Google has changed how they rank websites numerous times over the past few years. As soon as they announce a significant change in their algorithms, thousands of SEO “experts” try and cheat the system to get their client’s website higher in the rankings. Google then responds with further changes, and the cycle repeats itself.
Given the constant shift of the goalposts, how is any business, big or small, supposed to deliver a concentrated SEO (search engine optimisation) strategy in any sort of meaningful way?
Well, all is not lost because there are some basic, easy and free things you can do to make sure that your site gets to attract some of that lucrative SEO traffic. Google measures some 200+ factors in ranking your website, but a few of them, listed below, are easily manageable yourself.
Firstly, do your research. Google offers an Adwords Planning tool for you to see what your customers are already typing into the search engine. They’re giving you the answers before you start, so you don’t have to guess. Try and find keywords (the single or multiple words that people type into Google) that are actually searched on a little less. For example, you’ll never rank for ‘hotels’, but you might rank for ‘boutique hotels Sydney’. Concentrate on those long-tail keywords, and you’ll have more success.
2. Link to Google+
If you haven’t already, create a personal Google+ profile, and link your website or blog to it. When people search on Google, they’ll see your content linked to your profile — as well as your smiling face on your profile photo in the search results — giving them more drive to click on your link.
3. Content, content, content
It goes without saying that the best way to get people to spend time on your website is to create great content. Don’t feel you have to stick to just blogging. If you’re confident on video production, Google loves indexing high quality videos. Try and be self-critical with content; you might enjoy making it but it’s not about you — it’s about your target market.
One important rule is not to force keywords into content. This practice, known as ‘keyword stuffing’ is very much frowned upon by Google. For longer keywords, it’s sometimes hard to get the words together without sounding strange — ‘boutique hotels Sydney’ doesn’t flow into a sentence very well. So don’t try; just focus on writing engaging and interesting content that people want to read.
Google loves to see everything structured properly, and that goes right down to the hierarchy of copy and headings. If you start an article with a H1 heading, then less significant headings should be H2 and so forth.
5. Share your content
Once you’ve created great content, share it. There are multiple ways to get your content out there, but social media platforms are ideal. Share your link in as many places as you can to get people coming to your site and that will do wonders for your ranking.
Did you write something good a year ago? Re-visit it, update it and send it back out again. Quality, ‘evergreen’ content can be used over and over again. The ‘newness’ of content is one factor that Google considers in search results, and recently updated content might beat old content.
7. Canonical URLs
If you’re going to write an article focusing on keywords such as ‘boutique hotels in Sydney’, then your domain should read www.yourwebsite.com.au/boutique-hotels-sydney. Most website content management systems should give you the option to do this fairly easily. If yours doesn’t, get a new website!
Believe it or not, a website host can play a factor in your search rankings. Google wants to see that the person doing the search is close to the server hosting the website. Check that your server is near your business, unless you are targeting out-of-country customers (such as Americans searching for boutique hotels in Sydney).
9. Page Loading Time
The speed at which your pages load is the final aspect you can control yourself. Lots of pictures and large files won’t do you any favours. There are special programs that can make your pages load quicker without having to lose any of the design aspects you like. This should be something your web developer should do without any additional cost. You can then test your page out at Google’s developer tool here: http://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/
On one hand, SEO can be a complicated and time-consuming process, but on the other hand, it can be immensely rewarding for your business. Even if you don’t want to proceed with developing your own SEO strategy, it’s vitally important that you understand how it all works so that you can provide direction to whoever is supporting your Google ranking efforts.