Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is ever evolving, thanks to the constant development of search engine algorithms.
With so many changes – and so many opinions – it can be difficult to determine which SEO techniques to use and which ones you can safely discount.
But don’t worry, there are certain fundamental principles that remain unchanged.
So, if you’re wondering how you can use SEO to transform your business, let’s take a look at our guide to getting the best from Search Engine Optimisation.
Start with the basics
Let’s start with what SEO is.
Search Engine Optimisation is all about maximising your website’s chance of appearing on page one for some – or all – of the terms typed into search engines by your target customers.
It’s about optimising your website so search engines think it’s one of the very best answers or sources of information for your potential customer’s online search.
Google has the largest share of the UK search engine market, so that’s where we’ll focus! However, what works for Google will work for other search engines too.
Google’s search engine algorithm discovers, analyses and ranks websites’ content automatically. It’s complex and ever-changing to improve the quality of search result for its users. Sadly, they do not publish a guidelines and many of the SEO tactics that were effective in the past no longer work – and some are even actively punished!
Essentially, SEO is split into ‘on-page’ and ‘off-page’ factors.
‘On-page’ factors are those which can be affected within your website itself. These include relevance (the content of the text and images), the structure of the site (how search engine friendly it is) and speed & security.
‘Off-page’ factors are those which can be affected outside your website. In a nutshell, this is how well respected your website is by others as a quality source of information.
Let’s dive into how these factors can make or break your website’s Search Engine Optimisation.
Now that we know what SEO is, we can begin understanding how on-page factors influence your search engine ranking and how you can improve them.
The primary on-page SEO factor you need to worry about is ‘relevance’ – how well your website’s content answers someone’s specific search term or query.
Google assesses this both holistically – looking at the overall content and focus of your website – and specifically – such as the dedicated landing page you have for a particular subject or search term.
Keyword rich content
The way to make your website relevant is by using keyword rich content.
You need to carefully structure the written content of your website to include your target keywords, queries and phrases – what you think your intended audience will be searching for.
Realistically, your website can only top Google for certain search terms, so you’ll need to decide which keywords are most relevant to your customers and business.
An important tip is not to artificially stuff your content with too many keywords or search terms. Google is wise to this! Your website needs to be unique, authentic and lack repetition – or Google could actually down rank your website.
Remember, quality is more important than quantity when it comes to keyword optimisation. Engaging and valuable content should drive the SEO of your website, so make sure you create content for humans first and search engines second!
Write unique and relevant title tags
Perhaps the clearest indication of a page’s subject and relevance is its page title or ‘title tag’.
The title tag is the name which appears in the browser tab and is the first section that people see when Google displays your website in search results.
(It’s not to be confused with the visible title of the text on the webpage – typically called the H1 title – though this is also a critical to SEO)
It’s vitally important that the title tags you write are unique, specific to the page, accurately describe the content and contain the keywords you wish to target. However, they can only be 50-60 characters long.
Your title tag needs to be different for every page of your website. Duplicate title tags confuse Google as it is harder to know which page is the most relevant.
Structure your website well
More than just a relevant website, Google is also looking for a well-structured one too.
Search engines need to be able to navigate and explore every element of your website. Things which can hinder this include broken links, inaccessible content (for example where pages require a log-in), missing image tags and duplicated title tags.
One way to get the best from your SEO is to make sure you include an XML sitemap.
A XML sitemap details all the pages and other assets (such as images) within your website. Rather than leaving Google to their own way around every corner of your website, a site map gives a helping hand to ensure they explore every relevant page and feature.
Make it speedy
Page speed is a critical factor in SEO.
The average time a user will wait for a web page to load is just two seconds! This means if your page is too slow, you’ll be fighting a losing battle when it comes to pleasing users.
For this reason, Google will also down rank websites which are too slow to open. So even if your website has all the ‘right stuff’, you’ll be lower down the search results page if it is cumbersome and sluggish.
To combat this, get rid of non-essential elements that are slowing down your site like deactivated plugins, needlessly large images, excess animation or inline CSS (styling information).
Secure your website
A website security certificate is essentially a digital stamp of approval from an industry-trusted third party. It asserts your business’s identity and establishes a secure, encrypted connection to your website.
Having a secure website gives your users confidence that they have been safely connected to the official server for the website they are visiting. It also ensures no one can intercept data that has been sent to and from the website.
It’s a simple process, but one that’s also essential to your SEO.
In Google’s ever-changing algorithm for SEO rankings, they have made security certificates a critical factor for trustworthiness.
The primary ‘off-page’ factor for SEO is authority.
Authority is how well respected your website is as a source of quality information.
To rise up the search engine results page, you need to have other respected websites link to yours as a trusted source of information.
Gaining the respect of others online is largely about impressing your peers, being part of online communities and featuring on popular websites.
An example of this is the BBC News website. It has huge website authority and the pages they link to automatically benefit from some of their clout.
It may be unlikely that the BBC will link to your website, so you need to build relationships with other online press and websites within your sector and the business community.
This can be achieved by creating and sharing content such as press releases, blogs and other updates or explainers. When someone publishes it, always ask for a backlink to your website!
Sharing your content through social media is also another way to indirectly affect SEO. Even better is if your website content (e.g. blogs or PR) are widely shared by social media users themselves too.
Whilst social media links do not directly provide authority – as they are too easy to create yourself – Google does still see them as an indication of creditability.
Find the balance
Getting the best out of your SEO is a fine balance between on-page and off-page factors and these tips are by no means exhaustive.
There are many other factors which improve your website’s relevance, including improving bounce rates, accurate image tags and the age of your domain.
Google is increasingly holistic in how it evaluates websites. To top search results for a competitive search term, you need to have authentic high-quality SEO.
It also takes time and there are no quick fixes, hacks or cheats. But, by implementing these tried and tested principles, you’ll start to see the results you’re hoping for.
If getting the best out of your SEO sounds complicated, let us make it easy for you! Contact our team today to find out how we can improve your Search Engine Optimisation.
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