Can an old website and a brand new one be ultimately equally well promoted on search engines? Sure, but in the case of a brand new website, the more effort, time and money will be required.
As a website owner, you’re not only responsible for the website’s lifecycle, but it’s also vitally important that you know about everything that’s going on in the background. That way, you’ll be able to make an informed decision regarding any SEO activity, regardless of whether you do it yourself, through a specialized software or agency.
For this reason, it’s best that you find out everything you can about optimizing a new website such as yours for search engines as early on as possible.
In this blog post, we’ll look at all the nuances of doing SEO for a website that’s set up but isn’t on the radar of any search engine. But before diving in, let’s first understand what search engines see as a new website.
How Google sees new websites
When SEO was just starting out, spamming Google was as easy as falling off a log. Overnight, you could launch a keyword-optimized website, get plenty of backlinks and see your website ranking among Google’s top search results by the break of dawn.
Obviously, the search colossal didn’t like the fact that many websites took advantage of this possibility and, as a result, the so-called Google Sandbox was created, although the search giant denies this. It’s believed that its main goal is to prevent spammy black-hat SEO websites from flooding the SERPs. Think of it as if Google is a parent that put its kids—new websites—in a sandbox until they know how to behave.
To elaborate, Google puts every newly-indexed website on a probation period that can last up to a year to make sure they don’t game the system and get high ranking spots quickly by using bad SEO practices.
By following the steps laid out in this blog post, you’ll be able to get your website on Google’s good side.
1. Keep track of future SEO results
The SEO discipline is packed with various specialized tools, making it very tricky to know when to use which to achieve your goals, especially if you’re just learning the ropes.
At the moment, no data is available on your website. But don’t worry! Take the first step and prime your site for future SEO success. Set up a couple of must-have tools from the search engines themselves that will help you know where you are and where to go next.
Look at your site through Google’s eyes via Google Search Console
A free Google tool that will let you know how often your site is crawled, how the search colossal sees your site, plus provide suggestions on troubled spots is Google Search Console. Essentially, this tool gives you tips from the search engine you’re attempting to impress.
Getting started with Google Search Console isn’t that complicated. Once it’s set up and your site is live, give it some time to collect data and then use it to make sure Google clearly understands your content, discover the search queries that lead people to your site, and more.
Pro Tip: Bing Webmaster Tools is another free tool from Microsoft’s search engine that will provide you with additional data and advice on how to enhance your SEO.
Get ready to track traffic with Google Analytics
Once you open the doors to your site for Google and start welcoming traffic, it’s key to have Google Analytics already installed so that you know how many visitors are coming in and how they interact with your site. It’s a powerful, yet flexible tool from Google itself that won’t cost you a dime to use.
You’ll be able to track future sales, find out what content your audience engages with the most, plus learn how they find you in the first place with Google Analytics.
2. Conduct keyword research
Now that the basic preparation work is behind us and you’re ready to start collecting data, let’s focus on the first big SEO step—find the keywords you’ll try to rank your website for in search.
When a website’s been around for some time, it ranks for a set of search queries, and this data allows them to move forward. However, in the case of new websites, you don’t have any data to work with, which is why you must build your semantic core from the ground up.
With a list of keywords in hand, you’ll be able to understand the direction in which to further develop and optimize your website.
Expand your keyword list
The simplest and most cost-effective way of getting keyword ideas for your business is by once again turning to Google. As you perform a search on Google, pay attention to the Google Autocomplete feature that provides search predictions based on popular queries…
…the “People also ask” box that can push you in the right direction by providing you with questions that are related to your search…
…and the “Searches related to…” section that shows keywords that are thematically-related to the entered search query.
It will take a whole lot of manual work, but you can analyze the available data to figure out if there are any keyword ideas you can use on your site. On top of that, you can also get started with Google’s Keyword Planner.
If you’re looking to save time and automate this process, SE Ranking’s Keyword Suggestion Tool can provide you with a vast number of keyword suggestions along with data on their expected volume of traffic and level of competition. By the way, you’re welcome to sign up for a free trial and try it yourself.
Just enter your target keyword and get plenty of Similar, Related and Long-tail keywords that are based on real human searches:
But remember that you have to set realistic goals when picking your keywords. As a rule of thumb, new websites can’t really compete for popular terms, which is why it’s best to target long-tail keywords that have less competition.
To elaborate, here are the main criteria you have to keep in mind when choosing keywords:
- Match your topic. Is every collected keyword directly related to your product or service?
- Search volume. There are three keyword categories in terms of search volume frequency: long-tail (up to 500 monthly searches), mid-tail (up to 2,000 monthly searches), and short-tail (over 2,000 monthly searches.) While it is advised to focus on mid and short-tail keywords in promotion campaigns, there’s another parameter that can help you select the most promising keywords.
- Competition. With the help of this data, you’ll be able to assess the situation in your niche even better, and find out what keywords you can compete for as a new website. The higher the competition, the more difficult it is to get a high SERP ranking.
Put the two parameters—search volume and competition—side by side to choose the keywords you’ll use in your campaigns. For example, the search query “buy smartphone” has a high level of competition and search volume, while “buy a smartphone in Atlanta” has a low level of competition and mid-level search volume. With this data, you can come to a conclusion that you can get good results with little effort by choosing the search query “buy smartphone in Atlanta”.
Pro Tip: Don’t just use the best keywords as-is in your campaigns. Think about the search intent and do your best to provide a solution to the problem. That way, you’ll help searchers solve their problems, and, at the same time, promote your website in search.
Analyze your competitors
If you run out of keyword ideas or don’t know where to start, spying on your competitors to find out what keywords they rank for is always an option.
With the help of SE Ranking’s SEO/PPC Competitor Research tool, enter a competitor domain instead of your own website and discover the search terms that are driving traffic to their site. And if you see a search term that can potentially be beneficial to your site, just “borrow” it!
But don’t just pick a competitor that’s doing really well in the SERPs and has been around for a while—go for newer, less experienced websites. That way, you’ll be able to find keywords that you actually have a chance to rank for. If you do go after a top competitor, you’ll have an extremely difficult time trying to rank for their keywords.
If you don’t know who you’ll be going up against in the SERPs, choose several significant target keywords and analyze them using the SEO/PPC Competitor Research tool to see what websites consistently rank for them—these are your rivals.
Develop a content plan
Once you have your semantic core, write out a content plan. Remember that ever since the Hummingbird Update came out, you have to create content that’s unique and, foremost, relevant. Stuffing your copy with keywords simply won’t do the trick any more.
Each piece of content you publish must be:
- Unique. The more unique your content is, the more it’s valued by people and, in turn, search engines. For best results, it’s advised that you keep your content’s uniqueness rate over 90%.
- Readable. Your content must be scannable, digestible and easy to read for your target audience. Plus, it must have the same end goal: convey relevant information to your potential clients. When you create structured, scannable content, you make it easier for your message to get across.
- Expert. Provide every possible detail on the subject at hand to satisfy visitor intent. Not only can expert articles and blogs in general lead to great promotional results, but they can also help you become an opinion leader for your customers.
But what about the content format?
Depending on your niche and business specifics, you have to decide on the type of content format you want to add to your website—a blog, infographics, videos, webinars, detailed product/service pages, presentations, case studies, etc.
Analyze your competitors to find out what types of content work best for them and think about what will work best for a new website such as yours. Perhaps, you already have all the content you need for the first few months. You don’t want to waste your budget on something that won’t bring in any results, right?
3. Optimize technical SEO
Now that we’ve covered how to handle your future content, let’s take a look at the technical SEO steps you need to consider. I’m referring to the behind-the-scenes activities that affect the experience of your website visitors. Basically, everything that’s related to the technical operations on your website.
If you didn’t initially create your website with the following points in mind, you have to work through them ASAP because they may be the main reason why it’s taking so long for your website to show any positive SEO results.
Make your site mobile-friendly
Nowadays, more searches are done on mobile devices than on desktops, making it critically important to create a website that provides an intuitive mobile experience. And since Google is all about giving users what they want, the search engine is looking to give a higher ranking to websites that work great on mobile devices.
But since you currently don’t have any idea if you’ll be getting most of your traffic from mobile or desktop, it’s best to optimize it for both types of devices.
Thanks to responsive design, your website can adjust to the device it’s being viewed on. The best part is that you won’t have to create and promote separate pages on SERPs: one for mobile and another for desktop. Plus, all of the relevancy signals will be sent to just a single page, giving it more authority.
Pro Tip: If you have a publisher website, implement Accelerated Mobile Pages. This will enable you to get featured in the Google News carousel and get a lot of extra traffic.
Get your site to load up quickly
Today, people hate waiting for anything and are used to seeing fast-loading pages. After all, slow pages have a high bounce rate, low conversion numbers, and if your site isn’t lightning fast, you don’t stand a chance of making it to Google’s first page.
Create an XML sitemap
Once you’re practically ready to get your site indexed, create an XML sitemap. With XML sitemaps, you can provide search engines with a list of the pages you want them to crawl and index. Doing so will help Google and Bing find out about all of the new pages you’ll add to your site in the future.
You can create an XML sitemap right in SE Ranking’s Website Audit, customizing it to include only the necessary pages.
Then, you can upload your XML sitemap to Search Console or Bing Webmaster Tools, and monitor how many of your submitted pages are labelled as indexed to make sure you’re on the right track.
Create a robots.txt file
Every website needs a robots.txt file containing all the rules on how crawlers should engage with your website and where they can go. If Google doesn’t find your robots.txt file and sees a 404 page instead, it will scan all of your pages. But if it sees that the file isn’t accessible due to a bad gateway, it won’t know for sure what to scan and, as a result, Google will fail to crawl and, ultimately, index your website.
For new websites, it is critically important to check if you already have a robots.txt file that is housed at [yourdomain].com/robots.txt. If you do, make sure it doesn’t block Google from crawling all the necessary pages of your site. After all, it is very common to see websites completely close off their pages via robots.txt until all of the preparation work has been completed.
It’s also worth noting that you need to make sure you don’t Disallow files that are linked to page rendering as this can do damage to your SEO. Moreover, if you don’t set it up perfectly, you risk your whole website being inaccessible to Google and Bing.
With SE Ranking’s Website Audit, you can also test your robots.txt file to make sure it’s working properly.
Taking care of these issues now will help you avoid increasing their number in the future when you’re further expanding your website. Plus, you won’t send more negative signals to Google than you have to.
Pro Tip: To get a better understanding of everything that’s wrong with your website and how to fix it, I suggest you use a heatmap service. It will allow you to find out more about your site’s usability, users and how they interact with your website. That way, you’ll be able to learn what they’re interested in more/less, and what they don’t pay any attention to at all.
4. Optimize on-page SEO
One aspect of the SEO process that you have full control over is on-page search engine optimization. And, luckily, you don’t need to be a tech guru to do this.
Note that this process is the same regardless of whether your website is new or old. Think of on-page SEO as a prerequisite to higher rankings. Once you have your semantic core, you can start optimizing your pages for search engines.
The main goal of on-page SEO is to enhance website content to be more relevant to searches, and, as a result, get more traffic. Let’s take a look at what you need to keep in mind.
Have relevant title tags
Before searchers even get to see your site, there’s something else they’ll be able to see first in the SERPs. I am of course referring to the page’s title tag that’s displayed as a blue link, and is also used as the page’s heading if it’s shared on social media.
According to best practices, it is advised that you put the target keyword once into the title tag, preferably closer to the beginning, to let search engines know what the page is about. Plus, aim to create a title that will be different from the competition and entice searchers to click through to your site.
With SE Ranking’s Website Audit, you can stay on top of and review your page titles—see if they are attention-grabbing enough and if the right, unique target keyword is used.
Moreover, you can even set the range of the optimal length of the title tag to make sure they aren’t too long or too short.
Write catchy meta descriptions
Just like the title tag, the page’s meta description can also help you boost your click-through rate, ultimately getting more eyes to look at your content.
The meta description serves as a piece of text that provides searchers and search engines with additional information on what they’ll find on the page if they decide to click on it. Think of it as an ad. This is where you can really get creative and stand out among other results.
For this reason, make sure that your descriptions include the page’s target keyword and are as catchy as possible.
With the help of SE Ranking’s Website Audit, you’ll be able to look back and scan every page of your website to analyze the meta descriptions.
Besides seeing the text of the meta description, you’ll also be able to set its optimal length and keep an eye out for possible duplicates.
Not everyone knows that images can in fact impact a website’s SEO and its overall usability. Don’t waste this opportunity and keep the following points in mind when adding images to your pages:
- Create low weight images so that pages load up faster
- Give them a clear filename that includes the target keyword
- Provide descriptive alt texts to let search engines know what they are about
SE Ranking’s Website Audit enables you to take a quick look at the alt text used in the image along with its size to make sure you’re on the right track.
Pro Tip: If you built your website on WordPress, make use of the Shortpixel plugin to optimize your website’s images.
Create effective headings
In addition to the title, URL, and meta description, a web page’s main heading also tells both search engines and people what the page’s topic is.
With the help of h1-h6 heading tags, you can structure the page to show its hierarchy. Plus, double-check to make sure that you don’t create a title and an h1 heading for the same page that contradict one another.
The main idea here is to create h1-h6 tags that organically fit into the page and aren’t stuffed with keywords. I want to point out that simply making your headers bold and larger than the rest of the text won’t do the trick, as search engines specifically look for those h* tags.
To keep tabs on all of your page headings, you can use SE Ranking’s Website Audit. However, if you stick to best practices from the get-go, your headings should be fine.
5. Optimize off-page SEO through link building
What’s the big deal with links? Well, they connect everything on the internet and it’s how we go from one site to another. When a website with high authority links out to you, the link acts as a citation that proves to search engines that the linked to page has relevance, authority and value.
Once you get the hang of it, there are plenty of ways you can go about building backlinks to your website, but let’s see what you can do with a new site.
Get a list of competitor backlinks
Since you’re just taking your first steps, you don’t have any backlinks yet. So, where do you start?
Take a look at your competitors’ backlinks using SE Ranking’s Backlink Checker. Just enter a competitor domain and get a list of every single backlink:
By carefully studying the backlink profiles of your main competitors, you can get new ideas, learn what backlinks they have, how they got them, how authoritative the backlinks are, and devise a link-building strategy of you own based on their experience.
But I want to warn you that you shouldn’t just attempt to copy the entire backlink profile of a competitor—you’ll fail to do so 9 times out of 10.
What you should pay attention to more as you’re planning your link-building strategy is not your competitors, but the specifics of your business. Think about the links that will benefit you more and which ones can be obtained more easily. Perhaps, you already have a client or a partner you can get a couple of backlinks from.
Design a link-building strategy
As was touched on earlier, to start building backlinks, you need to first create awesome content that people will want to link out to. Stats, listicles, videos, and infographics get the most amount of backlinks, but you’ll have to figure out what works best for you on your own.
Before you start writing great content, set realistic goals in line with your marketing strategy. It also makes sense to find out where your audience spends their time online to understand the kind of content they like best and provide them with it. And plan well ahead as link-building is a lengthy process that will take a whole lot of time to produce results.
Since you don’t have any links yet, your main goal is to start off on the right foot. Hand-pick authoritative website, write out clear, relevant anchor texts, and don’t rush the process! Google assesses your overall backlink profile and is able to spot it if you get too many links at a time. If the search giant does decide that your link-building activity as unnatural, this can lead to manual sanctions, so be careful.
Furthermore, since getting your first backlinks is a rather difficult task, you must play your cards right and select several important pages from your site—including the homepage—that you will attempt to get links for. That way, you’ll boost your chances of getting links to key pages.
Additionally, ever since Google’s Penguin Update came out, backlinks of poor quality aren’t even taken into account and only quality backlinks give your website more relevance, authority and value. So, several high-quality links can do so much more for your SEO than hundreds of poor ones.
Keep the SEO train rolling
To recap, I want to stress that this is not a set-it-and-forget-it situation. SEO requires constant hard work from day one. If you don’t think about SEO now, all of the hard work you put in will be discarded as soon as Google indexes your website.
First, resolve all technical issues to make sure your going forward with a healthy site. Then, start building up your relevance and authority through quality content and, ultimately, backlinks. These are all necessary steps to building search engine and user trust that will eventually pay off in the form of high rankings.
There you have it! Follow this SEO advice to make sure that when Google indexes your website, it’s ready to hit the SEO ground running. And click through to the provided links to get more info on the mentioned topics. Good luck!