What is Search Engine Optimisation?
To begin with, let’s break down what Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) actually is. All you really need to remember is that on a basic level search engines are simply trying to provide the following:
- Relevant information
- Up to date content
- Quality source of information
Therefore, essentially Search Engine Optimisation is altering your site to take these factors into account.
The big daddy in the world of search engines is Google. They have a market share in the region of 60-80% (depending on which reports you read), so for the purpose of this article we will concentrate on them. Anything we do to please Google will only improve your ranking with the other search engines, so they are a good place to start.
To put search results in order, they make up sets of rules called Google Search Algorithms and then measure your site against those rules. The following algorithms are the most common: –
Google are constantly updating these algorithms, to the tune of around 600 changes a year. This is to ensure that they are always returning the most relevant, up to date and quality information they can. The different algorithms handle different areas of this.
How to move up the rankings
Based on the above, the main things we need to do in order to help our site glide towards to top of the rankings include the following.
Keywords and phrases
Target pages towards certain keywords and phrases, and ensure they are not too generic. For example, instead of ‘web design’, target ‘web design in Kent’. Or even ‘web design in Tunbridge Wells’.
The best way is to ensure you have your target key phrases in various areas of the page. You can choose a keyword for a specific page and then mention it in the: –
- Title of the page
- Meta description
- Headings of the page
- Content – and maybe even put them in bold
The first port of call is to research the keywords that you want to be found for. This is a very important part of Search Engine Optimisation.
Do not be tempted to insert your chosen key words and phrases hundreds of times on one page. Google will count this as spam and could even de-index your site because of it. This part of a technique known as ‘Black Hat’ SEO, which we will touch on later.
Google also wants to see quality content. Less than 400 words will generally be considered ‘thin’ content, rather than high-quality, helpful content.
Never, ever, EVER plagiarize content as copying another site’s content will lead to penalties, not a quick boost. You also need to ensure the content on different pages of your site is unique, otherwise you will be penalised for this too. There are tags you can insert to let Google know you are aware of duplicating content and which page should take precedence. Google is getting clever and will now read the content to try and understand exactly what you are all about.
Ensure quality links are coming into your website. Links coming into your site increase the PageRank. This is judged on scale of 0 – 10, with 10 being the best. Anything above 3 is generally a pretty good page rank. There are only four page rank 10 sites that we know of: Google.com (of course), Microsoft.com, Apple.com, and Adobe.com.
If you can get sites with a high page rank to link to yours, then they will pass on some of their ‘Google juice’, which will in turn increase your page rank. It is important to note that it is not just a numbers game and that one link from a ‘trusted authority’ could be all you need to push you up the list. By the same token, lots of links from low quality sources could be detrimental. This is called ‘Link Bombing’ and you could be penalised.
If you can get your chosen keyword included within the link pointing towards your site, then Google will make the assumption that the specific page relates to the keyword. It is a powerful technique but be careful, it’s not easy to control other people’s websites!
Google Business Listings
Add your site to the Google Business Listings. Not only will this mean that you come up when people search for your business or the service you offer, but it also means that Google knows you really exist and will help with your overall SEO effort.
With your Google Business Listing you will need to setup a Google+ page. Even though some see this as a futile exercise, it is always worth popping your posts there as well as Facebook, Twitter, and so on. As it is Google’s own social network, your post is likely to be picked up quickly and indexed.
Update your site regularly
As we said above, Google is looking for up to date information. How often you update the site will determine how often Google comes back to the site to check if it’s been updated. This is called web crawling or ‘spidering’.
Google might go back to the BBC and re-spider every few hours, for example. This is because they know from past experience there is always new content appearing. The Google bot will not automatically know that you have posted new content and will only discover this when it does its next crawl of your site.
You can see when your site was last crawled by typing “cache:http://www.yoursite.com” into the search bar. It will then tell you when the site was last spidered.
A great mechanism for posting new content regularly is to have a blog on your site. This will allow you to upload new and interesting information not only for Google, but also for your visitors – like you!
Name your images
Ensure all of your images are named appropriately to allow Google to work out what they are and what they relate to. There are also such things as ALT tags, which are specifically designed to show if the image does not load correctly. Google also reads these and it is always a good idea to ensure they are filled in.
Ensure the site is fast to load. There are lots of ways of helping the speed of your site, including:
- Optimising images so they are as small a file size as possible.
- Installing a cache plugin such as W3 Total Cache for WordPress.
- Ensure you are with a good web host.
- Consider using a CDN (Content Delivery Network).
As with most areas of SEO, Google want to try and help you out here and they offer a tool to benchmark your site and give you suggestions called PageSpeed Insights. You simply have to enter your web address and press the “Analyze” button.
Add a Sitemap
Adding a Sitemap to your website will really help Google to quickly find all of your pages. There are two types of sitemap:
- HTML Sitemap – A page on the website that lists all of the pages and sub-pages. This is mainly for the users of your site.
- XML Sitemap – This is basically a text file in a specific format that is used by search engines to work out what pages your site has. If you are using WordPress and have installed the “YOAST SEO Plugin” then you can get it to create and automatically update the sitemap for you. Otherwise you would have to look into based on the specific Content Management System (CMS) you are using. If you do not have a CMS then it would need to be updated and maintain manually. This is the preferred type of sitemap.
Ensure your site is responsive for mobiles and tablets
Making sure you have a responsive website will really help in the SEO battle. On 21st April 2015, Google updated its algorithms to take into account whether or not your site is responsive. A responsive site is essentially one that adapts and changes based on the size of the screen it is being viewed on. Google state that this only effects the search on a mobile or tablet, but with more and more users using their mobile devices to browse the internet it makes sense to ensure you have a responsive site.
Again, Google offers a tool to let you know if your site is responsive. If it already is responsive the tool will flag up any issues with it, for example if some buttons are too close together or some text is too small. To find this you can just Google “Mobile Friendly Test”.
Age over beauty
The age of the domain can affect how much Google trusts you. While there is very little you can do about this, it is good to know.
Beware the dark side
One area said we would touch on is Black Hat SEO. We would strongly recommend against this as you run the risk of being pushed down the rankings and even being delisted. We‘re only mentioning these so that you do not accidentally carry them out or if someone tries to do them for you, you can tell them not to. Some examples of Black Hat SEO are:
- Irrelevant keywords in the copy just for extra page hits. For example, mentioning a celebrity name several times over.
- Keyword stuffing the page.
- Tiny text, hidden text or hidden links.
- Cloaking, which is when you show one set of content to visitors and another to search engines.
- Purchasing links into your site and carrying out Link Bombing.
Again there are lots more Black Hat techniques but the above covers the most common ones to look out for.
By no means is this an exhaustive list on all the SEO tips and tricks but if you follow the above then you will certainly be on the right track.
You can keep a track on what Google is up to by signing up to the Google Webmaster Tools. It is completely free and gives you an in depth dashboard letting you know of any errors that have occurred while crawling your site and will allow you to fix them. The Google Webmaster Tools will also allow you to submit your XML sitemap manually, which is always a good idea to do.
If your site uses WordPress then a tool we would suggest you install and use is “WordPress SEO by Yoast” which includes a helpful traffic-light-style visual representation of how good your SEO is on any given post or page. It also adds some helpful metatags to the code for your site, which will really help your SEO.
To summarise what we have gone over for your site to rank well in search engines you just need to make a site that is informative, up to date, easy to use and fast. We just have to remember that Google is trying to return what people want to see, so if you can ensure you are providing this then you should make your way up the rankings without too much trouble.
Obviously EngineRoom can help with any of the above (except Black Hat!) so feel free to get in touch for a chat.