Kate Toon is an award-winning misfit entrepreneur, who works with small businesses and big brands to transform their online presence through powerful SEO, captivating content and all the right digital marketing moves.
As a digital marketing and SEO educator, straight-talking copywriting coach, author, educator, speaker and podcaster, Kate has helped more than 12,000 other businesses demystify digital marketing, grapple the Google Beast, and grow their success.
Kate Toon discusses what the 7 SEO basics are that need to go right for your business.
One of the reasons people avoid dipping their toes in the SEO pond is the fear of keeping up with change. But the more SEO changes, the more it stays the same. While there are tweaks and updates to be aware of, Kate says most of the sites she’s seen still haven’t mastered the basics.
Here we will share with you Kate’s top seven areas you need to focus on in your SEO strategy (and one bonus newbie area).
1. Sexy titles and meta descriptions
These never get old. They are often the first piece of copy anyone reads about your brand.
This is how they appear on the Google search page:
The purple link is the title tag, the copy snippet underneath is the meta description.
Whilst Google can change these depending on the search query, here are some tips to smash the title and meta description combination.
The most common problems with sites include:
- Missing titles and meta descriptions: if you don’t put them in, Google will, and usually it’s not what you would want.
- Too long and too short: stick to around 60-85 characters (including spaces) for your title and around 155 characters (including spaces) for your meta description.
- Keyword stuffed: incomprehensible amounts of keywords are not human-friendly. Instead front-load your title tag with your chosen keyword.
- Boring as bat poo: bland, unenticing copy that doesn’t make one want to click but instead scroll to your competitor. Your meta description should be written as a mini-advertisement.
- Lack of flow: the title tag and meta description should be a power duo. Like Batman and Robin, one delivers the punch while the other follows through with the justification.
This neat tool can help check your tags before adding them to your site.
2. Clever keyword research
Smart keyword research is at the heart of all good SEO strategy. Understanding what your customers are searching for, and going beyond the obvious, highly competitive, keywords is vital if you want a chance of ranking.
The key steps are:
- Brainstorming: Develop a seed list of possible words you could use. The oddly-named Keyword shitter is a great tool to get you started.
- Research: Assess your chances of ranking; you’ll need high volume, low competition keywords – which can be tricky, so aim for longtail keywords (between three and five words).
- Grouping: Create groups of like keywords, a focus, and synonyms that can work together.
- Assigning: Assign keywords to your posts, pages, and products.
3. Speedy sites
If your page takes longer than 3 seconds, it could cause users to click away and find a faster site. The faster your site loads, the better.
Speed up your web pages with the following tips:
- Remove chubby images, using tools like TinyPNG – it allows you to resize images without losing quality.
- Avoid overloading a site with lots of unnecessary code, Instagram feeds, endless plugins and apps, wiggly bits. Keep it simple.
- Reduce redirect – try not to create redirect chains on your site.
- Choose a better host – try to find a speedier host, ideally in the country where your target audience lives.
4. Hot headers
Put simply, Google uses your page headers to understand what your page is about. And guess what, humans do too!
The quicker you can get to the point and assure a human (and the bot) that the content is relevant to the search query, the better.
When thinking about headers try to:
- Incorporate your focus into your H1 (but never sacrifice readability or engagement just to squeeze it in)
- Make sure to properly label your heading (H1-H6)
- Write headers as if you’re answering a question or search query (extra special as you might earn yourself the featured snippet)
- Use subheaders throughout your content to clearly signpost what’s coming in the paragraph
- If necessary, sacrifice a bit of clever creativity for clarity, but ideally, if you’re a great writer, you can do both
5. Copy matters
Google looks at your website content to understand if it’s a good match for the query.
If the content is thin, repetitive, poorly optimised, and spammy, Google knows it. And if you do trick Google into ranking your poor content, as soon as a human gets there and reads it, they’re going to be turned off, so what’s the point?
You don’t need to write 3000 words of epic content on every post, page, and product, but you do have to try to follow the basic ‘rules’.
- Include some copy on every page. How much? At least 100–200 words as a general rule-of-thumb. The more complex the offer, the more copy you’ll need to persuade.
- Use one H1 tag on each page.
- Use H2-H6 tags: Add interesting engaging subheaders through your content, a great place to use those secondary keywords too.
- Don’t shoehorn keywords into your copy. Be aware of the keywords you’re targeting, but don’t force them where they don’t belong, and don’t overdo it; the more you add, the more likely you’ll be deemed keyword stuffing and your ranking will do a nosedive.
- Make sure spelling and grammar are on point. – no typos, please.
- Check your readability: Use a tool like the Hemmingway app to make sure your copy is readable – aim for around Grade 7 readability.
6. Don’t forget image alt tags
Although Google’s the bomb, it’s not quite able to ‘see’ images as we do. And obviously, there are a lot of humans out there who struggle with viewing web images too. That’s where Alt tags come in.
Alt tags help humans and Google get a better handle on what your images are all about and how they’re related to your content – your website will display this text when an image doesn’t load.
So incorporate keywords into your alt text but don’t spam them, and ensure you give a genuinely accurate, clear description of what the image is.
7. Be mobile-friendly
Google is now a ‘Mobile First’ site, which means it’s not looking at the desktop version of your site.
Check Google Analytics to see what percentage of visitors are viewing your site on a mobile or tablet, you might be surprised.
It’s time to stop thinking of mobile as an adjunct to your desktop site, and start prioritising your mobile SEO first.
Here are a few practical ways to improve your mobile SEO:
- Take Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test (warning, it’s brutal)
- Fix broken links and incorrect redirects
- Compress any uncompressed (chubby) images
- Remove any intrusive interstitials (pop-ups to you and me) or delay them until exit)
- Improve mobile usability (text size, viewport configuration, tap target size)
Of course, these are just a snippet of the best mobile-friendly practices. You can read more on Google’s mobile-first-indexing guidelines.
Bonus tip! Core web vitals
Google’s Page Experience and Core Web Vitals is a set of standards that Google uses to evaluate if a page provides a good user experience.
These metrics are:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): Measures the speed at which a page’s main content is loaded. This should occur within five seconds of landing on a page.
- First Input Delay (FID): Measures the speed at which users are able to interact with a page after landing on it. This should occur within 100 milliseconds.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): Measures how often users experience unexpected layout shifts. Pages should maintain a CLS of less than 0.1.
It’s important to wrap your grey matter around CWV and how they impact your site.
A few simple tips:
- Optimise any large fat images at the top of your page so they load faster.
- Ensure you don’t have too many external files (Instagram feeds, for example) being called into your page
- Consider including elements that take longer to load further down your page so they don’t impact the load of your top of page content
- Host videos on a third party site and embed them in your site.
So, there you are, Kate’s 7 top tips (and a bonus tip) on how to make the most of your website’s SEO – because effective SEO is the best way to help your ideal customers find you. You can reach Kate Toon here.
Check out Kate Toon’s SEO courses here: and link to www.therecipeforseosuccess.com