“6 months for results?! I want to improve my SEO today!”
We’ve all been there, you build a sweet new website. Looking for those easy rankings, everywhere you read tells you it’ll take at least 3-6 months to get new rankings.
Well, they’re not wrong. I’m not going to tell you that they’re lying. Long term search result rankings take time, hard work and even more time. Time to build, time to test and the time to wait and see if they’ll rank. But, if you narrow what you’re looking at and focus on what you know you can put into effect today you can rank in at fast as 20 mins.
We’ll get to that later.
For now, let’s set the mindset for quick wins.
What we’re looking for are fixes that, at worst, can get the wheels rolling today and at best see results in the time it takes to go grab lunch. What we need is a focus. Where to look, what to look for, and how to fix anything that needs fixing.
How do you see noticeable improvements to your SEO in a day? First, we take a snapshot of how the site is performing now. Speed, social accounts, site content and topical relevance. Run some quick tests to ascertain any easy-to-fix problems, and then we fix them. In some cases, it’s small adjustments to put your site in line with those that are already ranking.
A step-by-step SEO audit guide for quick wins and some practical examples
I’m going to give you 4 areas to check that have a few potential issues that you can quickly identify and fix. I’ll also share the tools to discover any issues and, of course, show you how to fix them.
Once you’ve got it down, the checks for all of these can be done in under half an hour. Much faster if you’re checking a smaller site. And the fixes can be done on the same day, or at least the planning for the fixes done today.
- A quick site speed assessment for even quicker load speeds
- Creating a network of trust using other people’s sites
- Let Google ride in the back, the front seat is for people only
- Are you tripping over yourself trying to keep up the recent news?
- How it worked in action (How we utilise these strategies)
- Can you improve your SEO in one day? With the right tools, yes. (Conclusions)
A quick site speed assessment for even quicker load speeds
We live in a world where I can order a pizza by shouting at a semi-sentient hockey puck. A world where a box will turn up to my house with a new selection of dog toys every month. A world where if anything takes longer than a day to be delivered I’ll seriously consider buying the more expensive new gadget just because it has a prime option. (Yo, thanks Amazon)
I’m impatient. People are impatient.
What does this mean for your site though?
4 second load time.
A study made by Pingdom goes as far to suggest that bounce rate doubles in as little as a 2 second load time to a 3 second load time. 6% to 11%, and double again by 4 seconds.
Your digital speedometers
Pingdom Speed Test
The quickest test you can do to determine site load speed is tools.pingdom.comeasily my favourite and one we use almost daily here at GrowthMinds.
It’s very simple how it works. Throw your URL in and change the test from section to somewhere nearby.
If you want a step up, choose somewhere close to where your audience is.
Let the test run.
This number here is the one you’re looking for. If it’s under 2-3 seconds and you’re happy with it, move on to the next point. If not and it’s hovering over 3+ seconds, scroll on down and look at what’s causing it.
There’s a huge amount of info in Pingdom but we’re only after what we can use right now, so scroll past the grading and down to where it shows you what the page is comprised of.
It should look something like this
Here we can see that images are taking up over half of the assets and therefore half of the loading time.
I’ll get onto fixes after we’ve looked at our next tool.
Google PageSpeed Insights
Our second tool is provided by none other than the rule masters themselves. Google’s very own PageSpeed Insights. It’s one of the few places we get actual insight into the variables at play when ranking sites.
As before, point the tool in the correct direction.
This was taken a few weeks ago when I originally wrote this post as a presentation, a lovely 99/100. (Weird flex, but ok).
Let’s look at it today.
Something’s gone wrong.
That’s ok, it’s kinda the point of this post. Let’s check the opportunities tab at the bottom.
So we’ve got some code that’s preventing the whole site to load properly, and some of these images are too big.
Now we’ve identified a few things we can fix, and most rather quickly.
Let’s get to fixing
The problem with images is pretty much always the size of then. They’re just too big.
What specifically about the image is too big? The file size.
Usual suspect of big file size? Image resolution.
So we need to make them smaller.
With a lot of sites, they have a built-in tool that will compress them and reduce the file size.
Our go-to for WordPress is a plugin called Smush by the guys over at WPMU-Dev.
They’ve got a free version of the plugin that works for 95% of cases. You get 50 images per click, so having it running in another tab and leave yourself a sticky note to go back to it every now and then and re-run the tool to do the next 50.
If you can’t find it, it’s usually right at the bottom of your nav bar on the of the admin panel.
Open it up and run a bulk smush. Pretty simple.
For Shopify guys, I’ve been recommended these two plugins by friends in the e-commerce biz. Once I’ve had some hands-on time with them I’ll make a mini tutorial on how to use them.
I believe there isn’t a built-in tool for Squarespace, so you’ll have to go manual. (I’d love to hear your preferred way Squarespace peeps)
Digital, but by hand!
If you want to go manual, which I do pretty often as it gives me the most control over the images, these are my steps.
Acquire a thought-provoking image for your new post.
I chose this picture of a doughnut.
These are its specs upon downloading. It’s 814kb.
It breaks my rule of that an image should be under 800px wide, if it’s only being used within the copy of a page.
So let’s make it smaller.
First things first, I throw it into paint.net. It’s a free graphics editor that I use because I know the next series of events by shortcut alone and I can do it pretty fast. Feel free to use your own tool here, photoshop, gimp, various online solutions. Whatever you know, use that.
Click this one on the site.
We want to change the image size to 800px wide (Ctrl+R)
Make sure to tick maintain aspect ratio.
And then hit enter. It’ll change the image size for you.
You could upload the image now if it’s the right size, I like to go one step further and run it through tinypng.com
From 814kb to 49kb. 1/16 of the size. Once you’ve done it a few times it takes nowhere near as long as the first time.
A-synchronous code (Render-blocking)
A simple way to explain render blocking is that there is an element on the page, that is below the fold that is preventing, or at least delaying elements above the fold from loading.
Although it is kind of a technical issue, it’s reasonably simple to fix.
If you’re running WordPress, your goto should be W3 Total Cache.
Here’s how to fix it.
- Go to Performance -> General Settings. Locate Minify Heading
- There’s a few options here, what you’re looking for is titled Minify; Tick the Enable box.
- In the Minify mode option, click Manual, and then click the Save all settings button.
- Now we want to grab the locations of all the files causing us issues. I hope you kept the PageSpeed Insights tab open because it lists them all out for you. Under the render-blocking suggestion, it’ll say something along the lines of show how to fix, expand that box and there are all the offending files.
- Shoot on back over to WordPress. Performance ->Minify. We’re looking to Minify both the JS and CSS. Unfortunately, this has to be individually, no catch all button here.
- Now, under the sub-heading JS file management, choose your active theme and click the Add Script button. Copy all the URL’s of the JS scripts from the PageSpeed Insight tab into here, one by one (Don’t try and do it all at once.)
- Now the CSS scripts. Keep scrolling down the same page and you’ll find the CSS section. This next part might sound similar.
- Under the CSS file management sub-header, choose the current theme and click Add a stylesheet.
- As with the JS scripts, one by one copy/paste your list of urls from PageSpeed into the fields.
- Last step. Save everything and purge cache.
To check everything, head on over to where we start, Google’s PageSpeed Insights page and run the rest again. Double check you’ve included all the scripts and the page is running faster. Congrats, you’re a technical SEO genius.
Creating a network of trust using other people’s sites
Social sites exist for us to reach out to where our audience is already hanging out.
They also offer us unique opportunities to build trust and take advantage of gaps in rankings very quickly.
When it comes to building backlinks, social networks are amongst the easiest backlinks you’ll ever get. You sign up for free and put your site in the website field. Free backlink.
The main key here is to do your research and see what those competing for the same space are doing. A great approach to SEO is to look at what is already working, and how do you copy it?
What do your competitor’s social profiles look like? Do they have a Facebook page, are they updating LinkedIn or keeping it on a blog. A great site to use to make sure you’ve covered all bases is namecheckr.com.
Simple as can be, put your site in the top and it’ll tell you if you have any sites that are associated with that. Amongst this list are there any sites that you can take advantage of that your competitors aren’t using?
Once you’ve acquired profiles on these sites, the next thing to do is link them all together, like a web. There are some sites that give you a limited amount of space to place links, so they’re at a premium on those profiles. Instagram pop’s to mind here. Facebook, on the other hand, gives you plenty of space and make sure to use it.
Let Google ride in the back, the front seat is for people only
Back in the day, you could rank a website based purely on the fact that it had the ranking keyword in the most.
The main idea behind that was if your page had the search term, be it blueberry shortcake, or payday loans, or cheap bike hire, or whatever, in the greatest volume then you knew what you were talking about. Therefore you should rank at the top.
It was easy.
Now not so much. Trust us, it’s for the good of everyone. You’d get horrible content that didn’t answer your searches.
You want to rank your site now? Write content for people, then for SEO.
A rule of thumb we like to use is if you were asked by a friend for your opinion on whatever you’re writing about, would you need to repeat your keyword over and over and over? Probably not. You might not even need to say it once. It’s always easy to go in and sprinkle a few keywords here or there, instead of the piece being completely filled with them to begin.
Now, keyword stuffing isn’t anything new by any means. Ever since the Penguin update from Google, there has been a crackdown on filling content with keywords where ever you can. Yet, even now content is being written that is accidentally over optimised. There’s a fix, and I’ll get to it in a sec, first we need to talk about content length.
Longer, bigger and all in one place. That’s how we like our articles
Often you’ll come across SEO tips for content saying that you need to push at least 2 pieces a week. Or 4 times a month. We fall for the trap of more is better, and because writing longer content is difficult (trust me, I’m doing it now and it’s not easy) we end up writing many 300-500 word pieces. Let me ask you this.
Who are you writing this for? What meaningful information can you communicate in such short pieces?
It’s been written for the Google machine and it helps no one. By writing so short and often our pieces provide little to no value and gain equal trust and traffic.
Adding more assets to your quick audit toolbox
Now you know what you’re looking for, let’s get down into how to find and assess any problems.
Insert your site as per needed. This will give you a list of all the pages that Google has indexed of your site, what we’re looking for is the post frequency.
Go to tools and select the last month, if there’s nothing there, then select year. How often is new content being put on the site?
Take the last 3-5 posts and throw them into this tool.
Look at the average amount of words per post, are we under 800? Under 500?
And on the right of the page, look at what words are appearing the most, change the option to 3x and check these keywords. Now, look at 1x. Are you over optimising for words that are part of your longer key phrases?
Note these words down. We can fix them.
Something else to check here is, how many of your pages contain similar keywords? Could you take these articles and create one page that covers all the talking points? More than likely. Get it done. Make an amazing post that covers all areas.
Let’s fix the short post content first. Read what’s been written. What’s missing? Where could you go in depth? Could you link a video, or put together a little tutorial? The point I’m making here is to pull all the stops out and focus on making this piece valuable.
Now on to repeating keywords. The phrase you need to learn here is Latent Semantic Indexing. In simpler teams, what other words can you use that mean the same thing?
Swap out “company” for “business” every now and then. Change money for cash. Insert reporting for analysis. I’m sure you get the picture. Google is smart enough now that it can recognise similar meaning words.
Another great way to reduce the number of times you repeat a phrase is to set the expectation early on in the piece. If you’re discussing wool jumpers, try inserting a paragraph that explains the different types of wool, where it comes from and why it’s used, near the beginning of the content. This removes all doubt that any garments mentioned in the body of the piece refer back to this statement. It also gives you a place to flex your chops, and show a bit of authority on the subject.
Are you tripping over yourself trying to keep up the recent news?
What we want to talk about here is a concept called Content Cannibalisation. It’s when you have two posts that are competing for the same keyword when ranking. It can be that multiple posts have been written about the same, or similar topics. Or have accidentally been optimised for the same keywords. See the section above…
What we’d like to specifically bring attention to is potential issues if you write content based on what’s going on in the news. In most industries, the news focuses on a handful of companies or individuals. If you’ve already written about these individuals or businesses before, you can direct the trust of that previous content toward ranking your new piece. Instead of having an older post and your new post compete in the ranking, we take the trust from the old piece and use it to rank the new one.
The initial step is to determine how close the news is to anything you’ve reported on previously. If the only overlapping topic is it’s the same company/service/individual we want to ensure enough internal linking. Gather a list of all your posts that report on this similar topic and insert a sentence into them that you link to your new post.
An internal link acts like a funnel for trust from that page.
If the two pieces are very similar then consider updating the old post with the new information. This takes all the trust of the old piece and immediately directs it to the new content, because it’s on the page that’s already ranking, the page that’s already trusted.
The update on the old page should include a quick overview at the top of the page that discusses the new information. Usually in italics to draw a bit of attention to it and to show that the page has been updated.
Some of the best resources to learn more about this –
Ahrefs (of course) – How to find and fix keyword cannibalisation
New news, new date
In WordPress, you can even change the post date to reflect the newly updated content. To build on the previous point of longer content and not constant content, this is a great way to include any new information into older posts without having to create a little 350 worder to discuss recent changes. Just add it where it’s relevant, in italics, and update the publish date.
You can go one step further and include an ever smaller snippet update in the meta description of the page. Showing people on the search results page that you’re the most up to date source of info.
This can be done with Yoast, or all in one SEO if you’re using WordPress. If you’re on Squarespace it’s contained within your page options.
How to use the news to create unique ideas
What if you’ve never written about what’s going on in your industry before. Here’s how you can take any recent news and use it to put a spin on an upcoming post you’ve got in the works.
Take a look at Google trends for things you see popping up in your industry. Let’s take those keywords and throw them into Google Trends.
If you’re unsure about keyword research, take a look over here.
What you’re looking for are words that are rising, not too sharply. What goes up, must come down. You’re looking for a steady increase over time. Or an increase you can predict, such as a seasonal spike in searches.
Now take our rising keyword and write about it from your unique point of view. Easy. Just remember what we spoke about in the section about writing for people and not just the algorithm. If you can’t add anything valuable to the conversation, then move onto a different trend.
How do we find the conversation in the first place?
Do your research. Here’s an easy approach to finding sites where people are talking about this trend.
Whip on over to your favourite search engine, ours is Google.com, you may have heard of it.
Grab your search term and add “6 comments” to the end of it.
What this does is twofold. It gives us only search results with a comments section and also ensures that people are actually talking about it. Switch up the number until you get a site where there’s an actual discussion going on.
For this example, I found these two sites with a healthy discussion going on in the comments
Use these comments to work out if there is anything that people are asking for that the original article missed out on. Are there any questions in the comments that have been left unanswered? It’s your duty to give the people what they want. Answers.
How it worked in action
I need to confess, I lied a little, not all of these fixes took twenty minutes.
Some of them took a lot longer.
But, the main issue behind them was diagnosed in under twenty minutes, so the system still stands.
By applying the concepts set about above, and the collection of tools we were able to pinpoint issues that we knew we could fix, and in most cases very quickly.
Page one rank in 20 mins? Yes please!
This one came from Google My Business. First off, if you run a company that has a brick and mortar address, shopfront, office whatever.
Go make one now.
The reason why you need one?
It’s the one and only way you can rank here. The map pack.
More often than not, it’s above the number one ranking site. And it’s got rating stars. And opening times.
Everything a potential customer needs to make a quick decision to get in touch.
I was optimising the GrowthMinds GMB and I noticed something interesting.
We were looking to rank for Growth Hacking Agency London.
Big search, a lot of extremely capable competitors.
Weirdly enough only two of them even had a GMB profile.
We noticed there was something that they both had in common.
Growth Hacking Agency London was in the company title.
I’m sure you’re thinking the same as we did by now.
Add it to our title.
Boom. 20 mins later. Page one rank.
This was just being in the right place at the right time with the right know how. My main take away from this is that your first step shouldn’t always be how do we be different. Especially when it comes to SEO. We all have a set of rules we need to play to that determines our ranking. So have a look at what is working for other people first. What free information can you get from those sites that are already ranking?
For the update of right now, there’s no map pack on that search term for me any more, and the site is hovering between ranks 11 and 8. So a little more work needs to be done to push us up on to the first page.
How we acquired 30 new first page keywords in just under 4 weeks
As explained earlier; lacklustre posts won’t get you ranked anymore.
What we’re looking for is lovely long-form content, even if it takes you 5x as long to write, as long as it’s still valuable then it’s preferable over shorter content.
We had a client that had fallen victim to this exact problem. 2 – 3 posts a week of 250-400 words at a time, limp images and over optimised for too many keywords in that small amount of text.
Our suggestion was, and still is, longer content. 1800 words as a minimum, and with the deadline of whenever. We assisted with a bit of content research, but nothing crazy as we wanted them to just write, and then a simple template to put it all together.
Are you struggling to put your ideas into words? Check out how to write your first blog post over here.
2200 words and 18 images later the post was complete. From writing naturally and talking about what they know the post came together over a few days. The post indexed on page 6 and climbed to rank 11 over the first 2 weeks. Within 4 weeks of the post going live the site had acquired 30 new first page keywords.
The site was rewarded for having a longer post that spoke to people first, and the algorithm second.
A year old post ranking for today’s modern news. Using the previous trust for new keywords
Last one, but a goodie.
Using trends in the news is a great way to capture early traffic if you optimise the page for those search terms. The problem here is, due to the nature that things are always changing, around 40% of all searches have never been searched before.
This means you need to optimise for the bigger keywords within those searches and not the search in its entirety.The problem that occurs now is what if you’ve already optimised for those words?
Not a problem at all, it’s an asset really.
You can use this post to rank for your new search term. We just update it. Using all the tips from the section above that exactly what we did.
Apple had one of their ever famous keynote speeches and it was released to the world that the iPhone now had background NFC capabilities. This is huge news for one of our clients as it hugely validates their product. Only problem was, they had a post that was nearly 15 months old and already ranking for “iPhone NFC” and all it’s potential searches.
So we updated the post. I threw everything but the kitchen sink at this post
- Embedded a video at the top showcasing the new development
- Included a paragraph summarising the news from Apple
- Changed the meta description to include the date and the word Update, (pro tip here is to remember that the meta description is the only place you can have ALL CAPS on the serps)
- Updated the post publish date to the new date.
- Linked out the new Apple page and a few other sites with the news
- Add a “read more” link to a new page on the site that covered everything people needed to know
Within a week the page became the most trafficked page on the site and was getting an average of 3 min dwell time and 5 clicks around the site.
Can you improve your SEO in one day? With the right tools, yes.
Now you know what to look for, where to look and you’ve built a toolbox of websites, tests and programmes to get you there faster.
But the tools aren’t just those you can download or have a website. The best tool you’ll have is how you look at something and having the mindset to improve something. What is the most important information you need to make a decision to improve something and what do you need to do to plan your sprint to improve?
By knowing how to find a variable that you can advance, and what you need to do to boost it, you can set in motion an ever growing website. A website that not only ranks higher but provides more value and trust to your users.
If you’re looking to jump down the rabbit hole that is SEO, check out our learn hub, start with the Learn SEO page and see how this is all connected.
I’d love to know what tests you’re doing for your websites and I’m always looking for more websites and tools to play around with. Send me your favourites, I want to know your favourites!
Tim Hanson is GrowthMinds Content Hacker. Tim is an SEO nerd, with an obsession for interactive design and special effects.