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Eeek! It has taken a little while, but we are back with part 2 of our Ten Tips Top Optimise Your Website series. See part 1 here.
This time period is quite a good reminder actually that SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. While some changes may be seen quickly, search engine optimisation is all about the long game, and should be part of your long-term and overall marketing strategy.
So keep that in mind while reading our five (plus one bonus) tips for how to optimise your website.
6. Decide upon relevant keywords (and use them appropriately throughout your website copy and images, alt tags etc)
Keywords, search terms, search phrases, key phrases, whatever you call them, keywords remain fundamental to the search process, and hence search engine optimisation.
Whether people are typing keywords into a browser, or using voice search (important to consider these days), we want our web page to show up in search results for relevant keywords.
There’s one of my favourite words: relevant.
You’re not going to appear for EVERY search term. You want to appear for the ones that are most relevant, and likely to be used by your target audience when they are searching for your products and/or services.
The best way to start is simply draft a list of the phrases you think people are likely to use to look for you.
And the term “phrase” is important.
While we use the term “keywords” people generally type more than one word into a search engine to find what they are looking for. Searchers are getting smarter, and trying to also find the most relevant results, by including details.
The more relevant and targeted they are to your business, the more likely you are to have success.
For example “accountant” while a relevant term, is also kinda generic and also likely to return a HUGE amount of results, making it very competitive and difficult for you to rank well for.
Whereas “business accountant” is getting a little more specific.
And “business accountant in Adelaide” is even more specific.
So begin by drafting what keywords you think are relevant, but then also expand to how you target audience might search for your services, especially if you tend to use in-house terms or industry jargon that isn’t common knowledge.
You can conduct this research by simply asking people you know: “what would you type into Google to search for my kind of business?”
In addition to your own brainstorming and market research, you can use online tools such as keyword.io and kwfinder.com to provide information about what terms people are ACTUALLY typing into search engines, as well as suggested terms you may not have thought of. Many of these tools also offer details of the number of times each phrase is searched for per month, and how competitive they are.
You can also use the Keywords Everywhere Google Chrome extension to conduct keyword research, and even Google’s search predictive suggest to research relevant keyword phrases.
Don’t just build a huge long list of words though, you need to select the MOST RELEVANT words that offer the HIGHEST OPPORTUNITIES (based on search volume and competition) and then split them up into your different product/service areas. That way you can focus on optimising different pages of your website for specific keyword themes, rather than trying to optimise every page for ALL THE WORDS which won’t give you great results (and will likely read very poorly).
You should have:
- One group of keywords for your business/brand name (this should be relatively simple, the name of your business and hopefully you already rank for it, e.g. Accountants’R’Us)
- One group of keywords for your general business type (e.g. business accountants Adelaide)
- Then a group of keywords for each of your different product or service offerings (e.g. tax accountants Adelaide, financial planning Adelaide, bookkeeping services Adelaide)
Aim for 5-10 relevant keywords for each group (less for your business/brand name).
You don’t need to include every possible combination though, e.g. accountant versus accountants. Google and other search engines are very smart at detecting the overall theme of a page, use of synonyms etc.
Once you have your list of focus keywords, use them throughout the content on your website, to clearly explain what you do. The trick here though is to still focus on writing for website visitors, not search engines. The days of repeating your keyword constantly throughout one page are through (“keywords stuffing”) it’s about being natural, but also clear about your services.
You see I’ve been using the accountant’s angle here, and a great example I came across from working with an accountant is that their original website copy tended to use the term “return” instead of “tax return” or “income tax return”. While in the context of an accountant’s website, most people would know what type of “return” they were referring to, it is a word that has different meanings.
A very simple change we made to their website was to review the existing copy, and replace “return” with “tax return” and “income tax return” (to provide some keyword variation) to give them a better chance of returning in search results for this type of query.
7. Create custom page titles and meta descriptions
Page titles and meta descriptions are a fundamental part of SEO.
Not only are page titles a ranking factor, but both page titles and meta descriptions appear in search engine results, and help searchers decide which search result is going to best answer their query. So they need to be descriptive and compelling.
Search engines will automatically pull in the title of the page and some copy from the page as the description, however the majority of websites will allow you to edit these.
Please note, the “page title” element can actually differ from the title that is shown on the page. This type of title sits in the <title></title> tag in the head of the website. While it may be the same as the “on page” title, it is an opportunity to provide more information to search engines and searchers.
The meta description is not a ranking factor, but provides a summary to searchers about the page and so is paramount in attracting them to read your result, and click on it. By default, the first sentence on the page may not suitably sum up the page, so write a short description of what they can expect.
Tips for optimising page titles and meta descriptions:
- All page titles and meta descriptions should be unique! No duplicates
- Be descriptive, explain what the page is about, honestly. Trying to trick the system will not work. Google will figure it out.
- Use your keywords in your page titles and meta descriptions where relevant. Some search engines will show these in bold if they match the searcher’s query which can help show the relevance of your page.
- While it continues to vary, there are some recommended character lengths for these elements:
- For WordPress websites, we recommend the Yoast SEO plugin which assists with crafting custom Page Titles and Meta Descriptions, and offers a useful checklist to help identify how well you have used your focus keyword throughout the site. It also counts down the character limits, and provides a preview of what the SERP (search engine result) will look like.
8. Ensure you have a fast-loading website, with nice clean code
Our attention span is short and getting ever shorter. We want quick responses, and research shows:
- 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less.
- 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
Fast loading websites are easier for search engine spiders to crawl and index, and better for users. So make sure your site is speedy!
You can check the speed of your site using tools such as:
These tools also provide suggestions on how to improve site speed.
Key factors that can impact site speed:
Nice, clean code
Just as you can build a house that looks good from the outside, but has problems behind the walls, in the foundations and ceiling, the same is true of websites. A website might look good, but be coded badly. And bad code is difficult for search engine spiders to crawl and index.
While as a non-developer, it may be difficult (or impossible) to know what is “good” code and what is “bad” code, it pays to consider factors such as the experience of your developer and the price you are paying (though in saying that there can also be new developers who know how to code well).
Certain types of websites can also tend to use A LOT of code, which can slow them down. While I love WordPress, its theme libraries and plugins, it can make for a hefty site, that can be slow. Try to use as few plugins as possible, and tools that can help increase speed such as WP Super Cache to keep your WordPress site ticking over well.
This is one issue I see ALL THE TIME!
Just because our phones can now take large images, doesn’t mean we need to upload full-size images to our websites!
Large images take up more hosting space, take longer to load, and use more bandwidth which can reduce your hosting capacity over the month, which can affect website performance.
So reduce images to the size they are required for the website BEFORE uploading.
If you are managing your own website updates, have your website designer or developer let you know the image dimensions recommended for each type of image on your site.
If you don’t have access to Adobe Photoshop, or similar programs, you can use online tools such as webresizer.com
Read more about optimising your website images here.
9. Look out for broken links and use redirects
While it may not seem like a big deal to delete pages that are no longer necessary, or change page URLs (which may automatically occur if you change a page name) these can impact your search engine rankings.
Broken links result in 404 Page Not Found errors, not only for website visitors, but for search engine spiders. If spiders encounter these, they send them back to the search engine index, and too many can result in your site slipping down the search results (as well as providing a poor performance for website visitors).
Again, this one is a bit of a technical one, but even as a webmaster, you need to be mindful of changes you make that may result in broken links.
The solution is to set up 301 redirects from the “old” link to the “new” link. Again, for WordPress users, you can use a plugin like Simple 301 Redirects to manage these yourself. Or you may need to provide the “old” and “new” links to your developer for them to set up the redirects for you.
Sometimes pages DO need removal or deleting, so simply consider what the next best page is that a visitor could be shown.
Another tip is to have a useful 404 Page Not Found page on your site, so that if a broken link is encountered by a visitor, they are given some options to continue navigating on your site rather than being likely to jump ship and leave.
Creative Bloq: 38 brilliantly designed 404 error pages
10. Use useful internal links and seek relevant high-quality backlinks
Links are becoming more and more critical to search engine optimisation. Not only do they help search engine spiders jump from page to page and site to site, but they help visitors navigate your website and the internet as well.
There are two main types of links:
These are links on your site, to other pages of your site, including your navigation, but also text within a page. Adding relevant links between your own pages not only helps visitors, but shows spiders the relevant pages on your site, and the connections between them.
If you are writing about another service on a page, link the text to it! Don’t make visitors go back up to the nave. Make it super simple for them.
The same goes for whenever you write “contact us”. Link to your contact page!
Focusing on creating a relevant, fast, useful and easy to use website for your visitors first and foremost, will go a long way in optimising your website for search engines.
This is the one that most people know of. Backlinks are links to your website from other websites. In the days of yore, it was all about getting the MOST backlinks, now search engines have cottoned on to this “trick” and focus on QUALITY of links over QUANTITY of links.
The best backlinks are RELEVANT to your site (there’s that word again) and from QUALITY websites, ideally similar or better than yours.
Relevant backlinks not only help with getting referral traffic from other websites, but serve as a search engine ranking factor that your website IS WORTH LINKING TO.
To be a website worth linking to, you need to provide useful information and a good user experience.
Some ways to attract quality backlinks:
- Consider any groups or organisations you are a member of, do they offer opportunities on their website to link to yours?
- Business directories such as True Local etc provide fields for your website; review the directory listings you already have a complete all details. Look for other good quality ones to set up listings.
- Clients/Suppliers/Partners; are there any people you do business with who may provide a relevant backlink? Could you provide a resource or guest post on their site that they link to yours from? Do they include case studies that you can get involved with? Don’t just ask for a link swap, make it relevant and useful.
- Become involved in forums, review and comment on other people’s blogs; without being spammy… keep it relevant and add value. Some of these forums or sites may offer opportunities to link back to your site, but do it for the right reasons.
- Media and PR; look for opportunities to contribute to local news that may result in a backlink to your website (given most news is now published online).
- Regular blogging and useful resources; focusing on creating your own useful, unique content relevant to your industry can not only attract visitors, but may also attract links from people sharing or referencing your content.
- Look for online mentions and request backlinks; using tools like Google Alerts, you can be made aware of any mentions of your business name. Other sites may mention you without linking back. By finding these, you can contact those sites and ask whether they are able to include a backlink.
Backlinking is a very detailed and becoming specialist area, so while these are a few ways you can use to optimise your website, there are plenty of others.
Search Engine Journal: How to build quality links – not quantity
A quick note on NoFollow
Without going into too much detail, not ALL backlinks are created equal. There is also the option to apply a “NoFollow” rule to a link, which then doesn’t pass on the website’s “SEO juice” to yours. It can still drive traffic by people clicking on it, but some major sites employ this as a rule of thumb.
11. Bonus tip: Ensure your website is mobile-responsive, and ready for Google’s “mobile first” index!
I hate to say “finally” as it implies that these 11 tips are all there are to SEO, and unfortunately this is not the case. SEO is constantly evolving, however, these tips tend to stand the test of time, and CAN provide real SEO benefits.
The last item I want to mention though, is the importance of ensuring your website not only works well on mobile devices, but that the mobile version can be indexed well.
Currently, Google’s search index is based on the desktop versions of websites, but a while back Google mentioned that they are planning on shifting to a “mobile first” index. This means that they will crawl and rank the mobile version of a website OVER the desktop version, and is in response to the ever-growing increase in mobile internet browsing.
Source: StatCounter GlobalStats
Like much of Google’s focus with search results, it’s all about providing the best result for searchers.
So while there is always more the learn about SEO, my key take away is this: don’t try to “think like a search engine”, instead try to “think like a searcher”.
Many of us use search engines ourselves, and want to find the best result for our query. So rather than just focusing on improving your search rankings, take a broader view of improving your website, and being the best result.
If you’re in Adelaide and would like to learn SEO best practices and techniques in more detail, check out our SEO training workshops in Adelaide.