Absolute beginner’s guide: Getting a website and SEO
Want to gain visibility online but don’t have a clue where to start?
Get a website
For the best long-term investment we would recommend getting yourself:
- A domain name that meets your long-term needs (think about your brand and don’t worry about keywords!). Without recommending anybody you can buy from a number of domain registrars like GoDaddy or 123-reg, or even directly through Google domains.
- A self-hosted WordPress.org website to put on that domain. We feel WordPress provides the best flexibility and expansion capabilities for brands and businesses. You can set up your domain and site through dedicated WordPress hosting like BlueHost or SiteGround. You could also try building a quick and simple site using SquareSpace.
- A website design.With WordPress you can buy various themes that will give you a professional-looking site with various customisation options – try ThemeForest or ElegantThemes. There are also more limited free themes available. If you’re looking to do a bit more yourself try using a ‘page builder’ like Divi that allows you to construct pages out of base constituent elements. If your budget is bigger consider hiring a designer and WordPress developer to build a custom site and theme. Better design leads to better user experience and a more remarkable site, which in turn is more likely to lead to success.
Understand your site and traffic
We’d strongly recommend you set up:
- Google Analytics to track visitors to your site and their sources.
- Google Search Console to understand how Google sees your site, including where your site appears and for what searches.
Structure your website
It is important to structure your website around related themes. Which would you rank higher if you were Google: a website with occasional mentions of the searched keyword across disparate and unconnected pages, or one tightly-themed page about the keyword theme? Hopefully you suggested the second, as it provides one clear, useful page for the search, which is best for the searcher and therefore what Google will want to rank.
- Understand your keyword themes. You can use Google Keyword Planner to get ideas, type in searches into Google and see what it ‘auto suggests’, or see what topics people talk about on social media etc.
- Structure your website around grouped themes so that the relevance of each level is concentrated to the top containing level; your generic terms are then benefitted by the more specific and niche sub-themes. So if your website is about animal care, for example, you could have a cat section, under which are breeds of cats, and within each breed is breed-specific care tips.
- Understand your chosen themes and use appropriate synoyms and connected terms. A search for cat care is more likely to return a page that mentions ‘feline health’ and ‘cat food’ than one that talks about ‘elderly care’ and ‘squirrels’ for example; in the first example there is greater relational relevance. Ensure that the language you use is natural and not forced, as ‘stuffing’ particular keywords in will have a negative impact on your SEO.
Optimise your copy
Google ‘sees’ a few things that determine what shows in the search results page.
- Your page title (in blue): Put relevant keywords near the front and make it appealing to click. Also put your brand at the end.
- Your web address or URL (in green): The URL is important so include synonyms and keyword themes here too, but don’t duplicate from the title.
- Your meta description (in grey): This should be your marketing copy – use it to push your key values
Ensure that all of your pages have unique and relevant copy in these elements and they’re not too long. YoastSEO can help you edit them on a page-by-page basis if you’re using WordPress.
You can also set heading levels (H1 through H5 normally, like the one just above) in most content management systems for websites. Use them like you would in good copy to make it readable and engaging, but also make them keyword theme relevant, unique and appropriate to the page.
Ensure your content is nice and readable, especially on mobile devices. If using WordPress ensure you select a suitable theme that’s ‘responsive‘ i.e. changes how the same content displays for different screen sizes.
Ensure you’re communicating your message quickly and effectively. Can the user tell in the first five seconds:
- What you do?
- What your strong points are / how you will help me?
- Why you’re unique and better than your competitors?
- Where I should click / go next?
You should make it immediately very clear why a user should choose you and what you want them to do next. This ‘next action’ should be encourage with clear calls-to-action (CTAs) like buttons, whether it’s completing a form or navigating to another page or piece of content.
Get quality websites linking to you
In basic terms, Google sees other website linking to you (or ‘referencing’ you) as a good thing and the more of these you have the better your chances of ranking for a search. It important to consider that the value of a link is often tied into how strong and trustworthy that site is and how difficult it is to acquire: a link from bbc.co.uk is a million times better than a link from a directory to which anyone can submit their site.
You can use relationships you already have to build your link profile: for example you can get a link from associations you are a member of, or attribution from guest submissions or editorial you write for others, or provide tools or resources that others then reference.
More basic SEO