A simple approach
For simplicity there are two types of SEO, technical and inbound. Technical is the cheapest most effective way to start. Technical SEO is making sure your website is optimised for the search engines. There are many technical SEO factors, I will outline just five below that you can do yourself or ask your developer for help. These steps are the quickest most effective way to improve your search results.
In comparison, Inbound SEO is what most of us do naturally each day on the web. Your ‘Inbound’ SEO efforts is any traffic that you encourage from outside sources to visit your website. So for instance a facebook or instagram post are good examples, an interaction you might have had on Linkedin or developing out your ‘Google my Business’ listing. Basically anywhere out there in the WWW where you build interest in your brand and mention a link back to your website. This web of links, traffic and ‘buzz’ is monitored by the search engines and helps improve your search rankings. Good inbound links or backlinks as they are often referred are a ’slow build’ and will takes consistent attention, patience and effort. While this approach is necessary, if you want to see some results this week or this month, look at your technical SEO.
You do not need to be a technical wizard to improve your technical SEO. On all your web pages there are several little unnoticed formatting tricks that can greatly improve your search rankings.
Your Headlines – let the search engines see them
Most web pages or posts have a headline, some sub-headings, paragraphs, photos and video. Google is your friend, so help your friend out, lay out your pages with some consideration, so both visitors and search engines can quickly grasp the subject matter covered on each web page. Don’t make work for your visitors or Google for that matter, try and make life easy.
You may have noticed when adding text to your website you have some formatting options just like you do when using a word processor. On websites, the underlying HTML code defines your paragraph text size, your headings and sub-headings with <p> for normal text called paragraph text, and< h> tags for headings. Depending on size we usually have a choice <H1>, <H2>, <H3>, <H4>… etc. These are listed in order of importance and size, for example the Main Headline is normally the <H1> tag and for SEO is by far the most important. You should only have one <H1> tag on a page, it is ok to have multiple sub heading tags such as <h2>.
The use of header tags is debated when it comes to SEO, however there are strong indications from industry studies that smart use of the <H1> tag has it’s benefits as it indicates to Google what the content of the page is all about. Clumsy usage of <h1>s may keep a site from a solid ranking. It is important to check that your web designer isn’t using multiple <h1> tags on each page. This can happen accidentally.
While H2-H6 tags are not considered as important to search engines, a well formatted web page that makes sense and can be browsed quickly by visitors will help your traffic score and in turn catch Google’s attention.
Photos – your unsung heroes
By far images and videos are the most valuable real estate on any website, unfortunately people in general don’t realise just how important and effective good visuals are for search, engagement, repeat traffic and sales all of which are SEO factors.
So how do we use images for better search rankings?
Search engines and other robots cannot interpret images, they have no idea what the image is about or what relevance it has to your website. However, you can manipulate images to play a crucial part in how search engines interpret a particular web page.
Image ‘alt tags’ are a clever and simple way you can explain your images to the search engines. When Googlebot or other search engine crawlers inspect a page, images with properly formatted alt text(tags) contribute to how the page is indexed and where it ranks in search.
So what is an ‘alt tag’?
It is simply a little snippet of text you attach to an image e.g. “brown silk scarf with free shipping” or “sunglasses for sale on-line”.
Where is an alt tag located?
If you are fortunate to have a WordPress website or similar content management site, just visit your media library, click on an image, when it opens you will see several text boxes to the right side of the image window. One of these boxes is called ‘Alternative text’. Just fill in this box with a relevant text explanation (e.g. red woollen scarf for sale on-line and in Dublin Ireland) and you are done!
If you don’t have a wordpress site and you have a HTML website, the Alt text is contained within the code in the image tag: <img src=”myimage.png” alt=”nike_air_zoom” />. You can add an image tag or ask your web designer.
Speed – Google likes fast loading sites
As I said, Google is you friend and to understand how SEO works you need to understand how Google views ‘ search’ and it’s customers – the searching public. The search giant wants to have the most accurate and efficient service on-line so it’s visitors have a positive experience each time they use Google and return to it’s search site again and again.
So they take their search results very seriously, they really don’t like serving up slow or inaccurate website results.
So they monitor how you interact with their search results to identify any issues. For example if people continue bouncing off a website that appeared in the Search results they quickly penalise that site with a lower ranking. Google has indicated site speed (and as a result, page speed) is one of the signals used by it’s algorithms to rank pages.
This makes sense, people statistically bounce off slow sites and google does not like sites with high bounce rates. Google openly encourages developers to speed up their websites.
Research has shown that Google is measuring first byte load, full page load and also how long people stay on the page. So a slow page speed means that search engines can crawl fewer pages using their allocated crawl budget, and this could negatively affect your indexation.
So how do you speed up a page? Well there are some simple things to check, are your images properly compressed and formatted (or are they to high a resolution and slowing down the page from loading?). Is there excessive images or video making you pages too slow on phones? Are you using cheap hosting? Is there to many plug-ins? The list is long.
Your Sitemap – a roadmap for Google
Even though search engines can technically find your URLs without a sitemaps, by creating an XML sitemap you’re indicating that you consider them to be key landing pages and can indicate to search engines the structured scheme of your site.
While there is no guarantee all the web pages listed on a sitemap will be indexed by Google or other search engines, they will be spidered regularly and monitored for changes by the search bots. A Sitemap is an easy way to present your website quickly and directly to Google’s search console.
Sign up for google console and submit your sitemap.
Backlinks – Send some traffic to your website
As mentioned above, real backlinks are important for any website, these are also called “inbound links” or “inbound marketing” and are created when one website links to another. The link from an external website is called a ‘backlink’. Backlinks are especially valuable for SEO because they represent a “vote of confidence” from one site to another. It shows that people or organisations ‘believe’ in you and are sending their readers to your site.
In essence, backlinks signal search engines that you have quality content. If many sites link to your webpage or website, search engines will recognise that your content is worth linking to, and therefore also worth listing by the search engine. So earning these backlinks can have a positive effect on a site’s ranking visibility.
It is not difficult to earn backlinks, if you write interesting articles or have great products make sure to use ‘share buttons’ so people can send links to friends. Make sure to mention a link to your site on social media posts. Make sure and add your website to local directories such as Yelp, trade association directories, the yellow pages… the list is long. It is important to include not only website addresses but telephone, postal address and email. Make sure this information in consistent and always the same formatting so Google can easily verify the information and recognise your business.
A cautionary note, don’t ‘over-do’ backlinks, quality relevant backlinks are valuable but hundreds or thousands of backlinks from clearly irrelevant websites can incur a penalty by google, these are referred to ‘ blackhat’ techniques where Google believes you are trying to fool the search engine and can get your business removed from the search results. So do not sign up to an SEO service that magically appears in your ‘inbox’ that promises backinks.
Good luck with your efforts and if you liked this article please share, so I too can get some inbound traffic! 🙂
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About the Author
Patrick McHugh concentrates on Visual Online Web projects encompassing – web design, photography and SEO. His creative practice develops effective digital visual solutions for his fashion retail, wholesale and advertising clients.