After you've used one of the best website builders to create your site, and ensured it's hosted by one of the best web hosting services, you'll want to attract more visitors. To do this, of the first things you’ll need to undertake is to improve your website’s ranking on Google.
This process, called search engine optimization (SEO), is a crucial element of managing a successful site or online store. Many things have been and continue to be said about SEO, including that it's more luck than skill, or that it’s a pay-to-play system, where the highest-paying sites get the best visibility.
Neither of these statements are true, and in reality you can improve rankings and traffic with several basic SEO tips. We outline a series of these here, which you can take on to improve your overall strategy, and thus ensure that your site is ranked prominently on Google searches.
SEO tips: What are organic results?
When someone makes a Google search, they are shown two types of results: paid results and organic results.
Paid results are those from websites that have paid Google directly for their site to be shown above organic results. Studies have shown that while this is one way to increase traffic to your site, Google users prefer to click on organic results.
Organic results are not paid for, and are determined by a variety of factors, including the page’s content and metadata, and how closely these relate to the search query. Therefore, the goal of SEO is to increase the number of organic results that lead to visits to your website.
How search engines determine what pages to show and how to show them is complicated, and goes well beyond this article’s scope. However, a few essential points should be made.
First, search engines use bots or computer programs to trawl the web, following links and visiting all publicly accessible websites. They then use this information to build enormous indexes that are consulted each time an internet user performs a Google search.
Once a user has entered a query, the search engine will refer to these extensive indexes, incorporating tens or hundreds of different factors into complex ranking algorithms. These, in turn, determine what content to display on the search results page. PageRank, Google’s preferred algorithm, relies on over 200 different metrics to determine Google search rankings.
You can leverage these hundreds of metrics to improve your website’s Google ranking. Although we won’t be able to look at all 200, we’ll discuss the most important ones.
9 steps to success
Let’s look at nine essential steps that you can take to improve your website’s Google ranking.
1. Creating a sitemap
Creating a sitemap is one of the easiest things you can do to improve your website’s search rankings. This will enable Google’s bots to quickly and efficiently index your entire site, and ensure that no pages are missing (and cannot be found through searches). You can submit a sitemap file to Google via Search Central.
2. Provide the necessary information to bots
Make sure you provide the necessary information to bots with a robots.txt file. More information is available on The Web Robots Page, but basically, keeping on the bots’ good side is one of the best things you can do to ensure your website features prominently in Google searches.
3. Delete duplicate content
Here’s a simple one: delete duplicate content. Search engine bots hate duplication, and it’s one of the easiest ways to see your site tumble down the Google search rankings. Some site managers think that creating pages designed to detect search engine bots is a good idea, but it will backfire and hurt your website’s SEO rankings.
4. Create static versions of webpages
Although less crucial than in the past, it still helps to create static versions of your webpages. Static content is more easily interpreted by search engine bots, at least more efficiently than dynamic content.
5. Create permalinks using keywords
Create permalinks for your pages using keywords (for example: “/products/fridges/dynatech-coolfreezepro/”). These will result in better search rankings than permalinks containing numbers or other random information. A good rule of thumb is that the more identifiable data you can provide the bot, the better.
6. Audit your internal linking
An organized website with clear internal linking architecture will have higher Google rankings. This means displaying important information on the homepage, and ensuring that similar content is grouped together on dedicated pages. A menu makes it easy for search engine bots to index your site.
7. Use keywords your audience is likely to search for
When creating text-based content, use keywords that your audience is likely to search for. These should be used throughout your text (don’t overdo it, though) and featured in the title of your article and its permalink. Remember: search engine bots can’t read images or text. If your posts have many pictures, videos, or screenshots of text, add captions or descriptions that bots will be able to interpret.
8. Ensure keywords relate to business objectives
Make sure your keywords are related to your business objectives. If you don’t know which ones are most relevant to your field, look them up. Finding the right keywords is essential if you want to feature prominently on Google searches.
9. Improve links into your website
One of the main ways that Google and other search engines rank content is by the number of sites that link to yours. If your webpages are frequently mentioned on other sites, your site will quickly begin shooting up the Google rankings. However, this is not always simple, and entire businesses exist to increase the number of inbound links to your website.
Time to call an SEO expert?
While the advice in this article will undoubtedly help you improve your website’s Google rankings, there’s only so much that you can do yourself. SEO agencies or experts have worked in this field for years, and have an intuitive understanding of search engine algorithms.
Trustworthy SEO agencies will provide results-based testimonials that show how they improved a business’s SEO and Google rankings. However, be wary of SEO experts promising top-ranking Google results or radical increases in traffic to your site. Real SEO is a process of gradual improvement rather than overnight success.
A final point worth making is that when it comes to SEO, money can only get you so far. An in-house SEO strategy or a trustworthy SEO agency can certainly help you improve your Google search ranking. But the only guaranteed way to do this is to create high-quality content. Without that, even the best SEO strategy will only get you so far.
Further reading on SEO
Get the BEST of Tom’s Guide daily right in your inbox: Sign up now!
Upgrade your life with the Tom’s Guide newsletter. Subscribe now for a daily dose of the biggest tech news, lifestyle hacks and hottest deals. Elevate your everyday with our curated analysis and be the first to know about cutting-edge gadgets.
Darcy is a freelance copywriter, and a candidate for the dual master's program between the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po) in France and Peking University in Beijing, China. His academic and professional areas of interest include human rights and development, sustainable agriculture and agroecology, Pacific Islands diplomacy, and Sino-Australian relations.