Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a marketing strategy and a set of processes that help increase a site’s visibility in internet search results – without paying for advertising slots. The higher a website appears naturally in a list of search engine results, the more relevant or popular it will seem in the eyes of people searching, so SEO should be worth some of your time, thought, and effort. Better results in search engines can mean more visitors, more customers, more revenue. We can’t promise to get your website listed at the top of the search results but you can certainly get started on the right foot!
The key to good SEO in this era of intelligent search engines is to provide a good website that knows its audience – with the caveat that trying to cheat search engines won’t go ‘unpunished’. As with many tasks, starting your SEO project with a plan will give you realistic goals and a list of steps you need to tackle to get (and stay) near the top.
SEO is marketing; understand who your customers are
Think about what your site is trying to achieve and who you are trying to reach. SEO helps to acquire new website visitors that are interested in your products, services, the information on your site, and sometimes your location.
Scope and range
If you run a dog shampooing business, go beyond talking about canine care and poochy pampering. And if your business comes with geographical limits, mention them… locale-specific search is of increasing importance as mobile devices are on the rise, with operating systems and apps increasingly aware of your location all the time. You wouldn’t want to miss out on the most valuable search hits from people 5 minutes down the road, and conversely you don’t want hits from people too far away for you to serve. Unsatisfied visitors can negatively affect your ranking when they don’t find what they hoped for and quickly return to their search results page, so be realistic and focused with your marketing aims.
If you know about your target audience, the rest of your SEO plan mainly hinges on keywords. What words and phrases do your customers or other interested parties use when they think about you, your products, or your services? If you don’t already know, you could just ask existing customers, associates, clients or visitors, and do a little research online. The keywords associated with what you are providing will be woven as threads of your SEO strategy. Keywords are the basis of improving your site’s visibility simply because search terms are what people actually use to find what they want!
Create value for your visitors by adding original content. Add the text information, images or other resources that they are looking for, resources that match your site’s purpose. After making your site relevant to visitors’ search terms by providing related content, the next steps in optimizing your site are to improve its visibility to search engine robots. Include keywords in your headings and body text, making sure you mention – somewhere up front if possible – what the purpose of your business is in plain terms. Be aware that if you repeat your keywords too often it will devalue your site. Your content will be scanned and analysed by search engine robots to rank your site, with value awarded to what is perceived to be original, useful content. Search engine robots will also try and identify if you’ve copied & pasted from established sources, which could add relevance to the original source rather than your site.
You can also add behind-the-scenes settings that are exported with your site even though visitors might not see any of it. These include keywords and descriptions in the HTML code, (descriptions for your whole site as well as for each page), text-based sitemap files for search engines, an indication of how often your site is updated, page names, and webmaster validation files provided when registering with search engines.
While much of what we’ve touched on is based on your site (on-page) – its design, legibility, the quality of your information and copywriting – there are many other (off-page) aspects to SEO too. We’ll explore these tasks in more detail other blog entries on this topic.
Clean websites made easy
SEO is just one way of fine-tuning a website. You should aim for a nice layout, neat site structure, and clear purpose to each page so that when people find your site through a search engine, they stay there. Complement your site with search engine friendliness, but make your site the focus. If visitors find your site but quickly navigate back to the search results page to continue browsing elsewhere, your site could be demoted in future results.
Whether it’s your fishing club’s next meeting or the latest product you’d like people to buy, your site is providing information that other people will (hopefully) find useful. That information should be easy to consume if you want to make your visitors happy. Each page on your site should have a clear intent, and the information you offer should be easy to find and easy to read.
Use a neat navigation bar, preferably not made using Flash® so it’ll work on a wider range of browsers and devices, and make sure all relevant pages are easy for visitors and search engines to find. Add a sitemap page to your site, so that (like having clear navigations bars) your site contains links to all pages you want to be found. Avoid using highly ornate text styles for your navigation, headlines, or other text-based elements as it may prove difficult to read and may even be converted to graphics when published – and text in graphics is generally not searchable.
In Spring 2012 a popular web analytics firm said that for the first time 10% of traffic was via mobile devices, and that it seems to be doubling every year at the moment. Should your business just offer a ‘normal’ website as these devices get better at a ‘normal web experience’, or should you also have a mobile site? We recommend the latter: having a mobile-friendly website will contribute to your site’s popularity. Publishing mobile pages with “mobile” in their page title or folder name can boost mobile search ranking. Using WebPlus X6, creating pages for mobile devices has been made easy with new templates, touch-friendly buttons, animated banners that don’t use Flash®, and automatic screen-size detection & redirection. All this allows you to tailor some or all of your site’s content for modern mobiles, enticing and retaining even more traffic.
Building on the basics
Once your site has been written and designed taking SEO into account, there’s still more you can do to improve your ranking without spending money. You can register your site with search engines and online directories, add content regularly, and encourage people to talk about and visit your site by placing information and links in other sites including social networks. Some of these tasks should be ongoing, so your site continues to maintain its position of grow in popularity.
You can learn about these topics in more detail in our ongoing range of search engine optimization tutorials and videos; we’ll post new links here as they are created. The next in the sequence focusses on optimizing text: finalising your keywords, writing copy, and creating headings.