SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. It is important to optimise your pages in a way that helps Google understand your content and rank it as relevant for particular searches. Get in touch now for a quote.
Optimisation is often very unique to a particular industry and only one part of the digital marketing strategy for any website. Website optimisation is a huge topic and the points below cover just a few of the main areas.
Search engine optimisation in 2017
Areas for optimisation include:
In terms of answering the search query you want to rank for, your content should provide the highest quality and most relevant page available. It should be worthy of a high search engine position. Google is looking for:
- Unique content that satisfies one user intention (rather than one or more particular targeted keywords or topics).
- A high level of relevance, expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness.
- Content that is free from spelling or grammatical errors.
- A “satisfying amount” of high quality main content.
- Rich content that creates a good user experience relevant to the search term and allows for user interaction – this may be enhanced with headings, bullets, pictures, videos (likely to be revisited as a growing trend in 2017), sharing buttons, discussion boxes, downloadable files etc. Data such as time on a page, pages viewed, bounce rate and exit rate – all indicators of user experience – influence rankings.
- Adequate details of who is responsible for the website, or customer service information for shopping/finance etc.
In all cases, think about the user intention and experience. Longer pages typically rank better for competitive terms but if you’re selling a peg or pencil, you don’t need to write 3,000 words and the user won’t thank you for it if you do. I try to design pages that satisfy both users who want a little bit of information and users that want a lot of information. This can be achieved in many ways depending on what is being presented – layout, sections, summaries, using the headings to tell the story, bullet points, downloadable PDFs etc. However, perhaps contrary to good UX design principles, tabbed or expandable content should be avoided. Although Google is able to index this content, the ranking value is diminished.
Your content will be divided into categories of some sort – Google now expects category pages to have useful and relevant content.
Title tag and meta description
The title tag and meta description are both contained in the header of the page and will usually appear in Google’s results. They should be unique and highly relevant to the page content. Spending time writing good titles and descriptions can help improve Click Through Rate. Google sometimes modifies the title/description to make it more relevant to the search.
Using structured data tells Google more about your content and/or website. It can also tell Google about your business location and services.
The design of your page should be user friendly and aesthetically pleasing. Aside from helping your users, this will help increase time on page.
This can help Google understand the relevance to the user’s search query (for example, naming a page Gigabyte-P37-laptop.php rather than p37.php) You should only be able to reach each page via one URL.
A logical site structure provides context. An example would be www.computershop.com/laptops/Gigabyte-P37-laptop.php which can help Google understand that the page falls within the category of laptops and the page is about a particular model of laptop. You can use Breadcrumbs, marked up with structured data, to give Google more information about the structure – and of course, this also helps users to navigate your site.
Headings break up the content into relevant, user-friendly sections and helping Google better understand the structure, context, most important points, relevance to the user’s search query etc.
Image alt text
This describes what images on the page are about. A selection of relevant images helps improve the user’s experience.
Google demands that pages should load quickly for a good user experience. Google’s Pagespeed tool is a good way to get feedback on the speed of your site and possible improvements.
Links out to other highly authoritative sites can help give the content more credibility.
Google is moving towards a more secure experience. It has said previously that having a secure site is a ranking factor. SEOs can’t yet agree on how much weight this has. Generally the opinion is that it may (currently) only have a little weight. While the huge majority of top websites are https, this is likely to be because of the increased numbers switching. Still, https is something every site should be thinking about. Google already marks non https sites as not secure which will concern visitors, if nothing else.
Although content should be written naturally and for the user, including keyword variants within the text can help Google understand that the page is relevant for those alternative, related terms. Google is already pretty good at this so there’s no need to deliberately repeat the keyword with tiny insignificant variants (for example, “Website” “website” “web site” and “websites”). The old practices of keyword stuffing or measuring keyword density should also be avoided.
Google has an increasing interest and focus on natural language and any keyword research and subsequent optimisation needs to be carried out in this in mind. Rather than thinking about topics or keywords in isolation, think in terms of what the user is trying to achieve and build pages based that serve a single intention.
Pages need to be device responsive so they can be viewed on mobiles, tablets etc. Google is moving towards mobile-first indexing – this means the mobile version of your site will influence how your desktop version ranks.
Providing Accelerated Mobile Pages where relevant can help expose your content to more mobile users. You can find out more about Amp here.
A Progressive Web App may be relevant, depending on your content. PWAs are relevant for websites that publish content that regularly updates, such real-time data. They could also be relevant for blogs publishing many articles a day. Find out more about PWAs here.
Your pages needs to be accessible by bots including Google’s bot.
For most businesses it makes sense to ensure their site ranks well close to their physical location. This might include optimising for multiple offices.
Google My Business
Adding your business to Google My Business is free and can get you good results fast for people in your area.
These help Google find your site/pages and understand its relevance further. Links earned from trusted authority sites can help boost your site’s credibility. The subject of Google-friendly link building for websites nowadays is a huge topic beyond the scope of this page – however, Google still advises that you should “make sure that any sites that should know about your pages are aware your site is online.” Links need to be earned through the development of quality content although it is often necessary to reach out to prospective sites and tell them that your amazing content exists!
Positive website reputation
Google lists reputation as a factor in its quality evaluation guidelines and it is particularly important for YMOYL sites (such as legal websites). How exactly a positive reputation is built will be very individual to the website and industry.
There is doubt as to how much social media coverage influences the rankings of a page. While high ranking pages do tend to have more social media shares, this is likely to be as a result of the fact that they are high ranking pages. However, social media is a valuable source of traffic and an important part of online marketing.
Google is constantly changing and evolving. If you want to learn SEO, Moz has a lot of good free guides that are a great starting point. After that, it’s important to fully understand Google’s guidelines and stay on top of Google changes, which means reading both their releases and commentary from other respected SEOs.
- Google’s quality evaluation guidelines can be viewed here.
- Google’s Webmaster guidelines can be viewed here.
- Google’s Webmaster blog is here.
- Other good SEO sites and blogs that will help you stay on top of developments in SEO practice include Search Engine Land, Moz, SEO Book, SEO Roundtable, SEO by the sea and Refugeeks.
- Moz has created a good round up of likely search trends for 2017.
Based in Nottingham, I help businesses across the UK to develop and optimise their sites for improved performance in Google’s search results. Get in touch if you need help in this area – a site audit can be a great place to start.