This is a simple SEO guide you can use to optimise your website for search engines in 2023.
SEO is the process of improving your website AND your external marketing channels, so search engines will rank your website higher in their search results. i.e. This is the stuff you do to get Google to rank your page higher in their results.
This is a HUGE topic. There are THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of articles written about it, and everyone has their opinion, and a list of what has, and maybe hasn’t, worked for them. I will do my best to show you some easy steps you can take, but there will always be more to do. This is a long-term commitment and organic results can take months to achieve.
I am going to keep this SEO guide simple because SEO can get very overwhelming, very fast.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to “how do I get my site to rank on Google”, but there are many steps you can take to drastically improve your chances. These tips are for ORGANIC search results. (If you want to pay for Google Ads, that’s a different story.)
Also, if someone guarantees to get you on the first page of Google ORGANICALLY – they’re most likely lying. No one can guarantee that.
Before we begin on our simple SEO guide – please note:
Firstly, Trade and Lateral Development works on WordPress websites. Therefore some of the things we recommend might apply to WordPress only (like using specific plugins). The rest you can adapt to whatever website you have.
There are MANY tools that do a similar job. We will tell you the ones we like, but if you prefer something different, use what YOU like.
Tracking your website analytics
Proactively working on your SEO is useless unless you are tracking your results. You have to keep any eye on your web traffic and ranking positions to see if they are improving or not.
- Start by setting up Google Analytics on your website (to track your web traffic).
- Link your site to Google Search Console.
- Create your Google My Business page (and get it verified). Start this ASAP because verification takes a while. FYI – Google doesn’t allow businesses that don’t have premises to have a GMB page (i.e. online-only businesses technically can’t have a page). You WANT a GMB page, so verify with a physical address if at all possible. Example: You can only get Google Reviews if you have a verified GMB page, and Google Reviews are great for rankings, so make it happen!
So, now you have setup Analytics, connected your Search Console, and setup your Google My Business Page.
A simple SEO guide for keywords and keyword research
This is a critical step and is SO often overlooked. You need to choose which keywords you want to be found for on Google.
Sounds easy enough? Yes and no.
A keyword (actually usually a phrase) is what someone will type into Google. You want rank for the keywords your target market will use to look for your product or service.
Remember: You must choose the words that your target market will use.
These might well be different from how you refer to your own products or services, which makes this step so important. You must discover which words your customers are using to search online. Only once you have this list, can you begin to track the keywords, optimise for them, and rank for them.
Let’s use an example we saw recently:
A breathwork practitioner wanted to rank on Google, but quickly realised that people don’t tend to search for “breathwork practitioner”. People might not know what that is, or why they need one. However, people DO search for things like “how to calm down when toddler throws tantrum” (an example from my own life), or maybe “how to sleep better”, or “how to reduce anxiety”. Can you see the vast difference between the wording of the service that is being sold, and the wording people might use to search for information online, where the company could answer the question, and then make a sale? This company could blog about reducing anxiety, and then capture leads to sell breathwork workshops.
Once you understand this concept, keyword research becomes much easier. You must try to rank for the words your customer uses, and where your business offering makes sense. (Yes, my business might reduce your stress by building your website for you, but I’m not going to try and rank for “how do I reduce stress”.)
If you google “keyword research tools” there are masses of them. Use whichever you want. Even better – use a few different tools and compare your results.
There are 3 important things to remember when choosing your keywords:
- Relevance (your website must answer the question that the searcher asked).
- Authority (your website must be an authority on the subject – tough to do and definitely a long-term goal, but it must, at least, be a goal).
- Volume (this is the number of searches that are happening – i.e. if only 1 person a month searches for a particular keyword, there’s no point in optimising for that – no one will find you anyway).
Your keyword research should help you to balance the importance of these 3 factors when selecting your own list of words.
If you are starting out, you will need to choose less popular keywords first. These are likely to be much more specific, longer phrases (also called “long tail keywords”). Example: “wordpress website designer in ballito durban south africa”
Once you are ranking for the longer phrases, you can move onto the more popular, shorter phrases, example: “wordpress website design”.
Choose a list of 20 phrases (keywords) to start.
FYI – 20 isn’t a lot, but we must start somewhere, so let’s start small. If 20 is daunting, start with 10, or 5, and grow over time. We suggest starting with more because the spread of keywords helps you to structure your website, but more on that later.
You should only be trying to rank for 1 keyword per page on your website. You should NOT be trying to rank for the same keyword on multiple pages. (I don’t mean you can’t use the actual word on more than one page – I mean you shouldn’t try to optimise more than 1 page for the same keyword.)
If you try to rank your entire website for the same keyword/phrase, each page on your site will be competing with themselves, and they will dilute your website’s overall ranking.
Simple SEO guide for onsite SEO
You have your list of keywords/phrases that you want to rank for. Now let’s move over to your website.
This will mean that you or your website designer / developer will probably need to make changes on your website. Here are some main topics to start with:
What will your customers DO on your website?
Let’s say you manage to rank well, and you boost your website traffic – excellent!
Now, what do you want visitors to DO when they land on any of your website pages? Do you want them to eventually buy something? Sign up for your newsletter? Enter a sales funnel? Request a quote? Your website setup needs to be correct before you try to boost your traffic, or any extra visitors will be lost, along with the effort you spent getting them onto your website.
Engagement and bounce rate
Google measures how long people interact with your content, and whether they share it, or move around your site looking for more. Interaction is good! You want to keep someone on your site for as long as possible. This shows that your content is relevant to their search term.
Internal links to other pages on your site can help keep people engaged, and on your site for longer.
You can get a decent reading on how people are engaging with your website by checking your BOUNCE RATE. Your bounce rate represents the percentage of visitors who enter your site and then leave, rather than continuing to view other pages. The higher your bounce rate, the worse your user engagement. Google Analytics will also tell you how long they spend on your website. Imagine they take one quick look at your content and decide it isn’t for them and leave. Google records this as your website didn’t offer the information they were looking for, or it didn’t answer the question they asked. (That’s not good for your rankings.)
A bounce rate in the range of 26 to 40 percent is excellent. 41 to 55 percent is roughly average. 56 to 70 percent is higher than average, but may not be cause for alarm depending on the website. You can find your bounce rate on Google Analytics.
Your site must be fast – REALLY fast. Any extra bits you add to your page (pops ups, carousels, flipping images, sliders, images that are too big etc.) will all add to your page load speed. Imagine a plain text page to be the fastest loading page, and a long, complicated page with lots of different fonts, layout widgets, menus, and large images, to be the slowest.
Google is also becoming way less fond of pop ups, and anything else that could irritate a user, or slow down your site. They want your page to appear as quickly as possible, with almost no content shift. They also want visitors to be able to click elements ASAP.
Does your website have a SSL certificate? If not, get one NOW. It will keep your users’ information more secure, and you’re unlikely to rank well without one.
One keyword per page
Firstly, if you want to rank for “Keyword A”, you will optimise a specific page to answer everything there is to know about “Keyword A”.
Secondly, once visitors land on this page, they should be able to DO the thing you want them to do on your site. (i.e. If you want to sell online – there should be a visible SHOP link somewhere easily accessible.)
Content must be updated regularly
Many years ago, people wanted websites to be as lean and simple as possible, but times have changed. Now great, comprehensive content and smooth, intuitive user experience is crucial.
Keep your content UPDATED and have as much QUALITY content as you can. This is why blogs became so popular. They are a perfect way to add new, keyword-rich content to your website, without trying to continuously update your products/services pages.
This is also why you need a good keyword/phrase list before you start. The list will give you the range of topics you should write about on your blog.
How does your home page fit into your SEO plan?
I think your website HOME PAGE is more for humans than for Google. Definitely optimise it, but I believe it’s really there for people who first arrive at your company page to see who you are and what you do.
Remember, you should only target one keyword/phrase on each page and there are probably many pages on your website, and many search terms you’d like to be found for. You can’t (and shouldn’t) optimise your home page for all of them. It would be a colossal mess…
There are many other pages (product pages, service pages, shop category pages, blog pages) that will likely be optimised for more specific, long-tail search terms, and expect these pages to start ranking before your home page. Your home page will probably receive traffic from sources other than Google organic search – sources like social media, or direct links.
Tracking your actual SEO rankings
Have you ever typed your company name into Google, seen it pop up on the first page and think “Awesome! I’m ranking on page 1! My work here is done!”…?
Almost everyone I speak to starts with this. It’s natural and understandable, but it’s also not an accurate way to check where you rank on Google.
Your search results are tailored to you, your profile, your computer, and your location. Example: This means that if you are a photographer, you likely spend time on websites about or for photography. You also live/work in the same area that you sell your photography services, and you visit your own website. So, when you type in “photographer”, it’s very likely that YOUR website appears early on in YOUR search results. However, if I type in the same keyword, I will get very different results to you – your website might not appear at all.
So, how do you check where your website ACTUALLY ranks on Google?
You could use an Incognito window to search, but it still takes your location into account. (That might work for you, or it might not.)
One of my favourite tools is www.serprobot.com
Create an account (there is a free option, but I personally prefer paid). Add your website and all your keywords, as well as your region (i.e. you might only sell to South Africa, in which case you’d choose google.co.za). Give it a few minutes and check the results.
In a perfect world, you want to rank number 2 – but unless you have spent a lot of time on your SEO, this is highly unlikely. (If you’re in the top 10 results, you’re on the first page of Google.) In the beginning, you will probably get a lot of “NOT FOUND” results. This means the app can’t find your site and you need to work on ranking for those keywords.
You’ll also notice L-Vol and G-Vol – these stand for “Local Volume” and “Global Volume” per month. This is so you can check how many people are actually using the search terms you’ve provided. It’s important to find a balance between “start small and grow” vs “optimise for keywords people are actually using”. Welcome to the wonderful world of SEO!
Again, there are lots of tools that can do the same thing, or something very similar – you must find one that works for you, and that you enjoy using.
As you research new keywords you’d like to rank for, you can add them to this list to check how they’re doing.
You can also add any competitors you’d like to keep an eye on and see what they’re doing and if you can glean any tips from their success.
Once you have everything setup and your results have populated, you can click ON a keyword to see which website pages are ranking in the top 10. This way you can see what your competition is doing and hopefully learn from their pages.
5 simple ways you can work on your SEO using this guide
As I’ve said many times – SEO is a BIG topic! I am doing my best to break it down into small, manageable chunks, and actionable steps. This is a long-term process, and one you should be working on, testing, and checking regularly.
These 5 tasks are in no particular order. You’ll probably find that you jump around and work on various things as your mood takes you. Remember – you’re in this for the long-haul.
1. Get backlinks
Google wants to know that your website is important, trusted and authoritative. One of the ways it can check this is to see how many, and which, websites link back to yours. Ideally, you want website that use the same or similar keywords to you, to link back to you.
Example: If you want to be found for “healthy eating”, you want other websites that also optimise for “healthy eating” to link back to you. It shows Google your authority on the subject.
This can be a tough step but it’s worth putting in the work. Start by checking who links back to the pages that rank in the top 10 on Google. (There are tools online to check the backlinks of a website – search for “backlink checker”.)
Sometimes it helps to reach out to websites to ask them to feature articles about you, or content you’ve written, and ask them to link to your website. If these backlinks are going to be of value to you SEO, they must be “FOLLOW” links – i.e. Google must know that when it crawls the site that links to you and finds your link, it must follow that link to your website and crawl your site.
2. Fix or redirect any onsite errors
Use Google Search Console to check for errors on your website, and FIX them!! If links are broken, fix them or redirect them. Don’t delete pages or change URLs without adding redirects, so Google (or website visitors) don’t hit a 404 error page.
“Redirection is a technique for moving visitors to a different web page than the one they request, usually because the page requested is unavailable.”
3. Add NEW, QUALITY, ORIGINAL content
Google wants to see that your website is updated regularly, with new, quality, optimised content! Google DOESN’T like duplicate content so there’s not much point in plagiarising someone else’s articles. You need a fresh perspective and something interesting to say for Google to notice you.
Example: Add a blog, updates your website pages, add images (with alt tags), write a new blog post every week, add information to your product pages, or update older blog posts.
Also make sure you update their publication date, so it’s obvious that the content has been updated.
4. Get your social media in gear
Make sure you are linking back to your website from any and all social media pages and posts. You should always be feeding people back to your website. (Also, add your website to your personal Facebook profile and make it publicly accessible, so people can easily find what you do.)
I’d like to add here that if you have social media pages, please check your Google Analytics to see where your website traffic is coming from. If you have a great Instagram following and loads of web traffic, check if your traffic is coming from Instagram, or from Google search etc. It’s worth really understanding how people find your website. I have seen websites with great traffic, but it all comes from their activity on Instagram. That’s ok, until you realise that no one is finding the website via a Google search.
This is a problem because social media companies own your social media audiences. And I’m going to take this opportunity again to remind you that you should have a backup plan in place if your social media accounts were frozen, hacked, reported, or shut down tomorrow! A backup plan is usually in the form of an email marketing database, so you can still contact your market, even if your social media accounts are shut down for any reason.
5. Get reviews
Ask past and present customers for Google Reviews! And then ask them for Facebook reviews too, or TripAdvisor reviews, or just text reviews that you can add to your website. The more reviews, the better! Google reviews are the most helpful, but get as many as you can, in as many places as you can. Post them to your site and post them on all your socials. People want to buy from companies that other people love too. ?
Did you enjoy our simple SEO guide? If this is all a little overwhelming, please look at our SEO options here, where we do most of the work for you!
Or you can contact us directly and we can answer any questions you have.