Search engine optimisation (SEO) is often misunderstood and made to feel beyond the capabilities of small business owners. I want to tell you that this isn't the case. Anyone can make SEO work for their business with the right foundations in place and a basic understanding of some of the key 'ingredients'.
I want to share my top 6 ingredients with you and help you get on the path to SEO success. In Part 1 of this two part blog post I'll be sharing my top tips on Keywords, Links and Usability. By the end of this post you should have a good idea of some SEO actions you can take right now to improve your websites search visibility.
Keywords for SEO
Know your keywords, what are people searching for that matches what you do/sell? The words that you use to describe your business, goods and services might not be what a user types to search for them. Think outside of the box, ask friends and family that aren't so close to your business for ideas on how they would search.
There are some great free keyword research tools out there and even as a novice you can gain some valuable insight and new ideas by utilising these. A couple of my favourite free tools are Moz Keyword Explorer and Spyfu.
Moz are one of the most well respected SEO resources out there and they have an abundance of free resources and tools available. There is a limit to how much Moz keyword research you can do for free but there is the option to start a 30 day trial or upgrade to pro.
Spyfu is a tool that I stumbled upon fairly recently but appears to be growing a strong reputation across the industry. Spyfu allows you to enter a competitors URL and look at various keyword metrics including; top keywords, keyword gainers and losers and total organic keywords. Again there is a limit to how much you can do for free but I'd recommend checking out as what you can get for free could be gold.
Use your keywords wisely across your website and don't spread them too thin across the whole website. Have a strategy for which pages you want to rank for particular terms and focus on working specific keywords into those pages. Use your keywords in headings, main body content, links, alt text and image names but don’t keyword stuff. Write naturally and for your user, not google.
Internal, External and Inbound links all contribute to SEO and you should be utilising these across your website.
Internal links are links to your own website from within your own website. It might sound a bit mad but it's not. It helps signpost your user, and google, to other areas of your website that could be useful or relevant to the page that they're currently on. For example you have an about page and within that page you write about a particular service that you offer, link the keyword in the text to this service page.
External links should be used similarly to internal links and added to your content if and where relevant. Obviously you don't want to drive users away from your website but in some cases it's beneficial to the user to be able to read further to encourage them that you are the right product or service for them. By linking to high quality and relevant external websites you will in turn improve the credibility and authority of your website.
A good example of this that I used recently was on a salon clients website. They use top of the range beauty equipment and only invest in the very best technology for their treatments. In 1-2 key placements on the website I've added an external link to the manufacturers website which includes a wealth of information about the technology and it's benefits. This helps a user who wants to do additional research and also shows google that you're providing this route.
Top tip - Set external links to open in a new tab so the user has an easy route back to your website.
Backlinks, or inbound links are links that are coming to your website from another source. They are a great SEO resource and high quality backlinks can make a big difference to your search engine ranking positions (SERPs). Each link from another website acts as a little nod of approval that your site is worth visiting. Multiple links to your website or a particular page of your website help indicate to Google that your content is worth linking to and therefore also worthy of showing in SERPs.
High quality backlinks come from websites with a high domain authority and gaining these kinds of links should be part of your overall SEO strategy. As with all things SEO this needs to be done naturally and be beneficial to your user. Some great ways to gain natural quality backlinks are guest blog posts, blog interviews, award entries and shortlists and online press. If you know that you've been featured on someone else's website always try to request a link back to your website, it's a great habit to get into.
Make sure your site is easy for your user to use. There's nothing worse for your user or for Google than a website that's difficult to navigate. You want to make it as easy as possible for your user to find their way around your website and to be able to meet their purpose for visiting your website.
One key area of usability focus should always be mobile. Like me I'm sure that your mobile phone is never too far away from you and that you do much of your browsing on your phone. Remember that your user likely isn't any different. Use your on site analytics (and please get some if you don't have any!) to understand which device your users tend to come from, I'd be very surprised if mobile doesn't dominate if you're a B2C business.
Some key areas to think about when looking at usability are space, ease of clicks and navigation.
Don't cram your pages too full, some white space is good and too much content crammed together is overwhelming to the eye. Sometimes page content is reduced on mobile to free up space on the page but I'd suggest avoiding this where possible. Mobile first indexing means that Google crawls and indexes your site using the mobile version. If you choose to remove certain content on mobile you're potentially loosing out on ranking opportunities. Ask yourself 'If something isn't needed on mobile is it really needed at all?'.
Similar to your content, make sure that clickable elements are surrounded by sufficient space. It's important to think about the mobile user here too. We want our user to be able to easily click any link on our website and continue their journey. If an element is difficult to click or not obviously clickable then usability suffers and the user is more likely to leave your website.
Navigation is extremely important to your websites usability. I could and probably will write a whole blog post on this in the future. However to put it simply make sure that you are providing your user (and therefore Google) with clear navigation items to allow them to find their way around your website. A well thought out header menu (aka. top nav) goes a long way in supporting this but also think about how a user can navigate from deeper within your website. Maybe consider using functionality that keeps the page header visible and accessible from anywhere on the page. This is often known as a freeze header or sticky header. Also ensure you're using relevant call to actions throughout your pages, make it easy for the user to take the next step in the journey. An example of this could be adding a 'contact us' or 'book now' link at multiple points throughout a services page.
You might be wondering why you've just read 5 paragraphs about usability with no mention of SEO and why it's relevant. A simple rule to remember is if something is good for your user then it's likely good for SEO too. If users visit your site, stay on your site and repeatedly come back to your site then these are all good indicators that your site is worth visiting.
Remember to come back for Part 2 where I'll be covering Web Structure, Content and Speed.