Your website isn’t just your virtual headquarters on the Web, it can also be your most powerful marketing platform. In order to create a website that really works, you need to take the requirements of both your human visitors and those of search engines into account. You want your website to look good, of course, but the most stunning web design in the world is going to be of little value if no-one ever sees it because it’s buried deep in Google’s page rankings! Whether you’re creating a new website from scratch or revamping an existing one that’s underperforming, there are certain best practices to follow. Here we highlight the main areas to focus on and some of the pitfalls to avoid.
Creating a website for the first time and new to SEO?
If you’re choosing to create your own website with a “drag and drop” style content management platform, then we recommend you go with WordPress. This is because it has an inbuilt SEO tool called Yoast that takes care of some of the more technical aspects like sitemaps, canonical and noindex tags for you, which makes it particularly suitable for those new to the world of SEO. If this all sounds far too confusing, then you can always consider outsourcing your search engine optimization to a dedicated digital marketing agency such as Ruby Digital.
Add some free tools to your SEO belt
Going through every page of your site manually to check for errors and come up with relevant keywords simply isn’t necessary with all the free reporting platforms out there. Make sure you have at least some, and ideally all, of the following tied in with your website:
Identify your keywords and learn how to use them
Every potential customer starts their search journey by entering a question or a key phrase into their preferred search engine. The whole point of SEO is making sure that your website ranks for the keywords your ideal customer would enter when they’re looking for a service like yours. This means you need to understand both your customer, and what search engines consider when they decide which pages provide the most relevant information for their users, and therefore deserve to be at the top of results.
Start by creating an intuitive list of your top 5 to 10 keywords related to what you’re selling. If you’re a freelance artist looking to draw in more clients for example, this might be things like artist commissions, freelance artist, local artists, portrait painters, etc. If you’re a plumbing business, this might be the main services you provide, like drain cleaning, fix burst pipe, bathroom plumbing, geyser installation, etc. You can now use tools like Google’s Keyword Planner to dive into which of these keywords you should focus on, find related searches and synonyms that you can build new content around, compare the average volume of searches for each keyword versus how much competition there is to rank for them, and basically get to grips with the best ways you can create a website that brings in organic traffic.
On-page versus off-page SEO
Search engines rely on two main sets of data when deciding how high a page should rank for a specific keyword or phrase. These are on-page SEO – making sure your website is well structured, follows best practices, and provides relevant results – and off-page SEO, which is about other sites pointing to your website. This might include things like guest blogs and mentions on social media, which search engines use as an indicator of trust. Your marketing strategy should focus on both, but on-page SEO is the best place to start because you can make the changes you need to quickly.
You should make the process of navigating your website as clear and simple as possible for both human visitors and search engines. Creating a sitemap on a piece of paper is an excellent place to start, because it forces you to create an organized and logical path for your users and search engines to follow. It also allows you to better visualize what your home page and navigation tabs should look like. It also prevents you from accidentally creating orphaned pages – URLs that can’t be navigated to from the home page, and therefore won’t be crawled by search engines as part of the whole, but treated as a standalone website.
And finally, make it pretty
The biggest and most common mistake people make when creating their first website is addressing visual appeal before they’ve got the right structure in place. Design elements should augment a website that is easy to navigate, loads quickly, and provides relevant content. That way, you’re all set to impress both your visitors and the search engines you need to get your content out there!