In this age of digital search you need to ensure that your website is ranking in search engines, so that potential customers can find your business online. Ideally you want your page to appear on the first page of Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo and Yahoo – which are the top 4 search engines used in Australia.
There are two types of marketing activities that can assist with your appearing in search, one is SEM – search engine marketing and the other is SEO – search engine optimisation. The latter is free and the one we are going to discuss in this article.
Search Engine Optimisation Necessities
At a basic level, and something that most business owners can affect themselves are the following tips to enhance your website so that it appears in search engines.
- Claim Google my Business and Bing Places for Business
- Backlinks – start by checking and adding your business listing on local search directories
- Connect Google Analytics and Google Console on your website (check for robots)
- Install and use YOAST on your website
- Utilise images and videos
- Add Structured Data to your HTML
- Understand the importance of the use of keywords
- Crawl your website using free tools to avoid surprises
- Make sure your website loads quickly and is mobile responsive
- Write and publish blogs and articles
Claim Google my Business (GMB) and Bing Places for Business
It is likely that there is already a listing for your business on both of these platforms. You will however have to claim it (or add it if it is not there) so that you can tell the search engines what your business is about and where it is located. To check, or set-up if your GMB listing is owned by you and is up to date please check here. It is very easy to set-up and ensure that all of the information on your business is entered. Similarly, for Bing, just go here to claim and setup.
Doing this for both search engines will help your appearance in local searches and allow people to post reviews about your business or services, which also assists in improving your search engine ranking.
Backlinks – Check your business listing on local search directories
Backlinks are almost what helps to keep the web together. Before search engines were like they are today; the only way to find a website was through pages that listed out the websites, kind of like directories. So the modern directory now exists in the form of Yellow Pages, TrueLocal, , White Pages, Hotfrog, AussieWeb, Yelp Australia, StartLocal, SearchFrog and Local.com.au. Not all of these will be appropriate for every business and I suggest registering at least with the first three on the list.
It is free to register in all of these directories and it will help to add backlinks on their sites referring back to your website. Getting backlinks from other sources is also important as the more links you have coming from other websites back to yours – the more the search engines will recognise your website as having authority. These companies will try to upsell you to their premium listing and this is a choice you will need to consider.
One way of getting backlinks is to make sure that any company, sports team or school you give prizes, vouchers or sponsorships to then displays your logo or a description of thanks on their website with a link going back to your website. Another easy one are any business associations you are a part of i.e. Chamber of Commerce – ensure that they link back to your website from their members page.
To check where your backlinks are currently coming from you can use the Ahrefs backlink checker.
A word of warning – please ignore any company that offers you backlinks on sites in exchange for payment. Many of these are low quality and will negatively impact your ranking.
Connect Google Analytics and Google Console on your website (check for robots)
Do you have access to your Google Analytics (GA) account? GA is another free tool that shows you how many people visit your website, what pages they are visiting, how they find you and how long they spend on your site. This is all very valuable data and will help to see if any of the changes you make to your SEO has increased the amount of traffic to your website. It will also help you to see if there are any problems on your site regarding content. Once you have access to GA they give you a code to add to your website, just once, to be able to measure all of this traffic.
After you have this it is time to connect Google Console to your website – also free – and get this, having Google Console connected is THE WAY to tell all of the robots who scan the web – where to find your website, what all of your pages are called and what it is on those pages. It’s Googles very own product to help improve your performance on Google Search. Cool right? So, to do this if you have Analytics set-up it should be very simple to verify that you own the site and then you can add your sitemaps.
A sitemap is a way of organising your website and identifies all of the URLs or page, post and image names on your site. Search engine robots, also known as bots, spiders, crawlers, search the web looking for content. You can make it easy for them and simply upload your sitemaps to Console and tell google to go look at them.
Your web developer should have done this for you when building your site and if you do not manage the site yourself then ask them straight up if they have Analytics and Console connected and if the sitemaps have been uploaded.
Install and use YOAST on your website
One way of generating a sitemap is through the Search Engine Optimization tool Yoast. It is a free website plugin that also assists you to manage your page descriptions and page titles that will appear in search results. If you don’t tell the search engines what should appear then they will make it up themselves. It is well worth the time to figure out what title and description you want to appear when your page comes up, so that it stands out over competitor offerings. If you look at the image below you will see that you can effect what appears in search (as long as it is true and matches what content is actually on that page).
Utilise images and videos
Those helpful robots that are searching your website really love images and videos, and having them on your website is another plus for SEO. However, the robots cannot read or see what the image is, or what is on the video. So you have to tell them. The way this is done, is by adding titles and descriptions and ALT names to your images and in the case of videos adding structured mark-up (covered in the next section). Again, if your web developer manages this for you – you will need to provide them with a list of titles and descriptions to add.
Another best practice for your images is to ensure that they have been compressed or correctly sized and are not chewing up the page loading time. A tool I use to optimise my images is SMUSH PRO which really reduces the image file size while keeping the quality of the image.
Add Structured Data to your HTML
Your what? Unless you have built your own website, you will need to get a developer to add this in for you. Structured mark-up or schema.org is another way of telling the robots about your business. It covers such things as opening hours, business type, list of products or services and your location. If you sell products from your website then this is an absolute necessity and you can go into greater detail by adding prices and individual products which will then show up in the shopping section of Google. Getting your basic structured data is made simple with this tool by Google to help you create the code needed to add to your website. It analyses your pages and you tell it what is what.
Understand the importance of the use of Keywords
Ahh keywords. People used to “stuff” their sites with keywords. Please don’t do that, it will have another negative impact on your page ranking. What you do need to do is the following;
- Each page needs to have one main keyword (or phrase) focus. That keyword needs to appear in the page title, first heading, first paragraph and in an image description on the page.
- Do not over use the keyword or phrase
- The keyword or phrase also needs to appear in the SEO title and SEO (Meta) description – using the YOAST tool mentioned above.
- Rinse and repeat with a new keyword phrase for each of your pages
Doing this helps you to focus the information on each page, it helps the robots but more importantly it helps the visitors that come to your page – the ones that are actually going to buy something for you.
The tip here is to be mindful of the keywords for the robots but foremost to write for humans.
How do I know what key Words (Phrases) to use?
For this you need to understand what words or phrases people are using to search for your product or service. There are some free and helpful tools to help with this;
- Answer the public – simply type in your keyword and it will generate the phrases people use when searching for your product. Try to incorporate these phrases in your web page.
- Keyword Gapoffers a side by side comparison of the similarities and differences between keyword profiles of up to five of your competitors. Use the free trial to discover what keywords others in your industry are using
- Keyword tool is another online tool to help you find variations of keywords
Once you have identified what your main keyword or phrase is going to be for each page, ensure that it follows the process of being consistent and that each page has its own unique content.
Crawl your website using free tools to avoid surprises
Things break on websites all of the time. Once a website is built it needs regular maintenance to ensure that it is optimised. And actually, it probably wasn’t built to be search engine optimised initially anyway. So, I recommend that you run some of your own tests, fix what you can yourself and then go back to your developer to fix the rest.
There are tools available that will require trial sign-ups to do an in-depth analysis on the problems with a website. Using these will help find broken links, missing images, large files, missing meta descriptions and more. SE ranking is the one I use, as the price for the performance and its automated reports really tick all the boxes. Other providers include MOZ and SEM Rush. Screaming Frog is a desktop-based application whereas the others are all based online. Take a look at them all and use their free trials to identify issues with your website.
Make sure your website loads quickly and is mobile responsive – UX (User Experience)
Page speed is now a ranking factor. Website page speed is determined by how long the page takes to load on a user’s device. That could be desktop, tablet or mobile and will differ for all users depending on the device they use and their internet speed. It is up to you then to ensure that everything can be as fast as possible on your website, as if your site is low you will lose visitors. Google looks at site speed as part of the USER EXPERIENCE and as such will penalise sites that are slow to load.
Page Speed. Good old google is helping us again with this tool which tests the speed of your site
Mobile Speed – check how your site responds on mobile devices – which is how more than 50% of searches are now conducted.
GTMETRIX – this site will identify more technical issues with your site
Write and publish blogs & articles
Hey, that’s just what happened here. The search engines like fresh content and a blog is an easy way to create new content. It is also an excellent tool for you to share information about your company, industry or services that doesn’t necessarily work as a new page on your website. A well written article will attract new visitors to your site who are searching for your area of expertise.
The great thing about blogs is that it gives you new reasons to share your business on social media as well. When you write a new blog simply post the link on the social media sites that you use.
There are many factors that affect page speed ranking for websites. Addressing these ten is just the tip of the iceberg however every change you make will have a positive impact on your page ranking
If you need some advice on any of the above topics or would like an intensive SEO audit of your website please feel free to book a session with me and I will help you to get an optimised site.