Whether you already have a website, or you are planning to create one, you need to consider how your website is going to be found by people searching the Internet. Google is currently the most popular search engine. There are a number of things you can do that will give your website an advantage over other businesses competing for the same search terms.
Google’s algorithm for ranking websites in their search results is based on hundreds of factors. Although they don’t explicitly give away all their secrets, they do give some guidance.
One thing that has recently become increasingly important is to have what is known as a secure certificate on your website. In other words, a website address which begins with https:// rather than just http. The Chrome browser indicates this by displaying a green padlock symbol. What is more, Google is now showing a “Not secure” warning on the latest version of their popular Chrome browser for websites that aren’t secure. Any website starting with just http:// will be followed by the letter i within a circle (the ‘information symbol’) and the words ‘not secure’ in grey colours.
This is not good for building trust. When a potential customer visits your site and sees this “Not secure” warning, they are less likely to trust you, have confidence in your website or feel safe entering personal information in a form on your site.
The technical side of obtaining a https:// website start with first purchasing an SSL certificate from your website host or domain name registrar. You need to renew your certificate every year, similar to a domain name. Sometimes your website host will install the certificate, or you can hire a web developer to do the installation for you.
Another factor to bear in mind is that your website needs to be as easy as possible to use on a mobile device. According to Google, most search queries are now done on a mobile device.
In the past people sometimes had a separate mobile version of their website. However, Google now favours websites that are designed in a way that is known as ‘responsive’. This means that they automatically resize depending on the device you are using to view them.
Google has a mobile friendly testing tool to check if your website is mobile friendly.
The speed that your website loads is very important, especially for mobile. Most people do not want to wait long for a webpage to load before deciding to go elsewhere. Google loves websites that load quickly as they lead to a better overall website experience and so they use mobile page loading speed as a ranking factor.
Google hasn’t said specifically what’s “too slow,” but it does say that more than half of mobile website visits are abandoned if it doesn’t load in fewer than 3 seconds.
Large images can slow down your website. With WordPress you can use a plugin to automatically crunch them to a smaller size. Ideally, if you need to use a 800px by 400px image, upload a file with that exact width and height.
CREATE VALUABLE CONTENT
Another really important factor is making sure that you publish useful, unique content. Write with users in mind, not search engine robots. You only have a few seconds to impress your readers and give them a reason to stay on your site. By providing high-quality, informative content you should be able to increase the amount of time searchers spend on your webpages, known as ‘dwell time’. This will count in your favour in the search results and Google uses it as a ranking factor. When people quickly go elsewhere, search engines assume that it is because they did not find what they were looking for so this can count against you.
EASY TO READ
Use of headings, images and white space to break up the page can help to make your content more readable and visually appealing. Try to use short sentences as long, difficult to read sentences can turn people off.
CALL TO ACTION
You may want to encourage website visitors to take some action, such as to click a link, sign up for your newsletter, follow you on social media, or buy your product. Compelling headlines and a persuasive call to action will help you stand out in the search results.
It’s important to understand what people will enter into Google to find your website. This is known as ‘keyword research’. For example, people might look for ‘web designer Chingford’. I use a free tool called Google Analytics to understand how users end up on my website, as it shows the search queries that they entered. Think about what people would put into Google if they were searching for your site, or a competitor’s site in a similar field or niche.
There are tools which estimate the number of searches on keywords per month. By looking at this keyword volume data I can see that not many people search for ‘web designer Highams Park’ and that it would be better to go for terms such as ‘web designer London’ and ‘web designer East London’.
Google’s Autocomplete tool is useful for identifying keywords search terms. If you go to the Google search box and type in a keyword or phrase, the autocomplete will attempt to finish your phrase based on other popular searches. This lets you see what is related that people may be searching for and gives you some added phrases and words to include in your website content.
If you scroll to the bottom of the search results page you can look at Google’s “related searches” – at the bottom of the page it says “Searches related to…” [the term you entered] and this gives you even more useful keyword ideas.
Focusing on the right keywords is essential for attracting people who are seriously interested in your product rather than just “window shopping”.
If you need another tool for keyword research then I recommend kwfinder.com as it uses a traffic light system to show which keywords are easy or hard to rank for.
Once you have researched your keywords you can use them in certain strategic places in your website to help Google know what your website is about. For example, use them in Headings, image tags, image names, link text, titles and descriptions. This will help optimize your website for those keywords. Ideally each webpage should be optimized separately for a specific topic or theme.
Images are great for making your website appealing and eye catching. However if you don’t optimize them then you’re wasting a valuable chance to tell Google more about what your website is about.
Text associated with images is the only way that Google knows what your image is about.
- Use the alt image tag. This tag is used to describe the contents of an image file. It is also used by screen readers for visually impaired users. Don’t stuff it full of keywords – make sure it just describes the image, not what you wish it was about. You don’t need dashes in between the words. You should write alt tags like you would any other short sentence.
- Pick a good file name for your image, eg lemon-drizzle-cake.jpg rather than IMG001.jpg
- JPG is usually the best option for website images, but PNG will allow a transparent background
- Reduce file size for faster loading – people won’t want to wait a long time for images to load
Make sure that you are allowed to use the image – check the copyright restrictions.
Try to add your keywords within the first paragraph if possible as Google crawls content from the top of the page to the bottom, so if it finds your keyword near the beginning it is a good sign to Google that your page is related to that keyword.
Add keywords in a natural way – for example, don’t put ‘Buy Buy Buy these bags bags bags’ as you risk having a negative impact on your website visibility, rather than making your page rank higher. Instead, use keywords where they seem appropriate and flow naturally together.
Users will stop engaging with a website if the content and layout is unattractive so try to avoid eye straining colours like bright green or neon yellow unless you really need to use them. Instead, stick to colours that compliment or contrast perfectly like black and white.
It is best to keep your page layout and navigation as simple as possible so that it doesn’t take more than three to four clicks to find any page on a website.
Often on a website you see a link and the text is ‘click here for more information’.
By using generic words you are wasting a prime opportunity to tell Google more about your website boost your ranking for your keywords. The link words that you use should be relevant and helpful to the reader. Google also considers the content around a link so it’s good to surround your links with relevant content related to the keywords and context of the link text.
‘Rich snippets’ is where by adding some code to your website extra details such as photos or ratings might be shown in the Google search results. This gives users a more detailed preview of your content before they go there and so can lead to increased traffic your website.
Other things that help with obtaining a Rich Snippets listing include being mobile optimized, having a secure https:// website, using lots of H2 and H3 heading tags and including short answers to questions.
Google likes recently updated content. Changing or removing entire sections is considered to be a more significant edit than switching around the order of a few words.
It’s a good idea to have a Google Map on your site. Not only does it make it easy for customers to find you, it also helps Google send local traffic to your website.
Videos are popular with both searchers. Google own YouTube so it’s worth considering embedding a video on your website as YouTube videos are often ranked highly in Google’s results.
Make any special offer or promotion that you are running a focal point on your homepage.
Add your contact details, and social media links if you have them, in an easy to find place. It is fairly easy to embed a Google map on your Contact page.
One small technical tip – if you can visit your site by going to both the WWW version and the non-WWW version, since there are more than one way to access the same content it will be considered as ‘duplicate content’, which Google doesn’t like. Fortunately there is a way to tell Google which is the main version, so that both direct to your preferred place.
Google likes it if other websites that it considers to be ‘good authoritative websites’ link to yours. It’s like a vote in your favour.
BONUS TIP: HOW TO FIND OUT WHICH OF YOUR PAGES GOOGLE HAS INDEXED
If you type site:yourwebsitename into the Google search box (not url field at top) you can see which of your website pages Google currently indexes. Some of these may be not needed in the search results, such as archive pages, category pages, tag pages. If you are using WordPress you can use a plugin called Yoast to remove these pages from search results.
In summary, Google is constantly working on updating their ranking algorithm to try and create the best possible user experience and provide users with the most relevant results for a given keyword. If your page provides searchers with a good match to what they are looking for Google will want to rank your page high up in their search results. Remember that while it is important to optimise your website for relevant and targeted keywords, you should aim to write with people in mind first and Google second.
I mostly design websites using WordPress. There are several reasons that it is a popular choice:
• people can update it themselves if they want, from any computer
• it uses themes – this allows you to change the look of your website instantly
• there are thousands of free and paid for themes that you can use as a basis
• there is lots of online support
• it is ideal for websites or blogs
• it’s search engine friendly
Hopefully you found this article useful. Why not check out 10 things you can do to help improve your website SEO.
Feel free to get in touch on 0777 169 1194 for a chat and some free advice.