Getting noticed by search engines such as Google can make or break a small business, but search engine optimisation (SEO) is complex and often confusing.
In Flying Solo’s Understanding Micro Business 2010-2011 survey, respondents identified SEO as the aspect of their websites that they’re least satisfied with, giving it an average rating of just 6 out of 10.
Here I’ll take you through the basics of search engine optimisation so you can start boosting the traffic to your website.
Start with the right keywords
Getting listed on a search engine for any one keyword (search term) largely comes down to doing a better job than your competition at optimising your site for that keyword.
If you’re targeting an extremely popular keyword such as ‘fashion’, you’re likely to find it difficult to get ranked for it. On the other hand, if you’re one of few businesses looking to get ranked for a niche keyword or phrase (like ‘bright blue spanners’), your task will be easier.
Want more articles like this? Check out the SEO techniques section.
On-site search engine optimisation
- Include your keywords in your page titles: Create page titles that target the keywords you are looking to rank for, and target just one or two keywords per page. It usually makes sense to use your home page to target your most important keyword. So, your home page may be titled ‘Widgets’, while other page titles may include ‘Designer Widgets’ and ‘Used Widgets’.
- Focus your copy: Use page headings that also contain the keywords you’re targeting, and talk only about those topics in your copy. Don’t worry about keyword density; just write about your subject in a natural way. Make your pages informative, because the more unique quality content there is for the search engines to index, the more they’ll like you.
- Label your images: Give each image on your page an appropriate file name, and also make use of alt tags, which are text descriptions of your pictures that are incorporated into their HTML code. For example, a picture on your page might carry the file name designer-widget.jpg and have an alt tag describing it as ‘designer widget photo’.
- Use descriptive URLs: If your site set-up allows, use descriptive URLs for all your pages, such as www.bobswidgets.com.au/used-widgets.html.
- Use descriptive anchor text: The clickable words that link your pages to each other are called anchor text. Use descriptive text for these too. For example, the search engines will respond better to anchor text that reads ‘Getting your website on Google’ than it does to anchor text that says ‘Click here for more information’.
- Include your keywords in your meta description: Your meta description is the line or two of text describing the content of your web page that’s quoted in search engine listings – so try to make it compelling enough to encourage visitors to check your site out.
Off-site search engine optimisation
- Get high quality backlinks: A key factor in your SEO should be getting links from other sites to yours. Ideally these links should be from a spread of websites relevant to your industry. The greater the competition for the keyword the more links you’ll need, and the higher in quality they should be. Ideally, the links should use your keywords as the anchor text (rather than just the name of your site).
- Avoid no-follow tags: No-follow tags are incorporated into the links on many websites to tell search engines to ignore the linked pages. They are often used to prevent spammers gaining links by leaving worthless comments on forums and blogs. In order for the pages that link to yours to pass you any search engine juice, they must not incorporate no-follow tags.
- Be consistent: Stick with either the www or non-www version of your site name for all link requests.
- Verify your site with Google: Start a Webmaster Tools account at Google and verify your site there. This account will give you lots of valuable information to help you decide which areas to focus on improving as your site grows.
There are over 200 factors involved in getting ranked on Google, but if you can cover the basics above you’ll have done more SEO than the vast majority of small business owners. Don’t forget, it’s all about doing better than your competition!
Have you optimised your website? Please share your search engine optimisation experiences with us below.