Professional SEO is something many businesses invest in to help improve the performance of their websites. It is recommended to have your website up for at least three months before you launch an SEO strategy as it will take this long for your site to find its natural ranking, which will give you a clear starting point. If you are not yet ready to enlist the help of an expert, there are some simple steps you can do immediately. This can apply either during the construction stage of a new site or as a first level of SEO on an under-performing existing site.
CREATE A CLEAR SITEMAP
Whether you are creating a new website or revamping your old one, planning what pages you really need and how they fit together is a fundamental part of formulating the brief for your web designer. Knowing the purpose for each page will give you a clear idea about what content you will include, and result in a site that is more likely to serve the needs of your target market and create logical pathways for them to access the information they need in the most useful order.
IDENTIFY YOUR BEST KEYWORDS
When choosing the right key phrases for your website content, it pays to think about the sort of wording your customers are likely to use when searching for what you have to offer, and structure your page titles, text and articles accordingly.
Go for several distinct phrases per page, and don’t be too general. With website traffic, high visitor numbers does not automatically convert into high sales figures so casting your net wide is unlikely to result in more fish. You need to focus on achieving quality over quantity. Thinking outside the box and veering away from the more obvious search terms may actually prove more lucrative, as you will be more relevant to less people. With searches around specialist items for example, it’s unlikely you’ll be facing too much competition, so even though the search volume is low the rates of conversion are likely to be higher.
Improvements to the search engine algorithms mean there is less need for exact match key phrases in the content and a higher emphasis on relevance. As a result. it is more about the overall customer experience than following a formula for key word placement. Therefore, you don’t write your content for a search engine – you write it for a human. It might mean you sacrifice the ranking on a specific key word and your site may lose top billing for a while. However, over time you will recoup those rankings in the search results with naturally written and informative copy and your users will likely stay longer, which will result in better stats overall. Think of it as building a consistent user experience with an eye on your keywords and not the other way around.
MENTION WHERE YOU ARE BASED, OR WHERE YOU OPERATE
Location-specific content is still relevant, especially if you want to gain work outside your local area. This is particularly true for tourism and accommodation businesses as the target market is searching from outside the local area and will use place names in their search queries. That’s not to say other businesses should forget about attracting work from outside their local catchment. Competing with the local providers in another city means you will need to find a way to rank amid them, and geographic content is the only way to do it.
If you’ve done a job for a business in another location and you’re writing about it – say where that business is from. Image file names, alt text and captions are a good place for a geographical mention too. It’s amazing how regularly you can pop up in an image search and it’s also a good way to get that keyword in without stuffing your copy so it reads like a search engine piece, rather than content meant for real people to read.
ARE YOU MOBILE READY?
Over 50% of global web searches are mobile. If your web site isn’t mobile ready, you won’t show up in mobile searches if anyone does it better. So this one isn’t so much “self help” as “talk to your web developer”. If you haven’t already done so, you need to build mobile readiness into your marketing plan, as not having a mobile-friendly site with fast page loading speeds and things like click to call will send you to the bottom of the pile.
KEEP THINGS FRESH
Build it and they will come – but not for long if you don’t keep your content fresh. A neglected web site won’t automatically do the work for you just because you paid a professional for a great design. You need to spend the time to keep your site and your customers up to date. This tells the search engines that your web site is important to you and what you write about tells the search engines which content is important to you . This makes it better for when a visitor arrives too, as they see up to date and relevant content that tells them they’re in the right place. It really is a win-win.
OPTIMISE YOUR IMAGES PROPERLY
Site speed has a direct impact on positioning in search engines – it also has a marked effect on user experience. Large image files can slow down your loading times considerably – crop them to the size you need them, compress them as much as you can without them looking muddy and pixelated then save them with a new file name ready to upload. That way you still have the originals to use in printed marketing and so you can make them bigger if you redesign your site.
Links both to and from your website is good, but they have to be relevant, or they are just seen as spam. You don’t need large numbers right from the get-go; in fact, natural growth in links is considered good practice. Even a handful of decent links back into your web site can make a big difference to your search position.
If you have multiple websites – link them. If you have friends with websites – swap links. If your customers and suppliers are willing to swap – link to them too. Link building is a blog topic in its own right, but you can make a start with a quick flick through your contact book and a couple of friendly calls. If you comment on blogs and news or in social media groups– use it as an opportunity to link back to your own website where appropriate.
Craig Cochrane is an experienced web designer who specialises in website performance. For more information you can read more about Search Engine Optimisation under Web Tonic’s Web marketing Services, or contact us to discuss how we can help you build an advanced SEO campaign.