So You Want to Build a Website? Part 5: SEO
Well, this is it. We have gone all the way from choosing your platform through to generating content (see article links at the bottom of the article). Hopefully, this series of articles has persuaded a few of you to update your website and even more of you to create one.
The final step in the series is to optimize your website for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Doing SEO is the hardest part – it can even give many web professionals nightmares sometimes! Constant Google changes, and advice that seemingly contradicts other advice, can make it a mine field. This article is not the complete solution to your SEO and doing these things does not guarantee to get to page one on Google. It will, however, start you on the right path. These tips are simple, easy to follow tips that to help you optimize your site and aide your user experience. With that said, let’s get started.
1. Register with Google Search Consoles
You want to rank well in Google. The first step is to make sure you get your site registered for Google Search Console. This is an essential set of tools to tell you how your site is performing, how people are searching for you, and any issues that Google detects when going through your site.
Search Console (like SEO in general) can be daunting but bear with it. Do some reading and utilize what you find. Search Console is the number one tool for helping your website rank better. To add Search Console to your website, you need to register your website and then verify it using a code snippet on your site. It is simple to do. WordPress folks, if you have Yoast installed (if you haven’t – stop what you are doing and go and install it), they have tools to help with this.
The first step when registered is to submit your sitemap. This is normally located at www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml. When you submit this you are basically showing Google how your site is laid out and showing them how to crawl it.
Once you have Search Console installed, you will be able to see how people are coming to your site, what they are searching for and any issues that may be affecting your ranking in Google.
2. Optimize your images
Speed is king. People like fast-loading websites and Google likes websites that load fast too. With photography websites, the best way to help with this is to properly size and compress your images. This is a simple thing to do, but if your site already has hundreds of images, it can take time. You need to check your website for image sizes and then make sure that you export images at that exact size. The reason for this is smaller images equal smaller file size, which equals quicker loading.
Regarding compression when exporting from image software, make sure you reduce it to around 70% or so. You can compress images further using specific software such as JPEG Mini, but this does come with a cost. You can also use a free online tool such as Squoosh or Bulk Image Resize, but this takes a little longer to do. It is amazing how much smaller you can make the size of a webpage by doing this.
If you want further checks on how fast your site is, and what you can do to improve it, Google has a tool called Page Speed Insights. This free tool shows you how your site loads and what you can do to improve it.
3. Build backlinks
To get yourself higher up in the rankings, one of the best resources is backlinks. Getting a link to your website from other sites shows Google that your website has the respect of others. Getting links can be hard, especially those that help to boost your ranking. The links you want to try to get are those that are for popular websites in the specific field. It used to be that you could pay and your website would have links from lots of websites and boost your ranking. However, Google got smart to this very quickly, and this practice now may actually make your site going down in rank, not up.
Genuine, quality backlinks are what you should aim to achieve. The more domain authority a website has (how well Google rates it), the more valuable the link.
As a wedding photographer, I have weddings featured on blogs. The links to my website from these blogs do two things: Firstly, potential customers may read this blog and click. Secondly, Google sees that well-respected wedding sites are linking to my site. So when people search for wedding photography in my area, Google knows that high-quality wedding blogs link to me, so my site must contain quality and relevant content.
How do you get them? You approach people. Flat out asking can lead to refusal, but offering value can work wonders. Asking a blog if you can write a guest post or asking a local business if you can exchange backlinks (so you both benefit) is an excellent way of getting some links (and building relationships).
3. Make it mobile friendly
We live in an age where most web browsing happens on a mobile device. Therefore you need to make sure that your website runs well on mobile devices. For those of you who are creating new websites, this is pretty simple. Pretty much every template is now optimized for mobile browsing. For those of you with older sites, you may want to check. Google ranks mobile first, and therefore you must make your site mobile friendly.
Tools such as such as AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) helps here. Again, setting this up depends on your platform and theme. In Squarespace, it is simple to turn on AMP in settings. In WordPress there are plugins that get AMP up and running on your site.
I’m up to here…
4. Create quality content
Content is also king. Google has advanced and continues to advance. It used to be constantly cramming your keyword into your written content would mean you ranked well, however, that has all changed. As Google makes advances in machine learning, they now read websites more as a human would. Google love content that is helpful for the person searching. So if the user is searching for tips on how to take better photos, Google knows what they are looking for and shows the user sites that answer that question well.
The best way to do this on a continual basis is through a blog. A blog keeps your website fresh, helps Google see your website is updated regularly, and it gives you a place to offer content that is useful for people.
There is so much to blog about in every type of photography, from recent shoots and the latest equipment you have bought, through to how you got a great shot. Having new content gives people a reason to revisit your website and is a way to get new readers to your site. Continual blogging can be tough, but like anything the more you do it, the easier it gets.
5. Turn on SSL
Google likes websites to be secure when using the web. Having a secure website using SSL (Secure Socket Layer) is an easy way for you to help protect people who visit your website. Having an SSL on your website is essential in 2019. It is super simple. Check with your host if you are using self-hosted WordPress. On Squarespace, it is as easy as turning it on. This is the simplest tip on this list. Just go and do it.
6. Bonus tip: Keep going – it’s a long game
Ranking well in Google takes time and effort. Don’t expect to see the fruits of your labour after a couple of weeks. To rank well can take months. Just remember the golden rules:
- Keep your images correctly formatted.
- Work on getting backlinks. Not only does it help your SEO, it helps people see your content.
- Start as you mean to go on with things like title tags, etc. Going back when you decide you need to do it is a real pain. Start with good habits.
Well, that’s it. Our website series is finished. I hope you enjoyed it. I’m hoping it got some of you to build your first site. For those with websites, I hope it gave you some ideas to make your sites better or something new you could try. As always, let’s see your sites below.
Other tutorials in this series: