Introduction to Search Engine Optimisation
When someone is searching the internet for a product, service or organisation they will use a search engine such as Google to find the information they need. A higher ranking in the search results provided by the search engine will give you a greater chance of people visiting your site. Optimising your website to obtain a good search ranking is called Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
The hard work starts now
Google checks a lot of things-over 200 factors!-to determine the ranking of your website. The good news is that you don't necessarily have to do all of these things to rank well in Google. Think of SEO as like earning brownie points with Google so they bump you to the front of the queue. Google want to present the best results to their users so they want to be sure that your content is what people are looking for. There are more than 200 ways to earn brownie points-the more of them you do, the further up the queue you'll be.
If you have a Rocketspark site, a lot of the 200 magic factors are done for you automatically. But many of the other ones require some ol' fashioned elbow grease to get the best results.
While we've made it so easy to get online with a new website and we've built lots of features to help you rank well the hard work starts now if you are genuinely serious about ranking well in Google.
This guide introduces the essential elements we recommend you follow to start your journey of ranking well in search engines.
Part 1 - What do you want to be found for
Part 2 - Laying the right foundation for good SEO
Part 3 - Build on your solid foundation
Part 4 - Looking for a short cut? Pay for Google Adwords
Part 5 - Monitor your progress
KEYWORD TOOL GUIDE - How to see what people search for
Part 1 - What do you want to be found for
1.1 Decide if you want to do SEO yourself
Before embarking on your SEO journey we recommend considering if you do the SEO work yourself or engage a specialist to help you. Once you've read our SEO guide below you may decide that you simply don't have the time or inclination to do this SEO work yourself. Perhaps before you start reading the guide below you may like to check out our guide on whether to engage an SEO specialist.
1.2 Use Flint
Rocketspark's new SEO helper tool, Flint, aims to streamline the SEO process. Flint will help you choose your keywords, set up your description and title tags, and help you ensure that your keywords are showing up in your content. You can activate Flint by following this help guide: Flint (Rocketspark's new SEO tool). If you're using Flint, you can skip to step 2.4 of this guide.
1.3 Understand what your customers are searching for
Underlying the complexity of SEO is the simple fact that the more relevant your site is to the search needs of your customers, the more likely you are to feature higher up in search engine results. Therefore, it is important to understand your customers and the words and phrases that they are likely to be using when searching for the product or service that you offer. Here are some steps to follow:
Think about your target audience and what words and phrases they will be searching for
Find out which search words and terms are the most popular - See our guide for using Google's Keyword tool to discover the most popular terms.
Choose the keywords and phrases that have good local search volumes and do a search of these terms in Google to see how your competitors rank.
Now decide which keywords are likely to be best for your site.
You want to try and rank better than your competitors for particular words and phrases or you may be able to identify words or phrases that are not well utilised and focus your SEO efforts on these words. If you are operating in a crowded marketplace you may find it best to start with a more specialised focus such as a specific location or a specialist part of your service.
Part 2 - Laying the right foundation for good SEO
2.1 Target a different keyword theme on each page and be realistic
Don't chase the same keywords on every page, optimise for a range of variations across each content page of the site. Don't spend any time optimising pages that aren't natural landing pages (eg contact page).
If you are operating in a very competitive sector you may find it best to focus initially on longtail keywords. Longtail keywords are the less popular phases but can still have quite a few people searching for them. There is no point going for mega competitive phrases right from the start if the site doesn't have any weight behind it to actually get there.
Learn more about Longtail SEO.
2.2. Complete the Get found (SEO) section of your dashboard
You can choose to complete the Get found (SEO) manually, or use Flint, Rocketspark's free SEO tools and helper. Flint can help write keyword-rich content for you, saving you time.
If you're not using Flint, the next 3 items are entered into the "Get found SEO" page of your Rocketspark dashboard and need to be completed for every page of your website. Be sure to include your 3 keywords for each page whenever possible.
1. Title tag. The title tag appears in the search results and is the name that appears in the top border of every open internet page. It is important that the page title will make customers want to click the link. Make sure that the page titles on your site are unique on each page. Your Page Title should be no longer than 65 Characters (including spaces). A pipe character (a vertical line) is a good character to separate text without taking up too much space
e.g. Make your own website | Beautifully simple websites
2. Description tag. The description appears in the summary of results that search engines provide. The Descriptions are very important as they are what a customer reads to decide if they want to click on any of the search results provided. Your page descriptions should be written as normal sentences and should entice people to look at your website. You should have a unique description for every page on your website to maximize your ranking in search engines. Including a call to action is a good idea e.g. Phone 0800123456
3. Enter Keywords. Enter up to 10 keywords that best represent the content of the page. Each keyword should be separated by a comma. These keywords no longer appear to have any tangible impact in search rankings but it's worth plugging them in just to be on the safe side if the algorithms change.
To view an example of what your Google listing might look like using the title and description tags you've written, click "View example Google listing" link that sits beneath the keywords.
2.3. Ensure content on the page has keywords in it
One area of SEO that is often overlooked is ensuring your web pages actually contain the phrases you wish to search for. From time to time we do have clients contacting us about why their website doesn't rank but on closer inspection, we see that the site doesn't contain the phrases they want to rank for, including their business name.
Use the target keywords throughout the content of your page. You need to make sure that the keywords you use on a page are actually relevant to the content of that page so that the search result is actually useful to the customer. Avoid keyword stuffing as Google can tell if the content is not actually real.
TIP: You want to make sure that the content on a page is not duplicated on your other pages. You can use
www.copyscape.com to check for duplicate information.
For each page, you only want to optimise for a maximum of 3 keywords and focus on those keywords instead of trying to include every word that ranked highly.
2.4 Ensure headings are unique and keyword-rich on every page
It's good website design practice to break up content on your site. Maximize your headings for SEO value by ensuring that your headings contain relevant keyword phrases. We recommend only having one H1 big heading per page so it is clear to search engines what your page is about.
For example, if you are a builder, on your services page rather than having a heading that says "Services", have a heading that says "Our building services in Cambridge".
If the use of H1, H2 and H3 headings is a new concept to you please see our guide for using headings correctly on your website.
If you are using our blog and shop features be sure to include keyword-rich product descriptions in the shop and the title of your blog.
2.5 Ensure consistency between SEO elements.
For each page you want to use the same keywords consistently in the title tag, H1 heading, body text, meta description and the URL of the page. By applying consistency you are providing the search engines with a clear message as to what a page is about.
2.6 Add Alt Text on images
Alt Text is the term for text which is hidden behind the image and is used to describe the image to Google. Many people use Google image searches to find what they are looking for so if you add Alt Text to an image you are providing a clearer signpost to Google as to what the picture is about.
Google is easily clever enough to identify images without Alt Text but when you've got over 200 factors to help with your ranking you may as well take every opportunity to rank well and it only takes a few seconds to add the Alt Text. See our picture editor guide to see how to add alt text to your Rocketspark website.
2.7 Set up 'Google My Business'
Whenever somebody searches online, Google figures out where that person is located at that precise moment and provides local results. For example, let's say you're running a café. Any time somebody in your neighbourhood searches for "café" (or "coffee" or "food") Google will show them nearby cafés, including yours-if you're listed on Google My Business (previously known as Google places for business).
Setting up Google My Business also enables your business to be listed on Google Maps when people are searching for something via Google Maps' search function.
Learn more about the benefit of Google My Business and how to set up Google My Business
2.8 Submit your website to Google
We recommend submitting your website address to Google. It's quick and easy; just type in your website address into Google's tool purpose-built for crawl requests. But Google states upfront that there's no guarantee this will move the process along any faster. On the other hand, it doesn't hurt anything so it's definitely worth doing.
Part 3 - Build on your solid foundation
Once you've laid down the foundation for good search rankings you can't stop there if you are serious about ranking well. Ranking well in Google takes time and effort so keep reading on and don't stop just yet!
3.1 Encourage links to your site from other sites
Having links to your site from other sites is a very important way to increase traffic to your website. The links to your site provide an extra path to your site and also have a significant role to play in how search engines rank your site. It is important that the links to your site are from sites that are logically related to your website in some way.
There are many ways to get links to your site and here are a few ideas to get you started:
Ask your suppliers and customers if they would put a link to your site on their website. You could provide a link back to their site in return as long as the reciprocal link is relevant.
Participate in online communities and forums related to your area of business. You could answer questions and provide links back to your own site as a place to get more information.
Share pages and blog posts on social media and encourage others to share your content via their social posts.
Find out who is providing links to your competitors and try and get a link from them too. You could do a search in Google such as "link: www.yourcompetitorsname.co.nz"
Write articles on your site that others want to link to. You are an expert in your area of business and there may be related non-competitor businesses that want to help customers by directing them to an article that you have written.
Avoid anything that offers you 100's or 1000's of links for a small fee. These link farms can often negatively affect your results. When it comes to SEO, if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.
For more information, check out our Link Building blogs:
Link Building for Dummies - Part 1: What is it?
Link Building for Dummies - Part 2: Natural Link Building
Link Building for Dummies - Part 3: Create Your Own Backlinks
3.2 Link to key content within your site
Rather than just linking to everything in your site through the main navigation, link to content from within other content. Search engines like links and it gets people spending more time on the site in places they might otherwise not find.
When creating links use good anchor text. Anchor text is the text that people click on as a link. For example, rather than having Click here as your anchor text, type learn about about how to create text links.
These links provide great calls to action through your site and will help increase conversion too.
3.3 Write great content in a blog
Once you've laid down the foundations for good SEO, blogging is quite possibly the best activity SEO activity you could undertake on an ongoing basis. Sites that rank well typically need plenty of text content, especially to be able to pick up the long tail searches.
Focus on high-quality content that really helps your clients. Google has very clever algorithms which are very good at detecting the quality of your content. If you have content that is genuinely helpful to people, both your customers and potential customers, you will increase your chances of ranking well.
Google hasn't provided guidance on the recommended length but a study by SERPIQ found that pages above 2,500 words featured more frequently in top 10 search rankings.
We've created a number of articles on blogging which we recommend that you read if you are genuinely serious about ranking well in search engines.
Read our blogging articles:
Why you should bother with blogs
Blogging for business - 8 principles of writing blogs to get more traffic
Why and how to promote your blog on social media
3.4 Keep creating fresh content
Google wants to provide the best content to people using Google so that people keep using Google. Google recognises that there is some content that is best served fresh and will have a bias towards some types of fresh content. Read our blog on the importance of fresh content to learn more.
3.5 Share your content on social media
While there is some debate about the true impact of social media posts on your search rankings there is a much greater chance of someone liking your content so much that they add a link from their own site to your site.
If you want to rank the best in your industry it helps if you are the best in the industry. If you are committed to running social media activities ongoing basis it will really help your overall website traffic and definitely complements your SEO efforts.
Check out our guides on social media for business.
3.6 Moving from an existing website? Set up redirects
If you are changing to Rocketspark from a previous website the URL structure of your site is likely to be a little different. It is possible to set up a 301 redirect which tells Google that the old URL has been replaced by a new one. As it takes time to build up your search rankings it's helpful not to lose this historical search value.
If you'd like to set up 301 redirects for any old pages please follow the steps in this help guide.
Example to send us:
/contact-us now goes to/page/contact
/services now goes to /page/building-services
3.7 Set up Google Webmaster Tools - Google Search Console
If you want to take your SEO activities to the next level. You can use webmaster tools to improve things that are already working rather than targeting new phrases. Check out our user guide for setting up Google Google Webmaster Tools Search Console.
Part 4 - Looking for a short cut? Pay for Google Ads, or use Google's free Google Shopping listings
4.1 Paid Ads
If you are interested in doing a Google Ads campaign we recommend that you check out the information and tutorials www.google.com/adwords. With Google Ads it is very easy to spend a lot of money for limited return so you may consider engaging an Ads specialist to help you. Please contact us if you'd like a recommendation of an Ads specialist to talk to.
4.2 Free Google Shopping listings
Google has recently introduced free online product listings on its Google's Shopping tab.
Learn more here.
Part 5 - Monitor your progress
We recommend completing SEO health checks every 2 - 3 months to make sure your website is still ranking well. We recommend reading our SEO Health Check post.
Read our SEO blogs for further detail and guidance on doing SEO well. If you are really serious about ranking well we recommend reading them all.
How to see what people search for? Ads keyword planner
- If you have not used Ads previously you will need to create a Google Ads account to access the tool. At the time of writing, you don't need to spend anything to use this tool but you do need to set up an Ads account (Hint: if you select "Switch to expert mode" when signing up, you can bypass creating a campaign to get an Ads account).
- Once you're in your Ads dashboard, select Tools & Settings -> Planning -> Keyword Planner.
- Select Discover new keywords and type your desired keywords into the box. Make sure you select the correct target country to get more relevant results.
- Click Get Results, at the bottom of the form
- Scroll down to the Keyword ideas section.
- In the results, you can see what words or terms are the most popular for your search. From here, you can make some more informed decisions about what keywords you want to target on your site. A good rule of thumb is to aim for something with low competition but high average monthly searches.
Can I hide a page from being found on Google?
There might come a time when you are wanting to hide a particular page from being Indexed by Google meaning customers cannot search for it and find it when looking for your business. This could be a private business only page or an internal messaging page for example.
To hide your page from Google you will need to first access Flint (Rocketspark new SEO tool). If you already have access to Flint you can check out our help guide on how to hide your page from Google.
How to access Flint (Rocketspark's free SEO helper)