One of the main reasons why start-ups and small businesses create websites is to generate new leads and attract more customers cost-effectively through Google and Bing.
Central to this objective is search engine optimisation (SEO), a process that improves the quality of your webpages and helps you to become more visible in search engine rankings.
If you have recently set up a new website or are in the process of getting one ready to go live, you may be wondering what exactly you need to do to optimise your site for SEO.
Below is a five-point checklist of basics that you can tick off to ensure that your site is built from the ground up with SEO in mind. Implementing the right tactics now will be much easier than retroactively taking measures to align your site with SEO strategies.
Choose the right domain name
Selecting a domain name for your website can be tricky, as you need it to be concise and effective while accurately communicating what your business is about.
This will not only help potential clients to accurately recall your domain but also aid the search engine crawlers that will look at words in your domain for context about what your site and pages are about.
Avoid stuffing too many target keywords related to products and services in here, but do try to include a single primary keyword that you are hoping to rank for in Google’s search results. This keyword should align with search intent. How do you think people will use search engines to find your brand?
One final consideration is that the domain needs to have a unique name. There are a number of easily available tools that you can use to check the availability of names. You can even use advanced tools to see how certain domain names are performing in organic search in your industry.
Decide on your site structure and hierarchy
Establishing a coherent site structure is another crucial part of SEO as it will help Google to find the most valuable content quickly and easily. While you are unlikely to have an in-depth structure set out right now, you should have a basic site map with key content pillars.
You can start with the homepage and then build out with ‘about us’, contact, social media and services pages. Including a blog section is also recommended if you are planning to invest in content marketing in the coming months. Blogs are a great way to organise pages that will provide value for your audiences.
Getting this structure outlined early will make it easy for you to track and organise the content and copy that quickly builds up with a new website, and more importantly for SEO, enable search engine bots such as Googlebot to crawl and index your content so that you actually start featuring in search results.
Start creating content
When you have built the site – either internally or with the expertise of a third party – you can start creating content for your webpages. A good jumping-off point here are any ‘set and forget’ hubs that are unlikely to change in the near future, such as the homepage, ‘about us’ and services pages noted earlier.
Partnering with an agency is an option that you can pursue here if you also need assistance with content creation, a task that can be challenging in terms of time and resources for new businesses. If you do go it alone, just make sure to include target keywords in your copy. A keyword research process will unearth some of the best terms for your brand and product.
Your copy should also be tailored for your target audiences. Try not to be too brand-focused or inward-looking here as you need your site to be a resource for clients and customers. Added-value, engaging content works best with SEO and will give you a better chance of higher rankings.
Finally, set out a content calendar for the next six months or so. While some pages don’t need amendments, your site needs to be regularly updated, expanded and optimised to remain relevant in search.
Consider on-page and off-page SEO
On-page SEO goes beyond crafting engaging content. Each of your pages needs to be optimised for a range of technical factors and best practices. This is because Google puts emphasis on the user experience, which means that pages need to load quickly, be intuitive to navigate, and free of pop-up ads.
Optimising for on-page SEO means that a simple product page should have the right mix of keywords, effective title tags, strong meta descriptions and resized images. You should also consider internal linking strategies and effective use of calls to action (CTAs).
On top of this, you also need to think about off-site SEO, which covers elements such as linking, social signals, and website authority and expertise. These elements can all add up to help search engines put more trust in your pages, which can improve rankings.
Get to grips with data and analytics
Now that you have set up your website and populated it with the right content, you are almost ready to go live. However, before you do, make sure that you are up to speed with the concept of data and analytics and some of the tools that you will be using to assess how your pages are performing in search.
Google makes this relatively easy for newcomers with its Google Analytics and Google Search Console software. Both of these tools will enable you to keep track of important metrics and will hopefully help you to ascertain whether your efforts are driving a positive return on investment.
One last recommendation is to always be proactive with your SEO efforts. You should be looking to read industry blogs and incorporate best practices, conducting bi-yearly audits to flag any issues, making improvements where possible, and essentially doing everything you can to improve SEO.
With all that done, you can now launch your site and reap the rewards of a best-laid SEO plan that should boost the visibility of your brand and get even more people clicking through to your pages.