SEO for Beginners: 5 Essential Things Your Website Needs
Does the word 'SEO' fill you with dread and horror? SEO Consultant, Gareth Simpson, is here to help!
* This is a guest post written & contributed by Gareth Simpson *
The world of search engine optimisation may seem strange and scary to you – but good SEO is crucial for running a successful website, whether that’s a blog, a portfolio site, an online shop, or a business website.
To make it less daunting, I've outlined my top essential things your website needs below.(If you’re looking for some non-SEO basics for your website – read this 8 website essentials post first).
1. A good site speed
It can be easy to ignore technical stuff like site speed, but over and over again users have told us that a slow page load time is one of their biggest turn-offs. Slow sites are consistently passed over by faster sites by users and search engines – make sure your site isn’t being needlessly slowed down.
- Test your website’s speed here. You want to aim for a load time of about a second or less.
- Content management systems like WordPress have plenty of speed optimisation plugins you can install that will handle the optimisation tasks for you. There are plugins to help you compress image size, use browser caching and compress site code. By compressing image size and site code, you’re making sure that your website isn’t pushing out huge file sizes that are clogging up people’s browsers. Browser caching is basically giving browsers like Google Chrome and Firefox the ability to temporarily ‘store’ a version of your website on their system, making it easier for people to view your website quickly. If you are not sure where to start, read some speed plugin reviews and ask for advice from others in your position on blogger forums or social media.
- Sometimes slow websites are caused by inadequate hosting. Make sure your hosting provider is giving you a good service.
- If you are using a platform like Squarespace, the speed of your website is managed for you, so you won't have a whole lot of control over this. However you can certainly help by keeping image file sizes small and using less custom code injections.
2. Image descriptions
Make sure you name your image files something else than 190922.jpg and optimise your image files for relevancy to increase your chance of ranking in search engines.
- When you upload an image to your website – give it a unique name that describes the image accurately.
- An image alt text is a few lines of text that is attached to any image on your website. These few lines of text tell search engines (and screen-readers) what the picture is all about. Most content management systems make editing image alt texts easy – you should be easily able to go in and describe your images (in Squarespace, you can change the 'alt text' by editing the 'file name' of an image in the image block settings).
- Using images that are relevant to your content makes your posts even more powerful because search engines can see that not only is your copy relevant, but your images are too!
3. Keyword Themes & great content
Keyword research isn’t as scary and arduous as it sounds – it’s basically just spending time getting to know your audience and the language that they use when they are on the hunt for your product, service or content.
- Use keyword research tools like AnswerThePublic and Ubersuggest to get a better idea of what sorts of questions people ask when they are on search engines looking for products and services. Use these insights to help you map out your major content themes.
- For example, if you are selling a blogger growth programme and find that loads of bloggers are searching for phrases like “grow my blog with social media” or “good blogging social media”, then you know that your audience are going to care about content on how to better use social media. By writing targeted content and using your keywords you are increasing your chances of your content being ranked by search engines.
- Embrace research and keyword discovery as an integral part of your content creation process. After all, what better way to create great content that your readers will love?
When a search engine crawls around the Internet, going from website to website, it uses links as its information highway. You need to use links in order to help search engines make sense of your site.
There are three main types of links you need to know about:
- Outbound links: Links that leave your website – it’s obviously a great idea to link to useful resources on other websites as it helps both readers and search engines make sense of your website and place it in the right context
- Inbound links: Links that come to your website – it’s also important to have other websites linking back to yours
- Internal links: These are links that stay within your website environment and guide the user from page to page
How do you get links back to your website?
There are so many ways to get links back to your website, from being included in expert roundup posts and product reviews, to being listed on a local directory as a local business.
Some link building methods are expensive, but there are free SEO tactics you can do for yourself. Look into the different methods of link building and see what feels most natural to you and your website.
The main thing to be aware of with links is that though you need them, you need to be cautious about where they are coming from too. You really want links from high quality, authority websites that are relevant to you.
5. Technical Audit
There are a few technical things to do with indexing that you’ll need to check up on. The process of indexing is the way in which search engines find your website and how they organise your content once they are there.
- Use a WordPress plugin like Yoast to help you manage technical things like submitting a sitemap to search engines. A sitemap is essentially a table of contents for your website and will help search engines map it out better. If you're using Squarespace, your sitemap can be found by adding '/sitemap.xml' at the end of your domain, and you can submit this to search engines yourself.
- If you have a bigger and more complex site like an ecommerce store, you may need to pay for a more technical SEO audit.
- If you want to see for yourself how a search engine is indexing your site, search for “site:yourdomain” in Google and see what pages come up. This will give you an idea of what pages and URLs Google is picking up on. It’s also a good idea to sign up for a free Google Search Console account to help you stay on top of how your site is being indexed.
Good SEO is often as simple as delivering a site that users like and that has plenty of great content. Get help on the technical side if you need it, but always make sure you are using a trusted SEO provider who is giving you safe and accurate information. Read reviews and client testimonials very carefully.