For Average Jo, SEO might just as well stand for Slippery Edible Octopus, as Search Engine Optimisation – it’s widely regarded as a ‘dark art’, a mysterious, complicated process that only coding geniuses and computer geeks can fully understand. Whilst it’s true there are some complex and specialised elements undertaken by web gurus, there are lots of simple things Average Jo can put in place to influence online ranking.
Our Simple Guide to SEO
Rather than bamboozle our clients with complicated jargon and mind boggling reports, we’re keeping our guide to SEO simple. We’ve broken the process down into 3 stages, and here they are in plain English.
SEO Stage One: Website Analysis
Aesthetics: It may seem obvious, but how your site looks will affect how users perceive you. How does your website visually compare to your competitors’? It’s pointless spending lots of time and money on SEO if visitors aren’t inspired or impressed when they land on your page. If your content is interesting and laid out sensibly with quality pictures, users are more likely to engage with your site, to return at a later date and recommend your website to others, in turn increasing your ranking with Google and other search engines. If your site isn’t up to scratch, new visitors will simply bounce off straight away, and do more harm to your rating than good. Having your site professionally designed can be expensive but it’s a good investment if you want that WOW factor. If you dress to impress you’ll see better returns.
User Experience: Good navigation means the user can access the information they are looking for quickly which is essential in this age of fast living. Simple menus, strong calls to action and fast delivery of data ensures an enjoyable experience for the user who is more likely to return / buy / engage / recommend.
Structure: As well as front end aesthetics, the back end (code) should comply with SEO recommendations. Google will rank your website higher if it is coded correctly and easier to assess. For example, page titles should be relevant and not too long, headings (H1) and subheadings (H2) should be coded correctly in the right order, meta titles and descriptions should be properly applied, images should be optimised… Are you lost yet? This is something a good web developer will be able to help you with. It can be time consuming to cross all the t’s and dot your i’s, but it makes a huge difference to your ranking potential. It’s wise to start as you mean to go on, but it’s never too late to go back to an older site and clean it up.
Technology: If your site has celebrated its 10th birthday, there’s an excellent chance it needs updating. Not only will the aesthetics be somewhat dated, technologically it will be lingering in the dark ages and odds are, you’ll need a completely new site. Your website should be fully responsive and adapt intuitively to all devices across all platforms for optimum viewing performance. This means visitors to your site using tablets or smart phones will be able to read the text on your page without having to resize, pan in or out etc. and they’ll be able to navigate quickly and easily. Website software should be updated regularly for better ranking and of course, to ensure security.
We provide a no obligation, free website analysis. If you’d like Accent Creative to take a look at your site and make recommendations, please get in touch.
SEO Stage Two: Key Word Analysis
Content is King: It’s amazing how often websites fall short in terms of essential information. This is when you really have to put yourself in your customers’ shoes – what do they expect from your site? Are you providing unique, interesting, relevant information? Is it displayed in a logical order, and easy to find? Is it repetitive and dull? This is vital for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – Google will assess your site based on how unique and interesting the content is, how well it’s laid out and how long users stay on your page (if it’s good content they’ll stay longer). If you struggle writing content, it can be a good investment to hire a professional copy writer, and similarly good photographers, designers, videographers will enhance your content for the better.
Key Words and Key Phrases: These are one of the main elements of SEO basics. Key words and phrases should be used throughout your site, including page titles, text, image descriptions and links. You need to know how people are looking for the products, services or information that you offer, in order to make it easy for them to find you – otherwise, they’ll land on one of the many other pages in the Google results.
Key Word Research: It is useful to carry out an analysis of key words and key phrases you are using, and monitor their effectiveness over time. Sometimes, the obvious key words aren’t actually benefiting you in terms of SEO. Let’s imagine you are an independent financial advisor with a small website, you may think that ‘personal loans’ is a good key phrase and analysis shows this term is searched 5000 times a month by people in the UK. Now, this may sound good, but as you’re in competition with larger, more powerful multi national financial organisations and high street banks with enormous SEO marketing budgets, it’s going to be virtually impossible for you to rank anywhere near the first few pages in Google with such a vague key phrase. Key word research will check for alternatives which may be more specific and niche, but still relevant. Perhaps only 50 people a month search for ‘independent loan lender Nottingham’ but as there won’t be as much competition, you are more likely to rank highly using these key words. You may get fewer hits but it’s quality not quantity that counts. It can take a while and lots of trial and error to get the best key words and phrases for your website, so you’ll need a fair bit of patience. But you can do it!
SEO Stage Three: Keeping On Top
So, we’ve assessed and made recommendations to improve your site and it’s in great shape. It’s optimised and gaining ground with the major search engines. Now, all we have to do is keep it going. The danger here is to think we’ve got the ranking we wanted, woohoo! Now we can stop and do nothing for the next couple of years. It doesn’t work that way. SEO is a continuous process. Every day Google’s algorithms are changing, technology is advancing, and your competitors’ websites are getting better and better… so, it’s a good idea to be sensible and put a plan in place that’s achievable and measurable. Here are a few things we can do to keep your site fighting fit and ranking high:
Update your content regularly: We can’t stress enough the importance of keeping your content fresh, engaging and relevant. You may do this daily by posting a news article, weekly or monthly – you have to decide what is manageable in terms of time and effort.
Adding backlinks: Get as many links as possible from other websites to act as recommendations, and increase your credibility with Google. You could do this by asking clients to add a link from their website, or by being registered on directory sites such as Yell.com. Posting on social media sites such as Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram will also help. Just make sure the sites you are linking from are credible and relevant – a dodgy website link can work against you!
Key Words: Continuous key word and key phrase analysis allows you to see which words are working, and find better alternatives if not. Of course, as you update your content, you may need to new key words to assist SEO.
Stay current: Make sure your software platform such as WordPress, and other third party plugins are updated regularly for best site performance and good security.
Traditional Marketing: Don’t forget non-online methods of promoting your website. Make sure your domain name is always prominent on press adverts, workwear, vehicle livery and office stationery. The more new visits you encourage, the better you’ll rank!
SEO Technical Terms
Now for the jargon… here are some technical terms us web developers spout that you may be familiar with but don’t comprehend. We’ve simplified them so that when you receive an SEO report you understand what it all means.
Keywords are one of the main elements of SEO basics. In other words, you need to know how people are looking for the products, services or information that you offer, in order to make it easy for them to find you – you don’t want them to land on one of the many other pages competing with yours, in the Google results.
How do keywords help?
The key words and phrases in your web content make it possible for people to find your site via search engines. It’s important to understand your market – what words or phrases are potential customers likely to use when searching for your services? Will they search geographically? Having those key words present within your content – headings, sub headings, captions, general text – will help boost your position.
Backlinks are also known as “inbound” or “incoming” links, and they are links to your website from another place on the internet. They are extremely useful to search engines, because they give a good indication that a website is popular. Another website adding a link to you is essentially a vote for your website, as it shows their customers that they think your site is worth visiting.
Can backlinks improve my ranking?
Yes they can. In addition to promoting your site via social media, it’s vital to get links to your site from other websites. Backlinks can also generate visitors to your site. To be successful, you must take the following into account:
• The link must come from a reputable source relevant to your business.
• The link text should use a relevant or branded keyword.
Domain Authority is a score (on a 100-point scale) that predicts how well a website will rank on search engines. We use Domain Authority when comparing one site to another or tracking the “strength” of your website over time. It takes into account lots of different factors including the age of the site, and the amount of quality backlinks. Whereas Domain Authority measures the predictive ranking strength of whole domains or subdomains, Page Authority measures the strength of an individual page.
How can we improve domain authority?
Generally speaking, sites with a very large number of good external links (such as Wikipedia or Google.com) are at the top end of the Domain Authority scale, whereas small websites with fewer inbound links may have a much lower score. But don’t get too hung up on this score, as it’s used as a comparative tool. Brand new domains will start with a Domain Authority score of one – it can only improve from there!
This is a score based on quality, on a scale between 0-100 and predicts how trustworthy a page is, based on the assumption that trustworthy sites tend to link to trustworthy neighbours. Sites closely linked to other credible or “trusted seed” sites would see higher scores, whereas sites that may have some questionable links would see a much lower score.
Citation Flow is a score between 0-100 which helps to measure link equity or “power” and is used in conjunction with Trust Flow. This number predicts how influential a URL might be, based on how many sites link to it, as well as the quality of those links.
How can we improve trust and citation flow scores?
If your Trust and Citation Flow scores are low, this is probably due to the low number and poor quality of links with other websites. Link building with authoritative websites will help.
Anchor Text is the visible, clickable text in a hyperlink. It is often blue and underlined. The words contained in the anchor text can determine the ranking that the page will receive by search engines.
SEO best practices dictate that anchor text be relevant to the page you’re linking to, rather than generic text. Google also places high regard to branded anchor text. Your business name, and its website address are two great branded anchor examples. Branded anchor text should always be the highest proportion of your links.
How can we improve this?
This must be addressed in the content we post when link building. For example, if we write a blog for an estate agent’s site about “first time buyers” and submit to a reputable site like Rightmove.co.uk, we include a hyperlink within the article to your site, to encourage readers to visit your page. We make sure the anchor text for the link is relevant. So, instead of saying click here we might say help for first time buyers getting on the property ladder. Best practice is to have at least 5 variances of branded anchor text, which refers to your business and domain name.
We hope you’ve found this simple SEO guide useful. In conclusion, although there are many ways to promote and optimise your website, by far the most important things is getting the basics right.
1. Are you providing good, unique, interesting content to your target audience / potential buyer?
2. Is your content displayed in a logical format, and is information easy to find?
3. Is your website easy to use and quick to load?
4. Does your site adequately compete with your competitors’ websites both aesthetically and structurally?
5. Are your contact details obvious and clear?
If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to all of the above, you’re doing the main things right – if not we’ll be happy to recommend improvements to your online presence and ultimately drive more traffic to your website.