The 4 Golden Rules of SEO
by Jamie Duncan
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimisation is quite simply the process of getting your website listed in search engine results pages (SERP). SEO is a vitally important aspect of modern marketing, especially for SMEs. In order to get to your website listed amongst the top results, you must follow certain practices, which I have categorised as The 4 Golden Rules of SEO:
SEO Best Practice
- MAKE USER EXPERIENCE YOUR TOP PRIORITY: This one comes directly from Google – “Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines”. With this in mind your website should contain lots of good, well-written content, be easy to navigate, and load quickly. This is a world of instant communication – people no longer have the patience to wait more than a few seconds for a page to load.
- USE THE TOOLS AVAILABE: There are a wealth of free resources available to help optimise your website and boost search rankings. Your starting point should be the installation of Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools for your website (discussed further later).
- AVOID BLACKHAT SEO TECHNIQUES: Google’s latest search algorithm, “Hummingbird”, punishes unethical SEO practices such as link schemes and keyword stuffing. Google is smart – it will remove your site from search results if it detects blackhat techniques.
- BE PATIENT: Building an online presence takes time and hard work- gone are the days of“Page 1 on Google in a day” offers. Google rewards quality, so be sure to follow the guidance outlined below.
The Simple SEO Guide
Obviously the best practice outlined above will only get you so far – SEO is a technical process, but luckily I have outlined a simple SEO guide to get you started. It’s time to put The 4 Golden Rules of SEO into practice:
- Your website must have a clear hierarchy and be easy to navigate. Make use of menus and internal links, ensuring that all of your website’s pages link together.
- It is recommended that your site has a responsive design so it is viewable on all devices – computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones.
- Content is King. Ensure that the content on your website is relevant, well-written, informative, and frequently kept up to date. Blogging is a good way of adding value to your site. Be sure to feature images and videos too.
Keywords, Titles and Headings
Your website must feature the right keywords and phrases in order to get listed in relevant search engine results pages. To put it simply, think of words which users might use to find your website. Are you a personal trainer from Glasgow? Then be sure that your that site includes the term “Personal Trainer Glasgow”. There are a number of keyword tools to help you.
- As well as being well-written, your content must include the key words / phrases relative to your business. Don’t overdo it though, it must be natural – Google will penalise your website for “keyword stuffing”.
- Headings – ensure that you make use of <H1>, <H2> and <H3> tags, and that they contain relevant keywords.
- Page titles should contain your keywords and must reflect the content within.
- Meta Descriptions – another good place to include keywords, meta descriptions give a summary of a page’s content when displayed on search engine results pages.
- Be sure to make use of Title Tags which contain your keywords.
- Add <ALT> tags (containing your keywords) to your images and videos to describe to search engines what they feature.
- Finally, you should try to include your geographical location within all of the above – this will help your potential customers find you within local search results e.g. Web Design Falkirk, Graphic Design Stirling, SEO Services Scotland.
Link Building & Social Media Sharing
Another ranking factor is the number of quality links TO your website, commonly known as “backlinks”. It is also good practice to include external links to relevant websites on your pages too, though the focus should be on your own content.
- Remember, content is king. No one will link to your pages if the quality of your content is rubbish.
- With that in mind, social media is an increasingly important factor in SEO – you must take some time build a quality presence. Share your content and converse with others in the hope that your content is shared and traffic is driven to your website. See my guide on social media management for more information.
- Getting listed in reputable business directories is also a good way for SMEs to start building their online presence. Take Yell for instance, it frequently features in top local search results in the UK.
Be sure to install Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, and Bing Webmaster Tools on your website. They’re free, and have some extremely useful tools to help optimise your site. To get you started, be sure to:
- Create and submit an XML sitemap to help search engines index your site.
- “Crawl” your site for errors such as broken links and ensure your site’s recent changes are freshly indexed.
- Analyse your site’s performance using Google’s Page Speed Insights and Bing’s SEO Analyser.
- “Markup” your site’s data using Google’s Data Highlighter and Bing’s Markup Validator to better promote your website in local searches. This enables you to highlight your location(s) and services, for example.
It is vital that small to medium sized businesses optimise their websites so that they appear in local search results. Some local SEO methods have already been highlighted, but be sure to subscribe to our blog to stay informed of future developments.
- User experience should be your top priority.
- Use the wide range of free tools available to help you.
- Avoid unethical “blackhat” SEO techniques.
- Be patient and work hard – your efforts will eventually pay off.
Thank you for reading. If you found this helpful please feel free to share this article with your friends and colleagues – all feedback is welcome!