Product and service research is now the second biggest online activity behind email. But, what’s the point in having a great website, with great information about the products and services you offer, if none of your target audience can find it? Internet search engines (incl. Google, Yahoo and MSN) are special sites on the web that are designed to help people find information stored on other sites. Sites’ positions in search engine results (also known as ‘rankings’) are determined based on a number of factors designed to provide end-users with helpful, accurate search results. The process of designing or modifying your site to enhance the likelihood of high search-engine rankings is known as search-engine optimisation (SEO).
Why do I need SEO?
The aim of a good SEO campaign is to achieve the highest possible ranking in search engine results (Google, Yahoo and MSN etc.) by ‘optimising’ your web page content, structure, meta-data and incoming links. The higher your search-engine ranking, the easier it is for your potential customers and clients to find your site, and therefore the higher your website traffic. Your job is then to ensure your site engages, retains and converts the traffic into sales or sales queries.
Simple Five point SEO Health Check
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is not easy – however there are some simple checks that you can perform yourself which will give you an indication of some of the areas that can be improved on your site to help increase its ranking in search engine results.
- Check your Metadata
- Check your Keywords
- Check your URLs
- Check your HTML
- Check your Spelling
1. Check your Metadata.
Metadata, is data about data. It allows you to describe your website – largely for the benefit of search engines. There are three main metadata tags which you can check for on your site which are considered by search engines when determining your site’s position in search engine rankings. These are ‘Title’, ‘Description’ and ‘Keywords’.
Specifically you should check for:
- the existence of these tags in your HTML source code,
- that your title tag is descriptive,
- the description tag gives a good summary of your page/site and helps draw users into your site (as it is often what is displayed by the search engines); and
- that your keywords are relevant and meet your objectives.
In Internet Explorer 7 (IE) you can view a web pages source code by selecting VIEW -> SOURCE from the toolbar menu and in Firefox (FF) you can view the source by selecting VIEW -> PAGE SOURCE also from the toolbar menu.
Once you’ve found the source code look for:
- <title>YOUR PAGE TITLE GOES HERE</title>
- <meta name=”description” content=”A DESCRIPTION OF THE SITE/PAGE CONTENT GOES HERE“>
- <meta name=”keywords” content=”PAGE KEYWORDS GO HERE“>
If your site doesn’t have this information, or if it doesn’t reflect your site’s content and purpose then search engines may not rank your site as highly.
2. Check your keywords
Keywords are words or phrases that help search engines identify what search queries are relevant to your site. Keywords are contained both within your page/site metadata (see step 1 above) and within the content of your site.
Search engines often look at the frequency (often called density) in which words appear within your site to determine what searches are relevant to your site. It is therefore important that keywords appear more frequently within your sites content.
Have a think about how visitors to your site might describe what they’re looking for and write down the key words. For example if you were running a plumbing business in Melbourne, you might identify ‘plumber’, ‘plumber in Melbourne’, and ‘plumbing service’, but also things like ‘blocked drain’, ‘leaking taps’, ‘greywater system’, ‘water saving’ etc. Now, review your site’s content and count how many times these words/phrases appear. If they don’t appear, or only appear once or twice throughout your site, you should review your content and identify how you might be able to modify or add to your content to include these keywords.
3. Check your URLs
Website URLs (which stands for Uniform Resource Locators – basically this is the website ‘address’ i.e. http://findingsimple.com/blog) should be meaningful and descriptive and where possible use keywords within the URLs themselves.
Keeping with the plumbing example, abbreviations within existing URLs such as “watsav” can be expanded to “water-saving”.
Content management tools like WordPress usually have built in functionality which you can enable to create more meaningful urls (or permalinks) which use the page or post titles within the sites urls.
An example of an optimised url is the url of this post as it contains the title of the post itself – which has also been expanded to include the keywords “search engine optimisation”.
While it is good to include meaningful keywords within URLs, it is important not to go overboard because the longer the URL the more difficult it will be for users to remember the address.
4. Check your HTML
Another check you can perform quickly and easily yourself is whether or not your website’s HTML is valid. Invalid HTML often results in web pages that look different (and may have reduced functionality) on other computers, but in terms of SEO in my experience it is often an indication that your site may be poorly designed and not structured in a way that is search engine friendly.
Go to http://validator.w3.org/ and enter your websites address to automatically validate your websites markup language (HTML).
5. Check your spelling
Spelling mistakes believe it or not can also affect (adversely) your search engine rankings.
It is important that the keywords you have used are spelt correctly. You can check your spelling manually or you can use spellr.us to check your whole site for you.
Winning the race
While there are no guarantees that undertaking these 5 steps will put you at the top of the search-engine rakings, they should make it easier for search engines to effectively and accurately locate and index your site, which generally translates into improved rankings. In addition to the 5 steps listed in this article, there are a number of additional optimisation activities that can be undertaken to further enhance your site’s search-engine performance.
Many clients find it useful when I explain that SEO is a lot like coaching an athlete for a race. While the coach can’t guarantee that their athlete will win the race (largely because there are a number of factors outside the coach’s control), a good coaching program will give the athlete the best chance of success. Undertaking search-engine optimisation won’t ensure that your site comes out on top and is number one on Google, but it will give it the best chance of reaching that goal. If you are interested in finding out how finding simple can ‘coach’ your website for search engine success, please contact us.