There are plenty of factors that determine where you rank in the search engines for a particular keyword, some are easy to modify (e.g title tags) some are difficult (e.g keyword usage in URL), this post aims to demonstrate 6 improvements you can make right now to up your SEO game.
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I’m going to assume you have Google Analytics installed on your website already, if you don’t I highly recommend installing it right now. It’s a free tool from Google and it allows you to better understand what your visitors are doing with your website, how they interact, how long they stay and so much more.
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Understand what you are doing right.
I’ll assume you have it installed but I won’t make the assumption that you have goal tracking set up effectively. One of the many features of this tool is the ability to track ‘goals’ that you deem valuable. For example a product purchase, a contact form submission or perhaps if a user spends a certain amount of time on the site. These can all be tracked within Google Analytics with a few easy steps.
Understand what you are doing wrong.
Having Goal Tracking set up also allows you to see which areas are under performing from month to month, perhaps you had 15 contact form submissions last month, compared to this month that number has dropped by 5? Goal tracking with Google Analytics allows you to easily see this data in a visual and well presented section of the admin panel.
Right those wrongs.
Once you are tracking these goals, and you have identified the areas where you might be lacking, you are able to take steps to improve the situation. Maybe you feel a certain product isn’t getting as much exposure as the other products you sell? Well having identified the problem, you can now look to find a solution. Is the under-exposed product page as well optimised as the others? Take a careful look at the page title, content, meta description (for conversion purposes) and take a look at inbound links to the page.
I can’t answer this any better than Google themselves, take a look at the answer in their help section on the subject.
Webmaster Tools are extra services that each of the major search engines offer it’s webmasters. They provide extra insight into how well your website is performing on the search engines and where improvements can be made, such as fixing a crawl error (meaning a page could not be added to a particular search engine).
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Signing up for all three of these completely free services will allow you to understand how the search engines are interpreting your website and the problems they are having, in turn, allowing you to fix those problems.
Sign up for an account with each of the following and add your website(s)
Once you are signed up to the services listed in #2, you can create a sitemap and submit it to all three webmaster tools. A sitemap is exactly what the name suggests, a map of your site, laid out in a language that the search engines can understand (XML; eXtensible Markup Language).
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Submitting a sitemap ensures that all the pages on your website can be found. Google and the other search engines rely on inbound links to find the pages within your website, so when they find your websites homepage, they find the links contained within that page and then examine those linked pages to, looking for more links and so on. This process is called ‘crawling’.
In some cases, a page may not be found by the search engines because it isn’t linked to from any other page on the net, or in some cases, it isn’t linked to well enough (search engines try not to waste time or resources on useless pages).
A workaround is to submit a sitemap to the webmaster tools, these are usually free to create and they contain all the pages housed within your website. This is basically saying to the search engines “LOOK, I’VE GOT A PAGE HERE!! SHOW IT TO THE WORLD!”, of course, whether the search engines actually index remains their discretion, but if it can’t be found, it can’t be indexed.
There are a few free, easily locatable options out there, the one I use and promote is XML-SiteMaps, this free tool allows you to plug in your URL, change a few settings (or leave them) and press generate; creating a completely free XML file with all of the pages on your website.
This method is perfect for most users needs, however should your website contain more than 500 pages you will have to pay for the pro version (which will set you back ~£20).
When I was first learning SEO, it was my misguided understanding that I should target the keywords that had the highest search volume, if people are looking for it, and I rank for it, I’ll make money, right? Wrong.
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When defining a keyword list, the most important thing to successful ranking is relevance. If you sell second hand bike chains online, you should not be looking to rank for the very generic term ‘bikes’. Instead your keyword list should look something like this.
Trying to optimise for the generic term of ‘bikes’ is not only going to be difficult, it’s also going to be pointless. Sure, there are around 37,200,000 global monthly searches for ‘bikes’ at time of writing, but say somehow you managed to rank, people will land on your homepage, quickly find out that you don’t actually sell bikes and then press the back button, wasting everybody’s time and effort.
Even adding a location on the end makes it much easier to rank, for example you only sell the used bike chains locally, well you could add the location into the keywords, like this.
Obviously there is a balance, I can assure you that nobody is searching for ‘buy second hand bike chains essex’. To get an idea of what people are searching for and which keywords will work for you, try the Google Keyword Tool
Title tags are touted as the single most important ranking factor by some, others say it is only shadowed by link building. I am inclined to agree with the link building, however I have managed to get some websites to the top of the SERP’s (Search Engine Ranking Pages) without building a single link, and I attribute most of the work down to the title tag.
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Title tags need to be relevant, descriptive and able to draw the users attention. Let’s not forget that this is what the user will see when they search for one of our terms in the search engines; it needs to be able to grab their attention.
e.g. <title>Used Bike Chains Essex | We’ll get you moving again – Bill’s Bikes</title>
In the above example, I have the most important keyword (usually the one with the most search volume) at the very front of the tag, to give it more importance, more weight. Then I follow up with a marketing message and finally, the name of the business right at the end.
Title tags should be kept to around 75 characters long, after that search engines like Google will just cut off the text and add an ellipsis on the end (…), as if to say ‘there is more, we just can’t fit it all in’. Search results look much better if they display the whole message.
Above is a live example of the current SEOMyGod home page title, the keyword I deem most important ‘SEO Essex’ is prominently at the front, followed by a powerful marketing message.
This one is perhaps the hardest to act upon, simply because URLs aren’t as easy to change as content. If possible though, it helps to get keywords in the actual URL, for example:
http://billsbikes.com/bike-chains-essex.php is far more likely to rank than http://billsbikes.com/page1.php, providing all other factors are equal.
Google and the other search engines give this ranking factor quite a good amount of weight when deciding where your page should appear in the rankings, for the very reason that it is quite difficult to change and therefore having a keyword in it usually means that’s what the page is going to be about – basically it’s less easy to ‘game’.
When changing URL’s you should always remember that any inbound links pointing to the page, will now point to nothing, and therefore any link juice will be lost. This is where a 301 redirect comes into play, to save both the link juice and your visitors from getting errors whilst trying to browse your website.
301 redirects are outside the scope of this post, but here is an article on the subject if you would like to learn more.
We hope this article has been of some use to you. If you have any questions or comments please do not hesitate to contact us.
These six improvements are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to SEO, if you find that these changes aren’t having the desired results then please contact us to discuss how we can help you further!
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