In most cases website owners want their website to be found high up on the 'natural' search engine lists, with Google being the primary search engine customers want to be highly listed on.
There are a number of influencing factors used to determine the position a website is listed on a search engine, the most important of which I will cover in this blog.
I always tell our customers that search engine optimisation (SEO) is like a 100 piece jigsaw puzzle, with some bits being larger (more important) than others, but ultimately the more pieces you have, the better your SEO results will be.
To reach the valuable higher listing positions requires a lot of work, and even once your site has reached its goals, you can't afford to sit back on your laurels...if you do, your time at the top will be short-lived!
Search Engines are constantly changing the method they use to determine a website's placement, and so in order for a website to get to and stay in the lofty positions, there is a need to constantly monitor, review and adapt the website (and other influencing factors) in order to ensure your competition don't pop up ahead of you....you snooze you lose.
I'm often asked why search engines keep changing the way they list websites (their algorithms). The answer is reasonably simple and really boils down to customer satisfaction: Behind a search engine is a business and like any business, they rely on new customers and returning customers. For a search engine to be successful, it is critical that the results it suggests are most relevant to what you are looking for.
If you don't find what you're looking for in the top few suggested links, you would be less likely to return to that search engine in the future.
How high you can appear on search engines depends on a huge number of factors. On the assumption you have a well built, fully optimised website, the amount of competition there is for your keywords and phrases will be the single most influencing factor.
If you're a plumber operating in a town and your geographic operating area doesn't extend further than the town, you will most likely have some competition, but not much. Therefore getting your website into the top half of page one for a search "Plumber in Hertford" (for example), should be an easily achievable target.
Extend that search throughout the County of Hertfordshire and the amount of competition you then have will increase considerably, making being found on page 1 for a search "Plumber in Hertfordshire", a more difficult job. Expand this Regionally, Nationally or Internationally and you can see how difficult that job would become.
To further exacerbate the problem, imagine if the plumber is also a qualified electrician and wants to promote the Plumbing and Electrical services on the same website; the main keyword 'plumber' is now diluted. Add a few more services to that list of keywords and the job of getting your website to the top of a search engine listing, once again becomes a far more difficult one.
Firstly it's important to remember that everyone involved in SEO will have their own top 10...although I would be very surprised if most of mine don't feature in most other top 10's.
Secondly it's even more important to ignore the top 10 SEO tips provided by your mates, mate in the pub who once worked in IT, and so obviously knows everything there is to know about SEO.
Since 21st April 2015, Google have used a new algorithm which put simply, favours websites that have a 'responsive' design. The word responsive basically means that the website will resize for optimal viewing on the device it is being viewed on.
As more and more people are now accessing and interacting with websites on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, a responsive (Mobile-Friendly) structure ensures that the visitor is getting the best viewing experience – going back to my point about search engines offering customer satisfaction.
You can find out of your website is responsive by carrying out a test using Googles own tool which can be found here: www.google.co.uk/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly - simply type in your website address and you'll get the result.
When a visitor first visits a website they need to quickly and easily be able to determine if the website is relevant to their search. The simplest way to do this is to ensure that the initial copy and any visual aids such as photographs, infographics and icons represent the main products or service offered by the business.
To assist search engines it is important that the copy is not only written to appeal to visitors, but also uses keywords and phrases that can be picked up by the search engines. It is therefore a good idea to use a professional copywriter, however you must ensure that the copywriter understands the difference between writing optimised copy for websites, as traditional copywriters tend to 'sell the dream', which is fine for documents such as company brochures, but often doesn't help search engines as much as well written optimise copy would.
When initially considering the keywords and phrases you want to be found under, make a list of the key products and/or services you offer, and the geographical area you cover.
Think like a customer – what would your potential customers type into a search engine when looking for a business offering your services/products? For personal services, searches will often include the location as well, such as 'Plumbers Hertford', although a search engines 'geolocation' function will often provide you with a list of plumbers local to where you are carrying out the search. For general products sold online via an ecommerce website, such as 'Printer Cartridges', the geographic location becomes far more irrelevant.
Put the keywords on the list into what you believe to be priority order and then carry out some online keyword research. This way you will be able to determine the number of searches carried out for your keywords. In competitive markets where you are unlikely to get to the top of search engines for your main keywords, it's worth thinking about optimising one of the keywords lower down the priority list. Although you will be targeting fewer searches, you're more likely to be found.
One common mistake made by website owners is referred to as 'Keyword Stuffing'. This refers to the copy on the website overusing keywords. Not only is it unnecessary, it will actually have a negative effect on your website optimisation.
Where possible, steer clear from list of products, services and geographical areas covered by your business. Search engines are now far smarter than they have been in the past and therefore and will crawl your entire website for the answers it needs.
The best advice is to write natural copy, which were relevant includes your keywords and phrases. As an aside, create internal links between keywords and any pages dedicated to that word.
Page speeds are a relatively new indicator that is being used by search engines. Fast page downloads provide the user with a better experience, resulting in reduced bounce rates, which ultimately helps convert website visitors into customers.
Despite the increase of high speed internet services, page speeds have become more important as websites are increasingly being visited via mobile devices, where connection speeds can vary depending on the service available to the device at that time.
Causes of slower page speeds can be: Un-optimised images, poorly written or bloated scripts, code or CSS, or even the specification of the server where the website is hosted.
You can carry out a page speed test online here: http://tools.pingdom.com/fpt/ - ideally you are looking to achieve speeds graded 90 or more.
Search engines like websites that offer up-to-date information, and so regularly adding fresh content to your website will help considerably.
There are many ways fresh content can be added to a website, but it makes the job a lot quicker and easier if the site has a content management system allowing you to do this.
Examples of areas that can be regularly updated would be: Case Studies, Portfolios, Testimonials, Event Listings and Image Galleries. However, the most effective would be a 'Blog'.
Blog writing not only allows you to add fresh content to your website, it also comes with many other benefits. By writing informative related blogs covering subjects of interest to your customers, you are creating a value added service for your business. Blogs are also a great way of reinforcing your keywords, particularly when a blog is written about a specific project or service. Using social media sharing, blogs can also go viral which can help improve the quality of the all-important 'inbound links'.
Whilst blogs can be written about the company in general, or about a specific product or service offered by the business, it is also worth writing more general blogs covering the wider market, such as information about trade events, any changes to legislation, or news concerning product innovation.
Search engines don't like content to be duplicated throughout other pages of your website (or on other websites – so no plagiarising!).
Make sure all the content you use throughout the website is unique. If there is a need to repeat information, try to rephrase the information, or alternatively mark the content as 'NoFollow' or 'Noindex'. This will tell search engines to ignore it and it will therefore not be indexed. By using the NoFollow attribute you won't get any optimisation benefits, but neither will you be penalised for having duplicate content.
Page titles and URL's are actually two separate optimisation areas, but as they can be linked I have chosen to group them together under one heading.
The page title is the string of words which appear in the browser tab at the top of the page and is a great place to include keywords. The Page title is also displayed in search engine results lists, so it is important for the title to be relevant. Start the string with your most important keyword and then add in additional keywords after that. Also make sure you change the page title on each page to something relevant to the content of that page.
Home Page Title Example: Plumber | Hertford | Hertfordshire | Corgie Registered
Note that it is recommended page titles don't exceed 60 characters.
URL Rewriting is about masking the string of characters that appear in the address bar of the browser (the bit where the www. appears), to help optimise specific products or services.
When a service or product is called from a database, the address bar will display information as to its location, including the unique identifier it's been allocated. Usually this doesn't display any information about the product or service itself, which is not helpful for search engines. By re-writing the URL so that information such as the product name is displayed, allows search engines to identify what's on the page, and in doing so can then index it to a specific search term.
Inbound links from a relevant, good quality sources can be an invaluable benefit to a website's optimisation. This should actually be much higher in the top 10 list, but because it's not 'on page' optimisation and therefore unlike the tips above, is not directly linked to the physical website itself, I have moved it down the priority list.
My recommendation would be to try and create backlinks yourself by writing blogs, and interacting with online directories and on forums. At the same time I would strongly advise against link exchange centres or any service you have to pay for.
Metadata is written in the code and does not get displayed on the frontend of a website. Its use as an SEO indicator is diminishing, and it is now thought that Meta Keywords are no longer being used by search engines. However, you're not going to be doing any harm to your website by adding Meta Keywords.
Meta Descriptions are however still being used by some search engines and so it is important to ensure that you include this on all pages of your website. Meta Descriptions should be written naturally, include page relevant keywords, and provide a concise explanation of the page it sits on.
Whilst not displayed on the website, the Meta Description, although truncated, will be displayed on a search engine's results list, so it is important that the wording used is well written.
I couldn't end this blog without mentioning Social Media.
The likes of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram can certainly help create social awareness, and social media campaigns and advertising can help bring in more customers. However, it is now considered as a search engine indicator...one of the pieces of the SEO jigsaw puzzle I mentioned earlier.
Whilst it's no longer referred to as a social media platform, if there is just one account I would strongly recommend you have, it's Google+. The information stored in your Google+ account is used by Google on its 'local listings' which displays your location on a local map when someone searches for your products or services....so don't miss out!
I'll expand on Social Media's effect on SEO in a future blog, but until then, take a look at your website to see if any of the tips provided above help improve your current optimisation.
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