This question pops up frequently and it’s one of those classic quick questions that requires a long answer.
Incidentally, we refer to ‘Google’ here as SEO shorthand for ‘search engines’. With 93% of the search market, the majority of SEO work is carried out with an eye on Google’s search algorithms; other search engines tend to follow suit.
Two quick but important things to begin:
- Be patient; this stuff takes time. There’s a whole load of things that need to take place before you can begin to expect any website – let alone a newly launched one – to start climbing Google’s rankings.
- Familiarise yourself with the excellent Beginner’s Guide to SEO by Moz. They guys really know what they’re talking about, may this become your bible.
First things first
How long has your website been live?
If it’s only been a few weeks, it’s likely that Google doesn’t even know it exists yet. If Google isn’t aware of your website, it can’t be expected to rank you above websites it knows and has already learned to trust.
Is Google aware of you yet?
To help your chances of being crawled up and picked up in the first instance:
- Submit your sitemap via Google’s Search Console. This is a direct way of telling Google your website exists and requesting they come and check it out.
- Try to establish a few backlinks from other trusted sites (i.e. sites that Google already knows about and will then see the link to you the next time it visits them). This is easier said than done, but here’s a few easy wins to get you started:
- Link to your site from your social media accounts and channels. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Vimeo, LinkedIn and more all allow you to add links to your personal and/or company bios.
- Assuming they’re happy with how the project went, your web agency may well offer to promote the site as a ‘Look what we did’ type post on their own website and social media.
- Speak to your clients, suppliers and friends. They might be happy to link to you from their own website, blog or social channels too. It all helps.
Is the site accessible to Search Engines?
Most good web developers will add snippets of code to your website whilst it’s being built to discourage search engines from stumbling across it before it’s ready for public viewing.
Occasionally they’ll forget to remove these snippets once the site’s been launched, meaning Google and co are essentially blocked from reading the site.
(Disclaimer: We’ve been guilty of this in the past, so it’s now part of our launch-day testing sign off to double check the site can be crawled, indexed and followed by search engines when it goes live.)
If you’re familiar with how to view a web pages’ source code (if not – Right-click –> ‘View Page Source’ in most modern browsers – you can’t break anything, don’t worry), then you can quickly check for this by searching for any instances of the following terms:
- NoIndex – An instruction to search engines not to store this page in their index – or –
- NoFollow – Instructs the search engine’s crawler not to follow any links on this page even if it does stumble across it.
In 99% of cases you want both of these in place for development sites. For live sites, unless you’re actively trying to keep the content out of Google, then these are bad news.
If you find either of these on a live site, check with your web agency. There’s a chance they may be there for good reason but it’s worth being sure.
Can I realistically expect to rank for that keyword or search term?
Sometimes there’s a cold hard dose of reality check required when dealing with expectation of how well a website can be expected to perform.
Expecting, for example, a brand new, single page self catering apartment website to out-jostle Booking.com, AirBnB, Expedia, Hilton, Sykes Cottages, Premier Inn, Holiday Inn, IBIS and so on for something like ‘Edinburgh Accommodation’ just isn’t realistic. These guys own these sort of search terms in both the organic and paid listings, so trying to compete on these sort of terms is a long game at best and a bloody expensive one at worst.
Where you have a much better chance of ranking and thus picking up search traffic is on the less commonly used but therefore less competitive ‘long tail’ search terms. This will probably mean creating lots of very specific landing pages around each topic.
For the example above, this could be search terms like:
- Morningside holiday rental (*or wherever the property is located). Include details of the suburb or area you’re in, include details of nearby shops, pubs, restaurants and attractions. If there’s a cinema nearby, link to their showing times page. Speak to the independently owned businesses nearby and let them know you’re including them on your website. They might even link back to you (remember that earlier point about links?)
- Pet friendly accommodation Edinburgh – Is your accommodation dog friendly? Include a page about it, this stands you apart from at least some of the competition so shout about it. Does the page have photos of pets in your property? Could you highlight nearby walks or parks that are suitable for dog owners? Is there a nearby vet surgery that’s happy to see non-local/registered animals in the case of an emergency?
- Accessible accommodation Edinburgh – Is your property accessible? How might you describe the place to someone in a wheelchair? Would they be able to easily reach the keybox? Is it all ground floor, one level or lift served?
- Accommodation near Edinburgh University – Maybe your bolthole is ideally suited for Mum and Dad to stay for the weekend whilst up visiting little Hugo at university? How close is the main campus or halls of residence? If it’s a bus ride away, what bus number(s) should you catch, is there an online time-table you can link to? Where’s the nearest Waitrose for buying supplies?
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about SEO (and a lot of snake oil salesmen helping fuel them), but a great deal of the basics can be boiled down to simple logic and common sense.
Round up and resources
This post is meant as a springboard for further reading and exploration of SEO and to help get more out of your new website and you may find the following tools and resources helpful: