Optimising your Site for Search Engines in 10 Steps

Search engine optimisation is one of the main ways to get your website found, but making the search engines want to rank your site highly can be difficult. These ten steps will help you get well on your way to optimising your site.

Find Relevant Keywords

Google’s keyword research tool is probably the best way to find keywords. It will help suggest relevant keywords, tell you how often they are searched (nationally and internationally), and how much competition there is.

Choose the Best Ones

The biggest mistake is just picking the keywords with the highest search volumes. Think carefully about relevance, and which ones are likely to be used by people actually looking for your business. Think also about competition; you may get better results with lower search volumes but less competition.

Place Them Strategically

There are a few specific places that search engines like to see your keywords. Aim to use them in the title, the first paragraph and at least one subheading. When search engines find keywords in these positions, they judge it to mean the page is more relevant to the search query.

Have Quality Content

Your content should not overuse keywords; this is a common mistake and gets penalised by search engines. Neither should it be designed to appeal to search engines alone and be off putting to users. Quality, professional content will both attract search engines and engage with users.

Write a Good Meta Description

On the subject of engaging users as well as search engines, your meta description will usually be used as the brief summary of your site that users see in search results. If you want your page to not only rank highly but attract clicks, use a good meta description.

Use Page Titles Well

Page titles will also be shown to users in search results, as well as crawled by search engines. Include relevant keywords, and write them in a way that will also appear to users. They should be informative without being excessively long.

Get Incoming Links

If a site has been linked to by other relevant, high quality sites, then search engines assume this must mean the site is useful and worth linking to. They are therefore ranked higher and get more visitors. Build links from other sites through tactics like offering to submit relevant articles for blogs on similar or related topics.

Use Outgoing Links

Search engines also like to see (relevant, high quality) links going out of websites, as this is often an indicator of quality content. Use a couple of links in your content, preferably leading to very reputable sites such as news outlets.

Don’t Hide Content

It’s easy to inadvertently hide quality content from search engines. They cannot crawl images and videos, so make sure you give them something they can crawl. Always use the “alt text” attribute for images, and include transcripts of useful content given in video form.

Update Regularly

Websites that are regularly updated with new pages or revised content appeal to search engines. This is a sign of a website that is actively-maintained and unlikely to contain out-of-date information. Having an on-site blog is a relatively easy way to add regular new pages.

How long does SEO take to work?

SEO timescales, this is probably one of the most common questions I get asked all the time: how long will it take to rank x keyword? This gives away so much from someone who has no idea about SEO or has very limited knowledge of SEO and what to expect.

I will always give a client realistic timescales for the work I carry out because it is simply not a couple of weeks and that is it done. There really is no point in taking on a client and telling them it will only take a month to rank then after a month you get that same client asking why the keywords are not on page one and so forth. Think about it, it can take Google several weeks to actually re-cache the website and pick up the onsite SEO changes that have been implemented. When it comes to links the timescales vary so much depending on the type of content on the site, how soon it is indexed etc etc.

The scenario of ranking a website within 30 days is somewhat unlikely, but none the less, it can be done for lower competition keywords that either won’t get search for at all or have the odd one or two per month. There are several tools, paid for and free that can show you how often keywords are searched for in each country so why you would select a lower competition, low search volume keyword I am not sure. So make sure that you use one or a few of these free tools to determine what keywords you want to go after and then that way you will know that the traffic will be of greater volume and targeted because the keywords relate directly to the products or services you offer.

Most keywords out there that get a decent level of traffic aren’t going to be the easiest to rank, usually. There are several factors to take into account, firstly, the onsite SEO that you want Google to pick up on that you have changed, the competition whereby many of them probably have been carrying out SEO for a longer period of time, so this should be explained to each client so that they don’t think they will rank in a short space of time.

It is safe to say that there is not going to be a straightforward answer that will please every client as there is so much variation between niches and the level of competition in each nice, however, that being said SEO progress should be seen in about a three to four month period and possibly longer if the competition is strong. If you are a local business targeting local customer in a niche that hasn’t got much competition, then it is likely that you will see results much sooner, but in general I would suggest that you give your SEO three to four months to gauge whether or not progress has been made.

Unfortunately there are still clients that I have worked with who expect to be ranking for 100 odd keywords on page one within the month, and because they are not there they have asked me to stop with the services. These are the type of clients you do not want to get involved with. Education about SEO plays a big part of any client SEO campaign and thus keeping the client up to date with a realistic expectation is vital.

From my past experiences, the clients who give their SEO a reasonable amount of time to get over the initial start of the campaign are usually the ones who are successful online. However, the problem that many clients have is often down to SEOs who they have used in the past that never produce the results and the client feels like they have effectively wasted their investment. For client who have been ‘burned’ in the past, I would urge you to do your research about the next SEO that you work with and look into their track record.

Written for seohello.co.uk

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