SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, will get your freelance work noticed in the online world. It’s the practice of optimising your website to increase visitor numbers by obtaining a high-ranking placement on the results page of a search engine.
Search engines, including Google, Bing and Yahoo!, use chunks of code called algorithms to find the sites which they believe best match a user’s search criteria. These algorithms have a strict set of rules dictating what makes a site appear high up or low down on a search results page for a specific search term.
SEO is also a highly lucrative marketing technique with many specialists offering to help your site climb the search engine rankings – for a fee. If you just want to boost your site’s rankings without splashing out on a full marketing campaign, here are a few simple SEO tips:
1. Produce quality content
Search engines now favour sites with high-quality content to keep users engaged.
Why? Well, SEO used to be something of a dark art. Unscrupulous sorts would produce nonsense pages filled with keywords and phrases users often search for to con the algorithms into believing they were the best site to rank.
So, search engines changed their emphasis from keywords (more on that later) to a better user experience. The result is that you must focus on producing a high-quality site.
A website’s merit is measured using a range of factors, including time spent on a page. To ensure your site visitors stay, it is important to make your content as readable and relevant as possible.
So, avoid convoluted language and meaningless jargon. Instead, focus on producing longer content that really delves into the subject matter to give viewers the information they need and keep them on your website. Make your content engaging by employing a few easy copywriting techniques: this video from Backlinko founder Brian Dean has some excellent suggestions in a video available online and for a more in-depth perspective, check out this post from internet marketers Hobo.
Good content isn’t the only factor to take into consideration. Make sure your page loads quickly as a slow-loading site can also negatively impact your SEO if users get frustrated and click away before your page has even loaded. Pingdom features a website speed test and allows you to see which elements on your site are adversely affecting its load time. Also, fill your site with as much relevant information as possible – from filling in the ‘alt text’ box for your images to producing regular blog posts.
2. Identify and use keywords – sparingly
Keywords and phrases are the nuggets of text that users are likely to type into a search engine when conducting an online search. Despite the shift to high-quality content, they still play a vital role in SEO.
First, you need to do a little research to know how people are looking for you when they conduct a web search. The Google Trends tool gives valuable insights into how users are searching. It’s also a lot easier to understand than its Keyword Planner, which is more aimed at the marketing demographic and those with an Adwords account. And Google Analytics will reveal the search terms people are already using to find you. If you want to take a more in-depth approach Moz provides some articles that are a great place to start.
Next, pepper your keywords and phrases across your site, but do not shoehorn them in – or you could harm your site’s search ranking. Instead, use such words naturally in your high-quality content and across page titles, headings and URLs.
3. Don’t forget the mobile space
Another key trend in the SEO space is the move towards rewarding sites optimised for mobiles. In other words, those sites which are designed to be readable on a mobile device, such as a tablet or smartphone.
Google’s algorithm update last year saw mobile-friendly sites receive boosted search rankings for mobile searches. If your site runs on a third-party system, such as Weebly, Wix or WordPress, then chances are they will automatically optimise for mobile or have tools available to help you achieve this. If your site is not optimised, it could be time to consider a redesign to make your site responsive to mobile devices.
4. Use videos where you can
Search engines see video content as a marker of useful websites. So, to boost your site’s search ranking, you need to put more video content online.
There are many ways to do this. YouTube and Vimeo are well known in the video space but it’s important to host your videos on your domain to fully exploit their SEO value. You could use such third-party sites to post teasers of your videos and drive more people to your site, but keep your video content on your website.
You can use videos in a range of ways to promote your business. For example, you could use a video to showcase a particular product, make an instructional video or even capture client testimonials to bring your business to life.
To further boost your SEO, make sure your videos are easy to browse by arranging them in an indexed gallery, transcript the videos to build further relevant content into your site and give users the option to embed your videos on their website to create further links to your site.
5. Get a Google+ page
Google+ may not be a big hitter in the social media world compared to the likes of Facebook and Twitter, but it can have a huge influence on your site’s SEO for Google. So, link your site to your Google+ profile to improve its placement in the search rankings.
To do this, simply click the ‘about’ tab on your Google+ profile and go to the ‘links’ section. Then add your website’s URL to the ‘contributor to’ section. Add the Google+ link to your website and make sure you have an appropriate image for your Google+ profile; when you connect your Google+ page to your website this image is also shown next to all of your Google search engine results.
You must keep on top of SEO algorithm changes to keep your website at the top of the search results. It’s impossible to predict what Google, Bing and other search engines will do next, so remain vigilant for those ever-changing algorithms.
Keep focused on producing high-quality content too – not just for SEO reasons. By adopting such a stance, it’s a win-win situation for your business and for users: good sites gain a solid reputation in the online space and visitors enjoy the best user experience possible.
Gemma Church is a freelance writer specialising in the tech industry.