**UPDATED FOR 2022** 

 So, how easy is it to improve your Google ranking? Does SEO matter? 

We get asked this question a lot. It’s often a variation on the following: 
 
“How long until people find me online?” 
 
“How can I get ahead of my competitors?” 
 
And the classic… 
 
“How do I get to number one on page one of Google?” 
 
Everyone wants more exposure and everyone is looking for shortcuts. We get it. 
 
The truth is that SEO is a complex subject as well as a long-term investment (both in time and money), and you should take any promises of quick-fix results with a pinch of salt. 
 
Having said that, there are some things you can do that ARE pretty much guaranteed and have been proven to make a difference – BUT… they will require ongoing work and a continuous investment of your resources. 
 
The ultimate aim is to get more people to visit your website because the information you provide solves your visitors problem. Once they're on your site and they understand what you do, it's all about pushing them to take action - i.e. fill in a form, pick up the phone, download a report. 
 
Every situation is different – there is no ‘one size fits all approach’. Here’s a (fairly) basic breakdown of what we believe are the SEO fundamentals than can make a difference... 

 BEFORE / DURING THE WEBSITE BUILD: Start with a good foundation 

A badly coded, poor functioning website using an underperforming platform can be the death of even the best SEO campaign. There's really no point driving traffic to a website that is slow to load, isn't set up to convert or doesn't give your visitors the information they're expecting. 
 
If your website is poorly designed, uses old coding and tech, lacks content, is difficult to navigate and is slow to load, your rankings WILL suffer.  
 
If you're not sure about how your existing website is performing, just ask us about running a report for you. We can provide an unbiased review of your site which will show you the good as well as the bad. 
 
To take advantage of our free website audit service you can find out more here

 BEFORE / DURING THE WEBSITE BUILD: Optimise for mobile 

It's rare these days that websites aren't optimised for mobile, however we still come across lots of old and outdated websites that really don't work as well as they could on mobile and tablet devices. Google is hot on mobile-first indexing (which they rolled out back in 2019) so it’s REALLY important your website is mobile-friendly. To quote Google: 
 
"Mobile-first indexing means Google predominantly uses the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking. Historically, the index primarily used the desktop version of a page's content when evaluating the relevance of a page to a user's query. Since the majority of users now access Google Search with a mobile device, Googlebot primarily crawls and indexes pages with the smartphone agent going forward." 
 
 
Think about how people are using your site, what’s important to them, where do they need to get to. Make sure the mobile version of your website allows them to perform these tasks quickly and easily. 

 BEFORE / DURING THE WEBSITE BUILD: Website age 

If your competitors have had an active web presence for a number of years and you're just starting out, it's going to take some time before you either catch them up or outrank them. 
 
Research has shown that on average, a page that ranks in the top 10 is typically over 2 years old and the average age of a page that ranks first is closer to 3 years old. Only 22% of pages in the top 10 are less than a year old. 
 
While domain age used to be a ranking factor, it's not anymore
 
Implementing many of the techniques we'll go on to mention below will give you your best chance to catch your competiton. 

 BEFORE / DURING THE WEBSITE BUILD: Keywords and search terms 

It's really worth taking some time to work out what it is you want to be found for. Keywords are the foundation of Search Engine Optimisation, and If nobody is searching for what you’re writing about, you won’t get any traffic from Google, no matter how hard you try. 
 
Think about your key products and services, your audience, where they are (geography), what's important to them and why it matters. Every page on your site should have a clear focus that provides an answer to the query or problem your prospective customer is trying to resolve. 
 
A simple way to research keywords is to ask your existing or potential customers how they might find you? What would they put in to Google when searching for your services? It sounds simple, but it can often throw up some interesting surprises. If you're unsure what people are searching for, take a look at Google Trends
 
If you have different products or services aimed at different audiences or markets, it's always worth creating seperate pages or sections of your site focussed on optimising for these different search terms. It's also worth considering long-tail search terms. A great tool for researching long-tail search terms is Answer The Public
 
For more information, take a look at this guide from AHREFS for a good beginners guide to keyword research. 
 
It's important to insert keywords into the correct places on your website. This will help search engines understand the site topic and target keywords. Make sure your specified keywords / phrases are included in: 
 
Page Titles 
Meta Descriptions 
Alt Text 
Content Structure (H1/H2/H3) 
 
While we always include simple keyword research as standard, we also offer help and support with keyword and competitor research through our additional SEO and aftercare packages to help with a deep-dive into what might work best. 

 BEFORE / DURING THE WEBSITE BUILD: Faster is better 

It’s not just ‘Mobile First’ that Google uses to determine page position. Back in July 2018, Google also added page speed as a factor to determine ranking. 
 
With the year on year increase in mobile searches (which still includes many people in the UK using 4G connections), page loading speed is critical. Simple things such as making sure images are optimised for performance can really make a difference.  
 
At it'seeze, we make sure your website is optimised for page speed and we invest heavily to provide super-fast server speeds via our mirrored UK based servers.  
 
What about Google's Page Speed Insight Scores? Well, our advice here is to not get too hung up on this. It's much more important to focus on user experience / page experience (see below). For example, our own website ranks highly for our specified keywords but often scores low for Page Speed. Take a look at this article for more information on why this can sometimes be the case. 

 BEFORE / DURING THE WEBSITE BUILD: Website Content and Page Experience 

Once you've done your keyword research, you need to get all those product and geographic search terms into useful, helpful and most imortantly 'readable' text that engages and helps a visitor when they land on your website. 
 
This is where professional copywriting can make a HUGE difference. Take a look at our blog post on 'why you should hire a copywriter'. We also highly recommend that you use professional photography and video to personalise your site too.  
 
Having helpful content on every page also ties in with Google's Page Experience, which launched in late 2021. 
 
To quote Google: 
 
"The Page Experience report provides a summary of the user experience of visitors to your site. Google evaluates page experience metrics for individual URLs on your site and will use them as a ranking signal for a URL in Google Search results on mobile devices." 
 
In simple terms, good ‘page experience’ is made up of two things: 
 
1. Technical optimisation 
2. User experience (UX) design 
 
We've covered some of the technical aspects already in this post (mobile first, fast page loading speed), however it also includes elements like SSL certification (included as standard with all it'seeze websites), XML sitemap uploading and image compression.  
 
It's also worth reviewing your website from time to time to check that things like  
 
Images are optimised for fast loading (a good free resource to use for image compression is Tiny PNG) 
Alt tags are used where possible 
There are no broken links 
There's no duplicate content 
The page content is structured correctly 
 
For the user experience side of things, your content needs to be structured to answer some key questions a visitor may have, such as: 
 
Can I easily find the information I came here for? 
Was the information useful and informative? 
Can I navigate back to where I was before my experience started? 
Do I feel the information helped? 
What do I need to do now (call to action)? 
 
We often get asked about how much written content a page should have (word count). The honest answer is, it depends... 
 
Ideal page content length can depend on several factors. You need to consider the type of page you're writing for (blog, standard web page, landing page, product description), your audience, the topic you're writing about and your industry.  
 
Website visitors search the internet for solutions to problems they have. To stand out from your competition you should look to provide the best answers along with good UX. Write for people, not numbers. 
 
When it comes to blog posts and articles, there is some evidence that higher ranking pages are at least 2,100 - 2,400 words long.  
 
Good use of H1/H2/H3 tags is important here too. Again, this is something we take care of as standard during the initial build, however if you're adding pages or content your self once your site is live, you need to be aware of how best to structure a web page for optimal results. 

 BEFORE / DURING THE WEBSITE BUILD: Expertise, Authority and Trust 

Google rewards sites that provide useful and helpful information. They look to return high quality search results using an algorithm based on Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T). This algorithm helps them assess the relevance and quality of the content on every website they review. 
 
You need to bear in mind that as a concept, E-A-T is hard to define for an algorithm, however there are some basics that can help. 
 
Expertise 
Expertise means having a high level of knowledge or skill in your particular field. It’s evaluated primarily at the content level (the written words on the page) which means it's really important for your content to be created by a professional copywriter with subject matter expertise. 
 
It can also help to have accreditations or industry awards listed or displayed on your website. 
 
Authority 
Authority is about your reputation, particularly among other experts or influencers in your particular industry. Membership of professional associations where your website or business is listed can help, as well as professional trade directories relevant to your industry or links / mentions on authoritative sites. 
 
Trust 
A trustworthy website contains information that can be validate, such as an About Us page with details about the company, email address, physical address, phone number, pop-up chat etc. For shop or e-commerce websites there should be links to customer service information such as terms and conditions, returns or delivery. 
 
Be aware that you should keep any relevant information on your site up to date by regularly reviewing content and keeping it factually accurate. Which brings us to our next section... 

 ONCE YOUR WEBSITE IS LIVE: Add new content and make continuous improvements 

Continuously adding new and fresh content really does make a difference. This is backed up by Google’s Senior Webmasters. Every time you make changes to your website it’s re-evaluated by the Search Engine Algorithm. 
 
Consistent incremental changes are best, such as adding a blog post, a new page or refreshing your existing content. Each time you add a new page (blog posts count as pages), it's another page for Google to crawl - the more pages you have, the more Google has to crawl, the better the chance of improving your search results. 
 
If this can be done on a weekly or monthly basis, you'll definitely see improvements over time.  
 
We'd really recommend that you focus on quality content. Well researched blog posts, case studies or articles of around 2000 words are a good guide to aim for. Include custom graphics, infographics, links and references to other websites and calls to action where appropriate. 
 
Some of the key things you can do include: 
 
Add a new blog page at least once a month (aim for a high word count with quality information) 
Optimise blog posts for the keywords you want to be found for 
Add hidden geographical landing pages 
Add additional services pages 
Add more products 
Add case studies 
Include an FAQs page, add a question each month 
Update your team or about page regularly 
Revisit old blog posts and add new or updated information 
Refresh the images on your site (and add alt tags) 
 
If you don't have the time (or skills) to do this, we offer a range of paid 'done for you' services including blogging, social media and SEO aftercare packages. Just ask us for more information. 

 ONCE YOUR WEBSITE IS LIVE: Page titles and meta descriptions 

Page Title - as seen in Google Search 
Page Title - as seen in Google Search 
While we're building a new site, we'll write the page titles and meta descriptions for every page. 
 
Once the site is live, it's important that you add these for any new pages you create (including blog pages and shop product pages). 
 
Your page title is the most important aspect here. For information on writing great page titles and descriptions, take a look at this Backlinko guide

 ONCE YOUR WEBSITE IS LIVE: Think Local (Google My Business) 

Google prioritises local search, based on where you're searching from. If you're looking for local traffic, you can use local keywords to rank higher
 
The one thing that is 100% important is making sure you have your 'Google My Business' page set up.  
 
We can't say this strongly enough - you MUST to do this. It's free to do and easy to manage and will give you one of the best tools for boosting your digital presence. 
 
Once you've got your listing, you need to keep the information up-to-date, add more images, add posts and include Q&A. Make sure the information you add to your listing (name, address, phone number etc.) matches the information on your website. 
 
You can also ask your customers or clients to leave you reviews. The more reviews you get, the more content you add, the more you keep your GMB listing updated, the better your listing will perform. 

 ONCE YOUR WEBSITE IS LIVE: Backlinks and directories 

Backlinking or Link Building is where your website URL (website address) is listed or included on another website.  
 
When someone clicks the link on that site, it's classed as inbound traffic to you (backlinks are also referred to as inbound links). It's essentially a 'vote of confidence' in your website. 
 
Backlinks fall into 2 categories - high authority and low authority. 
 
High authority backlinks are the most desirable and are links from trusted websites that have high traffic, for example a local chamber of trade website or professional organisation. 
 
For more information on backlinks, take a look here and here

 ONCE YOUR WEBSITE IS LIVE: Driving traffic to your website 

From social media channels to traditional marketing, getting people to find and visit your website is your biggest task once the site is live. You can't just sit back and hope that people will discover you.  
 
Online success takes time. And effort. And knowledge. 
 
Once they find you, you need to decide what you want them to do. Do you want to capture their details? If so, what would encourage them to fill in a form? Do you want to educate them and let them decide how best to contact you? 
 
Most websites tend to be focussed around building trust and reassurance that you're the right people to work with. Including social proof such as reviews, testimonials, accreditations and case studies is a good idea, as well as providing genuinley helpful information that answers the questions your prospective clients are looking for. 
 
Remember, direct enquiries through your website are often rare (unless there's a compelling reason for people to fill in a contact form). Your website is working for you 24/7, providing the information that your clients need in order to make a decision about your products or services.  
 
In the book, 'They Ask, You Answer' by Marcus Sheridan, he states that '80 percent of the buying decision is made before a prospect talks to your company'. This is where your website is doing the heavy lifting in terms of building trust - along with your social media profiles and Google Business listing. 
 
SEO Packages 
 
If you don't have time to make regular updates, help drive traffic to your site or manage your Google Business profile, it may be worth looking at a support or SEO package. 
 
There are many companies offering SEO and aftercare services (we're no different ourselves). Our standard SEO aftercare packages for our own website clients start from just £65 + VAT per month (package dependent) and can include: 
 
Initial planning and strategy meeting to set-up systems, determine goals, research keywords and look at competitors 
Discussion on website traffic sources and how to improve them 
Set up and ongoing management of Google Business / Bing profiles 
Updated page title and description optimisation based on research findings 
Local business schema set-up 
Google tools set-up 
A set number of hours per month of website updates and amends (including adding new pages, products, shop items, optimisation) 
Tracking of competitor keywords 
Keyword ranking 
Competitor analysis 
Monthly check-in 
Quarterly optimisation reports 
Plus a full website redesign every 3 years 
 
We can also help with content and traffic strategies including blog and content writing, social media, video and paid ads (see info below). Just bear in mind that SEO takes time & effort - but the payoff is worth it. 
 
Paid Advertising 
 
PPC (Pay Per Click) should be viewed as what it is – a paid opportunity to drive traffic to your website.  
 
It can be a useful tool for when running a specific marketing campaign or for boosting your site when first built, however it won’t directly impact on your SEO performance. Many users will bypass paid ads and go directly to organic results. 
 
The crawler that evaluates landing pages for PPC is separate from the crawler that evaluates pages for SEO. You may benefit indirectly by acquiring greater exposure or external links – but be aware, it’s a short-term solution for something that needs long-term care and attention. 
 
If you're running an e-commerce store, this is where paid advertising often makes the most sense. We'd also suggest you look at Google Shopping, Remarketing and Facebook Advertising too. 

 Conclusion 

These recommendations aren’t anything new or radical but they do require ongoing work, time and effort to implement and manage. 
 
With our web packages, we’ve made it easy for you to edit, update and make continuous improvements. Our editing system allows you to access SEO tools, change text, add new images, new pages*, blog*, embed videos and social media feeds and much more. 
 
Our sites are designed with a mobile-first approach and are coded to ensure quick loading and performance. We don’t use off-the-shelf templates – every site is designed to suit you and your visitors needs. 
 
At It’seeze Hull we want to help you succeed online. We provide ongoing help, support and system updates for as long as you’re with us. Get in touch before you start your next web project – we guarantee we’ll do our upmost to get you to where you want to be. 
 
*Max and Commerce packages only 
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