SEO for beginners - a few things to check
After a couple of years in the business, there are a few themes that I’ve noticed and a couple that I can’t help but laugh a little at. One of them is this question soon after a client’s website has launched: “Why isn’t my website coming up on page 1 in Google?”.
The short answer is that Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) takes TIME, particularly if it’s a new domain name you’ve just activated.
The longer answer is that there are hundreds of factors that Google takes into account when determining the ranking order of websites. Search engines need to crawl, index and understand your content, then start measuring how ‘useful’ it is compared to other websites, which is how you’ll get your ranking.
In Google’s own words:
"Search engine optimisation is often about making small modifications to parts of your website. When viewed individually, these changes might seem like incremental improvements, but when combined with other optimisations, they could have a noticeable impact on your site's user experience and performance in organic search results."
A helpful approach is looking at two sides of SEO. The first is your ranking for search terms. The second, is the general health of your website. Let me break this down...
Search term ranking
I've run an interiors blog, getinmyhome, for about five years now, and it comes up on the first page of Google for search terms like "interiors blog", "Australian interiors blogger", "design blog Australia" and "interior design blog".
This is a result for five years of regularly adding content, having my blog linked to from high traffic websites like Domain, Pop Sugar and Domino, and being intentional with tagging blog posts with relevant key words.
When we work on websites for our clients, we've also helped them rank on the first page of Google's search results for key search terms of their business.
So what can you do?
1. Check your URLs.
I often come across websites with poorly structured URLs. For instance, when you look at the browser, the page might look like www.website.com/newpage1. You should use that URL to accurately describe what content Google will find on that page.
2. Break down your copy & use headings
Google prefers website copy that is broken into smaller paragraphs with headings, rather than big chunks of text with no hierarchy. And I promise you that your audience will prefer that too! Then, when writing your headings for each page, there might be opportunities for you to include search terms too.
3. Name your images.
If you look at the image files on your computer what do you see? Something like 1468379992.640x0c.jpg. Rename your images to include your search terms, like "interior designer melbourne" and upload it to your site.
Then, also name the ‘alt text' for each image, which will be shown if for some reason the image itself can’t be. Naming our images and using alt text makes it easier for sites like Google Image Search to find and understand them.
4. Name your pages and give them descriptions
Don't forget that the content on our pages isn't all that Google takes into account. If like me, you run on about 10 tabs being open in your browser at the one time, you'll see each of them have a different name. Check to see if and what you have named your pages, then work out if you can add some key words here, while still being relevant to the purpose and content of each page.
Similarly, each page has a description that appears in Google - your 'meta description'. This is another opportunity to be intentional with your copy.
5. Don’t use graphics instead of text
And be wary: don't use images to display important content. Google doesn’t recognise or read text that is contained in graphics. For instance, rather than uploading an image of your cafe’s menu go for a PDF document, or even better, have the text typed out onto your actual website. The same goes for graphics - avoid these and opt for text on your website instead.
The health of your website
So, now we have helped our website be found, what else do we need to do? Make sure Google loves it too! Here are a couple of important things to prioritise.
1. Mobile optimised & quick to load
These statistics from Google illustrate the importance of mobile optimisation:
Today, more people search on mobile phones than computers.
- People are five times more likely to leave a site if it isn’t mobile-friendly.
- Over half of mobile users will leave a website if it takes longer than three seconds to load.
If our website is currently not responsive across devices or takes a long time for each page to load, we're killing not only our chances of ranking highly organically in search results but also our users’ experience.
2. Keep your website updated with fresh content
Google’s algorithm favours freshly updated content. This is why having a blog or news page is a great tactic to help our search result ranking. Even better: it also gives our audience a reason to visit our website AND spend time on it (two other things that Google’s algorithm likes). So introduce regular blog posts or updates into your marketing strategy.
3. Get social
Let's not forget that your website is just one part of our marketing. The activity and size of the social media accounts is thought to influence our website ranking.
As this helpful article from Forbes explains:
"A company with 100 Twitter followers won’t receive nearly the ranking bonus of a mega-corporation with a million Facebook likes and a million Twitter followers. However, there are some stipulations to this; Google can detect the quality of your followers, meaning buying 100,000 proxy Twitter followers isn’t going to do much for your overall rankings. Instead, you’ll need to build your following organically."
Plus, the more times we or others are linking to our website on social media, the more traffic, as a rule, we should receive, and the higher our website will rank. Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook... the platform doesn't matter. Encourage your website visitors to share your content, and do the same.
4. Be a content creator and PR spruiker
Remember how I said my interiors blog has been featured on and linked to from websites with hundreds of thousands of visitors? This gives my website a virtual 'tick of approval' meaning Google knows it must be relevant and authoritative.
So make sharing your knowledge with others and telling your story part of your strategy to help boost your website authority, and ultimately its ranking. Plus, you'll increase your brand awareness too!
5. Focus on value for your audience
Finally, the most important thing is to make our website valuable and helpful to our audience. The last thing you want is to do all this work getting people to our website, only to have them realise it's not giving them relevant information.
The more value our website provide, the more visitors we'll attract visitors, the longer they will spend on it and the more people they'll share it with... tick, tick, tick!