Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

When working with a client on a site they often groan when I mention Search Engine Optimization (SEO). They want their site to be visually appealing and functional, but get annoyed when that the ability to be found by Google is mentioned. Whether it is enjoyable or not, if traffic is wanted, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), has to be addressed.

What does Search Engine Optimization (SEO) mean?

Essentially you are creating an easy way for the search engines to find your site, and then show it in their search results so potential customers can find you. To do this there are multiple steps to take (and they change with disturbing frequency) and include site wide actions as well as actions on each page.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for your site

Much of the following work will be carried out by your web designer, but you will have to help with identifying the keywords you feel are helpful as you are the expert on your topic.

  • Set up a webmaster account with Google and Bing and get your site verified as belonging to you
  • A site map should be created, ideally for every page, but at a minimum for the site. It then has to be submitted to Google (and BIng) so their spiders know where to go.
  • Keywords need to be carefully researched to make your site’s information specific to your audience. Visit Google’s keyword planner to identify keywords you could use.
  • The navigation should be text, not images or code so it can be read  by the spiders.
  • Add analytics code and check the results to see how people are responding – do they bounce away after only a second or two, or do they stay?
  • Make sure you have good keyword links both within your site and out to other sites.
  • If your front page is static, i.e. not your blog, then leave the text alone. Changing it frequently can make your site search results worsen.
  • Whenever possible, use text instead of words as the spiders don’t crawl much of the text connected to pictures, but crawl all the text on a page.
  • Make sure your text is original, do not copy content from other sites as you will be penalized for this.
  • If you are collecting identifiable information about visitors, you should have a privacy statement explaining what you will do with it. you can read more here.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for your pages

It is always good to get help with SEO as it is a huge field to learn. WordPress themes often come with a SEO help built in, but if your theme doesn’t appear to have this, download and install the WordPress plugin called WordPress SEO by Yoast as it has a huge amount of useful advice for improving the SEO on your pages.

  • You page title should include your keyword for that page.
  • Add a page description of at least 156 characters (include your keyword) which will appear in your listing for the page in Google search results.
  • Use multiple heading levels on your page, ideally using your keyword in them. (It helps the spiders know what the page is about as well as helping scanners quickly understand what the page is about.)
  • Make sure there are at least 250 words on each page, and ideally at least 500 words. Make sure they are your own words, and include helpful and informative content.
  • Any pictures should have “alt text” added so that the content of the image can be presented even if the image can’t be seen.
  • Only add links that have a purpose. At one point it was regarded as important to have huge quantities of links on every page, and so people bought them. This behavior is frowned upon by Google, so be sure that if you add a link it makes sense and adds to what you are saying.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) ongoing tasks

Once your site is built, it is wise to follow up on your initial work on getting your site found:

  • Check the results in Google analytics to see whether people are visiting your pages and staying or “bouncing” away quickly.
  • If the bounce rate is high, review your content to ensure the keyword and the content really match.
  • Make all recommended updates to your site that will be sent to you by Google and Bing.
  • Make sure your site and photos are mobile-friendly. Hopefully your site was set up to be responsive, but if it is older there may be more work to do to achieve this. Google will demote your page if it isn’t mobile-friendly, and you may lose natural traffic if your site doesn’t view well on a phone or tablet.
  • Don’t add so much to your pages that they load slowly. One video or 3-4 web-friendly photos at most to a page. Google will demote your site is pages load slowly.

So, while for most of us SEO isn’t the most exciting part of building a site, it is very important if you want customers or clients to find you and your services. Work your way through these tasks and all should be well!