Search engines are such complex “creatures”, their algorithms are constantly changing. The main reason why they change is to reflect what the users actually care about. I think the main points they ask are: Did the user find what they were looking for? Did they leave quickly? Didi they share or interact with the site in any way?

While meta descriptions, H1 tags, image attributes, etc. do have an impact, your rankings are largely influenced by the value your users get from visiting your site. It is how they interact with your site that matters. With all this in mind, you can see how it can take a while to move up Google rankings, it is not a quick fix.

Site speed

Page speed is not only a user experience factor, but a search ranking factor too. We have many posts on how to improve your speed but in a nutshell I think these are the main points. Keep your plugins to a minimum or use quality developers, defer images, minify & compress scripts, get a great host and put it though a CDN. All of this helps ensure optimal loading and rendering times, and reducing the ‘time to first byte’.

Friendly URLs

As in, /contact/ instead of /index.php?id=4. Even including branded words and special terminology, still aim to keep page URLs meaningful for users and as simple as possible for search engines to interpret. You change the URL in Settings > Permalinks and choose “post name”

301 redirects

“301 redirects” tell search engine site crawlers where to find your pages in their new locations (following a redesign or restructure), so your site won’t get penalised due to your old links no longer pointing to valid content. You can use your htaccess fill to do this, but we find the easiest and simplest way is to use a plugin like 301 Simple Redirect, is is simple and easy to set up and won’t impact your load time.

XML sitemaps

Think of sitemaps as a cheat sheet for search engines. When a site crawler hits the sitemap, it has access to the entire structure of a website, ensuring every page of your site gets indexed (except for any pages you explicitly say you don’t want crawled). Use a plugin like Yoast SEO to generate this for you. Make sure you exclude any pages you do not want to be there.

It is worth to note that you should also create a visual sitemap for your visitors too if you want.

Submit to Google

Once you have developed the site, set it all up and created the sitemaps – the next step is to submit it to Google. Log into webmaster tools and add your site there. You can see a video on how to do this here:

Quality Content

Unlike the good old days, search engines have become more clever. You can no longer spam your page with keywords to trick Google in thinking your page is the one the visitors want. The better user experience Google can give, the more they will use it, therefore, Google cares about who they put up on the first page. Instead of spamming your site with keywords, look to create unique, quality content. Below are some points you can think about

Unique and short page titles – make sure your pages are unique and explain the content in as short of a title as possible

Great page descriptions – As with titles, your page description should be to-the-point. Resist the temptation to hard-sell or instruct the user to ‘click here’. It’s not necessary. Informative is usually enough to let people know if your link is worth clicking.

Writing for your audience – The goal is to get the visitors to stay on the page for as long as possible. Make sure you are using keywords to get them there, but once they are – make sure your content keeps them reading.

Descriptive alt tags and file names – yes, it is not only the alt tag that counts. Name your images that are meaningful and are not spammy or too long. It is best to separate with a “-” so something like “town-name-garden-services.jpg” would make sense and help.

Summary

There is way more to it than just this, but following the above rules will get you off to a great start. The way I like to think of SEO is like a neighbourhood. When you move into a new house, you are not known. Put yourself out there, be genuine and over time – you will get more known. Be normal, not spammy 😀