Search Engine Optimisation
“I want to be shown on page one of Google”. That’s what I usually hear from clients and it’s a perfectly reasonable request. After all, doesn’t everyone want to be on page one?
Once I explain how Google works and what’s involved, we can then move on to developing a list of strategic priorities based on their business model and with keyword research at its heart. Being driven by data (facts) is an essential place to begin and creates a solid foundation from which to build.
We’ve all received spam emails from ‘gurus’ telling us they can get us on page one, and they can. But what they don’t tell you is that the phrases they’ll rank you for are rarely searched for in Google. They will have little competition and are therefore easy to rank for – but if no-one’s searching for them, what’s the point?
Local search results are easier, but getting top results for popular keywords that people are actually typing into Google is a very different kettle of fish. It’s therefore really important to understand what Google is trying to do with their search engine results pages (SERPS) and why they prioritise certain websites and pages over others.
Google Search Engine Results Pages
Google wants to give searchers the answers to their questions – it’s a simple as that. But, how it does this is complex. Google will ‘spider’ your website, ‘crawl’ your pages and try to work out how you sit on the wider internet compared to other websites with similar content.
It will try to understand what each page is about, how credible your website is (your authority) and whether they should display your content in the search results over your competition.
You therefore need to help Google understand all of this and this is where search engine optimisation (SEO) comes in. Simply put, SEO is the process of improving your website to increase its visibility for relevant keyword searches.
It’s easy to stuff a web page with keywords to try to ‘cheat’ the system, but unless you give useful information and answers to their questions, people won’t stay for long or click through to your other pages.
They are more likely to leave your website all together. Google monitors visitor behaviour and although you may initially achieve good rankings, this could easily change if it believes visitors are abandoning your pages. Seem reasonable?
Good copywriting is about creating good content for people first, with the answers to their questions, then optimise later for Google. It’s often a matter of balance.
However, Google is much more sophisticated now and understands syntax, so just write good quality content, add your tags (see below) and hopefully you’ll begin to rank.
My Personal Tips:
Choose a snappy headline to attract visitors to click on your Google listing. This will improve your ‘Click Through Rate’, another metric followed by Google.
Research for other questions that people are searching for that relates to your page and use these phrases as sub-headings to break up the page content.
Write at least 600 words on the page
Keyword Research Tools
There are many tools you can use to help you find out the popularity of words and phrases you think are important, most have free and paid versions. They all work in a similar way but take their data feeds and treat the information slightly different, giving varying results.
My personal Tips
I suggest using a few free tools and make a judgement about whether to use them or not. Once you’re more familiar with the tools and have a budget, consider subscribing to one which will give you more tools and more detailed results.
Check out Google’s own search results pages as they give strong suggestions about alternative keyword phrases. Examine why the top pages are given top position and check out the suggestions at the bottom of the page in “Searches related to”.
If you have a Google account, you can use the Keyword Planner Tool in Google Ads for keyword results, alternatives and monthly volumes. Google will ask you to start an Ads campaign in order to access this tool, but just use the tool for now until you know what you’re more experienced and actually want to run a paid campaign.
For those using the Google Chrome browser, adding the Keyword Everywhere extension will give you more alternative keywords to explore and the UberSuggest extension gives approximate monthly search volumes for keywords.
A Word Of Warning While Learning!
Getting your head around SEO will pay you dividends in the medium to long-term and you really need to get a good understanding of this, even if you’re outsourcing to an agency of somebody else.
There are loads of videos on Youtube and Google, with people giving you their opinions (like I am I suppose!), but… many of these ‘gurus’ skate over the basics or miss out critical information. Often they’re promoting services they’re getting paid for or will stretch out their videos to generate fees (monetisation) from Youtube. The longer they keep you on Youtube, the more Youtube can earn from advertisers, so are more inclined to show their videos.
So please take a healthy but slightly cynical eye over everything you see and hear and try to piece the reality together yourself.
How Can I Do SEO For My Website?
As stated above, don’t forget to write for people first and for each individual page you want to optimise, add your keyword or phrase in the Title (meta title), URL, page heading (H1 tag) and several places within the copy on the page. But don’t over-stuff or to try and cheat it.
Content is King. Break up the text with relevant sub-headings (H2 tag) and continue with your good quality content giving more answers and solutions. Add images (with alt tags) and even a helpful video if you can. A mix of media is ideal.
My Personal Tip:
If you have a WordPress website, I suggest installing the free version of the Rank Math plugin. It will guide you to optimising each of your pages and in my opinion is much better than the more popular Yoast plugin.
Is Website Page Speed Important?
You bet! One of the most important tasks to do on your website and individual pages is to ensure they load as fast as possible. Again, Google sees this and won’t want to steer visitors to your pages if their ‘experience’ of a slow-loading page is likely to frustrate them.
You may be attracted by the marketing hype of cheap web hosting, but this can be a false economy – do your research on speed, additional tools and customer service before committing to a hosting company.
Optimising images on your pages will also affect page speed, so try to minimise their file size, without losing image quality.
Most websites are now visited by people on their mobile phones, so ensure your website is responsive and make adjustments to your pages to ensure the visitor experience is a good one. This is very important.
My Personal Tip:
I like to resize images to slightly larger than they will be seen, then compress them to a smaller file size before uploading them to the website. Check out the free Compress Or Die which has a simple compression tool for each file type you use, but also has more complex set of pro tools for those more experienced.
What Else Do I Need To Do?
Believe it or not, the above content is just the ‘tip of the iceberg’ in search engine optimisation. Welcome to my world!
As well as optimise your pages, there’s a tonne of stuff to do away from your website to help Google trust your site as the place to display in their results. Google will look across the internet to see where else your business is listed.
Credible brands will be seen in many places (citations) such as social media, business and niche directories, Google Maps as well as have numerous links from other websites. So growing your overall web presence, not just your website, is also very important.
When adding your citations (business listings) it’s important to ensure your contact information and business categories are accurate. Adding citations will eat your time, so if you’re going to do it yourself, blank out a few days to do it correctly and try not to get too frustrated!
SEO Tools For Measuring Traffic
Measuring your SEO progress is crucial. You’ve made an investment of time and money to get a really nice website and added your brand all over the internet, so checking the results on an on-going basis is very important.
Installing Google Analytics and linking it to the Google Search Console will give you all the information about your site performance and visitor traffic you need. You’ll be able to see how many visitors come to your website, what pages, how long for, where they came from, etc, etc.
Once you get this understanding, you’ll then be able to make amendments to your pages and improve your rankings still further, based on fact.
First of all, I’ve tried to give as much as I can in this post to help on your SEO journey, but as stated, there’s so much more to add. If you found it helpful, please find a way to link to it from your website to help others (it will also help my SEO) and/or promote it via social media. Everything helps, so thank you in advance.
Finally, If you get frustrated implementing all of the above or can’t get the rankings you require, please get in touch. This is my area of expertise and I enjoy it, even the long, laborious stuff.