Making sure that your website is optimized, both for your users and for search engines is extremely important. It is the difference between being found when someone searches for your product or service online and being outsmarted by your online competitors.

Search engine optimization, in particular, forms one of the core parts of any digital marketing strategy and without it, other activities you are using as part of your campaign are unlikely to be as effective, especially if it is a brand-building campaign.

Every website will need to be optimized, from simple one-page information websites to eCommerce websites with thousands of products and pages. There are a number of fundamental principles that need to be followed when optimizing your site that is explained below.

Keywords

At the heart of any optimization, activity is choosing the right keywords that your website is going to target. Keywords are what people type into search engines to find a product or service. ‘Men’s white tennis shoes’ and ‘flower shop near me’ are both phrases that could be used as keywords on a website.

When choosing keywords, there are a few different factors that you will need to consider. The first is how broad or narrow the keywords you are choosing are going to be. ‘Men’s shoes’ is much broader than ‘men’s white lace-up tennis shoes.’ Generally, broader keywords tend to work best on main pages and category pages, specific terms should be reserved for individual product pages or niche blog posts.

Following on from this, a key factor that will influence your keyword choice is the volume that it is searched. Google has a very useful Keyword Planner tool that will show you how often a specific keyword is searched for by users. You can use this to pick out the keywords you want to rank for and identify which other websites you will be competing against in the result pages.

The final thing you need to consider when thinking about keywords is which ones you will use on which page of your website. You should only use one main keyword per page and very close variations. If you don’t, you will end up competing against yourself in the search engine rankings!

Website Content

Once you have pulled out a whole list of keywords that you will use for your website and chosen which pages will use which keywords, you can begin writing content. The content on the page helps to tell Google what your site is about, and Google will use this information to rank it when it shows people the search results.

You must write your content for Google and for the people reading it. It can be a tricky task, and it may take you a few attempts to find the right balance. What are should be aiming to do is write website copy that is at least 750 words in length. You could include your chosen keywords 2-4 times in this length of copy.

It’s very important that your content is highly specific and relevant to the keywords you are using. If it isn’t, then Google will not rank you as highly in the search rankings. You must also ensure that you are not ‘keyword stuffing.’ Including your keywords too many times is another bad habit to get into.

Finally, all of the content on your website must be unique and not copied from anywhere else on the internet. If you have copied it from another website or blog, then Google will be able to tell instantly and will punish your website by dropping it in the rankings. This also goes for other search engines too.

Page Speed and Mobile

Google hasn’t been shy in letting website owners know that page speed and mobile-friendliness are critical factors when deciding where to rank a website for the keywords they are trying to target. If your website does not work well on mobile, you will need to get this rectified as soon as possible. It could be harming your ability to rank well for your search terms.

Page speed is linked to mobile-friendliness as many people are using mobile internet to access websites. Some are even still on 3G connections. If it takes longer than a couple of seconds for your website to load on either a mobile or a desktop, you need to review the design and the structure of your site.

Common places that you can look to help increase page speed are to the images you are using. All images on your website should be optimized for the web, which means uploading them at the largest size they will appear on a screen and to a max resolution of 72dpi. There is no need for images to be above this as the browser will not show them above 72 dpi.

Meta Title, Descriptions & Alt Tags

Now that you have your keywords, your content has been written and uploaded to your site, and it has been optimized for page speed, you can start thinking about some of the more technical SEO like meta titles, meta descriptions, and alt tags.

Meta titles are what appears above the description in the search engine results. They should always contain the keyword that you are trying to rank for, ideally at the beginning of the phrase. Best practice dictates that the correct length for a meta title is no more than 71 characters.

Meta descriptions are just as important too, and they should accurately describe what your page is about using the target keyword for the page. These appear under the title, and many people test and tweak these to get a higher click-through rate. The recommended character count for the meta description is no more than 160 including spaces.

If your site contains images, you will want to think about including your keywords in the alt tags. This will help your images to appear in the image result section, which can drive more website traffic if people search for images instead of in the search results.