Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the art of being found and ranked highly by the major search engines. Search businesses compete on serving up the most relevant results to their customers, the browsing public, and it’s your job to learn what these search companies are looking for so that you get the best results and get seen by the maximum number of people. In an online marketplace where paid marketing can be quite expensive, getting found by search engines is a key way small businesses can attract new traffic and compete for business.
Key Points to Note When Setting up your site for SEO:
1. Get your own domain and hosting
Having your site on your own domain with your own hosting not only looks more professional and trustworthy to customers, but it also presents a more authoritative website to the major search engines. Using the free hosting provided by WordPress and others won’t do you any SEO favours.
2. Build relevant backlinks
As you develop content you should be actively seeking opportunities to have other (preferably larger) sites linking back to your pages. Why? The search engines will see these links as votes toward the relevance of your site and pages. If these links come from reputable sites with great Pagerank scores, or .edu or .gov websites, your SEO rankings will improve. Note: there are many online business offering to sell you services to build thousands of backlinks. Avoid these, as Google and Bing will see through the scam and punish your site rankings accordingly.
3. Develop original content that solves people’s problems
If you think about it, the major search engines’ job is to solve people’s search problems; a customer goes to Google and searches for an issue, and relevant answers in the form of search results appear.
Providing great original content in the form of a blog, podcast, vlog (video blog), images, tools or plugins, can help that search customer find a solution, and in turn tell the SE’s that your page is worth a high ranking on this topic.
4. Get your permalink structure right
Permalinks are how people and search engines locate your content on your site, and are made up of a root and an extension, for example this page looks like:
You can change your permalink structure to to reflect each page post title with the keywords you are targeting included in the permalink, the page title, and the content of your post. There are debates about what the SE’s really look at here, but it seems common sense to sort out your permalinks and add your targeted keywords there. Remember, changing existing permalinks will mean previous backlinks and search results to that page will be broken, so be careful to not change old page permalinks.
5. Install a sitemap and submit it to Google & Bing
Any site with inbound links will eventually be ‘crawled’ by the SE’s spiders and indexed accordingly, but you can submit a sitemap manually to be sure. Depending on your site CMS, you should be able to install a plugin to automatically update the SE’s with your sitelink on a periodic basis. You can also do this yourself, by following the below steps:
- Add your site. Go to www.google.com/webmasters/tools and add the URL of your website. Follow the instructions to verify that you are the site owner.
- Verification. You will be given a link to download the HTML file, which you will then need to add to the root folder of your site. Once you have done this, click “Verify Ownership” and Google will check that the file is indeed there and that you are the site owner.
- Submit your sitemap. In Google’s Webmaster Tools you should now see your site added. Click on “View Details”, and then “Submit a sitemap”. You can copy the URL (e.g. sitemap.xml) of your sitemap location into the form and submit it here.
- After you site has been crawled, you can also use the Webmaster Tools to view interesting information about the way Google sees your site and the main keywords used across your site. A quick audit of these will help you assess whether you’re using the right keywords for the intended purpose of the site.
6. Use SEO plugins
If you’re using WordPress, a SEO plugin such as Yoast can be invaluable in making sure each page and post is optimised for search results. These plugins often highlight where you can improve SEO on each page, and help you remember to structure your site in a kewword-focussed manner, ensuring the best SEO results for your time spend.
Follow these 6 simple steps and getting found by search engines should be easier than expected, and a valuable source of organic traffic to your site.