Are you ignoring SEO because you think it doesn’t apply to your business? Or does the very term “search engine optimisation” send shudders down your shine – you don’t have the time or the patience to hunt down keywords, or figure out the finer points of how to rank higher in Google?
I hear you. Optimising your website for SEO doesn’t sound like the most thrill-inducing job on the planet. But there are big benefits to understanding and implementing SEO on your site and ranking higher in Google.
Let’s start by taking a look at why SEO matters to your business.
Everyday, millions of people sit down at their computers (or their tablets or mobiles), and enter a search term into Google. They might be hunting for a service like “Auckland hairdresser” or “small business accountant.” They might be searching for help and advice: “how to remove red wine stains from silk” or “relieve insect bite itch”. Or they might be seeking out entertainment: “good books to read.”
Whatever their request, the search engine responds by displaying a list of websites that it considers most relevant to their keywords.
From a business point of view, SEO is a way of increasing your visibility online. The higher you appear on the search results page, the more people are going to see your business and potentially check out your website.
Let’s say you run Happy Gardens, a landscape design company based in and around Wellington. If a potential client searches for “landscape design Wellington” and you don’t appear on the first page of the search results, the chances of them finding your website and getting in touch are very low. In fact, according to a study by Chitika, 95 per cent of browsers don’t venture beyond the first page.
Clearly then, taking steps to grab that first page ranking is wise – it won’t guarantee that people will hire you, but it will get you in front of the greatest number of potential clients.
So, what does it take to get your website on the first page of Google?
Search engines assess rankings against a huge number of variables – Google uses over 200. Here’s an abbreviated version of some of the more important influences:
- Stickiness. When someone lands on your website from a search, the search engines time how long they stick around. If your visitor immediately hits the back button to try another link, Google assumes that they weren’t satisfied with your site. Over time, this will degrade your search engine rankings.
- Relevance. Does your web content match your keywords? Is your copy refreshed regularly? The search engines want to match searchers with the most up-to-date and useful information, so sites that consistently publish new content score highly.
- Popularity. The more your site is linked to from other trusted sites, the more the search engines will consider it an authority. Similarly, content that is shared on social media platforms can also increase your rankings.
- Speediness. A slow loading speed will count against you.
- Mobile responsiveness. Since increasing numbers of us now access the web on mobiles and tablets, the search engines expect your website to automatically adjust to each and every screen size.
As you can see, keywords (once the backbone of SEO) now play only a small part in determining where your website sits in the search engines. Today, Google and the like base your ranking on the overall experience your website provides. This means that in order to rank highly in Google, your website must be:
- Designed to the latest web standards and accessible to modern browsers. Your site needs to be mobile-responsive and fast loading.
- Easy to use, navigate and understand, so people want to stick around for longer.
- Written for humans first and search engines second. Useful, engaging content that speaks to the things your audience are most looking for will keep eyes on the page for longer.
- Targeting relevant keywords and implementing on-page SEO. Ensure that the title tag and meta description for each page is descriptive, unique and includes your targeted keywords. You’ll also want to include the same keywords in the alt tag of any images, and at relevant points throughout the page text.
- Linked to from other, trusted sites. You can build links through guest posting, directory listings and press releases, as well as through social media sharing.
- Updated on a regular basis.
A few other things to bear in mind:
High rankings don’t happen overnight. If your website is new, it will take around six weeks for the search engines to first recognise its existence. How fast you then climb up the rankings will depend on how much work you put in. A website that publishes a new blog post each week, spends time building links with other sites and implements a targeted keyword campaign, will likely rise faster than a website that only updates content once a month.
And don’t forget that other businesses and companies will be competing for the same online real estate. If you’re up against businesses with large and well-established web presences, you’re going to have to work a lot harder to gain the top spots than if you only have a small handful of competitors.
How can Web Sidekick help you improve SEO rankings?
I build SEO into every area of my web design packages. That means I will:
- Design your site on a modern, up-to-date theme that’s both SEO-friendly and mobile-responsive.
- Ensure fast-loading times by optimising images and keeping plugins to a minimum.
- Focus on creating an easy-to-use site that has a clear, logical structure and user-friendly navigation.
- Write useful, engaging content that matches your client’s needs, desires or goals and gently nudges them into taking action.
- Carry out keyword analysis to identify the most relevant keywords for your business. I’ll then weave these phrases naturally into the page text, title tags and meta descriptions, and include them in the alt tag of your images.
- Provide advice on link building and other forms of marketing.
- Offer ongoing content and maintenance services, to ensure your site stays up-to-date and relevant.