Update July 2016: We've just released The RapidWeaver SEO Course — 16 video tutorials dedicated to improving your RapidWeaver site's SEO. There's nearly 5 hours of practical RapidWeaver SEO advice to help your site rank higher on google and increase your traffic.
A hot topic every time we discuss it on The RapidWeaver Show is “SEO”. We get regular requests to cover SEO, with users asking us to share the secret sauce that will get their site to #1 on Google.
I’ll be writing some more about SEO in the coming weeks, but I thought I’d start with my top six SEO tips you can easily implement on your RapidWeaver site. They won’t guarantee you top spot on Google, but they will give you a solid foundation to build from.
First off, get yourself a descriptive domain name. Don’t go for a trendy acronym, or remove the vowels because it sounds cool. If you run a coffee shop, “benscoffeeshop.com” is better than “bcs.io”.
Secondly, you should customise the file and folder name for every page. The folder name should describe the page content, such as “brewing-methods” or “opening-times”. The file name should be “index.html” (or .php, if required).
Note: Ensure that “Tidy website links” is enabled in the settings (this is the case for all new RapidWeaver projects). Doing so will remove the “index.html” from all links, meaning you’ll get links like “benscoffeeshop.com/contact” rather than “”benscoffeeshop.com/contact/index.html”.
We have a Page Inspector video tutorial that shows you how to customise the file and folder names in RapidWeaver.
Use Page Titles to Describe Your Content
The page title is really important. Google tries to match the words in your title to the content the user sees. The two most important things to think about when writing page titles are:
- Use as many of the keywords you want to be found for as possible, without being spammy.
- Describe the page content
Whilst most people think putting their company name at the beginning of the title is important, if you want the best results then your most important keywords should be at the beginning. Google cares more about the content than your company name.
The page title should be between 50-60 characters, as this is the amount that will typically be displayed on Google. Going over 60 characters won’t harm you, but anything after roughly the 55 character mark won’t be displayed, or help your SEO score. Plus it looks neater, and more professional, if your entire title is displayed in search results.
- BCS - Brewing (Really bad)
- Ben’s Coffee - Location (Bad)
- Coffee brewing. Brewing Coffee at Ben’s Coffee Brewing Coffee Shop (Spammy, don’t do this)
The first two examples are bad because they are short, don’t describe the page content, and don’t include many keywords.
The third example is spammy, and will harm you in the long run. Google are getting better at filtering out sites that are attempting to game the system. So whilst you might see some short-term results, you’ll be feeling the wrath of Google once they realise what you’re up to. No-one wants to be banished to page ten for eternity.
- Learn how to brew amazing coffee at Ben’s Coffee Shop
- Drink the Best Coffee in Brighton at Ben’s Coffee Shop
These examples are good because they use keywords a coffee shop might want to be found for, describe the content on the page, and are roughly 55 characters long. These titles will give you the best long term results. Just make sure your content matches up with the title (we’ll talk about content more later).
You can customise the title for each page on your RapidWeaver site by using the “Page Title” text box in the Page Inspector. Our Page Inspector video tutorial shows you how to do this.
At this point responsive design is pretty standard across all sites. If you’re maintaining a site that isn’t responsive, you need take the leap and make it responsive.
Why? Because, for a while now, Google have been giving sites that are responsive, or “Mobile friendly” as they label them in search results, more points on searches made from a mobile device.
The reason for this is because Google wants to ensure the sites they send you to are easy to use, on the device you’re using. If you keep getting sent to sites that are hard to use, you’ll find the “Google experience” annoying and might start using a competitor (Hello Bing).
All RapidWeaver themes released in the last few years are responsive, so it’s easy to create a responsive, mobile friendly site. And with RapidWeaver’s built in “Responsive Preview” you can easily see how your site will look on desktop, tablet, and mobile.
So just pick a theme, make sure your content layout is good on a variety of screen sizes, and you’re good to go!
We also have a video tutorial coving Advance Responsive Preview that shows you how to preview your site on all devices.
Make it fast.
Nobody likes waiting for a page to load, not even Google! So they decided that sites that load fast would be given more points.
Making your site loads fast is a complex subject, but there a few basic things you can do to improve your site’s loading time:
- Reduce the size of your images. Either by resizing them, or use an app like Squash or JPEGMini to reduce the file size.
- Cache everything. Caching can be difficult to setup on your own. Luckily there’s CloudFlare (more on them below) that can do all the hard work for you.
There’s a lot more to making a site load fast (CDNs, lazy loading content, file compression, etc.) that we can’t cover here. If you want to learn more, start by putting your site through Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
We even have a tutorial on how to setup CloudFlare that explains how to enable caching on your site.
Make it secure.
You’ll want to get HTTPS setup on your server. This sounds scary, and it used to be, but these days we have sites like CloudFlare that will take care of it for you.
Why do you need HTTPS? Again, mostly because Google is giving more points to sites that are secure (there are other reasons why secure sites are important, but it’s beyond the scope of this post).
HTTPS is not something RapidWeaver can setup for you, it’s something that is handled by your server. You could go through the hassle of purchasing and installing a certificate, or if you’re just starting out I suggest you signup for a free CloudFlare account and setup HTTPS with them. Once you have your site setup with CloudFlare, it is literally two clicks and your site can be served over HTTPS.
Again, watch our video tutorial to see how to setup CloudFlare as that covers enabling HTTPS on your site.
Content Is King
It’s true what those SEO experts say, “Content is King”. If you only do one thing, concentrate on adding quality, relevant content to your site. And do it on a regular basis, don’t allow your site to become stale.
The best way to do this is to create a blog, and make a commitment to post regularly. You don’t need to go crazy and post updates five times a day — you’re not trying to replicate your twitter feed. Start slow, say one or two posts a month, and cover a topic that’s relevant to your business. Cover the topic in-depth, as doing so will show your visitors (and Google!) that you know what you’re talking about and that you’re a good source of information.
Think about, and plan, what you’re going to write in each post. SEO experts will probably bang on about “keyword research”, giving you a long list of must-have tools that help you research and choose which keywords to use. Don’t worry about all that, there’s an easy way to get started...
Start typing a couple of words in to Google, and see what it suggests. Those suggestions are the keywords you’ll want to focus on. For example, my imaginary coffee blog will likely cover how to brew coffee. If you start Googling for “coffee brew” you’ll get the following suggestions:
- coffee brewers
- coffee brewing
- coffee brewing methods
- coffee brewing ratio
Those are the most popular phrases people are searching for. Use those phrases as your keywords, and start writing posts that contain them both in the title and the body (you should also tag your posts). This is the basics of how you target the keywords you want to be found for.
A great example of this in action is Dan’s blog. Dan writes about running a software business, something he knows a lot about. He posts roughly once or twice a month, and has been doing so for a couple of years. He’s stuck at it and now has an amazing archive of posts. It’s a great resource for anyone who’s running a small business.
Pay attention to the post titles and you’ll notice he’s thought about what people are going to be searching for, and included those keywords in the title. If you do this with your posts, you’ll start to see similar results.
The main thing to keep in mind is, and I can’t stress this enough; Write good quality content that’s relevant to your business. Write something you’d want to read. Write it on a regular basis.
I keep saying “good quality”, and I mean that in every sense of the word. Don’t be sloppy! Make sure there are no spelling mistakes and don’t use jargon or acronyms. Your content should sound professional and be easy to read.
If you put this in to practice you’ll start to find people link to your articles, perhaps via their own blog or on social media. This is known as “link building”, which I’ll cover in another post, but in short: Link Building is increasing the number of inbound links to your site. You need to do this because it really helps your ranking score.
As I said at the top, implementing these tips won’t guarantee you top spot on Google, but it’ll certainly give you an excellent foundation to build from. You won’t get to the top of Google (or even page one) over night, be patient and stick at it.
If you want to learn more about SEO, in particular SEO for your RapidWeaver site, here’s a list of handy resources:
- RapidWeaver SEO - How To Optimize Your Website For Google
- The RapidWeaver Show: Wear your white hat
- The RapidWeaver Show: Why should I blog?
- The RapidWeaver Show: SEO tips & tricks
- SEO-Rx stack gain insight to how well your webpage’s SEO will do before you publish.
- Customising folder names and page titles in RapidWeaver (video)
- Control How Google Indexes Your RapidWeaver Site (video)
- Performance enhancements and HTTPS with CloudFlare (video)
- Advanced Responsive Preview (video)