So, you’ve built your website, you’re rather proud of what you’ve done, and you’re ready to receive lots and lots of inquiries and sales. You wait excitedly, and as days go by, not a single inquiry comes your way. You may be thinking at this point, perhaps I’ve forgotten to click on the “Publish” button, or the site is not appearing as it should be. So you check. Everything’s as it should be. You look at your site traffic statistics. No one has visited your website, except maybe yourself.
What went wrong?
Here’s what went wrong: you assume that traffic will appear magically. Internet traffic doesn’t come naturally. There are well over 1 billion sites on the World Wide Web (1,295,973,827, according to Netcraft’s January 2020 Web Server Survey), and this number continues to change every minute. Unlike a shopping mall, no one accidentally comes across your website unless you work at it to make it happen.
What you need is to apply search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques to your website so that it appears organically on search engines like Google and Yahoo whenever someone searches for a word or a phrase that is related to your products or services. Preferably, your website should show up on the first or first few pages of the search engine result.
Of course, there are SEO experts whom you can hire to do this for you, but that’s going to cost you. If you are tightening your belt and ready to DIY all the way, here are some tips that can help improve your search ranking almost immediately.
1. Research For Keywords
These days, everyone hits the internet to research products and services before they make any purchasing decisions. And we all use keywords to look for related websites that can provide us with the relevant information. For example, you may type in “Cheap home office chair” on Google if you intend to get a new chair.
That’s what keywords are all about. You want your website to appear on the top of the search rank whenever your potential customers search for something related to your products or services. The trick, thus, is to know the most popular words or phrases your target customers use when they conduct their search.
One of the easiest ways to look for the best keywords or phrases to use is through Google Ad, which tells you how often a specific keyword is searched for, where it is being searched from (regionally or nationally), and related keywords or phrases. Use the Google Keyword Planner in Google Ad, which is a free keyword research tool that can provide you with invaluable keyword information.
However, do keep in mind that the most highly searched keywords or phrases may not necessarily be the best keywords for you. This is because many other similar websites will be using it too, and you’ll be competing with them for the top spots on search engines. If you have a small business with a simple website, it may be smarter for you to go for niche keywords and bring in a smaller but more targeted group of potential customers. The other thing to be mindful of is to avoid the use of jargons and industry-speak because you can’t assume that the consumers or laypeople would know or use these jargons for their searches.
2. Where To Use Your Keywords?
Once you’ve found your keywords or phrases, you’re ready to start creating content (or pages) for your website. Content can come in a variety of forms, but most can be classified under:
- Website, such as home page, landing page, product pages, etc.
When creating your content, be sure to include keywords in the text so that these pages are optimised for search. Search engines such as Google look for content that matches the relevance of the word or phrase that the user entered. When enough keywords are infused into your website’s text, Google will list it as one of the search results.
3. What’s The Right Keyword Density?
Just because keywords will get your website ranked in the search result, you mustn’t stuff your pages with keywords or keyword phrases. That’s actually frowned upon. Your copy needs to sound natural, and you should insert keywords or phrases only when it makes sense to include them. In fact, these days, Google algorithms can pick up synonyms and semantically-related words and not just the presence of the keyword itself.
So what’s the right keyword density? As a rule of thumb, it’s good to have a minimum density of 1% with a maximum of 3%. This means one to four keywords or keyword phrases for every 500 words.
Note also that the placement of the keywords or keyword phrases also plays a part. Generally, it’s good to have a keyword in:
- Page title (or title tag) (preferably at the beginning of the title)
- Title of your blog/article
- At least the subtitle or bulleted list within the copy if it is not possible to have it in the article
- Navigation bars
- Body content
4. Where Else Can You Include Your Keywords?
Here are some other places where you can insert your keywords or phrases to help your SEO efforts:
Title Tags – Although I’ve mentioned this earlier, I need to emphasise the importance of title tags. It is the most influential place to have your keyword phrase as Google pays the most attention to it.
Meta Description – Also known as the page description. This is the description that appears as the two black lines of text in Google’s search result. It doesn’t influence your search ranking, but it’s your final opportunity to get the user to click on your website. Make sure this description is well thought out and carefully crafted.
Graphics – There are several places here that are useful, including alt tag (the tag to describe the image), the file name of the image and SEO properties of the graphic file (you can use graphic editing programs to edit the title, description and keyword tags in the file itself).
Links – Keywords or phrases in backlinks or internal links are also known to boost your SEO.
5. Are Your URLs SEO-Friendly?
Ensuring that your URLs are SEO-powered is also crucial to search ranking. Your URLs should be intuitive, easy to read and have keywords that correlate to the web page copy. There are four URL components to consider:
Domain name – You would have already named your business before you create your website, so you probably won’t change it for the sake of keyword. If you can do something about it, a domain name like keyword.com can do wonders to your search rank.
Subdomain name – Here’s an example of how it can look like: keyword.mycompanyname.com.
Folder name – Here’s an example of how it can look like: mycompanyname.com/keyword/pg1.
Page name – This is something you can definitely do. It should look like www.mycompanyname.com/keyword.
6. Create Backlinks And Internal Links
Backlinks are external websites that link to yours, while internal links connect pages on your website to one another. Backlinks are probably one of the most powerful SEO ranking factors for search engines. However, the quality of the backlinks matter, i.e., the more authoritative the websites that link to yours is, the higher the rank position your website can achieve.
Honestly, it’s not easy to get backlinks, especially quality ones. Some common suggestions include writing guest articles or promoting your content on social media. And if you’re some important blogger or someone famous, getting interviewed by journalists may help you sneak a few backlinks into online news websites. Of course, there’s always the content-engagement approach to backlinks. If your web content is powerful and compelling, visitors would want to tell their friends about it.
One thing you can control, however, is internal links. Internal links are useful because you can help visitors navigate through your website easily and increase the length of time that the visitor spends on your website. Google also looks at the internal link anchor text to help them understand the page.
7. Produce Regular Quality Content
You’ve probably heard a lot about how content marketing is essential in the digital age. But how exactly would that help with your website? For one, quality content (and here, I emphasise on the word “quality”) generates high click through rates (CTR), which is a factor that Google considers when ranking your website. Good content can also get you backlinks, again, an SEO win. Not to mention the more content you create, the more keywords you can incorporate into your website.
Having said that, don’t just create content for the sake of SEO. After all, it is your customers whom you’re catering to, so create content for them. Engage them so that they will come back. Appeal to their needs so that they want to buy your products or services. Also, content need not come in the form of a copy. You can also use quality images, product photos and videos to engage your visitors.
8. Are You Using HTTPS To Secure Your Website?
You’ve probably seen HTTP or HTTPS on domain names all the time, but what exactly do those things do and what have they that got to do with SEO?
HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) and HTTPS (Secure HyperText Transfer Protocol) are structures that allow a web page to show and receive information on the internet. With HTTPS, an additional layer of security called the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is added to transport secure data. With the use of the HTTPS protocol, the website is encrypted, thus preventing hackers from accessing the data.
Why is this important for SEO? Because Google said so. They announced in 2014 that HTTPS is a ranking factor. Also, users these days are more careful with data protection, and thus, having HTTPS offers your visitors a sense of security.
9. How Fast Is Your Site Loading?
A user spends an average of fewer than 15 seconds on your website. And that’s the amount of time you have to capture the attention and get the person to stay engaged. If your website takes forever to load, you’d probably lose the user sooner than 15 seconds. Not only that, but Google has also indicated that page speed is a ranking factor.
There are many ways to improve page loading speed. For laypeople without any programming skills, you can do your part by making sure your files are compressed, especially image files before you put them up on your website. One of the easiest ways to reduce image file size is cropping your image to the correct size. For example, if you want a picture to appear as 570px wide, resize it to that width. If you upload an image without resizing, it requires your page to load the full image, and then adjust it to the appropriate size, thus slowing your page. Another easy-to-adopt practice is to host your videos on a third-party service like YouTube, Vimeo or Wistia and then embed the video on your website instead of uploading videos directly to your site. This way, the videos won’t take up tons of space and slow down your site immensely.
Final Note on SEO: Here’s some good news for WordPress users. There are free SEO plugins you can incorporate into your website that can help you fix some of these SEO issues. One of the most popular SEO plugins is Yoast SEO, which provides users with an entry-level tool to improve your SEOs easily.
About the Writer:
Judy Tham is a writer and founder of One Elephant, a copywriting firm in Singapore. She co-authored Are You Brand Dead?, one of the few books on branding in Asia that focuses on SMEs.