Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) simply means optimising your web site so that it ranks highly in the search engines, and as the vast majority of search is done through Google, it really means making your site Google ready. This is done in two ways. The first of these is making the content on your own site relevant to what people are searching for – this is known as on-site SEO and is what this article is about. The second is developing relevant links from other site to your own site – this is called off-site SEO and is covered in a seperate article.
It's easy to become confused when thinking about SEO, but there’s a lot you can do without any expert knowledge. The tips below are all free to implement and, provided you have access to a content management system to modify your own site, are relatively easy to do.
Content is King
Firstly, and most importantly, you need to bear in mind that you’re not writing for Google, you’re writing content for the visitors to your site to read. There is no point getting them to the site and then them leaving within a few seconds. Instead, write for your audience and produce content that brings people to the site again and again. Remember that content is king, so be sure to have interesting, well-written, and unique content that focuses on your main keyword or phrase (the words or phrases that you want people to find you with on Google.)
Choose your keywords carefullyResearch your keywords before rushing ahead and adding them to your site. Choosing the wrong keywords can be a horrible waste of time as you won’t get any traffic. Use Google’s keyword tool to provide a list of words and phrases that are relevant to your business and that will convert into sales. Create a page on your site for each keyword or phrase that you’re targetting so that search engines can easily categorise your content. Also, remember that longer keyword phrases (ones that are four or more characters) are a good source of traffic as they are easier to rank for and the user tends to know exactly what they’re looking for.
Make sure your content has a long shelf lifeWhen you're writing your content, concentrate on copy that doesn’t age. This will stay around in the search results for a long time and help to build trust around your site. It will also mean that visitors will continue to visit you for a long time to come. Remember the more engaging your content, the longer your visitors will stick around.
Don't duplicate content
Google doesn't like duplicate content so make sure you write unique content for each page on your site. You may be penalised if you fail to do this. Also, don’t copy content from other websites as your rankings will be downgraded. Sparse content on pages is also a no-no so if you have very little content on a number of pages, merge the pages to provide content rich pages.
Create eye catching content
Putting videos on your web pages will encourage people to stay longer on your site and, additionally, video sharing sites may link to you too. Also, create infographics or charts as people are more likely to link to them than just text.
Structure your site correctly
Make the decision about whether you’re going to use www or not for your site; ensure that your site uses either mysite.com or www.mysite.com but not both of these. If your content management system allows, your URL (e.g. furry_green_animals.php) should reflect the content of the page. Your meta description should also reflect your key phrases for the page, and the H1 and H2 tags should be variations of this. Your images should all have keyword rich captions and you should pay attention to the words surrounding the images as this can affect their ranking in Google image search. Lastly, when structuring your site, make sure that all pages on your site are available in three clicks or less from your home page.
The links between the different pages on your site are also important. Ensure that all pages on your site are linked from other pages. If a site isn’t linked to (either internally or externally), it won’t show up in the search results. Also, link from your homepage to your most important pages as this will increase their credibility. Conversely, don’t be stingy with linking out to other sites. This will encourage others to link to you.
Be mobile friendly
The release of Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm update on 21 April 2015 sent many site owners and marketers scrambling to get their sites mobile-ready. Many sites that were not mobile ready were dropped from the search rankings. Use a responsive design for your site that works across devices to provide the best mobile experience for your users. You can test your own site using Google’s ‘mobile-friendly’ tool.
When your site is ready to go live, don’t submit your site to a search engine. Creating a link to it from a high ranking site will force Google to pick it up automatically. Read my second article for more about off-site SEO and link building.
Remember that SEO is not a quick fix and will take time. Your efforts may not become visible for a few weeks or months. The newer your website is, the more patient you will have to be. It takes time to build trust and authority so you shouldn’t assume that you’ll place higher in the search rankings than older more established content.
And lastly, don't just rely on Search Engine Optimisation. Being reliant on search engines for visitors to your site puts you in a vulnerable position. Think about using pay per click, social media or advertising to market your site too – never put all your eggs in one basket!