SEO Essentials In Under 10 Minutes
Recently, Maile Ohye, developer advocate on Google’s Webmaster Central Team posted a video sharing “SEO essentials for startups in under 10 minutes”.
Having rocked the online world somewhat with its Panda and Penguin updates (search algorithm changes), it is interesting to hear straight from Google itself, on what constitutes good SEO practice.
Here’s a list of the summarized points mentioned in the video. Basic but essential.
1. Select WWW or non-WWW
Some webmasters may not realize, but www.yoursite.com and yoursite.com are not the same!
Because search engines treat them as different sites, and may see them as duplicate content.
Another issue is there will be backlinks pointing to each site, and hence their link value to your main site will be diluted.
Action step: Choose either one of WWW or non-WWW (no difference between each one), and do a 301 redirect telling search engines which domain to index.
2. Verify Ownership in Google Webmaster Tools
Google Webmaster tools have improved a lot, and it is an extremely powerful tool that you can use to address any indexing issues with your site.
It also provides key diagnostic data and statistics such as crawl errors and top search queries.
Action step: Sign up there and enable email forwarding to receive critical messages from Google (e.g. hacked, malware, crawling issues)
This should not be taken lightly, as speaking from personal experience, the email notifcation from Google alerted me to malware on my own sites. This allowed me to take prompt action and get my site back up fast.
3. Domain Background Check
Who knows, maybe the reason for your low rankings could be due to a bad reputation with Google brought about by certain activities from the past?
This is especially so for businesses which bought already established domain names that have a number of backlinks
Action step: review the internet archive, check your site’s backlinks, check your site’s Google cache date, and find out how many times the ex webmaster changed hosting services (too many times = red flag).
If you happen to find that it was previously a spammy domain, try to take as much corrective action as possible and then submit a reconsideration request to Google through the Webmaster Tools.
After ensuring so, you can refer to the webmaster guidelines for design and content guidelines, technical guidelines, and quality guidelines
4. Webmaster Tools: Fetch as Googlebot
The primary purpose of this tool is to view how your site looks to Googlebot (Google’s web crawler). This can help you troubleshoot a page’s poor performance in search results.
E.g. The Googlebot may not be seeing the right content, or there may be some wrong coding in there.
The tool can also be used to submit a URL to its index, capped at 500 per week.
This is useful if you have recently made some important updates to your pages and need it refreshed in Google’s index as soon as possible.
5. Include Analytics Code
The point of this step is to start collecting your data early. Afterall, we shouldn’t be digging a well only when we’re thirsty!
This is so that when issues arise, you can use your analytics data for quick reference. This data can also be used as a signal system.
E.g. You notice a sudden drop in traffic based on your analytics data, and it could be due to several possibilities. Irregardless, it is a signal to start investigating.
Action step: Set up your Google Analytics account and install the code on your website. It is free and it packs one hell of a punch.
6. Site Design
Good SEO is about making your site user friendly, and so it is essential to first consider who the users of your site are when designing your site.
For many businesses, there will probably be different types of users, and you have to accomodate all of them. NOT saying you have to “speak” to any and everyone, but at least ensure you meet the needs of all your relevant users.
Some questions to ask of your site: If a user lands on a page on your site, can he quickly figure out where he is? Can he easily navigate to where he want to go?
Each page should also be focused on 1 logical topic, and which is obvious to the user.
7. Define Your Conversion
The key here is to make a relevant conversion (taking your most desired action) on every page, and don’t force users to make extra clicks.
e.g. you might want a user to sign up to your newsletter, contact you, buy your product, etc on every page.
8. Copywriting/Information on Each Page
a. Include relevant keywords naturally into your text.
Find out the query terms the average user use to find your product/service via the Google keyword tool.
b. Also ensure that the information you provide answers your visitor’s questions.
E.g. Your visitor may ask, is the product reputable? You could use reviews to anwser that concern.
c. Every page should include:
- Unique topic
- Unique title (displays in search results)
- Unique meta description for the snippet
- For non-dynamic sites: keywords in the filename, lowercase and hypen separated
- Descriptive anchor text for every link
Example of a non descriptive anchor text: click here for clickTRUE’s search engine marketing
Example of a descriptive anchor tex: click here clickTRUE’s search engine marketing
9. Potential Pitfalls
a. Hiring a rogue or shady SEO
If they guarantee any rankings, that’s BAD news.
b. Participating in link schemes or buying links to pass PageRank
c. Focusing more on site fanciness than having indexable/searchable text
d. Site speed
An Akamai study found that 2 seconds is the customer “acceptability” threshold for e-commerce sites.
As for Google, it aims for under a half second. The reason for the focus on site speed is that the longer your site takes to load, the the more likely the user will click away = not user friendly.
Action step: here is a list of steps (provided by Google) you can take to improve your site speed
10. Ranking Well
Check that you rank for your company name, preferably at the #1 position with site links shown.
Should you want to rank for other terms, you can use the Google Webmaster Tool’s search queries.
If the product/service you sell is new and no one searches for them, focus your efforts on finding an audience on existing forums, blogs or social media sites.
Most importantly, to rank well and stay on top, provide an awesome product/service, then generate buzz.
11. Social Media Marketing (SMM)
Maile addresses SMM in this video, as she states that many startups ask if they should invest their time on social media.
They should, as a form of diversifying their web traffic and getting more visitors to their sites.
However, resources are limited and so,
a. It is essential to connect users on social media sites to entry point of conversion (getting them into your conversion/sales funnel).
b. Businesses should focus on where audiences hang out, and not try to cover all the social and web 2.0 sites
c. Businesses should also play to their strengths, e.g. allowing employees who are better/more passionate about social media to be in charge of SMM (caveat: not always true! see some cases of hilarious social media gaffes here)
Do I Really Have To Do All That?
Well, you can see that in order to get your website SEO ready (and we are not even talking about keeping your ranking high up on the first few pages of your local Search Engines!), you will need a strong committment and knowledge to get things going. Of course, if you prefer to focus on growing your business and let the professionals handle your SEO, we can most definitely help!