How to improve SEO on DIY website platforms

Websites are expensive. A web development company can charge $10,000, $20,000 or even $30,000 for a custom-designed WordPress site. The high cost puts a customized website beyond the reach of many small and medium-sized businesses. That is why more and more businesses are turning to website building platforms like Squarespace, Wix and Weebly. The platforms have numerous themes, and an inexperienced person can put a well designed website together in a few hours.

Once the site has been created, you want to be found on Google and the other search engines. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on Squarespace and other website building platforms have limitations when compared to a custom website, but you can still do a lot to improve search engine visibility. A little bit of work goes a long way.

Here are some tips for having strong SEO in these spaces:

Start with a question

When optimizing a website for search, starts with questions. Google and other search engines are trying to maximize user experience, and that means providing the necessary information. Examples are: “What is a pizza restaurant near me” and “What are 2018 fashion trends” For each query, the search engine tries to locate the best information to answer the question. What are the key questions that your customers ask? You and your sales staff talk everyday with your customers. Listen to your customers and find out how they are searching for information on your industry.

Keyword research

Once you have questions listed, you conduct keyword research. These questions have keywords associated with them, and a numbers of tools are available to help. Google’s AdWords Keyword Planner is a great free resource. It’s used for buying ads on Google, but the planning tools help with keyword research for SEO. Google search is another tool. As you type something in the search window, Google gives you other associated terms in a down menu. Google also gives you related searches at the bottom of the page. Moz, SEMRush and others have paid tools that allow for more in-depth keyword research.

Set homepage title

The title tag is part of your website’s computer code and one of the most important tools in your optimization arsenal. You want to select a title tag that helps people understand and find your business. You also want to include the name of the business. For example “Bob’s Construction | general contractor Albany, NY” works as a title tag for a general contractor in Albany, NY. To change the home page title tag in Squarespace, hover over the log title at the top of the website. Click edit. It will open up the “Logo and Title” window. Enter you title tag in the Site Title/Title Line window. Save your work.

Write a meta description

The meta description is your businesses’ description in the search engine results. The meta description has no influence on search engine rankings but is a chance to sell your business. Look at the your competitor’s description in the search results and craft a description that accurately describes your business. To change your meta description in Squarespace, go to the home menu and click on settings. You want to click on the SEO tab and enter the description in the Search Engine Description box. Save your work.

Alt attribute

Google and the other search engines don’t have the ability to accurately understand information in a photograph. They need your help. That is where the alt attribute can be utilized. It gives you a chance to accurately describe a photograph. For example, for a construction business website, you might have a photograph of a person with a hammer a nail. You might write the alt attribute as “Man uses hammer and nail to build new shelf” The words “hammer,” “nail” and “build” are all associated with construction, and the description accurately describes the photo. It gives search engines more signals about your type of business. To change add alt attributes in Squarespace click on the image block and click on the edit tab. You add the description of the photo in the “File Name” window. You then want to go to the design option menu and select the inline option and then select “Do Not Display Caption” from the drop down menu.

Custom URLs

The URL address of a page within your website is another way to increase your search engine visibility. For construction company webite, you will need a service page. The URL could be called www.example.com/residential-construction if the business specializes is residential construction. Squarespace and others automatically sets the URL, but you have the ability to change it. Go to the Home Menu and enter the pages section. Hover over the page title. You need to click on the gear icon and scroll down to page settings in the menu that pops up. In the URL slug enter the new name of the URL. You also want to make sure you have a redirect from the previous page.

James Shea is an award-winning journalist and author and owns Media Lab, a digital marketing company in Richmond, Va. He has improved the search engine performance of numerous websites and enjoys working with small- and medium-sized businesses.