SEO (Search Engine Optimization) has been a big buzzword for several years. But what does it really mean? And maybe you’ve wondered how to ensure your website is optimized for search engines?
SEO is a set of techniques that can help Google, Bing and all the other search engines find and rate your website. If you want to get on the front page of Google, you’d better have some of these techniques in mind. If your website is languishing and has little or no traffic, SEO can help change that (although it’s not a magic bullet).
“Get to page one of Google”
This is a claim that a lot of SEO companies use to lure you into using their services. In the fine print, you’ll see a lot of terms like “Geographic” or “Long-tail” or “key phrases”. This means that instead of being number one for “Web Design”, you’d be offered “Web and Graphic Designer Glasgow” or similar. This is usual practice. However, if you’re offered number one for a hotter key phrase combination without geographic or qualifying phrases — unless you’ve got a huge online marketing budget, I’d be wary. They may just be reselling Google ads, which cost quite a bit. Or, if they’re offering “organic” (not paid for) ranks, then you should wonder about their techniques.
Firstly, let me say that there has been a lot of methods used in the past to try to “game” the system. If your SEO expert suggests some kind of loophole or way to “force” Google to index and rank your site highly, watch out, as these things can seriously backfire.
I have been confidently told by many a self-proclaimed “SEO expert” that they could get a page indexed by using some obscure trick. I had to shake my head each time. Not only is that possibly going to get their client’s page penalised in the long-term, it offers nothing whatsoever to the page visitor — and they’re the one you’re really trying to reach!
Often, attempts to get one over on Google will result in your site suffering penalties, including being taken off their SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) altogether. Things you might want to avoid include:
- Bombarding other sites with comment spam, just to get a link back
- Setting up hundreds of junk sites that all lead just back to your site
- Getting hundreds of fake “likes” on social media
- Putting in some “special code” that charms the search engines into noticing you quicker
Now, sometimes these strategies and others like them will work… for a time. But then Google will update its algorithm and your site gets penalised, or worse, binned. So, how can you avoid this?
The real answer to getting good ranking on Google and Search Engines
The best answer is: have high-quality content that is structured well and has the correct HTML tagging. Use attractive and shareable media (images and videos) in your page. Get links from selected, high-quality sites that are related to your own website’s niche. Build a genuine following of fans on social media by offering them something they want.
That’s pretty much it.
Sounds simple, right? And it is, mostly. If you’ve had years of experience dealing with content marketing, building a fan following through social media campaigns, website design and HTML coding, you’ll already know how to do most of this. But if you don’t, it can seem confusing. Questions can arise, like:
How many H1 tags should there be on a page? Just one, right?
That used to be the case, but now it’s more like “1 per section, in an HTML5 encoded web page”. (If you’re confused by the term H1, get in touch with a web designer, like me!)
How many times do you have to repeat the keywords on your page? 1? 10? 100?
It very much depends, but you should try to use natural language to introduce them, add value to your visitor’s experience of the page by giving them something enjoyable to read, and support the keywords with similar phrasing that helps subtly reinforce. But don’t overdo it! A page that seems to be ramming keywords down everybody’s throat is going to force Google to categorise it as garbage.
Should my site be responsive (mobile friendly)?
Yes. A lot more people use mobile phones to access information and make purchases. If your site cannot be easily used on a mobile phone, it may be driving customers away!
So here is a brand spanking new SEO strategy for you to try: make your content shine and keep it fresh and updated!
The checklist for legit SEO practices
- Semantic HTML tagging, including “alt” tags on images, title tags and metadata
- Meaty content – look for depth of quality in words. Give your audience value.
- Keep your content up to date – keep new blog posts and status updates coming
- Use media – images and video – to enhance appeal
- Offer your social media followers something they’ll want to share
- Use Google Search Console (formerly webmaster tools) to list your site
- Interact and engage with other websites and social media accounts in a positive and productive manner
- Invest in the areas you lack, make the most of the strengths you already possess
- Use a stats checker to see if any of the above has had effect!
- Make sure your site is not slow, use speed checker tools
- Be sure your site works with mobile phones
- Add easy to use navigation and sitemaps (including XML)