SEO or search engine optimisation is the art of tailoring content in a way that makes it easy for search engines to understand what your website is about and how users interact with it. There are many strands to SEO, some factors are influenced by technical aspects such as how fast your website loads while some aspects are built directly into your pages such as keywords and phrases. The Algorithms search engines such as Google use to index sites are closely guarded secrets and can change frequently. This is why your SEO needs to be reviewed frequently throughout the year.
What Is SEO?
The practice of marketing on the internet, but specifically focusing on SEO. All websites have been optimised by search engines such as Google and Bing. They use a keyword management system that filters out the irrelevant keywords and their relevancy with the website you are trying to promote. You need to stay on top of your content because when someone searches for a keyword you want to be one of the first to show up on the page so you need to create your website to meet these search criteria and stay relevant.
How Search Engines Work
There are lots of different companies that run search engines. The most popular is Google but Microsoft has Bing and of course, there’s Yahoo. They’ll all rank pages differently based on their algorithms but they all work in a similar way.
In order to index content search engines use processes called crawlers to gather information on your website. They are called crawlers as they look at your homepage, then move to other pages looking through your content (or crawling) and index the content on each page.
When a new query is entered into the search box on a search engine, it looks up the page to see if it contains the requested terms. If it does it’ll present the page to the user in the search result, if it doesn’t it’ll move on until it finds a website that does.
Google has also changed how they rank sites to include how well a website performs too, for example, if your home page takes ages to load or your text is too close together it’ll lower your ranking.
How get started optimising your site
SEO is a hugely complicated area and there is no magic fix that you can apply to your website, as we’ve mentioned there’s a number of different elements and we won’t go into them all here. We’ll just concentrate on the basics.
Keywords and phrases
You’ll need to do some research for Keywords that will describe the content on your page whether this is a keyword for a service or a product you sell. Your keywords or phrases should feature throughout the page, but don’t go overboard and add them into every paragraph as you’ll get penalized for over optimising. You’ll also need to choose a maximum of three words that you want to rank for and design your content around your selection.
Make sure your keywords appear in your H1 tags and also in the URL as this is one of the first things search engines index.
Pictures are a must-have for any website. Websites by their nature are visual. A website without any pictures would be boring. The problem with pictures is that they are big files as there’s lots of information contained within them. The bigger the files the longer it’ll take to download impacting another area search engines look at, page speed. To ensure that pages load quickly you’ll need to ensure images size are small and use next-generation formats such as webp.
Search engines can’t see pictures as we can. So in order to tell a search engine what the picture is you’ll also need to add titles and metadata that links back to your key phrases.
There are three main types of links that you need in order to help increase rankings on Google, inbound, outbound, and internal. Each type of link helps Google understand your site:-
- Internal links – these should be added on content so Google can understand the links between your pages helping make each page more valuable.
- Outbound links – these types of links should be used to website that a relevant and authoritative. This helps show Google you are writing quality content.
- Inbound or backlinks – Google uses backlinks to decide how authoritative and relevant your content is. Getting a link to your site from a site that’s leading player in your niche is perceived better then some random person linking to your site. Your goal should be to get as many links to your site as possible, but keep an eye out for low quality ones as these will impact rankings too.
We’ve already mentioned the time it takes a website to load can have an impact on search rankings and you should aim to have pages load in under 3 seconds. Having a good host with quality hardware can make a huge difference.
We’ve covered the web hosting in our guide to web hosting, be careful about using shared hosting though as resources are shared across all websites. The more websites on a server the more traffic the server has to deal with potentially slowing your site down. You should always make sure where ever your website is the hardware is capable of performing.
We’re your server is located will also make a difference too. The easiest way to explain it is it takes you longer to drive from Edinburgh to London than it does to drive from Leeds to Sheffield. You should always make sure your servers are hosted near your business’s primary location.
One way around this is to use a Content Delivery Network or CDN. A CDN stores a copy of your website in all different locations across the world. You’ll still get a speedy load time as the person viewing your website isn’t having to download your website from the other side of the world.
SEO is a hugely diverse area with a steep learning curve. It is however necessary so that you can rank in search results. There’s a lot of things to consider but you should start with keywords and design your pages around those. Once your website is live you should look to review your keywords regularly and update them when trends change. You should also start reaching out to people who can feature you on their site and provide a backlink to help you to become authoritative in your niche.