30 Jan Search Engine Optimisation
You think your website is sorted and it’s ready to take over the world and then your friend mentions something about how you need Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) to you and now you question whether you know anything.
So first of all, what is Search Engine Optimisation?
It is the process of getting traffic (people visiting your site) from the ‘free’ or ‘organic’ search results on search engines.
It’s another question that we get asked on a regular basis; ‘How Do I Get To Number 1 On Google’ and the reality is that there are 100s of different factors that search engines take into consideration for their rankings. There is no guaranteed way to get to the top of the rankings and your web developer will aim to help you with this but here are a few points to get you started.
1) Your Domain Name
Your domain name can be very important to you for a number of reasons; First and foremost if you are buying a previously owned domain, you need to make sure that it hasn’t been penalised by Google. This may have happened if the previous owner was found to have been manipulating the rules, it usually just means a drop in rankings but sometimes there can even be an exclusion from Google’s index.
Having a domain name that is memorable is also important for your branding process, it makes it easy for people to remember and easier to share. If you have a ridiculously long URL, one that is misspelt or if it includes too many numbers or hyphens, then you are just making it harder for your customers to find you.
A few years ago you would have been recommended to use keywords in your domain name such as www.doggroomerslondon.co.uk however then Google announced the Exact Match Domain (EMD) update to prevent the keyword-keyword-keyword.com sites from ranking well based just on having main keywords in their domain names.
2) Your Keywords & Keyword Research:
There are many mistakes that people are making with their keywords and keyword research:
Don’t be too generic or broad such as ‘web design’ if you try to target such a wide spectrum not only are you making everyone in the industry your competitor (rather than just a specific group) and then any Pay Per Click (PPC) becomes more expensive and general.
Then, on the other hand, it can be pointless choosing keywords without enough traffic. A long keyword such as “old red 15kg suitcases from England” might be too specific and you might lose potential traffic (I have however had some joy from being very specific with my PPC as not many other companies have bothered with it as the frequency is so low).
Keywords not relevant to your business – This does not help at all.
Diversify, diversify, diversify – Don’t just target one keyword at a time, there may be 100 different ways someone can search your business, you need to target as many of them as possible to maximise your returns.
To maximise your website you need to ensure your keyword research is spot on, from this you can see:
Which words and phrases have a high search volume – from this you can see where your customers are most likely to search for you, this may also be the most competitive (and usually therefore expensive) place to target due to the high demand.
On the other hand this is where you can also find the less targeted phrases, this may suit you better instead of the generic search terms like “holidays”, instead go for a long-tail keyword that is more targeted and specific such as “Winter breaks in Canada” or “Weekend Breaks In The UK”. Fewer results mean an increased chance of ranking higher in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
Are the keywords relevant to the content on your site – This may seem obvious but there’s no point targeting keywords that don’t suit the page they are on. If your content is about Breast implants and your keywords are targeting liposuction then you are wasting your time and money.
3) Content Mastery
High-quality content is a fundamental element of your search engine optimisation and interacting with your customers is a great way to make your website rank well. Content refers to anything you publish on your site that can educate, please or sell to visitors, such as:
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
When you have your list of keywords, you need to then begin creating your content and optimising it. Search engines will crawl your site trying to figure out the topic and then make a decision on which keywords each page should rank for.
Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking only about keywords, while they are important, you need to target it for your customers first and not only as this is better for them, but Google also looks for this. It works on a percentage, so if there is a higher amount of keywords than normal content then this can actually go against you in your writings. Don’t ever sacrifice the persuasiveness of your content for SEO-friendly content.
When you are writing your content you need to pay attention to all the following:
Titles – A title that catches your visitors attention and if possible includes a keyword.
Keywords – Include keywords that are relevant and will bring people to your site.
Quality – The quality of your content is vital to your success. If someone is visiting your site they are either searching for information, for a solution or looking to buy something so its your job to provide that and keep them on your page, this will affect your bounce rate.
Freshness – Creating new content regularly can help keep visitors returning to your site and also improve your SEO. One way to do this is with a blog in which you continuously share information for visitors, this may be to enhance their knowledge, answer some FAQ’s, give advice, business news.
4) Optimise your code
SEO-friendly URL structure
Your URL’s are often an overlooked aspect of your SEO planning, however, they are an important element. If in your URL you have items such as punctuation marks or if some pages aren’t accessible then search engines will have a hard time crawling them. They then won’t be able to index the pages which means they won’t rank in the search engines.
Some areas to think about to achieve an SEO-friendly site URL structure:
Interlink your www and non-www domain versions. This works as if someone types www.example.co.uk into their browser and then tries it as example.co.uk if the “non-www” version does not redirect to www.example.co.uk then the engines are seeing it as two different sites which then makes it all duplicate content. This is far from ideal and makes your site massively less effective for your SEO efforts as it dilutes your inbound links, because any external sites will be linking to both.
You need to decide your preference and execute a ‘301 redirect’ for all other versions so visitors are automatically redirected to your preferred domain. It really doesn’t matter which you decide as long as it is consistent.
Avoid dynamic URLs – They are both ugly and don’t give any indication of whats there. So instead of a www.example.co.uk/?p=981702 so try to use static URLs such as www.example.co.uk/topic-name. This helps as its adding a keyword but more because it actually tells your visitor what the page is about.
Use canonical tags.
These tags enhance link and ranking signals for your pages content which are available through multiple URL structures. They are used to tell the search engine which is the original content and which are copies, this aids the ‘bots’ to link and give credit only to the original piece of content.
You do however have to specify this, to do this you need to add a rel=”canonical” link element, for example if you want https://blog.myexampleblog.co.uk/water/why-i-prefer-tap-water/ to be your main URL, even if there are a few URLs that can access this content.
Then you need to show this to the search engines by adding a element with a rel=“canonical” attribute to the of the pages:
XML sitemap – Always create a sitemaps these are like directions for search engines. Usually including every page on your site, ensuring search engine bots don’t miss anything. After creating your sitemap this isn’t the end of the work, you should then submit it to Google Webmaster Central and Bing so that search engines can access and then index your website freely.
The title tag
Every page on your site should have a unique title tag describing what the visitor will see on the page. Don’t forget to do this as the title tag is what people see in SERPS when they’re searching for you. It can also be displayed in shared social media posts. This is why your title tag needs to be as enticing as it is keyword friendly.
Title Tags Conclusion:
Make sure each title tag is unique
Your title tag is cut depending on how much space (pixels) it takes up so the average recommendation is usually about between 42 and 60 characters, including spaces.
The meta description tag
This is used when summarising content on a page, again showing up in search engine results below the title tag. This wont make you rank any higher, however execute this well and it can improve the likelihood of whether prospective clients decide to click to your site or your competitors.
Meta description Conclusion:
Make sure each Mets description is unique
It involves a keyword
Use about 100 and 150 characters (including spaces)
Aim to have a call-to-action (CTA) that makes people want to click.
Heading tags help to tell the search engines what the page is about, they also visually break up the sections of a page for usability and graphic reasoning.
When a search engine visits your site they can’t see the images so you need to add an alt tag for each one. The alt tag tells the bot what the image is and this is a great place to use your keywords which will increase the possibility of showing up in image search results.
However, don’t try to trick Google by making the alt tag not relevant to the image and just trying to spam certain keywords in as this could cost your SEO.
Interlinking is when you link a certain phrase or word in your content to other relevant pages. Basically, we’re linking visitors to other similar resources that are helpful and relevant to the topic that would be useful for the visitor to view.
This helps to guide visitors around your site or to to other content that may be of interests as well as helping search engine bots better understand the content on that page. Very importantly it may help to lower your sites bounce rate as if someone visits a page on your website before quickly finding a link to something they’re interested in, theres more chance they will visit than than leaving the site.
Avoid linking the same keyword hoping that it will boost rankings as this is actually over-optimisation and does more harm than good for your site.Too many links can have a similar effect and you should only be linking relevant, useful information. Finally you need to ensure that there are no broken links, this is a killer of your SEO.
5) Technical Setup
Whats the point of all this effort if you aren’t going to track your efforts and measure the performance of your website?
Visitors per month, most popular pages, time spent on your site? These are few examples of what can be tracked (and used) with analytics tools. Do this from the start so you can track from the beginning and record your progress.
Make an account with Google and Bing Webmaster Tools:
These tools further enhance what you can measure on your site : Who is linking to your site, which words/phrases are directing visitors to you and even if your site has any problems that should be addressed quickly.
Install an SEO plugin
If your website was created in the likes of Drupal or WordPress then you should look at installing an SEO plugin to help you with the process. Using an SEO plugin can help you to meet the recommended criteria for the search engines.
Your site will have a robotx.txt file this will contain instructions for search engines for which pages of your website to visit during the bots crawl. So, if your robots.txt file states that a URL is disallowed in your robots.txt files, then that URL and its contents won’t display in any search results.
6) Build links
Links are still an important factor in the ranking of your site and continues to be a great gauge of content which is relevant and important.
However, it is definitely not about having hundreds of links right from the start (although it used to be the case) but rather having quality and authority sites to link to your website.
In 2015 your link building strategy should include:
Creating strong, quality content with a purpose that is so helpful and engaging that visitors will share it with others.
Make sure you are sharing and promoting your content to people who will read, enjoy and share your work.
Look to build a partnership with influencers and convince them your work is of a high enough quality to share.
7) Final Check List:
Year by year usability is becoming more and more important for search engine optimization as it is better for user experience and also as websites with great user experience is often easy to navigate through, with information that’s easy to find and useful.
Get your friends, your family and your colleagues to help you test this as if they were a customer. Aim to ensure that there are no more steps than necessary for the checkout process and that the site as a whole is easy for visitors to navigate, to buy and to contact you.
Again this is an increasingly important factor in your site’s ranking, so make sure you are testing your site’s speed and improve this if possible. There are many tools you can find online to test this, which you can find easily and freely.
Using Google’s Developers pages (https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/) you can test your sites speed and find ways to improve it.
Having a site that works just as well on any device, from the desktop to tablets and then smartphones are vital. As mobile traffic is starting to become more common than desktop traffic, your site needs to reflect this.
Also since April 21st, 2015 Google have updated their algorithms so that you get penalised if your website isn’t mobile-friendly, you can’t delay looking into this issue.
If you take on board the advice given here, your sites traffic from search engines will increase and you will move up the rankings. However, you need to keep in mind this process takes time even if you do it all right. Be patient. Then there are many different elements that you and developer can be working on ti improve this throughout, it is an on-going process.
With search engine optimisation there aren’t any easy routes, you need to understand that as if you try to beat the system with dirty tactics then you will end up being penalised. Your only focus needs to be on creating a site with great content, providing users with what they’re looking for and optimising it to make it easier to find online.
It’s a time-consuming process, its hard work, however, you cant live without this in the modern day and if you do it right it will definitely pay off.