SEO is the mythical acronym that many of our clients, readers, and even other digital marketing firms kind of fear. While it stands for “Search Engine Optimization”, really it means “Get me higher in Google.”
Years ago there used to be other search engines (and we hear from time to time about this supposed other option called Bing though we know no one personally who uses it on the reg), but Google has long been the leader and the dominant force. For years people have believed only big business can get to that coveted #1 search spot. So how can you as a small business owner improve your search traffic?
Below, we’ll outline tips to help you improve your search and start on the journey to making Google (and your customers) very happy.
1. Check Your URLs
This is one of the key things that we do here when building a site, but it’s not something everyone thinks of. Go look at our menu. Our page for our Web Development services, for instance, is hexcodedesigns.com/web-development/ We’re telling Google, and our user, within even the link structure what they can expect to find on that page. Especially those users who build a site on WordPress can have funky structures by default. If you’ve ever seen a site that has a link like example.com/?p=123 they have a problem. This doesn’t tell the user what’s on that page and it certainly doesn’t communicate anything to Google. The main goal here is to make their job easy, so change that now. But wait! Read #2 before you action this one.[In WordPress, you need to login to your Admin panel and go to Settings -> Permalinks. We prefer to use the Post Name option so the URLs have pretty self-explanatory labels]
2. Learn about 301 Redirects, and Use Them
Say for instance you do have poorly-named URLs. You don’t want to just change all those links without telling your site and Google where to find those pages now. Other sites might be linked to those URLs. In your .htaccess file, you’ll want to tell Google where to find those renamed pages by using the following code:
Redirect 301 /old-page-url/ https://your-domain.com/new-page-url/
You may need to change some settings in your FTP to see the .htaccess file. We tend to use a spreadsheet to remind us what the old URLs were and keep track of what we’ve changed them to. This also is a great idea if you’re deleting any unused pages so you don’t get 404s on your site.[We also get that this may be a terrifying thing for you to do on your own. There are many great WordPress plugins or reach out and we can help.]
3. Make Sure Your Site Loads Fast
This could be a whole blog post on its own really and a lot has to do with how your site was built. But top priority is choosing a good host (we love WP Engine) and making sure your images and videos are compressed properly (we use Photoshop’s tools and compresspng.com for quick image compression or a couple of different WordPress plugins that compress while you’re uploading to the media library). You can check your site loading time with Google’s own Page Speed tool and start there to see what it thinks of your site. Don’t be too afraid if you can’t get to 100 or even 90…the goal is to improve it and make sure you’re not in the red especially.
4. Guest Blog on a Relevant Site
This one takes a little bit more finesse and time investment, but it pays off. You’ll see a lot of articles that would advise you build up back-links to your site from others, and that those you know are a great place to start. To keep that relevant and have that link-back make sense to the consumer and to Google, we recommend doing a guest blog. There they can say where you work with a link to your company’s site in the author bio. Write a blog about your expertise, tie it into their own business, and even trade that service on a regular basis. It shows that you are respected by others and your expertise is valuable as well as giving you that valuable off-site link.
5. Start Thinking Mobile First
We’ll blog about this in more depth later, but it’s time to start being aware that Google is changing their algorithm yet again in the coming months. While in April 2015 they started to take note if your site was mobile or not, the next update will mean that Google looks at your mobile site first, then your desktop version. The best way to avoid an interruption? Make sure your site is responsive so it displays the same content no matter the device it’s on. And check through it on your phone. Are key items bolded, bulleted, or otherwise easily scannable? Are you scrolling forever and might you be able to collapse some of your content? You are after all a user, so take note of the things that annoy you while going through your mobile site and ask your friendly, neighborhood web developer to help you out.
Take SEO One Step at a Time
The 5 steps above are really just the tip of the iceberg, and there are many of the points that we could expand into a full blog. After all, there is a huge industry built around SEO and plenty of people whose sole job it is to research, test, and advise you on the best strategies. The key is to not get overwhelmed, take care of the basics for a solid foundation on your site, and take it one step at a time as much as you can. And you can always give us a call if you’re ever wanting to chat about what your first step should be.