Search engine visibility is of crucial importance to any business, but improving it can be a daunting prospect.
We know that when the Google algorithm assesses sites, it uses over 200 indicators (or “ranking factors”) to decide its relevance in search. And it’s not like Google provides a neat list for website owners to work from. Instead, we are going on the best guesses of people like me and others who work in SEO (search engine optimisation) every day.
These ranking factors are a mix of indicators ranging from quite technical, such as page load speed and your location, to user-focused measurements like how long people spend on a page and whether they comment on posts or share them to social media.
I always assess SEO using two criteria:
- The quality of your content: Does your website actually talk about your relevant keywords in an effective way?
- The technical quality of your website: How fast it loads, how well it works on mobile and how well the code is written.
These are the elements I considered when my friend Sarah Green of Another Architecture + Interiors asked me for advice on improving her search engine visibility in February.
Case study: SEO fix for on Wix
It’s worth noting that Sarah’s website is made using Wix, which is infamously terrible from a technical perspective. When I looked at the code generated by the page editor for Sarah’s home page, I found 5,000 lines of code for what could easily be done in about 30! It’s bloated, inefficient and weakens the site performance overall.
I won’t knock people using services like Wix if they want to set up a very basic web presence on their own, especially with a limited budget. But going down this route brings limitations when later on you want to make your website better.
In Sarah’s case, making improvements on a technical level was not really an option. However, as mentioned above that’s only half the equation.
Our challenge: Could we take a Wix website and still get it to the first page of Google for the phrase ‘Architect Stockport’ by improving the content alone?
My initial feelings towards this task could probably best be described as cautious optimism. Whilst it felt like we may be trying to run a race wearing lead boots, there were a couple of points that made me feel we could succeed:
First of all, when we started, Sarah’s website was on page 4 for her chosen phrase. The website had some traction already without being optimised, so there was potential for improvement.
Secondly, some of the websites that were ranked on page 1 weren’t particularly well optimised, so I was confident we could compete.
It was game on.
Wix website optimisation challenge
Our first step was to book in a day-long website optimisation session. We used Google Search Console to get a better understanding of how the site was performing for certain search terms.
We reworked the homepage to include more useful keyworks and add more content that search engines would index.
We also improved the Google listings of the most important pages on the site by rewriting the page titles and meta descriptions. Doing this makes it more likely that when people would click through to the site when they see the listings in search results.
A few weeks later, Sarah also attended my SEO for Beginners Workshop to get a better understanding of how she could make effective improvements to her website moving forward.
SEO is complex, but there are plenty of things that website owners should do – and can do themselves – on an ongoing basis to ensure their businesses perform well in search.
And the result? Well, at the time of writing, which is about two months after I started working with Sarah, Another AI is current ranked around position 7/8 for the phrase ‘Architect Stockport’ on Google.
After our sessions together, Sarah had this to say:
I had a very limited understanding of Search Engine Optimisation beforehand, but the way Paul talked me through the way it works and the way it should be implemented has revolutionised how I think about it now. He has a way of explaining things that makes something quite technical feel like a chat which is so important to an SEO layperson! This meant I understood the theory behind the session, which has given me confidence to apply it myself going forward.
We can’t just leave things there now, can we? Going forward, we will monitor the website’s ongoing performance using Google Analytics to see how the traffic changes. We can then make well-informed, small changes accordingly.
It will also be beneficial to continue to add new relevant content to the site – a good approach might be blog posts containing the key phrases.
If you are looking at ways in which you can improve your website’s SEO performance, my advice would be to not get overwhelmed thinking you have to do it all at once. Bit by bit is fine and will give you the chance to assess things as you go along and make improvements accordingly.