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There is a reason why an experienced Search Engine Optimiser (or SEO) is still a sought-after professional, as it is an ever-evolving and technical area, however, there are a number of SEO tips that you can implement – or be aware of – to help your website rank well in search engines:
Search Engine Optimisation SEO Tips
1. Define your www or non-www domain
Most websites should take you to the correct domain whether you type www.domain.com.au or domain.com.au
See what I did there? One has the www. before the domain, and one doesn’t.
However, you should have EITHER the www. version or the non-www. version defined as your PRIMARY DOMAIN with the other permanently redirecting to it (a 301 redirect). For example with my website, despite which one you type it, it always redirects to the non-www. version, i.e. scoutdigitalmarketing.com.au
SEO issues can occur if your website is accessible from both, and both can be seen in the browser when you visit each version (meaning there’s no redirect). It sounds simple, but this makes it look like there are two version of your website. Two IDENTICAL versions of your website, so each page can be indexed twice, and competes with its twin for attention in the search index.
It’s a small change, and there is no evidence that www. is better than non-www. but best practice is to choose ONE and set it as the primary domain.
You can test whether your site does this already by visiting both versions and seeing whether one already redirects to the other. If you can visit both versions, and see both full domain options in your browser address bar, then you need to make the update.
This might not be something you are comfortable making yourself (and if you aren’t, I recommend NOT messing around with it). But with the information, you can contact whoever manages your domain registration and Domain Name Servers (DNS) and ask them to permanently redirect one version to the other.
2. Check your site indexing, google.com.au site:yourdomain.com.au
You can see how pages of your site will appear in search results by visiting google.com and typing in the search bar:
Replacing “yourdomain.com.au” with whatever your domain is, for example mine would be:
These results will show every page of your website that is indexed by Google, and how they will look if they turn up in search results. Obviously not in a full list of all of your pages (as there will likely be competitors and other websites displayed when people search for your keywords) but more so what the Title, URL and Description of the SERP (search engine results page) will be.
This is a great way to check:
- Whether all of the pages of your website are being indexed
- What impression you are giving people when they see your pages in search results
Getting your website ranking well in Google is only half the battle, the other half is encouraging people to click on your page, visit your website, and find the information you are looking for.
You can adjust how the Titles and Descriptions appear by editing your Page Titles and Meta Descriptions (to be included in Part 2).
3. Use an XML sitemap
Many websites have a visual sitemap, that lists each page of the website, and an easy link to visit it (although personally, if your website is designed well, with clear navigation and structure, this should be unnecessary).
An XML sitemap on the other hand, provides a coded version of every page of your website, its priority and how often it is updated. It is used by search engine crawlers to easily access, crawl and index your website pages.
You can often find out whether you have an XML sitemap by visiting /sitemap.xml after your domain (although this isn’t always the case).
If you use a content management system (CMS) it ideally should automatically create a dynamic XML sitemap. This is one that automatically adds new pages etc. If not, there are a number of free online generators you can use to create static XML sitemaps, such as: https://www.xml-sitemaps.com
These won’t automatically update, and if you add new pages/sections to your website, you will need to create a new file.
Once the XML sitemap file is created, you will need to upload it to the root folder of your website files. You may require your developer’s assistance to do this.
4. Set up and verify your website with Google Search Console (and submit your XML sitemap)
Google Search Console (previously called Webmaster Tools) is a free service offered by Google that helps you monitor and maintain your site’s presence in Google Search results.
You don’t have to sign up for Search Console for your site to be included in Google’s search results, but doing so can help you understand how Google views your site and optimize its performance in search results.
It provides useful information about how your website is seen by Google’s search engine, and provides many useful “health checks”.
A great benefit of Google Search Console is that you can submit your XML sitemap directly to Google, allowing them direct access to crawl and index your site, as well as a record of when it was last crawled, and the ability to “resubmit” your sitemap for re-crawl. This is incredibly useful for when you add new content or make major updates that you want indexed as soon as possible, rather than waiting for the crawlers to visit.
To set up Google Search Console:
- Visit https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/ and sign up/login with the same Google account that you use for Analytics (for ease of use).
- Click the red “ADD A PROPERTY” button in the top right-hand corner.
- Select the type of property (Website or Android App) and enter the URL for a website.
- You will then need to verify that you are entitled to have access to this website and set it up as a new property. There are five methods for doing this:
- The simplest method is Google Analytics, but for this to work:
- You must be using the asynchronous tracking code.
- Your tracking code should be in the <head> section of your page.
- You must have the “edit” permission for the Analytics web property.
- Otherwise, you may require the assistance of your web developer to verify the property by one of the other methods (or have access yourself).
- Once you have completed the verification steps, click the “Verify” button, and you will be advised if successful or not, and if not, why.
Once your site is verified, you can visit the Crawl > Sitemaps section, and click the red “ADD/TEST SITEMAP” button in the top right-hand corner to add your XML sitemap.
I recommend testing it first, and if you have any errors, review your sitemap (or ask for assistance from a developer, digital marketer or webmaster) before submitting. If there are no errors, proceed with submitting it!
5. Focus on creating a “high quality” website
When talking about SEO, we often focus on search engines, crawlers, indexing and forget about the real people who are actually visiting and using our website.
The of the BEST things you can do to help your website rank well in search engines, is focus on creating a “high quality” website, that puts users first.
This may sound counterproductive, but when you think about it, many of the fundamental elements that go into optimising a website, also provide a great user experience: good quality, relevant content that reflects your search query, a fast loading website that is easy to use and navigate etc.
Google and other search engines are constantly updating the search algorithms to improve results for people searching, and to penalize people who are trying to “trick” the system by over-optimisation, which is often focused on search engine results, not user-experience.
In April 2012, Google released a major search algorithm update called “Penguin”. Regular minor and some major updates to this algorithm have also been released since then, however, it is a useful one to refer back to understand some major factors that influence how Google indexes websites, and what SEO “best practices” are.
Its main goal was to reduce “webspam”, and the major focus of this update was to help people find “high quality” sites. Google also released guidance on building high-quality sites.
While SEO continues to evolve, I regularly refer back to this article, and share it in my SEO training courses as important factors to keep in mind for your website.
When you read through them, they all make sense!
Here is a valuable summary taken from these guidelines:
Below are some questions that one could use to assess the “quality” of a page or an article. These are the kinds of questions we ask ourselves as we write algorithms that attempt to assess site quality. Think of it as our take at encoding what we think our users want.
Of course, we aren’t disclosing the actual ranking signals used in our algorithms because we don’t want folks to game our search results: but if you want to step into Google’s mindset, the
questions below provide some guidance on how we’ve been looking at the issue:
- Would you trust the information presented in this article?
- Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
- Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
- Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
- Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
- Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
- Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
- Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
- How much quality control is done on content?
- Does the article describe both sides of a story?
- Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
- Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
- Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
- For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
- Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
- Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
- Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
- Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
- Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content? Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
- Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
- Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
- Would users complain when they see pages from this site?
Keep these points in mind when creating content for and managing your website.
Is it a website that you would enjoy visiting?
Of course, there are other SEO factors that come into play, but a first and foremost focus on creating and maintaining a “high quality” website, goes a long way.
Next week we will share Part 2 of our Ten SEO Tips To Optimise Your Website. In the meantime, you can browse our other SEO-related articles here, or check out our Introduction to SEO Best Practices course (in Adelaide) here.
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