This article is intended to provide guidance on basic web site SEO steps you can take to improve your search rankings. It should help if you want to go the DIY route and optimise your own site. It will also give you an understanding of the fundamentals of search engine optimisation.
The best results come from knowing your business, monitoring your competitors and from regularly refining your web site pages. Epsilis are pleased to assist in this process if required however the recurring nature of the process may mean that some clients will feel they get better value for money if they take responsibility for their own search engine marketing efforts. This article is intended to assist clients in understanding the issues.
1. The basic facts:
If you are selling the same thing as many others you need to stand out from the crowd – in web terms the potential competition is everyone in the world doing what you do with a web site and standing out from the crowd means coming up on the first page (first 10 places) of a search.
Not everyone can be on page one and it can take a lot of effort to get there.
If your business is reasonably unique this will be easier, otherwise it may not be realistic to expect to get a top ranking unless you pay to get one by using Google Adwords or similar.
‘.. listed on 500 plus search engines…’
If you have a web site you have probably had dozens of emails offering to get you listed on many search engines. There are only a handful of widely used search engines – there are thousands of directory type lists of web sites attempting to fill a perceived need. Most are unlikely to have any real impact on most sites. These services are automated – in that a standard set of data is sent to each of a long list of search engines (or directory sites). Automation is ok for the directory sites but this doesn’t work for the important search engines. The most effective method is having a link to your site from a website already well known to the search engines and linking your website to Google Analytics.
Results don’t always come quickly
Typically search engines work on a monthly cycle so your website is unlikely to get listed quickly. For new website domains it can take between 6 months and a year for your website to be properly ranked on the search engines and reach a stable position in the rankings.
Google is always refining its search algorithms. Basically they are trying to improve their results, weed out the poor websites and the SEO cheats.
All your competitors with a web site may be trying to improve their search engine ranking.
To become successful and remain successful you will need to play by the rules set by google and you will need to do better than the competition.
AND you will need to keep doing it.
2. Prepare your website
Content is King – Content always trumps SEO
The website content must be useful otherwise it is not going to work no matter how effective your search engine listing is. Focus on what you customers are interested in, use their language. Your website is to attract them not to talk about you!
Never make your content less attractive to people for the sake of SEO.
For Keywords think Keyword Phrases
Keywords are basically phrases people type in search engines.
- Don’t think of keywords as single words. People seldom type a single word into a search engine because this returns too many irrelevant results. Therefore make a list of short phrases that people might type in that are relevant to your website.
- Try out your phrases in the search engines to evaluate the websites that currently come up – are they relevant to your website or are a lot of irrelevant sites found. If people put in a search and a lot of irrelevant sites come up, then they are not likely to use those search results. If the results are relevant, you are on the right lines.
- Geography – is location important? If it is make sure it is in your Keyword Phrases.
- Think about the different pages on your web site – each page should have it’s own set of Keyword Phrases that are relevant to the content on that page.
- Keyword research – There are various tools available to research keywords and phrases – Google Keyword Planner is part of Adwords but you do not have to run Adwords campaigns to use the planner. There are various other keyword discovery tools available and google also gives you suggestions as you type and adds more suggestions at the bottom of search results pages.
- Don’t be too generic in your choice of words and phrases – the competition is too strong and you are unlikely to be able to get good rankings – be realistic.
- Concentrate on your niche, not everything you can think of – be focussed
- Long tail keyword phrases have 4+ words and these are more likely to be successful
Its keyword phrases rather than individual keywords
Put keyword phrases in your Meta data tags
These are hidden html tags on each web page. They help to get a good ranking on search engines. The page Title Tag (often truncated) and the Meta Description tag can get displayed on search results pages.
a. The Title Tag
This is the first line Google shows on a search results page.
Your most important Keyword Phrases for that page should be in the Title Tag.
If you do nothing else – do this.
- Title tags should ideally be 50-60 characters long, including spaces. This is not much to play with so focus on what is most important.
- Your most important keywords come first in your title tag, with your least important words coming last.
- Title tags must be relevant to the page content and be repeated within the page content.
- Title tags must be written differently for every page.
- Do not repeat keywords within the title tag. (This is keyword stuffing and will probably get you penalised.)
- If you want to include your company name put it at the end of the title tag.
b. The Meta Description Tag
A short, concise and relevant summary of the most important aspects of the content of the web page.
This should be human readable sentence (s), ideally between 150 and 160 characters. It is helpful if this contains your Keyword Phrases.
A meta description should be well written, without overusing keywords for the sake of search engine optimisation. When using your keyword phrase, make sure it is provided in context, always thinking of your audience first.
This is the 3rd and 4th lines Google shows on a search results page and is used to encourage searchers to pick your listing rather than someone else’s.
c. The Meta Keywords tag
Still used widely on websites but generally ignored by the search engines – don’t waste your time on this one.
In your web page content
Ensure keyword phrases are included in important places such as:
- Ideally in the URL of your web page.
- In your page heading or headline (and this should be coded as Heading 1 or H1). Ideally do not repeat your Title Tag exactly, use a different terminology to increase the keyword spread.
- In the first paragraph of your page which should expand upon your meta tags.
- Sub-headings (using a hierarchical structure coded Heading 2 or H2 down to H6).
- Repeat your Keyword Phrases but in human readable form where ever it makes sense to do so and does not spoil the readability.
- Use alternative related phrases to your target Keyword Phrases as you would in natural speech.
- You don’t want your keyword phrases to appear too many times, because that might make the search engines think your page is a spam page = keyword stuffing.
- Internal links (links within your content to other pages in your site) help the user navigate through your web site and says to the search engine – there is more relevant content – so showing the depth of your site.
3. Build Backlinks
Search engines analyse links to your website (back links) from other sites (including social media) as means of determining if your site is good for the topic in question. Link analysis is not all about numbers although popularity is good, links from good sites (in the eyes of the search engine) are better.
Backlinks from a highly trusted source can lead to an increase of traffic and a boost in your search ranking. The best way to achieve backlinks is to create high quality unique content.
4. Verify And Maintain Your Listing
- Check on your pages and ensure they get listed.
- Once your pages are listed, monitor your listing regularly.
- Review site stats reports (ideally Google Analytics and Google Search Console) to see how you are performing and consider how you can improve.
5. Update Your Website
Search Engines love new content and like to see websites grow – so change and add new content to your site regularly. This increases the chances of being considered an authority in your subject and thereby boosting your ranking and traffic.
But always put quality content over quantity.
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We aim to be friendly and informative, providing all the support and guidance you need to steer you clearly and effectively through the web design process and ensure that you end up with a great website.
If you need help with your website please feel free to give me a ring. Regards
Michael Spencer, Web Designer and WordPress Specialist.
firstname.lastname@example.org – 01263 722058
Epsilis Website Designers – Mundesley, Norwich, Norfolk and Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire