Having a responsive website in 2020 is a given. If you don’t have one, how are you even in business? Similarly, SEO is the oxygen of your website but a lot of business owners fail to realise this, not taking advantage of a free tool available to them to boost their customer reach.
Through Search Engine Optimisation or SEO, you can optimise your website to increase the quality and quantity of visitors you get from organic search results, by ensuring your website ranks higher on search engines. Let’s say you Google where to buy a brown laptop bag online. Google will give you a lot of “relevant” options and most of the time (75% of the time), you end up clicking the links on the first page of the search results. Do you see the number of opportunities you lose by not being on the first page of Google?
They (websites) may look shiny, but if the marketing smarts are not cooked in at design time, then you will be running the marketing race with a wooden leg. Or at the very least, faced with going back to the drawing board and wasting a whole load of time and money.Marcus Miller, Search Engine Land
How does SEO work?
I will have to dedicate a separate blog post just to explain how SEO works. In simple terms, every search engine has a ranking algorithm, and it sends its bots to crawl the website looking over the content (text, image, video, etc.) After crawling, the page is indexed which means it’s ready to be displayed for search results. When a user types a query, let’s say in Google, the search engine will show her the best and the most relevant result from the pages it has indexed. This is done through a ranking system that differs for each search engine. Google looks at “words of your query, relevance and usability of pages, expertise of sources, and your location and settings.” For a more detailed understanding, you can read this post.
Before we go further, it is very important to understand that SEO and SEM are two different things. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) focusses on paid advertising such as pay per click whereas SEO is all about organic search results. In SEM you bid for placement of optimised ads on SERPS (search engine results pages).
Making SEO work for your website
Here are 5 actionable tips to make your website SEO friendly, all easy enough to be implemented by yourself :
Alt text for images
Optimising the images on your website is as important as optimising the text on your website. Don’t leave the name of your image as IMG000567, always name it as clearly as you can. When you are uploading images on your website, always add the keywords or describe the image in the alt text section. For example, if it’s an image of a blue laptop bag, you could describe it as a blue laptop bag or as shop laptop bags in the alt text section. This will not only make it easy for the bots to index your website but also help visually impaired to read your websites.
While selecting images, you need to make sure images are not too large as it will make your website load slowly. Choosing the right image format is also key, for example, use a GIF if you need an animation, a PNG if you want to preserve high-resolution details like for logos, and a JPEG if you are happy to experiment with quality settings.
Image optimization is both an art and a science: an art because there is no one definitive answer for how to best compress an individual image, and a science because there are well-developed techniques and algorithms that can help significantly reduce the size of an image.Google
Another key point to remember is to submit an image sitemap to Google Search Console which will help Google navigate images that might have been missed before. Only include XML sitemap if your business runs on images like a stock photo website. We will talk about sitemaps in detail in the next point.
XML sitemap helps Google navigate your website by acting as a roadmap. It is a very powerful tool but unheard by many. By submitting an XML sitemap in Google Search Console, you are directing Google to consider the pages on your website for indexing. If there are certain pages that you don’t think are relevant for users or would not make good landing pages, then you should block them with robots.txt and they would not be included in the XML sitemap. XML Sitemap is different from XML Image Sitemap as the latter is designed to improve the indexation of images.
Having a dynamic XML sitemap will not require you to manually update the sitemap every time you make any change to the website. They are automatically updated whenever changes to the website are made. I use Yoast SEO plugin for XML sitemaps and I have had no problems with my sitemap to date.
Read more about the XML sitemap here.
A simple user-friendly URL does a lot of good to your website like positively impacting your click-through rates (CTR). The only three things you see in SERPS are Page Title, URL and meta description. All three things are integral to increasing your click-through rates. Not just the users but the search engines also use URLs to understand and rank your pages.
Therefore, the URL for each page should be unique and clear. Avoid using upper case letters as its harder for the search engine to read. Instead of having a URL like abcd.com/xyz/22445=text-123, opt for foodblog.com/vegetarian/greensalad. Also, don’t forget to use atleast one keyword in the URL.
Like I said previously, page title, URL, and meta descriptions are the first three things that are visible to a human on SERPS. An effective meta description explains what the page is about, of around 150-300 characters in length and makes your user click. It’s best to stick to words rather than numbers when it comes to URL. Even though it is integral for SEO, it is super important to grab your user’s attention. After all, that’s why we are making so much effort.
Internal and external links
Internal links help the bots to understand the relationship between the different pages and posts on the website. It’s best to link new posts from the home page instead of just from the category page as there will be more link value and search engines will be able to find the posts quicker. They are best for establishing site architecture and spreading link equity.
External links are links from other websites to your website. These are extremely valuable links and help in increasing your website’s visibility. However, the links need to be valuable links, not irrelevant ones as they can have negative consequences. For getting more external links you can partner with other experts in your field, link their content on your website, and request them to link to yours if they find your content useful or you could write guest posts on other websites in exchange for links to your own website. Remember, the quantity and quality both matter here if you want to improve the authority of your website
There is so much more you can do..
There is so much more you can do to make your website more SEO-friendly such as improving the heading tags and page titles. The header tag should always align with the page hierarchy and the page title should have at least one keyword. Stay away from duplicate content and keyword stuffing. In the title tag, always place the keyword at the beginning of the tag, keep it short and click-worthy. Use long-tail keyword phrases in your content.
Finally, repurpose and update the old content on your website. It not only saves you time and keeps your users updated, but also helps you retain the engagement you have already received.