What is SEO and 10 steps to implement it.

Sometimes as a web designer I make assumptions. Incorrect assumptions, as it turns out!

Yesterday I was on a training call with one of my clients, showing the team how to make edits and updates to their site. I started talking about the importance of meta descriptions for SEO, when one of the team jumped in and said ‘what’s SEO'?’ This was a lesson for me…don’t make assumptions about people’s level of knowledge about all things web/digital/marketing. Anyway, of course I was happy to explain the basic principles of SEO to my client, but it also prompted me to write this blog post which may be helpful to others who are just getting started with their online presence and who haven’t the foggiest what SEO is all about.

So, what is SEO? SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and it is the process of optimising your website to drive organic (unpaid, which means not from an ad) website traffic to it, from search engines. Does that make sense? In other words, it’s all the things you need to do to make your site findable, without paying for advertising.

So what does this SEO process entail? Well, SEO involves a number of actions website owners can take.

When you are building your site, ensure you do the following:

1. Sitewide settings:

  • Structure your content - Structure your pages with headings to keep your text skim-friendly and help search engines navigate your content.

  • Add alt text to images - In addition to increasing accessibility for visitors who use assistive screen readers, alt text also helps search engines identify the content of a page.

  • Add social sharing images and SEO descriptions - As you add new pages to your site, give them social sharing logos and SEO descriptions

  • Give your images readable file names - Image file names may also be used as alt text.

  • Add tags and categories - Organize your blog posts, products, gallery images, and other content with tags and categories to help visitors navigate your site.

  • Link to your site's content - Where it's relevant, use content links to connect the pages on your site to each other.

  • Customize URL slugs - As you add pages and collection items, ensure the page urls reflect the content of the page.

  • Keep your image sizes small  - To ensure your site loads well, keep your images under 500 KB and overall page size under 5 MB.

2. Keyword Research:

Keyword research is when website managers use keywords to find and research actual search terms that people enter into search engines. The knowledge about these actual search terms can help inform content strategy, or marketing strategy overall. You can read more about Keywords on this blog post

3. Ongoing Site Maintenance

This means fresh content! The ongoing addition and modification of keywords and website con­tent are necessary to continually improve your search engine rankings. A blog is your best bet, instead of trying to update the existing content on your site. Of course then you are wondering what to blog about! Think about the value you bring to your users/customers. Why would they visit your site? What information are they looking for that you can provide. This is what you need to blog about. I am blogging here about SEO because I know some of my clients (or potential clients) are wondering what it’s all about and I am hoping this post will help them - you!

4. Social Media

You may wonder how your social media can help optimise your site for the search engines. Well, your social media accounts is where you have followers and friends. (It is also where you can be found by search engines - Google yourself and there’s a good chance one of your social media accounts will turn up in the search results, possibly ahead of your website because those accounts have fresher content.) I digress! By promoting your blog posts or website updates on your social media, your followers there are likely to click on the link and read your blog post, if it is relevant and useful to them. This creates traffic on your website, and the search engines like traffic! They think ‘hey, people are going to this site, it must be useful’! You should also encourage your friends and followers to share your blog posts - to create more readers/traffic.

5. Upload your sitemap to Google

When you build your website, your designer should upload the sitemap to Google for you. A site map (or sitemap) is a list of URLs on a site that tells search engines about the structure of its content.

6. Verify your site with Google Search Console 

7. Request that Google index your site - This asks Google's bots to review your site and update search results with your new content.

8. Verify your site with Bing Webmaster Tools - to manage your site’s presence in Bing and Yahoo search results.

9. Connect to Google Analytics 

10. Enable AMP - If you have a blog, enabling AMP creates a stripped-down version of your site that loads faster on mobile devices.

Please let me know in the comments box if you found this useful! Or is it still all really confusing? Let me know if I can help :)

Keywords and how to use them on your website

We all know that SEO can be a bit of a dark art, what with search engine algorithms changing regularly, the millions being spend on paid search results and so on.

That said, there are some basic steps that all website owners can take to ensure their site is optimised for search engines, to increase the chances of a visitor landing on their site. The first of these is keywords and this is what I will cover in this blogpost.

Keywords

Keywords are words and phrases, used on their own or grouped together and make up the different elements of your website: web pages, blog posts, image descriptions, etc. They play a big part in determining whether your site will be found by the search engines. As the search spiders crawl around the internet, they group content by key word, or topic. This means that Google, for example, has hundreds of millions of databases organised by key words, sentences and phrases. This enables Google to find the information that the searcher is looking for much more quickly than if everything was stored in one big, jumbled-up database.

There are two types of keywords - Head keywords, which are often single words or short terms but with a very large search volume. For example '“runners” or “hotel” or “doctor”. It is hard to rank well for these words as they are so generic and can be found in so many places on the internet.

The second type of keywords are longtail keywords. These are descriptive phrases or sentences and are much more target specific. For example “family lawyer in Dun Laoghaire” or "website designer for architects in Dublin”. Given that these keywords are more specific, they are usually easier to rank well for.

If you want to dominate the search results for certain keywords, you’ll have to get really specific in how you use them on your site. Also, most people searching on the internet now know that if they type in a specific search request, they are more likely to get a search result that matches what they are looking for.

HOW TO PLAN YOUR KEYWORDS

When you think about which keywords you want to include on your site, it is important to research what kinds of words people use on their online searches. It is the wording of these searches that you want to match as much as possible in your site content. Think about the words people type into Google in order to find digital content (like what’s on your website!) and that’s basically what keywords are.

STEPS TO KEYWORD PLANNING:

  1. Before starting anything, think about your mission. Think about questions like: Who are you? What is your website about? What makes you special? Who are you trying to reach? And what promises do you make on your website?

  2. The second step of keyword research is creating a list of your keywords. With your mission in mind, try to get into the heads of your potential buyers. What will these people be looking for? What kind of search terms could they be using while looking for your amazing service or product? Ask yourself these questions and write down as many answers as possible.

If your mission is clear, you will have a pretty clear image of your niche and your USP. These are the terms you want to be found for.

SEARCH INTENT

Today’s SEO strategies should for the most part revolve around answering the questions people have. Whenever someone enters a search query into a search engine, they are on a quest for something. Every type of question needs a specific answer.

When planning your content, always ask yourself these questions. There are four types of intents:

  • Informational intent: Just like it says on the tin, people are trying to find information on a specific topic.

  • Navigational intent: People want to access a specific website by entering the term in a search engine.

  • Commercial intent: People want to buy something sometime soon and are doing research before making a purchase.

  • Transactional intent: People are looking to buy something after doing their commercial intent searches.

Find out which kinds of intent apply to you and try to match these search intents, literally giving people what they want.

TOOLS FOR RESEARCHING THE KEYWORDS YOU NEED TO USE

There are several tools for doing keyword research. The most obvious one is Google itself

There’s the “autosuggest” feature for generating an almost infinite number of keyword ideas. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to using Google for keyword research.

For starters, take notice of the “People also ask” box that shows up for some searches. These are questions that Google knows searchers are asking and want to know the answers to.

And here’s a quick trick: Click on any of these questions, and Google will load more.

I will do another more detailed blog post on how to perform Keyword Research but for now let’s say you know what are the most popular words being searched for online that are relevant to your business - these are the keywords that are most important to you.

It’s important to know what keywords make sense for your website and business because you’re going to use them extensively. Once you’ve got your list of keywords sorted out, the next step is figuring out where to put them on your website.

WHERE TO PUT YOUR KEYWORDS

Search engines use keywords to understand what the content of web pages, blog posts, products, images, etc. are all about. Keywords play such a huge role in making sure the Google search spiders can “read” and then index the content of your site.

We can use keywords strategically in title and headers on webpages or in blog posts to indicate importance to search engines, but keywords are also incorporate into body text. Just be sure to stick to natural language so that you are not keyword stuffing - which is putting keywords into every sentence or all over your site in a way that is unnatural. You will get penalised by the search engines for doing that.

It is also really important to include keywords in the image titles and descriptions on your site, as Google reads these words in a way that it cannot read images alone.

Here’s a list of the key places where it makes sense to use keywords on your website for SEO:

  • Page titles

  • SEO title & description fields on each page

  • Headers (e.g., on pages, in blog posts, etc.)

  • Body Content

  • Images

  • Event or product descriptions in your online shop

No matter what type of website you have, whether it is a Squarespace site or something else, you should be using keywords strategically.

You can reach out to me directly if you’re interested in working together on your website or would like help reviewing your existing SEO. There is, of course, a lot more to SEO than just keywords, but I will leave them to another blog post.

Thanks for reading!

 

Does your website have a heartbeat? How to create traffic on your website

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Are you excited about getting a beautiful new website for your business?

Working with small business owners and associations, I know how much fun it is to launch a new site, with gorgeous imagery and really great content. You have your calls to action, your blog page, a great Contact page, maybe a video or beautiful gallery of your products…it’s finished, it’s online and you’re stoked!

The thing is, this is only the beginning! I repeatedly tell my clients that their website is a living thing, that needs to be feed, in order to flourish. What do I mean by that? Before the internet, businesses had brochures, pamphlets, ads in the Yellow Pages, paper! These print assets costs a lot to produce and businesses were traditionally slow to re-design or re-print, given the cost. They waited until every last flyer was distributed before they changed or revised the design. Many business owners see their website as digital version of their brochure. Partly because they believe that the time and money invested in the website creation is sufficient and they should not have to spend any more on it, and also because often they do not know how to manage their site and fear that they need to be ‘techie’ or know how to code, in order to maintain their site. So, for these and other reasons, many business owners think that once their site is built and live, that’s it, they simply need to sit back and wait for the email queries to come in.

Wrong!

Your website is a living thing that needs to be fed and watered in order to have a heart and help your business thrive.

A website that is not fed and watered will quickly languish on the rarely-visited pages of a Google search listing. And I am talking about pages 2, 3 and 4! So, what is feeding and watering your site? Well, in order to be found online, Google and other search engines look for sites that have a heartbeat, that have regular, new, relevant, fresh content,

But I have put all my content on my site!

I hear you - you don’t know what ‘fresh’ content I am talking about. Here are some ideas:

1 - add new customer testimonials from time to time on your site

2- use your social media channels to drive visitors to your site, by putting a link on your social media posts

3-write a blog. I know, you probably think you don’t have time, or don’t know what to write about. Write about your business, what you know about, what you enjoy doing. Don’t worry to much about keywords and so on, just write! Make it interesting to your audience, your customers. Your business is about solving their problems. So write about how you can do that and if your write regularly, they will hopefully visit your site regularly for updates and share it with their friends on their social media

4- Create a free giveaway on your site, that you can promote via social media. A free ebook or a pdf download that will be of use to your clients.

5-Use great blog headlines. Without a compelling headline, even the most comprehensive blog post will go unread

6- Post content on LinkedIn. LinkedIn has become much more than a job board. The world’s largest professional social network is now a valuable publishing platform in its own right, which means you should be posting content to LinkedIn on a regular basis, with a link to your site. Doing so can boost traffic to your site, as well as increase your profile within your sector of activity.

7 - Adding video content to your site can be a valuable asset in both attracting new visitors and making your site more engaging.

I hope this information is useful to you. There is a ton of information online on how to drive traffic to your website and keep it fresh with content. Yes, it takes time and sometimes a financial investment (if you pay for ads on Google or social media, for example), but without a heartbeat your site will soon end up in the internet bin along with the old brochures and fliers.

Relief - My Degree is Complete!

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So, I’ve completed my degree in Digital Technology and Design, in a year. It’s been a hectic but invigorating learning experience, even if it was sometimes a bit rushed! It’s not easy packing 20 hours of learning into a week on top of a full time job.

I chose the Marketing and Sales stream of the degree, as I quickly realised that the Design stream covered a lot of what I studied before- photoshop, illustrator and the basics of html and css. The marketing and sales stream really enabled me to really get to grips with digital marketing and the sales module was an eye-opener too. The year allowed me to fully realise what I enjoy, what I am good at and has helped me define where I want to go from here.

So, if you are considering going back to college, I would say DO IT! This is the second time I have taken up further study in my 40s and I am already considering what I will study next. It’s fantastic to be learning new, relevant skills and knowledge. It’s good for the brain but also good for my self-confidence as I go out into the world of work more curious and more determined than ever to make my mark!

Time To Get Writing!

Only four weeks to go til I finish up my BCs degree in Digital Technology and Design, so my plans to start blogging have been put on hold til I finish that. Still, I thought I would get the ball rolling with this first short piece!

It’s been a productive year, to say the least, and I have learnt so much that I’m really excited about putting it all into practice. I’ve worked on great design jobs and recently launched a new website for Composer and Pianist David Munro. I took a short term contract in an internal communications role to see how I liked that, I’ve been involved in the most amazing Debussy centenary festival “Ireland’s Tombeau to Debussy”, and of course I have been studying Global Digital Marketing, Tech Sales, Agile Methodology, Entrepreneurship, Innovation and so much more, as part of the degree course. My brain is brimming with new ideas and information - it’s just great!

Anyway, more to come on all of that. I just thought I’d put this out there, to get started!

Thanks for reading!