Want to work on your website search engine rankings? Most likely you will have heard of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). SEO is the practice of optimising your website so it is listed by search engines, which in itself is a fairly straightforward practice.
However, in recent years, getting a #1 listing on a Google search has obtained a bit of a holy grail status. I believe this has led to a lot of confusion and misunderstanding, and a vast amount of fear-based solutions have popped up. The web seems to be saturated with articles explaining ‘what you’re doing wrong’ and ‘things you absolutely should be doing’ with your SEO, and while there are some practices it can be helpful to follow, I don’t believe it’s ever a good idea to do anything in your business from a scarcity mindset.
Below I’ve listed 6 tips to get your started with your SEO. These are only suggestions though; ANYTHING you don’t feel comfortable with, or seems too overwhelming, just leave it be. How you run your business is entirely up to you – don’t let anyone make you feel you’re doing it wrong.
1. Get clear on your priorities
First of all, ask yourself some questions:
Am I holding any beliefs that I ‘should’ be doing SEO? Are they really true? What would it be like to let these go?
What would I realistically like to achieve by working on my SEO?
Besides search engines, how else can I connect with my customers?
How much time do I want to spend every day/week/month on SEO?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with working on your SEO, but if you DO want to improve your search engine rankings, it helps to get clear on what you want out of it, why, and what searches you’d like to be found through. Get as specific as you can, and see if you can pinpoint any particular words, phrases, feelings and locations that people might use to look for what you’re offering.
2. Put your customers and content first
First and foremost, your website should be created for your customers.
You can spend hundreds of hours following SEO best practice advice and trying to get a 100% Google SEO score, and in the process end up with an uninteresting website that completely turns your customers off. People buy and share content because it has value for them, and this is far more important than SEO.
It’s also worth knowing that search engines don’t actually want you to focus too much attention on SEO. In Google’s words, your user is the most important thing:
“You should build a website to benefit your users, and any optimization should be geared toward making the user experience better.”
You’re also at risk of losing originality, and the essence of what makes you uniquely you, if you focus too much on SEO. Mark Schaefer (a successful blogger and marketer) explains this better than I can:
“There is a place for SEO. Absolutely. Most businesses can’t live without it.
But if you want to stand out as a thought leader through your content, you just can’t play by Google’s rules. By definition, “optimizing” for anything means you’re shooting for common terms and averages.
If you want to cut through the noise, you need to blaze your own non-keyword path. You need to be uncommon.
I never stood out as a voice in the industry until I stopped being a slave to Google. Be original or be optimized. It’s hard to serve two masters.”
3. Get people using your site
The more people visit your site, use and share your content, the more search engines will think your website is useful and relevant. So if you want one simple thing to do to improve your search rankings – spread the word and get people using your site!
I’m not saying you should spam everyone you know, but where relevant, get the word out there and share a link to your website. Put a link on any social media business pages you run, and don’t forget it on any marketing materials you create. The aim isn’t to force visitors there, or to increase numbers for the sake of numbers, but to encourage visitors to your site who are genuinely interested and can benefit from what you offer.
4. Aim for sustainable growth
Don’t expect to get a #1 ranking on a Google search quickly. Improving SEO takes time, patience and considered work. There are strategies that can give you quick results, but these usually fall into a category of tactics called “Black Hat SEO”, which search engines will penalise you for, and may ultimately blacklist you (remove you from their searches entirely).
If you want to find out more about how to avoid Black Hat strategies, I recommend reading this article on Hubspot: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/black-hat-seo
In a nutshell though, stay focused, relevant, and follow tactics aimed primarily at improving the experience for your customers, and you can’t go too far wrong. When in doubt, choose long-term, sustainable growth over short term boosts.
5. Set up a Google Business page
You can do this in 10 minutes by setting up an account here: https://www.google.com/business/
You can create a fairly basic listing with your business name and any relevant contact info, or spend a bit of time adding some extra info such as photos and opening hours if relevant. Don’t forget to add your website!
Having a Google Business page is a must if you want to be listed on Google maps, but it does also create an additional element of trust within Google that you are who you say you are.
You can also create a business listing for Bing here: https://www.bingplaces.com/
6. Use an SEO plugin
If you’ve created a DIY site on a platform such as Wix or Squarespace, you should have some inbuilt SEO software to work with, which would be worth getting to know.
If you or a designer has built a custom website on WordPress, you may want to install an SEO plugin to help you out. WordPress is SEO-ready in many ways, but a plugin can help you go a bit deeper. I recommend Yoast, and install it on all my client websites. The free version alone has a lot of capability, but there is a premium version if you want to get really advanced.
Yoast gives you the ability to customise key phrases on each page, as well as tailor the information that will be shown in that page’s search engine listing. It also gives you guidance on ways you can improve your SEO on your site as a whole, and on each page individually if you want to – although keep point #2 in mind while you do this. If you aim for a ‘perfect’ SEO score on every page, you’re at risk of losing any character and originality in your work.