Fifteen things you can do to right now to have a more successful website
Search Engine Optimisation can be a daunting process. With complicated rules and industry lingo, it can be difficult to find your footing – so we’ve put together a simple checklist you can use to make sure your website is covering all the bases. You may find it easier than it seems!
Domain name with a .com.au extension
If your business focuses on local customers, it’s important to register a domain name that corresponds with your country of operation. This allows visitors to identify you as an Australian business, and helps search engines understand that your page is more relevant to searches within Australia. And when somebody filters their search results so they only see pages within Australia, .au domains are given exclusive focus.
Domain names that end in “.com.au” are only available to holders of Australian business credentials like an ABN. They aid in SEO because they signify your status as a genuine Australian business, and are the ideal way to communicate your country of operation to both humans, and Google. You can learn more in our article, How to register a domain name in Australia.
Title Tag containing important search phrases, unique on each page
Your website’s Title tag contains text that will be displayed as the title of a visitor’s browser window, in bookmarks and favourites, and in tabbed browsing. When every page of your website has the same title – for example, nothing but your business name – then the content of each page is much harder for Google to understand.
It makes sense; if Harry’s website includes one page about car detailing and one page about tune-ups, the title “Harry’s Garage” doesn’t say much about either! To help search engines understand the content of your pages, each one should have its own unique title. The best titles facilitate SEO by emphasising the most important search terms for that particular page, while still being pleasant for humans to read.
For businesses targeting customers in their local area, it’s useful to include the general name for the locality. If you have a business that primarily services the Sydney area, including “Sydney” in your title will help make a page appear more relevant to search phrases that include the word “Sydney”.
Well-written page content that’s relevant to important search phrases
Search engines evaluate your pages based on the information they contain. As a general rule, pages with very little information (fewer than about 300 words) are considered less useful. Put simply, a page with more words has a greater chance of satisfying a searcher than one with fewer words. Each page of your site should be rich in information in order to satisfy as many different visitors as possible. The content of your pages needs to be unique, useful and interesting enough to engage your visitors. An engaged visitor spends longer on your site, which increases your chance of making a sale and shows Google that your page was relevant to that visitor’s information request.
For SEO purposes, it’s important to make sure that your content frequently features words that are relevant to your search terms. The words which occur most frequently on a page will be used by Google to predict what that page, as a whole, is about. If your page features too many words or phrases that are not relevant, your page will look like it’s primarily about something else, which will most definitely hurt your rankings in relation to the goods and services you are offering.
This doesn’t mean cramming keywords in wherever you can, with no regard for quality! Natural language is important, as Google doesn’t want to prioritise pages that are difficult for visitors to read (or are generated by an automatic script). Keep in mind what your page is about, stay focused on that topic, and use your key phrases when it is appropriate to do so. You don’t have to be a literary genius, but it’s important for SEO that your content appears to be written by a human, with a basic level of care.
Original and unique content on every page
Our fourth SEO rule is to avoid repeating text between pages. Whether you’ve copied generic sections of your own pages, copied content you found online, or used “boilerplate” text provided by a third party, duplicate text is a big red flag for search engines.
Unless it’s in the header, menu, footer, or in a sidebar, all the content on your page should be unique. If it’s within your budget, you should have professional SEO-focused sales copy written for each page, to maximise the focus on important keywords.
Meta Description contains important search phrases relevant to page content
The Description meta tag contains descriptive text that is often displayed to search engine users in the SERP snippet that appears for your page. It’s your chance to tell users what your page is about at a glance, and persuade them to click on your page instead of others. It’s important that the description is well-written, relevant and succinct. You have to be concise! The search engine will normally show only about 150-160 characters of your description in the SERP snippet – with any further text being cut off.
Make sure you include the words of the search phrases your page targets and mention your locality. A clear and relevant description will usually be a good way to increase the click through rate on your search results.
Business Name, Address and Phone number (NAP) appearing on every page
When customers are looking for a local business, your address becomes priority information. Placing your location and contact details in a prominent position – such as in a header or sidebar displayed on all pages – helps visitors verify right away that they’ve come to the right place. It also makes it easy for them to contact you, which can make the difference between getting an enquiry, and getting put in the “too hard” basket!
Search engines also look for your NAP info in order to verify your status as a real business. When your business details are displayed prominently and consistently, Google is more likely to see you as a genuine local business. That means you’re more likely to show up in search results and on maps, when your customers look for products and services in their area.
A fully completed and verified Google My Business Listing
Google complements local search results with a map showing relevant businesses in the area. Customers can immediately see the exact location, contact details, and opening hours of the most relevant businesses. Map results are displayed prominently, even before text listings, so ranking highly in map results can be a huge benefit to your exposure.
To make sure your business shows up on Google’s maps, you must create a (free) Google My Business listing. Google will take steps to verify your location, so it’s important that your listing is accurate and honest, and matches the NAP information provided on your website.
Be sure to fill out every available field, as completed listings are prioritised over partial ones, and provide a useful description that includes your key search terms. Google also lets you grant your IT person or SEO consultant access to manage your listing, while still maintaining ownership yourself.
Other local business directory listings
Local business directories (otherwise known as citation sites) are a way to boost your search rankings! When search engines find your business information listed with multiple trustworthy sources, it helps to establish your authenticity, which means you’re more likely to rank highly in search results.
However, try to avoid directories that appear to allow dubious practices – for example, allowing multiple listings for one business, or allowing links that don’t include the rel=’nofollow’ attribute. These directories might be flagged as disreputable by Google, and might hurt your rankings rather than helping. If you’re unsure, your SEO professional can help you verify which directories will provide positive associations.
Many of the most valuable citation sites allow their users to review their listed businesses. Being listed on a site that allows reviews is a further validation that your business is legit because it opens you up to being reviewed. Shonky businesses will tend to avoid listing themselves on sites that allow reviews, as they are likely to accumulate negative reviews. Therefore, if you have been listed on review sites for many years and accumulate only positive reviews, there is a good chance that your business is legitimate. It can be assumed that being listed on citation sites that allow user review will have a positive effect on your search engine rankings.
NAP consistent on all listings and pages
Search engines are smart – but not that smart! If your NAP (Business Name, Address and Phone number) appears inconsistent across your pages, or has errors in one of your directory listings, Google may see it as a different address. Worse, it might think you’re trying to cheat by using slightly different contact information to create multiple listings. It could even think that you are an dodgy business, that keeps changing its details in order to avoid being tarnished by a poor reputation
To maintain a strong and positive local business profile, keep an eye on your NAP and directory listings and make sure they’re accurate and up-to-date. Always use the exact same language; don’t list your name as “Trina’s Hair and Beauty Salon” on one site and “Trina’s Hair & Beauty Wollongong” on another. Also, format your address the same way every time, if possible.
No spammy inbound links to your website
Inbound links are fantastic for SEO. If you can get your content cited in a blog post or have customers recommend you on social media, your content will appear more relevant and trustworthy to search engines. In general, the more other pages connect to you, the better.
However, you can’t just go making your own links (or paying someone to make them for you!). Inbound links coming from unrelated sources, disreputable sites or fake social media accounts will suggest you are attempting to game the system. Links from poorly-managed business directories (such as those not using the rel=’nofollow’ attribute) and other low quality sites can suggest “link farming”.
If search engines, like Google, believe you are doing anything underhand, they will penalise your website and your rankings will suffer. Quality links are earned, and come from related pages or genuine recommendations. You can certainly encourage your customers to talk about you, but if in doubt, stay away from any methods that seem questionable.
Links that contain relevant anchor text
The links you create on your site need to be relevant and informative. Links assigned to generic text like “click here” don’t tell your visitors – or search engines – anything about the content they lead to. At best, these links are uninformative; at worst, they look misleading and may be judged suspicious by Google.
Instead, when linking from within the content on your pages, try to use links that are anchored to relevant words that describe the link’s destination; for example, replace “click here to find out more” with “read our article on Search Engine Optimisation”. Well-designed links will help establish that your page is trustworthy and informative.
The main menu on your website should also contain relevant anchor text. A menu that includes anchor texts such as home, about us, products, services, and contact provides no indication as to what the site is about. Websites with only a few pages will benefit greatly by having a main website menu that includes relevant anchor texts.
Outbound links only to good quality pages with relevant information
Just as you want inbound links to be relevant to your page and come from genuine sources, any outbound links (to pages that aren’t part of your site) also need to be relevant and authentic. You don’t want to look like you’re part of some link farming strategy, after all!
Just like internal links, outbound links should use relevant anchor text to give the visitor a fair impression of where the link will take them. For better SEO, don’t make lots of links to unrelated sites – stick to clearly-labelled links you expect your visitors will find genuinely useful. Never allow links to suspicious sites, as connecting yourself to disreputable pages can easily endanger your rankings by association.
Image tags with relevant alternative (Alt) text
Alt text appears on elements in a website – most commonly images – as a placeholder description for when images are turned off or can’t be seen. This is particularly valuable to vision-impaired visitors, and those experiencing slow or interrupted loading times. It also helps SEO by letting search engines understand more about your content, since they can’t normally understand the contents of an image file.
Because of its importance to certain visitors, alternative text is also part of international web design standards. Pages that follow standards are rated more highly by search engines because they perform better under a variety of conditions, meaning they’re more likely to be useful to a greater number of individuals. Whether you are designing your own site or hiring a professional designer, appropriate use of images and alt text should be considered a necessity.
Responsive Web Design
Pages that are responsive are able to adjust their layout and scale to suit a variety of devices. That means that your website can perform consistently and look good across desktop, laptop, tablet and phone displays – without the need for a separate mobile-targeted version of the site.
Responsive design is important because visitors want to be able to access your page using their preferred method, not change their device according to your design. If a customer opens your page on their phone and finds it can’t load properly, it’s unlikely that they’ll go look it up on their laptop instead! The typical behaviour is to go back to the search results and choose one of your competitors.
Google recognises this behaviour, and it learns that your page wasn’t useful to that visitor. When this happens often, its thinks your page is less relevant to the search phrases those visitors used, so your rankings start to go down. When you have a responsive, SEO-focused website that performs well on any device, your reputation rises over time – and so do your rankings.
In most circumstances, if you implement all of the above, your website should be successful. Above all, if your business employs a web designer or IT manager, make sure they’re informed about SEO and best practice design! A well-informed IT professional is the best asset you can have when it comes to search engine optimisation.