One of the best ways to market your business online is simply to make it easy to find. People seek out the information, products and services they want using search engines such as Google. But since most people don’t get beyond the first page of results, you need to be as high up the search engine results page as possible.
You can pay for Google ads to achieve this. But you can also improve your ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ search engine results for free by improving the code and content of your website to make it more search engine friendly. This is known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Not only is this free, it is effective since about 75% of people will click on the natural search results than the Google ads. They’re somehow seen as more genuine and trustworthy.
Here are eight things you can do to your site to improve search engine visibility:
1. Include page titles
Page titles are the most important element of your site that Google looks at to determine what your site is about. A title tag is the code on your site that tells your browser what text to put in the top bar of your browser. It is also the text Google uses for the search engine results that link to your site. For example, on the home page of my Reed Media site, the title includes my business name and a strapline that includes the words ‘social media’ since I consider that an important search term: “Reed Media | Social Media. Solved”.
If this was hand-coded, in the HTML code it would look like this:
<title>Reed Media | Social Media. Solved</title>
However, I don’t need to code this by hand. This title – and all page titles on my website – are dynamically generated by WordPress, which my site is built with. It is, effectively a blog. “Social Media. Solved” is the subtitle of my blog, and other title tags, by default, relate to the name of the page or blog post, e.g. “Reed Media | Workshops” or “HOW TO: Organize a tweetup | Reed Media”.
If you use WordPress to build your site, this will save you work – but it also stops you from tinkering with title tags for individual pages. The good news is that there are WordPress plugins to help you manage your title tags, such as SEO Title Tag. Do a search for a WordPress plugin that suits you. If you have a static site coded from scratch, you can just amend the tags in your code for each individual page. This is likely to become a chore for a large site, though.
Whichever approach you take, include your most important keywords in your page titles, particularly on your home page – but don’t forget that your page title will also become the text of the link in Google search results, so must make sense to humans too!
2. Add a description
Adding a description of your page in the tags in your code doesn’t show up on your site, or make much difference to how Google ranks your site, but it does show up as a short paragraph in search results – so this is another one for the humans rather than the machines. If you include an accurate description that sounds interesting, more people will click through from the results to your page. Keep them to about 25 words, as Google will truncate long descriptions. Ideally add a different one to each page, like page title tags. If you include some keywords in your description, it won’t affect the search results, but they will appear emboldened if they were the terms being searched for.
3. Choose domain names carefully
It is useful to include keywords in your domain name if you can – but you may be restricted somewhat by your business name. If you’re a startup and haven’t settled on a name yet, bear this in mind when choosing one.
4. Optimize your URLs
One of the things Google looks at to assess relevance is your page’s URL. It is therefore a good idea to include keywords in your URLs where possible. This is one reason why blogs work so well, and why you should always think carefully about blog post titles – since they will normally appear in the URL for your blog post.
5. Use keywords in your website Content
We’ve already touched on keywords, and it’s important to include important search terms and keywords in your web copy – while still retaining sense and readability.
6. Use headings
Think about the headings you use on your pages, as these help Google find important keywords and understand the structure of your page. This means you can’t just embolden text to make it a heading that Google will understand – you need to use tags such as <h1>main title</h1>, <h2>heading</h2> and <h3>subheading</h3>.
7. Use alt tags
Use “alt” tags on images. Google can’t ‘see’ images to index them – but it can read any text you use to describe your images. Include this in an “alt” tag, which is short for “alternative text”. This doesn’t show up on your site, but is visible to Google. Importantly, it can also be read out by screen reader software that visually impaired people use to browse the Web. An alt tag within the code for an image looks like this:
<img src=”http://www.reedmedia.eu/images/logonew.jpg” width=”182” height=”80” alt=”Reed Media” title=”Reed Media” />
The “title” tag is optional, and in this case makes the words “Reed Media” appear when your mouse hovers over the logo.
8. Make your links meaningful
Use meaningful text for links. The ‘anchor text’ you use in links on your site is another variable used by Google to build up a picture of your site. If your links are styled: “Read more posts about search engine marketing“, rather than “click here to read more posts about search engine marketing”, you will be rewarded with greater search engine visibility.
The link code, in this case, looks like this:
<a href=”http://www.getuptospeed.biz/category/get-online/search-engines/”>Search Engine Optimization</a>
Used in combination, these techniques will help improve your search engine rankings – for free. What’s not to like?
Find out more about search engine marketing in Chapter 4 of Get Up to Speed with Online Marketing.