Welcome to the first of our discussions on
how you can improve your website ranking.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation.
The question on everyone’s lips is:
“How do I get to the first page of Google?”
This article will give you some info on why thats the wrong
question to ask! And what to do to achieve your true goals.
1) How can I push my site to the top of Google?
The quick answer is – you can’t. Forcing your website to get the “best” rankings in Google is not possible. There’s no way of “tricking” Google to pulling you to the top of its list…..Google make the rules, they are cleverer than we are, and tricks can backfire.
SEO is in fact a mis-used term. Most of the companies trying to sell you SEO are claiming they can increase your Google page ranking. In fact the only thing that will do this is complying with Google’s requirements and having a properly programmed website. In an ideal world, if your site is perfect, it will be perfectly positioned on Google, with their rules and decisions the only limiting factor.
Correctly used, the term SEO is apt – it simply means optimising your website to make it best accessible to search engines.
This is something that hardly any sites out there achieve – primarily because there are lots of pitfalls in website programming, not to mention hidden events that most users would never be aware of, that can cause your site to be ranked down when Google is trying to rank it.
So an SEO company should really be performing a one-off optimisation of your site for search engines, and the only updates required after that would be if Google’s rules change, or if your content changes. Your properly-optimised site should, however, have continually growing content; but this can only be provided by you – see our later section on a site being Useful & Relevant.
Of course there are multiple other services such as analysis of traffic, blocking of malicious scripts, professionally generated content, dynamic content systems and so forth which will all make your site more Useful & Relevant. We offer a full “pick and mix” service of SEO and social media management assistance; read more here.
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2) The basics of search engine listings
Lets take a simple example in Google – you build Kitchens and Bathrooms. So what you want, is that if you type in “Kitchens and Bathrooms” to Google, the first page returned is yours.
Go ahead – type Kitchens and Bathrooms into Google. 54,000,000 results are returned. Fifty-four million.
What you’ll see is something like the following:
The top two listings in this example are paid advertisements; you can see the orange “Ad” to the left. You’ll also note that within the area we are searching, Edinburgh, they are not in fact particularly relevant. We’ll cover this topic in more detail in an article entitled “Google Paid Advertisements” but for now, its worth noting that the first listing isn’t in Edinburgh at all, and the second is a large warehousing chain. Neither of them particularly satisfy the search criteria.
The second section is a map, based on the local search area. All 3 of these satisfy the “Kitchens and Bathrooms” or “Kitchens & Bathrooms” (Google does not distinguish between the two) search, and are located within the catchment area of the search. The one that has reached the top has reviews on Google Plus, and the others have map listings on Google Maps. Again, we’ll cover “Google Plus” and “Google Maps” in a seperate article but you should note that using Google’s other services is very helpful here – remember, these include Google Shopping, Images, Maps, and Videos – and that Google own Youtube.com.
Below the boxed-out map section, you’ll see the start of the “genuine” listings; listings Google has automatically identified via crawler bots as containing the phrase “kitchens and bathrooms” and within the locality. In fact, they also contain the word Edinburgh in the URL (which places Edinburgh Bathrooms and Kitchens first) and the Meta Description (see below).
So we can see that firstly, Google searches are (for the purposes of this simple example) localised by the IP address you use when searching, and secondly, to get a good ranking in the locality for “Kitchens and Bathrooms” there are a few boxes you need to tick:
- Be within the locality. Be identified by Google Maps, and set up your location & opening hours on Google Maps/Plus.
- Use the phrase you want to be listed for in your URL, Meta Description (see below) and page title.
- Ideally, have reviews on Google Plus.
Now, lets have a look at what these checkboxes involve.
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3) Meta Description (metatags)
We all know what the standard Google listing looks like:
As you’ll see there are several elements to this:
- The blue section – contains the page name, then a hyphen and then your website name (as defined by your administrator).
- The green section – the URL
- The black section – the Meta Description of the site.
This Meta Description contains a piece of text describing what the page contains. If you don’t define your meta description with tags, Google will use the first 156 characters of your page content. This may not always be the best description of the page.
Therefore, its always best to manually set your meta description to contain a proper overview of the page you are promoting, and the phrase you want to search on. This phrase should also be present in the URL and the page name.
These items are always set via html coded tags. If you are using a free website solution, or a piece of open source software such as Joomla or WordPress, you may not have access to edit these as part of your page basics. You may be able to buy a plugin to allow you to edit these, but ideally you need to be able to edit the html code directly, on a page by page basis.
If you are struggling with this and need help, its worth contacting us to conduct a review of your website – once we have taken a look we’ll be able to advise the most cost-effective way of getting all your pages up to date and crawl-able.
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4) Adverse effects of bad SEO
A lot of the companies out there looking for your business will have already contacted you. They’ll have quoted a price which either seems ridiculously expensive, or very reasonable. The very reasonable prices are 99% of the time, tricks. For example, in the past it was common to put the search term in black on your black page, repeated hundrds of times. Google can now detect text and background colour and will mark you down for this.
Recently companies would create hundreds, if not thousands, of dummy websites which simply contained an article about, and a link to, hundreds of companies – “link building”. If you employed a company to do your SEO, they might do only this, with the view that 40,000 inbound links to your site via 40,000 dummy websites, would push you up the rankings. However as soon as Google decided that this was dubious behaviour (in 2014), or more importantly, developed software to detect this action, your site would have bcomee blacklisted for abusing the system. So all the work most cheap companies do for SEO can be counterproductive.
So not only can you be paying out money for very low quality articles, blog posts and links that do not reflect your company adequately, but you can be paying to harm your business! Less than ideal.
Very expensive SEO companies generally work as partners with Google and are aware of the best practices and current rules – like a good accountant, they’ll make sure you aren’t taxed too heavily, but they won’t break the law on your behalf.
However these types of services are really more apt at the very higher end of web sales where not being at the top can cost thousands, if not millions, of pounds. In most cases these companies are fairly unique anyway, and the tier below them are using paid advertising and can still compete admirably.
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5) So what DOES work??
Simply put, if you have a clearly written site thats transparent to search engines, a Google Plus account and a Maps listing, and plenty of well-written content, you have a fighting chance.
However, there are other small but important considerations:
- The site must be truly “white hat” i.e. clean, well written xhtml code that conforms to current accepted standards. In addition duplicate content is frowned upon – such as extraneous copy/pasted sections, templates used by thousands of others, imagery provided for you to choose from; in short, its unlikely a free website will be white hat.
- You must get your meta data right – again, a free template website may not give you access to this code.
- Your page URL structure must be easily searchable. Once more a free template may cause issue, and even “professionally written” sites may end up with URLS that say /page=136 instead of /seo
- Pages should have more than 40 characters.
- Pages should score highly on the Flesch Reading Ease test
- The keyword / phrase should appear in the URL.
- The keyword / keyphrase should appear in 3 (out of 7) subheadings in the copy.
- The images on the page should contain alt tags with the target keyword / phrase.
- The page should contain outbound link(s).
- The keyword should appear in the first paragraph of the copy.
- The keyword should appear in more than 1% of the copy.
- The page title should contain the keyword / phrase, at the beginning which is considered to improve rankings.
- The meta description should contain the primary keyword / phrase.
- 300 word recommended minimum for page count.
- Video on your site hosted via Youtube.
- Don’t repeat content over multiple pages or sites. Content should be freely written and not computer generated.*
*This last point is very important for people using pre written template or “build your own” sites. Even if you’ve written all your content, you have no control over what code is used by somebody else using the same template.
If duplicate parts are embedded in a framework that is repeated over thousands of other websites, you won’t rank at all.
Finally, if you decide to use a temporary solution now, and then upgrade to a better website later, remember your page ranking and site crawl info will take a long time to be overwritten and updated. Bad SEO can “haunt” your domain name for a long time. So its always best to start with the closest to your final solution as is possible for you.
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6) So what should I do about it?
You have 3 options. Before deciding, please consider the following. If you produce kitchens and bathrooms and a customer comes to you and tells you that having spent 5 hours on the internet, he has decided he will design and fit his own kitchen as it will cost him 1/10 of what you’d produce the work for, what would be your first thought?
If you are polite type, you will say, we-ell, you could, but it won’t be very good!
Considering you are interested enough to have read this article to the bottom, your website rankings are clearly important to you. Even if you are computer-literate and willing to learn, even if you want to do the SEO work yourself so that you know exactly whats been done and whats gone on, you must consider firstly that if this is going to take 10-20 hours of your time, paying a professional for 5-10 hours of time at a roughly equal rate to your company’s hourly costs is (a) a very small amount to invest for the potential returns, (b) more likely to produce those returns, and (c) time you’d be better spending drumming up sales or completing paid work for your clients.
Secondly you do need to think seriously about investing time into a website that is template-based or poorly written for SEO to begin with. Sadly we can’t keep up to date with all the cheap and free “design a website” sites out there, but what we can offer is a website review which will give you a professional take on just whether its’ worth progressing with your current solution.
Thirdly please consider that it may be time for you to commit to a new website. We’ve tried to present you with all the options available to you, but as a professional consultancy we obviously need to point out that our basic websites start at £325; when you consider the time and money you might invest in a “home-built” solution, please do weigh up the fact that our sites come with a lot of these features already present, and you can add more features at a later date. Given the fact our sites are based on our own technology with which we are very familiar, it can often be more economical for us to produce you a new, SEO-optimised site, than to take your existing site and try to optimise it for you. If you have any concerns about your existing site at all, then you should consider this as an option and have a look at our Website Packages.
To help you with your decision we’d like to offer you a code for 10% off any of our solutions; simply enter 10WEB at checkout before the 30th November 2015.
If you’ve already purchased a template site, or have an existing site and feel that its sufficient for your needs and you wish to optimise it yourself, then have a read of our basic guide below to get an idea of some of the things you’ll need to do. There is a wealth of free info on the internet to assist you, not all of it 100% accurate!
So with all that said, you have 3 options.
- Website Review: If you think your site is sufficient for your needs and is capable of optimisation, but you don’t know where to start, then you can ask us to perform a Website Review for SEO. We’ll need access to your control panel, and we’ll evaluate your site; if it can be made SEO ready during the review we’ll simply get on and do this free of charge. Should our recommendation be at the end that the site is not SEO-friendly and needs reworked, we will discount 50% of the review cost from a new site build if you choose to use us. If the site is SEO-friendly we’ll give a quote for us to rework it, with several options for content generation and improvement (see 3).
- Site Overhaul: If you are certain your site is SEO-ready but need somebody to perform this work for you, then we will overhaul your site at our standard rate of £37.50 per hour*. Without a full review we can’t give a completely accurate cost but can give an estimate with 20% variance. Site overhauls can take from 3 to 10 hours or more dependent on the site size and how well its been created. Get in Touch to book an overhaul.
- New Website: if you think you need a new website, have a look at our Website Packages.
*Rates are based on 3 hours and up. No discount applies to the £37.50 rate. Costs exclude VAT.
If you are committed to doing your own SEO, read some of our tips below.
Get SEO-FriendlyHere are some of the tips & terms you'll need to revise to get your site ready for the web.
Be Useful and Relevant
Google uses a mathematical process, or algorithm, to rank pages. The websites featured on the first page are the ones that Google consider to be the most useful and relevant.
This definition includes the following factors:
- Site layout & map
- Site speed
- Time spent on site
- Number of unique pages, quality of writing
It does not include backlinks (i.e. links to your site from other unrelated sites). This is decades-old “wisdom” and backlinking nowawdays is quite the opposite – its likely to make your site look like its artificially trying to enhance its search position and can cause you problems. If you anticipate a lot of people are going to be linking to your site you really need a professional to ensure your links are performed correctly from the sender site and on your receiving pages.
In short useful relevant content means your site should contain:
- A back end that is stable, white hat and searchable.
- All your URLs neatly named as per your page names with a relevant and easy-to-search tags and categories system to interlink information.
- Your services, products, prices and information; neatly divided up into relevantly named pages with pictures and video where appropriate.
- Your contact information with a Google Map.
- Regular, relevant and interesting updates on your services, portfolio, products, new lines, sales and other news.
Do all of this, and you will be on the first page of Google within 2-4 weeks for your locality. If you don’t feel confident to do this, see below.
Quality Page Content
The content of your pages themselves is obviously important. The phrase you wish to search on needs to be present.
It must not be shoe-horned in, but used appropriately – for example, the title of this page is SEO, and thats the search phrase this page is intended to be detected by. So mentioning SEO in this context is perfectly acceptable. However if somebody searches for “SEO Edinburgh” this page does not fit the bill. If we were to add another page to the site entitled “SEO Edinburgh” to try and satisfy a second search phrase, we would need to use the term appropriately. If we just continued to write the phrase “SEO Edinburgh” over and over again, the site would be ranked down – see the section above on “bad” SEO.
So for each page/post you write:
- Title it for the search term you want it to help you with.
- Make sure the URL contains that term.
- Make sure the text body contains that term, in an appropriate position, not repeated.
- Have at least 300 words of content, some pictures, Youtube hosting video if possible, and outward links.
High Page Count
Another factor Google will consider is the total number of pages you have of relevant, interesting content. The quickest way to get a handle on this is to do a Google search for site: yoursitename.com.
This will return only results for your site, and the page count at the top will let you know how many pages/posts you have currently indexed by Google. For example as of the date of writing a search for site: www.skybluedesignworks.com returns 177 results.
Note that pages which mention your URL are included in this count. If you have 200 in the list, but only the first 10 are your website, then your social media and other marketing may be working well, but your keyphrase results are not. Aim for at least 50/50 here, ideally much more like 80/20. And make sure the other listings aren’t backlinks and “URL scours” (a topic for another day).
Do the same for one of your competitors and you may find they have 600 pages to your 8. Therefore if they discuss Kitchens and Bathrooms on one of these pages, as long as their site doesn’t break the rules, and fits within the locality, they will appear above you on Google.
The good news is that many other companies have just as much trouble getting this right, as you do. Their site, especially if they are long-established, may well be written in old code that doesn’t provide the info search engines need.
Simply put, if you fill your site with interesting and relevant content, you’ll be placed by Google in exactly the ranking you deserve, errors on either part notwithstanding.
Local SEO for Local People
If you sell worldwide, then you’ll need to read our article on “Global SEO”. Competition is strong, but the market is large. Most companies however have a physical office, and this plays a major part in your search engine optimisation listings.
To get yourself moved up the rankings, you’ll need a Google Plus listing, and a Google Maps pin. Google themselves are very helpful in getting these things set up for you, but if you don’t feel confident in doing so, we can do this for you as part of our SEO packages.
Take Charge of your SEO
If this article hasn’t answered your questions, or if you’d like to consult with us about your SEO needs, then click the button to get your web sales moving!