Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is generally considered to be the most important and long-lasting means of improving a website’s traffic. Properly executed SEO is what your website higher up in Google, which much like the Yellow Pages used to be, is typically a consumer’s first port-of-call when looking for a service or product. Naturally, the closer you are to the top for a given keyword or phrase, the more traffic you’ll receive. In fact, a recent study shows that on average, the the top position in a given search typically receive 53 percent of clicks on average, with the second position seeing only 15 percent and the third position 9 percent.
SEO’s importance cannot be stressed enough. If your business owns a website, you should in some way be investing in a proper SEO strategy. For many, this means employing a consultant or firm to employ a (hopefully) long-term, growth strategy. For the rest of you, here are some basic, but very powerful and important tips on improving your Google rankings.
1. Monitor Your SEO Strategy
Before you begin with any sort of SEO plan, it’s important to be aware of your website’s current activity and to thereafter be able to monitor your progress as you implement various changes. Otherwise how will you know if the changes are working? The first step is to sign up for a Google Analytics account and add the tracking code you’re provided with to your website code. This will assist you in monitoring your incoming traffic and the source thereof.
2. Find the right keywords
It’s important to find the right keywords and to optimize your site for them. If you don’t pick your keywords carefully, you risk gaining zero ground in the search engine ranking war.
A good starting point is to use Google Adwords’ Keywords tool. This will help you find keywords based on their search popularity as well as give you an indication as to their competitiveness. If your website for instance is selling eggs, you may be tempted to optimize your website for the keyword “eggs” due to its immense popularity, but you also risk competing against hundreds of thousands of other websites and as a result, ranking nowhere. The keyword is also very non-specific, so individuals who search for “eggs” may be not be looking to buy eggs, so much as they may be looking for the nutritional value of eggs or recipes involving eggs. You’ll want to be more specific with your keywords. Perhaps something along the line of “buy organic eggs in south africa”. Not only will your website rank far higher far faster for this phrase, but you’ll likely attract individuals who are closer to the point of purchasing, thereby generating a greater number of conversions. Learn more
3. Using the keywords within your site
Placing your targeted keywords throughout your website is of utmost importance, from the URL, to the titles and the image filenames. Everything counts in some respect. It is generally agreed upon that the title tags and page headers are incredibly important and do a lot to indicate a web page’s relevance.
Be careful not to overdo it with the keywords though. Your website should read like any other well written document. If you go the route of flooding your site with keywords, Google will quite quickly pick up on the fact that you’re doing this and consider your website to be spam. You don’t want to be penalized. Keep an eye on your keyword density. Learn more
4. Links To Your Website
Google determines a website’s relevance not only by the content it carries, but the number of quality links pointing to it. It’s therefore important to negotiate and establish links with other websites that point to your own. The better the relevance and page rank of the site linking in, the more your website stands to gain.
It’s also very important what the text is of the link pointing to your website. This is called “anchor text”. If, as before, your website is in the business of selling eggs, you’d be served better if the link text on the outside website linking was “Organic eggs online”, rather than “Click here”. Learn more
4. Internal Links
Google gives weight to websites that link well within themselves. i.e. links on your website that point to other pages on your site of the same domain. Google recognizes websites that have good site architectures and therefore places value on website that have a good internal linking structure. Learn more
5. Image ‘Alt’ Descriptions
For obvious reasons, images don’t have text. They can therefore be less conducive to linking as images themselves are not readable by Google and therefore carry little to no weight on their own. Unless of course you add an ‘alt’ tag. Alt tags serve as anchor text for images and are necessary for describing each image. As with all things SEO, try keep the alt tags relevant to the content of your website. Learn more
6. Search-friendly URLs
Google gives more weight to URL’s which are both user-friendly and relevant to the content of the website. When searching for eggs to buy online, “eggsonline.com” is therefore more likely to rank close to the top than “johnsconveniencestore.com”. Learn more
7. Create a Sitemap
Make sure your website has a sitemap containing all the links/pages on your website you would like Google to index. You can generate a free XML Sitemap here. Sitemaps help Google determine the structure of a website and to know where to crawl on a website for proper indexing. Learn more
8. Steer Clear of Flash
As pretty as Flash videos can often be, unfortunately Google is unable to detect text that is placed within Flash videos. They can also be bandwidth intensive which can slow a website down. Something else Google will mark a site down for. Tempting as it may be, try and do without the Flash. Learn more
9. Google LOVES Content
This is perhaps one of the most important points on this list. Keep your website updated, often. Google LOVES content that is new, unique and relevant. Don’t ever leave your website stagnant. Make people WANT to share your website’s content. Websites that are interesting and constantly fresh are attractive to both users and Google. Learn more
10. Social Media
Sign up to all the social media networks, from Facebook to Twitter to Google+ and link the accounts to your website via “share” buttons. Social interactions between these networks and your website, be it through sharing of your blog posts or your product information, can be a fantastic means of generating traffic and pushing you up in the ranks. Learn more
These points are of vital importance to any website, both old and brand new. If you can implement each of these ten basic steps successfully, you stand your website in good stead when it comes to climbing the search engine ranks. Good luck!