SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the practice of increasing organic traffic to your website through a search engine, like Google. Essentially, when you “optimize” your website for Google, you are adjusting it in order to increase the chances your website will come up as an answer when a potential customer is searching online for a product or service you offer. This type of search is called a query or a keyword search. This might seem intimidating, as search engines are complex and constantly changing. But you don’t have to be an SEO expert to improve your website’s ranking on Google! These 5 SEO tips can help even beginners gain traffic to their website, and more traffic means more potential sales.
SEO Tip 1: Make sure your website is indexed by Google
Google has something called “bots” that crawl the web to find web pages. They then index them (fancy word for creating a list) and present pages from this index (ranked in order of relevance) when a user conducts a search. For example, if you search “buy socks Canada” on Google, all the pages that the search engine has indexed as selling socks in Canada will come up in the results. So, if your web pages are not indexed, there’s no chance they’ll come up in a search!
Google is programmed to detect new websites and pages on its own. However, if your website isn’t getting as many hits as you’d expect, you may want to doublecheck that all your pages are indexed. To do this, you can submit your website to Google.
SEO Tip 2: Find relevant keywords
Keywords are the words and phrases that users type into Google (or any other search engines) to find what they’re looking for, and there are ways you can help your page rank for these words. But first, you have to determine which keywords you’d like your individual pages to rank for (i.e., which search queries you want Google to answer with your specific page). This is one of the most important SEO activities.
Do some research to figure out what your target audience is interested in and identify some trending topics. Once you’ve figured out your topic, you should use a keyword search tool to help you evaluate keywords. There are many free options, such as Google Keyword Planner. To choose the best ones, you should look at:
- Relevancy: Is this keyword relevant to my content? Your page will only rank for a keyword if its content meets the searchers’ needs. For example, if your website sells flowers, you can’t set your keywords to “socks”. Google will pick up on the fact that your page’s content is unrelated and will not rank it.
- Search Volume: How much traffic would you get from this keyword if you rank #1? There’s no point in trying to rank for a keyword that no one is searching for!
- Competition: How much competition is there for this keyword? A keyword with a high level of competition will be harder to rank for.
SEO Tip 3: Optimize your pages for those keywords
Once you’ve identified which keywords you’d like to rank for, you can start optimizing your website for those keywords by including them in the following places:
- Title Tag: The title of your page that appears in Google search results. For example, the socks’ page might have the title tag “Shop Canada’s #1 sock brand”. Each of your pages should have a unique title tag. On top of including your keywords, be sure to limit your title tags to 60 characters so that Google doesn’t automatically cut it off.
- Meta description: The description below your Title Tag that summarizes the content of your page (up to 155 characters). This is your first chance to “sell” your page and entice customers to click on your page rather than another – take advantage! For example, your sock page description might be “Your one-stop-shop for locally made Canadian socks! High quality, high design, high comfort – low prices”. If you don’t write a meta description, Google will automatically make one for you. However, you should take advantage of this blurb to tell users what they can expect if they click on your page and include keywords to increase your odds of ranking for them.
- URL: Otherwise known as your domain name, or web address. For example, the sock page’s URL could be “www.sockscanada.ca/shop”. As with the title and meta description, including keywords gives readers an idea of what your website is about and makes your page more likely to rank as relevant on Google. In addition, these practices increase your click-through rate!
- Web page: Include keywords throughout the text on your page. Yoast recommends that your keywords represent between 0.5% and 3% of the text (this ratio is called “key phrase density”). “Stuffing” your page with excessive keywords is not reader friendly and may lead Google to actually penalize your page in the rankings, rather than boost it. Always write your text for customers first, bots second.
SEO Tip 4: Use Internal and External Links
Internal Linking: Link from one page in your website to another where it’s relevant. These links allow users to navigate through your site naturally and seamlessly, enhancing the user experience. In addition, internal links help Google “crawl” and find pages on your site so they can be indexed and ranked.
External Linking: This is the process of linking other websites on your page. The benefits of external linking are two-fold. On one hand, by linking to other trustworthy, high-quality and relevant pages you build your website’s credibility (in both the readers’ eyes and Google’s). On the other hand, by linking to other sites you’re increasing the likelihood of them returning the favour. This process of getting other websites to link back to yours is called “link building” and is an important SEO practice. Building links drives traffic to your website, enhances its credibility and authority, increases brand awareness and, ultimately, increases your page rank.
SEO Tip 5: Make your website user friendly
Google wants its users to have a good overall experience, therefore it aims to suggest user friendly pages. To ensure your website provides a good user experience and help your pages rank:
- Make sure your website load times are fast. Not only will a slow site penalize your rank on Google, but users are also more likely to get frustrated and leave your page. Using small and web friendly images is one of many ways you can increase your page speed.
- Optimize your website for mobile. You want your website to be responsive and functional on all screen sizes. Google and users both favor mobile-friendly websites. Many website builders offer a “responsive” function that automatically resizes your site to adjust to various user devices – opt for that when possible.
- Avoid excessive ads and pop-ups. Users tend to find this “spammy” and intrusive. Google takes this into account when ranking your page.
- Use headers to organize your content. The more your website is clear and easy to read, the better the user experience. (*Don’t forget to include keywords in your headers!)
These 5 SEO tips are easy to implement but can have a huge impact on your website’s success! Remember, you don’t have to be an SEO expert to stand out online.