Are you doing “SEO” (Search Engine Optimisation) or thinking of doing it? Spending money on SEO? Yes? OK, well here’s a few thoughts about why it is a waste of your money until you have done the five essential steps before spending a penny on SEO.
These are the five things that Google will be looking for with your website and unless you have done them then any money you spend on SEO is money that is not giving you the best return on your investment and may actually be a waste of your money.
OK, first: What is SEO?
Glad you asked; ok, SEO is only made up of two things.
Build great content and it attracts the right people to your website, new, interesting engaging and on-topic content is what users online are looking for. Doesn’t have to be huge “thought pieces” or long blog posts, could be a photo of what is wrong with “something” in your industry. Could be an infographic (see below) or a simple “how to” with images or video. Whatever the content is it HAS to be on-point for your target audience so that they read it and go “Ohhhh! that’s pretty interesting”…
A link, like this mistermetric.com from another website, social media or other place online is a “backlink” Google scores the backlinks, how many have you got and how authoritative is the website linking to you? The more authoritative a website the higher the weighting, here’s an example: If you have a nursery or child day-care business, and the BBC linked to you from their Lifestyle section that would be one backlink, but because it was the BBC it would count for much more than a single backlink on a local mum and toddler website. It is not just about how many backlinks you have but where they are coming from.
And that is it. Content and Backlinks – build enough quality, on-topic and impressive content regularly and backlinks will come, there are some strategies to implement to ensure they DO come, but that’s a topic for another post. The point is, content and backlinks are THE only way to generate positive SEO and this can be done in-house with the right content marketing strategy. However before we explore that topic we have to address more fundamental issues with your website.
SEO Has changed
Lately SEO has changed, without going into the technical in/outs let’s just say that search results are hugely customised to the individual, their location, previous searches and settings and current trends and search volumes all pay a part in determining what results an end user sees. So going after “keywords” and expecting it to pay off big is likely to end with a waste of money and frustration. This is even more likely if you haven’t focused on the five issues below and ensured your website hasn’t fallen foul of them.
So what are the five “things?
These five things are the “must do” elements of any website, so please read and understand the elements and ask your tame techy if there’s anything you don’t understand.
1) Load Speed – how quickly your website loads in the user’s browser once they have clicked the link to your website is now hugely important. Your website should aim to be fully loaded and ready to use within 3 seconds. Research has shown that 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 secs or less and 40% abandon a website that takes more than 3 secs to load. Just a single 1 second delay in load time can equal a 7% lower conversion rate from your website. All of this points to one thing, test your website, if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load, fix that first. Google expects you to take load speed seriously and indicates this in many different places, Google analytics, Google Search Console and in all their webmaster advice. So take load speed seriously because if you don’t then do not expect Google to take your website seriously.
The fast your website is, the better it is for your customers and your search position a win/win, use business class web hosting.
2) Security – Google is making it VERY clear, businesses need to start taking online security seriously. Not just ecommerce websites, all websites. If you use an unencrypted HTTP connection between your website and your user’s browser anyone can theoretically see the communication and the content. Not a problem if it is just data from your website, however when the user comes to entering in an email address or a password, that data is suddenly exposed, which is why Google are push HTTPS Everywhere. Currently Chrome web browser shows “Not secure” for any website with pages which have forms that collect user data, it is expected that warning will eventually escalate to a “not safe” type warning being displayed before you even see the website, which lowers user trust and is likely to really hurt anyone still not using HTTPS. HTTPS certificates require some programming ability so it is best to get a developer to implement this for you.
Google is pushing security as a “must have” and no longer optional, use HTTPS.
3) Uptime and reliability – if you use cheap reseller hosting then your website may not necessarily be available when users come to look for your website. Recently during website audits we discovered that one site was sat on a server with over 1000 other websites, at busy times they were experiencing a load time in excess of 30 seconds as all those websites visitors were putting the server resources under tremendous load.
Another audit found that a church website was sat on a server with an escort agency and a Thai “lady boy” bar, not a huge issue but unsavoury websites may attract unwanted attention from hackers and if they are determined to either hack the server or take out the website, then expect your website to go too. Google won’t put your website at the top of the search if it is unreliable, of the load time exceeds what is acceptable but also is it there every time Google comes a-calling, reliably and at the same speed no matter what time of day or how busy the site is?
Then add a Content Distribution Network, or CDN, this adds a layer of protection around your website and ensures that even if your server is “down” your website is still seen by the end user. A lot of the CDN’s offer a free or low cost plan and once set up you have protection against hackers and other nefarious web users as well as adding to the reliability and speed of serving your website up to your end users.
Solid, reliable business class web hosting with a CDN is therefore a “must have” not a luxury.
4) Google Rating – Google have a test where you can check your Google rating, it is a combination of load speed, and technical tests that show you EXACTLY how well your website is doing in Google’s judgement. It is a massively overlooked opportunity for you to find out exactly what the Big G thinks about your website and exactly what to focus on to improve your rating. The tests give you both your desktop and mobile score so you can see if you are doing ok on both platforms. You can then see the exact items to make changes to for both desktop and mobile, this should a “first stop” set of actions before you do anything else. More can be written about the technical elements, but, just go and have a look, test your site and get started.
Go and test your site now: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/
5) Mobile friendly – a responsive website is now mandatory, Google have even stated that a fast mobile site is given a positive rank boost in the search results. Furthermore Google’s primary search index is the mobile search, which gets updated more regularly than the desktop index. Google even have a “mobile first” design policy which states that you should think about your user’s experience on a mobile phone before thinking about their experience on the desktop version of the website.
You HAVE to have a mobile optimised website to succeed online and appeal to your target audience.
What to do next?
That’s the big five things you need to do before any money is spent on SEO, and even then you should just focus on quality content and producing it on a daily basis. All of these items might seem technical and fiddly and cause the sweat to rise and the panic to set in, you have to deal with a web designer who uses all sorts of incomprehensible words and you’re not even sure they have understood you and it takes five phone calls to even get things started…
Well it is easy to get started today, good business class website hosting with a CDN sorts out the uptime and reliability, adding an SSL/TLS HTTPS security certificate with a couple of hours installing and testing it is something that can all be done today (one phone call and leave the rest to us) that’s 3 of the 5 items checked off the list in a few hours and all for less than £0.99p per day you get started in the right direction.
Checking the Google rating can be done right now and that gives you a list of tasks to get your tame technician to look at, any good technician worth their salt should be able to address most of the issues highlighted by Google. Whilst doing this work they can then also work in getting our website to load inside 3 seconds (2 seconds is better!), the speed increases over time can generate significant improvements in search ranking and therefore traffic, so it is something to take even more seriously than SEO and PPC.
Mobile friendliness can be checked testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com visit that link and that will show you how mobile friendly your website Google think it is. Making your website “responsive” and fully mobile friendly can take some time and may cost but if you plan the upgrade it will pay off by future proofing your website, plus if you stop spending on SEO you have a budget to spend on mobile upgrades.
Hopefully that has given you some starting points to help you work on speed, security, uptime and reliability today and work on the additional mobile responsiveness over time.
If you have any questions feel free to call us on 01420 398080 or use https://mistermetric.com and test your website against our benchmarking
tool which combines all five elements and keep track of your progress.
That infographic all in one place – can also be downloaded from our learning library