SEO Essentials: 5 ‘Must Haves’ for your website
SEO has come a long way since its beginnings in the 1990’s. In fact, SEO has come a hell of a long way in the last 3-5 years.
Google’s aim to provide the best results for searchers has resulted in constant changes (referred to as algorithm updates) and reinvention in the quest for a better web.
While much about SEO has changed, and the importance of some SEO factors have really decreased (while new factors are being introduced all the time) a number of SEO essentials are no doubt here to stay.
Here’s my list 5 SEO essentials to pay attention to right now, if you aren’t already:
1. Reliable hosting and SSL Certificate
Let’s get back to basics – web hosting. Web hosting refers to renting or buying space on a server that becomes the ‘home’ of your website on the web. A server is a computer, owned by a web hosting company, that connects other web users to your website. All of the content that makes up your website has to live on a server so that it can be viewed online.
Reliable web hosting is essential. You might be wondering what exactly makes a reliable web host. That comes down to your provider and your plan. Think of your hosting plan like buying a physical space for your business. You need to buy the right size for the amount of stock and the number of customers you anticipate. Except when it comes to hosting, we are talking about the amount and type of content you’ll have on your site, and the traffic you expect. All web host providers are not equal. Here I’ll expand on some of the factors to consider with a web host:
Server uptime is a measure of your hosts reliability and relates to the amount of time your server is ‘up’. Your host should have a guarantee of a minimum 99%+ uptime (by the way – no host can achieve 100% uptime). This means your server should be down no more than 1% of the day or night. When a server is down it means visitors cannot access your website. Before you decide on a host – and please don’t just pick the cheapest one – read their reviews and check out their uptime guarantee.
b) Traffic / Bandwidth
The easiest way to describe bandwidth is the amount of traffic and data that can between your website, your users and the internet at a particular speed. If you’re a small business and are unlikely to have more than 5000 visitors a month, you probably don’t need to worry about bandwidth. But if you’re expecting more traffic, or are going to incorporate ‘bandwidth heavy’ multimedia content on your site such as large images, video and audio, be to check out the bandwidth limitations of your preferred hosting plan. In a nutshell, the higher your bandwidth, the more people can access your website at the same time without slowing down the experience.
c) Access to cpanel (Control Panel)
A cpanel is a dashboard for your hosting account and you definitely want the ability to manage aspects of your hosting yourself or to give access to your web developer to handle tasks such as adding a new email address, and not have to go to a tech support for every small request. It’s also handy to manage ‘add on domains’ where you might accommodate extra domains that you redirect to your main domain.
The cPanel interface consists of the following sections:
d) Technical support
Something will always go wrong with your hosting and having an accessible technical support team is essential. Be sure to check out reviews of the customer service. When your website goes down or you get an error message about your SSL certificate, your hosts’ tech support team should be available.
e) Free SSL / SSL installation
Put simply, an SSL Certificate is what turns the http:// at the beginning of your domain name into a https:// and this is considered a ranking factor for Google.
I can’t explain it more simply than this:
If you don’t have an SSL certificate, be sure to get onto your website host and have one installed, pronto. It can feel cumbersome to do this yourself so ask tech support if they can do it for you. Remember to follow through with this change on your website and ask your developer to redirect all the URLs on your site to https.
Just a little sidenote on hosting in general – some hosts don’t offer email hosting and you may need to look into email alternatives such as G-suite. Also, it’s very handy if your host does back ups for you. You never want to be caught out losing your entire site and not having a back up. Trust me – it happens!
2. Fast page loading speeds
Site and page speed is still a hot topic in SEO. Site speed determines how quickly your website responds to web requests. It’s important for those who want to look at your website as if it takes too long to load, they’ll simply click back to the search results and find a site that opens faster. And it can affect how well Google’s ‘bots’ can crawl your website.
This excerpt from moz.com sums it up:
a) How web hosting impacts site speed
Back to hosting just briefly – a faster web server generally means a faster site speed. Upgrading hosting can have a significant impact on page load times. Faster web hosting packages tend to be a dedicated server or VPS rather than a shared hosting plan.
For smaller businesses who don’t get much traffic a shared hosting plan is fine however larger websites should consider other options.
b) How your web developer can improve your page speed
c) How you can improve your page speed
Site speed improvements do tend to require a savvy web developer who can do fixes for you, but there are also things you can do yourself.
One of the easiest? Resizing and compressing your images before uploading them to your website. Aim for 100kb max per image by using image editing software on your phone / laptop to resize images. The average image taken on an iphone is about 1.7-2mb, which is huge. Resizing images to 800 x 600, or 600 x 400 is a good starting point, although it really depends on your WordPress theme and recommended image sizes.
Obviously a full-width slider image would need to be much bigger, say 1080 x 608. Once images are resized, if they are still too big, you can run them through a tool like Optimizilla, or, use a plugin like WP Smush. But keep in mind excess plugins on your WordPress site may also contribute to a slower site speed.
As page speed has such an impact on the experience on your users, it really is an SEO essential you can’t ignore. Don’t fall victim to losing traffic because your site is super slow.
3. Mobile Responsiveness
It may seem weird but Google now treats the mobile version of your website as the real version. And there’s a simple reason why – more Google searches (over 60%) are now from a mobile device and this continues to grow.
Think about what it’s like to view a website on a mobile. What makes it more appealing on one website than another? Buttons that are large enough to actually press with your thumb, not having buttons too close together, and responsive design (how a website automatically adjusts to fit the size of the device e.g. desktop, tablet, mobile) may all come to mind.
If your site isn’t friendly for mobile users I suggest making it a top priority as you’re likely to be losing traffic.
Quite often I’m asked if these pages are really necessary and the answer is a resounding YES.
The terms of service page sets the rules for those using your website. While not required by law, it’s a smart thing to include on your site and can help limit your liability should someone take you to court, in addition to protecting your rights to the content you publish on your site. There are a number of free terms of service ‘generators’ on the web, or if you have any particular concerns you can of course seek legal advice either online (usually cheaper) or a lawyer you use for your business.
5. Updated website content
A website should never be static. The best analogy I can give is to think of it as a living organism. Unless you’re consistently adding new content, your website can go stale. Adding new content indicates to Google that someone is actively keeping your website up to date, is attempting to stay relevant and provide useful information to users.
Writing a blog is a convenient option. Let’s say you’re a tradie and a new law or regulation comes out about a particular way things must be done. This is a great opportunity to share your knowledge on the topic and create an article about the new regulation, covering how things used to be done, and how they need to be done now and why.
Perhaps you’re a health practitioner, you have a Naturopathy clinic and you’re expanding your services. Let’s say your latest service offering is Kinesiology. Rather than writing a blog, you could instead focus on creating a new ‘service’ page about Kinesiology. Some of the things you might cover in this page are:
- What is Kinesiology
- Conditions it may help
- Existing services Kinesiology integrates well with
- Introduce the new practitioner, their background and qualifications
- Explain how to book an appointment
Blogs and services pages are just a starting point. You don’t need to limit website content to just text. If you haven’t jumped on board Video yet now is the time.
There you have it. 5 SEO Essentials for your website:
- Get excellent web hosting (WP Engine and Siteground are my favourites)
- Make sure your site is fast – See Google Page Speed Insights and GT Metrix
- Get mobile responsive asap – https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly
- Look for opportunities to update your website regularly (remember – living, breathing organism)
Author - Maz Hancock
Maz is a SEO Specialist based on the Gold Coast and enjoys working closely with digital marketing teams and ambitious local business owners to implement SEO in a way that’s results-focused, simple and effective.