Let’s face it, SEO is a dark art that only really nerdy people know a lot about. The rest of us just want some concrete facts we can hang on to and some basic steps we can take to optimise our sites for Google (which is pretty much the only search engine that anyone really cares about ranking for.)
So without further ado, here are ten timeless steps to good search engine optimisation for Google.
1. Write good original content
Hands down, this is quite possibly the most important thing you can do. If your content isn’t original (Google thinks you’ve just copied it from somewhere else on the web) you’ll be penalised in your ranking. Write too little, write too vaguely, or just nothing of much use, and well, you’ll reap what you sow.
When writing content for your website, try to give it some thought. Find something you know about and make it helpful for people. If you’re not a great writer, keep it simple but informative. Don’t write pages and pages of text. There appears to be a magic length for most pages which you’ll get a feel for if you browse a few blogs on the web. There are no rules about this, it’s just what you think most people can be bothered to read, or have time to read.
Google’s ranking algorithms change from time to time, but one central ethos that isn’t going away any time soon is, good original content is what people are after. Not spammy, ad laden pages full of bogus links and irrelevant asides. Keep it relevant, simple, entertaining, informative, original, not too short, not too long.
There’s really no need to pepper every sentence with key phrases either. Google’s algorithms are being refined all the time to penalise what it thinks are attempts to manipulate it. Write naturally and it will all be just fine.
2. Write descriptive and accurate titles
Titles of pages are very important to Google (and all search engines). It’s a good idea to name posts for a blog using a descriptive title that contains the absolute nugget of the topic. This is the place to use that key phrase. Think about what people might type into Google to search for regarding your post. People often ask questions of Google, and that’s also a good way to title your blog posts. Blog titles are usually longer than regular website page titles and can afford to be a bit more wordy and descriptive, but just don’t make them too long! Google displays the first 50-60 characters from your title, so under this and it will be visible on the majority of devices.
Page titles by contrast are often shorter, as they have to be brief enough to fit in a menu.
It’s worth noting that the title of your page and the permalink (the URL or address of your page) can usually be different. So you can have something like ‘About Us’ as the title of your page, but something more descriptive as the URI like: “/about-bobs-product”. Separating words with hyphens allows search engines to read them more easily.
3. Write descriptive links
It’s very tempting to use something like ‘click here’ as link text when writing page content, but with a little more effort you can make your links more descriptive and that can really help Google understand your site, and the relationship between your pages.
Consider the following examples:
“For more about Bob’s amazing widgets click here.”
Would be much more effective as:
“Discover more about Bob’s Amazing Widgets.”
This makes the subject into the link, rather than some meaningless text, and Google uses this to understand the subject matter of your site and the relationship of page content.
4. Write a decent site title for your homepage
Most of us go into WordPress’s Settings menu and simply enter the title of our business. But a good site title can be more effective when combined with a short and punchy descriptive title in the following format:
Quality Baking Ingredients and Vintage Recipes | Vintage Baker
5. Give all your images ALT and Title tags
Neither blind people or Google can understand what’s in an image without a little help. That’s the purpose of the ALT tag. If the image can’t be displayed the ALTernative text will give a clue as to what it contains. Search engines use ALT tags to understand what images you’re showing on your site. The title tag is used in a similar way but this won’t be displayed if the image can’t be shown.
When writing ALT and title tags for images, don’t stuff keywords in there. Just describe what the image is showing. You could use slightly different text in each, but it’s a good idea to include both tags for every image in your site.
One more tip would be to rename your images. This is something a lot of people don’t do. Many camera images are labelled something like ‘d123456.jpg’ which obviously means nothing to a search engine. Rename your image using hyphens to delineate words so Google can understand a bit more about the image.
6. Update your site content frequently
This is where a blog comes in handy! Sites with content that changes frequently usually rank higher than sites with static content. It makes sense really – a constantly updated website that has new content added often is likely of more use rather than a site that’s had the same info on it for a decade. It also indicates that the site is actively maintained and the site owner is more likely to be contactable and involved with his or her visitors.
7. Get other websites to link to yours
This is difficult to influence, and in days gone by people used to go to great lengths to swap links with other websites to try to influence their position in Google. But Google gets wise to just about any attempt to ‘spam’ it, and then hands out ranking penalties for misuse!
Google’s idea with inbound links is that if people find your content of use, they’ll link to it, and since you’re unlikely to be able to influence that very much (apart from the link swapping initiatives described above) then it must be deemed interesting to someone. If you have lots of relevant inbound links coming from ‘authoritative’ website (websites that Google already thinks highly of) your site will benefit from that kudos and be given a ranking boost.
Of course you can still ask people to link to your site. They may or may not do so, as people can be selective about what they promote on their websites, but if your content is quality and relevant to the site it’s being linked from, then it has a greater chance of being linked. Rather than badgering people to link to your site, it may just be a better idea to concentrate on writing great content. You can also ask to ‘guest post’ on other people’s blogs which can provide you with the opportunity for a little publicity and reciprocity.
8. Optimise your site for speed
This is a whole blog post in and of itself, but there are some basic things you can do to make your site load faster.
First off you need to choose a fast host. Well that’s taken care of if you’re already with Deluxe Web, with our Litespeed servers.
Next most important element to optimise is images since these are often the largest resources on your site. WordPress plugins such as Imsanity or Smush can help resize images upon upload to keep file sizes down. They can even convert lossless PNG images to compressed JPGs, or just compress or resize existing images further.
A content delivery network is another way your site load speed can be improved. A CDN will store copies of your images and serve them up quicker than your host might be able to.
Caching plugins can be used to render complex dynamic pages as static HTML so they load many times faster (as they avoid all the PHP code processing and database calls that many blog pages need to make).
Host videos on third-party servers such as Vimeo and YouTube who are set up for streaming video and most likely do so much more effectively than hosting video on your own site.
9. Don’t Turn off Commenting
Your blogs commenting system is a way for people to interact with your site. Creating a community around your content can only be a good thing, and it’s something that Google will be interested in – if you are getting people on your site and they’re commenting, then they mut be engaged with what you’re doing.
You should try to promote discussion and community on your site, and give some time to engaging with your audience.
10. Get a Google My Business listing
Especially if you’re a local business, a Google My Business listing can be an invaluable way of getting found by people. Whilst not strictly a website SEO tip, having a profile on Google in this way can bring traffic your way and gives you an additional result to show up on Google’s search engine results pages.
And finally some bonus tips:
- Don’t hide content – Google thinks it’s spammy. Basically don’t do anything spammy. Keep it real!
- Choose your domain carefully. Check out this article on choosing a domain.
- Avoid adverts that interrupt the user experience or slow down the site.
- Make sure your site is mobile responsive – this is increasingly important and Google has started penalising sites that don’t adapt for mobile viewers.
- Keep your social profiles up to date and make sure your website is linked to from all of them.