Optimizing Your Website for the Best Search Results

"If you build it, they will come."

A great movie line, but unfortunately not true when it comes to your business website. In fact, for new businesses, the only way potential customers will find your website is if it's ranking well in search engines; and the only way you'll earn a top spot in search engines is if your website is optimized.

There's a lot you can do to make sure your site is optimized for SEO. We cover the key items below.

Writing SEO Title Tags and Descriptions

Getting visitors to your website starts with two crucial pieces: the page title tag and meta description. A title tag is an “SEO headline.” The meta description is considered the teaser sentence. These two elements will show up in search results, social sharing copy and crawl data. If these two elements aren't optimized correctly, search engines like Google and Bing won't find your page.

Title tags and meta descriptions are so important, that every page has them. To find it, simply check the page's code source and look for <title> and meta name=description content. The recommended formatting for best title tag optimization is:

Primary Keyword - Secondary Keyword | Brand Name

However, because we're humans and not robots, there are other factors that go into writing title tags and descriptions. A few other aspects to keep in mind include:

Real life scenario:

Sharon wants to buy a gift for her sister who is a huge dog lover:

Google search query

She selects the following result because she recognizes the popular publication, WIRED:

Gifts for Dog Lovers Search Query

I bet you notice that the meta description is cut off. This is because the snippet is NOT the actual meta description. The real meta is:

Title Tag Example

So why is the wrong sentence showing? Google did this because if there is content on your page that is more relevant to a user's query, Google is going to use it. This is why it is recommended that your meta description includes relevant keywords and user intent.

Had WIRED included “gift ideas” and “dog lovers” in the meta description like they did for the title tag, it would have displayed properly. To learn which keywords your top pages rank for, skip to Lesson 4.

Additional reading & free tools for crafting your title tags and meta descriptions:

Structuring Your URLs

Cleaning up your URL structure can do wonders for your rankings. Too often professionals use the URLs suggested in the website builder they are using. The problem with this is that the URL suggestions are typically too long and don't make any sense because a robot wrote them. URLs exist to communicate with servers but they really benefit visitors and search engines because they explain what the page is.

The beginning of the URL should be structured to reflect the site's folder levels. The end of the URL will be similar to the title tag or keyword, separated by hyphens for easy readability. For instance:


Recommended format: domain/folder/subfolder/keyword/


Here, the URL clearly tells the visitor and search engine what this page is going to be about, and how the site is structured. Besides proper structuring, there are a few other things to keep in mind that will improve rankings:

It's also important to note that structuring your URLs with subdomains isn't recommended. Subdomains are a smaller section of a domain. Unlike the URL structure explained above, subdomains are structured with the section coming first, before the domain URL. For instance, is an example of a subdomain.

Subdomains are treated as unique domains, which means any “link juice” your domain has from being linked to by authoritative domains won't get passed on. Link juice will, however, get passed on through folder-structured URLs.

And another thing: be mindful of your URL parameters. Parameters are the long query strings that come after a question mark in a URL. They are dynamic and change based on the user's action to get to the page.

You'll notice parameters most on ecommerce sites, like Amazon:

Amazon Example

To learn how to deal with parameters, subdomains, different case letters or URLs with numbers, check out Rand Fishkin's article, 15 SEO Best Practices for Structure URLs.

Optimizing for Images

The images you chose can also help improve your site's rankings. It all starts with your Alt Text. Alt text code tells search engines what the image is. The code looks like this: alt=“your awesome alt text here”

You can optimize any image by writing an alt text with a relevant keyword. For instance, in this dog training article on PetFinder, the keyword phrase they are clearly trying to rank for is “dog training tips.”

It's in the headline…

Dog Training Tips Example

It's in the title tag and meta description…

Dog Training Tips Title Tag

And it's also in the alt tag of the image…

Alt Tag Example

So when someone is searching for “dog training tips”, Google can tell that this article's focus is that, and rewards it with a good ranking:

Dog Training Tips Search Query

A few other tips to keep in mind:

Mobile Performance

According to Quartz, October 2016 was the first month ever when more web pages were viewed on mobile devices than on desktops or laptops. Mobile search has been on the rise but today, if you don't optimize your website for mobile performance, you are already sinking your business.

Search engines won't penalize your site if it isn't mobile friendly – but they won't reward your site either. For instance, if you're ranking well for a page on desktop, that doesn't mean that page will rank as well on mobile – if it's not optimized for it.

A few things to do to make sure your website is optimized for mobile performance:

Additional reading & tools:

Testing Your Website

Testing your website tells you how your site is doing, how users are interacting with the site and what further optimizations you should make. There are three core areas you should focus on:

Conversion testing

If it doesn't get you clicks, it's certainly not going to get you conversions. Conversion testing is great for testing price options, button colors, call-to-actions, layout and more. Understanding what's working and not working on your site will help you prioritize what needs to be fixed.

There are tons of conversion tools out there. We recommend starting with Optimizely for its robust A/B testing features and inexpensive pricing.

Heat maps

Conversion tests analyze your website copy. Heat maps analyze your website design. If your website is getting a ton of traffic but very few conversions, heat mapping can help you understand how visitors are interacting with your website.

All too often businesses spend hundreds of dollars on building a new website that “looks good”, without taking the user experience into consideration. For instance, you might think your website makes sense, but will a random visitor understand it? Heat map testing can answer those questions.

There are two types of heat map tests:

We recommend Hotjar and Crazy Egg. Both options are inexpensive and provide great reports after your testing is complete.

Speed Test

According to a study done by Microsoft, the average human attention span is less than a goldfish: eight seconds. That means that every page on your website must load fast, both on desktops and mobile devices.

Page speed isn't just important for conversion and engagement metrics, but search engines will actually rank your website better. To test your page speed, check out Google's PageSpeed Tool. There you'll gather insight into what you need to fix.

Moz goes in depth on how you can lower page speed, including reducing redirects and improving server response time.

In Summary

You've spent so much time creating your business website, making sure it's optimized will ensure you get better rankings and more conversions. Optimizing your title tags, meta description and images, while crafting smart URLs, and improving page speed are just a few actions you can take to win big results.

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