What does "good SEO" actually mean?

One thing clients tell me often is that they want "good SEO" in their website.

Undoubtedly, everyone wants to feature on page one of a Google search, but this rarely happens overnight, and even if you do actually hit #1, you probably won't stay there forever... unless you work really, really hard at it!

SEO is organic, taking time to establish, grow, spread and return results, and it requires ongoing maintenance of your website (in particular, it's content), to keep you noticeable.

For those of you who are wondering why after only one day of going live with your brand new website, you're not anywhere to be found on Google...

On average, it takes between one to four weeks for Google to index new web pages using their incredible crawler software and powerful algorithms. It may help to explain just how a Google search actually works - here's Matt Cutts:

Pretty full on, right?

So, how do you go about achieving this for your website?

Some basic beginner tips.

Well, in planning your website for starters, pay particular attention to the content that you want to put into it. Is it meaningful? Is it insightful? Does it have a purpose? If you answered "yes" to at least one of these questions then you're already on the right track.

If your content doesn't make sense, lacks context or simply doesn't describe your goods and/or services clearly, Google treats your site like a B Grade movie (ie. not worth seeing).

1. Types of content

Website content can consist of text, images, links, video, audio, maps and other design elements - these are things that you and your customers can see.

The hidden elements - keywords, phrases, tags, alternative text labels and descriptions are things your customers cannot see, but you can see in the back end of your website.

Appropriately executing and maintaining these elements is what ultimately achieves a good SEO ranking, so it's important to get into a habit of structuring your content from the get-go.

2. Structuring content

Did you know that a web page's design can determine whether or not Google considers it A Grade?

Poorly constructed pages that do not use appropriate heading styles, lack image labelling, and have confusing navigation can hinder your chances of appearing in a search result, simply because poorly constructed pages do not follow the format of what Google wants.

Your web pages should be styled consistently, using appropriate heading, paragraph and other style tags. For example:

Title (h1)

Subtitle (h2, h3)

Paragraph (p)

Cool image, right? (This is actually my son who gives me A LOT of creative inspiration!)

Visually, you can see images like this on your website, and so can your customers (if they know how to find you, that is!) But, Google sees it differently. It "reads" the image through a piece of descriptive text called an 'alt' tag (short for alternative text) - in other words, a label of what the image is. It also reads the images' file name.

Now, how many of you have uploaded an image and are guilty of leaving the file name 'image01.jpg'? If your filename and image tags are not descriptive they will not stand out when Google is looking for them. Using the image above as an example, naming the file 'child-playing-in-brightly-coloured-ballpit.jpg' and giving it a similar alt tag description, 'Child playing in brightly coloured ballpit.' increases the chances of it being found because the filename and the tag both contains key words that describes the image. Notice that in the description I did not use the words 'my-son' - this information is irrelevant (unless of course, I was super famous. Then the description would change to, 'sarah-bells-son-playing-in-brightly-coloured-ballpit').

These tips will not only help to structure your visual content and make it easier for Google to read and rank your website, but your customers will also be able to enjoy a seamless user experience (UX). Your designer (ahem… Studio Manta) should ultimately create a style or theme template for you using cascading styles sheets (CSS), which will keep your design consistent.

3. Don't overdo it

Some advice on relevance.

In your discovery of keywords and phrases, you might be thinking it's a good idea to place hundreds of them within each page of your website, with the hope (and the somewhat logic), that the more you place within the page, the more you'll be found on Google, right? Sorry, when it comes to SEO, that's probably one of the worst things you could do. In this case, its quality over quantity. Too many keywords and phrases = SPAM = nobody likes you. Stick to between 8 - 15 words and this should keep you safe.

This also goes for repeating content on multiple pages of your site. Links that point to content on other pages is good (it provides ease of navigation), but make sure you’re not repeating yourself with the same content on every page (apart from a header, footer or sidebar) - it won’t help with navigation and can make for a confusing user experience.

4. THE HARD PART - TO BE active

Google loves it when you've got something new to share, and maintaining a good SEO ranking requires you to be active online - updating, sharing and writing content constantly for your business. Yes, this is the hard part, and for people who run small businesses, it’s the part that not all of us have very much time for (but it is so important if you want to climb the SEO ladder!)

Some of you may be wondering how you’ll come up with enough creative content to share. You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to content, and you don’t always have to be the one writing it either. It could be as simple as sharing an interesting article that you found useful to your customers, writing a product or experience review that your customers would benefit from, or you could even share quotes, images and videos that relate to your business. The content possibilities are endless.

The more you practice, the more creative you’ll get.

So share it, like it, pin it, blog about it... basically keep your site fresh and interesting by starting a blog or being active on social media - and make sure you have links to your social media accounts on your website to push your content and gain traffic.

It may also help to hire a copywriter or subject matter expert to assist you with writing (like Studio Manta!)

Last of all, be patient. 

If you lay some of these basic foundations for achieving SEO, you're more likely to start getting noticed online, and maybe, just maybe, you'll end up on page one.

Good luck!

Cheers,
Sarah