The final week of our 4 Week Website Tune Up is here and this blog is all about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and the quick, easy tasks you can follow to improve your website’s search ranking.
If you missed the previous 4 Week Website Tune Up blogs you can catch up here:
SEO has been a hot topic for a few years now and there is an incredible amount of information online, not all of it accurate.
A whole industry has sprung up around SEO and although many of the the offerings will be genuine, I would advise that you treat anything that promises you a spot on the first page of Google search with a hefty dose of scepticism.
So how does SEO work?
Before we get started on SEO, this video from Google does a great job explaining how Google search works:
In simple terms, SEO is the name used to describe actions taken to try to improve the search rankings of a website. These actions can range from making small changes to a website, to creating lots of content with the aim of targeting specific keywords that you want a website to rank for.
Google has written a fantastic starter guide to SEO which outlines best practice for getting your website ranked on Google search and if you have the time to read it I would highly recommend starting there.
If you are short on time you can go straight to our tasks. All SEO advice we give to our clients is based on best practices. We don’t believe in trying to game the system as from our experience, any short term gains are outweighed by long term negative effects.
Our SEO principle is simple; if your website is correctly structured and you produce well written content that is of interest and is useful to your target audience then your site will rank well.
First things first, if you have a WordPress website you need the Yoast SEO plugin. If you don’t already have it installed, go and do it now! The free version is great, and is what we recommend our clients use.
1 Create/update your keyword strategy
The aim of this is to understand the terms your customers are using in Google search to find your goods or services, and the search volume associated with them. This allows you to target keywords that not only will drive traffic but drive the right kind of traffic – your target market.
The best way to do this is to do keyword research. There are lots of different tools for this including Google Trends, Adwords Keyword Planner (free but you will need to create an account for this), Ubersuggest, and Moz Keyword Explorer. This Hubspot blog post does a great job of explaining the basics of keyword research.
It’s always helpful to measure the effectiveness of SEO and the easiest way to do this is using Google Search Console to view search queries, average search position, impressions and click through rate.
Other metrics you may want to track as a measure of SEO effectiveness are conversion rate, time spent on page and number of pages viewed per visit as these reflect engaged users.
If you previously set keywords for your website pages then use Google Analytics to find which of your pages are underperforming and focus on those pages. Things to look for are lower than average conversion rates, high bounce rates and shorter than average spent time on the page, indicating the content on the page is not matching the expectations of the users and their search terms.
2 Check your content
Now you’ve sorted your keywords then it’s time to review your content.
The key message I want to get across in this section is that you want to use your keywords in your content in a natural way. I frequently come across content that has clearly been stuffed full of keywords in an attempt at SEO and it almost always has a negative effect.
Even if it did improve the search rankings (unlikely as Google’s algorithm is pretty damn clever and can spot keyword stuffing) then it’s not an effective long term strategy as the content usually reads badly which only encourages users to stop reading and click away from your website.
So read all your pages and if you feel like your keywords are popping up too frequently then they probably are! Either delete or rephrase if a keyword is becoming repetitive and if your keyword isn’t mentioned anywhere but the title then make sure it is in the text.
3 Complete/update the Yoast plugin for your site pages
If you’ve never used the Yoast plugin before, the good news is that it’s really easy to use and the traffic light system will highlight areas you need to improve.
If you completed the plugin fields when you first created the pages then this is the time to go back through them to make improvements. Make sure you complete all the fields and use the Yoast traffic light scoring to ensure your content is as optimised as possible.
Some key things to focus on:
- Focus Keyphrase – this is where you put the keyword(s) you want the page to rank for when people search for them.
- Google Preview – This snippet of text is shown under the title in search results and is also known as the meta description and it is a key factor in convincing users to click through to your website. If you’re struggling to know what to write this post has some helpful tips.
- Image alt tags – make sure you have completed these for all images on your pages. It is key for accessibility and helps your SEO.
Although the Yoast plugin is great, remember that it is a tool and that common sense should always prevail and that the principle of creating good content that your users find interesting and useful.
The readability score is a good example of this: yes it is important for content to be easy to read but if you are writing recipes or other posts with lists then this might artificially lower your score and in these cases I would ignore the score if you know your content is appropriate.
4 Ensure you’re added in Google Search Console
There’s a chance that at some point someone will link to your site, and Google will organically find you and perhaps even index your site. However, there’s a more robust way to have your site listed on Google, and will include all the pages of your site – submit your site to Google Search Console.
In effect, this says to Google – ‘hey, I’m here, look at all my pages please!’. They way Google will do this is by reading your sitemap, and we’re constantly amazed by how many sites exist and are submitted to Search Console and don’t have one!
The good news is that if you install YoastSEO (see above) then it’ll create a sitemap for you in the format that Google will like. You can see ours here: https://www.verdantspark.co.uk/sitemap_index.xml (you’ll find your own URL in the ‘General->Features’ tab of Yoast, just click on the question mark icon).
Then all you need to do is head over to Search Console, verify you own the domain you want to submit, and then submit the sitemap there. Google will them crawl the sitemap and take note of all your pages and, hopefully, deem them worthy of adding to the index.
We hope you’ve found this series useful, if you need any help with your website we are always available for a chat. Just send us a message here.