If you want to improve your visibility of your new or existing website it’s worth spending some time focussing on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). It can be complex and time-consuming but putting some basics in place can provide positive results. We thought we’d put together a relatively simple guide that focusses on local SEO and ‘organic‘ results in particular. One thing to bear in mind is that it does take time. If you’re launching a new site then, unless your business or website is unique, you’re probably entering a field where other businesses and websites have existed for years. This means Google and other search engines give more trust to these sites and it’s likely they have more traffic and inbound links (both factors in where your website will rank).
We’ve listed an initial checklist. Below this a fuller explanation for each area of focus. Finally we’ve listed the services we normally provide as part of our web design service.
Monitoring and other tools
Links and other resources
Mostly outside of your control
Paying for it
Monitoring and other tools
Search Consoles and Webmaster Tools
Google and Bing provide free tools to both submit and monitor the SEO health of your site.
They can both also show if there are any problems with your site, allow you to submit site maps and also give you some basic analytics (site visitors). If you want more detailed information about visitors to your site we’d recommend a specific tool for this such as Google Analytics.
Here are some guides to set up these tools:
Google Search Console
Microsoft Bing Webmaster Tools
SEO plugin, sitemap and submission
(the three S’s as no-one is calling it)
Both tools will give you some simple ways to enter keywords against pages/posts, modify and tailor titles, descriptions and URLs as well as giving you suggestions to improve the page content (specific to a particular keyword).
To varying degrees, making sure your site is responsive, secure and fast-loading can affect how your website ranks.
Responsive means the site works well on various devices, from large monitors to small-screened phones. If you’re using a good Content Management System (such as WordPress) and a modern theme then this should be covered. Bear in mind that when designing a site there will invariably need to be some manual adjustments made to make sure the design looks good on all devices.
Making sure your website is secure with an SSL certificate is both a ranking factor and can make a visitor feel more reassured (meaning they’re more likely to stay!). It’ll also be an absolute requirement if you’re intending to deploy any eCommerce on your site.
Fast-loading. There can be a number of factors in how fast your site loads. Key to these are whether your site has been optimised, such as image and code optimisations and also the quality of your web hosting. Slow loading websites will get negative ranking factors applied to them as well as being annoying to visit, meaning people would be less likely to stay.
While there are many methods to improve your rankings, Google is insistent that the content on your website is the most relevant. Creating content that’s unique, helpful for users and relevant to your business and service means Google will rank it higher on its search engine page results (SERPs).
Things like FAQ pages can also help break down your content. One clever tool for considering these is to look at the ‘Searched related to’ section in your Google search results page.
For example, searching for ‘web design consultant brighton’ throws up these results here:
You might want to consider these when writing content or the FAQ section.
Making your pages easy to digest, attractive and easy to navigate will also help. Here’s a guide for content creation. You’ll also want to make sure your main keywords (see research below) are being emphasised, such as using them in headings, alt tags on images and using the keywords a reasonable amount of times (but in a natural way and not keyword stuffing).
Depending on your budget, your company size, your time and the frequency of updates, you might want to consider employing someone to create your content. Some writers will have an awareness of SEO and tailor their content appropriately.
It’s almost the first place to start. Knowing what people are searching for and how many of them is vital. Coming first in Google for a term that no-one is looking for is pointless. There are tools that will let you search for keywords and see the average number of searches for that term per month. For example, in the table below you can see that there are 210 average searches per month for ‘Brighton Website Design’ and 480 for ‘web design Brighton’ (maybe I should change the company name?). These are results from a UK-based Google search.
Generally speaking, the higher the search volume, the harder it is to rank for.
Another part of research is seeing how your competitors are doing it. You can search for a keyword you’re interested in, visit the top organic results and see how their content and structure. Obviously, don’t copy this information but it can help you consider how much you need to be writing, the structure of your website and a rough breakdown of key words and phrases. Once you know your competitors, you can also do searches for them specifically (use ” around the company name) and find out where their website is showing up (see Links and specifically Citations below).
Outside of your control
Frustrating as it might be, you’ll also need to be aware that not everything is within your control. You can put in a good amount of time with the previous suggestions and still not see results.
It takes time and work to maintain a strategy and things like Domain Authority can take a long time to change. The age and, if previously owned, the reputation of a domain is also a factor and there’s not a great deal you can do about that! Inbound links, search engine crawl frequency and negative reviews are also outside your control. Also, you have to consider that your competition may also be working hard to improve their rankings as everyone wants to be on page 1 for their particular focus keywords.
Paying for it
As mentioned, I’ve tried to keep this guide relatively simple but there is still a fair amount of complexity to the process. To do it properly is quite time-consuming but also rewarding if you start seeing some results. However, it may be that you don’t have time, both in terms of your own time or time to wait for the results.
There are some things you can consider: Paying for Ads. So, pretty much any search engine results page will show 4-5 paid for ads at the top of the page. This is a strategy in itself and probably worthy of a whole separate post. Basically, if you want to appear in these slots you’ll have to pay for it. Each set of keyword will have a separate value and it’s possible to set daily budgets. You can also pay for social ads such as Facebook and LinkedIn. These tend to offer even more control over who’s seeing your ad and you can get quite specific/exclusive on the appearance of these.
As well as ads you can obviously employ and SEO professional or agency. Some may offer fees based on their results and can also handle strategy, marketing, content and advertising.
Our services in relation to SEO
While we don’t really promote ourselves as SEO experts, we do have knowledge (we wrote this and hope you find it useful).
I’m always wary of making promises and have admiration of the people that do (or they just have more Chutzpah than me!). For most individuals and small businesses, following the outlines above will provide positive results. If you use us to create a website here’s what we tend to provide from the list above:
Make sure the site is responsive
Hosting with us: provide an SSL (to make the site https) and load quickly
Optimise all images and install our preferred image optimisation plugin (for any future uploads)
Install an SEO plugin (we prefer RankMath) and do some basic configuration on the main pages
Add the site to Google Search Console and submit a sitemap
Carry out keyword research for volume and competition
Monitor search coverage and ranking position
Install analytics tools