Search engine optimization (SEO) is more of an art than a science, but with the right strategy, you can achieve high SEO scores and a high Google ranking.
Launching a website seems straight forward. Get the content together, put it on the page, hit publish. But that's just step one.
Now that your website exists, you want to make sure people can find it. So there are a number of other tactics and strategies you can put in place to give yourself the best shot of Google reading your site and indexing it well in search.
Two notes before we start:
- While it's incredibly important for SEO to have other sites to link to yours, this guide is about things in your control: the ideal way to structure your website so Google finds it.
- These are the strategies that come pre-set for every Podpage, but they can be used on any website.
With that out of the way, let's go!
What is SEO?
Millions of websites have written about this topic before, and if you're reading this guide, you probably already know this, so very quickly, SEO is making sure your site comes up when someone searches Google for you / a topic you focus on. It's something that doesn't happen overnight, but you want to lay a good foundation for it to improve over time.
What makes the biggest impact on SEO?
There are two very important things to consider when it comes to SEO
1. The number of relevant other sites that link to yours. This will happen more and more over time, and isn't entirely in your control. Which is why this guide is focused on #2.
2. Optimizing your website so when Google looks at it, it can find all the pages, understand what every page is about, how things are organized, etc..
How do I optimize my website for SEO?
These are tactics and strategies that will result in Google giving your site a higher SEO score when you do a Google SEO audit.
Create a Sitemap
A sitemap is basically an outline of your website, with an entry for every page a user can visit. Because Google looks for this to make sure they are indexing every page on your website, it's important that you create one and keep it up to date. You want to put it in your root directory and it should be in XML format. An example is below.
Once you've created one, you can make sure it's valid by using a Sitemap validator tool like this one.
(Podpage users can add /sitemap at the end of their website and you'll see the one that's generated for you)
Create a Robots.txt File
Additionally, you need to tell Google what they can and cannot search with a Robots.txt file (which should also list your sitemap). For most people, this will look similar to below:
(Podpage users can add /robots.txt at the end of their website and you'll see the one that's generated for you)
Well structured search meta tags
You'll want to add some tags to the HEAD section of your HTML to give Google some basic information about that page, which Google can also use when your site appears in search results. The three common tags are: Title, Description, and Keywords (though keywords aren't really used anymore). Think of this as the basic foundation. You want to do this for every page on your website.
For your podcast, you can use your podcast name and description:
For your episode pages, use the episode name, podcast name, episode summary, and episode categories.
Google looks at URLs to get additional context about what's on the page. If the link for an episode is http://www.mypodcast.com/9cha9h23, Google won't know what to do with that
All links on your site should be human readable (sometimes called pretty-links). Try to make them relatively short (less than 70 characters) but descriptive. For example an episode about car racing could be: https://www.mypodcast.com/2020-march-nascar-roundup
Add a language tag to the HTML tag.
If like most sites, yours is only in one language, add lang="en" for english (or replace for whatever language yours is in), to the HTML tag. It should look like this:
Add viewport meta tag
Another tag Google likes to see is the viewport meta tag, which helps Google understand what screensize this website is optimized for. Because your site should look great on mobile devices, you can use the code below, which also makes it accessible to people who need to zoom in.
<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0, maximum-scale=5.0"/>
Add a canonical link tag
Google wants to make sure when they display your page in search results, it is the single best place to find this content. So, they recommend putting a canonical tag in your HTML header, which is just a link to the current page.
<link rel="canonical" href="[current_page_url]" />
Add alt tags for all images
Google is great at reading text, so the more of the page that the Google robot can READ, the better. Therefore, make sure all of your images have a text description attached in their alt tag. This gives Google better context for what your page is about.
<img src="episode-image.jpg" alt="The Rock speaking about how to keep a positive attitude">
How to test your site
Once you've done all this work, you want to make sure things are working correctly, right? Google makes this pretty easy. Open the Chrome browser and navigate to your website.
Then go to View (in menubar) > Developer > Developer Tools. This will open up a small panel at the bottom of the screen with a bar at the top starting with Elements. On the right side, you should see Audits.
Choose SEO, desktop or mobile, and hit generate report. It will give you an idea of what you're doing well, and what you need to fix.
Set up Google Search Console and submit your sitemap
Now that you know that your site's structure is solid, officially register it with Google. Go to the Google Search Console, add your site, and go to Sitemaps to request for Google to index your site.
If you have a WordPress website, I've heard the following plug-ins are helpful with some of the above things: PrettyLinks for readable URLs, Yoast SEO for general SEO optimization and meta tag settings.
And of course, everything above is set up and included automatically with every Podpage.
Thanks for reading!