You’re excited. Your new web site is complete and you can’t wait until it goes live and shines through screens and onto the faces of millions of people, worldwide.
Of course, there are billions of others all thinking the same thing.
Sadly, without knowing how to optimise in order to rank well in web searches your site will most likely never be seen.
But with knowledge comes power and just a few simple SEO tricks will help increase visibility of your website.
At most, you can be number one. The most coveted ranking of them all.
But never forget the wise words of marketing author Stoney Degeyter:
“You can’t just “SEO” your website and be done. It is a forever moving goalpost”.
Let’s get started.
1. Take great care with your Keywords
Keywords are the foundation on which you will build a sturdy website atop the highest SEO search ranking mountain.
Be thoughtful and specific about the keywords you want to rank for. Consider how people will search in order to land on the virtual doorstep of your business. Don’t think too simply, but also don’t overcomplicate (no one said it would be easy).
Think about how your audience speaks.
Read a commentary on competitor’s social media posts to get a feel for the type of language used, not only within the industry, but also by the type of demographic you want to attract to your new website.
You can also use analytics tools to determine popular search terms for products or services like yours.
If you’re a novice and are starting from scratch, then consider using lower-volume keywords first and choose just one per page.
2. Add a primary keyword to your meta title and description tags
The description of your web page that people immediately see when your website pops up in search results pages (SERP’s), consists of a header (meta title tag) and description (meta description).
The meta title is literally that, the page’s title, which can be customised to entice people to click on it. Only about 60 to 80 characters as a maximum – depending on character width.
The meta description is a space where a short description (around 160 characters maximum) can be specified to also tempt users to click through to that page. If not specified, search engines will either display the first section of text on that page, or choose what is relevant (which isn’t always ideal).
Stick to the maximum word allowance. If you go over this, your search results will be truncated. And there is little more annoying than a half-finished sentence.
Adding a primary keyword to these tags helps search engines to understand what your website is about and categorise it accordingly.
Even if your page is a beautifully curated shrine of good SEO practices, more people are likely to click on your link if keywords are strong and prominent, which is of course is what you want for SEO and conversion.
For the same reason then, be as precise and compelling as you can with your meta description. You have a few more characters to get people’s attention but each word must be carefully chosen and must also include secondary keywords.
Meta information on Search Engine Results Pages
3. Build a solid link network
“No man is an island” and the same can be said for your website.
The internet is a community and linking it together generally acknowledges the people who tirelessly keep this online world alive with smart and relevant content.
Building links is an essential for effective SEO. But the enormity of the internet can overwhelm a person with choice and more often just plain confusion.
So, the easiest way to get started with your link building is to have a look at what others in your industry are doing. Take a little stroll through your competitor’s sites and see where they are linking to. It will also give you some idea of how to use anchor text effectively.
Software engineer and ex-Google employee Matt Cutts said it best; “The objective is not to make your links appear natural, the objective is that your links are natural”.
While we’re on the topic of links, always check for broken links and use 301 redirects if you are moving your site from one URL to another. This will redirect visitors to your new URL if they are searching for the original. This is vitally important if you want to maintain search engine rankings with consistent domain authority.
4. H1 headings are not to be trifled with
Headings to articles seem innocuous. Like clearing your throat to get attention before starting a speech, right?
Sure, they are used to draw you in and get you to read further.
But there is a whole lot of other stuff going on in that one line of text that we don’t necessarily realise.
Headings come in different formats within HTML markup, ranging from what should be the main page header, H1, down to H6. The H1 format tells search engines that this is the main heading. This should contain your primary keywords, as it carries enormous SEO weight. Only use a keyword that is relevant to that page and don’t write the same content over and over in order to use the same keyword. Keep things natural. If you abuse it, Google will flag you for flouting SEO rules and you’ll be crawling back from the start before you can say “click-bait”.
5. Use synonyms to help you rank higher
You may have heard the joke by the now:
“An SEO expert walks into bar, bars, pub, tavern, public drinking house…”
It’s funny because it’s true.
Over the years and the many SEO updates Google has released, one thing has become apparent;
Google is trying to include natural inclinations into its understanding of how people use the internet and in particular, the many different ways we approach our search for the information online. Keyword optimisation is the best weapon in our SEO armoury but incorporating synonyms into that optimisation increases your chances of winning the SEO battle, tenfold. Ranking for a list of different words is smart. It’s accepting that there is more than one term that will lead people to you.
But don’t do a “right-click-synonyms” exercise in Word to find additional keywords. Your research needs to be meticulous in order for this to be effective. See point 1.
6. Duplicating copy can be considered cheating
Duplicate content refers to that which appears under multiple URL’s or multiple times under one URL.
Google defines it as “substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely matches other content or is appreciably similar.”
It’s not necessarily a deliberate practice.
Examples are forums that strip down certain pages for faster loading to mobile and e-commerce stores with a variety of distinct URL’s that promote a particular product.
Google put a stop to it when a common black-hat SEO practice was to duplicate the same or slightly reworked content to rank high as quickly as possible.
The reason it hurts your SEO is if there is similar content in one place or being linked to from multiple sources, Google’s crawlers have difficulty identifying the original and therefore the one most relevant to the search.
This results in all versions potentially losing ranking.
Also, according to Moz:
“Link equity can be further diluted because other sites have to choose between the duplicates as well. instead of all inbound links pointing to one piece of content, they link to multiple pieces, spreading the link equity among the duplicates. Because inbound links are a ranking factor, this can then impact the search visibility of a piece of content.”
This just results in confusion all around and the shameful loss of a good piece of a potentially shareable content.
7. Google made mobile king
We went over this in detail in this article, but not having a mobile friendly site is currently the focus of Google’s SEO police.
So let’s recap.
Firstly, if you’re not sure whether your site is mobile friendly then you can use this very handy tool that Google has kindly provided us with to test it.
Towards the end of 2016 Google couldn’t deny the surge in mobile internet use and released mobile first indexing. What this meant was that having a mobile-friendly site became a strong determinant for positive rankings.
Google was sending the message that mobile is happening fast and you had better get on board. It’s checking for mobile usability over desktop now and bases your search engine ranking on that.
8. Think of Google Analytics as your closest advisor
You can’t fix something if you don’t know that it’s broken. So, if you aren’t measuring your website’s performance and the impact is it having on search engine ranking then you need to get on it immediately. Ignoring it is like sending your child to school and not ever reading their report card.
In short, Google Analytics is a free tool that tracks and reports on your sites traffic performance. And, like Bear Gryll’s Pocket Tool, using it properly can mean the difference between life and death (of your website in this case, not you).
And this doesn’t just mean smart use of keyword ranking. Sure, the higher your keywords rank the better but there is so much more to it.
Don’t only pay attention to the content aspect of your online presence. Evaluate the results of your analytics for a holistic view of the impact your website is having on conversions.
Taking a look at what is happening beyond keyword ranking will give you an idea of how to generate leads, conversions and ROI.
Google Analytics feeds you every bit of information you need to determine what is happening on your site and how to maximise your SEO based on those results.
It is crucial to the success of your new website and helping you meet your business goals. You should spend triple the amount of time on Google Analytics than you did choosing a name for your site.
9. Choosing a domain name is not the same as naming your baby
Sure, naming your baby something unique and ridiculous could ruin their lives. But so will that eight-generation-deep family name.
Similarly, Google caught on to people choosing exact match domain names. In other words, www.cheapwebsites.com was a great idea for searches, right?
Google didn’t like that at all and in 2012 it started heavily penalising websites for it with an Exact Match Domain Update. The EMD spelled the end of many a website’s high ranking.
Your safest bet is to choose something closest to your business name.
You can use a tool like Namechk to see what’s available. Choose the one you want and then immediately claim it across as many social media platforms as possible.
How does this affect your SEO?
Well, with Brand Signals.
This might sound like web design jargon. But it’s an important signal to Google that you’re a genuine entity and not a fly-by-night site.
Your name and links to your domain across the internet is what are referred to as Brand Signals and in turn offers Page Authority (PA).
Using the name across as many active social media platforms and then linking them back to your website lets Google know that you are worthy of acknowledgement in a list of returned search results.
10. Google’s Search Console is vital
Google’s main objective is providing the best online experience for everyone.
Both visitors and vendors must be happy with the service or the internet becomes a dystopian wasteland of fear and terrible websites.
Formerly known as Webmaster Tools, the Search Console helps you to check for errors that might make finding your content difficult for crawlers.
Google Search Console
These errors may be things that you are not able to pick up easily such as security issues like spam and malware problems.
It doesn’t just pick up on errors within the site. It also offers very valuable information on things like search queries, what information is revealed in search results, what other sites are linking to your website and mobile search results.
Like any other aspect of running a business it’s really a no-brainer for businesses to use tools like this to monitor what works and what doesn’t and where improvements can be made.
11. Google’s SEO traffic police don’t issue speeding fines
On the contrary, Google will penalise you for slow loading pages because usability is Google’s favourite word to ever exist.
And thank goodness for that.
Remember sitting waiting for pages to load one line of text at a time?
No? Well, count yourself lucky then, millennial.
You could practically walk down the high street and do your grocery shopping in the time it took to load a single image.
Instagram didn’t exist in 1999 for a reason.
Fortunately we have come a very long way since then and there is no reason for us to spend an extra minute or two loading a page when it will take us only 20 seconds to click off your site and onto one that loads faster.
This is assuming your page shows up in the search results, which is not likely if your page speed is low.
So how fast is fast?
Or more accurately – what does “fast” mean exactly?
SEO expert and prolific blogger Neil Patel did some important research on the topic:
“We didn’t realize it when we started this research about page load times, but we were about to uncover a specific speed factor that Google uses to rank your website. It’s not just speed alone that matters, but a specific type of speed of page load times that makes the real difference.”
What he found was an incredibly intricate web of factors that affect both page speed and Googles valuation of these aspects for ranking.
As Patel himself mentions in the article a few times – it gets complicated. “There are so many other factors involved in page load time. What about the impact of plugins, image size, caching, cache validating, server response time, server response codes, time to first byte (TTFB), render rates, server location, DNS lookups, parallelized downloads, encoded headers, static content, code minification, redirects, and all the other factors that play a role?” While this sounds like the job of an SEO expert, it helps to at least know where you stand against your competitors.
For that, you can use Web Page Test as a starting point. These are basic SEO practices that should be standard with any new website. But there are a number of other slightly more complicated, yet highly effective ways to rank well in a search. Remember though, like most things, your website won’t get shoved under the spotlight overnight. A professional web designer will never make “instant success” promises that they can’t keep. Just like the best web designs, building smart SEO is not optional, but it does take time.