If you work in Digital Marketing, or even if you don’t… you are probably aware of the huge impact that search engine ranking has on the performance of a website.
If your customers are searching for something, the chances are, unless they’re looking for something incredibly specific, they’re going to click on one of the top three-or-so results that google presents them with. Even if they’re still undecided, the chances of them venturing into the second page are slim, with studies show that only 9.90% of mobile users and 7.60% of desktop users ever click on the second page of google results.
With that in mind, ranking on the first page of a search engine’s results is hugely important to your website’s success. This is where SEO comes in.
What is SEO?
SEO, an abbreviation of Search Engine Optimisation, is the process of tailoring a piece of content or a website, to organically increase its Google, or other search engine ranking. Simply put, if your page has a good SEO ranking, it will appear higher on a search engine results page (SERP). Whereas a poorly optimised page will appear lower down, generating less traffic.
How Do Search Engines Work?
One of the main themes surrounding SEO is relevance. Search engines, at the end of the day, are businesses. Google, Bing, Yahoo they are all competing for your searches, and to do that they need to provide the most relevant results to keep you coming back.
Search engines aren’t magic, and they don’t innately know what websites exist on the Internet. To give their visitors the best, most accurate results, search engines send out ‘crawlers’ to scour the web. These crawlers move across the web, from link to link, assessing the content on each and every page they come across and storing it in a database. Then, when a term is searched, a search engine looks over this database and pulls out the most relevant sites to your search query.
For example, say you go to Google and search “Houseplants UK”. Google will jump straight into its database and pull out the websites it feels are the most relevant to your search, based on what the crawler has found.
Despite their creepy-crawly name, web crawlers are definitely not something to be afraid of. In fact, good SEO practice means making your page as welcoming and accessible to crawlers as possible! This means including subject-relevant keywords in your page’s:
- Meta Description
- Body Content
- Image ‘Alt Attributes’
We’ll go into these further later on.
White Hat vs Black Hat SEO
Header Tags (< Like this)
Next up are your Header tags. As you can imagine, these are your page titles, subtitles and other headers. By including keywords in this section, not only are you telling your audience what they’re looking at, but you’re telling crawlers that the content on your page is relevant to the keyword it’s ranking for.
Headers are numerically ranked in terms of importance, from:
- H1 (Main Title Tag)
- H3 (Sub-Subheading)
And so on…
The lower the H number, the more importance it will have over your SEO.
You probably know what a URL is, but did you know that it can be a key weapon in your SEO arsenal? By including keywords in your URL, you can boost your webpage’s search visibility.
Just remember to keep it concise and readable.
It’s also worth keeping an eye on your URL trail, as several keyword-optimised page titles can lead to an ugly, keyword-stuffed URL. So if your URL looks something like:
Google might flag this as potential spam due to the overuse of keywords. Instead, try removing the subfolders, now you’re left with:
Image Alt Text
Alt Text (short for alternative text) refers to the part of an image’s HTML code that describes the appearance and function of the image. This can help your site in a number of ways:
1. By including image alt text, you provide crawlers with better image descriptions/context helping them to know exactly what an image shows. By properly optimising your alt text, you can boost your chances of landing in the top row of Google’s image search.
2. If your image doesn’t load, alt text will be displayed in its place, lowering the risk of page bounces.
3. By including alt text your site will be massively more accessible to sight-impaired website users. It’s the 21st century… you wouldn’t design a building without an accessible ramp. You wouldn’t build a car park without a disabled parking bay. Your website should be no different.
While your alt text should be keyword-optimised, it should also be descriptive and understandable. It also helps to change your image names to be SEO friendly too.
<src=”img_397493″ alt=”plant, houseplant, potted plant, leaf”>
Is a bad example of alt text. The image subject, while obvious, is not descriptive. This may also get flagged as spam on google due to the overuse of keywords in the text.
On the other hand,
<src=”philodendron scadens” alt=”Philodendron Scadens houseplant in a ceramic pot on a windowsill”>
Is much better. The text is descriptive and keyword-rich and describes the image to both users and search engines.
When writing your alt text, a good tip is to load up a text-to-speech generator, close your eyes and listen to the description. If you can paint a pretty good picture of the image in your head from your alt text, it should be pretty good.
2. Body Content
In the words of Bill Gates, “Content is King”. And this rings true with SEO. Your content is the key to successful SEO. Enticing title tags and optimised meta descriptions are all well and good, but in order to keep bounce rates down and ensure return visitors, your content must be engaging, well written and appropriate for your intended audience.
If you know you want to write about a topic, but you’re not sure what angle to take, try Answer The Public. All you need to do is enter your keyword, and the website will return hundreds of commonly searched questions, propositions and comparisons. It’s almost too easy.
From there, check on the links on this page, and with any luck, you’ll find a broken link to a 404 error. If not, move on and try again. But if you do, now is your time to strike! Find the site owner’s details, and send them a friendly email notifying them of the broken link, and suggesting that you have a great alternative blog that they could link to instead.
Blog owners don’t want broken links on their page, so they’ll usually be thrilled that you’ve brought this to their attention. While it’s not guaranteed many will be more than happy to replace the link with the one you suggested (provided it’s high enough quality).
It’s important to remember that perfecting your SEO isn’t something you can do all at once. And results won’t come overnight. To keep your website ranking well, you need to keep reviewing and adapting your content.
Tools like SERanking, SEMRush or Moz can help you track exactly which keywords you are, have been, or could be ranking for. While Google Analytics and Search Console are amazing (and free!) tools that show you how much traffic certain keywords are bringing to your site. There’s so much more to Google Analytics too, which we cover a little bit on our other blog – ‘6 Things Google Analytics Can Tell You About Your Website’.
Want some advice?
Every website we develop is technically optimised for search engines, with SEO content that makes it easy for people to find you.
If you’re looking to improve your website’s SEO, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at 0191 691 1293 – we’re happy to help.