Since the arrival of the Internet, it has marched further into differing areas of our lives, much of what came before has been modernised to make better use of the capabilities enabled to us by technology.
Data sorting and search have become vastly more powerful tools than ever before. Digital search has replaced phone directories, maps and newspapers as the primary source of information on a daily basis. Google, arguably the leader of the field, provides rich, resourceful information to users with just a few words. With Google’s approach to make finding information easier to get access to, search has become the backbone of the Internet for the majority of technology users.
Search is perhaps the primary method for people to find you and your work online, which makes your ranking on search engines extremely important. Although aiming for that coveted first page result in a broad search isn’t necessarily realistic to start out with, you will find that there are quite a few methods you can try to improve your placement.
Unfortunately, getting to the top of a relevant search in your field isn’t as simple as you might think, with key search engines like Google continuously updating their search algorithms to keep results pertinent (and presumably to keep SEO experts on their toes!) Short of stumbling on quirky, unexpected tricks to land yourself at the top of the rankings, there is much that you can work towards to ensure higher results.
Below is a list of my six recommended methods you can use to improve your visibility in search results.
First, take some time to consider your audience, what key words would they need to enter into a search engine in order for them to find you? If you were a camping supply company, you might consider ‘tents’, ‘camping’ and ‘outdoors’ to be your primary search words, but think also about other terms people might use in order to find you: do you offer a particular niche product which separates you from your competitors? Perhaps you offer the lowest prices or focus instead on the best, most high quality goods? Grab a pen and paper and take time to plan which key words you would most like people to associate with your product, business or brand.
You should preferably aim for a mixture of broad and niche terms. If you have a new website, going broad may not always be the best choice, you will be competing with many other websites which use similar terms and may have been around for considerably longer than yourself. Going back to my example of the camping store, there are many large camping supply companies already in the market, so starting out with a niche product range or attribute may be a good way for this new business to get noticed. Keep in mind too how you yourself use search. Searches for broad terms such as ‘camping supplies’ will always return broad results, perhaps you are looking initially for outlets or businesses that can meet your needs before researching prices. Conversely, somebody searching for ‘buy Vango Compact Gas Stove’ is practically ready and waiting to purchase, they have done their research and know exactly what they want.
Once your website has been live for some time, It is important that you research and keep on top of the key words you use on your website and in your communications. If yourself or another member of your team is involved in the administration of your website, you will be able to find the search terms that people are using to land on your website from search engines. You can either use built-in server facilities like AWstats (video) or implement tools like Google Analytics in order to find out such information. Once you have a better idea of the ways people are landing onto your website, you can begin to see how your website matches up to the keywords you initially considered people would find you with.
If knowing your key terms is the first step, then associating your website and communications with those search terms is beginning to put those key terms to work. Enrich links to your website by adding relevant images, descriptions and titles to your website’s meta tagging to ensure search engines and users are clear about exactly what you offer. Internet users won’t typically see any of your meta tagging on the screen, they instead provide information to search engines and social networks about your website to provide a better experience for users. Have you ever shared a link on a social network and seen that the title, a short description and a thumbnail image of the page you wanted to share had already been pulled in? That is a result of good meta tagging.
Ideally you should aim to tag each individual page of your website with unique tags, the title should be different and the description should relate precisely to that page’s content. If you are selling products, be sure to set that products image as the meta image tag so when shared, users will have a good idea of what they are going to be looking at once they click on that link.
It would be poor practice to use meta tagging to lie or mislead about what is to be found on a page of your website in order to broaden your search terms. Instead, try to create unique parts of your website which can broaden your outreach rather than attempt to cram all of your keywords onto one page.
There are many practical guides online for how to apply correct meta tagging to your website, this article from Google gives the best advice straight from the market leader.
Whilst meta tags on your website are invisible to people browsing your website and prove the value of your website to a machine, your content is totally visible and will provide much of the reason that real humans will find, link to and return to your website.
With many search engines now preferring to display the content of web pages in search results over the generated meta tags, content is arguably fast becoming a much stronger reason for search engine ranking than simply tagging your website correctly (although of course, both are important). If you create quality content that is sharable and which people will want to return to, not only are you placing yourself as a market-leader but enhancing your search-ability. More variety = more keywords, so keep this in mind whilst writing for your website.
Consider my hypothetical camping outlet from earlier, if they list products on their website, customers will find them on search through the use of search terms. However, if they were to create quality content, say a users guide for each product, unboxing or how-to videos or even a camping-focused travel blog, they would dramatically increase their chances of being talked about on social networks and being picked up as important by search engines. As it turns out, Google ranks longer-form pieces highly so if you do write content for your website, aim for 1500 + words which appears to be something of a sweet spot.
Create quality content for your audience which will enrich their visit. It would be disingenuous and frankly, a bit bizarre for my hypothetical camping outlet to post pop-music videos or click-baity links to their blog cheaply in order to appeal to broader audiences. You will not only damage the trust your audience has placed in you, but the authenticity that search engines consider you to have within your industry.
Good quality content will ensure that people will want to link to your website. If you give your readers something interesting to send to their friends or return to later, they will. Since the advent of social media, search engines now have deep, constantly active depths of sources to plunder for links, providing their algorithms real-life, relevant information in order to determine what people find of interest and which sources are creating the most interesting content.
Links both to and from your website are hugely important to search engine placement. Create trust with your audience by referring to your sources by linking to other websites where appropriate. If you sell products, link to the manufacturers website or if you write informative pieces like this one, link to other sources online that you yourself have used for research or which your readers might want to follow-up with. The number of links which point back to your website provide search engines with knowledge about how trustworthy and pertinent a source you are, so give other people and website owners reason to link back to you and it will help search engines learn that your website is relevant and trust-worthy.
As mobile-search becomes more prevalent, so too does search based on geographical location. Register early on with business directories and websites which list or compare businesses in your market. If locality is important to your business, register your business on localised directories such as Yelp or Google My Business and be sure to include your geographical location into your website keywords to ensure you appear on local-area searches.
As internet use diversifies further by device, it is now more important than ever that your website responds to screen size, ensuring readability at any scale — 40” HD screens right down to smartphones. In April 2015, Google changed their search algorithms to give preference to mobile-friendly websites, meaning that your website must now be easily readable for users on all screen sizes to place highly in search results.
If your website was coded by hand, converting to a more responsive layout may not be the easiest option and could take some time to work on — a full website redesign may even be in order to ensure easy operation for anybody who accesses your website. If you use Wordpress, Squarespace or another kind of easy-website design tool, you may find that you need to change your theme or settings in order to enable responsive changes to your website.
I now design all websites for my clients using responsive techniques because I feel that it is better to be adaptive to screen-size and provide full functionality for all users from the get-go than to bolt that functionality on later. Redesigning your website from scratch whilst putting mobile-users first could prove costly, but the benefits are starting to far outweigh the negatives. With increased mobile internet usage and preference being given to responsive website by search engines, now may be the right time to ensure your website is adaptive by screen size.
The ‘overnight success’ is a commonly believed myth. Digital technology can make us feel that success can be achieved at a rapid rate, yet it remains a myth. It can take just one day to create a website and set up social media accounts for your new product or business, yet it can take a lot, lot longer to appeal to both your potential audience and search algorithms.
For a newly launched website, you may not see results on day one, or even day one-hundred. The key element here is patience. Focus your energies on creating great, quality products and services whilst also adding further reasons to drive traffic or links to your website. Be sure to improve your website’s code and ensure that it is properly tagged. Regularly test your keywords and respond to how people are finding your website. Link to other websites where relevant and give others reason to link to you.
Keep doing what you’re doing and be patient. You’ll do fine, I’m sure of it.