Search Engine Optimisation for Webpages

A little commonsense goes a long way

Don't be frightened by the technicalities of online marketing strategies. Some strategies will be useful for your business, some won't. At SuttonNet we believe that for many businesses, finding your customers online need not cost an arm and a leg.

  • There are many different factors that go into ranking a website for online searches.
  • Each search engine (eg Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, Google) chooses its own parameters and how much weight (attention) they pay to each one.
  • There are important principles that have stayed around for all the 20 years we've been in the website business, and they aren't likely to change.

Google changes its search engine algorithms often, and sometimes (always??) it notifies web developers of upcoming new parameters that will affect a site's search rankings. It never lets on just how much weight it gives to each parameter. Search on google - webmaster - search engine optimisation if you want to know more.

This article looks at keywords, key phrases and how you can help your website get noticed in online searches. There's plenty more to say: that's for another time.

SEO jargon

keyword: a word someone types into a search field that relates to the topic they want to find - not 'a', 'and' but 'ecommerce', 'webhosting', 'Cooma'

key phrase: a whole phrase someone types into a search field, that relates to the topic they want to find. The whole phrase has a specific meaning which is relevant to their search; and it might contain several keywords - 'what is the best ecommerce system for small business?', 'transport dog to melbourne'

SERP: search engine results page, the page you see after you enter a search into DuckDuckGo or whatever your favourite search engine is. It gives you a list of webpages to choose from. Each has:

  • a page title, which also links to the webpage itself, and
  • a metadescription.
1. Don't sweat more than you have to

Appraise how much competition you have in the target area or customer group you want to serve: local, special interest group, or whatever. How many other sites would you need to beat, to get on high page 1 of search results?

If there are relatively few competitors, you don't have such a huge task.

For some trades, don't bother about trying to outrank the big 'directory' sites. They have 100s of pages indexed with Google. Unless you maintain a site of comparable size with multiple links you are unlikely to get ahead of them. Many people won't visit those sites anyway. They jump past Truelocal, Yellow Pages etc because they prefer to go directly to a real provider's website.

Sometimes it just takes time for search engines to 'notice' and react to changes you make to your website.

2. Don't be fooled by SERPs!

Get a friend or two to search for whatever it is you sell, and find out what Google shows them in the SERP. Preferably not someone who has been to your website before, or Google's results will be skewed.

Google (& maybe other search engines) filters results to show each of us what it thinks we want to see. So if I search on 'web developer cooma' I will certainly see SuttonNet ranking high. But I can't tell how high our sites rank when anyone else searches using the same phrase.

3. Think like a customer

Regular updates help maintain good search rankings; but you want to make the right updates.

If you were looking for a XXXXX, what kind of phrase or words would you put in the search? These words/phrases should be prominent on the webpage: ie headings, subheadings, first few paragraphs. Easy, eh?

You know your own business, so you know better than anyone how people talk about you sell - what words they are likely to search with.

4. Communicate naturally

Write content naturally for people not for search engines, and the page will end up better for search engines too, eg:

  • main information higher on the page
  • prominent headings and subheadings that contain the words ('keywords') they are most interested in. The bigger the heading*, the more notice search engines take of it - just as people do
  • use synonyms to vary the text and catch more search phrases, eg marriage ceremony/wedding ceremony/get married
  • avoid keyword stuffing (artificial, forced language obviously written to jam in extra keywords) - it puts off people and might get your site penalised by search engines.
*'Big' for a webpage heading means html code h1, h2, h3 rather than h4, h5, h6 (or normal text). On a Bizazz website, you can control the heading size easily.
5. Photos

For each photo, add a title and alt (alternative) text.

These count as extra keywords on the webpage, for search engines to find.

They also give another way for people to find your website. Let's say you own a (plant) nursery. I'm considering buying a gnome for a special spot in my garden. Looking for ideas, I search on 'small garden gnome'. Because you have added a title & alternate text to your garden gnome photos, such as 'mini garden gnome, ideal for small gardens', Google could show me photos of your small gnomes for sale - with a link to your site.

Compress photos to about 70% if you can do that without losing quality. This means a faster-loading page, which counts with Google.

6. Keep focussed

Have a purpose for each page, so that you can draw clients to your site by various routes.

Eg one page on our website might focus on planning a website, another on 'Snowy Mountains area web designer' and related words, another on webhosting prices and service plans (which can catch searches like 'how much does it cost to host a website').

7. Page title and metadescription

These matter a lot. These are what people see when they do an online search: they are the heading and paragraph in the search results page.

You want to stand out as THE page out of all those websites listed, where they will find the answers they want. Set an enticing, interesting description for each page:

  • in natural English sentences, not a list
  • that flows on naturally from the page title (because that is how a customer will read it)
  • that reflects the page content (otherwise Google might replace it with their own gobbledygook)
  • that holds main keywords for that page.

Look at the page title. (It also appears in the tab in the address bar when the page is open.) Does it tell you exactly what the page is about?

If not: can you move some text and photos around your site, until the page titles and page content match up well.

Page title needs highly relevant keywords in it.  If you can, edit it so that it matches your page really well; but don't change the page's filename in the process. That will mar your page ranking.

8. Google business account

Having a Google business account makes a difference to rankings on Google searches.