No matter how good your website is, it’s useless if nobody can find it!
Follow our simple Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) tips for beginners to get your site appearing in Google in no time.
Do your keyword research
What do you expect people to type into a search when they’re looking for a site like yours? What would you search for? Brainstorm a list of ideas and do a few searches to get an idea of the keywords your competitors are ranking for.
You ideally want to identify 1 target keyword for your homepage and 1 target keyword for any other “sales” pages on your website. As an example, if you ran a barbershop in Manchester, then “barbers manchester” would be a good keyword to target.
If you’re struggling to pin down the best keyword or phrase, there are some great resources you can use:
- Google Adwords Keyword Tool (requires a Google account)
- Google Trends
- Moz Keyword Explorer
- SEM Rush
Note that some of these services require a paid account.
If you do a search on Google, you will notice a list of other suggested searches at the bottom of the screen. These are a great indicator of popular searches.
A note about short-tail vs. Long-tail keywords:
Some keywords are more competitive than others. You might have a tough time ranking for the keyword “life insurance”, as there are already a number of high-profile companies ranking for that phrase and dominating the first page. Unless you had a big marketing budget and a lot of time, you would find it near impossible to get onto page one.
That said, it would be relatively easy to rank for a longer, more specific search such as “life insurance with no medical” or a question like “do I need life insurance to get a mortgage”.
Consider the competition and try and find a niche that nobody else is targeting.
Optimise your pages for your chosen keyword
So you’ve selected your perfect keyword or phrase. Your next job is making sure that keyword is used appropriately throughout your website. Your chosen keyword should appear in the following places:
- In the main heading at the top of your page (known as a h1 heading in HTML)
- In your page’s meta title (the title you see in the tab at the top of your browser)
- In your page’s meta description (the short description of your page displayed in Google search results).
- In at lease one sub-heading (known as a h2 heading)
- At least once in the main body of text
A word of caution:
Don’t overdo it! If you cram too many keywords into your page in a way that looks un-natural and manipulative, Google could actually penalise your site. It also gives your website visitors a poor experience.
Optimise your site for mobiles and tablets
The days are long gone when people only ever used a computer to get online. Depending on your industry and the type of site you run, as many as 80% of your visitors could be using a smartphone. It is crucial that your site displays correctly and is easy to use on a mobile device.
Claim your social media pages
In this day and age, it’s unacceptable not to have at least a basic social media presence for your business.
Creating a brand page on Facebook and Twitter is easy, and it allows you to promote your site for free. Depending on your business/industry, you may also want to create a business account on Instagram, YouTube and/or LinkedIn.
Improve your site speed
All the way back in 2010 Google stated that fast-loading web pages would get preferential treatment in their search results. People are impatient, and are likely to abandon your site if it takes more than a couple of seconds to load up – this is doubly-true for smartphone users on a data connection.
One of the biggest rookie mistakes people make when it comes to page speed is using photos and images that are way too big. Images use up a lot more bandwidth that simple text & code, and many websites built by amateurs (and even some pros!) use images that are just unnecessarily large. Remember that a HD monitor is only 1,920 pixels across, so there is no need to upload a photo that is 5,000 pixels wide!
Images should be reduced to the smallest resolution possible and then compressed in order to reduce their file size. If you don’t have the software or expertise to do this yourself, try an online image compressor such as Compressor.io.
Optimise your code
How to test your page speed:
Use Google’s Page Speed Insights tool. Simpy enter your website address and it will give your site a score from 0 to 100, along with suggested improvements.
Secure your site
Securing your website with an SSL Certificate is vital if you accept payments on your site and/or collect customer details. Google have officially said that secure websites get a slight rankings boost.
You can tell a site is secure if the url begins with “https” – you may also see a green padlock symbol in the address bar.
How do I get a security certificate?
Your hosting provider will be able to help you out. Alternatively you can get a free certificate from Let’s Encrypt.
Most of what we’ve talked about so far falls under the category of “on-page SEO” – technical improvements that maximise the chances of Google noticing your site.
“Off-page SEO” involves getting other websites to notice, mention and (most importantly) link to your site.
What is a link?
A link is simply an element that you can click on that will take you to another web page. This is a link that takes you back to our home page.
Why are links important?
Because good links help you rank in Google. If another website links to yours, it’s like that site giving you a little vote or a recommendation. And the more votes your website has, the more attention it will get from Google.
Important note: Not all links are equal. Links from established, authoritative websites are more valuable than links from unpopular, unknown websites.
How do I get links?
There are some quick wins. If you have friends, family or business contacts with their own websites, ask them if they’ll give you a link.
You can also register your site on web directories. Here are a few popular directories you can try:
Try reaching out to bloggers, website owners and influencers. They might not respond if you straight-up ask them for a link, but you could ask them to review your product or point them in the direction of some interesting content on your site. And on that note…
Start a blog
Create a blog section on your website and try to create high-quality, interesting articles & content. Blogging has a bunch of advantages:
- Google favours sites that are updated regularly.
- Your blog articles will attract search traffic – especially if they answer a commonly searched question.
- If people like what you’re writing, they will share it and link to it.
Install Google Analytics
You need to know how many visitors are reaching your site and whether or not your SEO efforts are working. Google Analytics is a tool that monitors visitor numbers and records a whole host of data – such as the number of visitors, their location, their browser, how they found your site, how much time they spend on a page, what pages they visit plus a lot more.
It’s free and takes a few minutes to set up. Get started here.
Tell Google that you exist!
Your site won’t appear in searches until Google’s automatic programs (called ‘bots’) have found it and made a record of it (known as ‘indexing’). If it’s taking too long for your site to get noticed, there are a couple of things you can do to speed things up:
Submit a sitemap to Google
A sitemap is a document containing every url (i.e. page) on your website. Google and other search engines use sitemaps find their way around your site and index every page.
Go to Google Search Console and sign in using your Google account. Before you can submit a sitemap, you will need to add and verify your site – just follow the instructions on the page.
Once you’re done, scroll down to the “Index” section on the left-hand menu and select “sitemaps”. Here you will be able to add as many sitemaps as you like.
Not sure where your sitemap is?
Some website platforms such as WordPress automatically generate a sitemap for you. Try typing in something like yourwebsite.com/sitemap.xml into your browser. If you don’t have a sitemap, there are online tools that can create one for you.
Manually request indexing
If you have a new website or web page that isn’t showing up in Google yet (or Google is displaying an old version), you can tell Google about it and request priority indexing. Log in to Google Search Console and copy & paste the full address into the box at the top.
A few more bonus tips
- Give your images alt tags
- Register your business on Google Maps
- Figure out where your competitors are getting their links and see if you can replicate them (you will need to use a paid tool such as Ahrefs or Majestic).
- Participate in online forums, communities and comment sections – and link to your site where appropriate.
- Share your articles and content on social media
- Promote your website offline with print ads, business cards etc.
In a nutshell…
- Identify the right keywords
- Get your site in good working order
- Create useful content
- GET (GOOD QUALITY) LINKS!
That last part is often the most difficult and the most time consuming, but it also brings in the biggest results.