The well-known idiom “being sent to Coventry” means to be ostracised, ignored and treated as if you do not exist. Which is, frankly, a horrible situation for anyone to be in! Nobody knows exactly where this phrase comes from, but it is likely have originated from the 1600s when the English Civil war took place. During this time Coventry was a key parliamentarian stronghold where royalist soldiers were taken after being captured in Birmingham. It is alleged that these soldiers were not taken kindly to by the people of Coventry. Other suggestions for its origin include the legend of Peeping Tom and a military regiment who were sent to Coventry in the 1800s only to be denied services. But I digress… Wherever this idiom originated from, we all know its meaning only too well. And when it’s your own website being ignored by Google, things can get really serious indeed!
So how can you stop Google from sending your website to Coventry? The key is to make sure Google loves your website and there are some simple tips you can follow to help you achieve this.
First impressions count
When you go out on a first date, you make an effort don’t you? Well you should, particularly if you want that first date to turn into a second date. The same rules apply to your first encounter with Google. To get your website noticed you need to be a honeypot for the Google Bot (see what I did there?). This can be done by creating an XML site map and submitting the site map to Google Webmaster Tools. The XML document sits on your site’s server and keeps a record of your site’s directories and pages, basically telling the Google Bot which pages to index.
Other things you can do to help the process is to setup Google Analytics which will inform Google that there is a new site ready to track, and setup your social media profiles. Social media pages are a great way of telling people about your new site and the more likes and shares you get, the happier Google will be.
Optimise your website for SEO
It’s all good and well telling Google about your new site, but if Google’s finds your site to be a scruffy, illegible so and so, it won’t give you very high marks. So, before you introduce yourself, make sure you take care of the finer details. Make sure that the site file and directory URLs are semantically organised and keyword optimised, and that your meta-tags are entered and optimised correctly. Spend time on your content, making sure its readable, unique and exciting, and that each page is relevant for the key phrases being targeted.
Make sure your website is mobile-friendly
News flash! It is no longer acceptable for your website not to be fully optimised for mobile. So much so, Google has confirmed that mobile optimisation is now a key ranking factor. Of course, this makes perfect sense. More and more people are now using their mobile to browse the web. In the UK alone 61% of internet usage is carried on a mobile, and in some countries it is much higher. The US and China both at 71% and Indonesia at a whopping 91%.
So, what’s the best way to ensure your site is mobile-friendly? Google has in fact stated that its preferred method of optimisation is to implement a responsive design. This means using CSS media queries to readjust the design for different screen sizes and device settings. It is the most streamlined approach as all content is delivered from a single website, rather than having to update a standard site and a mobile version.
Content, content and more content
The best way of getting into Google’s good books is to write, and keep writing, fantastic content. Your content should be unique, informative and most of all useful to your target audience. The effectiveness of your content will be judged on how your audience reacts to it. If they leave the page after reading the first line, it will not bode well. If they stay and read your content and leave a comment, or move onto your next article, then that’s a definite tick. And you will be rewarded by Google for your fantastic writing skills. But, it doesn’t stop there… You need to keep writing great content on a regular basis to keep your audience interested and keep them coming back for more.
Page speed matters
We’ve spoken about this in previous blogs and yes, we may sound like a broken record, but that’s because page speed really does matter! So much so that Google even has a tool that you can use to test your page speed for both desktop and mobile devices – https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/
It has long been known that slow web pages will result in higher bounce rates, but did you know that those higher bounce rates will also result in lower search positions? This is because Google measures the quality of your web pages on the interaction of your audience. If your readers stay a while and peruse a few pages then that’s great. Your website is doing its job. But if your readers are pulling their hair out waiting for your content to load, then it stands to reason that they may well leave, never to return… It’s a sad state of affairs, but one that can be easily fixed with the right know-how. Working through the Google page speed tool and paying attention to the suggestions provided is a step in the right direction. A fast website really can make a big difference to your readers and your relationship with Google.
So, don’t let Google send your website to Coventry
It’s no fun being invisible on the web, particularly when you rely on your website to bring in much needed business. Make sure your website is setup correctly, optimised for SEO and mobile, and that your content is valuable and informative and Google will never leave you in the wilderness again.