Let’s face it, in today’s world buyers want tips, product information, comparisons, reviews, prices and more. In the digital age they want answers and they are using the internet to find them. The question quickly becomes: will the answers to their questions come from your company or its competitors.

Our guide is intended to help you identify some of the key elements of Search Engine Optimization. Start with these steps to increase your natural search and rank above the competition.

404 errors - “Broken links”

404 errors are essentially “dead end” pages on your site that usually result from either content being removed or from an error in a URL of a link. Search engines see these as a negative user experience. Typically, sites with fewer errors will rank higher in search engine results.

Improve your SEO:

Google Search Console is your best friend here. Navigate to the “Crawl Errors” section of the tool and select the tab for “Not found.”

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Here you will find a list of all URLs triggering a 404 error. Download the list, map each URL to an existing page location, and send a request to your development team to implement 301 redirects.

Keyword research

Keyword research helps to inform the development of the meta data and content for each page. Proper keyword research will identify quality keyword targets for each page based on a variety of factors including competition and search intent.

Improve your SEO:

Navigate to any given page on your site and identify the main topic of the page content. Now swing on over to Google’s Keyword Planner, plug that topic in, and hit the “Get Ideas” button.

Let’s say your business specializes in cat grooming and the page in question is targeting the keyword “cat bathing.”

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The Keyword Planner will give ideas of alternative keyword targets along with the average monthly search volume and competition on AdWords. In this case it looks like there are a lot of searches relating to how-to queries, so it may be wise to create a page that speaks to that audience.

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Meta Data development

Meta descriptions are the HTML attributes that provide concise explanations of the context of your webpages. Meta data includes on-page elements such as page titles, H1/H2 heading tags and alternative image text. Meta data is important as, proper optimization of the on-page SEO elements ensures that the content theme of each page is in alignment with your customers’ search intent and improves your site’s organic visibility.

Improve your SEO:

So, based on the keyword research you’ve performed, you have decided to target the “how to give a cat a bath” keyword opportunity by building a new page. This keyword (or slight variation) should appear in various on-page elements including:

  • Page title
  • URL
  • Meta Description
  • H1 heading
  • Alternative image text
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Internal linking

How you link internally to your various pieces of content on your own website is an important factor to your optimization efforts. Do this incorrectly and it may not properly distribute some or all of the associated link equity. In plain English, this means that the pages on your website may not get “credit” for external links to your site.

Improve your SEO:

Use descriptive text when linking internally. Utilize those keyword targets that you unearthed in your keyword research.

To avoid unnecessary redirects, always link to the correct case URL (example.com/cats vs. example.com/CATS).

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URL structure

Proper URL structure should follow the navigational hierarchy and should be easily understandable by both humans and search engine crawlers. A solid URL structure would be similar to www.petgrooming.com/cats/cat-bathing-101. Various dynamic elements – such as URL parameters “?session_id=123” – should be avoided if possible.

Improve your SEO:

Many content management systems, such as WordPress, allow you to easily choose how your URLs will be displayed. Often times the default option is not the best choice for optimizing your content so take the time to review these settings.

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Navigational taxonomy and hierarchy of content

The organization of your site content affects both how well link equity is dispersed throughout your site as well as bounce rate. Both of these are direct ranking factors in Google. It is very important to have well-organized and easily navigable content throughout your site.

Improve your SEO:

Internal organization of your content is incredibly important. It helps to show topical relevancy to your visitors as well as provides a roadmap for both human users and search engine crawlers to navigate through your site. In the following image, the NCGIA does a great job of identifying high-level navigational topics related to the information most users are seeking to find on their site: Informational – about NCGIA, For Groomers, For Cat Owners, For Veterinarians, and Shop.

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As a basic rule, the content within each navigational taxonomy should be formatted in a hierarchical nature. For this example, what this means is that all content under the “For Cat Owners” section should follow a URL structure like this: nationalcatgroomers.com/cat-owners/bathing-101.

Robots.txt file

Your robots.txt file is a simple file that lives on your site at the following location: www.[YOUR DOMAIN].com/robots.txt. Search engine crawlers look for this file first when visiting a site as this file serves as the primary crawling directive. In plain English, this is where we tell search engines what to crawl and what not to crawl.

Improve your SEO:

This is really a simple step in the process that is sometimes overlooked. Be sure to include a robots.txt file and block any resources that should not be crawled. These could be things like admin areas, URLs that duplicate content via parameters, or other resources that should not be displayed to search engine crawlers. Additionally, make sure to list the location of your XML sitemap.

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Sitemaps – XML and HTML versions

Sitemaps are important for your site’s crawlability, indexation, and ease of navigation. The HTML sitemap is used primarily to allow human users to easily find what they are looking for. However, it also allows for easy transference of link authority throughout the site. The XML sitemap serves multiple purposes including assisting search engine crawlers to easily find and navigate through all pages of your site and tag relationships between pages.

Improve your SEO:

Make sure to include the XML sitemap for your site as it allows the search engines to easily navigate and properly index your pages. Many tools can assist you in the creation of the XML sitemap including the Yoast SEO plugin for Wordpress or Screaming Frog.

An HTML sitemap enables human users to quickly navigate through your site – including one is highly recommended.

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Duplicate content

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  • The presence of duplicate content on your site is problematic for a couple of different reasons:
    • Duplicate content forces search engines to “choose” what version of the content to serve in results. It is possible that the less authoritative version may be chosen and ultimately rank much lower than a more authoritative one would.
    • It may appear to the search engines that your site is attempting to manipulate the results pages by ranking several different URLs for the same search term. This could result in all duplicate pages (or worse, your entire site) being removed from the primary index – ME - OWCH!

Improve your SEO:

Many times, duplicate content is created unintentionally due to things like improper www resolve (not setting a preferred www or non-www hostname), improper parameter use, or even displaying each blog post in full on the main blog page. Use a tool like Siteliner to find all your duplicate internal content.


Page speed issues

The time it takes pages on your website to load is a direct ranking signal to Google and other search engines. There are various tactics that can be used to improve the speed of your pages including caching methods and minifying of JavaScript and CSS files. However, improper implementation of these enhancements could result in undesired effects.

Improve your SEO:

Take the first step and enter your domain into Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. From there, you will get an itemized list of what you should fix on your site to improve the speed on both mobile and desktop devices.

Need help? Consider hiring a developer to make those changes to your site.

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Link acquisition and reclamation – legacy domains and other backlink issues

Many times businesses go through a shift both offline and online and various web properties can be abandoned or not properly redirected. It is important to reclaim that link equity through the proper redirection methods. Additionally, any new link acquisition/link building campaigns should be handled by someone with experience.

Improve your SEO:

Links to pages on your site from other sites are essentially “votes” for those pages. They tell the search engines that there is valuable content there, and those pages should rank higher for various search queries.

Typically, Google likes to see natural looking links in your backlink profile. Too many unnatural looking links can result in a manual penalty and successfully removing that penalty can take a LOT of effort. Always consult a professional when starting a link acquisition campaign.

Additionally, link authority can be lost during a website migration if legacy pages are not properly redirected. If your site has gone through a recent migration, there could be “free” equity just sitting out there. Ask an SEO expert how to reclaim this equity.

Schema implementation

Schema is a language that is implemented in the code of your site that results in “rich snippets” in search engine results pages (stars for ratings, product images, etc.) Rich snippets take up more real estate in search engines and have a higher click through rate. While schema itself is not a direct ranking factor, the resulting click through rates after implementation is.

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Improve your SEO:

Do you sell products? Do you have online reviews? Do you regularly hold events? Properly marking all these up with schema can result in a higher click through rate and will ultimately lead to more sales.

This guide is just the tip of the “SEO iceberg” and implementing these basics will at least get you started out on the right foot.

Consumers are relying on the internet to educate themselves before they actually engage in the buying process. Your cat bathing (or any) business should take advantage of the free traffic SEO can provide your company. We believe the 12 tips shared in this guide will get you on the right path to earning the prime real estate your business seeks, the First Page of the Google Search. And if you still have questions, contact Three Deep, we’re here to help you drive productive organic traffic to your website!