There’s a lot of competition on Google and other search engines. Everybody is trying to get the pages on their website to show up higher in the Search Engine Ranking Positions (SERPS). But not everybody is thinking about what the search engines are trying to do. This free SEO guide is intended to help you get started by letting you know how to do Search Engine Optimisation for your business website, for free.
Many people prefer to spend a lot of time thinking about how they think people online should behave, or how they think the search engine algorithms should work. And they run their businesses based on these principles, rather than taking the time to find out what is actually true and then using that insight to their advantage. This is where you have the opportunity to gain the edge over your competition.
First things first, we need to think about the basic ranking factors that might affect your ability to get your website content to climb up the search results.
The search engine algorithms are, in one sense, quite esoteric and mysterious in that Google doesn’t publish any definitive guides that are guaranteed to get your page to the top of the Search Engine Ranking Positions (SERPS). But they do drop hints from time to time and other companies do publish guidance based on their own research. And some of that is “you’ll kick yourself” obvious! But we need to get the foundations in place before we can build on them.
The best foundation you can build for your SEO strategy is to make sure that your website loads quickly enough, that it looks good on any device and that it is actually worth visiting and staying on the site for a while.
Free SEO Golden Rule
There’s no such thing as a “Magic Google Button”. You need to create content that’s worth reading.
Sound obvious doesn’t it? But you’d be surprised how many people have expected me to press my magic Google button and get their slow loading, outdated, useless website to the top of the results. There’s no such thing as a magic Google button!
Search Engine Optimisation is an ongoing process of competing for those top spots in the results. Google wants to show people the best and most relevant result for their search query, so you compete by doing everything in your power to make sure that the pages on your site are the best results for your chosen keywords.
You also need to choose keywords that people are actually searching for. More on that next time, but before we get into any technical stuff, we need to start by asking ourselves some basic questions.
How do your pages actually appear in the search results? Are your titles and descriptions eye catching? Do they accurately reflect the content on the page? Is it good content? Is it long enough to keep people engaged?
There’s evidence to suggest that long-form content can perform better in search results, as long as it’s all accurate and useful information. No fluff!
Would you click through to your site? Does the page load quickly enough? Would you stay there and wait for it to load if it were someone else’s website? Or would you “bounce” (close the tab or navigate away to another site)? Would you think the content was accurate, useful and relevant to your search? Google has ways of knowing and measuring what ranking positions your pages are worthy of, so be worthy!
We’re aiming for quick page loading speeds, a lot of impressions (people seeing our pages in their search results), a high Click Through Rate (CTR) and a low Bounce Rate.
Now we can do some technical stuff! First let’s focus on loading speed.
Free SEO Tips
1. Improve Page Loading Speed
Loading speed is important, because your visitors won’t wait. They’ll ‘bounce’.To test and improve your page loading speed, use GTMetrix to scan your site and see if there are any issues.
You can click on each issue to display more information, then on the “What’s this mean?” button for some further explanation. Then use Google to figure out how to resolve each issue and increase your loading speeds to reduce your bounce rate and improve your chances of ranking higher in the search results.
Let us know in the comments if you get stuck and hopefully someone can help you out.
The next thing to do is to submit your sitemap.
2. Submit Sitemap
Have you registered your online property and submitted your sitemap to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster? No!? Why not!? Go and do it now, you silly sausage!
The search engines will try to index your site anyway, but indicating that we want it to be indexed by submitting a sitemap seems to help that process along.How you find your sitemap will differ depending on which platform you’re using, so do a Google search to find out what to do in your specific circumstances.
I’m using WordPress with the Yoast SEO plugin and that provides me an option to easily access my sitemap and then submit the URL to Google Search Console.When you’ve submitted your sitemap to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster, you’ll be able to access some more information about your site’s performance.
3. Fix Crawl Errors
Links that don’t lead anywhere aren’t good for your SEO. If there are broken links on your website, the search engine spiders might not be able to crawl your site properly to find the right pages to index. A few crawl errors probably aren’t going to be the ruin of your SEO strategy, but they can mount up if not dealt with.
It’s also very off-putting for users if they click on a link hoping to see some great content you’ve promised them, and then you fail to deliver on that promise. That’s the kind of thing that makes people bounce. It looks careless and unprofessional, like you don’t really care about the user’s experience.
To solve this problem, go back to Google Search Console and click on ‘Coverage’ in the menu. If you’ve never done this before, you’re probably going to see a lot of errors in your report. Start by assuming that you’ve probably fixed some of these errors already. We want to clear all of the past errors from the report and wait for the ones that are still causing an issue will show up again.
When I scroll down I can see that I’ve got one issue causing three errors. In the ‘validation’ column I want to click on ‘Not Started’ and then when a new page opens, click on the ‘Validate’ button. Search Console will now check whether the issue has been resolved.
If the same issue shows up after this validation process, then it hasn’t been resolved and you’ll need to investigate how to get sorted.
4. Check Mobile Usability
There’s evidence to suggest that over half of all internet use now originates from mobile devices, so it’s very important that your website is responsive, or at least that there’s a mobile version. In Search Console, click on the ‘mobile usability’ link in the menu on the left to see whether there are any errors or issues with your mobile usability.
As you can see here, there were some errors on the Bigwheel Web Design website, but they no longer affect any of the pages because they’ve been identified and resolved.
5. Impressions and Clicks
Next click on ‘Performance’ in the menu, scroll down to the section with the tabs as shown in the image below. Click on the ‘Pages’ tab. Here you can see the impressions and clicks you’re getting and on which pages.
Here at Bigwheel Web Design in Hertfordshire we’re currently not doing so great! We’re not getting enough impressions, and the people who do see our pages in their search results aren’t clicking on them.
We need to go back and look at each of the pages that are getting impressions and figure out why people aren’t clicking through. It could be that our pages seem irrelevant to what they’re searching for. Maybe they are, or maybe the titles and descriptions just aren’t clear enough. Maybe they’re not enticing enough. Maybe the slugs (the page URLs) are off-putting because they’re too long?
And the pages that aren’t even getting any impressions? Get rid of them! If you can’t improve them so that they get impressions and clicks, then they’re just getting in the way. You’re only going to get so much ‘Google juice’ (not it’s actual name) out of the cow each time you tickle it’s teats, so don’t waste it on pages that no one wants to see!
If you’ve covered these basics, your website should now be fast loading, full of great content and the titles and descriptions that show up in searches should be accurate and enticing.
If we can make these simple, cosmetic changes to improve the Click Through Rate on the impressions we’re already getting, this should start to improve our ranking (help us to get higher up in the results) and thus start to increase the amount of impressions we get.
Next month we’re going to be talking more about keywords and content creation, so in the meantime I’d like you to think about search intent and trends. What are the people in your target audience actually looking for? What ‘long-tail keywords’ are they using as search queries? Is their search intent constant and unchanging, or might they change their mind about what they want to see over time?
Give it some thought and I’ll meet you back here next time for the next post in this series.
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