Website Optimisation is reasonably easy, if a little time consuming. It’s just a matter of following Google guidelines and giving Google what it is looking for.
So, why do most website owners choose to use a SEO company to do their website marketing and get their websites on to page 1 of Google rather than doing it themselves.
It is because SEO services are relatively cheap compared with the amount of time it would take for you to do it yourself. A good SEO package should only set you back around a few hundred pounds per month and hiring a SEO expert will save you having to learn and keep up to date with all the latest changes and Google updates.
Below, we look at the factors that Google takes in to account when ranking your website. Although optimising them will elevate your website, it will not guarantee page 1 results as this will also depend on how optimised your competitors websites are. Remember, you’re not just trying to get page 1 rankings, you are also trying to OUT rank the websites of your competitors.
The key to good website optimisation is relevance, both Google and the visitor are looking for the most relevant answer to the phrase that has been entered as the search query.
Below, I have broken the different SEO aspects down in to 10 easy to follow sections, optimised for a website selling “WIDGETS” .
There is much confusion out there when it comes to choosing your website domain name, I still hear people say that you must include your primary keyword in your website domain name. Well, this is partly true. Your domain name is your online brand and should therefore reflect your brand /company name which should always be your primary keyword. If your business sells “WIDGET” and your business is called “We Sell Widgets” then that’s the domain name you should use. Google no longer gives extra points because your domain contains the word “WIDGET”, a website that is called “plastic bits” would be treated the same now days.
The bit that still counts, is the page url, so you should include keywords within that e.g. www.wesellwidgets.co.uk/cheap-widgets
By calling your page “/cheap-widgets” you are telling not only Google but the searcher that your webpage is about “cheap widget” and that if that is what they are looking for “cheap widget” then this is the page for them.
Another question I get asked a lot, is, should you include dashes in the domain name and page url? Well, many people will tell you no, but it really has no effect. As long as you are only using dashes and not underscores then it will not make any difference to your SEO.
Which is better? Well, this all depends on the market you are targeting. By choosing “.co.uk” you are telling the searcher that you are a UK business, if you think that this will be important to your customer then it’s perfectly OK, but if you are selling most of your products or services in many different countries overseas and you think that customers may be more reluctant to order from a UK based business then choose the “.com” option.
Page titles use to be the most important SEO factor as this told Google what your page was all about, but Google is getting smarter and now looks more at the content on the page to determine this rather than just being told. Page titles are still important though, as they will appear in the browser tab and are like to appear as the title in the search results. This can dramatically affect the click through rate, so by having a compelling and relevant page title that encourages searchers to click through to your website you will not only get more visitors to your website but as Google takes Click through rate (CTR) in to account as part of its ranking algorithm it can help elevate your webpage on to the first page of the results.
Title length, when writing your engaging page title remember that Google will only show a set amount of characters in the search results. If you go over 65 characters then you risk having Google truncate your page title or replace it with one of its own. Truncated page title often have lower CTR’s lowering visitor numbers as well as rankings.
You should treat the meta description in a similar way to you page title. Google does not really take much notice of it from an SEO perspective anymore but if you add an enticing call to action, like “Sale now on”, “Free delivery” or even “read how” within it, you can increase your webpage CTR and elevate your search engine rankings.
Important Point – as with your page title, you will want to make your meta description unique and relevant to the content on your page. Having duplicate titles or descriptions can cause Google to show less of your pages in the results and if you include things that are not in your page content then they may see it as not relevant, either not ranking the page or changing the description.
Header tags should be used throughout your content to tell Google what subject or topic your content is all about. H1 tags are now one of the most important SEO elements of your page. The other H tags, 2 – 6 can be used to show how sections of the content relate to each other as well as how they relate to the overall topic.
An easy way to explain how these tags should be used is with a page about cars. If the page was about AUDI cars, then your H1 tag would include the term AUDI. The different models of AUDI cars would be set as H2 headers. You would the use H3 headers to subdivide the models further in to body types e.g. hatchback or estate. The H4 tag could then be used to show different engine type such as Petrol, Diesel & Electric.
The important thing to remember is that you should only use the H1 tag once as this show the primary topic of the page. The other H tag numbers can be used multiple times so they can show different sections on the same level relevance.
Images are great, they really help your page stand out and can quickly convey a large amount of information to your reader, but while they can look good on the screen, Google and the other search engines just see a empty box. I am sure that in the not so distant future Google will work out a way of being able to look at images and understand what they are about, but for now they have to rely on you telling them about the image.
When writing your image ALT description make sure that you do so in a way that helps show relevance to the topic you are writing about. If Google cannot understand why you have you have used to image, it may not take any notice of it. E.g. If your page is about car body repairs and you have added a picture of a car with a dent in it, then use the ALT tag to give Google this information. “Car with dent that is waiting to go into the body shop” would be a great relevant description to use.
A few years ago you could get away with using low quality or even spun duplicate content for your page. This was because Google was just looking at the words on the page, but now it tries to understand the content. This means that you no longer even need the exact words in your content to rank for a search term. eg The phrase “learning to drive” will be seen as relevant to the search “driving school”. So the days of writing badly written content just so you can get the right keywords in has gone. Try writing the best content you can, use great headers to show relevance and help Google understand the topic you are writing about and Google will reward your efforts with high rankings and lots of traffic.
Great content is what Google is looking for, its reason for being, is to deliver answers to the questions or search quires that people enter. So the better your content / answer is the more likely they are to rank in on the first page of the search results.
I use the word Relevant a lot in this article and with good reason. Google is always looking for most relevant content to a search query so when writing, cover the whole subject using as many relevant terms as you can.
Internal links are great for keeping reader on your website, just think, you have someone on your website that is interested in the topic you cover and you have another great page the directly relates to it. Well why wouldn’t you place an internal link and let the reader know about it? There is a very good chance that they are going to want to get as much information on your topic as possible and its better for you for they get it from your website rather than another website.
Google uses the amount of time a reader spends on your website and the number of pages they visit as an indication on how relevant to the search term they found your site. So keeping them engaged with other high quality content can give your rankings a real boost.
Internal links are not just good for readers, they also help Google index related content as the web spyders will also follow them. Keeping the Google spyders on your website and helping them reach all of your pages you can help make sure none for your pages are missed.
Linking to external websites used to be really bad SEO practise, not only were you encouraging people to leave your website but you also passed your valuable link juice to someone else. Google no longer sees it that way as long as you are careful about when you use external links and the quality of the website you are linking to.
Google wants you to make it easy for your reader, it wants you help them to get the best information, and if that means linking to another website then Google will see this in a positive way. A great example of this is industry terms, while writing this page I could explain the term “SEO” or I could add an external link to an authoritative website such as Wikipedia that has already got a page on it. This help the reader understand term by giving them related content. Another good tip is to use the title tag in the link to let your readers know that the link is taking them to the Wikipedia page, people like to know where they are going to end up before they click a link.
So that your reader does not disappear off, unable to easily return, I recommend setting the external link to open in a new tab. We have all had the problem of click on link that takes you off a page you wanted to read only to struggle to get back, especially if you are like me and close tabs when I have finished reading the page.
This is a big one now days, over half the searches are now done on mobile devices and if your webpage is hard to read on these devices, not only are people going to give up and go to another website but Google will lower your rankings as well.
Even if your website is fully responsive, it’s always worth checking your page on a phone or mobile emulator to make sure all of your readers are getting the full benefit of your page.
No one like to wait while a webpage downloads, we live in a “I want it now society”. Google also dislikes slow loading webpages and if your page takes longer than 2 seconds to download Google is likely to make it much more difficult for you to rank it on the first page.
You can easily check how fast your page loads by using Google own page load speed tester, not only will it score your website out of 100 but it will give you details on the most important area to fix as well.
Google is great at indexing the web but it take time for the spiders to find your new page. To ensure that Google know to look for it, you should make sure the new page is listed in your Sitemap. Once you have checked that the page is contained in the file it is worth making sure that Google has the latest version of your sitemap, this can be easily checked in the Google webmaster console.