GIVE YOUR WEBSITE A LIFT
Your website is now live. It is targetted, user friendly, with a strong identity and you proudly declare, “it's doing its job brilliantly”. Until you find out that after a simple Google search, it is languishing somewhere at the bottom of the 7th page.
Why is that?!
You simply missed a step. The SEO step. So what is Search Engine Optimisation all about? There is obviously a lot of literature and experts in the field, but I thought it would be helpful to give an overview of some of the basis.
In a nutshell, SEO helps your website earn more visibility by rising up search engine’s ranking of pages. How do you achieve it? There are a few key areas to consider as they all influence SEO.
WORK YOUR COPY
The quality of your copywriting takes an important place in SEO as it's what Google itself scans when it reads your website. Which in turn determines whether your web is more or less related to the search and what its ranking ultimately becomes.
Think carefully about your URL
Does it contain the main keywords that summarise your proposition? Is it nice and short? Easy to remember? Is the location of your target important enough to go for a .co.uk rather than a .com? All these questions need to be thought about carefully.
Metatags, Meta Keywords and Meta Description
Within the header of your html code you should place a meta div to hold a short description of your website as well as selected keywords. Avoid using the same keywords for every page: mix it up so it relates directly to the page it’s on.
Find quality keywords
There are some tools you can use to check the most popular keywords and to compare their popularity on the web: Google’s Keyword Tool and Google’s Insights for Search. You might think, let's take the 5 most popular ones, but the most popular will probably have a lot more competition. Ideally you want something that lots of people are searching for, but hardly anyone has optimised for. If you are a small fashion boutique, selecting "clothes" will not give you much credit. You can't realistically expect to compete with Topshop, H&M and all these mega fashion stores. Instead, you might consider "independent fashion shop" or "fashion boutique". Focus on your added value, price, quality, services. Anything that can set you apart from your competitors.
How do users make their way to your website? In real life, you make contacts, impress them and they recommend you. They ‘redirect’ people to you. On the Internet it's the same, but with links.
From website to website
Other websites might be interested in what you’re doing and link to you. And if the websites that link to you are trusted and respected, the better quality the link will be and the more Google will value it. Essentially it’s like someone voting for you: but if the person who is voting is Dior then that will carry a lot more weight than a site nobody has heard of or ever visits.
You don’t need to rely solely on begging people to add a link to you from their site, social media can also do a pretty good job for you. Twitter, Facebook and many others help redirect users to your website. When people read an interesting post, they’ll gladly follow the link. People will have a look at your website from there and share it with their friends. They might even “Google +” it, which makes you literally jump up the ranks. To summarise, the more traffic you generate thanks to link-throughs, the better ranking you'll get.
Blog and newsletter
Brilliant, you now have plenty of quality websites linking to you. But what’s the point of all your efforts if your Bounce Rate (the percentage of traffic that comes to one page on your site and then leaves without navigating elsewhere) is reaching the sky and your users’ time on the site is low? You have to create reasons for your users to come back. Refreshing content is not enough, you need to develop loyalty. If you have an online weight-loss programme, a dedicated newsletter with a special offer might boost your percentage of return visits, a weekly article about a great success story might grab people’s attention, testimonials are always great to read and share. Something that makes you rock and up to date. This will drive people's interest and engage your target audience so they keep coming back.
Ages to load
What would you do if you were waiting for a page to load for 15 seconds? Three seconds online is already too long. After a long sigh you’ll leave the page. Don’t lose quality because of poor hosting or enormous images that take forever to appear.
When a link to your site is posted elsewhere, you need make sure that the links are up to date. If you want Google to take you seriously you’ll have to apply a no-broken-link policy. Same thing goes for your broken pages. Making your 404 page look nice might keep your users happy, but sadly Google doesn’t care: it just sees an error 404.
Where is your content?
Even before starting the design process of a website, you need to define your objectives from an SEO perspective. This will help inform the architecture of the site. What pages need to be surfaced earlier and which are less important and can be found deeper in the navigation. Google reads your primary, secondary, tertiary navigation differently and will rank your website according to its information hierarchy. Surfacing your key content will also help users to find what they want quickly. That's two birds with one stone.
To summarise, Google takes into consideration four key areas when deciding how it ranks pages:
- The credibility you create via your Link-Through Rate and the traffic it generates on your website.
- The engagement you foster by encouraging people to re-visit.
- The relevance of your website defined by the quality of your content and keywords.
- The quality of your website by providing a nice user experience: no broken links, quick load-time, easy and straightforward information architecture.
But have you ever wondered whether it will always be this way? Will there be a time when people stop using traditional search engines altogether?
Think about it: when you want to find how to get somewhere, you open Google Maps. When you want to buy an affordable lamp you visit IKEA. Want to listen to music? Spotify. Do we even need to search anymore: when we can just go to our trusted online places? Does this herald the end of Google a few years down the line?
I was arguing this point with a friend who believes the exact opposite will happen. Yes, we are getting better at finding what we need without always searching for it first, but what search gives us is the ability to explore and push what we already know. You may go to your favourite bakery to buy your favourite pastry every day, but sometimes it’s nice to try all the apple pies from nearby bakeries, too, just in case.