7 tips for better Search Engine Optimisation
Small and medium businesses can use Search Engine Optimisation strategies to make sure their website appears high up on internet searches.
Here are seven tips:
1. It’s all about experience
Getting a high ranking in a search engine used to be all about stuffing the website with the maximum number of key words, using ‘pool cleaner’ as many times as possible for instance. But search engines are much more sophisticated than that now. They focus on what could be termed “experience optimisation”, that is, if web surfers find what they want and engage with the site, then those sites will rank highly on a search engine.
But if they click to the site and quickly come back to the search engine to keep looking for what they want, then these sites will drop in the rankings. A lot of businesses build their websites then think ‘job done’ and forget about it, but just leaving a stagnant website will ultimately mean lost rankings over time as Google’s ranking algorithms change and competitors make their own efforts on their own sites.
2. Refresh your content
To rank well in searches, websites need to keep refreshing their content and keep it up to date. “The more you talk about something, the more of an authority you become on that topic which is what Google prefers,” says Kavit Shah, head of SEO at Australia Post.
This means updating the website when the business changes – perhaps you have new stock or are offering an updated service, or a new staff member has joined with specialist expertise or experience. Also, don’t ignore your website blog. Many small business sites have a spot for a blog, but it’s surprising how many ignore it. Make the time to turn out a blog from time-to-time or find someone who can help you with it.
3. Everything in context
“It’s about writing actual engaging copy that would drive a seller to interact and engage with your site and brand,” says Shah.
He gives the example of a site with the word ‘hammer’ on it. The business owner needs to provide context so Google can know what it’s talking about. If it’s the tool, they need to talk about hardware and DIY. If it’s the rapper MC Hammer, they need to talk about music and streaming or CDs.
All of this makes good sense anyway. The more up-to-date your site and the more content you have that is of interest to customers, the more often they will return to your site. While key words are now only a small part of what determines rankings, they remain important, so try to research which keywords consumers are using when they search for your type of business.
4. Get the basics right
There are a few other basics that businesses should get right to help their search rankings. Clear product definitions and clear calls to action helps ensure Google puts you in the right category. It’s also important to reinforce that theme by grouping similar products together – blue widgets, red widgets and green widgets.
Another tactic to improve page rankings is link building, where a business website is ‘linked to’ from other websites. The more credible the website doing the linking – such as industry association or a governing body – the better for the ranking.
In Australia, it makes sense to optimise websites to match the Google search criteria because it has about an 85 per cent market share, and may others follow very similar ranking criteria anyway. However, a business targeting China or Chinese buyers, for instance, would need to use the simplified Chinese script on its site to show up well in Baidu, the dominant Search Engine in China.
5. Don’t forget mobile
The latest of Google’s changes have been to improve searching on mobile devices, such as phones and tablets. Those sites with faster mobile page speeds and responsive mobile displays will feature higher in search results.
Key to this are Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) where Google actually downloads and stores its own copy of your website which it can then serve up on phones and tablets in a fraction of a second, instead of waiting for it to download from your site. AMP is an affordable technology, which web developers can implement for small and medium businesses.
Optimising a website for devises is important regardless of SEO, as every year they become a more important shopping and browsing channel for consumers. In fact, Australians spend an average of 10 hours a day engaging with their digital devices, according to the Digital Australia: State of the Nation 2015-16 report by EY Sweeney.
6. Voice is the next big thing
The rise of mobile devices means more consumers are using voice searches, speaking what they are looking for instead of typing. These often have a local intent – “find me the nearest Mexican restaurant” – and often involve longer questions with more “natural” speech than those which users type – for example, “where can I find a pair of size 8 red pumps?”. This means sites should try to adopt a more conversational tone in their content and also make more of their location if they are a bricks and mortar business.
7. Get some help
It’s almost impossible for businesses to stay on top of all the Google algorithm changes – there were 925 last year – so those who are reliant on web traffic should consider engaging an SEO consultant. This can be tricky. Business owners should first familiarise themselves with the basics of SEO so they know what to ask about. Shah suggests they ask for examples of the provider’s previous work to see if they align with their own goals. They should also get the provider to explain their processes and ensure that they will be receiving a solution tailored to their needs.
Be wary of providers which promise to link to your sites from thousands of others. This is like spam and could see your site incur a penalty from the search engine, severely harming its rankings.
Finally, watch out for any SEO provider who guarantees a particular page ranking. No one but Google can do that.