SEO – The Basics

Optimising a site isn’t easy. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario, sadly. But there are several basic principles to bear in mind when considering your SEO; start with these and you’ll have a good foundation upon which to build a decent strategy.

Google, Bing, Yahoo..?

It is a fact that Google handles around 96% of UK search traffic, so if your business is solely or predominantly targeting UK customers, work to Google’s algorithms. Open a Google account, add your business to Google Maps, Google Plus, Google My Business; set up Google Analytics and Search Console, own a YouTube channel...

It all helps to build your online reputation and, basically, makes Google happy.

Meta tags and Site Descriptions

Very important. This should be your developer’s responsibility initially, to include this information during the build. A good CMS will also allow you to manually amend, change and tweak page descriptions as your site evolves and search traffic changes. Don’t underestimate the value of this information; if your site and subsequent pages do not have ‘descriptions’, or they are just very vague, you’re going to find it very difficult to achieve decent rankings no matter what else you do.

UX

These are two little letters that are talked about a lot in web design and development; and quite often, I have to say, without any real understanding of the concept.

“Hey, I’ve just got a new website with UX in it!”
“Yeah? How do you know?”
“The agency said so...”
“Oh yeah? What does that mean then?”
“Er.. well, it’s like the design of it and that, you know, like clever whizzy stuff and bright colours and trendy fonts, kinda thing.”

WRONG!

User Experience is not about including multiple image scrolling banners on your home page, or animating text across the screen, or any of those ‘design’ attributes that a typical graphics designer might want to include in a printed brochure. Design principles between on and offline media are very different.

UX is about the journey a User takes to reach your site and browse your content (if indeed browsing is one of the site objectives, because it doesn’t apply to all); it refers to how easy it is for somebody to find the information they are looking for, how soon they reach conversion – be that a sale, an enquiry or an interaction, or are they bouncing away before taking an action?

Ultimately, a website should provide a pleasant browsing experience that’s easy to read and navigate, irrespective of whether we’re looking at it on a phone, tablet or large retina display monitor. There’s nothing worse than feeling frustrated with a website and shouting at the screen “I just want the bloody phone number!”.

The look and feel of a website is important, but don’t get confused between that and providing a good User Experience.

Content

One thing to bear in mind regarding content is that Google is very clever! Keywords are important, but Mr G will notice overuse and ‘keyword stuffing’ and will penalize you for it. It will also recognise repetition of content and somehow realise when it’s relevant and when it’s not.

Keeping content fresh and engaging will improve a site’s reputation and be rewarded for it. So if you have a News page and/or a Blog, update them as regularly as you can.

Social Media

Engaging in social media can positively affect your SEO. Whether you use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or any other channel, make sure you have easily accessible links to and from your website. Don’t have a presence for the sake of it, think about your audience and select the appropriate method to reach and communicate with them.

And if you have a Facebook page and Twitter feed, then use them. Likes, Shares, Posts and Hashtags will impact on your site’s trustworthiness and your reputation.

Everything else...

I’d like to say that’s all there is to it, but the truth is there’s a whole lot more! Page speed, how well a site responds to various devices (just having a ‘responsive’ site is not necessarily ticking this item off the list – and not having a responsive site at all is even worse), the quality of the code, external linking, site maps... I could go on.

If you are in a competitive market and your website is key to business success, the best thing you can do regarding SEO is to get somebody who knows what they’re doing to sort it out for you. It can be complicated and it’s never ‘done’; keeping your site optimized is an ongoing battle!