SEO, OPTIMIZE YOUR SITE FOR SEARCH ENGINES

Search engine optimazation | Handmade in Europe

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the keyword these days. Get found, get more visitors, and what is most important, get the right visitors to find you. After that it is up to you to provide quality content targeted at those visitors. You want to attract them so that they want to keep coming back to you.

First some statistics, on which I can be very short: Google rules.
Their search engine gets used most often, most statistical bureaus agree that their share is somewhere around 80%, and that is still a careful estimate. Over 80% of the people using Google do daily searches using Google. Google handles 40.000 searches worldwide per second.
The verb ‘to Google’ is officially recognized. Do you Bing? Do you Yahoo? Need I say more?
If we’re talking about SEO, go for Google.

Page speed

Often I notice that when people talk about SEO the focus is on keywords, meta-tags and titles. All too often the page loading speed is being overlooked.
People are not too patient anymore, so if your pages load slowly this will not be good for you. Try the online GOOGLE PAGE SPEED tool and see how you score. I would think Google will base your ranking on your loading speed. Caching, image sizes, huge scripts for fancy effects, they all need to be considered.
Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do you really need these sliding effects with 10 photos on your front page, which takes quite some time to load?
  • Do you compress photos before you load to optimize them for the internet?
  • Do you load the photos the exact size needed, or do you load them much bigger?
  • For the techies: do you have caching enabled so people do not have to load previously viewed banners, logos & photos again next visit?

Take an extra step and if your shop photos are displayed as 800 x 600, upload these as 800 x 600. Your browser does not need to resize and compress them then.
And check your settings on the compression. Pixel-perfect professional photos for printing are not needed for the internet (unless you offer them as printable downloads, of course).
There’s many free image optimizer tools on the internet, in many cases saving you up to 80% in size. Google’s own free application Picassa has an export function that lets you set the size and quality of your photos and then export them in bulk.

Mobile version

In 2014 a tipping point was reached, and since September 2014 there are more people surfing using mobile devices than PC’s. No wonder Google now gives you better ranking if you have a mobile version of your site. Basically, if you want good Google ranking on your site, having a mobile version is a must. Sites need to be displayed on mobile phones and tablets as well as on PC’s, and browsing them should be made as easy as possible, quite a challenge for the website engineers.

If you have a very big website with a large menu and many sub-menus it might be worth it to consider developing a stripped version for mobile devices to optimize the loading speed and a friendly user experience.

Keywords, tags, titles, snippets

Ok, so you have a nice, fast site with a mobile version. Now you need to make sure you will be found by your target group, i.e. the people that will be interested in your content (see also our POST ON TARGETING). You can optimize as much as you like, but if you do not have the content the visits will likely be short. The better visitor statistics tools will tell you how many visits you had, what keywords they used to find you, and how long they stayed. Getting many visitors who only stay for 15 seconds is not really useful. You want to reach the people who are genuinely interested in your content. If you get lots of short visits, first review your keywords and tags. Again, Google has the tools to help you. I would suggest to use GOOGLE ANALYTICS to see what is working for you, what keywords do actually drag people in, and see if they stay around, and if they come back.
Using appropriate keywords is your main goal. You need to set up 10 to 20 unique relevant keywords, use these regularly in meta tags (hidden tags on top of your page telling search engines what your site is about), in your titles and your content and then do regular analysis on these to see if they score.

You do not need any programming skills to implement the tags. I can recommend a really good wordpress plugin, SEO BY YOAST, which is checks your content, titles, keywords and tags, inserts the appropriate keywords, notifies Google when you have new content, and will make a sitemap for you, a page especially for Google, which tells the search engines about all your pages so they can be indexed. It even lets you set up what Google will display (Snippets). We’ve published a POST ON SNIPPETS  on our blog. So if you are using wordpress, get the Yoast SEO plugin, it is doing great job for you, for free. (And no, I don’t know Yoast, neither do I get money for linking to him).

Tag and name images & video’s properly

If you ever downloaded photos from Facebook or Etsy the photo names will be incomprehensible. What to make of 11149485_1580164278919882_4886383374403858697_n.jpg (facebook) or il_570xN.706672736_947w.jpg (Etsy)?
At least Etsy puts the Title of the product in the alt tags.
Many times I see photos named DC0215466, coming straight from the camera. When you are editing your photos for your sites give them comprehensible names to start with, preferably with your name or brand name included, e.g. Handmade_inEurope_Welcome.jpg, and add the friendly alt tag description, this is what you see in some browsers when you hover over the photo, and when people share the photos on social media the alt tags will be used as default title, which will also establish you as the owner of the photo.
With wordpress you can change the title and Alt Text easily when selecting the image, and give it your own descriptions, great for Google Image search results.

Example of SEO tagging an image in WordPress

Add friendly titles and tags to your images

The second most searched platform after Google is… YouTube (which is also Google owned).
If you use YouTube videos to promote yourself, make sure you have your own channel set up to share your videos, and again use your keywords and brand name in Titles, descriptions & tags, and make them share-able so you can insert them in your site and on social media using the embed code.

SEO Video tagging example

Add friendly titles and tags to videos to improve SEO

Back-links, Social media

Links on other sites pointing to your site and sharing your content on your social media platforms are supposed to be very good (nobody really knows Google’s algorithm 100%). When you post to social media do make sure to use your unique keywords, tags, photo names, and to supply an easy link to your main content. We use BIT.LY to shorten our URLs, because when you register you can measure how successful your share was, i.e. how many people clicked on the link that was shared.
Do not link to old Facebook pages or social accounts that are not kept up to date, do try to get a few shares out every week, and do this consistently. Make your content interesting, and invite to share your links. See our posts on SOCIAL MEDIA on how to most effectively make use of the platforms.
If you know any big community sites appropriate for your products consider getting ads up there linking to your site. If they have a high ranking the back-links count for more.
With the WordPress plugin from YOAST and the Google Webmaster tools you can link your social platforms to your website, so content shared and viewed there will count in your overall page ranking.

Don’t overdo your SEO

They are clever at Google, so trying to fool them by making 100 pages full of keywords, tags and meta tags, and point them all to your site is not going to do you good. On the contrary, you possibly will be marked as a spammer in their database. The same counts for cramming your article full of keywords, and repeating them over and over again.  If you thought this might be a great idea, well… just don’t do it.

Also beware of double content. If you have three different webshops where you offer the same range of products then do not copy/paste all titles, tags & descriptions to the different platforms. Google will note the 100% match of the content and the listings considered copies will be removed from the search results. It is much better to take the time and adjust the titles and descriptions to make sure that every entry is unique.

Keep your titles natural and relevant, think of what you would like to tell your customer if you met them.

Conclusions

Nobody really knows the algorithms used by the search engines to give you your ranking in the search results, but the above tips have proven their effectiveness. Just remember that the rules can change from day to day, as we’ve seen with the mobile versions that now are a must to keep your site high in the search results.
SEO is not as difficult as marketing and targeting bureau’s would like you to think it is. On the contrary, if you are aware of a few basic mechanisms you can see your visitor statistics go up quite soon.
In our opinion, the most difficult thing about SEO is to be consistent in applying the correct tags, keywords, and sharing your content. Keep people interested, reach your target audience, make them come back for more and share with their friends, this is your goal.

Sources & Tools

INTERNET STATISTICS
GOOGLE PAGE SPEED TEST
SEO BY YOAST
GOOGLE ANALYTICS
GOOGLE WEBMASTER TOOLS

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