If you’re trying to drive traffic to your site, boost your online presence and increase the effectiveness of your web page, good SEO is essential. Without SEO, your site may well languish deep within the search engines listings, limiting the number of people who find your URL naturally and reducing your chances of online success.
Though some SEO aspects that are tricky to understand, there are others that even internet novices can implement quickly and easily. To help give your site the best chance of search engine supremacy, we’ve put together a selection of the easiest and most effective DIY SEO techniques for you to try.
Keyword and Competitor Research
The keywords you use on your site tell the search engines what your pages are all about. They also help users to find your site when they’re searching the web. Keyword research is essential if you want to ensure your site comes up when users search for relevant terms. Use tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console and Adwords Keyword Planner to help you judge what terms would be beneficial to you. If possible take advantage of keyword URL structures and be sure to write for your visitors and not to get to carried away with the keywords you are targeting. If you have a local target market Include geographic terms (e.g., property development East Anglia) and industry specific local phrases which you know people search.
An old school but still valuable offline tool, can be as simple as asking some not so tech savvy friends and family or a good old fashioned survey in your local village what they would type into Google if they were searching for something specific? Armed with that information and using the tools mentioned on this post to analyse those terms to the best of your ability and see if they are worth the small effort. Only too often this method will come up with little gems that our research and the more internet savvy among us simply overlook.
Don’t forget to pay attention to your competitors, make notes of what they are ranking for and what quality backlinks they have. Take advantage of the best resources in the business such as SEM Rush, Moz, ahrefs, and Majestic.
Create unique content
The search engines love unique content; there have been some studies showing the length of the material matters, indicating that longer more informative posts go much further in establishing you as an industry expert.
Something that’s often forgotten about by small businesses and blogs alike is going through your website replacing any pages, meta descriptions, page titles that use duplicate text, making sure no two pages should say the 100% the same thing. It’s easy to overlook if you have sites with categories, tags and product pages which are using an out of the box SEO plugin or worse, no optimisation at all.
Content optimisation – Headlines, Page Titles, and Meta Descriptions
Optimising on-page factors is easy and efficient. Adding meta tags, meta descriptions and headings to content, making articles well structured, including your optimised images can help to tell the search engines exactly what your page is targeting. Try and make your pages enticing, Brian Dean from Backlinko done a study of 1 million search results back in September. Part of that study indicated that content with at least one image on a page is much more beneficial than not having one at all, from presentation, visual appearance and search engine point of view.
Do not underestimate what h1, h2 ( headings ) and page titles can provide, structured articles or sales copy and well thought out descriptive titles and headings can push your efforts on ten fold.
Don’t be afraid to outbound link to informative references in your blog posts to back up your facts and opinions, linking to other sites information on the topic that your writing about can be the difference between a good piece of content from a great peace. In some instances linking to an authoritative source can add weight to your entire subject matter.
Image Optimisation & Image SEO
When putting images on your website it’s important to remember some key aspects to make them as beneficial as possible:
- Image file names count, make sure your file names represent what the images is about before uploading to your site.
- Ensure that you have “alt attributes” tags on each picture. Alt tags serve more than just an SEO purpose but also gives an indication of what the image was about If the browser can’t load it. Don’t go mental and throw a load of spammy keywords in there, make it sleek, make it meaningful and make it count.
- Make sure your images are in your Sitemap and are crawlable. A common mistake is to block pictures or lazy load them.
Image Physical Optimisation
- Make sure you spend the time to reduce the size of your images before uploading to your website, there are various ways you can optimise efficiently from resizing, saving in different formats and removing meta/EXIF data.
- Reduced image file sizes help towards faster-loading pages. Remember with a 100MB fibre or cable broadband it may not be obvious a page is 3MB or above in size, but there a still massive amounts of people around the globe loading sites with less than 500k internet speeds, let alone mobile users using 3G/4G ( imagine the data you’re making people use ). Images are resource hungry for both loading and web space, on average an image could be reduced between 40 – 90% and it’s still something that most websites fail to do.
- There are many services which offer out of the box image optimisation, services such as Tinypng, Kraken.io, EWWW.io, JpegOptim, Optimus.IO and Gifsicle. My personal favourite is Kraken.io for their vast range of support by developers for an inclusion of their API in so many different platforms like WordPress, Xenforo, Joomla, etc. We have done some sites with 30k – 50k images, and we’ve saved over 10GB of disk space using their API. Anyone that knows their servers will understand if you can save disk space of that kind with no visible reduction of quality to the human eye. It’s worth doing, let alone the SEO benefits of hugely reduced load times.
- Be mindful of your websites max responsive image size requirement and x2 for retina devices to prevent reduced quality.
Check for errors
Broken links, redirect loops and other internal errors can severely damage a site’s SEO. Take the time to look through your website, making sure that every link, feature and plugin is working as it should. As previously mentioned on our post a short time ago ( Destroying your SEO from inside ) there are many tools which we’d recommend for broken link finding. Such as screaming frog, WordPress’s Broken Link Checker plugin, Google Webmaster tools/search console, Link Assistants SEO Powersuite and not forgetting Xenu’s Link Sleuth
The search engines love to see content updated on regular occasions. Adding a blog/article to your website frequently can give both visitors and search engines signals that your site is fresh and active. People often ask what the optimum amount of posts/content per week/month is, in most cases; there is no straight answer to this so we’d recommend writing a post as often as you can while retaining the quality and providing a great bit of information to your audience. Include images, outbound links, phrases and informative copy in every post to give your website a regular refresh.
Don’t forget to show some love to your old content, your material like many things can go out of date and stale, information which was correct five years ago may have changed slightly. Going back to past blog posts, rewriting or updating them to maintain accurate information can be hugely beneficial and gives you plenty of scopes to promote them all over again, keeping your site, your information on point and reference-able.
Sitemaps for users and Robots
Making sure your sitemaps are up to date is hugely important, if you’re using WordPress, you can use various plugins which will automate this procedure but let’s not assume its a set it and forget it function. I will mention various plugins to enhance WordPress SEO further down the article. XML sitemaps give Search Engines like Google, Bing, Duck Duck Go and various others a road map of your website, telling them exactly where to go and how to find it. You could look at it as being your websites GPS navigation.
A personal preference of mine is also to include an HTML sitemap, a sitemap or additional “navigation” which showcases your most relevant pages as a quick reference. Since user experience is a key factor in helping your users understand what your offering and how to get there, your navigation can always be improved.
If 70% of the UK searches now come from mobile devices ( this includes tablets ) then it goes without saying, if your website isn’t mobile friendly then you are already missing the boat. Although responsive designs pass Googles Mobility and user experience tests why not go that one step further. See if people find your website easy to use on their mobile devices, ask what they find difficult to reach, what their aims and objectives would be. In some cases, some bloke in the local pub or your grandma can come up with something that us more technically aware may see as “the norm”. We could potentially and unconsciously overlooking a usability problem that your audience isn’t necessarily comfortable with. If 90% of your visitors are over 50 years old, it’s important to understand your audience and accommodate for that audience.
You would be hugely surprised at the amount of people that still prefer to browse the full viewport ( a desktop view ) of a website and pinch and stretch their screens rather than a responsive native view, could a real user experience be providing your users with a choice of view? Who knows but we’ve done that in the past with great results and feedback.
Link Building and Content Marketing
Many people talk about content and back links as two separate entities when looking at search engine optimisation, but for all intents and purposes, you need one to maximise the other. If you have no decent content, then it is unlikely you will receive natural or manufactured backlinks that are worth getting. If you have no backlinks then your not making full use of your quality content, you are not building any authority/trust and you on the road to nowhere fast. Therefore, when looking at this particular area, it is best to look at them together and incorporate both elements into your strategy. Once your link building campaigns start to show fruits and there is a buzz being created around your brand, your quality content will very quickly feel the benefit with your website traffic!
Backlinks are and will be for some time what make the world go round when SEO is concerned, although they are only one part of the puzzle it’s a significant part. Content and backlinks go hand in hand, but don’t be fooled. Authority and Trust are King, content is something that harnesses what quality backlinks and a well-rounded marketing plan can provide.
Write great content, promote it, gain natural social interactions, acquire natural backlinks and do some outreach to influencers who might find your valuable content good to reference.
Rounded marketing plans work best
Keep it real, this maybe a DIY SEO article but let’s not forget that SEO is only one part of marketing as a whole, don’t treat it like it’s the only thing that matters. Mix your campaigns up, spread your marketing budgets around and create a buzz around your brand at the same time and it will work wonders. I’ve long been a fan of mixing small PPC and social campaigns with SEO as a combination for small and large businesses, why not get the best of all worlds. A combination of offline marketing, social media page promotions, Google Adwords (PPC ) not forgetting Remarketing, Google merchant implementation for products, SEO, content marketing and more….make the difference.
Site speed – Hosting / User experience
Site speed can be quite a punishing and frustrating experience, especially for those stuck on hosting plans with no real scalability on a budget. We like to break it down a little:
Physical Server and page load times
These can be measured by such tools as GTMetrix, Pingdom, Webpagespeedtest, it’s important to understand how to optimise various aspects of your hosting/server depending on what your host allows. Measurements gauge on how a browser renders your page, how many requests is needed to create your web page and how many connections a browser takes to retrieve your content.The tests can measure your page “weight” in physical page size, so like mentioned above if you’re making users load 3mb of data each page load with no caching then you are drowning before you’ve even started.Being able to improve as much of the above tests as possible is highly recommended, whether that be through caching, optimising/minifying/removing scripts, as mentioned before optimising image usage, using image sprites. The higher score you get on the likes of GTMetrix, the better.
Use a CDN service ( content delivery network ) and/or DNS provider.
There are plenty of CDN’s out there to choose from, we use CDN77. An easy to use website and great pricing is one thing but the support and general customer relations seem to follow our own philosophy so that goes a long way our book. Something else to consider locale of your DNS servers, if your target audience is primarily in the UK, then it would be good to have a point of reference for your website in the UK. Having multiple DNS servers is good practice for reliability and response times for your visitors but could also endure more costs depending on your abilities. It can be difficult when you are on a shared host, low-cost VPS or dedicated server which has self-hosted DNS if you are reliant on a 3rd party to help.
If you are on of those people, then I’d highly recommend taking a look at services such as DNS made easy and CloudFlare who have DNS servers all over the world, ensuring your users, regardless of their location will access your site as fast as they can.
Next up, Perceived Page load times
Important in the respect that it’s not measured directly on how fast the server responds, but instead on user experience and how fast a page load is perceived, according to the user. How quickly the site starts to load and how soon after it is interactive enough for a user to use, the goto tool to measure this is Google’s very own; Google Page speed insights. Tips to improve include browser caching, cache assets for returning users, loading as few scripts and CSS files as possible and minify them, loading files Asynchronously, Prioritise requests for above the fold content, again compressed images play a big part in user experience because of the added weight they put on a page.
Code, theme and plugin bloat
The above-mentioned page speed aspects will be hugely dependant on your website, its structure and its code base. It goes without saying if you are working with a small budget, and have chosen a pre-made $40 WordPress theme, from somewhere like ThemeForest. Then it’s highly likely it has a lot more bells and whistles than you realistically need. All those extras soon add up, and you end uploading loads of CSS and JS files making your mission to optimise harder and harder. Same goes for plugins, ask yourself if you need a plugin before installing it if the answer is that it’s not mission critical then don’t install it
- Useful WordPress Plugins to push your SEO to the next level – I was going to add this, but the more I write, the more I realise I’m going slightly off topic and not staying focused 😀 Sorry.. so this will come in a future post. If you want to get notified, please take the time to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Google + and Linkedin.
These basic SEO recommendations just scrape the surface; there are hundreds of ways to optimise a website for best performance for both on-page and off page. It may be a daunting prospect for some people, and others may want to let people us take care of it for them. If you are one of those, enlist our SEO Services or contact us today.