Posted: Wed 1st Feb 2017
There's no point in having a website if no-one is looking at it. The biggest single source of traffic for most websites is Google. Getting to the top of a search engine's results page is called search engine optimisation or SEO. It used to be considered a dark art, shrouded in mystery. But it really doesn't have to be. Nick Leech from 123 Reg explains seven easy SEO steps for your new website.
Let's be clear. Launching a website and aiming for the top of Google can seem like a mountain to climb.
You're competing with millions of other sites. Everyone is clamouring for attention. Google consistently changes the algorithm.
But it doesn't have to be like that.
Optimising your new website isn't so much about satisfying the latest SEO whims and coping successful competitors. Its about getting the fundamentals right. Because they'll never change.
What do I mean by the fundamentals?
Making a site that's useful and enjoyable, easy to navigate, and logical
Making sure Google understands what your website is all about
Promoting your website in whatever manner works for your brand
Get that stuff right and you will see your rankings rise.
So what underpins these fundamentals? Read on to learn about seven simple steps on the road to great SEO.
1. Choose an effective domain name
Choosing the right domain for your website is critical. Plenty of great ideas have been sunk by a name that jars. You need a domain that's unique, easy to remember and easy to understand.
Descriptive domains like cheap-bar-stools-uk.com used to work well. Not only do they describe what the business does. Google used to rank highly too.
Those days are mostly over; it's far better to concentrate on a more abstract name. They're more memorable and are more likely to create an emotional connection with your customers. And that's the easiest way to build trust.
Your domain also needs to be as short as possible, easy to spell and remember.
When starting out, most of your new customers will discover you via word of mouth. So avoid using letters that have ambiguous sounds, like 'k' or 'z'. People will search for you based on what they've heard, so they need to be able to accurately translate those sounds to letters.
If they've heard an 's' but its actually a 'z' those word of mouth recommendations won't be able to find you online.
2. Do effective keyword research
Before any copy goes onto your site you need to have a good understanding of which keywords people use to search for the products or services that you sell.
The most important thing to avoid are keywords that are too broad, like 'shoes' (if you sell shoes!). They'll be highly competitive so you stand almost no change of ranking. And those keywords will also bring visitors who aren't really sure what they're looking for.
Someone looking for 'shoes' might be after men's or women's, adult or child, sandal or school; the list is almost endless.
Better to look for 'long-tail' keywords that accurately describe what you sell. 'Open toe sandals' might work better (but only if you sell them!).
3. Get creating
Engaging, entertaining and informative content, that people want to read and share, is what will get you to the top of Google.
The content can be text, image or video based, either on your main site or your blog.
It's important for two reasons. First of all, people will link to great content since they will want to share it with their audience. Second, users will engage with your website and spend time on your site, something that Google will take note of.
Although you need to use your keywords in your copy, don't make the copy all about the keywords. Use them in a natural, sparing way.
If you're running coffee shop it makes sense to talk about coffee on your blog. But don't drench the copy with coffee keywords. Write for visitors first.
If it makes sense to use a keyword, do so. But don't force it.
Remember, the primary aim of your website is to persuade your visitor to take an action. That might be to visit your shop. Or buy online. Or share your content with others.
Focus on that goal and let the words flow organically.
4. Make your site look good on all screen sizes, and easy to use
As I've mentioned above, search engines measure how people use your website. If they see people clicking from the search results page to your website, followed shortly after by a click of the back button, they will assume your site hasn't served the visitor's intent.
So on top of writing great copy, make sure your website is a nice place to hang out. Use a design that is clear and easy to navigate on any device. Guide visitors towards taking an action on your site.
5. Make sure your website code is optimised
It's important to ensure the code on your site is set up to help search engines understand what it's all about.
Some things to consider:
Make sure there's only one version of your website. Many sites can be found at both http://www. and http://. This means there are two identical versions of your website, which halves the chance of each to rank well
Make sure you link your pages together in a way that useful for visitors. When you refer to content on another page it makes sense to add a text link to that page, so people can click through and read it
Make sure your URLs use keywords that describe what's on that page, rather than a string of numbers. For example yourwebsite.com/bar-stools/ makes a lot more sense than yourwebsite.com/?p=1234233
Give every page a unique title tag around 160 characters long, that describes what's on that page with your chosen keywords
Give every page a unique meta description that 'sells' that page. This is the bit that shows up beneath your URL in the search engine results. It's the information people read to decide if they want to visit your site
Search engines can't reach images well, so give every image an ALT tag to tell them what they represent
Create an XML sitemap and submit it to the Google Search Console. This makes helps Google crawl and index your website
6. Do the technical set up right
There are two vital tools without which you won't be able to understand how well your site is getting on: Google Analytics and Google Search Console.
Google Analytics will let you know how many people are on your site; how they discovered it; what pages they're looking at; and at what point they're leaving. It's crucial information to help you understand which marketing efforts to increase; or which pages aren't easy for visitors.
Google Search Console will help you understand how Google sees your site; other websites that link to you; and if there are any problems in using your site.
7. Earn links
Although their importance has been reduced over the last couple of years, inbound links to your website still form the backbone of any search engine optimisation campaign.
Since website owners are most likely to link to useful content, Google uses links to understand which websites are popular and useful within any niche.
So it's important to generate links from authoritative websites relevant to what you do.
One of the best ways to go about this is by promoting your great content to experts and influencers in your industry. If they read and like what they see, they'll share with others and may even link to it from their own website.
You should also use your relationship with the owners of other relevant websites to request links to your site. It's something they will be happy to do if they can see the value your content offers to their audience.
That's all for now
After these seven steps you need to do a final check to make sure everything is working as expected: Ask friends to use your website and let you know if they encounter any problems.
Whether you're just starting out or you've been online for years, 123 Reg's free online courses will help you create your website, engage with your customers, and increase your visitors. Find out more here.
This article is part of Enterprise Nation's Grow and Grow Online campaign, helping you build a better business on the web. Access content, offers and events here.