(Based upon Google webmaster best practices)
When you need to find information on the Internet, you search.
People ask questions in search which your brand can answerThe information you receive is provided by search engines which index all the information they can find on the Internet, and provide it as search results based on the search query you provided.
Google is the main search engine and “to google information” is a description of the search activity. We talk about Google when referring to search in general.
Keywords related to search engines include:
- index(n) – all the web pages collected by the search engine is stored in an index. The index entry for a page describes the content and URL (Uniform Resource Locator or web address) of that page. To “index” (v) means the search engine finds the page, reads it and adds the page to the index.
- crawl – the search engine process of finding new or updated web pages. Google finds URLs by crawling the Internet, by following links from already indexed websites, by a webmaster submitting a Sitemap of a website and a variety of other methods.
- crawler – automated software that crawls the Internet, finds web pages and indexes them.
- Googlebot – the name of Google’s crawler which constantly crawls the Internet.
- SEO (search engine optimization) – the process of preparing (optimizing) a website to make it discoverable to search engine crawlers. SEO (n), or SEO Specialist, is a person who optimizes web pages for a living.
- Search query – the question, or information, you enter in a search engine to find answers that satisfy your information need.
- SERPS (search engine result pages) – the pages a search engine offers in response to your search query.
- Sitemap – a file on your website that explains the page structure of your site to search engines.
Help search engines find your content
Google offers webmaster guidelines which web designers can use to create search-friendly websites.
The first step is to ensure that your website can be found by Googlebot. You make your website “findable” by
- submitting a Sitemap to Google
- having related websites link to your site
- having the most pages you can with the widest range of topics related to what you offer
- having information on your website that answers the questions people have about your product or service
- having properly optimised content on all your website pages
When you evaluate the potential of your web content, keep in mind that your information should fill a need that someone may have. It is best to offer your information in a format that serves as an answer to a question people ask about your product or service.
Which pages should search engines not index (crawl)
It is wise to include a robots.txt file on your website if there are pages you don’t want search engines to index such as internal search pages. Most small business websites are small enough so that there are no pages to exclude from the SERPS.
Do not use a robots.txt file for sensitive information because a robot created with bad intent will not honour the instruction. Rather use sign-in with user names and passwords for information you don’t want in the public domain.
Help users and search engines understand your website content
Create unique and accurate page titles. Every page on your website should have a unique “title” tag of the page’s html code. It is best if the title tag reflects the question the page content addresses. Google could use the content of the “title” tag in the search results, which will give your page a better chance of being noticed by searchers.
Use a description meta tag in the “head” element of your HTML code to give search engines a summary of what the page is about. Google often uses that as a snippet in the search results. Every page on your website should have its own meta tag which concisely describes the content of that page.
You can add structured data to the pages of your website to describe to search engines what the page contains.
Structured data is usually used on product pages, marking up opening hours, business location, videos, events listings, recipes, a company logo and many more. Due to cost, time and small numbers of pages, small business websites often do not use structured markup.
How you appear in search results
Use separate URLs (names) to enable search engines to show your pages or products as separate results, thereby increasing your online footprint.
Search engines use URLs is a certain way and your website designer should keep that in mind when naming pages, images or products in a shop.
Navigation, usually reflected in your site’s menu is not a big problem for smaller sites, but gets more important as the number of sections and pages increase. Navigation is based on your home or root page. and extends into sub-sections e.g. home page >> related topic >> specific topic. It should create a natural flow through your website.
“Breadcrumbs” is a row of internal links that shows previous sections. It is usually omitted in small websites.
Show 404 pages when content does not exist – a user followed a broken link or typed in the wrong URL. A 404 page usually directs visitors back to the home page.
All content on your website (pages, images and documents) should have proper names to ensure user-friendly URLs.
Optimize website content
Quality content that serve users’ needs, will benefit your website because it entices visitors to return and share your content. Good content assists in word-of-mouth spreading of your information. Answering questions that people may have about your product or service makes for good content if well-written.
Use Google Keyword planner to assist in discovering keyword variations and keyword search volumes.
Google says content should be easy to read, topically organised, fresh and unique and optimized for users (which means it is automatically optimized for search engines).
Use descriptive link text to link to information on other pages or outside sources. It should tell users what they can expect on the page linked to. Use “nofollow” attributes in your link code if you do not want pages linked to, to gain from the reputation of your site (discuss the concept of inbound linking with your web designer or learn more by researching it)
Optimize website images
Images are optimized by using the “alt” attribute in the HTML of your website page. Alt text is shown when an image cannot be shown for any reason. It is also used by search bots to know what the image is about.
Make your website mobile
Most Google searches are done on mobile devices and Google gives preference to mobile enabled sites in the SERPS. There are a number of ways to make a website responsive but the most popular is responsive web design, which is automatically enabled in most web software.
Promote your website
Promote your website by including social share buttons on all content. Promote it off-line by including it on all your business printing. Add your business to Google MyBusiness which ensures that your business appears on Google Maps and in search.
Analyze web statistics (analytics)
Search engines provide tools to analyse your website. Google offers Google Search Console. It evaluates your site and provides feedback on issues that may burden your site’s performance and appearance.
Google Analytics provides insights into the use of your site by analysing user behaviour, popular content, the impact of optimization and how visitors interact with your content.
My course How to learn social media marketing in 15 sprints walks you through a process which leaves you with a well prepared social and off-line marketing plan.
Blog posts go to my newsletter subscribers about two weeks before it appears on my blog.