SEO Lesson One: How it works and running a website health check

Howdy folks and welcome to your first instalment on how to ACE the google search engines and creep up their mythical heights…

Not sure what SEO is? – Read my introduction here – then come back to do some hardass LEARNING.

I know from talking to my lovely clients that people often feel scared / overwhelmed by SEO, but I promise it’s not all coding and meta tags and scary sounding techy acronyms – it’s most fundamentally about people, about understanding what they’re looking for and making your site be brilliant at providing them with answers.

How SEO works

Search engines find answers. Full stop.  They do this by finding and cataloguing all the content on the internet – in webby words this is  ‘crawling’ and ‘indexing’. Then they orders the results they find by how well they judges a site’s content to match any particular query (and this my dears is ‘ranking’).

Pretty clever huh?! But they need our help, and if you take the time to make it easier for them to find you in the most relevant way –  then you’ll perform better in the search results. Simples.

There used to be all sorts of underhand sneaky ways to fool search engines – this is called blackhat SEO – this doesn’t really work anymore. Search engine technology is improving all the time and the googles of the world got wise – so don’t be tempted to trick or steal your place in the rankings. Unfortunately a lot of the quick fix cheaper SEO solutions out there will employ these techniques – and you need to be really careful as, worse than ignoring blackout SEO, google will penalise and potentially even blacklist sites found to be using it. This could be death for a website and/or business so please don’t employ an SEO outsider unless you’re sure on what practices they employ to boost your ranking.

The main principle of modern SEO is to be authentic, to make your content clear, brilliant, and relevant. Do this and good ranking will follow.

So how do I improve my SEO

There are some boring techy things you can do to help your SEO – I’m  not going to write about those today because A) I’d send you all to sleep and B) you’d probably run screaming for the hills, so instead  I’m going to talk about a few simple ways you can really help your SEO and your website’s user experience…

Our first port of call is running a…

Website health check

1) Is your site being found???

First we need to check that google is finding all the bits of us that we want to be found (oooh errr) … And indeed not finding or ‘indexing’ bits that we don’t!!

A really nifty little trick is to enter the following into the google search engine

Site:putyourwebaddresshere.com

(obviously replace ‘putyourweaddresshere.com’ with your website!!!)

Did this and Google, the little helpful beast, will display the all the results it has stored for your website. Hurrah!

So what did you find?

Is your site not showing at all?

Agggggh – why is this?? Well it might be for any number of reasons:

  1. Your site is brand new… Google can takes months to find your site via its little spidery crawlers so if you’ve recently launched it may well be that it hasn’t located you yet!
  2. Your site isn’t linked to from any external websites. Links are very important in SEO and are a key way that google uses to work out if your site is safe and authentic. If there are no external links pointing to your site it might judge you to be a bit dodgy… sorry! I’ll be talking LOADS about how to create links in a later post so stay tuned.
  3. Your site’s navigation makes it hard for a robot to crawl it effectively. How your site is designed means there are lots of dead ends and pages that are tricky for those little google spiders to find… Again more on how to fix this later…
  4. Your site contains some basic code called crawler directives that is blocking search engines. If none of the above are true then this may well be the case. get in touch with your developer and ask them to check it out for you!
  5. Your site has been penalized by Google for spammy tactics… Oops – did you pay some nameless type some pennies to do some magical SEO fix? They may well have done more harm than good I’m afriad. Use the Securi SiteCheck tool to work out what to do next.

Some of my pages are indexed – but some aren’t

This may well be due to point (3) above, in which case you need to create more fluid links to that particular page (create links in your site copy, or have it as a main option on your navigation) more on this below….

Something else you can do if this is the case is use the fabulous (and free) google search console. With this  you can submit site maps to tell google what you want showing up and what you don’t. If you have a WordPress site download the plugin ‘Yoast‘ it will sync with your google search console account and automatically create a sitemap for you clever little bean. The free option is perfectly adequate and will help you manage your SEO in lots of other exciting ways (more on this later).

Google Search Console (and Yoast if you’re using it) will flag up any crawl errors and give you some helpful guidance on how to tackle them. They’re fantastic tools so get using them!

Making your site easy to navigate

Making content easy to find on your website won’t just help your google ranking it will also help your users’ engagement… win win! Imagine that you’re the little spidery crawler – ask yourself this: can the bot crawl through your website, and not just to it?…

  • Is any of your content hidden behind log ins
  • Are you creating links within your site to its other pages
  • Is content hidden within non text media like images, videos, GIFS

How to make sure your site is being Indexed properly

That’s the crawling taking care of – now the indexing… We want to make sure that we’re being catalogued right…

A big part of determining where your page will rank for a given query is how well the content on your page matches the query’s intent. In other words, is your content a good match for the words that your target user typed into the search engine. Does your content help fulfil the task the searcher was trying to accomplish?

Your ranking is defined by how important Google judges your web page to be by three main factors:

  • how high the quality of the site is in terms of user experience
  • how well the content matches the search term
  • and how authentic the site is in terms of the quantity and quality of links pointing to it.

We can improve all of these things!

User experience:

So how does google work out how happy or not the user is in your site?

Google is many things – but its not a mind reader so it judges a user experience by analysing a number of factors that tells it how easy your site is to use, or how useful people find its content. All of the below count towards this diagnosis:

  • How many clicks you get through from search results
  • Your Bounce Rate (whether a person sticks on your site and explores it or bounces straight away after looking at your homepage)
  • How long a user stays on your page for.
  • ‘Pogo Sticking’ (if someone clicks through from a google search and quickly clicks away and opens a another search engine result)

Google analytics is a supremely useful tool to allow you to see the stats behind all of these features of your website for yourself… Once you know how people are using your site you can make changes to improve the site’s performance. Maybe you need to improve your site description (the words that appear in google search results) to encourage more click throughs, make your homepage more tantalising and full of doorways through to other parts of the site to decrease bounce rate etc. I’ll be posting more about this soon so come back to pick up some great tips on how to make your site more engaging and keep users on it!

So that’s all for your first lesson folks. Hopefully you now know how to run some useful diagnostics on your site to work out where it’s working and where it’s not! Next time I’ll be talking about how to use keywords and make killer content!

Remember if you want to have a chat about how to improve things on your website just get in touch! I love a good chat!

 

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