Cont. from Part 1
If you’re making changes to your website to help it rank better in search engines then you’re engaging in on-site optimisation. On-site optimisation activities can be divided into one-time activities, and those that are ongoing.
One-time, on-site SEO activities include making sure your website is set up the right way. Some common mistakes companies make include:
Poor HTML code and improper site structure. The use of frames or old coding techniques can impact your rankings negatively. Make sure your code is up to date and that the structure of your site allows someone to copy and paste the link from the address bar of their browser. If, while navigating your website, you don’t see the URL in the address bar changing, your site isn’t set up the right way for good SEO.
Too many images or too much Flash. Google is working on being able to read text in images and video, but it’s still best to have text on your website be real HTML text, rather than text within a graphic or animation.
Not responsive. Your website should change to accommodate visitors on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. For example, if you view the website for the Hong Kong-based photo sharing start-up Spottly on your desktop, tablet, or mobile device, you'll notice it looks beautiful and adjusts to fit each size of screen perfectly. This makes visitors more likely to stay on the website, regardless of what type of device they use to access it, which means more app downloads for Spottly and leads to better SEO. Googlespecifically recommends all websites be responsive, and favours responsive websites in its mobile search results.
Google specifically recommends all websites be responsive, and favours responsive websites in its mobile search results
Analytics installed properly. If you aren’t running Google Analytics on your website, you should be. It’s free, and will give you valuable information to use in your analysis.
Improper title and meta description tags. Title tags can have a large impact on your rankings. If the title tag of your homepage says “Homepage” this doesn’t tell Google anything about your website or business. Title tags should be descriptive and include keywords that are relevant to the products and services your company offers. No two title tags on your website should be the same. Likewise, no two meta description tags on your website should be the same. Each page should include a meta description tag that accurately describes the content to be found on that page. Good meta description tags won’t improve your rankings, but they will improve the number of people who click through from the search engine to your website.
Fixing these issues involves making one-time changes. Once they’re made, you won’t need to make them again. An easy way to get things right is to use the WordPress content management system for your website, and install the free Yoast WordPress SEO plugin.
Ongoing, on-site optimisation is primarily focused on creating new content. This can be done by have a company blog as part of the company website, by creating informational resources such as FAQ’s, tips and tricks sections, research, and white papers.
Google and other search engines analyse links and other references to your company and website in order to determine where your website should rank. It used to be that virtually all links pointing to your website, also called backlinks or inbound links, were beneficial, but no more. Now, a low-quality link pointing to your website can damage your rankings, dragging them down or earning you a penalty that will make your website disappear from search results.
In order to secure high-quality links, SEO firms are becoming more like public relations or PR firms, seeking placement for their clients in top-tier online publications and well-trafficked websites and blogs. This is done through online PR and content marketing.
Online PR. Online PR is plain old PR, but with a focus on securing online placement rather than offline or print placement. There are three primary types of online placement:
- Feature stories. An example would be an article in a reputable publication, such as this one, focused on your company, its products, and services.
- Expert mentions. If your company’s CEO is quote in an article covering a topic related to your products or services, this is an example of an expert mention.
- Helpful content. If you produce content such as infographics, whitepapers, e-books, and apps that are then pitched to journalists as material for stories, this can lead to media coverage and links back to your company’s website.
Online PR is excellent not only for SEO results, but for building a brand, establishing credibility, and driving traffic. Most start-ups know the value of getting coverage in a publication like TechCrunch, but as they say, no PR is bad PR. Try to get publicity in every online publications you can.
Content marketing. This process involves creating and distributing interesting content to attract an audience and direct them to your products and services. If that sounds a lot like online PR, they are similar and can overlap quite a bit. But an example of content marketing that is not online PR would be to create an infographic, post it on your company blog along with a story, and optimise that post and spread it through social media. The infographic could go viral, getting spread around social media and posted on other websites, and in many cases those websites will link back to the original source, generating high-quality inbound links and traffic.
HotelClub, a website listing discount hotel prices, created an infographic about Hong Kong’s growing technology sector. That infographic has made it onto the websites of Forbes,TechinAsia, and StartupsHK, and in each case these websites have linked back to HotelClub’s website.
A critical and often forgotten part of effective SEO is measuring results to find ways to improve. SEO is far from being a perfect science. Every website is different, and each situation is unique. Therefore what worked for another website may not work for yours. By measuring results and properly analysing the data, you can find trends and patterns you can take advantage of to increase the ROI of your SEO efforts.
Google Analytics, mentioned previously, is a free and effective tool for measuring traffic to your website, as well as getting insights into what that traffic is doing on your website. Google Webmaster Tools is another suite of free tools from Google that give valuable data. One paid tool my firm has found valuable is MySEOTool, which gives us data on rankings, inbound links, and other SEO factors.
More SEO Resources
If you want to learn more about SEO there are many websites dedicated to the topic. A great place to start is by reading The Beginner’s Guide to SEO by Moz (a great example of effective content marketing, by the way). Other websites where you can learn about SEO include Search Engine Land, Search Engine Watch, and Search Engine Journal. You can also attend SEO conferences, like SMX Beijing (December 10-11, 2014).
As a start-up you’re operating on a tight budget and have a lot of obligations taking up your time. Good SEO will also take time, but the rewards can be substantial. Good luck!
Joshua Steimle is the CEO of MWI, a digital marketing agency with offices in Hong Kong and the U.S.