How YOU can quickly and cost effectively improve your websites SEO
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) has had a rough time of late. Some quarters of the digital community are of the opinion that SEO is dead. But I don’t think it’s time to send flowers and condolences over to the guys at Google and Microsoft just yet.
Regardless of your views on SEO, it is likely to be an important source of traffic for your website. If you use Google Analytics, you can find out how important by looking at your Traffic Sources (under the ‘Audience’ section). It’s pretty easy to find in other analytics packages too!
So, if organic search is an important source of traffic for your site, then surely it’s time to find an SEO specialist to optimise your site? SEO is a dark art, right?
Well, don’t be too hasty. There are elements of SEO that you can do yourself which cost very little if any time or money.
To take a look at how you can improve your SEO, I have split the article into three categories – Technical SEO, On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO.
Assuming you have already selected the keywords that you would like to focus on, it is time to get started with Technical SEO – don’t let the word technical scare you off! A lot of web platforms (like WordPress) have some of the more technical elements already built into them, but here are some things that you can do to help your website and search engine get along.
Broken Links: Search engines don’t like broken links, so make sure there are none on your site – try Broken Link Check or a similar tool to see where you need to fix your links.
Meta Data: The meta title and meta description of your pages are important. Make sure that they are a true reflection of what is on the page, and that they refer to the keywords that you have selected as your most important. And don’t forget that they are displayed in Google’s search engine results, as per the below: make sure that the title is no longer than 55 characters long, and your description is no longer than 160 characters – if you go over this, your search results won’t look too hot.
Image Data: Search engines are still working on software to recognise photos from the image alone, but for the time being, you need to help them out. If you have an image of a PC on a desk on your website, in the ‘Alt Text’ you should write the best description of that image – for example, ‘PC on a desk’. This can be done easily on most web platforms.
Mobile Optimisation: You can visit this Google page, type your URL and Google will tell you whether your site is mobile optimised or not, and where the site can improve – simple! Mobile optimisation will become increasingly important in the future as more and more people search on mobile devices, so best to get this right now.
Custom 404 Page: A 404 page is the page that a visitor sees if they click on a broken link (hopefully you will have found and corrected these by now!) or type a URL incorrectly. The visitor has gone to the effort of finding your site, so your 404 page shouldn’t just read ‘this page doesn’t exist’. What kind of help is that?! You should make the 404 page have a similar look and feel as your other pages, including the navigation so that the visitor can find what they are looking for from your site structure. Also consider including a button for the person to report the broken link, or a search box so that they can search the site for the page they want. These pages are normally written in HTML so you should be able to do most of the work yourself.
Search engines will crawl your site (not as creepy as it sounds!) in order to index your content so that they can use the content in their results. On-page SEO is a means to helping the search engines understand your content as easily as possible. As your search engine results will point to one specific page, it is now time to turn your attention to the content that you have on your website and see how to optimise that.
Headings: Before you start your page, you should consider the structure of it – and by that, I mean where your headings will be. In most web platforms, you can highlight the text and select ‘Heading 1’ from the menu. Heading 1 should sum up exactly what the page is about as search engines will use this header as a guide to help them understand what the page is all about. If you want to use more than one heading on your page, like I have on this page, you can select from Headings 2 to 6 to use as sub-headings.
Style: The style of your page will very much depend on your company, the market you operate in, who your audience is and what the objective of the page is. But whatever you do, don’t be tempted to over-use your keywords. My approach is to keep the style of the page natural and flowing and not focused on repetitive keywords: it makes reading the article really difficult and search engines will think you are writing the page for them and not for visitors to your site – they don’t like that!
Graphics: It is common knowledge that content that includes graphics are shared more often than text-only content, so you should consider the inclusion of graphics. I will explain later in this article why social sharing is great for SEO, but if you are explaining complex information, you should think of a way of displaying it graphically to the visitor. There are lots of infographic templates available on the web, so no need to call your graphic designer for this one.
Shareable: For reasons which will become clear in the ‘Off-Page SEO’ section below, you should have sharing buttons on all relevant pages on your website. Making this simple for your visitor will increase the chances of your content being shared on social media – and don’t worry about adding hundreds of options for people to share, just 4 simple Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ sharing buttons should do it. But if you have chosen to use a graphic, maybe include Pinterest and Instagram instead of LinkedIn and Google+.
Let’s take a moment to look at SEO from the search engine’s perspective. Their objective is to provide the best quality page for the query that was typed into their website. In order to do that, they need to be able to see how reputable a page is. One of the factors that search engines use to determine this is to see which websites link to the website in question. If the site has a link from Amazon, this is more impressive than a link from a rarely-visited blog, so being able to gather links from reputable sites is key to off-page SEO. But how?
Link Building: This seems overwhelming for many website owners, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. You can register your website on relevant industry or geographical directories, as well as having a Google Places profile including your website link. And why not ask suppliers and customers to have a testimonial / case study page on their website containing a link to your website?
Social SEO: Social media has an important role to play in SEO. All of your social media profiles should have your website on them, so that’s a good start for link building. But if you have a page on your website which has been shared many times on social media, search engines will see the shares as endorsements of that page, earning the page more credit in search results. This may take time to get right, but it has a big impact on off-page SEO.
What to avoid: It is worth noting here that if the offer of off-page SEO from a company looks too good to be true, it is! There are a lot of companies offering ‘thousands of links’ / ‘page one of Google’ for small money, but this is going to expose your website to a penalty for spammy links. Trust me, not something you want to experience!
So SEO is not dead, and neither is it a dark art. Yes, there are elements of SEO that are not listed here where you would need a developer, but not for everything. SEO is something that, if you are prepared to invest some time, you can very much influence yourself.