In order to achieve good SEO rankings in Google, you need to ensure that your website is correctly optimised. As an SEO company, we're well placed to carry out these optimisations on your website, but sometimes people prefer to do a lot of it themselves so we thought we'd put together a guide on some of the things you can do to help your website. It's a bit like doing some DIY on your car, you can take it to a qualified mechanic and you're paying for their years of expertise and tools that they know will get the job done quickly and to a high standard, but equally there are people who would like to read a how to article or watch a few YouTube videos and just have a go themselves, and for those people hopefully there are a few useful tips that they can use from this guide.
So let's have a think about what someone might want from their website in terms of google rankings:
I want to be top of the Google rankings when someone searches for website design in my area
That type of phrase is something that business owners quite often say, the problem here is that so do all the other website designers in your area! The actual phrase highlighted above is irrelevant or interchangeable here and applies whether you are a florist, a butchers or a candle stick maker, either way you want your site to be top for your keywords or phrases. The internet is a really competitive market place and it would be foolish to think that by simply having a website available will mean that your potential customers are going to find you. However, there are lots of things you can do on your website to improve how people and potential customers find you – but it is impossible to guarantee the top listing! Simply having a website is not going to rank you high - be prepared to work to improve your ranking through content, links and social media.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the process of making changes to your website in order to improve your ranking in search engine results. You can hire an SEO company if you decide you don't have time to devote to SEO, however be careful of companies that claim to be able to guarantee that you will rank at the top of Google. It is impossible to make this guarantee without paying for Google Adwords or Pay-Per Click/PPC as it is also known as.
If you want to have a go at doing some SEO yourself then our advice would be to follow this guide which should get you off to a good start. Patience is required here though. It will take time for you to make changes to your site and see the results of these changes. Google's rankings are updated every 10 to 14 days, though it can take up to 30 days in some cases, and your google optimisation changes are only picked up at this point.
There is also Pay-Per Click (PPC) advertising such as Google AdWords where you pay to appear in adverts within the search results. These advertisements appear at the top, bottom and right hand side of normal organic Google's search results. PPC can be expensive, but it has a place in an SEO campaign under certain circumstances. As Google and the other search engines change what will rank your website higher, SEO is a moving target. However, if you would like to try and learn the fundamentals (with the help of this guide), you will at least understand the basics and the terminology used. And if you do decide to hire an SEO company, at least you'll know what they're supposed to be doing with your money!
Assume you're looking for someone to design a website for you in Darlington. What are the most likely words or phrases you'll use to search for a suitable website designer on Google? Maybe something like "website design in Darlington"? Google has what it calls spiders which go out and crawl all of the websites on the internet looking for these words and phrases, and if your website matches matches then they will then display it in their results, organised according to the rankings it has assigned to each site. This means that the position of your website in the search results is determined by its ranking and how well you have ranked for those particular words or phrases.
It's not just as simple as including your key words and phrases on your website. A ranking is determined by a number of factors and there are a number of areas where you must focus in order to improve your positions. Below are some examples of what Google is looking for:
If your website domain name is new, then you can expect Google to take a couple of months to find and index your website. This is due to the fact that your site actually has no history with Google, and this is the rough timeframe they have for adding a new website to their index. (Note: This is where Google AdWords can be useful because you can list in AdWords within 24 hours, but it will cost you more.) If you already have a live website, it's a good idea to retain the website domain name so that your Google history is moved to the new site.
In order to improve your visibility in Google, we recommend setting up Google Places and Google Analytics Before we start looking at SEO itself we would recommend that you create a Google account so that you can use it to register your business on Google Places. You can then use Google Analytics and Google Search Console to monitor your website, look for improvements and start tuning your content for SEO and ultimately your rankings.
You can register your website with Google Places to automatically provide your business with a listing on Google search and Google Maps and is all free. You will be able to list your opening hours, address, contact details, and even a photograph of your business premises when registering your company. If your information changes, don't forget to update your profile. Customers may also leave feedback, which is another advantage that will make you rank higher on Google (assuming you get good reviews!)..
Google Search Console can be used to make it easy to monitor the success of your website. Your Google Search Console account will provide you with useful details, helping you to see which areas of your website need improvement. This may be an issue with your website's technical aspects, such as a growing amount of crawl errors that need to be resolved. This may also mean paying more attention to a particular keyword because its rankings or impressions are declining.
In addition to seeing this type of detail, you'll get email updates when Google Search Console detects new errors. Because of these updates, you'll be alerted to any concerns that need to be resolved right away.
You can use Google Analytics to see how visitors to your website connect with it. Content reports help you understand which areas of your website perform well and which pages are the most common, so you can give your customers the best experience possible. The success of your social media is calculated using social analytics. You will be able to examine how users communicate with the website's social sharing functionality e.g. sharing the pages to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. Conversion Analytics will inform you how many customers you are getting and how much you are selling if you have an e-commerce platform.
You can boost your websites SEO in a variety of ways. The following sections look at on-page SEO which is when you do work on your website, as opposed to off-page SEO which is where you can look at things such as link building or social media campaigns. This list is not exhaustive but is focused on Google's current ranking criteria when using your site's content so if you follow each section you should be able to start seeing some good results.
Keywords are words that users would type into Google to find you. For example, if I'm looking for someone to walk my dog in Middlesbrough, I could Google "dog walker Middlesbrough". As the website owner, I want Google to find these "keywords" on my blog and list it for potential customers to find. Google can search the internet for websites that use these terms, and it will then list the websites in order of how Google rates them so we first just need to ensure we have them on our site so that we are at least included.
Put together a list of keywords or phrases that are highly description and if possible unique that describe the services and products you offer. Start with your company name, what you do and where you are and combinations of. So for example if your company name was, MDS Solutions and you were in Stockton some keywords / phrases could be: MDS Solutions website design, website design, website designer, website design in Stockton, Stockton website designer, web design in Stockton, website design Stockton. You can then get more specific depending on the page you are optimising. So for example a wedding page you could use: Wedding website design by Simply website design Weddings Wedding website designer Wedding website design in Horsham Brides Bouquets Write a list of generic terms for using across the entire site, like the first list above, and then write a another list of page specific words and phrases like the 2nd list above. Ask friends and family to help you. Often as a website designer you are too close to your own business and other people will often come up with words that you would have never thought about. Google also has a free Keyword Tool that you can use to find keywords that might not have thought of. https://adwords.google.com/o/Targeting/Explorer?__c=1000000000&__u=1000000000&ideaReque stType=KEYWORD_IDEAS&defaultView=2 In the example below we have typed in website design and web design and the results show other potential keywords and phrases that I could use. It also shows the number of searches that have been made in the last month on these keywords.
It is a good idea to keep a list of all the keywords you are going to use on your website. Every time you change any content on your website you can refer to this list and make sure you include these words and phrases where relevant.
Each page on your website can have some SEO specific information added know as Meta Data. There are three main areas that these can be added and is very easy to do: ? SEO Page Title ? Page Description ? Page Keywords
It is the second most important on–page SEO element (the most important being overall content), and appears in three key places: browsers, search engine results pages, and external websites. This is what shows in the tab when a specific page is selected on your website – in the example above, the Wedding page. By default, your website will use the Page Name/Name of your shop/your location unless you specify a specific SEO Page Title as below. Aim for title tags containing fewer than 70 characters. This is the limit Google displays in search results. Title tags longer than 70 characters may be truncated in the results, or search engines may choose to display different text from the document in place of the title tag To change the SEO Page Title: 1. From your administration, select Page Content, Web Pages. 2. Click on the page you want to alter the SEO Page Title for. 3. Scroll to the bottom of the page and select Advanced – Search Engine Options. 4. In the SEO Page Title enter the title you want to appear in the browser window tab.
The page description is a summary of each page’s content. Google will sometimes use this description in search results snippets, if it thinks it gives users a more accurate description than the actual page content. Every page should have a unique page description – in other words write a different one for each page. The meta description should use keywords intelligently, but also create a compelling description that a searcher will want to click. Direct relevance to the page and uniqueness between each page’s meta description is key. The description should optimally be between 150-160 characters. Example for Website Design page: To add a Page Description: 1. From your administration, select Page Content, Web Pages. 2. Click on the page you want to alter the SEO Page Title for. 3. Scroll to the bottom of the page and select Advanced – Search Engine Options. 4. In the Page Specific Description, enter a short descriptive paragraph that summarises the content on that page.
These are the word or phrases that you have identified as potential words people may use to find your website. For each page in your website you can use different keywords. For example, the keywords on your wedding page can be different to the keywords on your home page. Example for Home page: Example for Wedding page: To enter Page Specific Keywords 5. From your administration, select Page Content, Web Pages. 6. Click on the page you want to alter the SEO Page Title for. 7. Scroll to the bottom of the page and select Advanced – Search Engine Options. 8. In the Page Specific Keywords, enter the word and/or phrases. Each word/phrase should be separated by a comma (,).
Your business website creates categories for different occasions. For example, Birthday, Anniversaries and Congratulations. When a visitor to your website clicks on a category the products are shown on a category page. Therefore each category has the ability to have SEO added (just like the actual Web Pages on your site). By adding SEO to categories you maximise your rankings. For example, if someone searches for “digital marketing” and Google picks up your page with “digital marketing” in your keywords and page url then your site is more likely to be listed. To change the Category SEO 1. Select Categories from your administration and selection either Occasions or Design Types. 2. Click on the category you want to change and select Advanced – Search Engine Options. 3. Add the SEO keywords and or descriptions.
The content on your website is extremely important for both visitors to your site and Google (and is what makes it worthy of a search result position). Google is searching your content to look for content that matches the search. Your keywords need to be weaved into the textual content for each page. This can be tricky as there is a fine balance between making the text interesting and readable and ensuring your keywords sound natural. For example, if keywords for your marketing page are “digital marketing” and you overuse them in the text on that page, the text will not sound natural and Google could in fact penalise you! Bad content example: Good content example:
The Page Heading for your page is important. This is what most people read first. Use your keyword(s) again in this heading (called Title on your administration system). Adding or changing the Page Heading 1. From your administration, select Page Content, Web Pages. 2. Click on the page you want to alter the page heading for. 3. At the top of the page in the Page Title type in the heading that you want to appear at the top of page. 4. Click on Save.
Each page on your website should have a couple of paragraphs of text as an overview of the products and services that you offer. You can add Main Page Content and Lower Page Content for every page on your website. The design of your website will determine which is best to use (or both!). Example: Home Page On this page there should always be a couple of paragraphs of text outlining the following and including a few of your keywords and phrases: ? Who you are ? What you do ? Where you are based ? Where you deliver to ? Anything unique about your business Adding or changing your Page Content 1. From your administration, select Page Content, Web Pages. 2. Click on the page you want to alter the page content for. 3. In the Main and/or Lower Page Content type in the textual content for your page. 4. Click on Save. Note: If you prefer you can type your text in Word and then copy and paste the text into the page content. This will allow you to spell check your text first.
Don’t waffle – get to the point. Visitors to websites do not read everything. In fact they tend to skim read and pick out the main words. However, remember that text that just consists of keywords will be penalised by Google. Easy to share – if the content is relevant and original people are more likely to share it with others via Twitter or Facebook, for example. These types of social link are great as they are instant adverts to your website visitors’ friends and colleagues through their twitter feed or Facebook friends. Articles – Think news article, interview or feature piece – “Life in the day of a website designer”, “Village website designer wins window competition”. Whatever it is promote it on your website. Up to date news and events will increase your ratings with Google. Guides – become an expert. Post “How to” instructions. Google will like the fact that you are giving away something for nothing. Video – in general there are fewer videos on the web than pages of text; consequently it can be easier to rank higher than a competitor by creating a video instead of an article. Video is a great way to attract an audience. Make sure however, that your video is short (3 mins max) and high quality.
The products on your website are the bread and butter and like Pages can use SEO techniques to improve your rankings. Good products will help your rankings with Google and it is a good idea to regularly check your products and categories.
Google wants to see products that are relevant to now. For example, if it’s early summer, Christmas products are not relevant to the time of year. However, your summer category is! Turning categories on and off 1. From your administration, select Categories and Occasions. 2. Click in the box to the left of the category you want to switch off and click On Hold at the bottom.
Google wants to see products that are unique. If you currently use relay products on your website the products are unlikely to be unique. However, change the name and or description and you have a product unique to your website. Also consider changing names and descriptions to use words relevant to the time of year. For example, Summer Sunflower Bouquet has more chance of being searched for in June than a product called Melody. Changing Product names and descriptions 1. From your administration, select Products. 2. Click on the product you want to change. 3. Type in a new name and/or change the description. 4. Click on save.
Give your image filenames that are descriptive of the picture. For example redrosebouquet.jpg is a lot more informative than image 000034.jpg. If Google cannot find relevant text on your page it will use the file name instead. You can also provide a description for the image that will appear for any visitor to your site who cannot view images. Google will look favourably on on these Alt tags. 1. From your administration, select Products. 2. Click on the product you want to change. 3. Select Advanced options. 4. In the Image Alternative Text type in the text that you want to appear, for example Summer Sunflower Bouquet.
A link is where a visitor to a website can click on something (text or image) that then takes them somewhere else. An example of this would be where someone goes to your website and you have a link to a local venue who recommends you. When the visitor clicks on the link text, they are taken to that venues website. Check your website regularly for broken links as Google will look on these unfavourably.
Links are a vote of confidence. In the example above the website designer is recommending the venue. If the venue then recommends the website designer in the same way this is called a back link or external link – in other words, they recommend each other. Google is aware of links and will rank websites higher where visitors are coming to the website via a link. However, you do have to be careful. You only want links from websites which have a “good ranking” themselves and readers who would be interested in what you offer. You want the link to: ? Send valuable traffic to your website (ie potential customers) ? Tell Google your site is an expert Lesson – if you want to link to another website, check the website out first! Make sure it is a website that you want a link from or to – even if it is a brilliant local business, linking to its website could be detrimental to your online rankings. Creating a link to another website 1. Make sure you have the URL for website and page that you want to link to. For example, if you were going to link to our website and the sample page the URL would be: http://www.MDS Solutions.co.uk/samples.html 2. From your administration, select Page Content and click on the page you want the link to appear. 3. In the Page Content type the text you want to appear on the page as the link – for example, view MDS Solutions samples 4. Highlight the text and click on the Link tool. 5. Type in the URL link and click on OK.
Social media sharing with Facebook, Google Business Pages, Twitter and Pinterest affects a website’s ranking with Google. Google now rates how socially active you are and the links from and to your website. In fact, social media is one of the top rankings for Google. Social media is all about getting visitors to share your website with their friends and followers.
For each social media that you have signed up to, MDS Solutions can ensure icons appear at the bottom of each of your webpages. Any visitor to your website can click on one of the social icons – for example the Facebook “Like” and an automatic post (link) to your website will be placed on their Facebook (with or without a comment). This will now be seen by all their friends and followers and Google will see that you are interacting socially and rate you higher. Of course the important thing to remember is that your website must have content that they want to share!
There are lots of choices for social media. If you are new to it start with Facebook. Google Business Pages are highly rated for your ranking (as it is of course owned by Google!) and should not be ignored. If you are already using Facebook then seriously consider setting up a Google Business Page, Twitter (including paying for a "blue tick" to get a verified account) and LinkedIn accounts as well.
Make sure that your website address is linked from your account. Some social media will verify your website address before the account is activated.
Be creative. Share the human side of your business with social media using photos, videos and even music. Be careful that you do not post personal information – this should promote your business, not that fact that you had too much to drink last night and have a hangover (which is it going to promote your business). Offer discounts, promote a community event or run a contest that encourages your audience to share your brand with others.