5 free tools and techniques to optimise your website
This simple but essential 5 step plan is aimed at anyone, including complete beginners, that want to optimise their website for search engines such as Google without spending a penny on SEO.
Before launching a new website it is always a good idea to create an SEO plan. However, if you already have a live website, it’s never too late and these 5 simple steps will help increase your website’s chances of success in Google’s search results if implemented correctly.
So, lets begin with step 1…
Step 1. Know your audience and analyse the market
Two important words spring to mind here – keyword research and competitor analysis. There are two ways to do this; the free way and the paid way. This step should really be done at the very beginning, even before a website is built, but it’s never too late as there is no harm in doing this at later intervals.
Its quicker, easier and more thorough to go down the paid route, however it means forking out a few quid for some specialist SEO software. SEO software like SEMRush, Majestic and Powersuite are some of the best, but can cost a pretty penny or two. You could hire SEO specialists to do this entire step for you who should likely already have this software, but the point of this article is to learn how to do it yourself and save money, so let’s move on to the free alternative.
Do a search in Google for your products or services and the location you wish to operate your business in; for example, “nail salon in Preston”. Check out the search results; how many are there? Are there too many in your area? Is it a saturated market? You should get a good idea from this whether or not your business will flourish, get by or fail in your chosen area.
The next step is to have a look at the websites on the first page of your search results. You can view the source code of any page on any website and have a look at the meta data such as the meta titles and meta descriptions to see what keywords they are targeting and to get an idea of the best way to write them.
A tip here is to type in to Google “site:” followed by the domain name; for example “site:prestonnailsalon.co.uk”. This will list every page on the website and you can look at all the meta titles and descriptions all in one go and get some great ideas of which keywords to target and how to write them. However, DO NOT copy them; you need to be unique so you must write your own and use your competitors as a guide only.
Step 2. Optimise your content
I’m sure you’ve heard the expression – “Content is King”. This is very true. Let’s break this down.
- Write good quality content. By this we mean content that is relevant to your website and each and every page; content that your visitors will value. Check your grammar and spelling; nobody likes to read poorly written articles. Lastly, make sure that each page has unique content, Google will penalise you for duplicate content and your rankings will drop.
- Add visual content. By this we mean images and /or video. Another expression we’re sure you’ve heard – ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’. This is also very true. People love images. They can describe something much better than words and also add value to your web pages look great (if you pick the right images). Additionally, don’t just use any random image anywhere you fancy just for the sake of it. Make sure that all of your images are relevant to what what you are talking about.
So if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video must be worth even more, right? If you have the opportunity to add good quality videos to your website that can add value to your pages and explain something to your users, then we would recommend adding them. These could include testimonials, reviews, examples of work, instructions / how-to’s, or even a company introduction.
- Optimise your images. Lets start with image size. We don’t care what anyone tells you – size matters! We’re not talking about image dimensions here; we’re talking about file size. Reduce your file sizes as much as you can without compromising on quality. A good tool for this is TinyPNG. If your images are too big, your website will load much slower as it tries to download the images from the server to display them to your users (who most of the time are very impatient).
Secondly – alt tags. Make sure that all of your images have alt tags / alt text. These are short descriptive texts that describe what the image is. They serve two purposes; the first is to show alternative text to users where the images cannot be displayed, and secondly, for screen readers to help visually impaired people understand what the images are about.
- Add meta titles and meta descriptions. Give each of your pages a unique and well-written meta title and meta description. If you are trying to gain traffic locally, use your keywords combined with your location for a better chance of being found. An example of this would be “Plumbing Services in Blackpool | Plumbers Ltd”. If you have a WordPress website, we would highly recommend that you install the Yoast SEO plugin to write your meta’s and also to add an xml sitemap. Also, make sure when writing your meta’s that you keep within the character limits. If using the Yoast plugin, stay in the green, red means you’ve used too many letters.
Step 3. Submit your website to Google / implement Google’s SEO tools
There are several great free tools that Google provide to help your business get found in their search results. The three main one’s that we found to have the most benefit are Google Search Console, Google Analytics and Google My Business.
- Google Search Console. Previously called Webmaster Tools; this is a free web service provided by Google, which allows you to check your website’s indexing status and optimize its visibility. However, the only thing that we suggest you concentrate on at this point is adding your xml sitemap. Your website should have one; if not then you need to get one. If your website is built in WordPress, then the Yoast SEO plugin or many other plugins can generate this for you. Then you just need to copy and paste the link to your sitemap in Google Search Console’s sitemap tool and submit it.
- Google Analytics. This is a free service from Google that provides comprehensive statistics regarding the traffic / visitors to your website. The data available through this service consists of how many people visit your site, how many times pages have been viewed, average time spent on the website, how many pages are viewed per visit and percentage of new visits etc. You just need to copy the tracking code it generates for your website and paste it into the head of each page you want to track (ideally all pages). This is made really simple if your website is built in a CMS like WordPress as you only need to paste the code in to one file (header.php) or use a plugin to do it for you. It’s also useful to just have your tracking code anyway as it sends signals to Google so that it knows your site is there.
- Google My Business. Another great free service from Google which helps people find your products and services in Google Search and Google Maps; perfect for local listings which helps people in your community find your business. Sign up for Google My Business, enter some information and they will send you a postcard which you should receive within about a week. When you receive your postcard it will have a verification code which you will need to active your listing. With Google My Business it verifies that you are a legitimate business, the areas that you operate in and provides trust. With your listing you can add the sectors you work in, address, contact details, opening hours, photos and much more.
Step 4. Submit your business to listings & directories
You could go nuts with this one and submit your website anywhere and everywhere, but this isn’t the way. Submit your site to too many and not caring about which directories you submit it to could cost you dearly. Some directories are better than others. Some low quality; some high quality.
A tip here is that if a directory comes up in Google, it’s usually a good sign. If you can afford a little money to pay for some quality paid listings, then we would recommend doing this also. However, there is no harm in just submitting your business to the free directories only; just watch for signs of quality when carrying out this step.
Another thing to remember is to not spam directories to death. By this we mean do not submit your business to as many directories as you possibly can; as quickly as you can. Space them out over several months so it doesn’t look suspicious.
Four good free business directories that we would recommend signing up to first are Yelp, Yell, 192.com and FreeIndex.
If your are a local business and would like to focus a little extra on local listings to try and give you that extra boost, you can just search ‘business directory (name-of-town-here)’ and see what comes up.
Step 5. Use social media
Social media is booming! Everyone is using social media these days for a verity of different uses across many different platforms. Because of this it makes sense to utilise these tools as a means to getting your business and its products or services in front of these people. Active use of social media accounts, especially the ones which have large amounts of followers are a great signal to Google and other search engines that your business and the topic it represents is getting attention. The more follows, views, likes and shares etc that you get the better. Obviously not all platforms are relevant for all types of businesses so just manage the ones that you feel are necessary and that you could keep on top of. For example, if your business is steel fabrication, you wouldn’t use Instagram as nobody really wants to look at dull fabricated steel products.
We’re all done here – now go knock ’em dead!