For those of you reading this who are unsure what SEO means, it stands for Search Engine Optimization. Simply put, it's the race to the top! Basically, if you are having a website built for your business, you are likely interested in ensuring your new website reaches as many customers as possible. If you are in New York and your company sells widgets, then when customers enter search terms such as "New York Widgets" on Google, you are going to want your website to rank as highly on those search results as possible! Let's be honest, who the heck looks beyond the first page of Google results anyway?
There are two basic elements to SEO; onpage and offpage.
On Page refers to the actual content displayed on your website. The words you choose to describe your business and products or services are absolutely vital, as this is ultimately the content that the Google bots index and display when people search various terms. The content should be well written, relevant to what people are searching for and make good use of keywords (I'll get to those later).
Off Page content is the tags behind the scenes (in the code) that help Google understand what content is important, what it means and to generally give it some context. Whilst both on page and off page SEO elements are very important, there is generally more tweaking and attention that needs to be paid to off page elements. This is where many websites fail, and where you can get a leg up on the competition! This is also why it's not advised to build a website yourself using templates such as WordPress. Unless you are well versed in web design and SEO, you will likely forgo most of the off page elements and your website will struggle to get noticed.
Without further ado, let's get into the details of how to ensure your website is optimized without having to get a diploma in SEO (which I think they are now offering, apparently).
On Page SEO Elements
1. SEO Friendly URLs
This one is pretty easy, like most everything I will be discussing. Google likes it when your URLs make sense. Make sure your additional pages look something like
www.widgets.org/products as opposed to
You could likely find thousands of blog posts out there completely dedicated to this one topic. They will go on about keyword research amongst other things. Maybe there is value to spending 3 weeks of your life writing each paragraph on your website, but I'm not about to find out, personally. Be smart, concise and use your common sense. Think from your customers perspective. What information will they be looking for based on the search terms you are expecting your page to show for? With that information swirling around your brain, start writing. Don't over think it. Give enough detail to get your point across without re-inventing the wheel, oh, and make sure you drop some keywords in there! Think about Google search results that you have seen, they tend to bold your search terms within the results it has provided you. If you sell widgets and you are from New York, it isn't rocket science, make sure those terms are used. Some say that the keywords should be included in the first 100 words you write. I say that is probably a good idea, and I also say to use them as frequently as makes sense. Remember, the information also has to make sense to the reader. I've read blurbs on websites where it was painfully obvious it was written for SEO purposes and not for actual usability. Also remember all your SEO doesn't have to be jammed into the first paragraph you write. If you offer a number of different products or services, then spread the love across various descriptions. Google is pretty smart, it will wade through your content and provide relevant results based on what you have written compared to search terms being used.
3. Keep Your Website Relevant
Update it frequently. Have a blog on your site that you update weekly. Change product information, add different photos and images. Google doesn't appreciate dormancy so if your website is the same a year from now, then that isn't going to help your climb to the top.
Off Page SEO Elements
1. Use Header Tags Appropriately
Headers tags (H1 & H2 tags) are indicators that tell Google what kind of content is on your page. Wrap your main content titles in H1 tags; this tells Google that it's a very important part of the content that follows. Wrap subtitles in H2 tags. This tells Google that it's also important, and that it's apart of a broader piece of content.
2. Title Tags
Each page on a website has one. Hover your mouse over this browser tab now, it will display the title tag. Google indexes title tags to help it match the content on that page. Your title tag is also what is prominently displayed when your page shows up in search results. It's the blue link that people will click to go to your site! You've likely clicked title tags thousands of times without ever considering what they actually were and how they got there. Google likes it when title tags make sense, and doesn't really like it when it's clear you are just keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing is a term used when you just jam keywords everywhere without considering if they are actually relevant to the content on the page you are talking about. If your main product is widgets, but you have another product you sell, don't use the term widgets in the title tag for the page of your other product as it doesn't make sense. An example of a title tag for your widgets product page could look something like
Products - New York Widgets | Widgets New York | Widget Company I like to separate terms with a "|" as it gives some structure to the tag and displays nicely within Google search results. I use 2 variations of what I expect the most popular search term to be and end with the company name. Another tip, try to keep the tag to no more than 70 characters to ensure Google indexes it in its entirety.
3. Meta Tags
Meta tags are short descriptors that work in conjunction with title tags. They can be up to 160 characters, should include your keywords for the page in question and give a description of the content on that page, to entice people to click! When you search on Google, the results that are displayed are as follows:
- Title Tag; blue link that you click
- URL of the specific page the results have provided
- Meta Tag for that page
The short description you see if the meta tag for that page. You have 160 character to do 2 things: encourage Google to show your page in its results for a search term and entice people that see it to click. Use the 160 characters wisely, with those 2 things in mind.
Do yourself a favour and get an SSL certificate. Better yet, make it TSL. Google definitely prefers sites that are secured to their standards. It's a quick win and you can boast about it to your customers too.
5. Schema Markup
This is easily the most under used tool there is, and probably the one that is the most effective, but also the most in depth. This one really could encompass its own post. I won't be doing that today though, I'll give you a brief overview of what it is and why it's important. For more detailed analysis of Schema Markup, have a look at this blog by Neil Patel, it's very good: https://blog.kissmetrics.com/get-started-using-schema/
Basically, Schema Markup is a way of tagging various bits of content on your website to allow Google to understand exactly what the content is. Is it an article, a product, a URL, a name or some other type of content? Schema Markup clarifies this for Google and gives context to your content which allows more relevant results to be displayed. And because less than 1% of websites use it, you will be at a significant advantage in your Google conquest. Learn it, use it, thank me later.
There are 2 kinds of sitemaps: onpage and offpage. On page sitemaps are generally helpful for large websites with many pages. It allows a user to easily access the page they are looking for as your sitemap will simply display all pages as links on a single page. The off page sitemap is the one I am referring to that is relevant to SEO. Basically an off page sitemap is an xml file that is submitted to Google. It informs Google about all URLs that are available to be crawled and indexed on your website. The sitemaps protocol includes additional information about each URL: when it was last updated, how often it changes, and how important it is in relation to other URLs on your site. This allows Google to crawl your site more intelligently. Sitemaps are a URL inclusion protocol that can be use in conjunction with Robots.txt, which is a URL exclusion protocol. Robots.txt is submitted to Google to tell it to not index certain URLs if you don't want them included in search results for whatever reason. I submit my sitemap to Google just before setting a site live. This lets Google know about the website's existence and begins the indexing process.
There you have it, SEO in a nutshell. This may be overwhelming to someone who is not familiar with web design, which is why it's always a very good idea to have your website built by a professional who understands these concepts and can easily implement them. Sure, you can build your website yourself for free or cheap, but if no one sees it and it doesn't show in relevant Google search results, then is it worth it to save a few bucks? Your bottom line may not think so.