As a child one of my favourite pastimes was using our old, beaten-up typewriter (remember them?) to compose fictional news reports on anything I could think of.
Once “filed” I would then cut out this often badly typed text that was usually caked in Tipp-Ex (OK, I’m showing my age now) and paste the thoughtfully-penned articles onto a sheet of paper to form my very own newspaper.
But after such dedication, hard work and effort my publication would usually end up in the bin after my parents and friends had given it a customary read purely out of courtesy.
Had somebody told me that in a matter of a few (several) years I would be able to create a digital version from the comfort of my own bedroom that would be accessible to millions, not only would I have not had a clue what you were talking about, I would have almost certainly screwed up my latest edition and waited impatiently for this thing called the internet to arrive.
It’s easy to take websites for granted these days as everyone has one – but in the same way that I would try and catch the attention of anyone I could get to read my “newspapers”, doing likewise online requires certain skills – or at least some knowledge of what we in the industry like to call “SEO”.
Here are 10 things you ought to consider when helping people find you online.
1. Understand how SEO works
You might think you know the basics of Search Engine Optimisation, but knowing just how it works for your site is a different matter.
So think of your website like a cake.
Your links, paid search, and social media acts as the icing (and maybe the cherry) on the top, but the content, information, content management system, and infrastructure act as the main ingredients that form the cake. Without all of this, your cake (website) will be tasteless, boring, and nobody will even want to give it a try.
2. Be aware of what search engines are looking for
Remember, search engines work by referring users to websites that that are most relevant to what they are looking for.
When trying to gain maximum exposure for your site, you need to consider how can you build your website in a way that will please both your visitors, as well as search engines – helping to grow your web presence.
If your site performs to its best ability, is authoritative, user friendly and contains good, original and informative copy – then you are well on your way to achieving this.
3. Make sure you use your own domain
If you are using a free WordPress or Blogspot-based domain then I’m afraid there’s little chance of increasing your search presence.
Well, simply due to the fact that people assume that if you’re really serious about your website, then you’d get your own name and host it yourself. And as the likes of Google only want to point to websites that are considered serious and trustworthy, an original domain name is a must.
4. Provide original content
Keep in mind that everything Google does revolves around providing their customers with relevant and useful search results – that’s the whole point.
If you are solving problems that people are searching the internet for help with, then it is likely that you are going to get shared on social media and ranked higher by Google. So the most important thing you can do to improve your SEO is create massively useful content that answers the questions that people are looking to answer.
And remember, content doesn’t have to be limited to copy. Videos, images, photos and even podcasts can all be easily shared. The more shares you get, the more likely that you’ll become an authority in your field.
5. Build relevant links
One of the most common ways to build effective backlinks is to write top quality content and then guest post on the best blogs in your niche. However, remember, don’t guest post for the sake of it. Be selective.
Likewise, always be careful of the sites that you link to, in terms of domain name and authority, as this can ultimately have a knock-on-effect to your own site. Link to authority websites that you’d want to recommend and are relevant to your content.
Building internal links to your OWN pages can be really valuable too (just like we’ve done above!). So don’t be shy, link to content you have produced as much as possible.
6. Install a sitemap
One of the easiest things you can do to increase traffic is install a sitemap.
This gives a full map of all your posts, pages and archives and automatically updates at regular intervals, submitting changes to Google, Bing and other search engines on your behalf.
It works like giving them a map of your site and the more they explore your site, the better chance of it being indexed properly.
7. Interact with blogs
As well as requesting backlinks you can also use your own initiative and comment on other people’s blogs.
Some well thought out input on a highly ranked page not only gets you more traffic, exposure and new relationships – it will also work in the same way as a backlink.
Write some interesting and provocative words that will engage with its readers. If just small percentage of the readership click on your link that could mean hundreds of extra visitors – as well as a relevant link to your site.
8. Embrace social media
Social media isn’t just somewhere to post your holiday snaps or talk about what you got up to at the weekend.
Sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+ are now one of the most valuable tools in any SEO campaign, so much so that Google now looks to social media as a signal of an article’s authority and relevance. If thousands of people are tweeting about something, then it must be something pretty good, right?
The best way to get tweets (or any form of social shares) is to build a loyal following and write killer content that people just love to talk about and share on your behalf.
You should also get to know the big players in your niche by casually building a rapport with them and sharing their content. This increases the likelihood that they will do the same for you further down the line.
9. Use Plug-ins
The great thing about websites now is that you don’t have to be a computer “whizz” to produce a really smart and great-looking site. And there are plug-ins available that can make even the most basic site appear professional and well maintained, as well as looking after all your SEO needs.
The WordPress All in One SEO Pack is a great example. It fine tunes your page navigation, avoids duplicate content and can even help with things like Google Analytics support – as well as being free and simple to use.
10. Utilise meta data and title tags
These are a largely overlooked tool in the world of SEO – and yet they’re probably the most important. Make sure yours are unique and talk specifically to that page and all of the content in carries. While meta descriptions have no longer have a bearing on optimising for keywords, they do act as a vital sales pitch in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
And then there’s your title tag. This should define exactly what you have on your page and what you want to rank for. Just be sure to stay within Google’s regulations for lengths on titles and other meta data.