Getting Started with SEO: 5 Things to do Before Calling in Outside Help
“How do we get our site to come up higher in Google searches?” This is (hands down) one of the first questions anyone launching a new franchisee website asks. While people seem to understand that Search Engine Optimization is necessary to improve visibility, increase site traffic and drive sales, they often don’t understand how to go about it. While SEO in general has a reputation for being expensive, time consuming and technically complicated (and franchise SEO presents its own set of challenges), I’m here to tell you that there’s no need to panic.
Rome wasn’t built in a day – but these five simple concepts will give any franchise organization a great foundation on which to build a solid SEO strategy. It’s time to get back to basics – and get you on your way to making sure your franchisee sites are found in Google searches. No technical know-how needed.
According to Andrey Lipattsev, Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, high quality content and link building are the two most important signals used by Google to rank your website for search.
Pay close attention to the content on each and every individual web page on your site, and you’ll rank higher and earn more relevant traffic from search engines. Here’s what to do:
- Create a unique, quality page for each product or service you offer.
- Make sure that the phone number is highly visible and clickable on mobile devices.
- Keep contact information (name, address and phone number) consistent (identical) everywhere it is shown on the site.
Title tags are used to let search engines and visitors know what each page on your site is about, in the clearest way possible. This title will appear in various places around the web, including in your web browser tab. Title tags are the most important on-page factor when it comes to SEO. Here are some tips for creating title tags that get the job done:
- Make each one unique and meaningful.
- Include your brand in the title tag.
- Limit characters to 60 or less in most cases.
Search engines do more than scour the text on your web pages. They also look for keywords within your image file names. You do have images on your pages, right? Great – they help create a memorable, positive user experience and can drive traffic to the page via image search results. With that being said, here are a few important tips to keep in mind regarding images:
- Use alt text (text alternative for images when a web browser is unable to render them) containing target phrases/keyword(s).
- Use a filename containing target phrases/keyword(s).
- Keep mobile in mind – don’t overdo it! Remember that nearly 40% of people who search are using only their smartphone in an average day.
Don’t overlook the humble URL. URLs are an extremely significant search engine ranking factor – in fact, URL length comes in at #46 on Google’s list of top 200 ranking factors. In order to make sure your URLs are optimally structured for SEO, consider the following:
- Use a target phrase or keyword in the URL whenever possible.
- Keep them short – under 115 characters is ideal.
- Make them readable.
Navigation and Linking
Creating a website structure that enhances – rather than detracts – from your SEO efforts is critical path to achieving the ranking results you desire. Here are some key things to think about when trying to create search engine-friendly navigation:
- Use a clear and simple navigation structure. Avoid multiple levels of hierarchy when possible.
- Link to related content on your own site.
- Be consistent. Make sure that the navigation is the same on every page.
If you’ve carefully implemented all of the suggestions above, higher visibility will follow. Whether or not you need to hire a firm that specializes in all of the complexities of SEO to take your sites to the next level depends on many factors. How many internal resources do you have that you can dedicate to SEO? How competitive is the market – is competition so stiff that you can’t afford to not have top rankings? Do you have the means to implement more extensive SEO tactics, but not the time? Only you can answer those questions. Whatever you decide, rest assured that these SEO basics will start your franchisee sites off on the right foot.
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