By the time they come to me looking for SEO help, it’s always too late. [SEO = search engine optimization, the ability for a site to show higher up on search engine results, like Google, Bing or Yahoo]
So many SEO clients insist on coming to me after they’ve already built their site, thinking I just need to finesse a few words and they’ll be ranking #1 on Google. Virtually every part of your website needs to be optimized for effective SEO, not just the text!
Let me save you some aggravation and layout a few things you need to know about building an optimized site in basic terms.
Here are the top 5 things to have in mind as you are building a site:
- Images need alt text added to them so they appear in image searches
- URLs should be clean and use relevant keywords
- Each page should have a purpose and not overlap with other pages
- Your site needs to look perfect both on a smartphone and on a laptop
- Your site needs to load fast
I’m sure SEO experts are going to tell me that I’m missing this or that. But I’m not talking to them, I’m talking to you, someone who hasn’t worked for years in digital marketing and needs to know the basics to make sure they build their site right.
Images need alt text added to them so they appear in image searches
Have you ever done a search and looked at the image results? How does the search engine know what images to show for your search question? Anytime you upload an image to your website you have an option to add ‘alt text’ – which are essentially keywords associated with that image.
Make sure every image on your website has alt text! It’s another way for your site to appear in the search results.
URLs should be clean and use relevant keywords
Most people don’t notice the URL of the sites they are on since it’s not really relevant – but search engines read that information just as much as the text on the page below. Most content management systems (what you build your pages on) are savvy enough to let you choose your own URL text, but if you don’t take advantage of this, you might be left with a URL that looks like this.
Basically, you want your URLs for your site to explain exactly what the page is.
This URL tells the search engines that the page is one of the services pages, and that it is talking about sales and marketing. I’m not going to give you examples of bad URLs, because I just want you to know how to do it right.
You can see more great URL optimization tips here.
Each page should have a purpose and not overlap with others
I’m currently working on a series of sites about garage door repair services. The pages have already been built and it’s my job to clean up the text and optimize for the relevant search terms. The problem I’m having is that so many pages say the same thing. There are 3(!!!) pages that talk about ‘garage door services’, in addition to other pages that talk specifically about ‘garage door repair’, ‘garage door installation’, etc.
As you are setting up your site, you only need one page per item or service you are trying to sell. It’s okay to have a category page called ‘Services’ where you mention each service, then link to a sub-page where you go into more detail. What’s not ok is thinking, “Oh, I want to rank for garage services, so I’ll have 3 pages that talk about just that – then my site will definitely show up for that search term!”
Wrong, your site will look spammy and also Google won’t know which is the right garage services page to show when someone searches, so they will show none of them.
Your site needs to look perfect both on a smartphone and on a laptop
Google has made it very clear that they value the user experience so much on mobile devices, that if your site doesn’t work right on mobile, they will penalize you so that your site doesn’t show up on desktop searches.
The image below from Broadbandsearch.net shows us why – in total, people spend much more time on their phones than on their computers.
When building your new site, this means making sure mobile optimization is built into your site. That any forms you build for use on the desktop can also be filled out easily on a smartphone. There are plugins and other ‘things’ you can add to the backend of your site to help make this happen.
Your site needs to load fast!
No one is going to wait more than 3 seconds for your site to load – especially if they are on a smartphone. Google and Bing know this, which is why they are going to penalize your site if it takes too long to load.
The common culprits for slow-loading pages are:
- Images are too big
- Plugins that make your site look cool also cause it to load slowly
- Too many adds on the page
- Bad hosting
Please help me get the word out and save digital marketers and their clients a lot of time, energy, and money.