A guest post by Gareth Simpson.
Having a website that covers the SEO basics and is primed for future improvements should be your digital goal. You don’t want to be wasting digital budget on things that other websites do out-of-the-box. It’s important that SEO is factored into the site’s development, and that the future of the site is secured through continuous tweaks and upgrades. SEO is a fast-paced industry and changes happen on a monthly basis, but there are a few principles that have stood the test of time. From a good UX (user experience) to discoverable content, here are some key things that are expected of a well-rounded, rankable website.
1. Do invest in development & maintenance
Your technical environment has a big impact on how easy search engine crawlers find your site to parse and catalogue. Invest time and effort into quality web development that will give your site the longevity you need.
Make sure that any developer you use understands the principles of web usability and SEO: this is not always a given in development — they need to be committed to a certain way of working.
You need to regularly update and maintain your site so that it still functions and behaves correctly. It’s a good idea to have a regular maintenance contract with a developer who can keep things ticking over and ensure that your site is backed up and secure. It’s also a good idea to get clued up on domains and hosting in general — the more you know about your website, the more in control you’ll be.
2. Do include a blog
A blog on your domain is a great asset on a number of different levels. It gives you an easy way to submit new content to the search index: encouraging search engines to crawl your site frequently (read this if you’re worried about your indexing).
It also gives you an easy way to build a content library and develop a relationship with your audience and customers, as well as advertise your brand to media publications and content producers. Off the back of a powerful blog, you can start to gain backlinks, shares, and mentions — showing search engines that you have a powerful site that’s worth taking notice of.
Start your blog and agree to a blogging frequency, then do some keyword and audience research to help kickstart your blog’s editorial calendar.
3. Don’t lose sight of your user journey or sales funnel
Having too many competing pages or confused landing pages will make your site perform less well with users, and could lead to rankings confusion as well.
The best way to ensure that this doesn’t happen to your site is to clearly map out a user journey and sales funnel when planning your site so that you don’t lose sight of what each page is meant to be achieving for your business. A user journey doesn’t always need to be something complex and fancy — sweet and simple also works well.
4. Do incorporate video into your site
Video is a brilliant way to create an emotional connection with your audience. It’s a punchy medium that makes for supremely shareable content.
Having a video will increase your site metrics like dwell time: you should really consider video if you haven’t already — it’s no longer as expensive and difficult as it once was. Video content is also great for social media and general brand building — try out some ideas on film and see how you get on.
5. Don’t slow and bloat your site
People don’t hang around online — so don’t make them wait for your site to load. As Google gets more and more hot on its mobile-first index, slower sites are going to find it harder and harder to rank.
Ensure that your backend code and hosting stand up to scrutiny, and use tactics like minification and caching to maximise your site’s speed. More tips here on why (and how) you should speed up your site.
6. Don’t hide your best content
It’s very important that search engines and users have access to your best content for indexing, improving your relevancy score, and reaching higher engagement metrics.
It can be tempting to put good content behind a ‘wall’ and make it gated content so that people need to leave their email addresses to gain access to it, but consider whether you are actually doing yourself a disservice by keeping this content to yourself? From a lead-generation perspective gated content is a good idea, and you should definitely still do it; but just make sure that a lot of the ‘good stuff’ is also accessible to the general web public. (Here are some gated content pros and cons).
You need to also harness the power of content that’s ‘trapped’ inside your organisation. Old presentations, brochures, stories — they can all be repurposed and used as digital content. It’s important that you make the most of your organisation’s knowledge and information and capture it all digitally.
Clarity is very important when it comes to sharing your content with the world — don’t be so creative that no one understands what you’re saying: keep things easy to understand and follow.
7. Do seek authority
Low-quality blog commenting, directories and syndicated content are a thing of the past. When it comes to actually increasing website authority in Google’s eyes, you need to seek out authority sources.
Getting a link from a news publication or a high-traffic relevant blog is worth tens of low-quality and less-relevant links. Focus your SEO activities around quality brand PR, rather than lowest common denominator stuff that might harm your site. Another good strategy to consider is working with micro-influencers who have a ‘voice’ in your niche.
8. Do have a clear information architecture
Your website’s structure is important for your users and customers, but it also has an impact on your SEO. Ensure that you have a good menu structure that’s clear and intuitive, and that uses the same language that your audience and customers expect.
Amazon is a good example of a very SEO friendly site structure, with plenty of descriptive subcategories. It doesn’t always look the prettiest — but it works.
9. Do have pages with purpose
A website that’s good for SEO is clear and purposeful — you need to stay true to your page titles and deliver on their user promise. Try to map out a clear purpose and vocabulary for each page so that they are all contributing to the overall message of your site and business.
If your pages lack purpose, they probably won’t make the most of the keyword opportunities available to them.
10. Don’t go for style over substance
Many websites look pretty, but haven’t got much to them when it comes to content and ranking. Don’t go for a website that’s glossy, but lacks any actual substance.
When shopping for a WordPress theme — make sure you select one that is future-proof and has all the right functionality. If you’re an ecommerce business and you decide to build your store yourself, make sure that go for a system that has good SEO functions out-of-the-box, and that won’t cost the Earth to put right and customise.
Looks can be deceiving — look under the bonnet of any themes that you buy!
11. Don’t succumb to SEO quick fixes
SEO is a long-game, so don’t trust anyone who promises to propel you to the top spot of Google in weeks. They are probably using artificial methods to ‘boost’ rankings (that often don’t even work), and working with them could seriously harm your site’s track record with search engines.
If you need an instant boost of web traffic, you are better off exploring tactics like PPC.
An SEO friendly website is an important business asset. Don’t skimp on your website — fixing it later may be very costly. Make sure that you understand what you’re paying for, and always clarify what future implications decisions you make today may have.