Getting Started: Key Steps to Successful Website Optimisation
In short, this means making sure your website is visible within search engines. Despite the vast growth in social media over the last few years, search engines are still the main way that customers begin a “purchase journey” online. A recent study found that 58% of purchases began with a search, and 82% of smartphone owners said that they used their mobile to go online whilst in a shop in order to compare prices or research more detail on the product.
Our Site Marketing Set Up Service includes making sure that the key elements of your website itself are set up so that search engines can find you. However, please note that some keywords are highly competitive and there are other factors such as how many relevant websites link to you, and how many visitors you get, that play a part in where your site gets ranked. However, if you are prepared to be patient, adhering to these fundamentals will pay dividends in the long run. If you want results in the short term, we’d recommend running a Google Ad campaign.
Step 1: Understanding Your Competitors
The first step in ranking on search engines is to understand what your competitors are doing. You should analyse up to five of your competitors, see how many pages they have indexed in Google, and see how they have set up their titles and descriptions and page content to achieve these rankings.
Step 2: Choose Your Keywords
Having gone through your competitors, and with a good understanding of your own products, the next step is to define the keywords you would most like to try and get Google and other engines to rank for.
To do this, go through your main products, and main categories, and make a note of the 1 or 2 key phrases that you would expect a customer to search for when looking for each on a search engine.
To begin with, we suggest concentrating on a maximum of 10 key phrases, preferably 6. Many of these will probably be the same as your competitors, but once we have a list from you, we’ll perform analysis on your keywords and give you a rough indication of how many people search for each phrase per month, along with closely related terms which may get more searches, and how competitive each is (i.e. how hard it is likely to be to overtake competitors who currently rank above you for the same term).
Step 3: Choose Which Pages to Apply Your Keywords
The next step is to decide which pages on your site you want to optimise for specific words. A common misconception is that you should put your main keywords in all of the pages across your site. (e.g. thinking that your products are children’s toys, therefore every page in your site should be optimised for the phrase “children’s toys”). In reality, the ideal scenario is that each main page on your site is optimised for a distinct set of one or two key phrases. That might mean deciding you will aim for your homepage to rank for the phrase “children’s toys”, another page for “vintage toys” and “retro toys”, and another for “board games” and “board games for kids”.
Step 4: Optimising the Pages
By now you should have chosen the main pages you want to rank, and a set of one or two phrases you’d like each to rank for and to applying the following:
• Page titles. The page title is the section that appears between in the source code of the page. It’s also the text that appears at the very top of most web browsers, the text that appears on the tab when the page is loaded, and – most importantly – the text that appears at the link in Google and other search engines when your page appears in search engines. Make sure to place your main keywords within the title tag of the most relevant page.
• Meta descriptions. While ‘meta keywords’ don’t have any effect on search engines, ‘meta descriptions’ definitely do. The meta description is the descriptive text that often appears below the link when your page appears in search engines. As a result, it should include your main keywords, and ideally some snappy text to encourage users to click through to your site from the search results.
• Text on the page. It goes without saying that your keywords, or variations, should appear within the text of the page. In the past, pages would often stuff pages full of keywords repeated over and over. It’s important not to do that, as it’s more likely a search engine would see that as being a bit spammy than it would see it as a good thing.
• Linking to the page. Links to the page should include keywords, or variations of them. If your site has a ‘breadcrumb’, and images that link to pages, it’s important to include the keywords in those links too. For example, if a category page has hundreds of ‘children’s toys’ links pointing to it from individual product pages, it’s easy for a search engine to understand which is the most relevant page on the site to rank when searchers are looking for ‘children’s toys’.
• Avoiding duplicate content. To avoid confusing search engines, it’s best not to have lots of pages on your site containing very, very similar content. Doing that sometimes means search engines will simply decide on a particular page to show in search, which may not be the one you would wish to rank.
• Headlines. Any headlines on the page should contain your keywords, or synonyms or other closely related phrases. Usually those would be marked with tags in the source code of the page.
• Keywords in the URL. While it isn’t imperative that your URLs don’t contain keywords, it’s great if they do for 3 reasons:
1. Search engines can very easily understand that keywords in the URL indicate the content of the page
2. If anybody links to you using the URL, that automatically includes the main keywords in the link
3. When search engines display the link, searchers can very easily see that the page is relevant simply from the URL.
• Videos and Images.
Finally, any images within the page should have an “alt attribute” (sometimes called an “alt tag”) defined. This tells search engines and web browsers “the text alternative of this image is [your text]”. Similarly for videos, if possible, including a transcript of the video very much helps search engines understand its content.
Step 5: Sitemaps and Submitting Your Site
While you no longer have to submit your website to search engines, you can still do so. You can also submit a sitemap of all of the pages on your site to make sure Google has a constantly updated list of your content.
Search engines love frequently updated content, such as blogs. This is supported by the fact that blog posts frequently appear highly in search engine results, as blog content is generally unique and frequently updated. Not only are blogs good for driving search engine traffic, but they also help to make a site more friendly, engaging and informal therefore encouraging return visits by users.