MY 5 SEO KICK STARTER TIPS


Marketing & Business
piece written on the 4th October 2014 by  

A couple of days ago I read an article written by the head of SEO at a well known marketing agency in Cape Town. The article covered his top 5 tips for SEO and I was quite taken aback at the simplicity of the tips. In fact, 2 of the 5 tips are circa-2004 type tips and this left a bit of a stale feeling in my mind. I mean, one of the tips is to leave lots of comments on other blogs and include your link there – uhm, comment spam much?! There are a lot of mixed opinions around SEO in South Africa at the moment and what worries me is when popular agencies publish posts on SEO that offer tips that are outdated and paint SEO as a marketing channel that isn’t evolving. If anything, SEO is one of the most evolving marketing channels in the digital arena.

I understand that everyone’s audience is different and simple tips would be ideal for an audience that doesn’t understand SEO well or at all, but then these tips should be actionable or backed up by case studies. Or at the very least, not be tips from years ago that either no longer work or actually damage your position in the search engines or the amount of traffic you’re getting.

From this I decided to offer up 5 of my tips, they’re not going to be highly advanced tips because that isn’t the right approach for my audience, but they’re going to be tips that I know work, tips that I use every single day at the agency and tips that are actionable.

ONE

Before I touch a website I always look at Google Cache. This allows us to see when last Google properly looked at the website in question and shows us what information it saved. If you perform a cache check and the website looks broken or something is wrong, then you’ll know things need fixing if you ever want your website to perform really well in the search results.

To perform a cache check, you need to open up Google Chrome and in the address bar type in cache:www.yourwebsite.com – as simple as that! Or use this tool.

If your website appears correctly and Google has cached it fairly recently (I guess at least in the last few weeks) then you’ve got nothing to worry about so far.

TWO

At iMod Digital we defined a model that we work on and at the very beginning of the model is a Discovery phase. This phase concentrates on the fundamentals of a site. I always tell people that there’s very little point in spending money and time on SEO if your foundation isn’t completely sound. There are a few things that I do immediately when approaching a new project.

  • Make sure you have a sitemap file on your website. This could either be sitemap.xml or sitemap.html or even sitemap_index.xml if you’re using Joost’s SEO plugin for WordPress. If you don’t have a sitemap talk to your developer, build one freely using xml-sitemaps.com or install Joost’s SEO plugin for WordPress and generate one. Once you’ve got your sitemap make sure you’ve submitted it to Google Webmaster Tools.
  • Create and upload a robots.txt file. If you don’t know how to create one, you can have a quick read of this guide and if you don’t know how to upload it, simply ask your developer. It’s a 5 minute task to fulfil an important requirement.
GWT Sitemaps

These two things ensure that Google is aware of your website’s structure and that your website wants Google to be able to visit it. In other words, you’ve given Google a map and a key to open the front door!

THREE

Now that Google’s able to visit your website and understand it, the next thing you need to do is look at your meta data. This is where things get a little more complicated and I simply cannot explain it all in a blog post, but the fundamental requirement is that each page on your website requires a (meta) title and a meta description. When you perform a Google search and see all the results, the blue text refers to the (meta) title and the black text refers to the meta description – this is what people searching on Google see so you want to make sure they’re accurate and descriptive of what the page is about. There’s a huge element of keyword research and competitor analysis involved in this, but it’s not essential if you’re just trying to do the basics. It’s best to hire an SEO agency to go the full mile if you want the best results, but by at least writing an accurate and descriptive title and description, you’re already a step ahead of your competitor who might not be doing this.

Google Search Result

Here’s an example of a (meta) title and description:

Title: <title>The Official iMod Digital Blog</title>
Description: <meta name=”description” content=”Come and read about our office life and some of the exciting project we’re working on at iMod Digital Marketing Agency.”/>

Including these on your website will boil down to how your website was built though unfortunately and you will need to consult your web designer or developer to get assistance in getting them added.

FOUR

Once I know that Google is crawling the website correctly and showing the (meta) titles and descriptions properly in the search results, then I know it’s time to move onto some other areas that aren’t part of the fundamentals in terms of set up. This is when I look at the content and site structure of a website.

Most websites consist of multiple pages. You might have a home page, about page, services page and product page – this is a 4 page website. Subsequently, this means you need 4 (meta) titles and 4 meta descriptions. I like to take a piece of paper or hop on over to the whiteboard and sketch up the sitemap on the board so I can look at it holistically. Being able to do so allows you to do a few things:

  • Which pages are most important and do these pages have sufficient content on them. My rule of thumb is that every important page should have at least 300-400 words of uniquely written content that is as accurate as possible in terms of what the web page is about. If it’s the “about us” page, include accurately what your company is about, include some information around when you were established, what the companies aims are and so forth.
  • Is there opportunity to add more pages? If you’re able to include another page on your website that could be an important page that has unique content and offers the visitor to the website valuable information then you should include it. Write the 300-400 words of content, determine your (meta) title and meta description and don’t forget to rebuild your sitemap afterwards.
  • Are there any redundant pages? If there are pages that have “thin” content or duplicate content or useless content then either remove those pages or beef them up with some additional content or fresh content.
  • Is there a page or area on the website that gets updated with new content often? In other words, is there a news area or a blog and if not, why not? A news area or blog is an incredible way to add fresh content to your website and this is something search engines absolutely love. Again, apply the principle of rather have a few highly valuable blog posts than lots of “thin” ones. Too many thin pages and your website will suffer. I should also mention that it’s a good idea to update your news area or blog on a regular basis, at least once a month.
Website Sitemap

This exercise takes time, especially on a big website, but it’s an exercise that is incredibly valuable and done correctly you will reap the benefits!

FIVE

So where do we stand?

We’ve given Google a map, we’ve given Google a key, we’ve ensured that our site appears correctly in the search results and we’ve ensured that our pages are important to Google. That’s a pretty good basis to work from!

What next?

This is a difficult one to answer because I can think of at least 10 things, but for the sake of this blog post and to suit the title I’ve had to settle for one.

Set up conversion tracking. I’ve made a gross assumption that anyone interested in SEO for their website will have some form of statistics software running and tracking visitors to the website. The most common being Google Analytics, which is free, comprehensive and updated on a regular basis. If you’re going to invest time and money into SEO you cannot afford to not be tracking the visitors to your website, but more importantly, we don’t just want to know how many window shoppers we have, we want to know how many SHOPPERS we have!

Conversion Tracking is a comprehensive subject, but I wrote a post on Web Africa’s blog that covers this and I’d recommend heading over there and having a read.

Goal Conversions

As I said, these aren’t advanced tips nor are the cutting edge tips, but they’re tips that will bring results and provide you with a sound foundation to your website and it’s from this position that more strategic implementations can take place.

I hope you enjoyed the post, please feel free to share your top tips in the comments below (: