Search engine optimization (SEO): A need to know guide
Photo from Unsplash
With the number of businesses on the internet, it can be very hard to make yours stand out. You could spend money advertising it? But these can prove real costly, and added to this, we humans have developed ad blockers and even ‘evolved’ our eyes with banner blindness. What’s your best option then? Well, when it comes to your business’ website, there’s one clear solution: search engine optimization, or SEO, to the kids in the know.
Considering the purpose of any website is to attract traffic, it seems a no brainer that you should optimize yours for search engines like Google and Yahoo, which is where most website visitors stem from. How does one do this though? Well, like any good recipe, there are several key ingredients, which fortunately the folks at Moz have put into a handy guide for us. Based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, they’ve developed seven key SEO points to consider for your website:
For those unfamiliar with Maslow’s hierarchy, the idea is that you can’t reach the apex without all the layers that build up to it. So in SEO’s case, we start with crawl accessibility, which refers to how well your website is interlinked. It’s why you have a navigation bar: so that users (and search engines) can easily travel through your website in a logical way. If you add a page to your website, be sure that is linked to somewhere. Search engines need to travel/crawl through your website to index everything. If a page is no longer in use, whether it be a copy or an old version, be sure to delete it.
The next step is having compelling content, which is measured by how users interact with your website. Tools like Google Analytics will track how many visitors you have on your website, but also how long those users spend on your site, how many pages they click through, etc. So for example, if someone searches “plumber” on a search engine, sees and then clicks onto your site, spends five minutes clicking and reading through pages, chances are you provide a plumbing service or product of some sort. Include strong content that leads to people spending more time on your website, search engines recognise this as a huge plus.
Making sure your website is keyword optimized involves some research and additional tools such as Google Keyword Planner, which tells you which keywords in your niche are the most popular. You will also see how competitive a particular word or phrase is. Choosing high volume keywords, which aren’t too competitive, is key. Once you have your keywords, you now have to embed them onto your website. The rule of thumb here is repeat, repeat and repeat again. Having your keywords across your site is really important, especially in your headings and the introduction paragraphs. It’s a good idea to have your keywords chosen before crafting your website’s content so the copy can be crafted around these keywords. Fortunately tools like Yoast can easily tell you how strong your keyword optimization is for a specific page, especially if you are using WordPress to build your website, like we do for our clients.
A great user experience is a necessity for any website, it’s important that users enjoy visiting your site. Fast loading speed, ease of use and a compelling user experience, whether on desktop, tablet or phone, are all vital. Keep in mind the size of the files you upload to your website, screens aren’t often wider than 2000px, but cameras and phones shoot much larger than that, just for example. Tools like Pingdom give you a score for how fast your website loads, which can be very useful when compressing content or choosing to move hosting providers. And what’s the best way to check the user’s experience? User testing is the key! Get your friends and family to visit your website, they’ll be guaranteed to pick up something you didn’t. You have to keep in mind how your website will appear on someone’s cell versus their laptop, responsive design is a must for any website.
What’s one of the best promos you can get for your business? References and testimonials – that’s where share-worthy content comes into play. Having other websites link and cite your site is hugely valuable, because search engines see this as the internet’s form of an endorsement. People sharing your website on social media has a similar benefit. In the era of digital, it’s refreshing to think that recommendations are still so important.
Something that is often overlooked for website pages is their metadata (title, URL and description), but this is the information shown when your site appears in search engine results. Giving users the right information when they see your website on a search engine is key, your text really needs to stand out. Tools like Yoast will help to tell you if your titles and descriptions are the right length, and whether you’ve included your keywords correctly. If you feel like this content is too limited, fear not, this is where the seventh and final point makes its entrance…
Schema markup is a form of data that is added to a webpage to help search engines better understand its content. It uses a set of standard tags that categorises page content. For example, a line of code may tell search engines that “November 5th, 2020” is a date or that “The Great Gatsby” is a book title. When schema markup is used on a page, that page may receive a rich snippet search result on search engines. A rich snippet is a search result that includes additional information such as photos, videos, reviews, addresses and other extra content depending on the type of search result. Schema markup identifies this extra information and explains it to search engines so that they can display it as a rich result. How do you add this markup? Fortunately the Google Structured Data Markup Helper makes it real easy to add this information to your website’s pages, but you also get plugins like Schema Pro for WordPress that makes it even easier.
I hope you found this guide to search engine optimization (SEO) useful. It’s by no means the encyclopedia, but it should help you at least understand the basics and thereby know what you’re talking about with SEO experts and website development teams.