Your website is your gateway to the world. It’s your storefront, newspaper, portfolio and résumé. If you do any kind of business, it’s the last stop before anyone decides to engage with you or buy something. No matter what else you do (e.g. pay-per-click, ad displays, social media, radio or television advertising, email marketing or direct mail), everyone looks for a website. However, if you’re not being found on search engines like Google or Bing, it can make the difference between success and failure.
How do you tilt the scale in your favor? Make sure your website is optimized to make Google happy. This is called on-page SEO (search engine optimization); not to be confused with off-page SEO (the tactics SEO professionals offer to drive traffic to your website).
If you do your on-page SEO well and are consistent with your blog, creating new content, the search engines will reward you. So, let’s look at 17 simple tips you can do yourself to improve your website’s ranking over the next three articles. We will cover the first five in this article.
WordPress is a popular website platform that makes creating your site simple, yet robust. It has lots of scalability (the ability to add needed features with plugins, minimizing needing to know coding) and does lots of the heavy lifting for you.
One of the things it does, whatever you name your page, it prepares a menu item for you to add. For instance, if I were to name my page HOME, when I go to APPEARANCE>>MENUS, I will see HOME created for me to add to my menu.
This makes novices keep it simple by naming a page HOME or ABOUT or CONTACT, because when they create their menu, it’s clean and simple. However, this is not helping you SEO-wise.
Let’s say my business was selling dye-sublimated t-shirts with a rapid turnaround. Moreover, I also provided design services and the name of my company was Wannabe T-shirt Productions. I would want to name my home page, “Home page for Wannabe T-shirts Productions offering Rapid Turnaround of Dye Sublimation T-shirts and Design.” That’s one LOOONNNG title. And when you create your menu, it would be on heck of a link!
Good thing I can go to my menu and edit the link. I would rename it HOME. As far as my visitor is concerned, it’s simple – click HOME. As far as Google and Bing are concerned, it’s jam-packed with meaty keywords, a solid description and better information to satisfy someone searching for this service; hence it would rank higher.
A website was designed with the norms of the time when HTML was invented. Nothing has changed from what writing a good paper would require.
In college, you were told to create titles and headings. In other words, an outline for your paper. There are very good reasons for this. It makes it easier to navigate and comprehend, it feeds your ideas in bite-sized pieces and makes it more of a pleasure to read. If you were using a modern word processor, you could then tell it to create a table of contents, and it would do so easily because it had titles, headings for chapters and separate sections.
However, many people were too lazy to learn how to do this, so they would just highlight the text, make it bold and the font larger. Visually, it had the same effect, but if they wanted to create a table of contents, it could not do so. They would have to do it manually.
A website works the same way. You don’t want to be playing with the attributes of your text; you want to use headings for those titles and sections. It makes it easier to navigate and read. But to a bot, which has no eyes, it makes it easy to index.
The headings tell the bots:
Since I mentioned the keywords, let’s look at the next tip to better clarify.
Words are important. To be lazy in your vocabulary is to communicate ineffectively. If you can’t communicate a message with clarity, people won’t hear what you’re saying. Ever had someone accuse you of saying something you didn’t mean to say? They heard the words you used; they couldn’t read your mind to know what you meant.
Keywords are the words that describe the service or product you’re selling and a bot doesn’t read minds. It will read EXACTLY what you wrote.
From my previous example, t-shirts, tshirt and tshirts would be three keywords I could use, since I don’t know what someone searching may type. There are tools available by Google and Bing, like the Keyword Planner Tool, which allows you to see what people are searching for and how many searches were made for the week or month for any particular word.
Let’s say when you did your research, you found the word “t-shirts” has too much competition; everyone selling t-shirts is vying for it. However, “tshirts” (without the hyphen) has little competition, but plenty of traffic (let’s say 100,000 searches per month versus 1 million for T-Shirts). Therefore, you may want to use “tshirts” instead, making it more likely you will be found. It’s called going after low-hanging fruit.
Whichever you choose, use the keyword in your headings! For example, I already named my page to attract traffic and would want to change T-Shirts to Tshirts. Then I may write my first heading to be “Affordable Tshirts When You Need Them!” My next heading may be “Cotton or Cotton-Blend Tshirts in Any Size.” The important thing is to use the word Tshirts (it’s not case sensitive) where it would make sense, naturally.
Notice I said above to use the word where it would make sense naturally. Keep in mind you are writing for two audiences: Google (Bing included in this statement) and your reader. Since Google is making a push for quality content, one of their rules for ranking you is keyword stuffing (read “Google Sets New Standards: Violate Them At your Own Risk!”). Google states that you should write an article or content on the level of a good magazine.
If you wrote just so you can use the word “tshirts” as many times as possible, your page would read poorly. Therefore, your reader would not enjoy it and may just leave. Moreover, Google would penalize you and make it hard for you to be found. Write to convey a complete message, delivering it as naturally as speaking and only using your keyword where it would read well.
Finally, it’s hard to have quality if you don’t have quantity. You need to have enough content to meet someone where they are, so you can take them where you want them to go. Plus, the more content, the more the opportunity to use your keywords more naturally. Again, pleasing the search engine and your reader.
So, there you have it! Start working on these this week. These five tips will make a huge improvement on your website. Do not procrastinate! If you do, when I share the next six, you will start to feel overwhelmed and will do nothing. Incremental steps will lead to a robust website being found and bringing you business. Stay tuned for Part 2.