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Beginner’s Guide to Optimizing Websites for Better Rankings

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Beginner's Guide to Optimizing Websites for Better Rankings

You want to rank on the #1 spot in Google. I get it. Everyone wants that spot but how come you’ve never been able to get your keywords there consistently?

I wrote this guide for you to get some of your keywords there in 30 days or less.

Just like a car needs regular tune-ups to keep it running smoothly, your website needs periodic SEO maintenance to help it maintain a high ranking.

Here are some routine tasks that me and my team in SEO Hacker do for our client’s website upkeep.

Publish fresh or update old content regularly

One crucial element to maintaining your website rankings is your content. Without content, search engines can’t take into account that your website is authoritative and trustworthy.

With that said, do you consistently create original and satisfying content? Have you also backtracked some of your old content and looked to see if there are articles that needs updating?

With Google’s recent helpful content update, it’s important to consider how you create content.

Below are some guide questions to help you re-evaluate previously published content and how you create new content:

  • Does your content demonstrate your expertise and depth of knowledge from using a product or service?
  • Does your content primarily summarize what others have to say without adding much value of your own?
  • What impression will your content leave on a reader? Will they learn something new or experience something satisfying?
  • Do you create valuable content while keeping Google’s guidelines and core algorithm updates in mind?
  • Does your content promise to answer a question without a clear, confirmed answer yet, or one that hasn’t been confirmed?
  • Does your visual content follow Google’s image SEO best practices?
  • Is your content and web design and interface mobile-friendly?
  • Is your content likely to receive backlinks because of its resourcefulness and value?

These questions will help you plan and create substantial content for your website that’s aligned with your audience and Google’s recommendations.

Check your internal and external links periodically

Did you know that backlinks help to establish the expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) of your website? Links are an active and powerful ranking signal to this day.

When other websites cite your website or web page via links, it shows Google that you’re authoritative and trustworthy.

To maintain your website’s rankings, you will need to check your internal and external links periodically. Internal links or interlinks are hyperlinks that point from a page in your site to another page on your site.

Internal links help users navigate your site and find the content they are searching for.

What internal links do for SEO is that it helps search engines find and understand the value, relevance, and relationship between your web pages.

On the other hand, external links or outbound links are hyperlinks that point from your website to an article on a third-party website. Every time you link to another website altogether, it is an external link.

I’m guessing your next question here is, does creating outbound links matter in SEO?

Some SEO specialists agree it matters in SEO, while some don’t. In any case, how I decide is if it helps the reader know more about the topic or the content that I wrote, I will link out for sure. Every external link included in our content is meant to cite relevant and authoritative sources.

Consequently, these links let my readers learn more about the topic deeply. In addition, it also gives me the opportunity to build some expertise and authority to the content I wrote as well.

An experiment done by Reboot Online showed how external links can help improve your website’s ranking. Their study concludes that “outgoing relevant links to authoritative sites are considered in the algorithms and do have a positive impact on rankings.” To learn more about their updated study in-depth, you can read about it here.

What this study and my personal experience concludes is that linking to sites with good contextual authority has a positive impact on your content’s rankings when done correctly. It helps send trust signals to Google.

But why do you need to occasionally check your hyperlinks?

Remember, we create content for people. If someone clicks on a link and receives an error message, they are more likely to leave the site. Links that no longer work or are inaccessible are called broken links. While broken links do not directly affect your website’s rankings, inaccessible links directly affect user experience – which I could argue is a ranking factor.

Optimize your titles, meta descriptions, and alt text for images

You shouldn’t neglect the small details like titles and meta descriptions that contribute to your website’s organic traffic and ranking. Titles and meta descriptions play a major role in making your website visible in the search results.

These elements aren’t considered on-page ranking factors per se, but what they do is they help searchers see and understand what your website or your webpage is about straight from the search results page.

meta description screenshot
A lot of people click on titles and meta descriptions on search engine results pages (SERP) that contain relevant summaries. When searchers click on your website’s title and meta description related to their query, your click-through rate (CTR) increases.

On the other hand, adding alternative text (alt-text) to your images plays a role in making your websites rank because of its importance on Google Image Search. If an image doesn’t load or is inaccessible to a web browser, an alternative text provides a helpful description of the image to users.

In essence, adding alternative text to images is like hitting two birds with one stone: it helps searchers who may have images or scripts turned off in their web browser understand what your image is about. Similarly, it helps Google bots crawl and index your website better.

So, if you haven’t optimized your website’s titles, meta descriptions, or your images’ alt-texts yet, now’s the time to do so. If you don’t know how to optimize your meta description, here’s a helpful post where we share some useful tips on how to do it.

Key Takeaway

In SEO, nothing is sacred. This is why SEO is never a one-time fix. Rankings in search results aren’t permanent. Search engines like Google constantly update their algorithms. Plus the fact that your competitors can catch up and get ahead if they employ better SEO strategies. Whatever tactic or strategy you have in place now for your website to rank may not work tomorrow.

This is why SEO maintenance is important. By regularly performing these and other web maintenance tasks, you can help your website earn high rankings in search results and keep it there.

Did you find this article helpful? Let me know in the comments below.

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How To Optimize The Largest Contentful Paint & Rank Higher

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How To Optimize The Largest Contentful Paint & Rank Higher

How To Measure The Largest Contentful Paint Of Your Website

Run a free website speed test to find out. Your LCP speed will be displayed immediately.

The results of your speed test will tell you if:

  • The LCP threshold is met.
  • You need to optimize any other Core Web Vital.

How Is The Largest Contentful Paint Calculated?

Google looks at the 75th percentile of experiences – that means 25% of real website visitors experience LCP load times of 3.09 seconds or higher, while for 75% of users the LCP is below 3.09 seconds.

In this example, the real-user LCP is shown as 3.09 seconds.

Screenshot of a Core Web Vitals data of DebugBear.com, November 2022

What Are The Lab Test Results On My Core Web Vitals Data?

With this specific web speed test, you’ll also see lab metrics that were collected in a controlled test environment. While these metrics don’t directly impact Google rankings, there are two advantages of this data:

  1. The metrics update as soon as you improve your website, while Google’s real-time data will take 28 days to fully update.
  2. You get detailed reports in addition to the metrics, which can help you optimize your website.

Additionally, PageSpeed Insights also provides lab data, but keep in mind that the data it reports can sometimes be misleading due to the simulated throttling it uses to emulate a slower network connection.

How Do You Find Your Largest Contentful Paint Element?

When you run a page speed test with DebugBear, the LCP element is highlighted in the test result.

Sometimes, the LCP element may be a large image, and other times, it could be a large portion of text.

Regardless of whether your LCP element is an image or a piece of text, the LCP content won’t appear until your page starts rendering.

For example, on the page below, a background image is responsible for the largest paint.

How To Optimize The Largest Contentful Paint & Rank Higher In GoogleScreenshot of DebugBear.com, November 2022

In contrast, this page’s LCP is a paragraph of text.

How To Optimize The Largest Contentful Paint & Rank Higher In GoogleScreenshot of DebugBear.com, November 2022

To improve the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) of your website you need to ensure that the HTML element responsible for the LCP appears quickly.

How To Improve The Largest Contentful Paint

To improve the LCP you need to:

  1. Find out what resources are necessary to make the LCP element appear.
  2. See how you can load those resources faster (or not at all).

For example, if the LCP element is a photo, you could reduce the file size of the image.

After running a DebugBear speed test, you can click on each performance metric to view more information on how it could be optimized.

How To Optimize The Largest Contentful Paint & Rank Higher In GoogleScreenshot of a detailed Largest Contentful Paint analysis in DebugBear.com, November 2022

Common resources that affect the LCP are:

  • Render-blocking resources.
  • Images that are not optimized.
  • Outdated image formats.
  • Fonts that are not optimized.

How To Reduce Render-Blocking Resources

Render-blocking resources are files that need to be downloaded before the browser can start drawing page content on the screen. CSS stylesheets are typically render-blocking, as are many script tags.

To reduce the performance impact of render-blocking resources you can:

  1. Identify what resources are render-blocking.
  2. Review if the resource is necessary.
  3. Review if the resource needs to block rendering.
  4. See if the resource can be loaded more quickly up, for example using compression.

The Easy Way: In the DebugBear request waterfall, requests for render-blocking resources are marked with a “Blocking” tag.

How To Optimize The Largest Contentful Paint & Rank Higher In GoogleScreenshot of DebugBear.com, November 2022

How To Prioritize & Speed Up LCP Image Requests

For this section, we’re going to leverage the new “fetchpriority” attribute on images to help your visitor’s browsers quickly identify what image should load first.

Use this attribute on your LCP element.

Why?

When just looking at the HTML, browsers often can’t immediately tell what images are important. One image might end up being a large background image, while another one might be a small part of the website footer.

Accordingly, all images are initially considered low priority, until the page has been rendered and the browser knows where the image appears.

However, that can mean that the browser only starts downloading the LCP image fairly late.

The new Priority Hints web standard allows website owners to provide more information to help browsers prioritize images and other resources.

In the example below, we can see that the browser spends a lot of time waiting, as indicated by the gray bar.

How To Optimize The Largest Contentful Paint & Rank Higher In GoogleScreenshot of a low-priority LCP image on DebugBear.com, November 2022

We would choose this LCP image to add the “fetchpriority” attribute to.

How To Add The “FetchPriority” Attribute To Images

Simply adding the fetchpriority=”high” attribute to an HTML img tag will the browser will prioritize downloading that image as quickly as possible.

<img src="https://www.searchenginejournal.com/optimize-largest-contentful-paint-debugbear-spcs/471883/photo.jpg" fetchpriority="high" />

How To Use Modern Image Formats & Size Images Appropriately

High-resolution images can often have a large file size, which means they take a long time to download.

In the speed test result below you can see that by looking at the dark blue shaded areas. Each line indicates a chunk of the image arriving in the browser.

How To Optimize The Largest Contentful Paint &#038; Rank Higher In GoogleScreenshot of a large LCP image on DebugBear.com, November 2022

There are two approaches to reducing image sizes:

  1. Ensure the image resolution is as low as possible. Consider serving images at different resolutions depending on the size of the user’s device.
  2. Use a modern image format like WebP, which can store images of the same quality at a lower file size.

How To Optimize Font Loading Times

If the LCP element is an HTML heading or paragraph, then it’s important to load the font for this chunk of text quickly.

One way to achieve this would be to use preload tags that can tell the browser to load the fonts early.

The font-display: swap CSS rule can also ensure sped-up rendering, as the browser will immediately render the text with a default font before switching to the web font later on.

How To Optimize The Largest Contentful Paint &#038; Rank Higher In GoogleScreenshot of web fonts delaying the LCP on DebugBear.com, November 2022

Monitor Your Website To Keep The LCP Fast

Continuously monitoring your website not only lets you verify that your LCP optimizations are working, but also makes sure you get alerted if your LCP gets worse.

DebugBear can monitor the Core Web Vitals and other site speed metrics over time. In addition to running in-depth lab-based tests, the product also keeps track of the real-user metrics from Google.

Try DebugBear with a free 14-day trial.

How To Optimize The Largest Contentful Paint &#038; Rank Higher In GoogleScreenshot of site speed monitoring data on DebugBear.com, November 2022



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