Quite often enquiries coming in through my website or via social media contain a common request. “I’d like to rank on page 1 of Google for the term XYZ.”. Being able to rank on page 1 of any search engine is no mean feat. It takes patience and usually many many hours to achieve along with just as much research time.
So for those who are new to the web design space or those who are looking to have a website created for your own business, let’s go through some of the basics which must be set up/configured/managed in order to begin the process of ranking on search engines.
What is SEO?
Let’s get back to some basics here. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. This is the process of optimising a website to improve the organic search ranking of the website on any search engine.
When we refer to “organic search ranking“, we mean the position that a website is listed when you perform a search using Google or Bing etc. This means that people find you organically through the search engine results pages (called SERP’s) and not through paid ads which appear at the top of most SERP’s.
Do you need to use SEO strategies?
In short yes. A website is an investment in your business. If you do not undertake at least the basics for SEO then the likelihood of anyone finding your website via a search engine is slim to none.
You wouldn’t buy a car and leave it parked in your garage for no one to see – so why have a website if no one can find it.
Over the years I’ve found some businesses prefer to rely on social media channels. The “I don’t need a website as I have a Facebook and Instagram account.” response is quite common. Social media absolutely has a place in our daily lives however you are forgetting the other major chunk of any market where people still “Google” for services.
You cannot go to Facebook and type “plumber + your location” into the search field and find a listing of plumbers in your local area. Therefore a website will provide your business with a presence in the world wide web rather than being limited to a specific social media platform.
How to know if your website is using SEO strategies?
Many of my clients have found me during stage 2 of their website lifecycle. The website has been developed and launched, and now the client is left alone by their original website designer.
How do you know if your website is using best practices for SEO?
How do you know if your website even shows up in the SERP’s?
Any good website designer can run an SEO audit on your website and provide you with some results based on that audit. We offer SEO checkups as a free service so if you would like to see how your website is performing, contact us using the button below.
Components of SEO
SEO is made of up lots of different components which when combined together decide how well your website will rank in any search engine.
Some of the basic components include:
- content relevance,
- keyphrase optimisation,
- end user experience,
- quality of your content,
- website speed,
- meta titles and descriptions and
This is just a small portion of what goes into good SEO for a website.
Is your content relevant to the topic? Does it make sense? Does it answer the question of a potential visitor to your website?
I’ve seen many websites where the title of the page and the content do not match. Maybe the information is outdated. This will not provide positive signals to search engines and will therefore potentially have a negative impact on your website ranking.
Most clients who know about SEO are familiar with the fact that a website should have targeted “keyphrases” or “keywords” for each and every page or post. These are the keyphrases that you want to rank well for in search engines.
Generally, a page should target 1 or 2 keywords and the content of the page should specifically be optimised for those targeted keyphrases.
There are also different types of keyphrases such as “broad keyphrases” and “long tail keyphrases“. Let’s take an example of the keyphrase “cake”. This is a broad keyphrase. Someone using that search term could be looking for anything from cake recipes, to cake shops to cake tutorials. This phrase would be highly competitive to try and rank on page 1. If however, I look at the key phrase “red velvet cake recipe”, this is considered a long tail keyphrase and very specific with the intent of the searcher and may be easier to rank well for.
Picking the right keyphrase to target on specific pages is not just a matter of picking some words out of thin air which you think people would use to find you. There are many many keyword research techniques which can be used to correctly identify keyphrases and then optimise pages accordingly.
Whilst you may know your website structure inside out and feel it’s super easy to navigate, are you 100% sure?
The end-user experience of using your website is an important part of SEO. This affects your “bounce rate” which is a metric used to measure how long people stay on any page on your website. If your bounce rate is high, this could mean that users cannot find what they are looking for, or your content doesn’t answer the query they have.
I’ve had clients where their website structure is pretty straight forward but they over complicate the navigation system making it more difficult than it should be. Or maybe they use terminology on their website which makes perfect sense to others in their industry, but their target audience has no clue what any of the technical jargon means. Again this makes for a poor user experience.
I’ve heard it a thousand times, and I’ll hear it plenty more times to come. “My website is very slow!”. A slow website = bad user experience. If your website takes longer to load than it takes to boil an egg then you have no chance of ranking well on the SERP’s.
There are many many factors which influence your website load speeds, from your web hosting server performance to image sizes to media usage. Pinpointing why your website is loading slowly and improving load speeds is a crucial aspect of SEO.
If your competitors’ website loads in 1 sec and yours take 10 sec, which website do you think the search engines will give seniority to? Not yours!
Search engines have gotten smart over the years. They can analyse your website content and use that analysis to decide which websites to rank higher than others. If your website content contains poor quality content then ranking on page 1 is going to feel like pushing a wheelbarrow full of bricks up a hill.
Does your content answer the question better than websites shown on page 1? Ultimately this is what you have to ask. If the answer is no, keep working on the content until you can confidently say yes to this question.
When I design a website, my clients provide the content, or “copy”. Some clients choose to write the content themselves whilst others opt to use the services of professional copywriters who use their “way with words” to put together appealing copy which can be SEO optimised to your chosen keywords.
Internal linking within your website provides a great influence in regards to your website SEO. Links within your website help to improve your user experience (big plus for SEO), and also provide search engines with a way to explore other pages on your website.
Another linking option is “external linking” which is the process of linking to websites other than your own. Website owners should aim to create quality content which then in turn results in “backlinks” from other websites to your own. These backlinks are believed to play a vital part in how your website is therefore ranked. If lots of websites are linking back to yours, then search engines see it as a positive and therefore identifies you as a credible source on the topic at hand. Gaining backlinks is a difficult process and takes time and lots of patience – but the end results pay dividends.
Meta Titles and Descriptions
When you perform a search in any search engine you see the results on the SERP’s. These pages contain the page title and a description which is referred to as the Meta Title and Meta Description.
Customising this Meta Title and Meta Description provides a clear indicator to search engines and searchers alike about what your page contains. Unfortunately, sometimes the search engines decide to create their own page titles and descriptions rather than using the ones you provide however these are a good starting point to get your SEO journey moving.
Web accessibility refers to a website which is coded and designed for people with disabilities in mind.
W3.org is the Web Accessibility Initiative and provides standards and resources to make your website accessible to people with disabilities.
Some of the basic design tips for creating a website with accessibility in mind include:
- providing contrast between foreground and background colours
- ensure interactive elements such as buttons and links are easy to identify
- provide clear and consistent navigation options
- ensure form elements are clearly labelled
- use headings and spacing to group related content
- ensure your website is responsive
- incorporate image and media alternatives
SEO in a nutsell
So I hope this basic outline of SEO gives you some ideas as to why and how you can address SEO on your website.
If you are having issues with your website or Search Engine Optimisation, feel free to contact us for a free SEO audit to outline any areas you may need to address or find out about our SEO services.