Making the most of your online presence requires patience and perseverance.
Many people seem to have the wrong idea about search engine optimisation.
SEO is not like turning on a light switch.
Rather, it is a mid- to long-term process of applying SEO techniques, with the ultimate goal of getting your website to the coveted first page of Google search results; ideally in the top position.
If you do it properly, you should be able to measure incremental gains each month.
Local SEO expert Scott Shorter (his past clients include WA Ballet, P&N Bank and Enex Perth), says you need to be consistently good at it to take home the trophy.
At a very high level, search engines do four things.
1) Crawl website content they are allowed to see (called bots, crawlers, spiders).
2) Categorise the relevance of the content (indexing).
3) Tally links between websites to gauge authority.
4) Rank what’s most useful to the user’s query through relevance and authority.
Google is constantly changing its algorithms, however, some tried and tested methods will allow you to see considerable improvement over time.
Select your domain name and page URLs
• Keep it short and simple.
• Be clear, no misspellings or difficult to spell words.
• Include keywords.
• Target your location (if you’re a local business).
• Avoid hyphens.
• Choose an appropriate extension (Mr Shorter says localised domains such as .com. au are a favourite choice of Australian SEO specialists).
Identify keywords to use in meta descriptions, title pages and alt text
• Use Google Keyword Planner to identify what search keywords potential customers are likely to type in.
• Put the keywords you’ve identified as targets into your titles, headings and copywriting.
• Use keywords in your image alt text, if it matches the content of the image. (Alt text is a usability feature that shows up if your image doesn’t load and is also used to describe the image to visually impaired visitors.)
Write great copy
• Create a plan of which keywords belong on which pages.
• Include key phrases in your headings.
• Write unique body copy (Google doesn’t like duplicate or copied content).
• Each page should have a minimum of 500 words.
• Offer a solution to your customers’ problems.
• Make your copy keyword dense, but use lots of variations so it still reads well.
• Focus and split your content: you’ll dilute your ranking if there are too many messages on one page.
• Hold the user for longer (time on site) by answering your audience’s questions and being useful to them.
Localise your site
• Create pages specific to each location you are targeting.
• Add your location to your page titles, meta descriptions, headings and body on every page where it is relevant to do so. However, don’t over-optimise it: “There is a diminishing return in the effectiveness of adding the location too many times and you risk a possible Google penalty,” Mr Shorter says.
• List your physical address on the website.
• Submit your website to Google My Business so you can be found on Google Maps, add photos to your listing and get customer reviews.
The quantity and quality of your customer reviews will help to determine your SEO ranking and increase the probability of your business appearing in the map results.
These are amalgamated from: Google My Business; Facebook; LinkedIn; and Yelp.
Mr Shorter says most sites lose half their visitors while their site is loading.
Reasons for a slow website may include:
• images are too large;
• video content;
• poor server response time; and
Test your speed by using the Google site speed test.
If your site takes more than five seconds to load, your bounce rate (people exiting your site) increases by 90 per cent according to Google statistics.
Furthermore, for every one second delay in mobile page loading time, conversions can fall by up to 20 per cent. Therefore, reducing the load time of your website from eight seconds to three seconds may result in a doubling of your conversions.
Optimise for mobile devices
• Use Google’s mobile-friendly test: ensure fast load speeds to reduce bounce rate.
• Minimise the need for visitors to type on a small screen.
• Usable navigation, make sure fonts are big enough to read.
• Use responsive design to ensure content is visible and accessible on all devices.
List in business directories
• List in local directories such as Yellow Pages, Whereis, True Local, and Yelp. See The Ultimate List of 57 Online Local Business Directories for more ideas. Mr Shorter warns not to upset Google by doing them all at once, but instead pace it out with a few per month.
• Register your business with industry associations and membership sites.
• Set up social media profiles with a link to your website on LinkedIn, Youtube, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.
Get feedback about your site directly from Google
• Go to Google Webmasters and verify your ownership of the site.
• Check for any warnings and review the statistics provided by Google.
The biggest thing to understand about SEO is it is a marathon, not a sprint. Much like an athlete, you have to work at it persistently over a long period of time to win the race. On the other hand, if you let yourself go, someone may just beat you to it.