If you’re about to start building a new website one of the best things you can do is to start implementing search engine optimisation (SEO) in the design phase. To get you started, we’ve taken the most important SEO factors and broken them down into easy-to-implement steps.
Before you do anything else you need to ensure you have chosen a host with a good reputation. That’s because your website will inherit its “authority” ranking in part due to the servers it is hosted on. If your site is hosted on servers that also host online gambling websites, porn websites, and known spam sites, then your content could also be penalised. Always choose a good host who will have:
- everything configured correctly
- better security
- better uptime; and
- offer scalable solutions in case you need more resources
2. Site architecture
There are a number of important considerations to be aware of when designing the structure or your website:
- make sure you are using HTTPS (you can learn more about certificates at Let’s Encrypt).
- organise content into logical folders and don’t go deeper than two or three levels.
- use URLs that are understandable by humans e.g. www.example.com/products/car-tyres.html
- eliminate orphan pages (pages that have no inbound links and so cannot be accessed) and dead links. Redirects shouldn’t be necessary if your design well at the start.
- make use of a txt file to prevent private pages from being indexed.
3. Align with Google’s priorities
Google is still the dominant search engine so their guidelines are crucial if you want your content to feature at the top of search results:
- design your website using a mobile-first strategy.
- ensure your website is responsive so that it adapts content correctly for all devices screen sizes.
- make sure your content loads fast (think two seconds or less), especially from smartphones on less reliable mobile networks.
- your content must be fresh, relevant, and informative so that it gives users exactly what they are looking for (i.e. user intent).
- deliver an optimal user experience—pay particular attention to the navigation experience on small screen devices.
4. Content optimisation
The more traditional aspects of SEO shouldn’t be overlooked either. Remember to:
- include meta descriptions in the underlying code of your pages. Some of the important ones include title, description, and alt text for images.
- if you’re duplicating content specify the version that you want the search bots to consider as the authoritative version (read about canonical URLS).
- investigate which long and short tail keywords will best serve your content (Google’s Adwords Keyword Planner is a good tool to start with).
- optimise images so they are small and load faster.
- optimise video content so it streams more efficiently (or better yet, host videos and large files on a Content Delivery Networks like YouTube or MaxCDN).
- reduce HTTP requests by minimising the use of external scripts and includes such as webfonts.
- embrace HTML5 web technologies so you can eliminate clunky, insecure plug-ins like Flash and Java.
- post regular content and incorporate a social media strategy. This will encourage organic growth in the form of backlinks which helps to raise the profile of your pages.
5. Establish a presence on supporting platforms
We’ve mentioned social media already but you should also investigate online directories and other services related to your niche area. One of the most important ones not to be overlooked is Google My Business—that gets you incorporated into Google Search and Google Maps in one go.
6. Analyse and monitor
After going to the effort of developing content and optimising it for search engine indexing you’ll also need to make use of online tools to see how your content performs. There are lots of tools and many are free. Here are some you can get started with:
- Google Search Console—sign-in with your Google account and you can use tools like Fetch and Render, examine crawl errors, submit sitemaps and request re-crawling, as well as view metrics for general traffic.
- Google’s PageSpeed Insights is a great tool for testing how fast your pages load.
- Pingdom is another popular tool for monitoring site performance.
- BrandMentions allows you to monitor brand awareness online.
Finally, as your business grows, continue to invest time in looking at the newest developments in SEO and web development. Google offers multiple free resources as do popular blogs like Search Engine Land and many others.