SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) – getting your website found in Google – is a tricky thing. Everyone wants to be first, and sometimes it feels like there’s nothing you can do to get there, especially if you are a new business in an established market. Add to this the fact that most businesses get emails about SEO services several times a week from all kinds of random companies, and that it takes time to get results, and it can be easy to do absolutely nothing.
While we don’t believe for a minute that SEO is the only form of marketing you should be doing, we are absolutely convinced that gaining and maintaining a dominant position in Google helps:
- Cement your position in the market
- Put your business in an established and professional light
- Bring you free leads from people who are 100% interested in what you have to offer
So how do we get there?
How to get your website to the top of Google
There are a lot of articles on this subject, and everyone who has been in business for a while can give you all manner of advice. We’ve been in the industry for a long time, and while this article is by no means exhaustive, I can assure you it is all you need to know to get started yourself.
1. Do your keyword research
Before putting too much time or effort into getting found online, you first need to make sure that people are actually looking for your services online, and find out what exactly they are looking for. Choose keywords you think people will be searching. Go to Google and just start typing in phrases you think people might be interested in. This will give you a great start.
From there you can take these search terms and find out how many people are actually searching for these per month. There are a bunch of tools to do this, the most popular being Google’s free Keyword Planner. You’ll need a Google Adwords account, and from there you can get started. Just put in the terms, set your location, and you’ll start to get an idea of what terms are actually searched regularly.
Now that you have a few terms, think of common variations of these. Google is all about semantic search, which means it trys to interpret what you are looking for based on context. Google also works to provide the best results, and frowns on people who try to doctor their content by having the same keyword a bunch of times, so ideally you want a lot of variation.
2. Look at your site structure
If you have a range of different services, look at your current website layout and work out if it is best for the visitor. For example, if you are a tour company offering a range of bus tours, and you’ve identified that people search for a bunch of terms including “USA bus tours”, “new york bus tours”, “colorado bus tours” etc, the chances are that people who search for the first are looking for a general idea of what is on offer, and the people who search the second and third already know what they are after and are looking for a great provider.
In this case, it would make sense to have one page about “USA Bus Tours” that had more information and links to separate pages about “colorado bus tours”, “new york bus tours” and so on. That way you can structure your pages to give visitors the best, most relevant information possible.
3. On-Page SEO – getting your website content right
Google is all about relevancy – they want to show results that actually relate to the searches. So while it is technically possible to have your page ranked for something that it isn’t even about, it’s a losing battle, and a waste of time.
Armed with your keyword research and an idea of site structure – what pages are about what – you can go through page by page and ensure that you have a range of terms Google can pick up on, that connect and relate to the search terms you have prepared. Try not to double up or “over-optimise” for terms – it doesn’t actually help. Make sure everything is natural.
With the keywords, there is sure to be one or two “main” phrases that have a lot more search traffic than others. Use these particular terms in the meta-title and meta-description of your site – this is what gets shown to visitors when they search, the meta-title (the large part in blue) is important for Google ranking, and the meta-description is important to help potential visitors work out whether they want to click or not (the more clicks, the better your ranking over time).
To customise your meta-data, provided your website is built in WordPress (as all ours are) you can use the popular (and free) Yoast plugin, and edit as needed.
Here is an example from this site:
And how it appears in Google:
Once you have the title and meta setup, go through your content. Is it easy to read? Does it have the right keywords in relevant places? Is it all anyone searching for will need? Do you have clear titles, text broken up clearly, and is it obvious what visitors should do? You need your range of keywords through the page, and in some titles, but you don’t need to go nuts stuffing keywords in – you just need good structure, diversity of keywords, and a well-designed page.
You also want to look at your URLs. If your page is about tourism web design, it makes sense to include that in the URL – https://hakubadigital.com/tourism-web-design/ – rather than something not so clear like https://hakubadigital.com/websites-2/
If you do change URLs, make sure to setup a 401 redirect so that the old URL points to the new one. This is important for visitors, and it allows Google to pass on “link juice” – the power your site gets from having links pointing to it from other places. If you’re using WordPress this can be done with a simple plugin like “Redirection“.
4. Links on your website
Links help Google understand what the content of a page is about. One of the ways this is done is through anchor text, the clickable text used in a link. If you go to any of the blog articles on this site (including this one) you’ll find we link to one or two of our service pages with anchor text that explains exactly what those pages are for and use the keywords we are working to rank for.
We use this in a lot of places, but don’t overdo it. On the homepage we use text links that aren’t that obvious, as well as buttons to general pages.
Once your site is setup well, the next step is to go through the pages on your site and check that there are links on your website to important sections of your site, and that these links give context to the page they are linking to.
5. Technical SEO – getting the geeky stuff sorted
This part is kind of boring, and pretty technical, so I’m going to brush over it, but basically there are things with your website setup and code that should be done a certain way. You can check for this using http://seositecheckup.com/ and make changes based on their recommendations. You don’t need to be too crazy about this, but taking care of whatever you can will make a difference.
If this is a bit overwhelming, contact us for a proper SEO review and we’ll do it for you.
6. Speed up your website loading time
This can also get super technical, but the main things are to make sure you have caching on your site, and to make sure all your images have been resized and compressed. Ideally no images should be over 100KB, but you can be lenient here for main images that need to look good. Just don’t upload images directly – always compress them first. You can see my NZ SEO agency site’s blog for tips on how to save images for web. To do a page speed check, I recommend GT Metrix.
7. Backlinks – what really makes a difference
So far, everything has been about your own site. Now let’s say there are 10 sites, all equally as good. Which one will rank higher? Provided all other things are equal – the sites are all as old as each other, the URL is a brand name not an exact-match with the keyword etc – it generally comes down to backlinks – links to your site from other sites.
The essence of this is you want to work to get links to your website from related, relevant, “good” websites. Friends, partners, info sites, forums…if you get some great anchor text in there from the best sites, that is a huge bonus too. While in highly competitive niches this may not be enough to get you ranked, it is a huge start, and it takes work, so not everyone will be doing it.
8. How to check your ranking
The first thing to remember is what gets shown on Google in one place is different from what gets shown somewhere else. So think about where your main visitors are when they are searching, and focus on those areas first.
The easiest way is to use a paid tool. You can enter in the keywords you’re interested in, and the country or region you wish to check, and the tool does it all for you. I use SEO Profiler for this, as it also offers Uptime monitoring, SEO audits and more.
Alternatively you can do this manually. When searching in Google go the bottom of the page and you can see location (country). This can be changed by clicking on settings (bottom right at time of writing this article). This layout changes a bit so I won’t post a screenshot, but just be aware you need to specify to Google to check ranking in different locations.
So that’s it. As you can see a lot of Google ranking is common-sense, some of it is technical, and a lot of it is working to get backlinks that give your site some “power” in Google’s eyes. If you’ve got any questions please fire way in the comments, and if you are serious about ranking and have realised how much there is to it, contact us to see what we can do.
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