InstantSearch_May2013

We’ve all been there, Googling your products day after day to see if your website has appeared yet. Feeling down each day that you see you’re still on page 7 and no one has seen you yet. Everyone’s been there! How well you’re seen on Google is called your Search Visibility and in this post you’re going to get 5 points that you can take away and do today that will help you to improve your search visibility.

(I’d like to point out now that if you have serious issues with your website, quick win actions won’t help you appear in Google, in that case, go and hire an SEO freelancer or agency).

So here they are, 5 points you can implement now, that will help your Search Visibility:

1. Know Your Audience

This is a huge part of your Search Visiblity and is a lot more than it seems. Knowing your audience means more than knowing that you appeal to gardeners or dog owners. It’s about knowing what you’re audience are looking for, how their looking for it, how they’re finding your website and how they travel through your website. Sounds like a lot? It can be, but it’s the difference between getting large numbers to your website, or just getting 1 or 2 visitors.

What are your audience looking for?

What you think your business sells and what your target audience thinks you sell can often be 2 very different things. For example, you might think you’re an Umbrella Company (financial), but your customers will think that you’re a company that sells accessories to keep you dry in poor weather. What they might be searching for is Payroll Services or Payroll Company. It seems the same to you, but very different to your customers and Google.

How do you find this out? Well there’s a few different ways, but one of the easiest is to use Google’s “Keyword Tool”. It’s fairly simple to use, just input your keywords and press search (the default setting is your location and all devices – Desktop, Mobile, Tablet etc.). Then once you click “Keyword Ideas” you’ve got knowledge at your fingertips! “Local Monthly Searches” are the people in your country looking for those search keywords, whereas “Global Monthly Searches” are worldwide figures.

KeywordTool_May2013

– Pro tip – Select “Exact” down the left hand side for the true representation of how many people are looking for you keyword. For an explanation of what they all mean click here.

Why are they looking for you?

One of the key things that happens when businesses build their website and try to get sales through is that they lose sight of the objective of Search Engines. They are trying to help people find something or answer a question. If you take questions into account when writing content and optimizing your website, you’re going to be helping a lot more customers than your competitors and therefore selling more products.

Do you receive feedback from customers? Do you have an FAQ page? If you don’t you must know some common questions about your products (Is my kennel waterproof? What happens if I swallow this shampoo? Is my packaging recyclable? Etc. Typical for a web company – “Why isn’t my website -” then watch the suggestions) Start typing these into Google without hitting enter and you’ll see search suggestions. These are common searches that Google think you might also be looking for and therefore what your customers are looking for. If you build your content with these in mind, you’ll be reaching extra customers in no time.

How are they finding your website?

Sometimes, when you’re lookking for more search visibility, the answer is right under your nose. Do you have Google Analytics plugged in? If you don’t, I suggest you install it now. You can find it here.

If you do, go and investigate “Traffic Sources > Search > Organic > Keywords” and you’ll see the keywords that users are already reaching your website with. There might be some in there that are already doing quite well, that with some help could bring in much more traffic. For example if “Tennis Shoes” was bringing in one hundred people, if you run that through Google’s Keyword Tool (above) and find out there are 1,000 people searching for it, you know that you’re ranking reasonably well but could bring in a lot more traffic with some small adjustments.

2. Title Tag Maintenance

Knowing your audience is key to the whole of your website. But if you’re going to make some small changes to deliver big improvements then this is most likely to be it.

Title tags must not exceed 68 characters (it’s done on pixels but this is the safe character limit). Any more than this and Google starts making it’s own changes when you appear, which is bad as it affects your visibility. It also points out to Google that your website is spammy which is unfavorable in Google’s eyes.

It’s also very important that you only have 1 (2 very maximum) keyword in your Title Tag. Spammy Title Tags will never perform well in Search and your website will suffer as a result.

A good title tag structure looks like this:

“Keyword – Category/Tagline | Brand” – but you can mix it up as long as brand and keyword are in there.

So for my SEO blog, my home page is: “Online Marketing Consultant | Matt Evans”. Simple, contains my keyword which is kind of a tagline and my brand (me) and is not spammy. But it’s more than just optimising your Titles for Search Engines. Title Tags are also key to attracting users to click on your Search Results when you do appear in Google. There’s no point having something regular and well structure if your competitor has “Cement Mixers – 50% Off This Week! | BrandCement”. A user will click on an expiring offer very regularly so if you’ve got the time to commit, adding this kind of catch is great.

You could also try things like “Essex’s Only [Product]” or “Award Winning [Product]” – By the way if you try these examples and like them, let me know in the comments or tweet me, I’d love to hear from you!

This is why the ideal Title Tag is very difficult to achieve. But if you can, make it stand out to the user as well as sticking to the rules and guidelines above. This way you’ll make it work for both your search visibility and your customers.

3. Clean and Unique URLs

Over the last couple of years, Google has been on a huge clean up of duplicate content on websites. Combine this with Google’s inability to index certain pages; URL structure and normality is something that needs to be very high in your priority list.

Clean URLs

When I talk about clean URLs, I don’t mean not including dirty works (if that’s your industry then go for it!). I mean little to no parameters where possible, not spammy (domain.com/holidays/holiday/book-a-holiday-to-), make sense (correct spellings, not have unnecessary characters in – so not domain.com/askldjfslakdjfb/products) and DEFINITELY not include special characters like #, = or ?.

If you have any of the above in your URLs, get them out and get them out fast (make sure you 301 redirect properly) because in some cases your entire site will not appear in searches at all.

Ideally your site structure should pretty much dictate this for you – a good CMS will create URLs that aren’t too painful for SEO and if it doesn’t, there’s normally an option to manually change it or create new ones (i.e. WordPress > Settings > Permalinks). Ideally, you want it to look something like:

mycooldomain.com/category/sub-category/product

Obviously you’d have categories and sub categories where appropriate and these template words would be replaced with your actual categories (Try running your category and product names through the keyword tool above. Could you call it something better? Remember not to get spammy though).

If you’ve created URLs but things like your internal search are creating additional and messy URLs that you don’t want Google to see, block them in your Robots.txt files. I’ve wrote a post about this and there’s another great guide here.

Unique URLs

Duplicate pages on your site will get you penalized by Google. I cannot stress enough that having replicas of your web pages is dangerous for your visibility. To check, search for bits of your text content within quote marks in Google (“my content here”). Searches in quotes only bring up results that match it exactly, so you’ll be able to see where you’re pages are being duplicated. The other way is to do a screaming frog crawl (however, this tool is useful for so much more on your website, check this out). If you sort your results by title tag, you’ll be able to see exactly what pages are duplicates.

Fixing them can be simple or it can be difficult. Firstly, you want to make sure you have Canonical Tags on every page on the website. This is a bit of code that tells Google that ‘This page is original, please ignore all other versions! I didn’t mean to make them!’. You can find out how to implement them here.

The second, and more advanced. way is to block them in your Robots.txt file. See the guides above on how to do this.

4. Text Content on Every Page

You may or may not be aware but back in 2011 there was a Google update called “Panda”. Websites with small or no amounts of text content (thin) or high amounts of ads were penalized by Google. This means that web pages with all images and no text or lots of ads dropped much lower in search results until they fixed this.

Does this sound like your website? If it does then make sure you’re putting at least a few hundred words on the page. There’s been a lot of talk about a minimum value and I believe there’s no true ideal number of words on the page, but a minimum of 400 will suffice. Read it back when you’re finished though, if you read that somewhere else would you find it interesting? Would you stay on that page? Just bear that in mind when writing your content.

As with unique URLs this has to be unique content. Do not copy it from other websites or your own! If you’re looking for copywriters, somewhere like oDesk or PeoplePerHour does have freelance writers available to hire, just make sure you brief thoroughly to ensure high quality work.

5. Make Use Of Your Navigation

You may have heard when talking about improving your visibility that links help you rank higher… Well that can also count for links within your own site too, within reason. Your navigation menus play a huge part in this and also directing traffic correctly around your website (if its built for one it will work for both!). As a minimum you should have menu bar at the top or side of your page – that one menu should be a minimum requirement for your website. Within this one menu, you should have links to various areas on your site. Parent pages should be top level navigation and if you have room, sub and child pages can follow with additional drop downs.

Which pages should you include?

This should follow within the site structure you correctly built earlier with the URL work. Your primary pages (Parents) should be the main menu of your navigation bar – these are the pages that earlier you built into the URL as your .com/Category/ pages. Having these linked within the menu means users, search engines and links are all directed to these pages – which should be the case if they are your primary (most important) pages. If you have the facility to, you can also include the next level of pages underneath these parent pages (usually as a drop-down menu). These pages were the ones built as .com/category/sub-category and will be the next priority on your website and therefore should also receive a significant portion of your traffic. I would not recommend going down in product level, unless your product range is small (usually a services website) and counts as categories or sub categories within the website.

There it is, 5 actions to improve your search visibility. So go and get cracking today! If you have any problems or need any help with implementing these, just leave a comment or catch myself or Muze Developement on Twitter!

About the author Matt Evans

Matt Evans is a Digital Marketing consultant and currently runs an internet marketing blog over on his website. You can also find him anytime on Twitter at @DigiMatt, mostly talking about all sorts of internet marketing.