Over the last few years social media has become quite the buzz, but businesses should not forget the benefits of good old-fashioned search engine optimisation (SEO). A well-targeted SEO campaign will result in highly targeted traffic and conversions, which in turn will add to the bottom line of your business.
To help you get started here is a list of ways to make your website more Google-friendly (these will also assist in the way your website ranks in other search engines like Bing & Yahoo).
Remember: Your SEO will only be as good as your keyword research. If you choose the wrong keywords all your SEO efforts could come to nought.
1. Have good title tags
Title tags are part of the coding of websites you do not see, but they are important elements in telling search engines what a page is all about. You should not have more than one page on a website with the same title tag. Not only do title tags tell search engines what your site is about, but compelling title tags will also give users a reason to click through to your website when it appears in their search results. Make sure that primary keyword you are targeting for the individual webpage is included.
2. Have well-written meta descriptions
The meta description is another part of a web page’s code you do not see. It is used to provide the text under the title link in search results. You want to write really good ones that contain your keywords and accurately describe the different pages of your site. As this forms part of the result displayed in search engine results, it is important that it is crafted in such a way as to entice clicks from searchers.
If you’re using WordPress, we recommend WordPress SEO by Yoast to help with both title tags and meta descriptions.
3. Use keywords in your internal link anchor text
Search engines pay a lot of attention to the links on your site, along with the words that you use in them. Without getting too spammy, you can use anchor text to tell search engines and visitors where a link will be going, i.e. instead of “click here” use the name of the service if you are linking to one of your service pages such as “widget repair”.
4. Use relevant keywords in your general copy (but don’t overdo it)
When writing your website copy you should write first with the visitor in mind, then go back and optimise it for the keywords you want to rank for. Doing it this way will ensure you do not over-optimise your content and trigger a penalty. The search engine algorithms are very sophisticated now and do not need you to include your keyword 5 times in a paragraph – generally 1-3% is considered an ideal density of your keyword in your document. Ideally you want to include your primary keyword in the first and last paragraph (if not sentence) of your web page.
5. Use a good URL structure
Instead of domainname.com/page-5, it’s better to use a structure like domainname.com/descriptive-keyword. If you’re using WordPress, you’ll want to change the default permalink structure to “Post name” in Settings->Permalinks.
6. Use descriptive alt text and titles on images
All images on your website should have alt tags (alternative text) and titles. Alt tags let you describe the image to tell Google what the image is about and is a great opportunity to add keywords to your page. It is also useful for visitors with a visual impairment that use screen readers or in the event that the image does not load for some reason.
7. Use descriptive filenames for images
If you have an image of a widget, instead of something generic like IMG0987.jpg, you should name the file widget.jpg.
8. Have an XML sitemap
An XML sitemap makes it easier for search engine spiders to index all the pages of your website. WordPress users can create one with the Google XML Sitemaps plugin if they are not already using WordPress SEO by Yoast.
9. Have an HTML sitemap
Even though search engine spiders may use your WML sitemap, they also index your pages by following links on web pages. Putting an HTML sitemap on your website will not only make it easier for Google to crawl content several pages deep, but may also provide users with a better navigational experience.
10. Use keywords in heading tags
You can use heading tags for your main and subheadings. By including your primary and secondary keywords in these heading tags it tells Google and visitors exactly what your web page is all about. The style applied to h1/2/3 tags also helps your users to scan and identify the information they are looking for.
11. Focus on homepage optimisation
This is the most important page on your website. The title, heading, content and alt tags of the homepage should include the main keyword and secondary keywords you are targeting, while avoiding the temptation to overstuff it with too many keywords. Since the Google Panda update websites have been penalised for providing a poor user experience so you should always bear this in mind if you ever wonder if you are overdoing the keywords.
12. Start a link building campaign
Having quality inbound links shows Google that your site can be trusted. There are a number of methods that can be used to build links including a link from a guest post you have published on a relevant blog. While a link building campaign will help you to rank for the search terms you are targeting, you must be careful that you do not engage in tactics that may harm your site.
13. Have a company blog on your website
A blog can serve several purposes including:
- A way to communicate and provide updates to existing customers
- Adds pages of content related to your keywords and longtail keywords that generate traffic
- Gives you the ability to demonstrate your expertise (and possibly attract incoming links)
- Keeps Google happy with relevant, fresh content that has your website crawled on a regular basis
- Provides content that you (and visitors) can share via social media
14. Add your site to Google Webmasters tools
There are multiple reasons to add your site to Google Webmaster Tools, including:
- Adding a sitemap to help Google index your site
- Identify (and optimise for) the search terms you are performing well for
- Resolve any HTML errors
- Implement geographic targeting to tell Google where your service area is
- Disavowing links to your site that may be adversely affect your sites rankings
15. Have a robots.txt file
You may create this file with Google Webmaster Tools. This file will tell the search engine spiders what pages you don’t want indexed on your site.
16. Claim/create a Google+ Local listing for your business
A Google+ Local listing works best if it is completely filled out with all of your business information, including your website address plus photos and videos. The better your website is optimised the better your Google+ Local listing (the maps listings you see for local search queries) will rank.
17. Install & use WordPress SEO by Yoast
This one is obviously for those that are using WordPress for their website. There are other SEO plugins but this is the one we use on our own and clients’ sites. It has a number of features including building your XML sitemap and making it easy to set your title and meta description.
So there are 17 ways you can improve your SEO, but remember the most effective online marketing campaigns are those that are well diversified between social media, natural search (SEO) and paid search.