – it is literally a container.
There are no reporting features and no option to analyze data within the tag manager.
Google Analytics is used for data analysis.
All reporting – user reports, conversions and engagement, sales, etc. – can be viewed within Google Analytics.
To understand why you need GTM in addition to Google Analytics, you need to know how GA gets the data you see in reports.
At a high level, the main steps to getting started with Google Tag Manager are creating an account, installing the container on your website, and adding tags (like the GA4 configuration tag) to collect and send the information you need.
Below, we will walk through each step for getting started with Google Tag Manager.Consider Account Management
First, you’ll need to decide how account management will be handled.
Should someone change roles or leave your organization, you want to retain the work put into developing your analytics.
It is best practice to create the Tag Manager account using the login credentials of the person managing the account in the long term (most likely the website owner).
Tip for managing client accounts: If a client cannot create a Tag Manager account themselves, hop on a video call where you can control their screen and walk through each step.
After creating a Tag Manager account, you can add users and set permissions within the Admin screen in the top navigation.Create A Google Tag Manager Account
Below are instructions for creating a Google Tag Manager account. This will take approximately three minutes.
Login to Tag Manager (Tag Manager tends to work best in Chrome) and click Create an account.
Enter an account name; this is commonly the organization’s name.
A Tag Manager account represents the organization’s topmost level, meaning only one account is needed per company.
A company with multiple websites with separate revenue channels can create separate containers under the same GTM account.
Select a Country and whether or not you’d like to share data to improve Google products.
Enter a Container Name. Choose a descriptive container name for internal use, most often the site URL or name of the app.
Select the Target Platform. Are you creating an account for a website (Web), app (iOS, Android), AMP, or Server?
Your final screen will look similar to the example below. Click Create.Screenshot from Google Tag Manager, October 2022
After this screen, you will be prompted to install your new GTM code. Click OK to clear this dialog, or follow the install directions.
After closing out of the snippet dialog box, you will be on the workspace screen, where you will be creating your marketing tags and triggers.Install Google Tag Manager On Your Website
If you close the web container installation dialog box, you can find instructions to install Google Tag Manager within the Admin tab.
Instructions for installation will look like this:Screenshot from Google Tag Manager, October 2022
Examining the container code will help you understand how Google Tag Manager works.
In the first part, highlighted in yellow, you will see .
This loads your GTM container on your page. It also tells your site that the page can continue loading while Google is doing its magic.
You will see a no-script tag in the second part, highlighted in yellow.
This no-script tag is your backup.
A common question while installing the GTM container is: Does placement really matter as long as it is in the section?
The answer is yes; the placement of the GTM container really does matter.
Placing the container snippet as high in the as possible improves accuracy.
Placing the snippet lower on your page may result in incorrect data.
And don’t skip out on the second part; it needs to be placed directly after your tag.
If you plan on using GTM to verify Google Search Console, you will need both tags placed as Google recommends; otherwise, verification will fail.
Tip for managing client accounts: When multiple marketing agencies have worked on a site, there tend to be numerous marketing tags. You can check for extra tags using Google Tag Assistant (legacy). Remove any additional tags on the site because deploying tags twice will cause inaccurate data.Setting Up Google Analytics 4 With GTM: Step-By-Step
Google Tag Manager makes setting up Google Analytics 4 easy. There are only three steps: creating a trigger, creating a tag, and testing your setup.
The entire process will take less than five minutes to complete.
Please note: If you have not installed GTM on your website yet, scroll up and complete the section above titled “Getting Started With GTM.”1. Create GA4 Trigger In GTM
The trigger you create in GTM tells the tag (segment of code) under which circumstances to collect the data.
To create a trigger, open your Google Tag Manager account and click Triggers in the left-hand navigation.
Then hit the blue New button to create a new trigger.
Name your Trigger: Page View – All.
Click within the Trigger Configuration box and choose Page View as the trigger type in the right-hand menu. You want this trigger to fire on All Page Views.
Your final screen will look like the screenshot below. Click Save.Screenshot from Google Tag Manager, October 2022
Step 1 is complete! You have created a rule that tells Google Tag Manager to deploy tags associated with the Page View – All trigger when a page (any and all pages) on your website is viewed.2. Create GA4 Tag In GTM
To send this information to GA4, we need to create a tag telling GTM what to do with the page-view data it captures.
To create a tag, open Tags in the left-hand navigation and click the blue New button.
Name your tag “GA4 Config.”
Click within the Tag Configuration box and select Google Analytics: GA4 Configuration from the right-side menu under featured tag types, highlighted in the example below.Screenshot from Google Tag Manager, October 2022
Enter your GA4 Measurement ID.
Click within the Triggering box and select the trigger you made in the previous step, Page View – All trigger.
Your completed GA4 configuration tag will look like the image below. Click Save.Screenshot from Google Tag Manager, October 2022 Where To Find GA4 Measurement ID
Hold on – what is a Measurement ID, and where can I find it?
To find your unique Measurement ID open your GA4 Property. Click the gear icon in the lower left-hand corner to enter the Admin section.
Tip for managing client accounts: If you cannot open the Admin section of the GA4 account, that is because you don’t have admin permissions on the account. Remember to set up GA4 under the owner’s email address, not your own.
Within the Admin section, find the property column and open Data Streams.Screenshot from Google Tag Manager, October 2022
Select your data stream, and you will see the associated Measurement ID in the top right corner; it will look like G-A2ABC2ABCD.Screenshot from Google Tag Manager, October 2022 3. Publishing A GTM Container
After you have added the Page View – All Pages trigger and GA4 Configuration tag, you need to publish your container to make the additions live.
To publish a container, click the blue button Submit in the top right corner of the Google Tag Manager Workspace.Screenshot from Google Tag Manager, October 2022 4. Testing GA4 Configuration In GTM
Data can take a day or more to start showing up in GA4.
To test your setup, click Preview within Tag Manager, enter your website’s URL, and click Connect.
Your site will open in another tab, and you should see that the GA4 Config tag has fired.
Click on the fired GA4 Config tag and ensure that you are sending the page-view event to the correct GA4 account by double-checking the Measurement ID.Screenshot from Google Tag Manager, October 2022 GA4 Events
Hooray! You have successfully added the GA4 configuration tag to your website.
This one tag (GA4 configuration tag) will set Google Analytics cookies for your property and automatically send some events to your analytics account.
Automatically collected events are easy to toggle on and off within the Google Analytics 4 interface.
Because this is a beginner’s guide, we will be focusing on best practices and terminology to help you use the different types of GA4 events available.Creating An Analytics Strategy And Implementation Plan
The best practice is to have an analytics strategy and tag implementation plan.
I promise creating this plan is not as complicated as it sounds.
Sit down with the marketing team, content team, and decision-makers at your company to have a conversation about what information you need to collect.
If you don’t know what information you need to collect, start by creating an SEO goal pyramid.Screenshot from Ahrefs, October 2022
In short, you will define your overall SEO goal, what performance goals will get you closer to achieving this goal, and which process goals are 100% within your control.
What events do you need to track on your website to measure whether you are achieving the goals you mapped out above?
Now, identify all the tags you have deployed on your site (I use a spreadsheet for this step). If this is a brand-new GTM account, you won’t have any yet, and that’s ok!
Taking the time to complete an SEO goal pyramid and mapping out your event tags will ensure that you cover everything you need to make smart marketing decisions.Understanding The Types Of Events Available
There are three basic types of events you’ll work with in Google Analytics 4 and GTM: automatically collected events, enhanced measurement events, and custom events.
Below you will learn what types of events fall under each category.Automatically Collected Events are collected… well, automatically; you will not need to do anything extra to collect a user’s first visit, page views, or session start. Enhanced Measurement provides events you can toggle on and off within Google Analytics 4 web stream details. Screenshot from Google Analytics 4, October 2022
No code changes are required to capture scroll events, outbound clicks, site search information, video engagement, and file downloads.Custom Events can measure anything that’s not automatically collected or a recommended event.
In GA4, custom dimensions are limited to 50 event-scoped and 25 user-scoped custom dimensions.Final Thoughts
This beginner’s guide to Google Tag Manager and GA4 merely scratches the surface of what analytics can do for your company.
Even if you’re not a developer, I highly recommend reading Google Tag Manager’s Developer Guide.
More Resources:Google Integrates The Google Tag With Ads & Analytics 5 Ways To Check If Google Analytics Is Working The Ultimate SEO Audit Checklist
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