To start off, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation, otherwise known as how and why some pages get ranked at the top of Google results and why others are on the dark and scary page 3. Google and other search engines all have complex algorithms that examine and rank pages on more factors than you would imagine. This guide will give you the information you need to know about some of the basic factors.
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3 Avenues for Search Engine Optimisation
- There are paid advertisements that are what they sound like, you create an ad, then pay the search engine to appear at the top of the page for you specific search terms.
- On-page or Organic ranking factors are what you are doing on your website to make it appeal to the search engine.
- And then we have local rankings based on your current geographical information.
Each SEO expert will tell you how one type is better than the other or you should focus your attention on one area, but for the most part they all contribute to the success of another. By doing a bit of work in each are you can improve your overall ranking.
Paid Rankings or Ads:
By far the biggest name in the game for paid SEO is Google AdWords soon to be Google Ads. The best part is creating an account is free. Even if you don’t fully intend to pay for ads, make an account, the knowledge that you can gain from the website in terms of keywords and suggestions that can also help down the line with On-page ranking is very useful.
In terms of preparation for an Adwords campaign the most important thing to have is a landing page. A landing page is in essence a homepage to your website that has key information like address, phone number, services, hours, etc. For more about what makes a good website visit our Your Website, How to Make the Ultimate First Impression blog.
The first step after making an account will be to identify keywords from your website. Use words that are based around products or services that you are known for with existing customers. For example a club in Dublin like Copper Face Jacks might be known for being the “Best Club in Dublin”.
The appropriate keywords that people might be searching for could be ”Best Night Out” or “late bars in Dublin” . Keep in mind that the keywords should also be somewhere on your website, preferably the landing page, to have maximum effect.
Adwords will also let you know what keywords may be the most relevant for your type of business, and an estimation on how they are currently performing, in the recommendations section.
From there you will create your campaign with the type of ads you want to run. You will also need to give Google a budget. Budgets can range from less than 5 euros a day to hundreds. Google will keep you on track to not spend more than what you specify.
Next write your headline and descriptions that you think will attract the most attention and be relevant to potential customers. This is another area where keywords should com into play, but make sure you are specific. If you are our nightclub in Dublin then having a headline like “Voted Dublin’s Best Night Out” will get more attention than “Have a great night out”.
After, will be the opportunity to add extensions. These will let you add links to specific sections of your website, extra text descriptions, and headers with lists for added structure. There are many extension types and options but Google has made a great video to explain them.
Once the campaign has been set up it is best to set up a conversion tracker, to see if what your paying for is working. This will show you what happens after a customer clicks through on the Ad. It will tell you if they are pursuing and leaving, if they are making a purchase, or calling you to make a reservation.
There are many nuances and a lot of trial and error that goes into running campaigns with Adwords, but Google has built up quite a repository of guides, forums, and articles that can help.
On-page or Organic:
Since On-page factors revolve around what is happening on your website, it is considered to be the easiest to control. What it does require is knowledge about how your website is put together and the ability to make edits.
Keywords are still a big part of rankings for On-page. Your business is trying to provide the solution to someone’s problem so, include the problem search terms in your keywords to come up as a solution. Keeping keywords in mind for just about every factor can be a great compass point for making decisions in this process.
One of the most crucial aspects is having important keywords, contact information, and product/service information in text form. Keeping this in text rather than graphics. This allows Google and other search engines to examine your website and perform an accurate ranking. Anything on the website that is not text needs to be correctly tagged and have keywords associated with them.
Page titles also play a huge role. Make sure to use you use keywords associated with your website on all page titles, existing and in development. Having a continual group of words that come up in pages, page titles, content, and everywhere else on your website will help keep consistency and increase your relevance in your field.
Along with page titles, the little description that appears underneath a link on a search engine result page is very important. That little summary statement about the page is called a meta description tag. Meta descriptions should be filled with the keywords that are generally associated with your website and with the specific page that you are creating.
However, making sure that you are accurately describing the site is just as important. Because even if you use all the right keywords to get ranked, the description and title of the page will ultimately be why the user decides to click on your site rather than another.
Another area that keywords are important is when creating urls for your pages. Having short but descriptive urls seem to do the best, because it gets straight to the topic. An good example might be examplesite.com/keyword-phrase or examplesite.com/topic/subtopic/keyword/secondarykeyword. Both proven to be effective ways to have higher rankings.
Do remember through, that this is all a balancing act. If you add in words where they don’t make sense, not only can you risk getting a negative ranking against you from the search engine, but your article, information, or blog post may not be reader friendly.
Just because you can get your website to the top of a Google search, doesn’t directly translate into customers. You need to make sure that the website that you are leading them to will keep them engaged and give them the information they want.
Site speed and Optimisation
Sitespeed or how fast you pages will load also plays a role in rankings. Plus, over half of internet users will expect your website to load in 3 seconds or less. Making sure that your site is optimized to load across devices, browsers and operating systems will allow search engines to see it in a more favorable light. Plus think if your website can be viewed from anywhere at anytime then you are not excluding any potential customers.
The most crucial of optimisations must be mobile. In 2017, 50.3% of internet searches were being done on mobile devices, so excluding mobile viewers can be a serious detriment to your SEO. Mobile searches have also shown to be profitable, with 64% of smartphone restaurant searches convert within an hour. Google penalises sites that are not mobile optimised, so having the option can lower your rankings for standard browser searches as well.
One of the best tools for On-page rankings is the Yoast plugin for WordPress. It will let you know how to make good choices in terms of keywords, descriptions, and headlines. Even if the plugin option is not for you, it also has programs and articles that can help explain topics, and walk you through how to execute SEO changes.
Off-page and Local:
Some say that local and Off-page ranking factors are the best to focus on because users that are looking for a company with geography or reviews as a filter are likely to buy with soon. You also have better chance of getting ranked in say Dublin 2 rather than the whole country of Ireland. While what happens on another website may not be directly under your control, there are several steps that can be taken to improve how you are being ranked in a Off-page search.
Google My Business
Of the greatest resources for Off-page ranking is taking ownership of your Google My Business page. This is the information that comes up about your specific business when it is directly searched or when it pops up as an option in a Google Maps location search. Keep the points in mind that we shared about tags, keywords and pictures with the information that you put on your My Business page. Another facet is making sure to choose you’re entering information carefully so Google will know where to put you both in terms of category and location.
Google’s business categories will benefit you the more specific you can be, and since people typically will only have a vague sense of what they are searching for Google makes many choices for them to narrow down options. Don’t allow your business to get filtered out because you were careless with your descriptions.
Perhaps the most important factor of a local search is having the correct location for your business. Make sure that you have an accurate location with address or use GPS coordinates so mapping softwares will be able to take people to you.
Other Review Websites
A major factor to Off-page ranking is your presence on applicable review sites. Yelp and Google review being the must haves for most businesses. But slightly more themed sites like TripAdvisor for tourist areas or HomeAdvisor for household improvement should also be considered. Having a quality presence on these larger, more well known websites can work to you advantage. Search Engines see bigger sites as more trustworthy, visited, and higher profile, so they will get ranked far faster than you might be. But this can help your business in that you can still get attention and visits from customers, even if they have to go through a middleman site to get to you.
A great example is that anything searched with Apple Maps, especially when the term “near me” is added, comes up with information direct from the company’s Yelp page including pictures, customer rating, and reviews.
This being said, once you have established a presence on review sites, ask for reviews from your customers. Having new content on these sites is a great asset when it comes to increasing ranking. Your response to positive and especially negative reviews goes a long way in the eyes of the search engine, review site, and the customer. Actions like this are also great because they show that you are active online. Other ways to show an active online presence that should be considered are, keep your website very up to date, blogging, and applicable social media.
Working to get your business talked about can be an endeavor in an of itself but something to keep in mind is getting your site linked, in buzzworthy ways. If you get mentioned in a travel blog, try and get the writer to put a direct link from their page to yours. This will show you favorably to search engines because someone besides yourself is mentioning the business. Another example could be getting a link or citation in local guides, magazines, or newspapers.
Across all of these factors what must be maintained at all times is a consistent NAP or Name Address and Phone number in each and every place. This is something that needs to be considered both on and off page, but comes into crucial importance when maintaining accounts on across websites.
10 Actionable steps you can take today to improve your websites SEO
- Check to make sure your website is “crawl-able” by using Screaming Frog
- Set up an Adwords account and look for keywords
- Check your site speed with Web Page Test
- Go through Yoast’s SEO basics page
- Check your website’s Meta descriptions
- Set up Google My Business
- Establish accounts on Yelp and other Review sites
- Start asking customers to send in reviews
- Reach out to any publications or other websites that have information about your website and ask to be linked
- Check Moz to ensure your NAP are consistent