We are often asked by clients what they can do to improve their position in search engine rankings. This is not a simple question to answer as there are lots of different factors to consider. In this series we look at some of the factors related to natural rankings. The natural ranking is the position that Google naturally assigns to your site, as opposed to paid for rankings where you pay for an advert within the listings. Obviously if you can achieve a high position in the natural rankings this is preferable to paying for advertising.
Before we get into some of the things you can do to improve your site's search engine positions it is important to consider the basics of how search engines work. A user visits a search engine and types in a phrase they want to search for. For example "Web Design Loughborough". Google then returns a selection of pages that it thinks most relate to that search phrase. So before you do any sort of SEO analysis or improvement you need to decide what kind of phrases you want to rank well for.
To a large extent the choice of these key phrases is specific to your industry. You are best placed to understand the kind of phrases your customer has in mind when they are looking for companies in your field of work. However there are some common features to consider. Generally the more specific a key phrase is the less competition there will be for it, and so the better you are likely to be able to perform on that key phrase. An example of making a key phrase more specific would be to make it specific to a geographic region. There will be far less competition for 'Plumber in Leicester' then there will be for 'Plumber'.
Another way of making phrases more specific is to focus on a business niche or customer group you want to target. 'Tiling and Painting' is more specific than 'Decorating', or 'Over 40s dating website' is more specific than 'Dating website'. Of course the downside to making a key phrase more specific is that you also narrow the potential customer base who are searching for that keyphrase. But this also why there is less competition for the keyphrase, and it's a common feature of any marketing that more specific and focused marketing is cheaper than advertising which reaches a wider audience.
Once you have decided which key phrases you want to rank well on the next step is to find out where you currently rank. A lot of SEO is experimenting to see what works, so it is important to measure the impact of any changes you make. If you have a brand new website (say less than 3 months old) then you should wait a few months for your search engine rankings to settle down before making any measurements. This is because Google puts new websites into a sandbox mode which means you will not rank as well as you otherwise would. Once Google is satisfied your site is staying around your rankings will naturally improve.
So finally we are at the stage of trying to improve our search engine rankings. This breaks down into two distinct areas. On-page changes are changes you make to your website. Off-page relates to changes you make to other websites (generally getting other sites to link back to you). Of course the easiest of these is on-page, as you are in control of your own site. If you remember nothing else from this article, remember this next sentence. By far the most important thing you can do to improve your search engine rankings is to add more content to your site.
For most sites the impact of other changes pale into insignificance when compared to simply adding more content to your site. Google absolutely loves content. It exists to find and index content. The more content you have on your site the more it will love your site. Of course it can't just be any content. It needs to be content that Google will think is relevant to people searching on your key phrases. So it needs to contain your key phrases, several times ideally. One thing to mention is don't go over the top with key phrases within content, don't simply stuff them in repeatedly. This is something that used to be used to fool Google into giving a site a higher ranking and is now punished with lower rankings. Simply writing natual, meaningful content that is focused on topics within your business, and adding this content regularly to your site will over time improve your rankings significantly, it's that simple.
Sometimes it's hard to know how to add content to a site. This is where a news system, or blog, like the one you are reading now is ideal. A blog allows you to add stories on pretty much any relevant subject, and have the content natually fit within the site. Having a regularly updated blog is the number one thing a site owner can and should do to make their site more SEO friendly.
Part 2 of this series will cover other things you can do with on-page SEO, and some ideas for off-page SEO, again targeted at improving your natural rankings.
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