7 simple SEO steps for a new website

For the last few weeks on the Startup Britain blog we’ve been sharing simple advice on how to grow your business online.

It’s to give you a taster of the free online business training that 123 Reg has launched this summer.

The training is packed with 60 modules, designed by our experts to teach you all aspects of how to grow your business online. From branding to website plan and build; to driving visitors and using the web to engage your current customers; we cover everything you need to know.

Each module includes a bite sized video and some questions; and you can track your progress as your skills grow.

This week we’re looking at 7 simple steps to set your new website up for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) success.

Let’s be clear. Launching a website and aiming for the top of Google can seem like a mountain to climb.

You’re competing with millions of other sites. Everyone is clamouring for attention. Google consistently changes the algorithm.

But it doesn’t have to be like that.

Optimising your new website isn’t so much about satisfying the latest SEO whims and coping successful competitors. Its about getting the fundamentals right. Because they’ll never change.

What do I mean by the fundamentals?

1. Making a site that’s useful and enjoyable, easy to navigate, and logical.
2. Making sure Google understands what your website is all about
3. Promoting your website in whatever manner works for your brand.

Get that stuff right and you will see your rankings rise.

So what underpins these fundamentals? Read on to learn about seven simple steps on the road to great SEO.

1. Choose an effective domain name

Choosing the right domain for your website is critical. Plenty of great ideas have been sunk by a name that jars. You need a domain that’s unique, easy to remember and easy to understand.

Descriptive domains – like cheap-bar-stools-uk.co.uk used to work well. Not only do they describe what the business does. Google used to rank highly too.

Those days are mostly over – it’s far better to concentrate on a more abstract name. They’re more memorable and are more likely to create an emotional connection with your customers. And that’s the easiest way to build trust.

Your domain also needs to be as short as possible, easy to spell and remember.

When starting out, most of your new customers will discover you via word of mouth. So avoid using letters that have ambiguous sounds, like ‘k’ or ‘z’. People will search for you based on what they’ve heard, so they need to be able to accurately translate those sounds to letters.

If they’ve heard an ‘s’ but its actually a ‘z’ those word of mouth recommendations won’t be able to find you online.

2. Do effective keyword research

Before any copy goes onto your site you need to have a good understanding of which keywords people use to search for the products or services that you sell.

The most important thing to avoid are keywords that are too broad, like ‘shoes’ (if you sell shoes!). They’ll be highly competitive so you stand almost no change of ranking. And those keywords will also bring visitors who aren’t really sure what they’re looking for.

Someone looking for ‘shoes’ might be after men’s or women’s, adult or child, sandal or school – the list almost endless.

Better to look for ‘long-tail’ keywords that accurately describe what you sell. ‘Open toe sandals’ might work better (but only if you sell them!).

3. Get creating

Engaging, entertaining and informative content, that people want to read and share, is what will get you to the top of Google.

The content can be text, image or video based, either on your main site or your blog.

It’s important for two reasons. First of all, people will link to great content since they will want to share it with their audience. Second, users will engage with your website and spend time on your site, something that Google will take note of.

Although you need to use your keywords in your copy, don’t make the copy all about the keywords. Use them in a natural, sparing way.

If you’re running coffee shop it makes sense to talk about coffee on your blog. But don’t drench the copy with coffee keywords. Write for visitors first.

If it makes sense to use a keyword, do so. But don’t force it.

Remember, the primary aim of your website is to persuade your visitor to take an action. That might be to visit your shop. Or buy online. Or share your content with others.

Focus on that goal and let the words flow organically.

4. Make your site look good on all screen sizes, and easy to use

As I’ve mentioned above, Google measures how people use your website. If they see people clicking from the search results page to your website, followed shortly after by a click of the back button, they will assume your site hasn’t served the visitors’ intent.

So on top of writing great copy, make sure your website is a nice place to hang out. Use a design that is clear and easy to navigate on any device. Guide visitors towards taking an action on your site.

5. Make sure your website code is optimised

It’s important to ensure the code on your site is set up to help Google understand what its all about.

Some things to consider:

Make sure there’s only one version of your website. Many sites can be found at both http://www. and http://. This means there are two identical versions of your website, which halves the chance of each to rank well.
Make sure you link your pages together in a way that useful for visitors. When you refer to content on another page it makes sense to add a text link to that page, so people can click through and read it.
Make sure your URLs use keywords that describe what’s on that page, rather than a string of numbers. For example yourwebsite.co.uk/bar-stools/ makes a lot more sense than yourwebsite.co.uk/?p=1234233
Give every page a unique title tag around 160 characters long, that describes what’s on that page with your chosen keywords
Give every page a unique meta description that ‘sells’ that page. This is the bit that shows up beneath your URL in the search engine results. It’s the information people read to decide if they want to visit your site.
Search engines can’t reach images well, so give every image an ALT tag to tell them what they represent.
Create an XML sitemap and submit it to the Google Search Console. This makes helps Google crawl and index your website.

6. Do the technical set up right

There are two vital tools without which you won’t be able to understand how well your site is getting on: Google Analytics and Google Search Console.

Google Analytics will let you know how many people are on your site; how they discovered it; what pages they’re looking at; and at what point they’re leaving. It’s crucial information to help you understand which marketing efforts to increase; or which pages aren’t easy for visitors.

Google Search Console will help you understand how Google sees your site; other websites that link to you; and if there are any problems in using your site.

7. Earn links

Although their importance has been reduced over the last couple of years, inbound links to your website still form the backbone of any Search Engine Optimisation campaign.

Since website owners are most likely to link to useful content, Google uses links to understand which websites are popular and useful within any niche.

So it’s important to generate links from authoritative websites relevant to what you do.
One of the best ways to go about this is by promoting your great content to experts and influencers in your industry. If they read and like what they see, they’ll share with others and may even link to it from their own website.

You should also use your relationship with the owners of other relevant websites to request links to your site. Its something they will be happy to do if they can see the value your content offers to their audience.

That’s all for now

After these 7 steps you need to do a final check to make sure everything is working as expected: Ask friends to use your website and let you know if they encounter any problems.

We go into more detail about SEO, amongst many other topics, in the 123 Reg free online business training.

From site design to SEO, from email marketing to social media, our videos take you through all you need to know to grow your business online.

If you want to learn for free then sign up at 123 Reg.

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