Improve Search with SEO
Knowing who visits your site can be incredibly useful. Now that we’ve published your site, let’s look at ways of measuring how the site is performing. Initially we’re looking to make sure visitors are coming to your site (and how they’re discovering it). To do this, we’re going to add some simple code snippets to your RapidWeaver project that allows you to view visitor statistics via either Google’s free Analytics service, or a free GoSquared analytics account that’s included with every copy of RapidWeaver.
If you’ve never used Google Analytics before, this Moz.com guide explains the basics. At the end of the Google Analytics registration process, you’ll be asked to add a site to your account. After entering your website address, Google will present you with the code that you need to carefully copy, and enter into RapidWeaver. You should place the code that Google provides into the Code item in the sidebar, under the Head sub-tab.
While Google Analytics provides you with details of how people are using your website, Webmaster Tools is a free service that allows you to see any potential issues for search engines that visit your site. The service highlights potential issues with broken links, missing sitemaps, and dozens of other items that may impede your appearance in search engine results.
Search Engines use a wide variety amount of different “signals” to judge the quality of a page - everything from the speed that a page loads, to the quality of the links to the page and the number of times any given phrase appear on each page. Unlike the early days of search engines, where pages could easily “game” their way to the top of a results page with keyword density, almost every aspect of your site can be used to rank it. Google produces a great SEO Starter Guide to teach the basics - and there’s also a number of tools that you can use to inspect how your site performs once online. We’ll show you some of these in the next chapter, but first let’s make sure we cover the fundamentals that you site should include before we publish it!
If you’re using a responsive theme, this means you need to do absolutely nothing! All themes in RapidWeaver are fully responsive, which, in combination with any of the built-in plugins or version 4 of the Stacks plugin, allow you to build a fully-responsive site that works beautifully for mobile devices and desktop computers!
Over the years, we’ve learned a few tips about how to make your website sing when a search engine visits it. Here’s some top tips for preparing your website - we recommend you run through this checklist before you publish your site for the world to see! This checklist also forms the basis of RapidWeaver's Health Check feature - to get started, click the Health Check toolbar item and run a check!
- Make sure you’ve added descriptive browser titles in the RapidWeaver Page Inspector. Don’t be overly-verbose, or potentially spammy. Google and other search engines penalise sites that use “keyword stuffing” (the practice of cramming in lots of keywords you’re wanting to appear under).
- Use concise but descriptive filenames for web pages. For example,the Realmac Software About page uses http://realmacsoftware.com/company as its web address. Keep website addresses short - some users will attempt to guess the address of pages, and http:// realmacsoftware.com/about-realmac-software-app-studio-brighton-website-creation- rapidweaver isn’t that guessable.
- Test your web site on a few different devices to gauge how the page displays, and how quickly it loads. If your site is responsive, don’t fret about making your site layout pixel- perfect at any given screen size. The whole point of responsive design is to allow the content to dynamically reflow: as long as there’s no quirks or overlapping content, you’re good to go.
- Make sure you’ve added concise description meta tags in the RapidWeaver Page Inspector for every page. While “description” metatags are no longer used by Google to determine your page’s ranking, they are used to generate the short snippets on Google’s results page. e.g. “Learn more about RapidWeaver, the award-wining website creation app for Mac”.
- Add “Alternate” descriptions to images in the Media Editor. Double-click on every image in your site, and in the popover ensure that the Alt Tag is something meaningful and human-readable. The Alt tag is shown when an image isn’t downloaded, and helps visitors who may not display images (e.g. visitors with a visual impairment may be using a screen reader to read pages aloud, or users using on a mobile connection while abroad may choose to disable images to avoid expensive roaming charges). Don’t try and over- load this with extra information, simply describe the content the user would otherwise see, and avoid generics such as “Logo” or “Button”. If you’re using photos, you may want to describe the content of the image: “Brighton Pier at Sunset”.
- Use the built in Search Engine Sitemap feature. RapidWeaver automatically adds your pages to a special, machine-readable, XML file that is automatically submitted to Google and other search engines on your behalf. If you want to hide a page from this sitemap, you’ll need to uncheck the Show in Navigation option in the Page Inspector.
As with all SEO tips, be aware that these are merely a set of suggestions, and not all- encompassing ways to appear on your chosen results page. Google uses a huge number of different “signals” to rate your page, and ensuring there’s great content to make it worth while for visitors should be your primary focus before embarking on any optimisations specifically for search engines! Remember also that changes made to your website will not instantly impact your appearance in search results, and it could be a month or more before substantial changes have any effect.
The following tips won't guarantee you a top spot on Google, but they will give you a solid foundation to build from. Let's dive right in. First off, get yourself a descriptive domain name. Don’t go for a trendy acronym, or remove the vowels because it sounds cool. If you run a coffee shop, “benscoffeeshop.com” is better than “bcs.io”. Secondly, you should customise the file and folder name for every page. The folder name should describe the page content, such as “brewing-methods” or “opening-times”. The file name should be “index.html” (or .php, if required). Note: Ensure that “Tidy website links” is enabled in the settings (this is the case for all new RapidWeaver projects). Doing so will remove the “index.html” from all links, meaning you’ll get links like “benscoffeeshop.com/contact” rather than "benscoffeeshop.com/contact/index.html”. Bad examples:
The page title is really important. Google tries to match the words in your title to the content the user sees. The two most important things to think about when writing page titles are: Use as many of the keywords you want to be found for as possible, without being spammy.
Whilst most people think putting their company name at the beginning of the title is important, if you want the best results then your most important keywords should be at the beginning. Google cares more about the content than your company name. The page title should be between 50-60 characters, as this is the amount that will typically be displayed on Google. Going over 60 characters won’t harm you, but anything after roughly the 55 character mark won’t be displayed, or help your SEO score. Plus it looks neater, and more professional, if your entire title is displayed in search results.
- BCS - Brewing (Really bad)
- Ben’s Coffee - Location (Bad)
Coffee Brewing. Brewing Coffee at Ben’s Coffee Brewing Coffee Shop (Spammy, don’t do this) The first two examples are bad because they are short, don’t describe the page content, and don’t include many keywords. The third example is spammy, and will harm you in the long run. Google are getting better at filtering out sites that are attempting to game the system. So whilst you might see some short-term results, you’ll be feeling the wrath of Google once they realise what you’re up to. No-one wants to be banished to page ten for eternity.
- Learn how to brew amazing coffee at Ben’s Coffee Shop
- Drink the Best Coffee in Brighton at Ben’s Coffee Shop
These examples are good because they use keywords a coffee shop might want to be found for, describe the content on the page, and are roughly 55 characters long. These titles will give you the best long term results. Just make sure your content matches up with the title (we’ll talk about content more later). You can customise the title for each page on your RapidWeaver site by using the “Page Title” text box in the Page Inspector. Responsive Design At this point responsive design is pretty standard across all sites. If you’re maintaining a site that isn’t responsive, you need take the leap and make it responsive. Why? Because, for a while now, Google have been giving sites that are responsive, or “Mobile friendly” as they label them in search results, more points on searches made from a mobile device. The reason for this is because Google wants to ensure the sites they send you to are easy to use, on the device you’re using. If you keep getting sent to sites that are hard to use, you’ll find the “Google experience” annoying and might start using a competitor (Hello Bing). All RapidWeaver themes released in the last few years are responsive, so it’s easy to create a responsive, mobile friendly site. And with RapidWeaver’s built in “Responsive Preview” you can easily see how your site will look on desktop, tablet, and mobile. So just pick a theme, make sure your content layout is good on a variety of screen sizes, and you’re good to go!
You’ll want to get HTTPS setup on your server. This sounds scary, and it used to be, but these days we have sites like CloudFlare that will take care of it for you. Why do you need HTTPS? Again, mostly because Google is giving more points to sites that are secure (there are other reasons why secure sites are important, but it’s beyond the scope of this post). HTTPS is not something RapidWeaver can setup for you, it’s something that is handled by your server. You could go through the hassle of purchasing and installing a certificate, or if you’re just starting out I suggest you signup for a free CloudFlare account and setup HTTPS with them. Once you have your site setup with CloudFlare, it is literally two clicks and your site can be served over HTTPS.
It’s true what those SEO experts say, “Content is King”. If you only do one thing, concentrate on adding quality, relevant content to your site. And do it on a regular basis, don’t allow your site to become stale. The best way to do this is to create a blog, and make a commitment to post regularly. You don’t need to go crazy and post updates five times a day — you’re not trying to replicate your twitter feed. Start slow, say one or two posts a month, and cover a topic that’s relevant to your business. Cover the topic in-depth, as doing so will show your visitors (and Google!) that you know what you’re talking about and that you’re a good source of information. Think about, and plan, what you’re going to write in each post. SEO experts will probably bang on about “keyword research”, giving you a long list of must-have tools that help you research and choose which keywords to use. Don’t worry about all that, there’s an easy way to get started... Start typing a couple of words in to Google, and see what it suggests. Those suggestions are the keywords you’ll want to focus on. For example, my imaginary coffee blog will likely cover how to brew coffee. If you start Googling for “coffee brew” you’ll get the following suggestions:
- coffee brewers
- coffee brewing
- coffee brewing methods
- coffee brewing ratio
Those are the most popular phrases people are searching for. Use those phrases as your keywords, and start writing posts that contain them both in the title and the body (you should also tag your posts). This is the basics of how you target the keywords you want to be found for. The main thing to keep in mind is, and I can’t stress this enough; Write good quality content that’s relevant to your business. Write something you’d want to read. Write it on a regular basis. I keep saying “good quality”, and I mean that in every sense of the word. Don’t be sloppy! Make sure there are no spelling mistakes and don’t use jargon or acronyms. Your content should sound professional and be easy to read. If you put this in to practice you’ll start to find people link to your articles, perhaps via their own blog or on social media. This is known as “link building”, which I’ll cover in another post, but in short: Link Building is increasing the number of inbound links to your site. You need to do this because it really helps your ranking score. SEO Roundup As I said at the start, implementing these tips won’t guarantee you a top spot on Google, but it’ll certainly give you an excellent foundation to build from. You won’t get to the top of Google (or even page one) over night, be patient and stick at it.