When thinking about addressing SEO, ‘Where do I start?’ and ‘Who do I trust to help me?’ are the usual dilemmas that come to mind. From a point of experience – without getting specialized – we have drawn up some best practice pointers, to help you start to formulate your strategy for success.

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization is most commonly regarded as the vehicle/formula that moves websites to the top of Google searches, based on specific search terms. But there is a host of methods of drawing visitors to your site in ways that makes it easy for them to find it; involving social media, mapping, blog posts and more. SEO is a combination of these, which together contribute to the online presence that Google ranks your site by.

High or low maintenance?

Before you embark on your planning, give thought to realistically how much time you have to invest in SEO on an on-going basis. Avoid being over-optimistic, because social feeds that are not active, could seriously undermine your brand and it’s website ranking. As a yardstick, here are some considerations.

Minimal commitment  If you are not going to be in a position to devote much time, then focus on;

  • Your Google maps listing with contact details, photos, a link to your website, perhaps reviews and even a 360 view of your location
  • Generating blogs about your brand. Feed bloggers engaging content that they can use, whilst ensuring that they link to your website and mention some of your target keywords.

Regular commitment  If you are prepared to provide constant input, then create more of a presence by;

  • Opening a Twitter account
  • Establishing a Facebook page as well as
  • An Instagram account and
  • A YouTube channel to post video content on

Your fundamental starting block is getting the basics right with your website and here are some pointers to guide you, in order of priority.

1) Content

Content really is king, so it is imperative that what you write interests and engages visitors – it should be on-point and genuinely useful. Google is smarter than simply detecting keywords or paragraphs and will rank your site according to evidence of the value your content offers.

Additionally, keep it fresh! Stale content will damage the saliency of your website and brand. Use a news or events page and feed it on a regular basis.

2) Geographical location

Google evaluates where your site is hosted (by country) in relation to where your visitors are located. For example, if you are targeting a French audience but your website is hosted in the UK, you may find your website is ranked down by Google in France.

3) Semantics

Web pages are laid out using HTML, a simple mark up language. When establishing the structure of your web pages, take care to mark up the content elements with HTML tags that are logical ie. heading, footer, title, sections, navigation and side notes. This is because Google (and other search engines) uses the order and hierarchy of each of a webpage’s elements to evaluate the apparent importance of your page’s content. You wouldn’t want Google to think the footer relates to your product range for example!  Here’s a visual to help explain: https://images.app.goo.gl/KVoHPJ5GVLp8c6G19

4) Speed

Google’s ranking algorithm also considers page load times and ranks down slower sites. It is therefore important to appoint a developer who understands the many variables that can contribute to the load speed and the challenges involved. Such variables are;

  • Where the site is hosted
  • Image compression
  • Minification of assets like CSS / JavaScript
  • Number of database queries per page
  • Loading third-party assets from a CDN eg. fonts or videos
  • Use long-lived headers for client-side caching 

Here’s a tool to test your site: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/

5) Metadata

The meta tags, on every page of your site, contain information, such as the title of the page and a description. These need to be a good summary of the page, as they will affect your ranking because Google uses this metadata to produce its search results entry for your website.

It is possible to set the metadata on a per-page basis or use sensible defaults with most content management systems. There are also special meta tags for social networks, called ‘Open Graph’ (OG) tags, which generate previews of a website when it is shared on Facebook or via WhatsApp or others. It is a good idea to use these for your website so that shares look good on social media.  For technical details see: http://ogp.me/ and below.

6) Mobile-friendly

Most websites should be built with a ‘mobile-first’ approach and treat desktop layout as the second priority. The web is overwhelmingly mobile and, for many sites, we’re seeing 90% of traffic coming from phones and tablets. To reflect this, we believe Google rank down websites which do not offer a mobile-friendly experience.

7) Security

All websites should be secured on an ‘https’ address. HTTPS (sometimes called SSL or TLS) is the technology that makes the little padlock icon appear next to a website address in your browser and it means that any data sent between a visitors’ web browser and the server, is encrypted. It can also provide faster page load times. This is important from an SEO point of view as Google now uses this security as a ranking metric.

8) Sitemap.xml

Whilst Google is pretty good at indexing websites, there is no harm in providing a helping hand! Your developer should set up a sitemap.xml file to provide to Google, which maps out the structure of your site; what pages there are and their importance. This will help ensure a richer Google search result for your website and even allow Google to find and index pages not linked from your site’s navigation.

9) Adwords / PPC

If you want to go further to promote your website’s ranking, you can invest in Google Ad Words, whereby you pay for your website to have a top-ranking position (as an ad as such) for a given keyword or phrase. You will pay per resulting click.  See: https://ads.google.com/

10) Search console

Once your website is live, submit it to the Google Search console to make its presence known and ensure it is indexed. Doing this will give you the added benefit of peace of mind because Google will email you if it has a problem with indexing and you will be able to keep track of how well your site is being indexed going forward.  See: https://search.google.com/search-console/about

11) Analytics

Finally, it is worth tracking your visitors and the keywords they are using to find your website. This will also give you valuable insights into what visitors are doing on your website.  Use https://analytics.google.com which is free to set up.

In summary

  1. Write good content for your website
  2. Get it built properly to best practice standards
  3. Host it somewhere fast, in the UK
  4. Secure it with HTTPS
  5. Monitor it with Google search console and analytics.

Here are some links to sites that we have built and that we host, making SEO a priority.

https://www.cyt-uk.com/

https://www.windrosehomes.co.uk/

https://www.gloscricket.co.uk/

https://www.bs7gym.co.uk/

https://www.winesofsa.co.uk/

We hope that this top-line guide is useful. Our digital expertise is extensive, so please contact us with any task or challenge that you would like help with.

Please email hello@grandc.co.uk or call us on 020 8546 0150.