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⚙️ Easy SEO tweaks and tools

⚙️ Easy SEO tweaks and tools
By Dan Mason • Issue #7 • View online
Greetings All,
Last year, Google made 4,500 changes to the way Search works. By comparison, a decade ago it was making about one change a day.
4,500! What chance do us mere mortals have of keeping pace with that? We’re not all SEO experts, but we do want our websites to have a fair shout in search results. Luckily, many SEO basics haven’t changed that much.
At the end, you’ll find a couple of ways to give your website an SEO health check. But first let’s run through a few tweaks and tools …
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Ultimately, it’s how a human experiences your website and the quality of content that builds trust, loyalty and authority.
But how does Google see your site?
To get an idea, enter a website address into the On-page Optimization Tool. You’ll see page of text, because that’s what Google harvests: text.
The title, description and keywords on Digital Photography School's home page
The title, description and keywords on Digital Photography School's home page
From the top, the title tag helps Google while the description is especially valuable to people who see it in search results. Include in your site’s description the keywords you want to be found for and think of it like a snappy elevator pitch.
You may find the fields to add a title and description in your website admin. If you use Wordpress, an SEO plug-in like The SEO Framework or All-in-One SEO will help.
Keep the title under 70 characters, including spaces. Google will replace anything after that with (…). Likewise, Google shows up to 156 characters of the description, but it can be less on mobile. The advice is to keep it around 140.
Just right: The title and description of Solutions Journalism Network
Just right: The title and description of Solutions Journalism Network
You’ll also see keyword density (the number of times a word or phrase is repeated on the page) and targeted keywords. These should be words that reflect your site’s core purpose, because that’s how Google sees them.
Google loves links. And internal and external links should include keywords when possible. It’s not a sin to have a panel with short blurb and a ‘learn more’ button, but in stories, tie keywords into links (use On-page Optimization Tool, rather than ‘click here’).
The need for speed
Google hammers slow sites that take more than around three seconds to load. You may have read about Google’s current focus on core web vitals. Speed is of the essence.
Improving site speed can be like juggling soap. Issues affecting it could be your server, or the coding of your site. Maybe you are using too many plugins, or big images, or the connection is just poor.
Use a tool like GT Metrix to test the speed of your site, but repeat it over time to get consistent results. The ‘waterfall’ tab is a fascinating glimpse into what happens to bring your site to life for visitors.
GT Metrix grades the speed of your site with tips for improvement
GT Metrix grades the speed of your site with tips for improvement
It’s also important to test the speed of your site over a mobile 4G network. Google’s Page Speed Insights is the tool for this.
An SEO plugin can give your site’s code a tune-up, and you might want to investigate running your site through a content delivery network (CDN) such as Cloudflare, so it is available on servers closer to your visitors. Your website host may offer CDN.
Image naming, alt text, captions and filesize
Images can be the low-hanging fruit of SEO. Easy to fix but often overlooked.
In general, you’ll use images in JPEG format, with PNGs reserved for logos or images with a transparent background. Vector graphics (SVGs) with ability to resize without loss of quality are good for icons and illustrations.
Don’t upload images straight from your camera. For starters, cropping with an editor such as Pixlr will often improve the look.
I like to keep images to a 16:9 format so they don’t take up too much depth on desktop monitors, unless there’s a need to change it. It’s up to you, but the human eye likes consistency.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule about image dimensions (measured in pixels). It depends on your theme, and Wordpress automatically creates different sizes. But there’s no point uploading huge files.
Medium recommends a width of 1400px for full-column pictures on its site, while Elegant Themes, maker of the popular Divi theme, recommends 1080px wide. You could start with the 16:9 HD video size of 1280x720 and adjust from there.
What’s really critical is filesize - try to keep images under 100kb.
Some image editors have ‘save for web’ or output quality options, but dedicated compressors go further. To see optimisation in action, try one of the test images in Squoosh.
You could use Squoosh to compress your images one by one, use an online tool like Optimizilla or free desktop app like ImageOptim (Mac only). There are many others, including Wordpress plugins.
Now for filenames, alt text and captions - all good for SEO.
Change those generic 5387496.jpg-style filenames to something with meaning (and keywords), like: squoosh-image-optimiser.jpg
Alt text is a simple description of your image, added in your website admin and used by screen readers for those with sight impairments as well as by Google.
Stick to short descriptions, with keywords, around 125 characters. I often paste part of a caption - itself important for both Google and viewers - into the alt text field.
Here’s a tool to check the alt tags of images on any page. This Image and Link Analyzer also gives dimensions and filesizes.
🏅If you’ve stuck me with this far, you’ve earned a free website check!
Nibbler requires no registration. Just insert a website address for an easy-to-digest summary of the site’s SEO, with score and feedback.
Nibbler: Clear and simple with no registration required
Nibbler: Clear and simple with no registration required
Hubspot Website Grader
The Hubspot Website Grader asks for your email before starting the process, but the results are impressive.
The Reporters Without Borders site gets an 'OK' rating from Hubspot
The Reporters Without Borders site gets an 'OK' rating from Hubspot
Thanks for reading 👏
🌍 I’ve been fortunate to work with amazing creatives and causes around the world as a trainer and educator. I welcome ‘how do I …’ questions, so I started this newsletter to share the answers for all.
If you enjoy it, please share it! And if you have a question, suggestion or useful stuff you’d like to share, get in touch: 🔗
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Dan Mason

Practical tips and fast, free tools for journalists, content creators and communicators in a hurry

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