Use SEO to get your website seen

Once you've created a website for your business, you'll want to make sure that potential customers can find it easily. Your website will have a much higher chance of being seen by potential customers if it ranks on the first few pages of user's search results. You can use search engine optimisation (SEO) to improve this ranking.

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How SEO can help your business

When a potential customer enters keywords into a search engine to do an internet search, the search engine uses an algorithm to search through content on available sites. It then ranks these sites in order of relevance. Using SEO can improve the:

  • way search engines find and rank your website on the internet
  • quantity and quality of unpaid or organic traffic directed to your website by the search engine.

Audit your website for SEO

An SEO audit is an assessment of your website's current SEO performance to identify areas where it can be improved.

You can search for checklists and guidelines to complete SEO audits online, or you might choose to hire an SEO specialist to conduct the audit on your behalf.

The full audit should include:

  • a competitor analysis using Google Analytics to do an assessment of competitor keywords and traffic
  • checking for technical SEO issues, like broken links and loading speeds
  • an on-page audit, which focuses on the user experience and the site content
  • a back-end audit to check the performance of the behind the scenes elements of the website.

How to conduct a basic SEO audit

If you have some technical skills, you can do a basic SEO audit following the steps below.

  1. Is your website registered with Bing Webmaster Tools and Google Search Console? If not:
    • register your website
    • review the relevant sections in both platforms.
  2. Does your site have a security certificate (SSL)? If it does, the first part of your URL will be 'https', not 'http'.
    • If not, install a security certificate. This is a known 'ranking signal'.
  3. Does your site have a clear and organised structure? Ensure that:
    • you only have 1 home page
    • your content is grouped into pages on your menu
    • you have about, contact and privacy policy pages.

Use the Technical SEO to-do list below for more ways to improve your technical SEO yourself.

Manual penalties are penalties applied by someone working at Google.

  1. Log into Google Search Console. Previously known as Google Webmaster Tools, Google Search Console allows anyone with a website to improve the way Google views their website.
  2. Navigate to Manual Actions.
  3. Select Manual Actions.
  4. Follow the list of actions indicated to correct the issue.
  1. Google your business name.
  2. Check the following:
    • does your home page appear first?
    • are your descriptions, page titles, and list of subpages correct?
    • is your Google My Business listing displaying the correct business details?
  3. Fix the following, if needed:
    • make edits to the descriptions, page titles and sub-pages that are not displaying correctly on search engines
    • claim your business profile on Google My Business (if you haven't already) and add the relevant information.

On-page SEO to-do list

On-page SEO refers to improving the visitor-facing content on a website to drive search engine rankings higher.

Websites that rank well are those that have high-quality, relevant content such as:

  • well-written and informative text that answers the questions people commonly ask about a topic
  • high-resolution images and videos that are related to the content
  • well laid-out web pages with quality content and information structured clearly with appropriate headings
  • pages that link together clearly and logically.

A keyword explorer tool can help you find profitable and effective keywords for your website.

To do:

  • find a free keyword explorer tool online
  • use the tool to find out if the keywords on your website are effective
  • find alternative, search engine recommended keywords (with some tools).

A site description is a blurb that appears under a website name in search results.

To do:

  • ensure the meta descriptions of your web pages give a clear summary of the content
  • incorporate keywords in meta descriptions
  • keep these descriptions under 160 characters.

Website page titles are also known as title tags (the short descriptions of web pages that appear at the top of a browser window).

To do:

  • use meaningful page titles as these titles appear in search engine results
  • keep page titles under 60 characters to ensure the titles are not cut off in search results.

Search engines look at these elements when ranking websites. A filename is the name an image is saved as. Alt text (a form of metadata or behind the scenes information) is the written description of an image that will appear in place of the image if it fails to load.

To do:

  • create descriptive filenames and alt text that reflect keywords on your website.

Schema markup (or structured data) is a form of metadata added to a web page to tell the search engine algorithm what the web page contains. This helps search engines to correctly categorise web pages.

To do:

  • add schema to your website by using structured data markup tools available online.

Technical SEO to-do list

Technical SEO refers to the actions completed in the web page development section of the website. This content is not customer-facing and includes metadata and all page coding.

You can use the following list to complete technical SEO for your website. If you're tech savvy, you can do it yourself, or with an SEO specialist and/or a website developer.

A mobile-friendly website automatically adjusts to display correctly on a mobile phone.

To do:

  • you'll need to redesign it or engage a website developer to create a responsive and dynamic design if your website isn't mobile-friendly. This might involve choosing a different website template, editing content, and changing button size and placement.

Web page speed is a measure of how fast page content loads. Search engines look at speed ranking for both desktop and mobile searches.

To do:

  • search for an online tool that can test page speeds and make recommendations for improving the speed. Implement the tool and the recommendations.

If the same content appears on more than 1 web page on your website, search engines might not prioritise the right page in search results.

To do:

  • remove the duplicate content, if possible
  • if not, apply a canonical URL tool to specify which page you want the search engine to prioritise.

Internal linking refers to the links from 1 web page to another within your website. If done correctly, it can improve search engine rankings.

To do:

  • complete internal linking yourself by mapping out how your website fits together and creating links
  • or
  • engage an SEO specialist to apply a linking strategy to your website.

A global navigation menu is a set of links that allow users to move through a website quickly and find the content they want. Global navigation links tell the search engine crawlers what pages are the most important on your site.

To do:

  • review the navigation-menu links regularly to ensure that they are current and relevant
  • check that the links highlight the most critical part of your website and are all working correctly
  • ensure that a user won't need to click more than 4 times to get from any 1 point of the site to another.

A website security certificate is a digital file issued by a third-party certificate authority. This file indicates that the website is secure for users and uses an encrypted connection. There are multiple authorities with varying prices for certificates.

To do:

  • get a security certificate if your website doesn't already have one—you can get one online through a certificate authority
  • research carefully or ask an SEO specialist to recommend the authority that will be right for your website.

Off-page SEO to do list

Off-page SEO refers to using links on websites other than your own to link back to your site. These links drive traffic to your web page and improve your search engine ranking.

Inbound links may be:

  • links from websites that have high search engine rankings
  • links from social media you created yourself
  • blogs and content sites that link to your website.

To do:

  • go to Google Search Console and review the links to your website
  • contact websites that may be interested in having you as a guest blogger on their site
  • write strong, valuable content so reputable sites will link to your pages or blog posts
  • reach out to reputable sites and offer your blog post content to them as guest content, with a link back to your original post.

Keywords and SEO

When a potential customer does a web search, the search engine matches the search terms they entered to websites that use the same terms or keywords.

In a web environment, keywords are words or phrases used to describe images, web pages, and other content on your site.

Choosing the right keywords can:

  • help your website rank better in search engine results
  • drive the right traffic to your site.

However, as search engines have become more advanced, they give more importance to the over-all relevance of the content on your site than the selected keywords.

Select keywords:

  • to reflect the content that appears on your site and the products or services you offer
  • based on what your potential customers are likely to type into a search engine.

Also try to choose keywords that are searched often but are low-competition words. If many companies use the same keyword, there's more competition to rank well in search results for that term. Low competition words are still logical and relevant, but not heavily used by competitors.

It's a good idea to use some high-competition words (as many potential customers use them) as well as some low-competition words to give your website a better chance to rank well.

Using your keywords strategically through your web page helps the page rank better in searches.

Use your keywords in:

  • meta titles and page titles: The meta title is the title users will see in search results. It's not necessarily the same as the title appearing on the page. It's best to use keywords on both
  • meta description: The meta description is the description of your page that is shown in search results
  • headings and subheadings
  • paragraphs (page content): Use your keywords in natural writing flow. Don't spam your page with keywords. Google will penalise you for this. Where logical, try to add keywords:
    • in the first sentence on your page
    • again in the first 200 words of your text
    • 3–8 other times throughout your page text.
  • alt titles in images
  • your URL title (or slug).

Questions to ask when hiring an SEO specialist

When engaging an SEO specialist to work for you, consider the following questions.

  • What types of SEO can you implement?
    Will they be completing on-page, off-page or technical SEO, or a combination of these?
  • What will be included in the costs?
    Clarify all costs before hiring a specialist. Ask for a total cost breakdown against measurable tasks.
  • How is payment structured?
    Will there be an upfront payment or ongoing fees? Note: If a specialist only mentions a one-off fee, clarify what support they offer to continue and maintain SEO. Good SEO requires ongoing work, so it may be a good idea to look for another specialist who can provide these services for you.
  • What deliverables can I expect?
    Ensure that the specialist clearly outlines what they will do for your business. What are the deliverables, and how these will be measured. Deliverables might include keyword tracking, back-end development, content creation and search analysis. Be wary of SEO companies who promise to get your website to rank in the top position, or other specific high-ranking positions, as this can't be guaranteed.
  • How will you measure the success of this campaign?
    Different SEO projects will have different measures of success, including:
    • conversion rates: To calculate the conversion rate, divide the number of conversions by the number of unique visits (visitors that made purchases/total visitors).
    • time on page: The average amount of time users spend on your website
    • impressions: The number of times your website pages appear on search engine results
    • ranking: How high your website appears in search engine results
    • bounce rate: The number of users who visited the page but left without browsing it
    • click-through rate: The number of users who clicked through to your website from a search result.
  • How will you meet the requirements of different search engines?
    Different search engines use different methods to determine website rankings. SEO results will vary depending on the search engine. It can be helpful to target more than 1 search engine in your SEO efforts.
  • Can you provide client testimonials or results of previous SEO campaigns you've worked on?
    Previous results and client testimonials can help you decide if the specialist will be a good fit for your business. Look for authentic and measurable results.

SEO glossary

Algorithm
An algorithm is a set of rules created to solve problems. Search engines use these rules to discover websites and pages and rank these according to their relevance to searches. Google, for example, changes its algorithm regularly, meaning the rules that determine which page is ranked higher than another page will also change.

Alternative text
Words and descriptions added to the metadata of images. Also known as alt text or alt tags.

Backlink
A backlink is a link from another website that points back to the content on your website.

Blog
A blog is a collection of written articles published on a website.

Bots
Another name for web crawlers or search engine spiders (see below).

Crawling
Describes the search engines' process to discover your web pages on the internet. The search engine crawls through your site and makes a note of the content it finds.

Google Analytics
A free tool provided by Google to monitor your website and its performance on the web.

Google My Business
A free business listing service by Google. It displays a profile of your business when someone searches for your business or business type.

Indexing
The way a search engine organises the content it finds crawling web pages and websites.

Keywords
Words and phrases (search terms) that people type into search engines to find content online.

Ranking
Where your site appears on a SERP (Search Engines Results Page.) The first result on a SERP would be considered 'top ranking' or 'ranked number 1 on the search engine'. Using SEO improves the outcome of your ranking.

Search engine
An application that:

  • searches the internet for websites and resources related to a user's search terms
  • displays these resources on search results pages, for example, Bing and Google.

SERP
Stands for Search Engine Results Page (the page displaying the results of a web search).

SSL certificate
Stands for Secure Sockets Layer. This certificate encrypts data between your web server (website host location) and the web browser. You can pay to have an SSL applied to your website. The URL of a website with an SSL will start with HTTPS instead of HTTP. Having HTTPS in you website address means it is more trusted.

Traffic
Traffic or web traffic is the number of visitors to your website.

URL
Stands for uniform resource locator—the unique address of your website.

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