Search Engine Optimisation: an introduction
It’s no good having a website if it can’t be found.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is an approach you can use to influence the way your website and its contents are found by search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo. The aim of working on your site’s SEO is to improve where the site appears on the list of results returned by a search engine (your ranking), and therefore increase the number of people finding and visiting your site.
There are lots of things you can do to make a website easier for search engines to index and consequently more likely to be found by people looking for a site like yours. We’re here to run through the basics of how to connect with your audience through search.
Firstly, it’s worth remembering that fundamentally a search engine’s goal is to connect its users with the most relevant and useful content on the web. Having a website with well written, relevant text presented on well designed and properly coded pages, is by far the most important thing to work towards. It’s an overall point, but it’s the crucial one.
Describing your pages
Giving your webpages titles and URLs (a webpage’s address) that accurately describe the content on those pages is the first step to making sure your pages can be found and interpreted by search engines. As well describing your pages using titles, you can also use the opportunity to use some keywords that will help connect people to your site.
Think about the words that people might use to find your services in search engines. You should include these keywords in the site so that search engines know your site is relevant to people searching with those keywords. You should include keywords in various places on the site:
- Meta titles
- Meta descriptions
- Page URLs
- Page titles
- Page text
There might be variations or different combinations of wording that people (other than you) might use to find a site like yours. So put yourself in the mind of that person, what might they type in to find your site?
Another useful thing to do is look at the competition and how they use keywords. Try a search for a competitor. What keywords do the use in their titles and descriptions?
Meta titles and descriptions
Meta titles and descriptions are separate to the content that appears in on your website. They are specifically designed to be read by search engines to describe the site, and they will appear in the search engine results page (SERP). Here’s a great little tool for previewing your title and description to make sure it will look good.
The page URL (link or address of your page) is a good opportunity to use keywords, but it should also be user friendly. Top level pages of the site should be simple, one or two words at most. For example /contact or /contact-us keeps things simple. Whereas /contact-us-for-a-consultation is not very user friendly.
Your page content will also contain titles, and if you have a lot of text it’s a good idea to break it up using titles so that it’s easier to read. In html (the code language of the web) there are various heading elements – h1 (heading 1), h2, h3, h4, h5, h6 – which can be used to create hierarchy in your pages. Search engines will interpret these elements as describing the importance of information on the page. Heading 1 being the most important title on the page. So make sure these reflect the nature of the rest of the content.
Well written, readable text should be the priority, and there should be ample opportunity to add some keywords within the text that will help with SEO.
Google is clever, it will actually punish your site if you try and trick it. So don’t pump your site full of keywords at the expense of having a useful site people can read easily.
Adding links in your pages to other internal pages or to external website is also good for search.
If you have a website that runs on the Squarespace platform, all of these elements are manageable. For example, to edit to edit the main homepage meta description in Squarespace, go to settings/marketing/SEO where you can add a description.
For more information about where to edit all these elements within Squarespace, have a look at the Squarespace help documentation.
Submit your site
Once you’ve crafted your content and it’s ready to be released into the wild, how do you get it out there?
In order to appear in search results in the first place you’ll need to tell search engines the site exists. You can do this by adding it to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster tools. You can also submit a sitemap – a list of all your site’s pages – so that search engines know what to look for and index.
It can take a week or so for a search engine to index the site. It’s not instant. Once Google has picked up the site there are then a number of things that can be done to help it rank well in search results.
Promote the site
More traffic (people visiting the site) is good. You could send an email to all your existing clients or customers to tell them you have a new website where they can find your business online. You could even create a Facebook page and invite people to ‘like’ it on Facebook.
Add your business to Google
Getting your business officially listed and verified by Google is a great way to improve search. Visit their business page for more information.
This is by no means a definitive guide. SEO is a very specialist area of expertise so it isn’t a service we offer at WRB. We can make sure you understand the basics, and that your site is search engine friendly, but we can’t guarantee you’ll get to the top of the top of the search results for specific keywords. Especially in a competitive market – larger companies spend thousands of pounds a month on this stuff!
Anyway I hope this is a useful introduction to the world of SEO.