SEO Basics

SEO Tips For Beginners

At WebHolism, we like to take a holistic approach to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Whilst we do an in-depth analysis of your website from a tech point of view, we also look beyond Title tags and Meta tags (don’t worry if that sounds like another language) and suggest that you consider all the different aspects that can affect your placement in search engines results.

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When visitors only visit one page, and then leave your website, this is known as a “bounce”. The higher your Bounce Rate, the more this can hurt your SEO. Whilst SEO can help visitors to find your website, it is then over to you to keep them there.

As part of our service we provide informal advice on additional business aspects such as keeping visitors on your website once they’ve found it (i.e. what happens after SEO has done it’s job).

There are many aspects to Holistic SEO (sometimes known as “On Page” and “Off Page” SEO). In order to make the SEO basics all a bit more digestible, we’ve broken it down into the following sections:



Your Website

Your Domain

Your URL (www.yourcompany.com) holds quite a bit of weighting when it comes to SEO. The stronger weighting is held by .com, .org, .gov and local country codes such as .co.uk. Other alternatives such as .net, .biz and .info among others are generally used when the original .com/org/gov is already taken, and as such are weaker on the SEO scale.

When picking your URL, it can be tempting to get a domain that is keyword rich, however never sacrifice your company branding for the sake of SEO.

If your company is "Sparkle and Shine", then get www.SparkleAndShine.com as a web domain and not "www.GreatHouseCleaners.com".

What would go through your mind if you found a website URL that didn't match the business name? Scam? Perhaps... but it's not worth losing the customers to find out.

Google also is a big promoter of security through out the internet and therefore gives brownie points to https websites.  Contact your hosting provider about getting this set up on your website.

Look and feel

Never underestimate the power of your website's look and feel. SEO can guide people to your site, but it can't keep them there…

User Friendly

Ever been to a website where you were trying to get information, but just couldn't find it? Clear, clean websites with well-structured home pages and menus often deliver the best user experiences.

Try to view your website with fresh eyes - or better yet, get an honest friend to look at it and point out all the things they would change. This may be sometimes hard to hear, but priceless for the health of your website. Put on a brave face and write down all the little irritations your users have in navigating around your website.

Prioritise the biggest gripes and work your way through the list. You won't be able to please everybody, but listening to feedback is a very good start.

Original Copy

Copy is the industry word for "the written content on your website pages". Google penalises duplicate copy, so always make sure your copy is written afresh and not copied from other websites.

If you want to refer to information on another website, then write a summary in your own words and then link to the page in question.

If writing copy is not your forte, then there is no shame in hiring a professional to do it for you - you'd be surprised how many people do.

Internal Links

Remember the User Friendly bit above? What could be more user friendly than popping a link to your Contact Us page at the end of an article if people want to know more?

Or perhaps you are referencing one of your services on your Home page - pop in a link to it! Make the navigation as easy for the user as possible, and they might just stay a little bit longer on your website...

Browser Tab Icon

Nothing finishes off a website like a Browser Tab icon featuring your company logo. So many websites forget about this little graphic (check out the little icon at the top of your Chrome/FireFox/Internet Explorer browser and watch how it changes with different websites you visit) but if it's not branded in line with your company website, your professionalism can take a bit of a hit.
It may be small, but don't forget about it.

Cross Browser Compatibility

Are you a FireFox fan? A Chrome connoisseur? Or perhaps an Internet Explorer enthusiast? Regardless of which camp you fall into, imagine stumbling across a website that you're interested in, only to discover the layout is rather bizarre, with content covered up by images, or vice versa? And instantly, you've bounced onto a different website and you're gone. Bye bye potential customer.

How your website looks on an iPhone (or similar) is another step up from this, and depending on your target market, this might be something you want to look into. Hopefully you're now downloading those other browsers to see how your website looks...

Every Page Counts

Your Home page is generally the most important page of your website, but as every page is a reflection of your business, a single poor quality page can bring down the ranking of your whole website.

Google is always striving for quality, quality and more quality, so pay care and attention to each page of your website, as they all get indexed by Google eventually. If a page is no longer relevant, update it or take it down.

Mobiles and Tablets

The number of smart phones (e.g. iPhones, Android phones, etc) and tablets (e.g. iPads, etc) is increasing at an incredible rate. This means that the chances of potential customers viewing your website through one of these devices is very much on the rise. If you are thinking of having your website updated, make sure it’s a responsive design (which means that it automatically adapts to the screen size it’s being viewed on).



Your Social Side

Facebook

If you haven't already got a Facebook page for your business, now's definitely the time to get one. Facebook is a great avenue for people to publicly declare that they like your company and is also another way for you to amplify your latest news. Once you have 25 likes, get your vanity URL (www.facebook.com/YourCompanyName) here: www.facebook.com/username

Twitter

Whilst Facebook is excellent for connecting with people who already know about you, Twitter is king of networking with those who are complete strangers. Gone are the barriers of waiting for introductions. Browse for connections and “Follow” them to start seeing their "Tweets". Twitter is Network Central, but remember to leave the "Hard Sell" at home - this is a place for making new contacts, so treat them with respect.

Linked In

LinkedIn rules the Corporate wing of Social Media. Excellent for B2B networking and scouting out potential employees. This is effectively your most intimate online CV with open recommendations from people you have worked with in the past.

Google +

It may seem that Google + is “just another social media bandwagon”, but do not underestimate the power of this platform. Google did some serious research before launching their social media baby, and the benefits can be priceless.

To get started you’ll need a personal page (via a personal Google account), and then you can create a business page.

Pinterest

If your business involves the sale of products (especially food, clothing and art), then Pinterest is for you. A picture is worth a thousand words, and a virtual pinboard of your products has a lot of potential to do great things for your business.

Top tips: Invest in a good camera and good lighting to display your products in the most flattering way.

Never forget that Pinterest is social - “Repin” and “Like” things that resonate with your business, as well as sharing images of your own products with the masses.

Create boards so that you can group your favourite things together.

Blog

Whist blogs can be a bit time consuming, if you can keep one up to date (minimum of 1-2 posts a month) then they can often gain followings and increase user loyalty by giving them a reason to keep coming back. If you don't have the time to update a blog, then it's best to avoid altogether - there's nothing worse than blog which hasn't been touched for 6 months.

Newsletters

A more structured form of communicating with your followers. Great for formal updates and reminding people that you're still there. Normally send out (depending on your type of business) weekly, monthly or quarterly. If appropriate, you can reuse your effort by posting your newsletters on your website - this provides regular fresh content for the nice Google bots to crawl. Note: Don't forget to include links to relevant content on your website and Social Media pages. And always remember to include an "Unsubscribe option" - you don't want to spam people...



Popularity Contest

Quality Backlinks

SEO is in large part a popularity content. Getting to page 1 of Google often means that a lot of different sources have recommended you in one way or another.

One source of "recommendations" are backlinks. A backlink is a link from an outside webpage to a page on your website.

Now, it would be easy to fall into the assumption that all links were good, however that's not necessarily the case. Imagine you've got the bullies of the internet singing your praises - would you trust their recommendations? Nope, and neither would Google. So it's better to have 10 recommendations from the good guys rather than 1000 recommendations from the bad guys.

Wondering how you figure out who's good and who's bad? Check out their website - and their reputation. Bigger companies with bigger followings have better kudos in the eyes of Google. Bad guys are often the spammer/scammer sites, amongst others.

Social media can contribute to your backlinks and you can add to these with press releases, submissions to industry relevant, good quality directories, submitting articles to industry relevant online magazines, and posting in forums, as well as writing great quality content which is worth linking to.

Partners

If you work in partnership with other businesses, then perhaps they could mention their working relationship with you on their website - another backlink!

Articles

If you have articles written about you by other companies, always insist that they include a link to your website within the article (and if applicable make sure the link points to the relevant page of your website).

Reputation Management

Wondering what others are saying about you on the internet?  Set up automatic alerts to email you when someone does.

  • For Google alerts: www.google.co.uk/alerts
  • For Social Media alerts: www.talkwalker.com or www.socialmention.com
  • For Twitter alerts: www.tweetalarm.com

If you fancy something a bit more tailored, try ifttt.com.



The Geeky Bits

Server Speed

Google doesn't like slow websites as they tend to irritate users, which results in a poor experience. The quicker your server, the quicker your website.

The quicker your website, the better your SEO.

Keywords (these are normally phrases. Confusing, yes we know)

What do you want to be found for when a phrase is type into Google?

World’s biggest ball of twine? Best place to stay in California?

Figure out what it is, see if anyone's searching for it, and then start weaving that phrase naturally into your website pages.

Don't overdo it though, otherwise you'll slip into Keyword Stuffing (See “Big Bad Things to Avoid and Fix Pronto” section below)

SEF (Search Engine Friendly) URL's

What would the following tell you about the webpage it points to: www.YourCompanyName.com/36576f876gjhksnvmn

Not much right? Well how about:

www.YourCompanyName.com/ThingsWeSell

A bit better? Well this is the whole premise of SEF URL's. It's all about user experience, and the user is a human. So are your webpage URL's geared towards human eyes?

Redirecting to new SEF URL's

Ok. So you read the above, and have now updated all your website pages to SEF URL's. Fantastic! But hang on, what about all those old URL's that had already been indexed by Google and were getting some hits?

Fear not. Just a little tweak and you can redirect your old URL's to point to your new ones. Bye bye "404 Page Not Found" errors.

Sitemap

This is a nice little map for the Google bots to follow, so they know which pages of your website to crawl, how often you want them crawled and the order of importance (makes life easier for the little bots).

Robots.txt

Got any pages you don't want to Google bots to crawl just yet? They go in here. Think of it as a "Do Not Disturb" sign.

Page Speed

How long would you wait for a webpage to load? 30 seconds? 10 seconds? 5 seconds? Well, maybe in the days of a 56k dial-up internet connection, but we're in the broadband era now.

Maybe sit and time how long 5 seconds actually is, and imagine waiting that long every time you clicked to a new page.

How long would stay on that website? Nope, we wouldn't stay there long either.

Check out http://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/ to see how quick your website is, and if it mentions "Optimize images" then check out our help guides on how to fix this using Photoshop or using a free alternative called GIMP.

Tags

Title. Description. Image. Link.

Tags galore for the lovely Google bots to read and make sense of what you're offering to the world wide web.

A missed tag is a missed opportunity to tell Google what you're all about.



Big Bad Things to Avoid and Fix Pronto

Keyword Stuffing

Don't be tempted to overdo it on the keywords.

Google is pretty intelligent, and knows all the tricks.

You'll be penalised, so just be careful how much you mention your keyword of choice.

Keyword Hiding

A big bad no no.

Never ever ever put white text on a white background, especially with keywords in it. Google's not stupid and it's not blind either. It can read the HEX colours of your text and your background and tell if you're trying to hide something from the human viewer. Note: we used white as an example, but obviously this applies to all other colours as well.

Trying to Trick Google

If you're showing a human user something different to what you're showing Google, then you're probably a techie and should know better.

Don't do it. It's going to hurt when Google bans you for being so naughty.

Too right.

Buying Your Friends

Buying friends in real life never really results in true friendship.

Same in the world of websites. If you're tempted to pay for backlinks/Facebook Likes/Twitter Followers/etc, dunk your head in some cold water and get a hold of yourself.

It may seem like a good idea, but it's really not, and we'd suggest you re-read our Quality Backlinks section above (the clue is in the title).

Google is like big brother. It knows. And will penalise you accordingly.

Lots and Lots of Poor Quality Links

Google = Quality. Poor quality = Poor Google Results.

If you spam blogs or forums with poor quality links, it will hurt you more than help you. We'll stop harping on about it now. We think you got the message.





Some final words

Now it’s very easy to get excited about your new "SEO basics" changes and start stalking page one of Google for your chosen keywords, but this is the part when we sadly have to bring you back to earth. SEO will normally take between 6 – 12 months to kick in depending on how competitive your keywords are, and if you have very competitive keywords it may take longer than 12 months, require some special TLC (writing articles, press releases, etc) and need a lot of extra work to get you to your chosen goal.

Do not get disheartened, but just remember that the results of SEO are at the mercy of Google and the other search engines, and to be fair there’s a lot of websites out there for search engines to crawl and index, so they are pretty busy doing the best they can.

SEO is rarely a one shot success, and whilst a large jump in the right direction can be made through a blitz of your website, it’s the ongoing care, networking, social media, fresh website content and constant increase of good quality backlinks that make a real impact on the success of your website and your business.

WebHolism are always here to advise and guide you through the labyrinth that is SEO, and we hope that you’re now more confident with the SEO basics. Now you can start to implement the above suggestions (often for free) in order to improve your websites’ placement in search results.