Ah the dreaded letters 'SEO'! This stands for 'Search Engine Optimisation' and it basically means the methods and ways in which you can improve your website ranking on Google, or what page and position your website comes up on Google when someone searches for keywords relevant to your business.
It's super important as if you do manage to get your website on the first couple of pages chances are you will attract a lot more traffic and I haven't met one small business owner who doesn't want to get their website listed higher up the Google search results! However I'm afraid there isn't a quick fix, improving your ranking is one of those things you need to keep chipping away at.
Google purposefully makes SEO very complex, if you asked 10 different 'experts' how to get your website rank higher in Google, you'd probably get 10 different answers! Most will get over techy about it but there are a few simple things you CAN do as a business owner to improve your rankings.
10 'good practices' to help your website rank higher in Google:
1. Good quality content. Regularly updating your website with high quality content is one of the most important things you can do. Google wants people to find useful and relevant information when they search so they have made this a key part of SEO! The best way to do this is by posting really valuable blog posts for your target audience on a regular basis. It doesn't have to be everyday, once a week or once a month is great, but be consistent!
Don't get too hung on 'getting in keywords' to your page copy or blog posts though, if you 'write for Google' rather than your ideal customers you'll struggle to get people to come back anyway! Instead of using generic keywords in your copy, get really specific and try to incorporate short phrases which your target audience might actually be typing into Google to search for your article. These are called 'long-tail keywords' and they're far more effective.
2. Write good strong, relevant titles. When Google is going through your website information (crawling) it gives priority to your page tiles, headings and links in determining what your content is about and therefore deciding how to rank you for certain keywords. Therefore if you do want to 'optimise your copy' focus on these areas. Make sure your page titles, blog post titles and headings (marked with a heading tag) include good long-tail keywords or phrases as explained above.
It's also worth checking any links in your copy that direct visitors to other pages. Rather than linking generic words like 'HERE' or 'click here' or 'about', place your hyperlinks onto keywords instead, such as 'creative website design services for small businesses' rather than 'services'.
3. Re-name your website images. Google also looks at your images a key source of content so go through any photo's uploaded to your website (and / or blog) and change the names of them from something like 'IMG_2948' to names which include your keywords e.g.'Nottingham wedding photographer'.
You can also enter specific keywords into the image 'alt' attribute which is the text that will be displayed if the image can't be displayed for some reason. This 'alt' attribute also provides Google with more information about the picture.
4. Utilise website SEO plugins. If you are a Wordpress user you can install some great plugin's which will really help you with your SEO. Yoast is a highly recommended one as it uses a traffic light system to encourage you to add keywords and descriptions to all your pages and blog posts.
5. Tell potential visitors (and Google) what your website is about. They'll be options to do this in a plugin like Yoast if you use Wordpress. If you are a Squarespace user make sure you fill in your search engine description (located in Settings > Marketing > SEO) and your site title (in Design > Logo & Title) with a short sentence or two about what your business does. Then if you do come up in the search results they'll be a line underneath the website name like this:
6. Build up back-links to your website. The more quality websites (ie. not dodgy directories but actual good, genuine sites!) that link to your website, the more Google will trust your website as being good quality and therefore worthy of ranking higher!
The best way of doing this is to create high-quality content that's so good people share it and link back to it naturally. But you could also guest post on other reputable blogs and link back to your site, ask complimentary businesses or business friends to include a link back to your website on theirs (usually you'd offer to do the same for them) and link to your website from any other places you're active on the Internet.
7. Tell Google about your website! This will help put your website URL on their radar so submit yours HERE now (it's super easy) if you have a Google account.
8. Get your business listed on Google Maps. Of course this is mostly relevant to bricks-and-mortar businesses but it's well worth doing as it will give you more visibility in the search results if you're listed. Click here to start this process.
9. Utilise Webmaster tools. This is a free service by Google which helps you monitor and maintain how your website is performing in their search results! These days you can't actually gain much information on SEO from just using Google Analytics so this is kind of a bolt on service to cover this. If you're a Google User, set up Webmaster tools (free, quick and easy to do I promise) and verify your website to get started. For a full tour and training of how to use Webmaster visit their academy HERE.
Whist you are on logged into your Webmaster dashboard make sure to submit a sitemap of your website too as this helps Google to crawl and index your website! To do this click on 'Crawl' > 'Sitemaps' then 'Add/Test Sitemap' in the top right hand corner. If you're a Squarespace user they've made it super easy, you can just enter 'sitemap.xml' in that box and it will automatically be provided!
10. Ensure you have a mobile-friendly website. To be honest these days it's essential your customers can view your website on their mobile phones anyway as more and more people are checking websites on the move. However Google likes it too, in fact they now penalise any websites who don't have a mobile-friendly version so if you've not yet set this up, make it a priority!
I hope you found these tips useful and not too techy?! My final tip is that you might also find it helpful to look at Google's SEO starter guide HERE.
PS. If you enjoyed this post I'd be super grateful if you would vote for my blog in the UK Blog Awards HERE in the PR, Media & Marketing category before the 25th January!