Every company wants to create a website that’s attractive. But if customers can’t find your site in the first place, it won’t matter how pretty it is.
That’s where SEO comes in. As mentioned in a previous post on SEO, search engine optimisation is all about creating websites so that search engines (namely Google) can easily identify, categorise and select them when a user does an online search. This means that users have an easier time finding your site.
In the past, some companies tried to use underhanded practices (known as ‘black hat’ techniques) to improve their search rankings, such as duplicating content, putting in bad links or adding keywords into their page content just for the sake of getting extra keywords in there (a practice known as ‘keyword stuffing’). But Google is onto these tactics and constantly updates their algorithms to improve results for users and reward sites that follow legitimate, or ‘white hat’ SEO practices.
If you’re building a new site, it’s a good idea to include SEO best practices from the start, but you can also improve an existing site by making adjustments that keep Google (and your users) happy.
SEO is a huge topic (plus there’s onsite and offsite SEO techniques to consider too). There’s way too much to cover in this blog – but here are 4 best practices for designing or updating a site so that it’s SEO-friendly:
- Make sure your content can be indexed
Creating good, engaging content for your site will always benefit your company and your viewers. But you can do more to help Google understand exactly what your content is. Why is this necessary? When Google sends out its “spiders” or bots to crawl the web, they collect data to bring back to Google’s massive database. But the spiders can’t ‘see’ images like photos, Flash animation or videos – they can really only collect HTML text – so it’s hard for them to index this information.
Of course, photos and videos are very valuable, because they help you tell the story of your brand, sell your products, make your site more attractive and improve user experience. Therefore, the best thing to do is to help the spiders out by creating ALT text for photos and images (by assigning actual text that explains what’s in them), adding supplemental text for Flash images and providing a transcript for videos and audio recordings whenever possible. Your web designer can help you put all these in place.
If you can get keywords into your ALT tags and transcripts, that’s even better. On that note . . .
2. Watch those keywords, and use them wisely
It’s a good idea to work with your web designer to do some keyword research prior to building your website, because it can help you focus your content, build your meta data such as title tags and descriptions (more on that in a moment) and determine where you can target potential searchers. To start, you’ll definitely want to include the name of your business as a keyword, as well as particular products or services you offer. If you have a local business, using your name with your location is important for searchers.
For instance, if you’re an accounting firm in Adelaide, you’d probably want to consider keyword phrases such as “Adelaide accounting firm”, “Adelaide accountants”, or “top accounting firm in Adelaide”. As noted above, it’s not a good idea to throw in more keywords just for the sake of getting those terms onto your pages. Doing so makes for bad content, and Google will punish you for this kind of ‘keyword stuffing’. A good rule of thumb is to choose a couple of keywords to focus on for each page.
3. Title tags
Title tags are one of the most important elements of SEO. A title tag is the main text that describes what’s on a web page or in a document, and these tags appear in three key places: browsers, search engine results pages and external websites. Even though you probably won’t see them when viewing a web page, they’re in the source code and show up in searches.The text in blue below is an example of how and where a title tag appears in search results:
Ideally, each page of your site should have its own title tag – preferably including a keyword or two – so Google knows what each one is about (and so do your searchers). However, don’t make your titles too long or they’ll get cut off – if you keep your titles under 55 characters, at least 95% should display correctly.
4. Meta descriptions
Like title tags, meta descriptions help search engines and searchers understand what’s on your web pages. Meta descriptions are in your source code and appear underneath your title tag and URL in search results, as shown in the grey text below:
A meta description gives you a chance to introduce your brand and what you offer to searchers before they come to your site – they act as ‘organic ad text’, helping connect searchers to your content when keywords appear in the text and match a search.
With meta descriptions, you have a little more text space than with title tags, but you still need to keep them fairly short and sweet. Ideally, your meta descriptions should be between 150-160 characters so they don’t get cut off.
As I said earlier, there is a lot more to SEO than I can talk about in one blog. If you need help improving your onsite or offsite SEO, contact Breathe Marketing today.