SEO – search engine optimisation – is often portrayed as a Dark Art. Something that a beginner or small business owner should simply leave to the professionals. But understanding SEO and how you can improve your own SEO on your website empowers you to make all of your marketing efforts more effective. So, this guide aims to change that!
What is SEO?
SEO is the process of improving the visibility of your website for relevant searches
So, if you are a website designer then you would probably want to appear in a search when someone types in ‘website design near me’. Right?
However, given that there are now 1,857,001,299 websites (at the time of writing this blog) online right at this moment, ranking well on a search is getting more difficult. Gone are the days when you could just build it and people would find you because there was little other competition.
So, knowing HOW to improve your on-site SEO and understanding what all of the terminology means is key.
Why isn’t all SEO automatic then?
When you build a website (or have one built for you) some of the features that improve SEO are included as standard, but most are not. Why? Because although related, they are NOT the same thing. Web design is the art of creating a website to look good and function well, but understanding SEO is another layer on top of that.
Whilst most web designers have some SEO knowledge, most are not specialists. Just as you have many different tradespeople involved in building a house, building a website is no different. So, cut your designer some slack – or you some slack if you’ve built it yourself!
The good news is that good SEO skills can be learned, just like any other skill.
Where to Start
I recommend starting by running your website through a free online SEO tool like Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest which will give you a rundown of the key SEO issues associated with your current website.
I love using his tool because it not only flags areas for improvement but gives you tooltips to help explain HOW to improve them on your own site.
As each and every website builder is slightly different this tool cannot tell you exactly where to go to make the amendments but it’s a start!
SEO Terminology – what it all means
Once you run an SEO report you’ll get all of these errors and advice notifications so what do they all mean.
Let’s have a look at each piece of information separately to improve your SEO ranking:
These are the title of your page that is read by search engines and also by people. It’s what they see in search results and also in the browser tab when on your site. So, it needs to be carefully considered. This can make them a little tricky as they have to make sense rather than being a heap of keywords, but get them right and you’re on a winner. You should also aim to keep them no longer than 60 characters (including spaces).
As you can see in this example from my own site, the Title Tag is highlighted in Blue and gives visitors a reason to visit – because they will find out 10 reasons to use Canva.
It’s actually one of my most popular blog posts as lots of people want to know about Canva who haven’t already heard of it.
The Uniform Resource Locator (better known as the web address that you see in the address bar of your browser) can sometimes appear as ‘poorly formatted’ when running SEO reviews. This is because in an attempt to make page addresses shorter, people have strung together words rather than separating them.
For example: weddings.com/perfectweddingvenues will not perform as well as weddings.com/perfect-wedding-venues. Although longer, each word is discernable by search engine bots and so will show up as more relevant in a search. Just be aware of this when creating new pages and make sure that you format URLs correctly.
This is the short blurb of text that appears directly under the Title Tag in search results. Whilst not strictly important in terms of what search engines like Google use to rank your site, they are important. Why? Because Google does include user data in their algorithm so if you have a well-crafted meta description that compels people to click and read more you’ll get noticed.
The key with adding a meta description is to keep it short (around 150 characters is ideal) and include a compelling call to action. Make people want to click on it!
Behind every web page sits the HTML (hypertext markup language) code that controls it – whether you see it or not. Within this code sits a number of heading levels which tell the site, and therefore search engines, the relative importance of each heading title on a page.
As with any written publication, H1 headings are the most important and should only be used for the main title of a page. If you need headings further down the page (which I definitely recommend) then use H2 or H3 as you break your content into sub-headings and sub-subheading respectively. Just like I’ve done in this post.
On the front of the website this will not be apparent, but behind the scenes these headings tell search engines whether your text is well formatted so are very important. Even the simplest of website builders (like Wix) has the ability to add heading tags so make sure you are using them correctly on your website.
Another HTML code, Alt Tags are simply text that sits behind images to describe what the image contains and helps visually impaired users to understand the content of a website as well.
Unfortunately, when you load an image onto a website, quite often you will miss this important step. As you can see here, this is the little box that asks you to add Alt Text in WordPress but even here it says it is not necessary if the image is just decorative.
However, I disgree and recommend that you add an Alt Tag to any image and ensure that the tag contains keywords that are relevant to your page or post.
Again, not necessarily an SEO ranking factor, a Featured Image is simply the image that will be brought up by default when a page is shown in a search (if the search engine displays these) or shared on social media.
I always recommend taking the time to choose an image for this and include keywords in the Alt tag for it so that you are in control of exactly what people see when your pages get shared online. A few minutes spent as you set up your site will ensure you reach further in terms of image searches as well as just text.
Arguably one of the more difficult bits of SEO to sort, backlinks refers to the links from OTHER websites back to yours. Hence the term.
So, how do you get other people to link to your site? Consider writing guest blog posts for other people which link back to your website. Add your website to online directories. Comment on forums and share your web address when allowed. Donate to local charities or small community groups and see if they will feature your website in return for a donation (check out the RAOK website that we built completely from donations and now link to all of those lovely small businesses as a thank you).
This process takes time and you need to make the most of every opportunity to get your website out there.
Well, now that you know what each of these terms means, you will need to find out where to update this information on your website. Because this differs for each platform you’ll need to do a little research into where that is for yours.
I recommend you take some time to update just some of the errors that an SEO review flags, leave it a week and then run the report again to see the difference. Then repeat the process and fix more of the issues as they arise.
No website will ever be perfect, but these SEO tips will help you go from being a beginner to a proficient user with an understanding of SEO and the purpose of continually updating the key areas of your website to improve your search engine ranking.