On the first day of Christmas my true love said to me, “How about you spend some of this holiday vacation time beefing up your site’s SEO and getting ahead in the online marketing world?”
And so I said, “Well that wasn’t very romantic of you. Where are my 12 days of gifts?”
Then I realized that better SEO is the best gift of all. It’s the gift that keeps on giving long after the holidays have come and gone. And I realized that investing some time in SEO now over the holidays will set me up for financial success in Q1, Q2 and beyond in 2017.
So what can we do on our own, now—even if we’re no SEO experts—to make search engines show us a little bit of extra holiday lovin’?
Here are 12 small SEO fixes you can complete in 12 days at just an hour or 2 a day.
(Oh, and let’s make this clear before we begin: as a reward to yourself for doing some productive SEO work over the holidays, you should definitely have a glass of eggnog after successfully completing each one of these tips. Make it a strong eggnog, at that.)
On the first day of Christmas, your SEO assignment will be…
1. Make Sharing a Breeze
Make sharing your content easy for your visitors by using easily accessible social sharing buttons on your site. Each blog post should have its own social sharing buttons for Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.
Most pre-made themes already do this for you, so you might already have most of your first day’s SEO tasks complete! (Break out the eggnog.) If not, go ahead and check out this quick guide on how to start using social sharing buttons on your site.
You can also encourage sharing by offering incentives, using calls to action, or simply asking your visitors to spread the word!
2. Add Optimized Image ALT Elements To All Of Your Images
Alt tags are the text you see when you hover over an image with your cursor (if this feature is enabled in your browser.) Not only is it a good accessibility practice to use descriptive alt text on all your images, but search engines will love you for it, too.
Use alt text by using the alt=“your alt text goes here” attribute in the <img> tag.
These tags should be written with keywords in mind but also relevant to what the image is.
Search engines like descriptive alt text because it gives them more info on what you and your site are all about, making it easier to index/rank your site in the most accurate and efficient way possible.
3. Segment Content And Use Appropriate Header Tags
Make your content skimmable and easy to understand by using bulleted lists, images, and descriptive header tags. Many readers, especially those of us in a rush, crave to-the-point, broken down lists which make for easier reading.
Where can you use bulleted lists in your site’s content? Well, just about anywhere, as long as you do it correctly.
Headings and subheadings, the stuff in the <h1>, <h2>, <h3> (and so on) tags, are great for breaking your text up into organized sections of related ideas.
So when you go back to skim your site’s content on this third day of Christmas, be sure to break up any long blocks of text with relevant header tags and look for information that’d be better suited as a bulleted list. Your readers will thank you.
4. Create A Quick Style Guide For Your Blog
While we’re on the topics of using lists, headings, and images, let’s talk about the big picture of your blog.
For some formatting questions like should I use the number 2 or type out “two”? there are no right answers—it’s all a matter of consistency. That’s what a style guide is all about.
It doesn’t have to be anything fancy—just a simple one-page Word doc will do. Write some guidelines yourself so you’ll have something to reference when you’re creating content for your blog so that your blog, as a whole, is consistent.
Include things like:
- What keywords you’d like to try to fit into most blog posts
- Whether or not you’ll type out numbers greater than one or stick to 2, 3, 4, etc.
- How you’ll format your titles and headings
- A reminder to write for humans, not just search engines
- Answers for any other questions of consistency that might pop up.
- How your blog post ‘hero’ images will be styled.
5. Revise Your Page Titles And Article Headlines
On the fifth day of Christmas I’d like you to go back through all of your blog post headlines and ask yourself how to make them even better.
Both page titles and headlines should be clear, concise, and should include your top keywords when possible.
Review some headline writing best practices and tweak all your headlines to follow suit. Even if you just stick to reviewing and revising your last 20 blog post titles, it shouldn’t take more than an hour and a half or so to polish them up a bit.
6. Use Meta Descriptions Wisely
Let’s play a game. Would you rather:
• Have Google pick out a random portion of a page’s text to appear on SERPs of a summary of that page (that likely won’t make a good summary of that particular page), OR
• Get to choose what summary appears for your site’s page when it appears on an SERP?
Let’s go with the second option. Using the <meta> tag to optimize your site’s meta descriptions is a great way to show people what your webpage is all about in just a few sentences. Don’t think about cramming keywords here – they don’t hold ranking power, think about compelling, quality, text to encourage CTR!
After all, a search engine result with a clear stated purpose (which is the meta description) is more likely to get clicks than one that seems thrown together or haphazardly generated by Google.
7. Use Anchor Text Wisely
On the seventh day of Christmas, have your eggnog before diving into your next SEO quick fix. Because, by Saint Nick, you’re already half-way there. You deserve it.
You know the section of words that lights up when you hover your cursor over it? The underlined part? The group of words you see on the screen is the anchor text while the hyperlink is the place you’ll go if you click on the anchor text. It’s actually 2 separate things!
And both parts of the link are important. Of course you should always make sure your hyperlinks are pointing to the correct page, but you definitely need to make sure you’re writing your anchor text in the most helpful way possible.
Here’s a hint: “Click here!” = not helpful for Google. Or anyone. Not even the Grinch.
Here’s another: “Click here for more information on Santa’s workshop!” = helpful for aspiring little workshop elves. Helpful for Google. Helpful for EVERYONE.
So go back and make sure all your anchor text follows best practices and your visitors are sure to be happy little elves.
8. Optimize Page Speed
On the eighth day of Christmas, Timmy’s mom wanted to come buy a gift for Timmy off your site but didn’t because the page took too long to load and she got tired of waiting. So she X’ed out. And you lost a customer. And Timmy didn’t get any gifts this year.
Yikes. Let’s fix that.
Google likes fast, and they even have some free tools you can use to evaluate the speed of your website. They’ll run a speed test on your site, show you what’s slowing things down, and point you in the right direction for getting it fixed.
9. Simplify Your URLs
On the ninth day of Christmas, let’s look at our URL bars a bit more closely as Google prefers a simple URL structure.
It might look like this:
Or it might look like this:
What’s the difference?
Well, the first one is disgusting and sad and makes Santa’s online shopping-savvy little helper elves cry.
The second one is lovely. It’s neat, concise, and easy on little elf eyes. And everyone else’s eyes, which also means it’s better for social sharing.
You want your URLs to look like the second example, so make sure you’re setting up pages on your site with a very clear and logical page naming system.
10. Go Secure
Some web addresses start off not just with http:// but with https://. Is it magic? Is it a Christmas miracle?
It’s encryption—which means their site is a little bit more secure than yours because it’s got secure socket layers (fancy security thingies) to help fight off prying hacker eyes.
That one extra letter makes your URL much prettier to look at when your customers realize that, because of it, their personal information is a whole lot safer in your hands. (It’s really only necessary on pages that collect sensitive information.)
The good news is, it’s not that hard to do! Pour your nog and get started on today’s SEO fix by getting yourself an SSL Certificate.
11. Run An SEO Audit
We’re almost done! On the eleventh day of Christmas, I want you to run an SEO audit on your site so we can pick up on any problems that you might not know about yet.
An audit will uncover problems and point out areas you could stand to improve on in the SEO department.
You can check out Search Engine People’s SEO Audit Tool here. Then lay out this info and a calendar side by side so you can plan out when and how you’ll get each of these problem areas fixed next year.
That’s all for this step for now! This one’s all about planning and budgeting to fix these things later—today we’re just making sure we’re aware of areas we could stand to improve on eventually.
12. Jumpstart Your Learning
On the last day of Christmas, my true love said to me, “You know, these quick SEO fixes are great and all, but don’t you think you should make an effort to become a little bit more well-versed in SEO in general? You know, for the long run?”
Always a romantic, that one. And I here thought I was going to get 12 drummers drumming.
Like what you see? Want to learn more? It’s not a bad idea to incorporate regular SEO learning into your goals for next year so you’ll stay on the cutting edge of digital marketing technology—and keep making the big bucks.
But for now? Take out your fanciest, most Christmas-iest drinking glass. Give yourself a hearty “Cheers!” for working your way all the way through this holiday SEO fix list.