Getting your website indexed by search engines means youre in the race, not that youre likely to win. Thats where SEO comes in. SEO is an ongoing process that, if done well, increases your chances of winning over time.
Its much easier to do SEO well when your website is properly set up for SEO success.
Lets take a look at how to do that.
Get a good domain
Dont panic if youve already registered a domain. Its probably perfectly fine and wont hinder your SEO efforts. But if you havent chosen one yet, its worth keeping these two attributes of a good domain in mind:
1. Domain name
Firstly, dont worry about including your keywords. Your domain doesnt need to be londonitalianrestaurant.com for search engines to understand what its about.
Heres are a few attributes of a good domain:
TLD stands for top-level domain. Its the part after the name like .com, .org, or .co.uk.
Googles John Mueller says your TLD makes no difference for SEO. However, for most businesses, .com is usually best if you can get it because its the most recognizable and trusted.
If youre a charity, .org or your country equivalent (e.g., .org.uk) works too.
If you only do business in one country outside the US, your ccTLD (e.g., co.uk) will be fine.
Its probably best to stay clear of TLDs like .info and .biz that tend to be associated with low-quality websites, but its not the end of the world if you have one. You can still build a legitimate website that ranks.
Use a website platform
Most people dont code their website from the ground up in HTML and CSS. They use a website platform. These are pieces of software that allow folks with little or no coding skills to create a website, manage content with ease, and take care of boring technicalities.
There are two types of website platform.
Hosted platforms do everything under one roof. They host your website, provide ready-made designs that you can install and edit with ease, and let you create and manage content without having to touch code.
Self-hosted platforms also let you manage and create content without code. The difference is that you have to host and install them yourself.
Which kind of platform should you choose?
Most SEO professionals recommend a self-hosted, open-source platform like WordPress because:
If you want our recommendation, its a self-hosted solution like WordPress.
However, if you value ease of use and support, a hosted solution like Wix or Squarespace might be a better fit. The truth is that most of the well-known hosted platforms provide more than enough SEO capabilities for most people.
So dont fret about moving to WordPress if youre already using a different platform.
Use a good web host
Web hosts store your site on a hard drive that anyone with an internet connection can access.
If youre using a hosted platform for your website, you have very little control over your hosting. But if youre using a self-hosted platform like WordPress, its up to you to find somewhere to host it.
So how do you choose a good web host for SEO?
Most SEO guides say that dedicated hosting is better than shared hosting. Thats true, but it doesnt make much difference until your website gets tons of traffic. Cheap hosting from any reputable company is fine for most people; there isnt much difference in performance between hosts when youre paying a few dollars a month.
However, there are a few things that do matter:
Create a positive user experience
Google wants to rank pages that give visitors a positive experience. They say so in their SEO starter guide:
You should build a website to benefit your users, and any optimization should be geared toward making the user experience better.
Here are a few simple ways to do this:
Nothing is worse for visitors than their personal data being susceptible to hackers. Always encrypt your site with SSL/TLS.
Choose an appealing design
Nobody likes a website that looks like it was designed in the 90s. So while theres no need to redesign your website every six months, it should at least be visually-appealing and reflect your brand.
Make sure its mobile-friendly
Google says more searches are now performed on mobile than desktop, so its critical that your website is as pleasant to use on mobile as on desktop.
Use a readable font size
People browse the web using all kinds of devices nowadays. Make sure your content is readable across the board.
Avoid intrusive pop-ups and ads
Everyone hates ads, but sometimes you might need them. If thats the case, the key is to avoid intrusive ones. Google has some advice on what is and isnt okay here.
Make sure it loads fast
Page speed is a confirmed ranking factor on desktop and mobile. But this doesnt mean your site needs to load lightning fast. Faster is better, sure, but Google says this factor only affects sites that “deliver the slowest experience to users.”
Create a logical site structure
Both visitors and search engines need to be able to navigate your site easily and intuitively, which is why its important to create a logical hierarchy for your content.
The easiest way to do this is to sketch out a mind map.
Each of the branches in your mind map will become internal links, which are links from one page on a website to another.
Internal links are crucial for UX and SEO for a few reasons:
Use a logical URL structure
URLs are important because they help searchers to understand the topic of a page.
Many website platforms let you choose how to structure your URLs. These are the five main options for URLs in WordPress:
If youre setting up a new site from scratch, it makes sense to go with the clearest and most descriptive structure. Thats probably Post name.
Using dates in URLs is also bad practice because you might want to update the posts in the future.
If youre optimizing an existing website, its probably best not to change the URL structure—even if its not ideal. Doing so can break other more important things that will have a more profoundly negative impact on your SEO.
Install a good SEO plugin
Most hosted platforms handle basic SEO functionality out of the box, but thats not the case for WordPress. Its virtually impossible to implement even the most straightforward SEO best practices without an SEO plugin.
Installation is simple. Just go to:
Plugins > Add new > Run a search > Install > Activate now
Both of these plugins add useful extra input fields to your posts and pages. (Well come back to these later).
If youre using a hosted platform like Wix or Squarespace, theres not much need to install a plugin as these platforms allow you to make basic SEO adjustments out of the box.