My love affair with search engine optimisation started when I had my own small business (DigiGifts – a personalised & photo gifts online store) over six years ago. Like many new small business owners I had very little funds to back my business venture with the hopes of making it big online for little spend.
I had done as many new business owners do and researched my products overseas beforehand to see estimate how successful it may be in my local country; but alas when I started my business I was a little too late to the game of introducing these products to the Australian marketplace and soon had some major competitors clipping at my heals selling the same products. Initially there wasn’t any direct competitors, but it was department stores that already had mass customer lists that started introducing the saame kind of products to their existing customer base. I had grown a great customer list myself at the start, loyalty and found a niche of nabbing the bigger competitors customers once a customer was disgruntled with them for lack of quality or customer care, however I never had the marketing budget or resources to compete against the bigger boys so to speak. I then slowly began struggling to compete on price too as their mass volume of sales enabled then to gain lower prices from the same suppliers I was using. In an effort to try and push back I focused much of my efforts in an area I was already familiar with (website development as this was my background career for several years) and it required no cost. Constant search engine optimisation to the website saw increases in listings quickly.
It doesn’t take rocket science to see the results on the Google Analytics graph below which highlights an increase in traffic from when the business first started with a steady growth. During peak periods (usually Oct – Jan each year) visitation would spike even higher due to the popularity of the products over Christmas time and increased email marketing that was performed. Though the results are not in the high thousands or millions, the method remain similar for most business to increase rankings in search engines.
If you don’t want to trust just Google Analytics, internal analytic stats also showed similar trending results. Year on year the visitation of website was increasing with the start of 2010 already higher than the previous year.
Not only was traffic to the website increasing, but search engine rankings for some of the most popular keywords and phrases were seeing the website coming up in the top 3 positions. As most search engine specialists will tell you, being on the first page, let alone in the top 10, top 5 or top 3 results will dramatically increase your website visitation.
And for those who don’t know this market, some of those big competitors are the ones you see hovering around the other top spots or paid listings locations. Many were pumping some serious cash into paid advertising around this time period to list higher than my business.
This increase in visitation saw a consistent growth in sales and customer retention. While the business was on a high I eventually sold it as I was finding less and less time available to work on it and wanting to return back to my grass roots of web development more heavily again. The lessons I learnt while running this business and achieving such great results for highly sought after phrases in search engines were forever priceless.
So now you probably wondering whether those lessons I learnt are still relevant in todays search engine game, too right they are! Yes search engine algorithms have changed significantly over the years, but the major search engines are constantly putting out information and guides on what they will put emphasis on next and how to improve your website for the better. Some of the latest trends include sites which are secured with SSL certificates ranking higher than those which dont, mobile-friendly websites over those that are mobile optimised and websites which load faster than those that take forever.
free website SEO tips
There are a number of free and paid tools around to help with evaluation a website in the short and long term. Short term tools are those which give you a quick snapshot of where your website performance and ranking is at the time of taking it. Long term tools provide more in depth analysis that enable you to review data over periods of time (ie: a month, year, etc) and begin to see trends. Both offer useful information that can help improve your search engine listings over time.
Some short term evaluation tools:
- Website Grader – used to check load times, speed, performance, mobile friendly site, SEO and more.
- Google’s Page Speed Test – analyzes the content of a web page, then generates suggestions to make that page faster.
- Test your site for mobile-friendliness – Most sites lose half their visitors while loading if the site isn’t well optimized for mobile devices.
Some long term evaluation tools:
- Google Webmaster Tools – Tracks your website’s search engine performance with the Google Search Console, plus providing additional webmaster resources. Google analytics provides an overview of this information but Google Webmaster Tools breaks it down even further evaluation each page individually. Here is a useful beginners guide to Google Webmasters Tools too.
- Google Analytics – by far one of the most heavily used analytic tools on the market (and its free). Google offers reports and data of visitation to your website.
- Yoast SEO (WordPress Plugin) – If you’re using WordPress to run your website, currently the most popular SEO plugin to date is Yoast SEO. The free version provides plenty of useful information and the ability to manage many SEO fields such as meta title, meta description, keywords, etc.
Keyword Rich Content
How often do you update the content on your website? What about your blog? Search engines love new, current and unique content. They pull the freshest and most relevant content each time a search is performed. So if your site hasn’t been updated regularly, you can bet your competitor’s content will rank higher than yours in the search results.
To avoid being ignored by search engines and lose out on important organic traffic to your website, it’s important to update often. A great way to do this is by consistently adding a new blog article at minimum once a month but more often will get you better results.
To ensure you provide new and exciting content for search engines to index, use different keywords for each article that focus around a specific topic or theme. Adding keywords to your blog and website copy is vitally important for SEO but some people can get a little too overzealous and incorporate far too many into their prose. They write articles using a specific keyword a dozen or more times while aiming for high “keyword density” to let the search engines know they’re targeting that word or phrase. Unfortunately this strategy actually works against them due to search engines penalize keyword stuffing. Instead, focus each piece of content around one or two keywords and let synonyms, variations and so on come up naturally.
How to find ideal keywords
Keyword research is the process of finding the right keywords in your niche market. This step is important if you wish to grow your blog or website in a shorter span of time. Useful keyword research tools:
- Keyword Tool – A great Keyword tool that helps you find the keywords people are typing as a Google Search.
- Google Keyword Planner -You must have a Google AdWords account to access this tool.
- Seed Keyword – Create your own scenarios; very useful for specific niches.
Get your site listed on other relevant websites
Quality reciprocal links do still help boost search engine listings because they tell search engines that your content was worth sharing on other sites. Keep in mind that search engines check the quality of every site so if you are listed on low quality websites they won’t help your rankings much at all.
There are plenty of free online directories, article sharing platforms and websites that will happily on-share content from other websites, but finding niche websites that are interested and willing to share your articles or links back to your website for free are priceless. If the website you are listed on ranks well in search engines that will help boost readership of your article and website over the long term too.
Think about how you use the web. You’re in search of information. And if you don’t find it on the page you’re visiting, you click away and look elsewhere. The more relevant places your information is shown the more likely you will find quality visitors for your website.
Useful sites to list your articles on
- Digg – Digg is a website featuring the best articles, videos, and original content that the web is talking about right now.
- Social media platforms (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram) – A great platform to share your articles to relevant audiences
- Wikipedia – A free online open source encyclopedia which includes information and content (in an un-advertising) format.
- Local business directories – A great place to get your business seen by local customers in your area.
Compare with competitors
One of the easiest ways to find areas of improvement for your website is to compare with what your competitors are doing, especially if they are ranking well in search engines for keywords and phrases that you wish to rank for. Use some of the free analysis tools mentioned previously to see what your competitors websites are doing well on their website. Examine the text, meta tags, images and other relevant content to get vital clues on how to improve your website and rank better for those same terms. It’s important however to remember not to copy content from their website. Not only will you be doing yourself no favours with this practice, but you can also see yourself in a legal battle if you take it too far. Instead use the things they are doing well as a guide on where and how to improve your own website.
Have you ever considered looking at the content and code of websites that are not your competitors? This is useful to help find new and improved ways to better your website with tips and tricks that other business and doing well in their industry. Whenever you are looking for something online (searching on a search engine) or visiting another website, always be conscience of what works well. What made you click on a certain link over another that was presented in the search engine results? What was useful on a website to help you easily navigation around the site or find the information you were looking for? Utilising some of these strategies will help you further improve your website not only from a functionality aspect for your visitors but also help improve search engine listings too.
Not seeing your ranking improve
On average it is recommended to allow 6 to 12 months for improvements of your website to help increase rankings. Search engines rarely scan a website hourly or daily (though there are some exceptions to this rule) and so making changes today may not be seen in rankings a number of days, weeks or months after. Numerous other website online are also making changes regularly too so your website is not only ranked according to the data found on it but along with other websites and how they change too. Therefore its important not to see search engine optimization as a quick fix on your website where you expect to see position #1 results immediately, optimisation results take time and patience, but it pays off in the long run. Oh and anyone that tells you they can put your website at position #1 quickly and easily will be likely using methods such as paid advertising which will cost you an arm or leg.
Nowadays I try to focus my energy on helping other business owners to learn the tricks to improve their own search engine rankings. I speak at local WordPress meetup events occasionally as well as share my knowledge on how to improve a websites search engine ranking to various business owners through one-on-one consulting and freelance work. If your still struggling to see an improvement in your rankings or want someone else to do the hard work for you, don’t hesitate to contact me.