The world of search engine optimisation (SEO) is rich and complex. Sometimes, business owners just don’t have the time to sift through the millions of articles online about SEO. All of these SEO articles basically promise better Google rankings, increased traffic to your site and more sales.
There are often more important things to worry about than on-page optimisation, link building and consistent content creation, right? Instead of investing all of your time into the many forms of website optimisation, rather spend a few minutes a day making your site search engine-friendly.
By building basic SEO foundations, you’ll still be able to climb a few notches up the Google ranking. There are basic best practices that will make your site more visible in search results and actually improve the quality of your site immediately.
SEO vs search engine-friendly
Google’s guidelines to a search-friendly website are quite simple. All you need is high-quality, informative content, links coming in from other websites, easy navigation (user experience) and honest SEO practices.
For small business owners, having an amazing SEO strategy is certainly helpful if you want the number one spot on Google’s results page, but chances of getting there are fairly slim. It’s not the end of the world, as long as you have good content and a unique range of products, your customers will still find you.
By making your website search-friendly (instead of investing in full SEO) you can save money, reduce the constant maintenance of your optimisation efforts and still reach your target audience.
How can you make your website search engine-friendly from the start?
Content is king
Search engines place a heavy emphasis on the quality of your content – it’s how they rank your site in order to give users the answers they’re looking for. Your content needs to be informative, useful and well-written.
Improve your content by adding product descriptions and certain keywords that are relevant to your business. These keywords are picked up by the search engines and give them an idea of what your website or business is about.
Think about what your customers will search for and then use those words and phrases in the body of your content. These keywords are crucial to a good ranking, so it may be worth doing a quick search on Google’s Keyword Planner to get ideas.
A combination of single keywords and phrases is always best. For example, if you sell toys on your site, you can use the keywords “toys”, “play”, “toys for girls”, “buy toys online” and “toy stores in South Africa”. Some searchers narrow their focus a lot, so it helps to have long phrases that are more specific.
These keywords should fit naturally into your sentences, and try not to repeat the same keyword too many times as Google will penalise your website for “spamming” that keyword. Your articles should read well, flow nicely and incorporate subtle keywords and phrases.
Your content not only needs to be good, it needs to be unique too. If you have the same articles as other larger websites, you’ll almost always rank lower than them because they are the original source.
User experience is important
Search engines want to provide their users with the most relevant and easy-to-use websites, so they place importance on user experience and navigation. If your website is complicated, cluttered and difficult to use, you’ll be bumped way down the rankings.
The best websites have only a few menu options, clear navigation and easily-accessible pages. The longer users stay on your website, the better your ranking will be. Try to make your website a pleasant space with appealing graphics, videos, images and content.
Label the different pages of your site clearly and use simple words (e.g. the commerce page of your site should be called “store” or “shop” instead of “collection” or “boutique”). Having simple and straightforward names on your site and menus will make it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for.
Use breadcrumb links on your pages – those words that link back to previous sections or landing pages (i.e. Home > Shop > Product). These help visitors find their way back to a page that they may want to look at in more detail.
Along with breadcrumb links, you should try to include internal links to every page of your site. In the text of your articles, place natural links to other pages on your site. (e.g. “If you like what shoes we have on offer, you’ll also like our range of headwear.”)
Shorten your URLs
Having short URLs actually helps your Google rankings too, because it makes the pages easier to remember and find. The URL should be sensible, concise and related to the information on that page.
You should use relevant keywords in your URLs, and try to avoid using numerals. For example, you should have a URL such as /mens-formal-shoes/ instead of /clothing-category-3/. This will help you rank higher for “men’s formal shoes” in search results, and it tells Google what the page is likely to contain.
Make your site faster
Internet users are extremely impatient – the longer your site takes to load, the more likely your visitors are to exit and leave. If you are making money off your website, site speed is a serious threat to your profit and Google ranking.
Google penalises slow sites that take too long to respond. This ties in with user experience and luckily there are a few tricks you can use to make your site faster. Firstly, compress high-resolution images before uploading them and optimise them for the web. There are some websites that can do this for you, or you can use Adobe Photoshop’s ‘Save for Web’ function.
Sign up for a caching service that delivers a ‘copy’ of your website while the live version loads. Hosting your site on a faster server will also help, so it’s a good option to pay a little extra for hosting fees.
SEO tricks that you can still use
Here are some SEO tips and methods that don’t take a lot of extra time. Your website will be more search-friendly if you write custom meta descriptions. These are the descriptions that you read when you Google something, underneath the blue title. The meta description tells your visitors what the page contains.
Include captions and alt text on all your images, preferably using one or two keywords that are relevant to the image or page. Remember to keep mobile in mind as many visitors will be looking at your site on their smartphones. Some websites allow you to preview the mobile version, so just make sure your banners and images work on a phone screen too.
SEO is not a simple job, nor are the results guaranteed overnight. The best method for time-strapped business owners who can’t pay an SEO guru is to create solid foundations for their site. In simple terms, a good website should be useful, appealing and easy to navigate.
By working on these basics, your website will benefit from higher Google rankings and increased traffic over time. It’s easiest to apply these best practices each time you upload a new piece of content to your site.
Sorted Design Agency is a creative company that constantly looks for solutions to other people’s problems. These problems come mostly in the visual format, such as graphic design, logo and illustration, but we’re experts in brand development, website design, and digital SEO campaigns as well.
Based in Pretoria and Cape Town, Sorted has been in the content marketing industry since 2006. We assist your company with its corporate identity by communicating core values through content and articles written for your website, blog and news area. This content is supported by AdWords and social advertising, which facilitates wider reach and audience growth. Turn your website into a business tool.
Sorted also owns two other businesses; InkFish Print Studio – a printing company that handles a range of promotional materials for businesses and other services for individual customers, and Pampiri + Kie – a gifts and stationery store selling online and in-store. Both of these companies operate from Cape Town and Pretoria.
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