A lot of people would have you believe search engine optimisation, SEO, for your website is some sort of dark art or science for which you need to pay considerable amounts of money, so is it really possible to improve the ranking of your website without spending a fortune?
The simple answer is yes, so much of SEO is about building a good foundation and there are many straightforward, easy to add things you can do to help improve your site’s performance.
The holy grail of SEO seems to be about being ranked #1 on Google and to be honest the only way to absolutely guarantee placement is by paying for it, but for many small businesses in particular this can be an expensive route.
So what are the “Good Practise” fundamentals to get right which will help push your website up the rankings and get you visible to your audience? Check out some of the basics that can make a significant difference.
- The name of your site, the domain name, (such www.mysite.com) can be of significant benefit if it reflects your business for example gardensforyou.com is great if you are promoting a gardening service and garden related business but not so good if you want to sell kitchens! Another thing about domain names, is the length of time a domain name has been active – longevity, even by web standards of 10 years plus, counts!
- Friendly URL’s should be used for your web pages, crimsonpixel.co.uk/portfolio means more than crimsonpixel.co.uk/index.php?5, so where possible make sure your URL’s are both friendly and relevant to the page.
- Page titles, these are what you see in the tabs of browsers and again should be meaningful and unique to each page, avoid generic titles.
- Headings are the next thing to consider, particularly the main heading often using the HTML tag <h1></h1>. Make the heading relevant to the content and the page, and unique to each page.
- Content, content, content. The content on your page will determine how successfully your pages and your website rank. Once again unique content for each page, along with the use of keywords pertinent to that page. Keep content succinct and repeat those keywords important to your website several times throughout. Remember to consider the keywords that you think people might use to find your website and don’t “stuff” keywords which are not relevant – this will go against you in the long run.
- Image descriptions, known as “alt” tags, are an important aspect of SEO. When search engines go through your site (using robots and spiders) things such as images are not visible as such, characters and text is what is being indexed, therefore, make sure you set suitable alt tags which are short descriptions of your images, so that the images have a meaning and will be indexed.
- Keywords as meta data. Some would say these are no longer used, however, in my opinion it can’t hurt to add them. As with everything so far, keywords should be relevant to that page and ideally the sort of words people would use when searching for your products or services. Don’t go crazy, adding too many can be counter productive – try to stick to around 180 characters (which includes spaces and commas!), be strategic.
- Whilst discussing metadata, consider descriptions for each of your pages. With some content management systems it is all too easy to add a generic description which applies across the site, however, this won’t gain much in the SEO stakes. Instead, spend a bit of time writing a short description (approximately 255 characters) which is unique to each page. You can typically see how successfully this works when looking at search results from the likes of Google where you will see the name of a site and below will be a selection of web pages each with a short description which will have been pulled from this meta tag.
- Site map – make sure you have an overview of your website which can be submitted to search engines in the form of an xml file. Also ensure there is an html version available too.
- Error pages – don’t rely on hosts 404 error pages, so often this takes people off your site and into “no-man’s land”. Instead ensure you have an error page where, for whatever reasons, someone finds themselves “lost” – perhaps due to a typo or because you’ve removed an old page and forgotten to remove links or add a redirect –users remain on your site and can easily navigate back in. And whilst we’re discussing re-directs, if you remove a page or rename a page make sure you have relevant redirects in place to stop people disappear into cyberspace!
- Finally, get your website listed and linked from other sites. You may have the most amazing and incredible website ever, but if it doesn’t have any inbound links it will be difficult to find especially if it is a relatively new site. Think of your website as a newly built house if you don’t have any roads to the front door no-one is going to be able to find it! Get your site listed on other sites relevant to your site and definitely consider the power of social media such as Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter pages – but if you do decide to take advantage of these medium ensure you engage and interact regularly otherwise it will be of little consequence.
If you implement all these steps you will stand a significantly better chance of being ranked higher than your competitors – although it will depend on how good they are with their SEO techniques!
You can monitor your sites performance with the likes of Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools, both of which are free and will help you develop your SEO strategy and view the results.
The suggestions above are by no means exhaustive and there are other things that can be done to help optimise your site further, but most of the things listed above require little, if any technical knowledge, although you might need a bit of help establishing where some of the tag data is stored on your site!
For more information about help with good, basic SEO please feel free to contact me.