The Beginners’ Guide to Search-Friendly Websites

One of the reasons for creating a website or blog is so that you can communicate something about yourself or your business to other people, right? And while many of these people will come directly to your site via its address (URL), many of them will find it by searching the web.

They may be looking for you and so will search for you by name.

Or they may be searching for someone like you, so will use a search phrase.

Either way, they will use keywords.

And so, not only do you need to communicate something to people, you also need to communicate something to search engines, so that they can find a place for you in their search indexes and so that you will come up in search results.

This all may sound complicated but it’s not too hard.  It’s called Search Engine Optimisation.

Here are a few simple things you can do to help:

1. Think carefully about your domain name (your URL)

If you are a business, use EXACTLY that name.  For example, if your business is GREEN TOILET PLUMBING, register  And yes, if you are in Australia, register the .au address.  If your business name is too generic, you might want to change it,  I hope it’s not too late.  If you are a sole trader selling your services, register your name.  If you are an author and your name is Claire Smith, register (and .com too, will help!). There you have given search engines both your name and your occupation, something people are quite likely to search on.

2. Make your name searchable

Have your business or personal name somewhere ON your website in the text, preferably as a heading on the homepage, but also on every page in the footer.  This is something for search engines to grab onto and use in their indexing.  This won’t work if it’s in an image, it needs to be in the text as well.

3. Figure out your keywords

Keywords are words that describe you/your business, what you offer, your core principles, and so on.  Imagine the search phrases that people might use to find you.  For example, they might search for this site with “wordpress website Melbourne.”  Make a list of the keywords that you think people will find important about you. If you are a plumber your keywords might be – plumbing, gas, bathrooms, toilets, drains.  Also, think of other keywords such as corporate, residential, afterhours, Melbourne, suburbs.  If you are an author, your keywords might be author, write, books, stories, poetry, children, adults, picture books, published, magazines, school visits, award.  Keep these keywords handy, you’re going to use them.

4. Make an “About me” page

Have a page or a box on the homepage that explains what you do – that is, an “About” page.  Use your keywords and include as many as possible BUT make sure it is readable to humans, it needs to be in plain English.  If you are a large business and have a number of services, by all means have an About Us page and an Our Services page where you list your services in bullet-point format.  Also, it may seem cool and different to call these pages something else, but those terms are generally what people look for and may miss it if you call it something else.  If you are in a creative industry, you might also get away with Biography.

5. Keep your content fresh

If you don’t update your site in a while, search engines will put you in the naughty corner.  Fresh content scores points.  That doesn’t mean updating your site every day, but try to add fresh content at least once every few weeks.  This may be in the form of news or a blog or adding to your portfolio.

6. Share the links

You could write a book about link-sharing, and many people have.  The simplest and most effective way to boost your status through links is to link to reputable content and have reputable sites link back to you.  To do that, you need to make good content, have links that are easy to copy and paste, and build relationships.  This doesn’t happen overnight, you need to be in it for the long haul.  However, you also don’t need to spend too much thought or effort on this.

7. Use keywords in your content

Remember that list of keywords?  Keep using them.  Not all of them, all at once, of course.  But if you are blogging or releasing news, make sure it focusses on the core of your business and you will automatically be using your keywords regularly.

8. Turn on the comments

Comments on your site mean extra work – checking them, replying to them, agonising over them… Erhum.  But they mean people interacting with your site, which is good for SEO (as long as you have a good SPAM filter).

And here’s one advanced topic for the fun of it:

9. Check your stats now and again

I am the most easygoing person when it comes to maintaining my websites.  I don’t have time to spend hours on perfecting my keywords, link-building, checking my web stats, etc.  I find that most of my work comes from slowly and steadily building relationships, word-of-mouth, writing good content and doing good work.  But every now and again it’s fun to check the Google Analytics stats and see which posts are getting good attention.  And then find out why.  And write more of that.

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