Is SEO important in 2015?
Most people with a website are familiar with the term SEO, Search Engine Optimisation, being an aspect they realise they need, but don’t really know much about.
Along with the awareness of the term comes the question I get asked a lot about how to improve website SEO. To which I answer that there’s quite a lot you can do yourself, but not to expect your website to make it happen automatically.
Added to this, many blog posts abound with advice as to what’s important and what’s not, when it comes to SEO, all too often as an introduction to further services that can be purchased. I’d advise having a go yourself, seeing what you efforts deliver in terms of how well content is ranked in Search, then considering whether investing in professional SEO services is actually going to be required, as opposed to dedication and persistence yourself.
So, I thought I’d put together my views on the subject, which you can buy into or not, but I’m not sharing this as some kind of up-sell of being a particular SEO expert. My approach and belief is that for many businesses, with small budgets to spend on their web presence, there are some simple things that can be done to help improve their website’s SEO that can actioned without needing to pay for delivery of SEO services.
Start with a quality website platform
If you buy a car with a dodgy engine you’re not going to get too far along the road before you break down. It’s the same with a website, meaning that you really need to invest in one that contains modern coding, that’s going to be able to cope with instructing consistent delivery of content and layout on a the wide range of user devices.
So, if you’re starting out and looking for a website developer or website build solution you need to do some research about the ‘platform’ i.e. the engine that will be at the core of your website. Yes, it will take you some time to do your ‘due diligence’ but wouldn’t you do the same if you were buying a car?
Benefit your users, not your ego
The mistake many people make, when they first get into having a website, is getting bogged-down by the visual appearance of the site. This is a complicated area, fraught with conflicting views, but my opinion is based on the fact that you should think about your website from the user perspective. That means, amongst other things, considering how fast the page will load for the user, on a wide range of devices including mobile phones.
Keeping things simple can actually make life easier for you and remember “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, which in website terms is often related to speed of page loading and ease of finding what they’re looking for. Ask yourself – do you stay around on web pages that take a while to load, or don’t make it straight-forward to find what you’re looking for? Probably not?
Create website content to benefit users not search engines
It’s not so much keywords, but key-phrases that are important and you need to gain insight into what sort of terms people are searching for, to help you write content that answers user enquiries.
There are tools available to help you with this, both providing free and paid services. Check out Ubersuggest, or Google’s Keyword Tool (You have to sign up for Google Adwords but you don’t have to pay to use the tool).
Site ranking and what matters to Google
Google ranks links to web pages in Search according to a range of quality criteria. The higher the quality of the website and the content is also determined by the amount of social signals it generates, in comparison with other similar sites. Social signals are created when users interact with your site content through leaving of comments, or sharing of content to their social media networks.
So, if you don’t have facility on your site for social sharing buttons you’re likely to find it challenging to compete, in their site ranking wars, with competitors who do.
Open a Google Webmaster Tools account
There’s a lot of talk about Google Analytics, which is an incredibly powerful tool that can provide a depth of insight into website user interactions that cannot fail to impress. However, using Google Analytics is a bit of a learning curve, despite the excellent tutorials that are available.
My advice to website newbies is to start with Google Webmaster Tools. The service provides tools that provide insight into such useful aspects as links to your site, broken links, page-speed insights, mobile usability and can even deliver information about the security of your site.
Billed by Google as “get data, tools and diagnostics for a healthy Google friendly site” it’s got to be a “Must-have” for any DIY website owner.
What you can do to improve website SEO
The following can all help:
- Use a URL (web address) that includes words that say what the content is about. So, for example, if you run a blog make sure the URL contains the phrase the blog post is about and not just a post number. (consider the URL of this blog post, for example).
- Use your key-phrase within the first 100 words (don’t be slavish to this in every piece of content, but bear it in mind).
- Make your content easy to read by keeping it relevant and breaking it up into sections with headings to help the user (people don’t read from the top to the bottom, tending rather to scan as they decide whether the content is relevant to what they’re searching for).
- Check your grammar and spelling (sounds almost too obvious, but it does matter to Google)
- Complete a meta description. This is a little technical, but it’s not too difficult to understand. Several Meta Tags exist in the coding behind the scenes and there should be a box somewhere (If you’re a DIY’er) where you can add a Meta Description at least. The Meta Description is used by Google as the snippet under the website link that’s shown in the Search results. If you don’t have a meta description then Google will take the first so many characters of the web page (which might not sell your link to a user so well).
- Make sure you optimise your images. This means making sure you resize them from the original (which can be HUGE) and also reduce the file size through using a tool such as PhotoShop or even a free tool such as Pixlr
- Add Alt Tags to your images. This is done once you’ve uploaded your images to your server space, or to your website platform (such as Wix, Weebly or WordPress). Alt Tags are then available to describe the image to a user with sight issues who’s using a screen reader to relay the web page content. Alt tags also help Google to determine the nature of the image, but think users first!
- Make sure your site is mobile friendly. Use the facility in Webmaster Tools, or a Google Mobile Test Tool if you don’t have an account. Google are now displaying messages to users to indicate whether a web-page is mobile friendly or not, so you should check yours out as a priority.
- Check your site speed, it matters to Google. There are a variety of tools available. I use Pingdom.
Practice SEO on your website to help improve content ranking
I’m going to stop now, otherwise this post could fall into another trap, that of being so long I lose your attention. In my book it’s better to do a little consistently and persistently, rather than take on too much and fail through running out of time to do what’s needed.
There’s no getting away from the fact that, as a website owner, it’s going to take time and effort to optimise your website and content, but it’s well worth it. The other option is to pay Google to do it for you, which can work out very expensive.
Other posts that may be of interest