The GrowthMinds Guide to getting seen on search engines

Everything you need to know about search engine optimisation

In this guide, we’ll take you through the top 10 most important things you can do to improve your website’s SEO ranking.

 

Why you need SEO

Whatever your business, you’ve probably got a website and if you’ve got a website, you already know you need SEO – search engine optimisation – so your website has a fighting chance of getting found, by people who know your brand already, or more importantly, those that don’t.

Where do I start?

There’s a huge amount of often conflicting information about SEO and that’s because the science and algorithms that drive SEO, change and develop over time.  Nobody knows exactly what’s in the algorithm, but a lot of work has gone into guessing and testing out the impact different elements have on a search result.

Here, we take a quick look into the three areas that factor into your SEO:

  • Technical,
  • On-Page and
  • Off-Site.

 

Within each area, we give you the three most important things that you can do now, which will start making a difference to your site’s visibility – whether you’re setting up a new website, or you’re reviewing and improving on your current site.

Tim Hanson, GrowthMinds Growth Hacker

These are practical steps you can take to improve your website’s SEO without any technical knowledge, but the more in-depth you want to go, the more technical it gets. You’ll find some recommendations for online resources and more information.

And if you need some specialist help, just give us a call.

Our model for great SEO results

There are three areas to work on, when it comes to SEO:

  • Technical – How your site is built and how quickly it loads
  • On Page – This includes everything contained within your website – all the content, images and tags, how your site is structured, internal links, meta-descriptions and more
  • Off Page – Think of this as the opposite of on-page. It’s every mention and ranking factor that doesn’t come within your control on your site, for example, social shares and mentions of your website, backlinks to your site and citations.

We’re going to look more deeply into three things you can do in each area to improve your site’s visibility.

 

But first…

If you’re setting up a new website

If you’re setting up a new website, you’re in a great position to implement best practice right from the start. We won’t go into all things you need to do here, but one of the most important places to start is setting your keyword strategy.  This is a great guide to help you do just that:

 

And second…

If you already have a website

Before doing anything you need to know what sort of state your site is in. After all, there’s no point fiddling about with the on-page elements, like keywords and content if you’ve got a technical issue.

So your starting point is to get a google account set up with Google Analytics for your site.

  • If you have a WordPress site, get an SEO plugin, for example, we like Yoast.
  • If you’re using Squarespace or Wix, it’s very easy to link your Google Analytics account.
  • If you’re using an alternative Content Management System, then all the basic principles apply, but it’s more complicated, and likely to need someone with more technical knowledge to carry out (ask us!).

 

Let’s begin to impact your SEO

First, focus on the technical elements of your site.

Remember, this is how your site is built and particularly important is how quickly your site loads.

 

1. How fast is your server?

When we talk about server speed, we mean how quickly is the server that hosts your website serving your website to people on a browser. This is really important.

So important in fact, that Amazon found that if their site lost 100ms of load speed, it would result in substantial and costly drops in revenue!

To check your server speed, we like pingdom.

Enter your site’s URL and choose a place in the world to test the speed – think about where the majority of your audience are based. In general, a speed of under 4 seconds is good and what we love about this tool, is the way it prioritises issues. If you get any “F’s”, fix those first and make an appointment in your calendar to check your site every 4-6 weeks.

You can also use the Google Insights Site Speed tools in your Google Analytics account to perform additional checks.

 

2. Optimise your images

Again, Google Insights will tell you if the images on your site are too big. If they’re too big, it’ll slow your site’s loading speed.

Resizing your images is a simple fix you can implement.

Smushit is a good tool to use. If using WordPress then the plug in can be downloaded here.

For other CRM’s use an online optimisation tool before you upload your images.
Kraken is making some great headway into the space, but if all else fails the Panda still reigns supreme.

 

3. Know where your audience is

A browser’s physical distance from the server where your site is hosted can affect the site speed for people wanting to visit your site. For example, if your site is hosted in the UK, but your core audience is in the US, you want to make sure that your site loads quickly for your audience.

Use Analytics and Acquisition in Google Analytics to see where your audience is now, and check the speed for them using pingdom.

If it’s too slow, talk to your server provider and they should be able to help you.

 

 

Next, take a look at On-Page elements:

On-Page is a huge area, given that it’s everything contained within your website – all the content, images and tags, your site structure, links within your site and all the meta-information associated with your site. Prioritising what will move the needle in this area is really important.

 

4. Ensure your URLs are readable

Google sums it up well here:

A site’s URL structure should be as simple as possible. Consider organising your content so that URLs are constructed logically and in a manner that is most intelligible to humans.

Take a look at your URLs. Do they follow a logical, friendly structure that makes sense? You can use Yoast to tailor your URLs if your site is built in WordPress, and many other providers, like Squarespace, have in-built tools to do this too.

 

5. Create quality content on the subject you want to be known for

We’ve all heard the saying, “content is king”, but knowing how to convince Google that you’re an expert in your area of business is a mix of both art and science. You need to have a sufficient amount of content on your site about the subject you want to be known for, but you also need to come it from a variety of angles.

Using the analogy of a solar system – you want the sun (your chosen subject) to rank highly, but it can’t do that on its own. It needs planets (sub-elements of your chosen subject) circling around it to give it weight (in Google’s eyes!)

In real terms, say your website is all about weightlifting. You’ve got ten great blog posts written about weightlifting and one post about protein powders. If you want to rank for protein powders, you need more than one article. Add three or four posts that take an angle on protein powders, that all link back to your main protein powder article, and you’ll rank higher on Google.

 

SEO content and supporting content analogy image

 

Let’s say you publish a new post about bench press on your weight lifiting blog. It will rank well based off of the authority built by having lots of posts on there already about strength training, where as a new post about protein powders will need a few more supporting posts to help it rank (protein timing, eating it with meals, drink types).

So when you’re planning content, think of the subject you want to rank for, then develop three or four sub-categories for your subject. Develop your content, publish it and make sure each post links back to the main subject page. By doing this, Google is more likely to consider you an authority on that subject.

 

Tim Hanson, GrowthMinds Growth Hacker

6. Don’t over-optimise pages!

So here’s where you need to consider long-tail keywords and how they can interplay with shorter keywords that might also be in the longer keyword string. This is something that’s often overlooked. It’s really easy to over-optimise a page, but there are simple ways to fix it.

If you’ve done your keyword research, you may find that targeted long-tail keywords are going to help you rank more highly than shorter, more general keywords. When you’re developing a page to target keyword strings of over 4 words, once you’ve created the post, find all the instances of shorter keywords that feature within the longer tail.

It may be that these shorter keywords are ranking higher on your page than the long-tail keyword. To counter this, change some of these shorter keywords for semantically similar keywords.

How do you find keywords?

  • Have a look at Google’s suggested search terms when you start to write a search.

SEOGuide_Google_search_results

  • Scroll to the bottom of the search page to see related searches.

SEOGuide_Google_search_footer

  • Use the LSI Graph tool to assess the keywords available.

 

And finally, let’s look at Off-Page elements:

This can be more tricky, in that off-page elements are every mention and ranking factor that doesn’t come within your control on your website. It’s all the social shares, mentions, backlinks and citations that link back to your site. Remember that analogy of planets circling the sun? Well this is exactly that too, but on a bigger scale.

 

7. Local citations are the easiest fix when it comes to backlinks

Moz defines local citations as, “any online mention of the name, address and phone number for a local business. Citations can occur on local business directories, on websites and apps, and on social platforms.”

  • Do a search for your local citation and request that any inaccuracies are fixed, particularly on Google My Business.
  • Use a tool like Namechk to grab relevant usernames on social platforms. Even if you’re not going to publish to those platforms straight away, they are great backlinks to have.

 

8. Create content that people want to share

Content is king, but not all content is the same.

These days, Google ranks the quality of your content more highly than the quantity of content you publish. How does it do that? It looks at who’s linking back to your page. Think of it like a voting system – if they’re a trusted source (for example, the BBC), that link back to your site will carry far more votes than 50 links from spam sites.

So don’t take shortcuts when it comes to content development:

  • Don’t get an intern who doesn’t really understand your business to create content.
  • Make sure it’s content that provides value.
  • Get people you trust to give decent critical feedback before you publish

You want content that people are going to want to share. That’s not easy and it does take more time. But ultimately it’s worth the effort.

If you’re not sure how to develop content that’s shareable, get in touch. We have content frameworks for proven shareable content.

 

9. Before you create content, do your research

Some links are better than others, but how do you identify which to target?

  • Brainstorm which websites matter most in your space and take a look at the kind of content they’re sharing.
  • Use a backlink analysis tool like SEM Rush, Moz or ahrefs to understand where your competitors are getting links.

With this information, you can create a content plan, to create great content that those influential sites will publish and link back to your site.

Do consider though, that an outreach program like this, can take time, so make sure to schedule that in or consider working with a partner who can help you rise through the ranks.

 

10. Be patient

SEO is a huge area that can really help your growth strategy, but it takes time to pay off. Be patient. It’s something everyone needs to do but things won’t change overnight. The key with SEO is little and often. If you’re planning a product launch, get your SEO in place 3-6 months ahead if possible, so you’re in a really good position and give your launch campaign the best opportunity to be seen.

And if this sounds confusing, or frankly you want to get on with what you’re good at, give us a call: it’s what we do! We’ve got what it takes to get you up the search engines.

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