A simple definition of search engine optimisation in 2015 is that it is a technical and creative process to improve the visibility of a website in search engines, with the aim of driving more potential customers to it. Google rank websites according to their own secret formula.
There are many things that we can all do ourselves to improve our Google rankings. Those basics form the building blocks for a well ranked website.
Visitors turn to search engines because they have a question, you just need to make sure you are there to give the answer! The more relevant that your website pages are to the question asked, the higher the search engine ranking.
There are two main parts to SEO:
Nobody knows the secret mathematical formula that Google uses to return search results but we do know that it’s based on:
1. Quality content and the optimisation of that content – what happens within your site
2. The popularity of that content (more on that later) – what happens outside your site
Part 1: Quality Content & Search Engine Optimisation
Write for readers not search engines! Think about what your readers want to hear from you and write with humans in mind. Very often, website owners are writing only for the purpose of getting higher rankings, and they end up over-optimising their content.
Google can tell if your site is badly written. It is on the lookout for spelling mistakes and general writing errors. High quality content is what you need and lots of it. A good honest site not trying to hide anything or fool anyone.
Delivering good quality content to readers is the best way to drive them to your site. This also gives good reason for them to navigate further into your site.
Think a little about keywords when you are writing but don’t over-stuff content with them. Keep the content true and the keywords should follow on naturally. In other words if you are writing about ‘Mussel Picking in Cornwall’ then ‘mussel picking in cornwall’ is your main keyword and will automatically appear in the title and the content naturally.
Keep it alive
The “live nature” of content has become more important to Google than links coming into your site. The message here is to add new content as often as you can. Don’t forget your old content, if you write a new blog post link back to an old one. Equally, update old posts and republish them as new from time to time.
Unique content Only – don’t copy
If you copy/use text from another website, Google will know and will penalise you accordingly. It will know which is the original content because it will have crawled it already. If you are in the habit of copying blocks of content from other sites to your blog, don’t do it, you will lose ranking. This is great in many ways because at least you know that the original content that you write will remain your own.
Optimisation of your quality content
So once you have written your quality content, you will probably find that you have already optimised your pages naturally!
Your visitors will use keywords to find what they are looking for on Google, so when deciding what you are going to write give a little thought to how people might find your content. What do you expect people will type into Google to find your content?
If you are writing a post about the health benefits of seafood, then the chances are that your title will be “The Health Benefits of Seafood” and that phrase will then appear quite early on in your text. That’s it! Your keywords are optimised for Google! When someone types the keywords ‘the health benefits of seafood’ into Google search, there is a good chance that your content will appear in the Google search results.
All done naturally!
Keywords – The long tail Story
Giving some thought to the right keywords to give you a better chance of getting found is important if there are lots of other people writing about the same subjects as you.
The chances are that there might be a great deal of competition for your chosen keywords. The more competition you have the less chance you have of getting a high search ranking on Google.
As an example, using the keywords ‘restaurants’ and ‘London’ are going to make your life very difficult, as there are thousands of restaurants in London. In these cases you need to think about categorising and localising; e.g. ‘seafood restaurants London SW6′ will give you a much better chance of being found. The category being seafood and the locality being SW6.
So here we have a long tail keyword phrase, a keyword of 3 or more words. This increases the possibility of a Google page 1 search result. Whilst this long tail keyword phrase might not be number one in terms of volume of searches, it does mean that the people who find you are actually looking for your product or service. They have been specific in what they want and have found you. This means better quality traffic.
‘The health benefits of seafood’ is a long tail keyword but getting even more specific is going to help you to get found. So as an example ‘the health benefits of eating cockles, mussels and other seafood’ is likely to get you more quality hits because that is what people are actually looking for.
Again, lots of this should happen naturally. You are a seafood restaurant and you are writing about seafood, everything is relevant and helps Google to put your site into context. There is not much point in being a seafood restaurant and writing about the merits of shopping at Tesco!
Do Keyword Research
Google provides a keyword tool to enable you to find out what people are searching for and for what problems they are trying to get answers. Find out what keywords they use to search in Google and maybe try to incorporate those in your posts.
Get information and advice on your chosen keywords via the Google AdWords keyword planner:
Don’t get too worried about this, if your content is interesting, people will find it.
Optimising your posts & pages
So just to recap, you will want to make sure that your subject keywords appear in your content as follows:
The title of your page
This is the main page title – e.g. ‘The Health Benefits of eating cockles, mussels and other seafood’
The page content
You will want to use keywords throughout your content. Try to use them near to the beginning of your content. e.g. we all know there are lots of health benefits in eating cockles, mussels and other seafood but do we really know what they are?
It is likely that the keyword phrase cannot be mirrored exactly when you use it in the content but this is all natural and Google will see that.
Don’t overuse keywords because Google will see this as keyword stuffing and potentially penalise you. Google penalises websites that don’t look natural.
Add alt tags and title tags to your images. Google cannot see an image, so it relies on the Alternative Tag (Alt Tag) content to know what the image is about. In this instance the chances are that you will have a picture of a plate of mussels and so the image might have the title ‘mussels cooked in garlic’ as the description. Mussels is one of your keywords, so again this is all coming together naturally.
Keep the sizes of images as small as you can to ensure speedy page loading, search engines are starting to penalise slow loading pages.
If you use WordPress it will give you options for your images when you insert them into your page. Use large and medium sizes, these have been resized by WordPress to give optimum performance.
Complete the page title metatag with your long tail keyword phrase ‘health benefits of eating cockles mussels and other seafood’ for your post. Your home page might be ‘Seafood restaurant in London SW6’ so more generic than your posts. The title metatag is a maximum length of 60 characters.
Complete the page description metatag (usually a maximum of 250 characters). This needs to be as attractive and descriptive as possible, this text will be what pushes the searcher to click on your link rather than one belonging to a competitor.
Below you can see how Google uses the metatags in their search results. The title metatag is shown in purple and the description metatag is shown in black.
Metatags are something that might have to be done by your developer. However, if you have a WordPress website, you can install WordPress SEO by Yoast. This enables you to update your Metatags yourself. You can read more about that here …. Manage Your Metatags & More SEO for WordPress»
The page URL
If you are creating pages in WordPress, the page URL will be automatically created based on the title of the page. So for example this page is entitled ‘SEO in a Nutshell” the URL is http://traceyrickard.co.uk/seo-in-a-nutshell/ If you are not using WordPress, make sure the URL contains the keywords.
That’s it for page (or post) optimisation, simple!
Part 2: The Popularity of your Content – Content Marketing
The popularity of content used to be measured simply by the number of incoming links to your website. The more incoming links that your website had, the more popular you were in Google’s eyes and the higher you ranked. This brought about unethical SEO tactics including link building and ‘directory’ listing. This no longer works and listing your website on some of these directory sites can in fact have a negative impact.
Google recognised some time ago that it needed to redefine how it saw quality content and so content marketing comes into play.
Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.
In the case of Google search engine optimisation, a content marketing strategy will leverage online and social channels.
So an example of this would be to create a blog post on your website that is optimised with the right long tail keywords. Then create a Facebook post, tweet and other social media content to fuel marketing channels and to drive traffic back to your website. Make sure that when you post on social media it includes the title of the content that you are sharing and a link back to that content on your website. The title of the content is of course your long tail keyword.
Google includes your social media in your website ranking. The more exposure you have on social media sites the better. Make sure you have sharing buttons on your website. Share your blog posts and other content yourself through social media channels. If you have linked your website to your social media accounts be careful what you do, keep it clean and legal – that should of course go without saying. Write good content for your social media channels and link it back to your site, it all counts. With so many millions of users, social media is an amazing opportunity for everyone.
These days you need to think of your website as your central hub for all online marketing. You need to create compelling content on your websites including blog posts, videos and infographics that you can share through your social media channels.
Image Source: http://www.netline.com/
To develop ongoing social media content requires consistent creation of quality images, copy and videos to ensure you stay active on a regular basis. It is essential to create social media content that relates to your business and the interests of your audience. You shouldn’t need to invest a great deal of time creating social media messages, especially if you are sharing what you are posting on your website. You can also follow others to find interesting content to share with your audience.
Publish fresh content regularly
Regular posting makes sure you stay in the memory of your target audience and equally will place you as an expert in your field. You will position yourself over time as a reliable source of information. If you publish new articles on a daily or weekly basis, Google will crawl your website more often and will give you more authority and better page rankings in Google search.
90% of marketers today use content marketing to reach their audience, now is not the time to get left behind.
Genuine links into your website from other websites will still influence your search engine ranking. Basically this is an indication of the popularity of your website. I cannot emphasise enough the importance that these are genuine links and not an attempt to fool Google into thinking you are more popular than you are.
These are really important because not only do they help your visitors to navigate through your site, they help Google to do it too. Your website must be intuitive and easy to use.
A well-structured navigation menu containing keywords is worth so much. For example, if you make Oak Tables then have a link in your navigation to ‘Oak Tables’.
Also if you blog regularly, link back to relevant content in older posts, this keeps them on Google’s radar. Good navigation helps visitors find what they need quickly and increases the time that they will spend on your site. Place links to your best articles in sidebars.
Choosing a Developer – Technical excellence
A good developer will make sure that your site is structured properly with current and valid code. For example, correct use of header tags (H1, H2) is really important. You should not use old technology and your code should be standards compliant with valid styling and metadata.
Remember that not all templates and themes are Internet marketing/SEO friendly. Read all of the details carefully before if you are deploying a theme yourself, check when it was last updated. Above all make sure your site looks professionally done, this is important to keep visitors interested.
Page load times – speed
This goes hand in hand with technical excellence. Your website should be well coded and your images optimised for speed. Caching is a great way to increase site speed and with WordPress you can use plugins such as WP Super Cache.
Speed matters to Google a lot!
Make sure your website is mobile friendly
Google has serious plans for forcing websites move to a mobile-friendly platform. Google has released a mobile search algorithm that will focus on the usability factors of your website on mobile devices.
Websites that have a mobile version will be labeled as such, and be rewarded with higher rankings for mobile search queries.
Blogging for Business
Blogging is a great way to populate your website with good content for sharing on social media channels, which will drive traffic to your website. Blogging keeps your website alive with fresh content and continues to promote you as an expert in your field. Equally it is a great way to obtain links from other sites as they reference your content and share it with their audiences.
Give it time, search engine rankings do not happen overnight. They can take months and even years and you need plenty of patience.