The basics of Search Engine Optimisation
SEO for Beginners
When I’m designing and setting up a client’s website, SEO is the last thing I want to do. It’s boring, and fiddly and the least creative part of an exciting web launch. However, during my time working in affiliate marketing, web design, fashion writing and my degrees in creative technology and marketing, SEO was drilled into me as one of the most important things to get clued up on when running your business online. Unfortunately, it’s likely that you’re not the only one with a website about a particular service. If someone types in food blog to Google, thousands of results will come up. To make sure your website shows on at least the first page, you need to get your SEO sorted to the finest detail.
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is what it says on the tin. It groups the actions you take to ensure your website is getting noticed by internet searches and appearing on results pages as high up as possible. It’s quite literally about optimizing your search engine visibility. If a web developer is building your website, they’ll quite likely have already sorted a lot of this for you. But if you’re setting up your website yourself (congrats) there are a few key tips I have to make sure you know what kind of SEO you’ve got going on, and how to improve it.
Keywords are one of the most important things to be aware of when it comes to SEO. Words associated with your website content that people will search for to find you, are what your keywords are. For example, if your website is a food blog, your keywords will be things like recipes, food, best English recipes, healthy recipes, restaurants, eating out etc. Sites like this one here can help you identify what people are searching for to find websites like yours.
Once you’ve made a note of your keywords, you need to use them tactfully. This means appropriately naming everything on your website. “But that’s so boring and so long” I hear you say. And yes, it is, that’s why it’s important to learn about SEO before or during your website build. When I mean everything, I mean body text titles, blog post titles, tags, categories, images, navigation bar titles etc. Getting the right keywords in the right place is vital for good search engine ranking. When writing a blog post title, make sure it includes keywords that the reader will want to know. For instance, “Cosy Country Pub in Surrey” instead of “My Favourite Pub”. Most web building platforms will enable you to add tags or categories to body text, make sure you do this with your keywords so search engines know quickly what the content is about.
When you upload images to your site or in your code, name them something relevant to the page topic. For instance if you’re writing about bananas, don’t upload an image saved as “bodyimage01.png”. This will negatively affect your ranking as Google won’t be able to tell what it is and how it is related. Instead, use keywords like “bananapeel.png” or “bunch-of-bananas.png”. For code, this will be in the <a> </a> brackets. Where applicable, as well as the image file name, you can add an image title. This doesn’t mean that the title will show, it will just give more direction to search engines what the image is about. The title of your image can be the same as the file name, as long as it helps to describe what the image is.
Ensure all images on your site are optimized for the web. They should be near to the correct pixel size and a PNG fie which is suited for web pages rather than a JPEG, otherwise they’ll take too long to load and will negatively affect your search engine ranking. If you’re unsure of the correct image size, a quick search online will give you various dimensions. Typically a web page is 1080px wide, body text images that aren’t stretched widescreen can be made 960px wide, and for smaller profile photos try 200px or 100px wide.
Understanding the basics of HTML code will allow you to format your website properly so that search engines can read it without trouble. This means knowing the difference between <nav> <header1> <header2> <header3> <body1> <body2><footer>. Think of these code tags as pointers for the content on your website. Squarespace and Wix enable you to choose what tag to use when writing text and how you want the text to be styled. Any page title like ‘Contact’ or ‘About’ should be Header 1. Normal body text should be Body 1, and sub titles as Header 2 or 3. Your keywords should be included if not in Header 1, then Header 2, as well as scattered where necessary around your body text. This may seem unnecessary if you’re not hand coding your site, but it’s important to respect how websites are coded behind the platform style editors your using as search engines will favour sites that have code organised properly using the right tags and image names.
Site Title and Description
This is a pretty easy one to sort – on your web building platform, whether it’s Sqaurespace, Wix, Blogger etc., there will be an option to add a site title and description. Do this! Your title should be short and relevant to your content, and not taken by someone else. If your website already has a brand name then make sure your description is on point in explaining what you do as you can’t rely on search engine’s to recognise your title. Your site description doesn’t have to be visible on your site, but needs to be a short sentence including keywords about what your website is and does. Search engines will use this as a synopsis when deciding if your site is what the searcher is looking for.
My last tip is something you can do to maintain your SEO. Regularly updating and uploading new content on your website will keep your site looking relevant to search engines. If someone has searched for food blogs and you’re only uploading a post to your blog every couple of months, a food blog posting every week will appear higher than yours as it will appear more helpful to the reader. A good way to consistently update your site content is to keep your clients page relevant with your newest and best work, add a blog section to your site or add testimonials from people you’ve worked with. Use social media to link pages on your site so that search engines see your site is being talked about, even if you’re not uploading content every week.
These are, what I think, the 5 main areas you need to understand when setting up and running your business online. If you want to learn more there are tons of sites showing you more in depth ways you can improve your SEO once you’ve done all of these steps. Also understand that it can take a few days for search engines to re-read your site and your added SEO sections so don’t expect instant results. Good luck and I hope this has helped!