As a small business owner, you probably already understand the importance of promoting and marketing your company in a variety of ways, from advertising locally using business directories such as the Yellow Pages, to online either through a website or Google+ Local listing or even using PPC and Adwords to drive targeted traffic to your website. As you have probably come to realise, having a website is in itself, not enough to get customers to buy your products or services. And so if you want customers to find your website on a regular basis through search engines, you need to do some form search engine optimisation (SEO) on the website.
The problem here for most small business owners is that SEO is something they may not fully understand or have the time to learn about. Similarly, they may not have the budget to pay a member of staff to work on this full-time either so they usually find themselves in a bit of a quandary, unsure where to turn or what they should be doing. The problem here is that anyone in their industry who ranks well in the search engines is unlikely to be willing to let on how they’re doing so well or who they may have hired to do the work for them. However, it is not something that they can be put on the back burner and hope fixes itself over time.
If your website does not rank well in the search engine reults, regardless of whether you have attempted any type of SEO or Link Building on your website yourself or possibly paid an SEO Consultant or SEO Company to do the work. Not keeping pace with changes in Google updates such as Google Panda and Google Penguin will mean your website may not be optimised to be found in search and you will not gain many new customers from your website as a result.
Not all SEO is Rocket Science
Fortunately, you do not have to be a seasoned SEO geek reading everything you can about the latest Google updates and changes to take advantage of top ranking results. There are things that you can take care of and are more common sense than anything else. Ensuring your websites content is the best it can be and the website is easy to navigate can make all the difference. So take a read through our tips below and take care of some SEO tasks yourself today.
Of course if you’d prefer a professional SEO company took a look at your website for you, head over to our Contact page and sign up for a Free Site Appraisal. We’ll take a look at all the things listed below and more and give you advice on what the best way forward is for your website.
Now in no particular order, here is our list of things you should be looking out for;
1. Good Content is Crucial
The first thing you need to do is to make sure that the layout of your site is user friendly, and provide good quality information to your visitors. It can be tempting to copy and paste the content from another similar website. Whatever you do, resist the temptation to do this. Google is looking for websites that add value and not only re-produce the same content, either directly copy and pasted or re-written. So you need to make sure your content is the best it can be.
Search engines do not want to show websites with exactly the same content in the search engine results pages (SERPs) as they have no value to anyone visiting multiple results for each search result. Think about it, would there be any point in you reading the same content multiple times on multiple websites? So why would visitors to your website want to do it? To keep them interested in what you have to say, you need well written and compelling content.
Keyword Density – R.I.P.
For many years, webmasters and SEO’s chased this mythical percentage known as “keyword density”, which effectively meant mentioning your chosen keywords between 5% and 10%, which was some much guarded secret sauce percentage that would guarantee instant results. Thankfully, more and more webmasters and SEO’s seem to have realised this mythical percentage never really existed and thanks to Googles Panda update rewarding well-written and original content. We are starting to see a move towards writing good quality content which people will be happy to read with less thought given to what the search engines want to see. However, people, like search engines also like to see a range of content, so if you can include relevant photos and videos on your site as well as text. This will make your content much more interesting to read and keep visitors to your website on your website much longer.
It is very important to engage your visitors when they visit your site. This is important if you want to make sales, but is also vital from an SEO point of view. If people spend longer on your website, this is a plus when it comes to your Google ranking. The same is true if people click through to other pages on your site. Google monitors your visitor engagement as a ranking factor, so by keeping your bounce rate as low as possible. You will get a twofold benefit of keeping people on your website for longer, as well as showing Google that your website is a highly relevant fit for the search terms people are using to find your website.
2. Make Sure Your Website Works
If you have ever visited a website that failed to load very quickly, you’ll understand how frustrating it can be if it takes any longer than 5-10 seconds to load the web page. Or worse still, after a few seconds of waiting, the website fails to load at all! It is understandable that servers hosting websites are never 100% reliable and there will be some downtime from time to time. Minimising this as much as possible is very important as search engines do not want to return websites in the top 10 results which are unreliable and hosted on web servers which are often suffering a lot of downtime. If you are finding that your website is suffering a lot of downtime due to your hosting, it would be advisable to look into transferring your website to a new web hosting company or speak to your hosting provider to see what can be done to speed things up.
Site Speed ranking factor, so the faster your website can load and the more reliable it is, the better it will do in the SERPs, ranking for your chosen keywords. If pages on your website take a long time to open, check your website using YSlow or Googles Page Speed (you’ll need to install firebug). These will give you advice on how to improve the speed of your web pages. We’ve come across a number of times on clients websites where they have uploaded a number of images into a page, but instead of making sure they are Internet ready, they uploaded the raw images.
What we mean by this is, if an image is going to be used in your web page, you need to ensure that the size of the image isn’t too big. This is both in the actual size of the image you see on screen, as well as the storage size of the file on your harddrive. If you’ve ever downloaded a large file such as a film or song from the Internet. You will know these can take a while to download, so if you imagine these had to be downloaded before your web page loads. You can see why this is important to make sure the files are as small as possible to improve the loading times.
Quite often with the ease today of updating websites and content when using a Content Management System (CMS) such as WordPress, Joomla and Drupal, or Magento if you have an ecommerce website. If you make changes to your website or content, take a couple of minutes to make sure all the links on the page work and actually go somewhere. A link that goes nowhere is going to annoy your visitors as they will be expecting to reach another page but find a 404 instead of the content they were hoping to see. Search engines also expect to find a website where all the links work and all the pages on the website which are being linked to exist. If you’re aware of any broken links on your website, such as content that no longer exists. It is important you fix these issues and any broken links.
3. Setup and Use Google Analytics
Understanding where your visitors are coming from, be it search engines, social media networks or any other form of advertising you may be using is all important. It can also be useful understanding which pages are causing you problems and losing you visitors to your website. There are many ways of doing this, but one of the best ways which is free is to use Google Analytics. If you’ve never used this before, you can learn the basics in an hour or so.
Once you get a basic understanding of Google Analytics, reviewing your stats once a week or even once a month should enable you to get a better understanding about your website and what is working and what isn’t. You’ll be able to find out which pages get more visits, which pages visitors leave from. This information is invaluable for deciding if your SEO efforts are effective takes only a few minutes. If the results show that you have a high bounce rate because most of your visitors are not sticking around, you can then take a bit of extra time to re-think the content and then in turn understand what can be done to improve your visitor engagement.
Even if someone else looks after your website and manages it for you. You should ask them for access to your Google Analytic stats and begin to familiarise yourself with how it works and what the information you can get from Google Analytics means.
Stay in control of your visitor information. When you do this, you will be much more likely to understand which marketing and SEO techniques work and which do not. This in turn will help you to climb the rankings much faster by concentrating on those techniques that work for your business.
4. Google Webmaster Tools
Like Google Analytics, this is another free tool which is provided to website owners so read on and find out why you should take the time to get this setup, if you haven’t done so already.
One of the things a lot of people will say is that they wish they knew what Google was thinking and what they find on your website or have issues with. Well guess what!? Google Webmaster Tools does just that and more so it really is all important for you to get this setup and start using it. Although you should really have a handle on the problems and issues with you own website. We understand that for most businesses, this isn’t always possible, so make sure that the main person responsible for the upkeep of the website is setup to receive any emails Google sends about problems they encounter in Webmaster Tools.
If you’ve heard about Google Penguin and/or “Unnatural Link Warnings”, these warnings were relayed to the webmasters affected who were using Google Webmaster Tools. Although nobody wants to be on the receiving end of one of these warnings, it does go to show the importance of having this in place. We’re sure there are many, many webmasters who were not registered and setup who noticed a dip in their rankings and were never notified as a consequence.
5. Get Your Site Reviewed
We all suffer from this and it is not only business website owners either. Everyone who has their own website will come across the issue of becoming blind to problems and issues within their own websites. Issues such as how to navigate the website and get to the content they are looking for. Of course there are a lot of websites we come across which look great, but puzzle us as to how we navigate the website as the web designer has chosen a different way to navigate the website which doesn’t rely on the usual menu navigation system.
So one of the best ways to get out of this website blindness is to ask friends and family to look over your website and ask them to be honest about what they like about your website and what they found they didn’t like about it. Be aware though that friends and family often do not want to cause offence, so they may not be the most reliable people to ask.
We can provide you with a Free Site Appraisal in which we will tell you what needs fixing. You can learn a lot from this review. Once you understand what needs doing you can prioritise the list and budget for it.
6. You Cannot Rank Without Backlinks
And last but not least, despite all of the changes Google has made to it’s algorithm. Backlinks are still one of the most important ranking factors accounting for around 60-70% of Google Algorithm compared to around 30-40% of the algorithm being about the on-page elements. This of course means that a website without backlinks will find it difficult to rank for any relevant keywords without using regular monthly link building.
However, everything changed in April 2012 when Googles Penguin update rolled out. Suddenly, websites that had chosen quick and easy link building wins using mass, automated and spammy link building methods suddenly found that the value of these links was suddenly recalculated to be much lower or non-existent meaning that the rankings they had were quickly lost.
In the worst cases, where Google de-indexed huge numbers of websites which were all chained together in a link wheel at one time, often known as a ‘Link Farm’. Any websites receiving links from these types of websites were suddenly hit with an “Unnatural Link Warning”. Often, at no fault of their own as they’d merely paid an SEO company to do the work on their website. They in turn they didn’t care how risky the link building they were doing was, as they only focused on getting the results as cheaply as possible in order to make the maximum profit from each client.
Outsourcing Link Building
As so, you need to be careful when you do link building or contract this out to a Link Building company to do the work for you. Chasing quick gains can result in links being built from risky websites using risky and spammy methods. Get too many of these bad links and your website will likely plummet in the rankings rather than climb. To get good quality backlinks the best approach is to carefully choose an SEO company who understands what is required and you, yourself should be aware that by using safe methods of link building, it could take anything up to six months before results are seen from the link building campaign.
We offer monthly link building packages to suit a range of budgets. However, we’ll happily customise any link building package to suit any budget. So if you have more of less budget than any of our packages, just let us know and we’ll provide you with a customised link building package suited to you and your business.
Guaranteed SEO / Pay on Results
This is where a company offers to do the SEO and Link Building work for ‘Free’ until your website begins to rank on page one of Google.
Where we find issue with this and why we do not offer guarantees ourselves is because you need to realise what is going on here. If the only way a company is paid, is if you get to page one of Google, then they will do all that is possible to do this as quickly and as cheaply as possible. You may think this is a great idea as you want to be on page one as soon as possible so you can reap the benefits of this position in Google. Sure, of course we cannot fault you for this way of thinking. But the Google landscape has changed so much since April 2012 and as a consequence, businesses who opt for these companies who essentially offer ‘Free’ SEO and Link Building services until the website is ranking will evidently find themselves running the risk of future Google updates.
We cannot say for certain that this is the way they do things, but there are automated link building tools which cost no more than a couple of hundred dollars as a one off cost or a monthly cost. So we’d assume they use these tools as they take no longer than an hour or two a month to build tens of thousands of links in order to get their clients ranking quickly in order to get paid. It is unlikely that they will be doing the type of link building which will benefit the website long term and prevent any possible issues with future Google updates.