Your basic SEO strategy
Employing some basic SEO techniques is important when developing your website. Unless your offering is truly revolutionary, “if I build it, they will come” does not work! The aim is to get your site properly catalogued and ranked by search engines. Then you can be found by people who are looking for what you offer.
Let’s call them your new customers…
So, what are search engines looking for? And how can you design your website so that everyone gets what they want? Not only human visitors, but also Google, Bing, Yahoo and the rest. And how can you turn this to your advantage to make more profit?
It all comes down to your basic SEO.
To begin with, don’t look to “game” Google, or any other search engine. Attempts to cheat them with devious techniques are a shortcut to wrecking your domain’s reputation. I’ve known several clients whose previous sites have been removed from a search engine’s results altogether. Recovering that lost ground can be immensely difficult. Sometimes it’s impossible within a reasonable timeframe.
What search engines want
Search engines aim to return the links most relevant to your search. Within those results, they place the best sites first. So how does a search engine determine which websites are best? And what basic SEO techniques can turn this to your advantage?
- Content: the theme of your website. How does it relate to the words and links in your pages? The better your content, the higher you will rank. The creation of high quality, original content should be your first basic SEO consideration.
- Authority: Who links to you? If they’re high quality, high traffic sites, that’s great. But if you’ve got lots of poor quality incoming links, that’s not so good. How long has your site been in the game? If you were one of the first sites in your niche and have been around for years, award yourself extra points.
- Citations: If a large, popular website mentions yours in a news article containing a link back to you, that’s great. A link is like a vote. The bigger and better the site linking to yours, the more that vote is worth.
And in the event of a tie, what other factors do search engines look at to determine which is best?
- Speed: Your website must load fast to get in Google’s good books.
- Responsive design: Your website should be as accessible on mobiles as it is in desktop browsers.
- Well designed: Broken pages, confusing navigation, insecure forms, or a poorly set up server will send you to the back of the queue.
- Bounce rate: Bounce rate is a measurement, taken as a percentage. It’s the number of visitors who arrive on a page, and then leave immediately. The lower your bounce rate, the more popular your website. More popular websites rank higher in search.
Getting these fundamentals right should form the basis of your basic SEO strategy.
What search engines don’t want
Search engine operators really hate it when website owners try to fake it. Efforts to manipulate a website’s position in the rankings by trickery get punished. Search engines earn their money from advertising. The better the quality of their results, the more advertising they sell. So what basic SEO tactics should you avoid?
- Excessive use of keywords : it’s called keyword stuffing. It used to work, it doesn’t anymore. Make your writing natural. Don’t overuse your keywords.
- Copied content: if you’ve copied your content from someone else’s site, Google will notice. Expect to lose positions. Or, you may be removed from search results altogether.
- Paid links: Don’t buy links from other websites, unless the link is clearly marked as an advert. And make sure that the website where the link is hosted has marked it as “nofollow”. Then search engines will ignore it. Otherwise, it’ll be registered as deceptive.
- Link swaps: Don’t swap links with websites which have nothing to do with your subject matter. This is important. It’s one of the main ways that small websites often screw up their basic SEO.
- Bad user experience: Make your website easy to use for your users. Build it for them. Too many ads or a poor layout will increase your bounce rate. A high bounce rate is taken as an indicator of poor quality.
Optimise all your channels
Your basic SEO keyword strategy should be applied to more than just your website. Be sure to apply your basic SEO strategy to all your marketing channels, including :
- Google Plus
- Email newsletters
- Offline channels : radio, TV and print ads
Applying a consistent approach with your keywords and phrases throughout your channels will not just support your branding efforts. It’ll also familiarise your readers with the specific phrases which you’re using in your basic SEO strategy. Then they’ll know what to search for next time.
Manage your domains carefully
The domain name(s) you use are an important aspect of your basic SEO strategy. It’s important to apply best practices, such as:
- One address per domain: If your website loads with both www and without, as far as search engines are concerned those are two separate sites. This causes “duplicate content”, which search engines penalise. Also, over time your inbound links can become diluted between the “two” domains. This will cause them to lose some of the value they would otherwise provide.
- Older is better: Domain age is a ranking factor, and old domains have more value in search than new ones. However, if you buy an old domain, be sure to check that its previous owners didn’t pull any shady tricks with it. If they used it for spamming, cloaking, or any other black hat SEO techniques, you could have problems. If it’s been previously penalised, avoid using it if you can. Otherwise it could take you considerable time to clean up your domain’s reputation.
- Keyword URLs: Having keywords that you wish to rank for included in your domain can be a good thing. Just don’t go overboard.
Don’t forget your meta data
Every page on your website needs a title tag and a meta description. This is basic SEO best practice. It helps search engines to catalogue your content. The title tag is shown at the top of your browser outside of the page area. The meta description lives in the HTML code of your web page. Meta descriptions are displayed in search results, and when you share a web page on Facebook. These are both essential indicators of the page content. They help search engines and other services understand and categorise each page.
Your titles and meta descriptions should be unique. No two pages on your website should share the same title or description. Think of the title as an advertisement. Use it to entice your readers. A meta description should accurately reflect the content of the page it describes. It should contain the most important keywords for that page.
When you’re planning a new website, your basic SEO will have a very real effect. It should be one of your most important initial considerations. Cutting corners at the start will prevent you from making the most of your commercial opportunities later. Don’t allow your competitors to get the jump on you! Remember, the difference between appearing on page 1 or page 2 of a search engine’s results is huge. It can mean the difference between turning a profit, or losing out…