Achieving a great search engine ranking is quite often the main problem experienced by small businesses online, and as a result it can often mean that a business doesn’t survive.
There are other ways to get good quality traffic to your website such as through pay-per-click advertising or social media websites, but if you are able to achieve that much wanted 1st page listing with Google then it can literally propel your business forward with limitless possibilities.
The level of difficulty of achieving a 1st page listing varies depending on the amount of competition you have in a particular area of expertise. The fewer sites that are competing against each other obviously means the greater the chance of hitting the top spot.
Search Engine Optimization isn’t something that has a quick turnaround, with even the professional SEO companies telling their clients that it can take up to 12 months to see any real difference.
It’s not all doom and gloom though as there are a few quick wins that will help you on your way, and here’s the top five.
1. Do your keyword research.
It sounds simple, but you need to identify the keywords that your target audience is using when they visit sites such as Google and Yahoo. Sadly, the keywords you ‘think’ they are searching for are probably way off the mark.
The quickest and easiest way (not to mention free) to research the endless possibilities and identify the most common keywords in use for your product, service or business is to use the Google Keyword Research Tool.
The longer you spend identifying the correct keywords and implementing your in-site SEO around those keywords the greater your chance of success.
2. Write a unique and accurate Title and Meta description for every important page on your site.
The Title and Meta description of a web page are the two most important aspects of SEO work you can do.
The title of a web page indexed with a search engine appears in search results at the top of a listing and is usually underlined in blue. This same title also appears at the top of your web browser window. Google as well as other key search engines often uses the Meta description, not usually seen by visitors, as the descriptive text that appears underneath the Title link on a search listing. Add the two together and you have a kind of advertisement for that specific web page.
If your page title is longer than 70 characters then the search engine will truncate it (shorten it) which could potentially result in important words and phrases being cut off, and for that reason try to ensure you keep titles short and to the point.
Interestingly, when it comes to a search engine determining what the web page is about, they don’t actually take the Meta description into account. The main reason for using Meta descriptions is to get a ‘searcher’ to physically click on your search engine listing.
Make sure you include important and relevant keywords within your Meta description as a ‘searcher’ tends to scan the listings for the words they are looking for. If your keywords stand out to them then it is your listing that will be clicked on.
If a page does not have a Meta description then the search engine will ‘grab’ the opening text from the relevant page, so make sure that the first paragraph of each page is a good one, and again, ensure that you are using relevant keywords.
The final point on this is to ensure that every page has its own unique Title and Meta description. Do not be tempted to duplicate page information to simply save time and cut corners. It will backfire on you in the long run.
3. Make sure that search engines actually index your site.
If your site isn’t indexed then it will not appear in search results.
Ensure that you create a sitemap.xml file that lists all of the pages and links on your site, and create a robots.txt file to tell search engine spiders what they can and can’t index. You can find out more about these via Google Webmaster Tools.
And whilst you are across at Google Webmaster Tools make sure you register your web address as this will help to speed up the indexing process.
4. Get other websites to link to yours.
Just make sure that any websites that link to yours are reputable ones. The greater the number of quality incoming links tells the search engine spiders that the quality and reliability of the information contained on your website is of a high standard. The exact opposite also applies. Few or poor quality links from untrusted sites can essentially black-list your site, so choose your link strategy wisely.
A quick and easy way of getting people to share links to your website is to post articles on social media sites and to comment on blogs and news sites etc. These sites often allow you to post a link to your website, and as such you start to build quality links without physically swapping them with other web masters.
5. Never duplicate content.
This is something search engines hate, and so do visitors. The point isn’t just duplicating other content on your own website, but also content you find on the web. If you want to link to a great blog article you found for example, don’t copy and paste it onto your own site but instead write a short article about why people should read it and then include the link directly to that article.
When a search engine sees the same content on two different websites it decides which is the original and which is a duplicate. Then the duplicate becomes a low-quality page, and search engines don’t like listing low-quality pages. As a result your pages don’t rank very well.
Keep content new, unique and fresh, and keep it your own. It doesn’t hurt to reference others work, to use quotes, or to use other content as research for your own, but don’t make the mistake of publishing word-for-word content.
For more information on the best search engine optimization methods, existing guidelines and additional resources to help you improve your search engine rankings the Google Webmaster Tools section has an outstanding array of free tools that you can use commercially.