SEO uses a number of methods to move your website higher in search engine rankings. When a search engine looks at your page, it’s looking for a number of markers that show your website provides a match to what the user is searching for.
The content is matched up to the search term, with each part of what's on the page adding weight to the relevancy of your result, get it right and the result is you being seen. You could imagine the different parts of SEO as a choir, each part of it is complementary to another meaning it all works together to make sure your voice is heard.
Starting off - Are you saying the right words to the right people?
In my opinion, the most important thing to get right on your website is the content. You could have the flashiest website, but if the content is not right, it will never deliver the results you desire.
Starting with the homepage, look at the content from the point of view of the user. Think about what they are looking for from your site. Is it easy to navigate? Does the website flow so the user is able to easily get to the information they are looking for? Here, you could ask for some feedback from users themselves.
When you are reviewing or writing any content it is always good to build a picture of your target audience, their interests, motivations, age and family status. When you look over what's on the screen, match them up and note areas that work or could be better. You also need to be thinking of how they would find your website.
Keywords: How do people find your site?
Have a good think and ask around. What words do people use to find your site. Start with what you would type into a search engine and go from there. Are these words in your text? They don’t need to be exact copy. What you need to be looking for is the relevancy of what's on your page to the search term. A note of caution - The most important aspect of your website is ease of use and easily digestible content. If it feels like you are squishing words into the content for the sake of them being there, you probably are. This is termed keyword stuffing and can have a negative impact on your SEO. A good rule of thumb is to not put the search engine before your audience - you need the right balance between being found and your content being seen.
Five things you can do to improve your SEO:
1. Friendly urls - Are your urls relevant to what’s on the page?
What you are looking for is the name of the website/description of what is on the page, here’s an example of it being done correctly:
From this description, you have a good idea of what you will find on the page. If it says www.websitename/page1 or other irrelevant information, it needs changing. The rule here is short and sweet description of what's on the page of your site.
2. Meta data - You can influence what the search engines display
A search engine will either take content off the page or select what you have added yourself to the back end of your site. Good relevant data is generally picked up and used by search engines. Below is an example of metadata from a google search. The main title is the meta title and the description is below. Here you can tell your audience what the page is about. You can tailor this for every page of your site.
3. New content and keeping your users up to date
If you haven't done so consider adding a news section or a blog to your site. Regularly adding new content such as relevant blogs and news helps keep your page higher up in the search rankings, it can also help show your brand personality. The key here is relevance. Don’t add things to your site that your audience wouldn't find relevant.
4. Alt tags and adding text descriptions to your images
Search Engines can't see pictures. So if you have an image on your site, you need to tell them what’s on the page! So if you have a picture of a cow, someone praying, a pot of paint or a rainbow, adding alt text just lets the search engine know what it is.
5. Functional navigation: Do you leave breadcrumbs?
Your site needs to be easy to navigate so people don't arrive at and then leave the page quickly, make sure your navigation is clear and easy to use.
Breadcrumbs (above) clearly show the user where they are on your site. Having a clear menu and an indicator of where they are on the site allows the user to quickly navigate to previous pages.
A final note
When conducting any SEO change to your site, ask yourself, are you are making the change for the search engine or the end user. A good rule of thumb is to think of the user first. If it benefits the user, it will benefit you. If you always keep the end user in mind you can't go far wrong.