Search engine optimisation is all about getting your website to appear as high up as possible in search engine results when someone searches for keywords that are relevant to your business. For example that might be ‘B&B’s on Skye’ or even something relatively open-ended such as ‘Things to do in Argyll’. Being on ‘page 2’ or lower on search engines such as Google, Bing or Yahoo can seriously impact your business, simply because your website is less likely to be found. This article will cover a range of basic points that should give you a good grounding if you’re just starting to break into the world of SEO.
Google is the most frequently used search engine in most countries, and it uses over 200 different factors to decide how the results it shows to users are ordered. That might sound like a steep learning curve but don’t worry, the two most important factors are the content on your website and backlinks (which is a technical term for links from other websites to your own).
This article will cover a few different points that you need to know when looking to improve your SEO, but firstly, let’s take a closer look at ‘content’.
So, we already know that the content of your website is a hugely important factor on your site’s search engine ranking – but what’s the best approach when creating it? Well, relevant and unique content is a great start and a blog is an effective way to put this principle into practice; this is a regularly updated part of your site where you can share news and updates (anything relevant to your business really). The fact that blogs are regularly updated is great for your search rankings. Google automatically visits your site when you update it and rewards you with a higher search ranking when it sees new content. You can find out when Google last visited your website by going to google and searching for ‘Cache:’ followed by your website’s address.
It’s not just the written word that can be optimised to help your search ranking, images on your site play a part too. Filenames, descriptions and ‘alt img’ tags for each image all go some way to where you end up in those search results (if you’re wondering what an alt img tag is, it’s the text that appears when an image can’t be displayed and acts as a descriptor for those who are visually impaired). Try to give them accurate and meaningful names to increase your chance of being found.
One final note on content; when we say ‘unique’ content, we mean it! No copying and changing a word here and there, plagiarism is high on Google’s list of pet hates!
Of course there are other search engines that are worth exploring. This is where it pays to know who your audience are. For example, in China, Russia and South Korea, Google is not number one. The same goes for around 30% of the USA, who use Bing or Yahoo. Ultimately, it’s up to you to determine where the majority of your website’s visitors are coming from, and it may pay to do a bit of investigation outwith the likes of Google.
Another quick word on Google. Many people still believe they have to submit their site to Google for it to appear in searches. Google should find your site and add it to its enormous index without you having to do anything – however this doesn’t happen overnight. By submitting your site to Google’s Search Console you may be able to speed up the process.
Backlinks are the other big factor to pay attention to when it comes to optimising your website. In this case it’s quality over quantity, meaning that it’s better to have a few high quality backlinks to your site as opposed to many low quality ones. You might come across the opportunity to buy backlinks, but think twice. ‘Toxic backlinks’, or backlinks bought or created by you, will probably be flagged as such and do no favours for your SEO. For example, questionable backlinks from gambling or adult websites will likely be viewed as toxic by Google as they’ve likely been paid for and have no relevance to your tourism-focused business. Use the Google Search Console to see all your backlinks and route out any questionable-looking ones that might harm your ranking by using the ‘Disavow’ tool. Careful though, once you’ve disavowed a backlink it can’t be undone.
Did you know that you can even see the backlinks of your competitors too? There are many websites that will help you do this including Moz.com, Majestic.com, Monitorbacklinks.com and Smallseotools.com. Doing this could give you an idea of how your competitors are approaching SEO.
Another aspect that can help your website rank higher in relevant search results is site security. You can tell a secure domain name from an unsecure one by looking for ‘https’ in the URL. It basically means that there are measures in place to protect any visitors to the site from potentially harmful material that might exist there. Unsurprisingly, Google promotes safe sites over unsecured ones. To make sure your site is secure you can purchase a digital certificate (try searching for SHA1 or SHA2 certificates) that will ensure visitors know your site is secure.
The speed of your site is also important. Google offers a free tool to test how ‘fast’ your website is. Basically, the quicker your site the better chance your website has in a search return. This tool is particularly valuable as it’ll tell you what you need to do should your website not be up to speed.
Do you know if your site is mobile friendly? If when looking at your website on your phone, you need to zoom in to read or use any of its functions chances are it’s not ideal for those on-the-go visitors. If you’re not sure, you can check how well your website works on mobile with Google and Bing.
So, there you have it. SEO doesn’t need to be a dark art after all. There are many things that you can do to help your website climb the rankings and have more of a chance of being seen by potential customers.
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