Note: If there is one absolute "must", it is obtaining a verified business listing with Google. Click HERE to see the details further down this page.
Success with the search engines (Google, Bing, etc.) requires two things: firstly, your webpages need to be set up correctly, both as regards the coding and the content. This is often called "on-site optimisation", and includes things like ensuring that each page has the right meta-data, which is invisible information about the page, indexed by the search engines. It also includes things like ensuring the page has a responsive design that is mobile-friendly, and is using an SSL certificate, because if those things are not in place, the page will be penalised by the search engines in some types of search. This on-site optimisation ensures that the pages have the potential to do well with the search engines, but to realise that potential something else is needed: Your website needs to be promoted. This means creating a rich network of incoming links from sites that are already doing well with the search engines.
Both of these are essentlial. On-site optimisation on its own is not enough. Similarly, it will largely be a waste of time and money trying to promote a website that is not well-optimised.
All websites made by Handcrafted Websites are built with very good on-site optimisation, and are set up with a content management system (CMS) allowing you to do things like tweak the meta-data for each web page. This is part of our standard service, not something that is charged for separately. Website promotion is a separate issue. We are great believers in DIY and we would recommend you begin promoting your website yourself. The information on this page should help you make a start.
Before you actually begin your website promotion campaign, you need to choose the key phrases that you are going to target. The secret here is to start off with something suitably specific - something that accurately defines your niche. An example: Someone has a guest house in Morecambe called The Sands. Initially, they might dream of appearing at the top of page one whenever someone searches for "UK holiday accommodation". But that just isn't realistic. You need to walk before you can run. A more realistic goal is to get onto the first couple of pages for "Morecambe bed and breakfast" searches, so "morecambe bed and breakfast" will be the key phrase (note: the search engines will ignore the captals and the order of the words, so highlighting "morecambe bed and breakfast" will also cover you for "bed and breakfast morecambe").
Basically, there are two questions to bear in mind here. The first is: Which words are my potential clients most likely to type in the search box of Google, Bing, etc. when searching for my product/service? To answer this you need to put yourself in their position. They want to type as little as possible, but they also want to be as specific as possible so they don't have to wade through lists of irrelevant sites.
The second question is: Which lists give me a realistic chance of getting on the first few pages? The competition for more specific phrases (e.g. "ambleside cottage" instead of "lake district cottage") will be less intense, which means that although the pie will be smaller, at least you will have the chance of taking a bite. In addition to being more geographically specific, you could target people looking for something "romantic", something "pet friendly" or something with "cycle storage", for instance, if you are an accommodation provider.
There are online tools to get keyword suggestions and see statistics on things like the volume of various searches, but in all likelihood your business is such that the more specific keywords that need to be prioritised are more or less obvious.
After drawing up a short list of keywords, you need to set about creating incoming links. But what should those links look like? It will help to take a short class in link anatomy.
Let's have a look behind the scenes at the code for a link.
<a href="http://www.my-morecambe-guest-house.co.uk" title="Morecambe bed and breakfast at The Sands">Morecambe bed and breakfast</a>
Like most of the code for web pages, the code for the link is made of tags that each begin and end with angle brackets: <a> </a> The "a" in the opening and closing tags tells the browser that this is a link (or anchor - "a" for anchor). On the web page this would appear as: Morecambe bed and breakfast.
The words that appear highlighted in the browser window are known as the anchor text. This is one of the important places for our keywords. If our business name has no keywords in it, we want to avoid having links that only have the business name as the anchor text, like so: The Sands. Links like that will help us get to the top of the list for "the sands", but that is not what we want.
You will see that within the tag there is also a link title: title="Title text". Not every link has a title, and the sites that allow you to create links might well not have the option to add a link title, but titles for links boost their SEO value. The title text appears in a little popup if you mouse over the link. The link title is another place to highlight your keywords.
The HREF attribute of the tag tells the browser which web page to go to when the link is clicked. It needs to begin with http:// or https://. If your website has an SSL certificate installed (and so uses the https protocol), make sure all your incoming links begin with https.
Now that we know about anchor text and link titles, let's look at some places where we can create some incoming links.
The best sites for posting incoming links to your website are those that have groups you can join or networks you can build so that others are more likely to see your links and possibly share them. A group page with a relevant topic will add more value to a link compared to a page that is nothing other than a more or less random collection of links. Plus the link stands a chance of generating traffic.
80/20: Social media sites work best when you use them in the way they intended, i.e. you spend more time building your networks and interacting with others than just posting your own backlinks. Some suggest an 80:20 ratio of social activity and link-posting.
Quality vs quantity: It is better to devote more time and effort to building up content-rich accounts on 5 or 6 social media, which have memberships of topic-relevant groups, than posting links across 50 or 60 sites where there is no networking and there is nothing on the account pages beside your own backlinks.
Three popular social networking sites are:
Note that with Facebook you can create a page for your business in addition to your personal account. It is worth creating that business page, ensuring that it includes a keyword-rich description of the business and a link back to your website in the summary information. Then write a few posts/tweets about the business, including some key words and links back to the key pages of your website.
To use the social bookmarking services you will need to register with each one (for free) before you can bookmark your web page.
As an example, let's look at Google Bookmarks. As with all the bookmarking services, you need to create an account first before you can use the service. You will need a general Google account for lots of things, so if you don't already have one, create one here: https://accounts.google.com/SignUp?hl=en-GB.
Then head over to Google Bookmarks here: https://www.google.co.uk/bookmarks/.
Find the link to Add A Bookmark, click it, and you will see a form like the one below:
Name/Title - this doesn't have to be the same as the page title. It should highlight some of your key phrases.
URL - the full web address for the page you are bookmarking (beginning http:// or https://). It is what you see in the address bar of your browser. If you are bookmarking your home page, it should look like: https://www.mynewwebsite.co.uk/
Labels/Tags - these are used by the social bookmarking site to categorise links. Note that different sites have different conventions for handling multi-word tags/labels. Some want them in quotes or separated by a comma, others want you to press Enter after typing each tag/label. Note also that the most relevant labels/tags might be more general than the key phrase you are using with Google search.
Notes/Comment/Description - enter a longer description of the page that accurately describes the content of the page while also incorporating those keywords again.
All the social bookmarking systems use similar systems for recording details of bookmarked pages.
Use your favourite search engine to find recent lists of recommended social bookmarking sites. Here is a short list of the sites that we have found useful in the past.
Social bookmarking sites come and go, and some of them look very dodgy, so exercise some caution before signing up. If you see a big flashing ad at the top of the page saying you have won a huge amount of money because you are the lucky billionth visitor, click the back button of your browser and look elsewhere.
Points to bear in mind:
1. There are good psychological and SEO reasons for taking this link building campaign slowly. Add a couple of links a day and see this as the beginning of an on-going campaign.
2. Don't copy and paste the same titles and descriptions each time. Vary the text slightly. The search engines are on the lookout for duplicate content and will penalise it.
3. Do it manually. There are automated bookmark submission tools on the market. They would save time, but the results might not be as good (e.g. because of duplicated text), and you might want to delete some links in the future, which will only be possible if you post them using your own personal accounts.
In promoting your website you are going to register with a large number of organisations that may or may not be 100% trustworthy, and you are going to have to give them a valid email address when you register. There is a risk here that your address gets passed onto spammers and your inbox is soon inundated with spam. So: Don't use your most important personal or business email addresses when registering. Head over to one of the free email services (like ymail.com) and create a free email address that you can dispose of later if it becomes hijacked by too many spammers.
If you put "morecambe holiday cottage" in google.co.uk, you will see a map and a list of holiday businesses at the top of the first page of results, before the actual search results are listed. To get onto that map and be listed on that page-one space, you need to register for a Google Business Listing. Start the process here: https://www.google.co.uk/intl/en/business/. The process involves a postal verification of the business address, so it takes some time, but it is worth it. (Tip: Give the address of the holiday property as the address of the business - things can get complicated if the two are different.)
Some directories specifically aim to list businesses. Look for ones that list other businesses like yours and that are also geographically relevant. Be careful to list your business in the most appropriate category. There are some paid listings worth considering (e.g. yell.co.uk) but before considering those, do consider the free ones below. Again: be careful to avoid end up listing your site on a page that may include links to unreputable businesses.
Aboutus.com is a website that allows people with websites to create a page about their website. Pop over and create a page for your website. Choose keyword-rich categories, include a good description of the business with your geographical reference, and include a link to your home page.
If you sell a product or provide a service, there will be a website where people can leave reviews about it. If happy customers are not spontaneously filling these sites with glowing reviews and including links to your site, you could perhaps encourage one or two people to make up for this oversight. You can use your favourite search engine to find the most relevant review sites. However, not all of them enable you to post a link. Here are a few sites for holiday reviews.
Note that a listing on Tripadvisor (and Tripadvisor often gets its listings high up in the search engine results) is no longer free. At the time of writing, holiday accommodation providers have to pay for a listing with Flipkey, which then results in also being listed on the Tripadvisor site.
If you have a UK travel-related website, put "uk travel blog" in your favourite search engine to find a few interesting and popular blogs. Then look for interesting posts that you could add a comment to. Lots of people leave comments like: "Great post! Thanks for sharing" but it would be better if you had a more interesting point to make in your comment.
There is usually no point including a link in the body of a comment (because this is often considered spam and blogging systems take steps to neutralise it). However, many blogging systems allow you to enter your website URL when you specify a username for the commenting system. Readers will then be able to click on your username and find your website. You might want to consider using a name that includes one of your keywords instead of your favourite nickname.
You could start your own blog. It would involve putting up short, interesting pieces on the web, and in some of these you can include links back to the relevant pages on your site. However, the blog would also need promoting (e.g. in the social media) otherwise it won't get found. This is a considerable amount of extra work, but a well-written, newsy blog can attract regular readers whereas a fairly static brochure website has nothing to encourage repeated visits. Again, the majority of articles/posts need to be something other than just plugging the business.
If you have the time and the literary inclination, you can set up a blog for free at www.wordpress.com. There are other places that offer blogs for free, but we recommend Wordpress.
This refers to putting up material on your website which proves so interesting or useful to your visitors that they spontaneously create incoming links as part of the natural process of recommending your page to their friends and readers. This is the ideal path to success on the web: You upload interesting stuff and the incoming links just mushroom.
Have a look for sites that let you publish an informative article, and include a link back to your site. One such site is: www.hubpages.com
Once, again you will have to promote that new webpage so it gains some value that can then be passed back to your site via the link, and also so that it attracts visitors/readers.
Businesses that are promoting related products and services can help each other by setting up reciprocal links - "You link to me and I'll link to you." How should this be done though? It isn't a good idea for the two of you to create a page entitled "Links" and then list each other on those pages. The best approach is to create a page with genuinely informative content and a more useful page title. A local adventure centre, for instance, could link to your holiday cottage website on a page dedicated to accommodation in the area, with a few paragraphs of keyword-rich text including a recommendation of your accommodation (and others). That would also be a page that visitors to the site are more likely to actually read, and so it could actually drive more traffic your way (regardless of the SEO benefits). To reciprocate you could include a paragraph about the adventure centre on you activities page with a link to their site. If you both have blogs, you could each agree to write a post about the other's business.
The most valuable links are those embedded in real content that people might actually find useful, so try to avoid situations where you end up having your link added to a list of links.
When arranging quality reciprocal links with your business contacts make sure they set the link up with good anchor text and remember to include a title in the link, and make sure that the title of the page has some relevance to the service that you are offering. Give them the code for the link so they get it right.
You may come across ads promising an amazing boost to your Google ranking overnight. These need to be treated with caution. The systems at Google and elsewhere are continually being developed to weed out sites that use techniques to create an artificial impression of either extreme relevance or extreme popularity (sometimes referred to as "black hat techniques", and the people offering quick fixes are likely to be wearing black hats) .
Because of this, our advice is to ignore the ads and be patient. With your own hand-made social bookmarks, social networking, reviews, comments, blog posts, genuine directory listings, embedded reciprocal links, etc. you can slowly raise the visibility of your site, increase the traffic, and boost your website's listing. This takes time, but it is safer, doubtless more effective in the long run and certainly cheaper than paying for a dubious "quick fix".
Before you try to beat your competitor it might do to learn from him/her. How? One step is to see what sort of incoming links they have gathered. To do this just type their web address in Google and look down the list to see the sites that mention them or link to them. Look at the sites and see how to get your link included or your business mentioned.
Of course there are two criteria of success: your traffic figures and the position of your site in the search engine listings for your most important keywords. In relation to the latter, if you can't see your page in the search engine listing for Google, try this Google position tool (it can give a useful indication although the results are only approximations).
Another useful (and free) tool is the Google Analytics service. This provides you with detailed stats about your visitor numbers together with how many people arrived at your site from the search engines together with the search terms they used. If you sign up for Google Analytics you will need to add a few lines of code to your pages. Handcrafted Websites can do this for you.
This depends on your competitors. If others a few rungs below you are busy building up their links and furiously optimising their pages for search engines, you might find yourself slipping back again. You will need to keep an eye on your position in the list and make sure that your rivals are not getting the edge.
Welcome to the treadmill.
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