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SEO 101: 10 things you can do today to grow your online presence

Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

The Smarter Team is made up of business and technology journalists who write to offer insights to small and medium businesses about technology, business know-how and emerging trends.

Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

The Smarter Team is made up of business and technology journalists who write to offer insights to small and medium businesses about technology, business know-how and emerging trends.

Highlights
  • Over the years, getting ranked in search has evolved to a sophisticated model that’s near impossible to trick.
  • Start blogging, making sure you add variety to your content mix.
  • Provide products and services that your customers will love and talk about on social networks and review sites, making it easy for Google to reciprocate with a better rank.

For many, SEO can seem like a foreign concept, better left to tech brands. But there are very real benefits to having a smart site, and easy ways to go about it.

Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO for short, isn’t a new concept. If you’ve got a website, you’ve no doubt thought about how you could make your site rank higher in search engines like Google, DuckDuckGo or Bing.

A lot of SEO has changed over the years, though. Getting ranked in search has evolved from something that was easily manipulated – by spamming various links and stuffing websites with keywords – to a much more sophisticated model that’s near impossible to trick.

Because Google holds the majority share of search traffic, much of current SEO practice focuses on ranking factors that influence your website’s position on Google.

And today, Google takes into account hundreds of factors when deciding how to rank your website for specific keywords. Here are ten of the most influential ones, and how you can take advantage.

man holding coffee cup looking at tablet

1. Develop your business’s keywords

Your business’s keywords are a set of words that set your business apart from the rest. They are the queries that searchers will type when they’re looking for you. To come up with keywords, start with general and obvious terms that apply to your business and then test these terms with a online keyword tool to get other, related terms that apply to your site. Also include keywords that are specific to you.

Once you’ve made your list, start using these words throughout your site. But not too much: a rough guide to work with is 2 per cent keyword density – that is, 2 per cent of all words can on your site can be keywords. Too much more and your strategy might work against you.

2. Write better website copy

With SEO copywriting, it’s all about the headline. The headline’s purpose is to attract people to click on your website or blog post. If you’re unable to create attractive headlines, your search rankings will suffer, putting all of your good hard work to waste.

It really pays to take the time to identify who your target audience is, research your competitors and use an SEO keyword planning tool for your content.

Thankfully, there are a few online keyword tools that can help you rank better, such as Google Keyword Planner, Ahrefs, KWFinder, SEMrush and Ubersuggest. All of these tools show how easy or difficult it is to rank for a specific phrase, the volume of traffic a keyword gets and the number of backlinks your competitors have. In turn, they’ll help you to produce better website copy that’s SEO-centred.

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3. Be mobile friendly 

With figures from Deloitte’s 2019 Technology, Media and Telecommunications Predictions report forecasting smartphone sales to reach 1.5 billion across the world in 2019, it makes sense that your website should be easily accessed and navigated from handheld devices. In fact, Google has announced that websites that aren’t optimised for mobile will suffer in its rankings.

Many modern website designs already take this into account and can scale to any screen size, but if your website doesn’t look right on your device, it’s a good idea to take care of that by having your in-house developer optimise your site for mobile devices and tablets. Furthermore, it’s always a good idea to double check that your site works perfectly on all major browsers, such as – Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox and even Opera.

4. Start blogging

A consistent factor for appearing in search is how frequently you produce content. If you publish relevant content that your target market finds useful, you’ll encourage new and repeat visitors to your site. With blogging, SEO is more than just writing quality content on a regular basis. You should always try to add some variety to your mix, like short-form content, long-form content, case studies, infographics, or even quotes from trusted thought leaders and influencers. This ensures that your brand always remains relevant.

Publishing content on a regular basis signals to Google your site is live and active, and the frequency of keyword material in your blog will have you ranking for keywords and sentences you didn’t even think of.

5. Leverage social

Having Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts can be good for nurturing relationships with your target audience, but there’s a downside. If you’re inactive on social, your lack of inactivity will show up in a Google search. This means that if you haven’t tweeted for a year, and you have 10 followers, your customers will see this when they search for your business.

Instead, leverage the power of social media and generate content that compels people to share and talk about you. You’re proving to the world (and Google) that you’re in demand and relevant.    

6. Don’t overthink it

It’s very easy to get caught up in the technicalities of SEO and forget why your website is there in the first place. While it’s important not to discount the hundreds of technical SEO requirements for greater rank opportunities (way too many to mention here), a bigger factor is how much value you provide to people who come across your website.

By simply providing top-quality products or services, efficient conversion processes, clear communication and outstanding customer service, you’ll see the resulting positive sentiment towards you splashed on social networks and review sites, making it easy for Google to reciprocate with a better rank.

7. Title tags and heading tags

A title tag is the copy that shows up as the link in search results and in your browser’s tabs. It’s good practice to include your brand name and words that are specific to the page. Keep it short so it fits, too.

Heading tags tell search engine crawlers important information about a page’s contents. Use H1s for headlines and H2s for subheadings. H1 is the most important for crawlers, so use it only once per page – think of it as the main headline.

8. Meta descriptions

The term ‘meta description’ might sound complicated, but it really isn’t. Simply, it’s the two lines of copy underneath your website’s clickable link or URL in search results. Without this copy, the search engine might use random, meaningless copy from your website. Keep the meta description to under 155 characters and make it a call to action, like ‘Find out more about our…’ or ‘Start your no-obligation trial today!’. Or get inspired from other meta descriptions by searching your favourite brands and businesses.

To change the meta description you need to edit your website’s HTML, but if your site is built on Wordpress or Squarespace you’ll be able to do this easily.

9. Behind the images

What’s in an image isn’t that important from an SEO point of view, but the code behind the images is: the alt tag, image title and filename. Alt tag text is basically a simple description of an image, like ‘Man smiling at tablet screen’. An image title is the text that appears when you hover your cursor over an image. It should be more specific than alt tag text, such as ‘Businessman smiling at iPad’. The filename is just that: the name of the file. Make it descriptive, lower-case and hyphenated – for example, ‘businessman-smiling-tablet.jpg’.

10. Last but not least: URL structure

Using the most relevant words in your URLs is another way to get keywords in the sights of search engine crawlers. Make sure each page is a logical extension of the resource ‘path’ – the part straight after the domain name, starting with a forward slash. Like image filenames, keep it all lower-case and hyphenated, such as ‘smarterbusiness.telstra.com.au/customer-experience’.

*Originally published May 12th 2015. Updated October 24 2019.  

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