Search Engines like lots of content and spend their days peering over their spectacles reading what’s written on your website, like an old school master marking your website and giving it a ranking. If the content is relevant, you will get a good mark. If not, you could end up in search engine detention. 🙁
- On Page Search Engine Optimisation
- Off Page Search Engine Optimisation
- XML Sitemap
- Bad Practices
Learning about Search Engine Optimisation can be daunting for a small business owner. There are keywords and key phrases, long tail keywords, keyword density, etc. It may appear confusing and a lot of work. The good news is that keywords are not as important as they used to be. The main purpose of optimising your site for search engines is to get people to visit your site. Your content is for people and not for search engines. The people at Google work hard to present their users with quality answers to their queries.
Google is the most popular search engine but Bing and Yahoo have about 14% of the market share. Yahoo uses Bing search engine for its search results. Baidu is a Chinese language search engine which explains why it has more than 10% of the market share.
Make sure that your content is relevant to your site. Try to provide your visitors with the type of information they are likely to be looking for. Provide your address, contact details and opening hours if applicable. Let people know what your business does. Make sure your content is accurate and does not have too many spelling and grammar mistakes. Google prefers pages that have more than 300 words. Keep your content fresh, by reading it regularly and make updates and additions when required. Remove content that is out of date.
Keywords and key phrases are words and phrases people use to find your site. If you wanted to find your website what would you type into the search engine? Some keywords are too broad and some do not get a lot of people using them. Good keywords are those that are used often but do not have a lot of competition. Your business name is a good keyword to start with. Another way to get good results in search engines is to ensure that your location is listed on your site. If you have a photography business you are likely to get very low rankings for the word photography because you are competing with all the other sites on the internet that talk about photography. If your shop is in Port Pirie you could easily get top ranking for “photography in Port Pirie”.
Some tools you can use to check on keywords and give you suggestions for other keywords include:
Aim to keep your keyword density to about 1.5% or lower but include appropriate niche vocabulary (words that are naturally associated with your keywords).
If you have a WordPress site you can use the plug-in Yoast to guide you to optimise your site for your chosen keywords. Below is a screenshot of Yoast SEO Content analysis in a WordPress site.
It is more important to have natural sounding content than to have all green dots. Google does not only rank your page by the number of keywords in the page but also on related words on the page that indicate that the content is relevant for a particular keyword. If you are writing an article about photography, relevant words could include aperture, exposure, lighting, shutter speed etc.
- Longtail keywords
- Key phrases that contain three or four or more keywords that are targeted to specific customers. These phrases are supposed to rank better in searches but not as many people will be entering the exact long tail keywords you are targeting.
Here is a good article about choosing keywords for your website.
More On-Page Search Engine Optimisation
Include your keyword or key phrase in your page title in the head section of your site.
<title>Responsive Web Design - Redback Web Design</title>
Normally people don’t see this code but search engines do. If you are using WordPress the title text is usually made up of the post or page text and the name of the site. It will appear as the heading in the search results. The page title should be between 40 and 70 characters.
Include a meta description of your site. This also sits in the head of your website and cannot normally be seen by visitors to your site. A good meta description is important because it is often used as the description of your site in the search engine results page. Make your description inviting. Meta description appears like this:
<meta name="description" content="your content here">
Don’t include meta keywords as Google has not used meta keywords since 2009. Bing may use them but if it looks as if you are trying to cram too many keywords into the meta keyword they may take a closer look at the quality of the content of your site. I believe that at the least they are a waste of time and at the most, they could damage your ranking on Bing and Yahoo!
Make sure that all your images have alt text. The purpose of alt text is so that people who cannot see your images have a description. This is very important for blind people accessing your site through a screen reader. Search engines also cannot see images so they take note of the alt text on your site. Remember that the primary purpose of alt text is for people so don’t stuff a whole pile of keywords in your alt attribute.
Ensure that your site had good, clear and logical navigation. Check to see that all pages have links to them and have links back to the home page. Include internal and external links in your content. Links to other quality sites will help your ranking. If for some reason you want to link to a low-quality site include a nofollow in the link.
<a href="www.poorsite.com" rel="nofollow">An example of a poor site</a>
You may also want to include nofollow in links on your own site that you do not want to be listed in search engines. For example, your sign-up page or a page that for various reasons duplicates content.
Your site should be well structured incorporating your main keywords in your h1 heading. If appropriate include keywords in your h2 headings.
Off-Page Search Engine Optimisation
So now for the hard part; getting links to your site.
Social media is an important aspect of online marketing especially if you want younger people to buy your products.
Set up a business Facebook page and ask people to “like” it. When you update your site you can let your members know. You can also introduce your members to some of your products. If you haven’t done so set up a Twitter and LinkedIn account and make sure your web address is included. At the moment Pinterest is the flavour of the month for search engine optimisation so it is a good idea to get a Pinterest account and start sharing pins and photos. You can share pictures from your web pages but intersperse them with other content.
Videos are another great way to spread the word about your web page. If you have the skills, make an instructional video about your products or get someone else to. Include your web address on the video and share your video on YouTube or Vimeo.
Google values high-quality backlinks to your site. Poor quality backlinks (from sites that are considered spammy) can damage your ranking. In the past, you could buy links and increase your ranking but the people at google cottoned on to this little rort. Google released an algorithm named Penguin in 2012 aimed at the black hat search engine optimisation method of getting many links to a site to increase the rankings. This means that you need to get good quality links to your site with a variety of anchor text. If all the backlinks to your site have the same anchor text the google panda may decide that they have been bought.
You can list your site with directories but it may not necessary boost your backlinks because the sites include a “nofollow” in the link. It is still a good idea because it will still bring more visitors to your site. Often these directories rank very highly for local searches.
Another way to get good links to your site is to join relevant forums and answer questions including a link to your site. Make sure that the information you are providing does answer the question and never initiate a question with a link to your site. Again some of these forums will add a nofollow to your link.
You can get good search engine results for local search without having quality backlinks.
List your business on Google My Business. Google will want to verify your address by sending you a verification code in the mail This will only take a few days. Once you have verified your business. it will appear on the right hand side of the search results near the top of the page for a search of your business type in your area.
An XML sitemap is a list of pages in your site set out in xml markup. The yoast plugin for WordPress will create an XML sitemap and update it automatically when you make changes to your site. You can find your sitemap by opening the dashboard in WordPress Admin and choosing XML Sitemap from the SEO menu on the left hand side of the page.
Click on the XML Sitemap button.
You will be presented with a list of sitemaps.If you are not using a content management system you can have a sitemap of your site generated at XML Sitemaps but you will need to update it every time you add or remove a page or post. Once you have generated your sitemap you need to upload it onto your server.
You now need to submit your sitemap to search engines. Use Google Search Console to submit your sitemap to google. Log in to Google Search Console with your google account and add your site by clicking the red Add a Property button on the top right hand side of the page.
You will need to verify that you are the owner of the site by either uploading an html page to your site or adding some metadata to the head of your site.
Once your site has been verified you can submit the url of your site. Click on the sitemap button then click on the red Add/Test Sitemap button. Add the address of your sitemap (you can go back to SEO XML sitemap on the dashboard of your site and copy the address but leave out your domain name.) Click on the blue Submit Sitemap button.
And your sitemap will be available for google search engines.
Now you can repeat the process for Bing. Go to Bing Webmaster Tools and sign in or create a Microsoft account. Add your site and add the address of your sitemap and fill out the rest of the form..
Again you will have to verify your site by adding an xml page to your site or adding some meta data to the head of your site.
Search Engine Optimisation Bad Practices
Also known as Black Hat SEO practices. Some so called Search Engine Optimisation specialists try to trick search engines into ranking sites higher than the site deserves. The employees at the search engines are working to overcome these bad practices. Some of these methods may increase your ranking for a short time but in the long run, your site could be penalised and drop right out of the rankings.
You could set up lots of blog posts and write copious amounts of rubbish and link back to your site. This method will give you plenty of backlinks to your site but I doubt it would improve your rankings for any length of time. Don’t set up lots of poor quality blog posts and link to your competitors’ sites in an attempt to get them penalised because if Octavia hears about it she will bite you.
You could buy lnikbuilding software but it would be a waste of money as it would not give you quality backlinks. You can buy links but they are probably not good quality and could lead to a penalty. You can swap links but it probably won’t do you much good.
You could cram your content with the keyword you want to optimise for but that isn’t going to work. Aim at a density of about 1.5% or less. SEO Book offers a free keyword density checker
Don’t include meta keyword tag in your header and stuff it full of keywords. Google won’t even look at it and Bing just may take a long hard look at the quality of the content on your site.
Another black hat method is to use code on the server to present one lot of content to the search engine and present different content to the human viewer. This method is known as cloaking.
In the past, some web developers put words on the website, with the text colour the same colour as the background to hide it from viewers but to attract search engines. Make sure that you have good contrast between you text colour and background colour. You could unwittingly be penalised if you are using a background image but have a similar background colour and text colour.
You will want to know how many people are visiting your site and how various campaigns affect the number of visitors. Google Analytics is a free service and will give you more than enough information about the visitors to your site.
Here is a video on how to set up a Google Analytics account and connect it to a WordPress website:
Wait a week or so after embedding your Google Analytics code into your web site and then go to the Google Analytics site and log in. Click on the link to your web site. The first view you come to is the Audience Overview page which will look something like this:
This page shows you how many people are visiting your site, the average length of time they stay on the site, the average number of pages they visited, if they are new visitors or return visitors and the bounce rate (visited the site and left quickly). It gives a great overview of how many people are coming to your site.
You can see a world map of where your visitors are coming from by choosing Audience → Geo → Location from the menu on the left-hand side of the page.
The Acquisition Overview page shows you where your visitors are coming from.
- People clicking on links in other sites to get to your site.
- Opening up the site directly by clicking on Favourites in the browser or typing the address directly into the address bar.
- Organic Search
- Finding your site through a search engine such as Google or Bing
- Coming to your site via a social media site such as Facebook
Also under Acquisition, I like to check out Search Engine Optimisation → Queries.
This page gives you a list of search terms (keywords) that Google is ranking your site for. The Query column shows the top 10 queries. You can change the number of queries showing by altering the “Show Rows” number at the bottom Right of the table. The impressions shows you the number of times your website appears in a search result and the Clicks column tells you how many times your site was visited as a result of that particular query. The Average Position shows you the average ranking of your site for a particular query. This is a useful place to get keywords for your site.
These are just a few of the views I visit regularly. There is much, much more information you can obtain about the visitors to your site using Google Analytics. Here is a list of sites that will help you explore.
Other tools include:
It takes time to get good search engine ranking and the older your domain name, the easier it is. Follow the principles of good web design and ensure that your site is attractive to your visitors both in appearance and content. Make sure that your site is responsive and the content is accessible to both screen readers and search engine spiders. Optimise your site to load quickly because a slow site will drive visitors away before they even get to see your content.
Concentrate on getting visitors from your local area.
Develop a social media campaign and list your site with Google My Business. List your site in the yellow pages and other directories. These won’t count as backlinks but will help your customers to find you.
Submit an XML sitemap to both Google and Bing.
Keep your content fresh, accurate and up-to-date and ensure that all your links and navigation function correctly.
Include outbound links to relevant quality sites.
Good quality backlinks will help your page ranking, but poor quality backlinks can damage your page ranking.
Avoid keyword stuffing.
Get a Google Analytics account and experiment to see what tactics improve traffic to your site.
Follow Danny Goodwin on Twitter.
Check out Moz SEO Blog to keep up with the latest in Search Engine Optimisation because the rules are constantly changing.
Last updated 5th February 2020.