First things first: if you need to learn what SEO is and how to use it, catch up here. Search engine optimisation, or SEO for short, is hugely important to your website. It can mean the difference between driving a good amount of traffic to your website, and withering away somewhere in the murky depths of the internet where no one can locate you. We’ve talked previously about writing titles and descriptions for each page of your website, making sure each one gives a short, clear idea of what that page is about. No keyword stuffing, using full phrases or sentences and a unique description for each page.
Now let’s go into a little more detail on some other techniques you can use to optimise your website.
It’s all about great website content
We can’t say this enough – to have a great website, you need to have great content! Search engines scan your site, rate your website’s quality, and use this as a factor to determine where your site should rank when users type in a search query. Google tells us your landing page should have ‘relevant, useful, and original content’. This is a rather broad statement, so let’s unpack it a little.
You want your potential customers to be able to find you. Think about what they might be typing into Google or another search engine in order to look for your products or services. This isn’t necessarily about what makes the most sense to you – but what makes the most sense to the average Joe, who may not be as computer-literate as you. So while the keyword ‘electronic music genre’ might make perfect sense for your independent record store, your average customer might be searching anything from ‘best electronic beats 2014’ to ‘latest EDM’ to ‘song by Skrillex on the radio now’. Research shows that search queries are getting longer, and you want to ensure you’re catching all your potential customers by including many broad and specific keywords in your website content. Taking our record store example, you might want to mention both ‘electronic music’ and ‘top electronic songs’ on your page dedicated to the genre of electronic music. If search engines find content on your website that matches or is similar to a user’s search query, they are more likely to display your website in the search results. Also, the more times that search query appears in your site, the more likely the relevant page is to show up higher in the results. Make sure to scatter your most important keywords throughout your site, integrated into content that makes sense. Finally, is your content what users would expect to find when they visit your site? Make sure you don’t mislead your customers with unrelated information. Organise your site with each page dedicated to one topic, and don’t be tempted to dilute a page with extra content that doesn’t belong there.
Do users find the information they are looking for when they browse your website? Do they stay around, read and click through to other pages, or do they leave straightaway? These are your website’s ‘bounce rate’ and ‘dwell time’, and they are factors that helps search engines decide how to rank your site. How long a user stays on your website, and whether they click through into any other pages on your site, are measured by search engines. A user that stays longer on your site and has a look at other pages appears more satisfied than a user who leaves your website after say 10 seconds. Your website is graded according to these standards. While you can’t make every user stick around for half an hour, providing clear and helpful information can certainly improve your chances. If you’re selling a product, some useful information to provide could be product descriptions, product reviews, pricing, shipping information, whether an item is in stock… all helpful to someone deciding whether or not to make a purchase from your company website.
Firstly, duplicating content across your own site is a bad idea. Search engines don’t like it, and it could penalise your ranking – meaning that your website won’t appear as high up in search results. However, there are some legitimate reasons for duplicating content across your site. There’s just a couple of technical things you need to do in those cases – no follow the duplicate page, and get a rel=canonical from the duplicate page to the original page. That way, Google knows not to index the duplicate content. A good web developer will make sure to implement these and other SEO-friendly techniques for you, if you’re not maintaining your website yourself.
Secondly, you want to provide your own content on your website – not someone else’s! By all means, share and link to informative and relevant content from around the web. But be careful not to simply copy and paste content without any acknowledgement of the original source. If you do this over and over, Google may view you as spam. It’s far better to create your own compelling content, mixed with links to great content around the web.
As we said, after creating your titles and descriptions, great content is really the next biggest factor in achieving a wonderful website that both your users and the Google bots love! Spend the majority of your time allocated for SEO in improving your content for best results. It’s worth putting in the effort now to reap the rewards further down the line! There are a few final items to take note of in creating the best search engine optimised website:
Create links to and from quality websites to increase your ratings with Google
Linking to other websites and having websites link to your content is a great way to show Google your website is alive, trustworthy and worth visiting! It shows that there is some quality content to view on your site which will draw visitors in. Having links to your site also helps Google organically crawl your website, as your website can be more easily found via all the links pointing to it. But, there is one very important point to remember:
NOT ALL LINKS ARE CREATED EQUAL!
For those of you who aren’t familiar, back in the day, links were only a good thing – and that meant that companies would pay for links to be added to web pages and cheap directories in order to boost their ratings. That system came crashing down when Google changed the way they rate links (in technical terms, they changed their algorithm from Panda to Penguin). Now, Google considers the quality of the links from your website, not the quantity. So, the moral of the story is, don’t buy links, and don’t submit your website to low-quality online directories.
Link to yourself
Don’t forget to include internal links within your website! Adding internal links in relevant places helps keep viewers on your site, clicking through your pages, and finding the content they need.
Make your URLs easy
Especially when using a template for your website, you’ll often find that pages have a default URL link filled with numbers, letters and question marks. For obvious reasons, these URLs are not user-friendly. You’re not likely to get a user remembering the web page they are looking for, and in addition those URLs just don’t look good. When you’re creating your website, rename all your pages to reflect the content of that page. Keep it short and memorable. If you’re creating a blog post for example, and the title of your post is long, just pick out the keywords and remove all the unnecessary small words. Use hyphens to separate each word, and keep each URL at a maximum of 4 or 5 words. That way, when readers come to your site, it’s easier for them to find and share your page in the future.
Add descriptions to images on your site
The alt text on an image is a good place to write descriptive text that could include a keyword or two. Since Google can’t crawl images, this is a good way to tell Google what your image is about and how it relates to your content. You can add a caption to an image for added benefit too.
So, for those of you setting out with a new website or looking to improve an existing one, all the above are great places to start. Just remember: it’s 90% about great website content! Optimising your website with good titles, descriptions, memorable URLs and image text certainly help. But once you’ve got interesting and relevant content, the links, sharing and great visibility of your website will follow… and you’ll be sending a clear message to the search engines that your website deserves to be seen!
We won’t sugar-coat it; SEO is time-consuming and requires hard work and effort. You need to be persistent and patient, as the results take time. If you’re feeling completely overwhelmed with jobs and tasks to improve your website, you can call us for help with SEO, web content, or just advice on where to start.