Whatever the goal of your website, whether it’s selling physical products, marketing your services or even sharing your beliefs or charitable activities, you will want as many people looking at your website as possible. Search engines, and Google in particular, are the best route to achieving more visitors.
The higher you get on the search engine results pages (SERPs) the more visitors you can expect. Around 50% of people will click on one of the first two results, around 40% is split between the other 8 results on the first page and only a tiny percentage of searchers will venture on to the second page of results.
In this article I will guide you through the 3 simple steps to getting your website to the top of google and increasing the amount of visitors to your website.
3 steps to getting more website visitors
- Keyword research – you need to know what keywords or terms your customers are likely to use when searching for your products or service
- Onsite optimisation – ensure your website covers all the necessary points to make it appealing to search engines
- Offsite optimisation – increase the visibility of your website on the internet
What makes Google tick?
Before I tell you how to master these 3 steps its important to first understand what Google’s goal is. In a nutshell, it aims to provide the most useful results when you use its search engine. If the results it returned when you did a search were repeatedly poor and of no use to you then you would soon turn to another source of information.
There are many factors involved in Google’s ranking system and its important to try and address as many of these as possible, as long as you don’t forget the ultimate goal – aim to give the users great content. Ultimately, if you give the users what they want then google will recognise this and give you higher rankings.
Taking this into consideration it’s important to ensure the tasks you carry out when optimising your website are focused towards the user and NOT just the search engines. Some people, even many professionals, will try to focus all their efforts on giving the search engines what they want and forget all about the end user. This may get your website more visits, but the user may just turn away from your website if you don’t provide the great content they are looking for.
The elements required for high rankings can be divided into two key areas, ‘onsite optimisation’ and ‘offsite optimisation’, both equally as important as the other, neglect either area and you will dramatically reduce your chances of achieving these high rankings.
Step 1 – Keyword research
Before you can begin to make any changes to your site or think about any kind of search engine marketing strategy its important to understand what your (potential) customers are actually searching for. You may think that you have a good idea of what terms they will use but you really should confirm this.
If you website is promoting your pet shop in Brighton then you might think that people would type ‘pet shop in brighton’ into google When you do this research you may actually find that more people are using ‘brighton pet shop’, but hold on, its not all about amount of searches, you also need to know how much competition there is for that keyword.
If ‘pet shop in brighton’ has 100 searches per day and there are 2,000,000 competing pages but ‘brighton pet shop’ only has 60 searches with 1,000 competing pages, which keyword would you think is going to be easier to get traffic from – obviously the one with less competition.
The #1 spot for any search result is obviously the primary goal but depending on how competitive your market is this can be a very expensive mission to try and accomplish. To get a #1 spot for the term ‘pet shop’ would require lots of expert hours as well as a huge budget. However, the #1 spot for ‘pet store in brighton that sells doggy treats’ would be a lot easier as there would be a lot less competition, so you can see the keyword you choose to target should be considered carefully.
There are many tools out there for Keyword research, some are free and some are paid services, I’m not going to list them all here but
Google’s free keyword research tool is a simple and fairly easy to use, it does give some contradictory results sometimes, so try not to pay too much attention to the actual figures independently but instead use it as a guide. I will use it to compare keywords to each other rather than trying to gain actual true figures of amount of searches or competition.
Wordtracker keyword research
A much more powerful and comprehensive tool for keyword research is Wordtracker, pricing starts from $69 per month but they do offer a free trial for 7 days if you want to give it a go. They also have an academy with lots of guides about keyword research for those of you wanting to learn more.
Step 2 – Onsite optimisation – making your website ‘search engine friendly’
Onsite optimisation refers to the work you do on the elements within your web site, this is the easiest of the 3 steps although, depending on your technical ability, some areas might require some professional help.
The number of pages on your website
The more pages you have on your website the more Google will consider it to be a good resource. If you were wanting to buy a reference book and two were available for your subject, would you choose a book with 20 pages or one with 100 pages, clearly the one with more pages is likely to have more information and therefore more likely to give you the answers you want.
The number of keywords and related keywords on your web pages
You should optimise each page for a keyword or maybe even two keywords. These chosen keywords should then be featured throughout the page, use them in your title, once in each paragraph and also as the filenames on any images for that page. You should also use variations of the keyword(s). If you keyword for that page is ‘pet store in brighton’ then you would also use the phrase ‘brighton pet store’, try to use the same words but in a different order.
The links on your web pages to other pages of your site
You should get into the habit of linking to other pages within your site, this is good for both the user and the search engines. In a page talking about ‘doggy treats’ you would also want to link to the page about ‘doggy toys’. Never place the link on the text ‘click here’ as this doesn’t tell user or the search engines what that page is about, instead place the link on the actual keyword, so if i wanted to link to another article within this site about getting started then that is where I would place the link.
The links on your web pages to other websites
You don’t need to go overboard on this one, but again if you refer to something that is not discussed on your site then choose a reputable and informative site to link to, again this is good for both the user and the search engines – you getting the idea yet, think of both the user AND the search engines, neither just one or the other.
The structure of your website
This is possibly one of the most important factors for the user, you need to think about how easy it is for your visitors to find the content they are looking for. As your site grows bigger (you should always be seeking to add new content to your website) then you need to be certain that you have categorised your content in a way that a first time visitor to your site will understand.
The robots.txt of your site
This is a file that sits on the server your website is hosted on and will tell the search engines which pages to look at and which ones to ignore. You may require some professional help with this one but it certainly needs to be considered.
The HTML code of your web pages
Your website should conform to W3C standards, meaning that the code that makes up your website is standards compliant, any decent web designer should be aware of what is required, you can check whether your site is compliant by using their free Validation service. Don’t be too scared if you get a few errors or warnings though.
Step 3 – Offsite optimisation – increasing the reach of your website on the internet
Offsite optimisation refers to the elements outside of your website, in some cases they can be out of your direct control, but there are ways to try and influence them.
The number of backlinks that point to your website
Backlinks are the links that point to your website from another website, these are very important as they show Google that your website is considered a worthy resource by others. Think of it as a recommendation and you can never have too many of these recommendations!
There are many ways to increase the amount of backlinks you have:
- Writing content for other websites and placing links to your website within this content
- Offering reciprocal links – ‘you link to me and I’ll link to you’
- Register your product or service on directories such as dmoz or Yahoo directory
- Encourage people to talk about your website on the social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter
The quality of the backlinks that point to your website
Not all links are created equal! Links from websites that Google ranks highly will have more benefit to you than a single page website with no visitors or high rankings. When planning your backlink strategy, try to target the websites that are also ranking highly for your chosen subject area or keywords. Going back to the ‘Brighton pet store’ project, if you type that into Google, whatever websites appear on the front page are the sites you want to be targeting. If they are in direct competition then it’s going to be harder for you to convince them to help you out, but if there is some way you can benefit each other then that gives you a starting point.
How often your website is mentioned on social media sites
Search engines realise the power of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter and so the more you are mentioned on these sites the higher your rankings are likely to be.
How to check all your rankings on the search engines
There are many tools available for this, the one I use is IBP (Internet Business Promoter), it has many other features too and is a pretty good tool, they offer a free trial as well if you want to check it out.
Don’t try to cheat
There are many tasks required to gain high rankings with the search engines, the legitimate methods are known as ‘white hat’ and the dodgy methods are referred to as ‘black hat’. If you use these black hat techniques and try to trick Google then this can get you banned from its results altogether, so it’s important to avoid these tactics at all costs and focus on the golden rule, ‘concentrate on giving your visitors great content’
A few facts about search engines
- Search engines rank each page on your website, so its important to ensure each page is optimised for a particular keyword
- Google’s market share is around 84%, the remaining percentage is split between, Yahoo, Bing and a few others
- The more words you have in your keyword the easier it will be to get higher rankings
- Try to increase the amount of pages on your website
- Ensure you add pages to your website regularly
- Try to optimise each page for one or two keywords
- Ensure every page has the keyword in the page title (H1) as well as the main body of the page
- Make sure your website’s code is compliant with W3C recommendations
- Unless you have a huge amount of spare time and/or a huge budget try not to optimise for 2 word keywords (e.g. ‘pet shop’), instead opt for 3 or more words e.g. ‘pet store brighton’ or better still ‘pet store toys brighton’
- Try to get as many websites to link to yours as possible