According to research, some 93% of all online experiences begin with a user entering a search term into one of the major search engines. That means that focusing on ways to boost the ranking of your website and brand presence in search engine results needs to remain a priority for all businesses looking to market their products and/or services online.
In this post, we're going to look at five actionable steps you can take on this front, to help ensure that Google knows what your business does, and recognizes the value you provide for visitors.
Search engine algorithms are complex, and it's difficult to know, definitively, which steps will be most influential on your rankings, but these are things you can do right away to help better align your website with known Google elements.
But first, a quick recap:
What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
All the major search engines, and Google in particular, make decisions around website ranking based on information read by ‘Googlebots’ or ‘spiders’. These bots are programmed to read your website according to a set criteria, and then rank it accordingly.
Search engine optimization refers to ways which you can influence and design your website information to ensure it meets what those Googlebots are looking for.
The more closely your site meets the criteria set by Google, the higher your website will be ranked, making it easier for your potential clients to find.
Optimizing Your Website Design
Ideally, websites should be ‘hard-wired’ for SEO at the design stage, but there is still a lot of valuable work you can do to retroactively boost the SEO on your website. And if, at any point, you think it’s too much trouble, remember that 91% of online content gets zero traffic whatsoever. It has to be worth putting in a few hours to improve your ranking.
Optimization makes sense when you think about it like a conversation you’re having with Google - you need to let Google know why your website deserves to be ranked above others which are selling a similar product.
With these factors in mind, here are five simple steps you can take to get your conversation started with the Googlebots.
1. Find Out How Your Customers Search For Your Product
The Google ‘spiders’ will be crawling your site to find out what ‘search terms’ or ‘keywords’ you employ for your product. If you don’t use ones which are in general use, they won’t recognize what it is you’re selling.
There are no set rules on finding these phrases - you simply have to put yourself into the role of a customer looking for your product. What words would you use to find it? What words are your competitors using as key search terms?
One tool worth considering on this front is Answer the Public, which provides listings of common queries associated with any key term, based on auto-suggest results provided by Google and Bing.
You can narrow these results down to specific terms and phrases which are commonly searched for in regards to your niche.
Once you’ve found the most popular terms to describe your product, look to integrate them into your website copy. Make sure that they’re used naturally, and that you feature them in your titles for each page of the site, where possible.
Now the Googlebots will be able to cross reference these terms, and better understand what, exactly, you’re selling.
2. Create URLs Which Tell Google What You Do
Googlebots expect to be able to read from your URLs what it is that your webpage is about. Providing SEO friendly URLs is a simple job, and it can make a real difference to your ranking.
For example, if you have a URL that looks like this:
You should consider changing it to look more like this:
If your URL contains a title - like, say, ‘How to get fit’, the words should include hyphens between them, as URLs won’t tolerate spaces.
3. Create Your Website for Mobiles Rather Than Desktops
Your web design should be ‘responsive’, which is to say that it will automatically fit the screens of mobiles, laptops, and tablets.
Additionally, the design should be such that it will display attractively and accessibly on whatever screen it’s being viewed on. A ‘mobile-first’ design is one which starts with a mobile, which is more limited, and then expands to desktop delivery.
Google now rewards ‘mobile first’ design, because it acknowledges the trend towards mobile use for online searches.
4. Image Management
Good visuals are now a ‘must have’ for websites, and they’re also a great way to boost your website SEO.
Every time you add an image to a page of your website, you can also add a description of it by using ‘alt text’. Alt text listings tell the Googlebot what your images are, as they can only read the code, and can’t 'see' your pictures. If you use your keywords in the title, you can potentially improve your relevance rank.
When loading pictures, you should also take care to size them correctly. Avoid very large pictures as these will slow down the speed at which your site loads.
5. Be Strict About Duplication
If you repeat the same copy across the pages on the site - or you replicate copy from another published website - you, potentially, could be penalized by Google for duplicate content.
The simplest way to avoid this is by creating a rule that there will be no duplication of content anywhere on your site. This should include product lists, calls to action, and how you describe what you do.
Ideally, every page should be entirely unique to keep them separate in Google's eyes, and avoid ranking issues.
SEO Management is Ongoing
These five steps will get your site in reasonable order for ranking - but search optimization isn’t something you can do once and forget about.
Marketing agencies offering professional SEO services to clients have teams following every twist and turn of the Google criteria, which changes regularly. SEO management is something that you should commit to long-term, with regular reviews of your site content, while also maintaining awareness of the latest search engine updates and algorithm shifts.