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.