Great BIG guide to effective SEO
Jacky Fitt, FRSA
SEO or search engine optimisation is the art of getting noticed for what you do by search engine spiders and here’s our great BIG guide to effective SEO. For the best results well written, unique, quality content needs to go hand in hand with good SEO practices. The engaging way in which copy on effective, content rich websites is written, together with sound SEO techniques, will raise your website’s profile, thus attracting more visitors and push it up the search engine rankings. So, it is well worth understanding a little more about what goes into good SEO.
“Search is the main driver to content, beating social media by more than 300%.” Outbrain
Your website content management system (CMS) should give you access to curating your SEO. Template sites such as Word Press offer ‘plugins’ like Yoast for straightforward SEO input.
“70% of links searchers click on are organic.” SearchEngineJournal.com
As discussed in the previous section, identifying your key words and phrases is crucial, as this is the currency of search engine spiders that, as we’ll see, check use of keywords in web site addresses, in titles, in headings and the amount of key words on the page or keyword density. Let’s look at the current most important elements of what goes in to good SEO.
First and foremost a well-designed, well coded and accessible site is ALWAYS going to be more visible to search engines, and thus searchers, than a poorly designed and developed one. It really isn’t a place to cut corners – it’s your shop window for the world, underlining the quality of your brand and forming the hub for all your online content.
Important Keywords in your URL or web address: For each page of your website, have the relevant key words in the URL, for example: if you produce a line of plastic ducks: www.domainname.co.uk/plastic-ducks
Quality content: Relevant, well written and most importantlyunique. This is what people and search engines are both looking for.
New content: How often you update your website with unique, quality content matters. If your website remains unchanged for a long time people won’t return and neither will the spiders, which will damage your rankings.
Keywords in your page title: <title tag>: 6 to 8 words (65 characters) with your keyword near the start. The words you use here will show up as the title of your page in the search results.
Keywords in your headings: <H1> <H2> etc. tags
These are important for spiders. Do ensure that the words figure in your body text too, which helps keyword density.
Keyword Density:Make sure that you have your main keywords in your text. Between 3-7% is considered important. Beware: don’t shoe horn them in unnaturally, that can actually harm your site ranking.
High quality inbound links (also known as backlinks): Inbound links or backlinks are those links to your site from other websites. It is really helpful to have links to your site from other high traffic, high quality sites. Links from websites with .gov and .edu, for example, are considered good as they are highly reputable. They help authenticate your site and your content. Beware: have as many backlinks as you like just watch the quality, that’s what counts.
Keywords in inbound anchor text:Anchor text is a link within text. Your ranking will be improved if you have your keywords within inbound anchor text links, for example: “You’ll find non-toxic plasticducks at domainname.co.uk.” Beware: don’t always use the same keywords copy for the link if you can. Mix it up a bit or simply use your domain name.
Keywords in internal anchortext:Within your site internal anchor text helps your visitors navigate around. For example: “you’ll find more about our plastic duckson our bath time fun page.” Just ensure that the text around the link is natural and reads well.
Keywords in the <alt> tags of your images: Although spiders can’t see your pictures, they do read the <alt> tag description of it. Use your key words within these descriptions. This is also necessary for screen readers used by the visually impaired.
Keywords at the start of your copy: Still keeping it natural and well written, if you can use your keywords early on it is valuable for SEO.
Metadata description: 150 characters maximum,a well-crafted description is valuable because it shows up in the listings as the description of your particular website page and within it you can notonly use your keywords that people are searching for, you can also use as free little marketing message.
Links from directories:Links in to your website from high traffic, relevant directories can help boost your rankings. Beware: having hundreds from just any old directory can harm your site ranking so be choosy.
A sitemap: Check your developer has included a sitemap on your website and ensure it is up to date.
Keyword font: Similar to keywords in headings, if your keywords are in a larger font or bold this makes them standout as more important within the copy.
Keywords in your metadata: Google are reportedly going off these but other search engines still take note, so it’s worthwhile to add them in. Don’t bung in too many, up to 10 but no more.
Hyphenated URLs (web addresses): Using hyphens in your URL or web address makes it easier for the spiders to read. For example: www.domainname.co.uk/plastic-ducks this applies to your domain name too.
Older, well established sites: Older sites are preferred as they offer continuity and may be considered more trustworthy.
Big sites: Larger websites with lots of unique and relevant pages of content are more attractive to people and spiders.
Understanding how spiders ‘read’: Spiders also are not schooled in grammar and don’t take any notice of punctuation. That is to say that full stops, commas, semi colons and the like don’t bother them, their job is to pinpoint searched for words and links. This gives you a little more wiggle room when crafting your text and can help smooth out ‘lumpy’ sentences. As with this example: “We offer colourful, non-toxic, high quality plastic ducks, for bath time fun. Based inRochester, Kent we manufacture, package and fulfil all our orders from our family business…” In this way key search words including non-toxic, plastic ducks; bath time, fun and Rochester, Kent will be easily identified by the spiders and you haven’t compromised the sense of what you are saying.
So, what are the main areas that can damage your website rankings?
Here are some of the main things to avoid.
Inadequate design and coding: A poor looking, difficult to navigate and badly coded site means predictably poor results.
Not updating your website with fresh content: Humans and spiders will eventually lose interest and stay away.
Replicating content on your site: Simply re using content from other sites ‘down grades’ your site because the content is not unique. If the material is under copyright © and you are using it without permission you are acting illegally and you may be heavily penalized, including being barred from search engines.
Poor inbound links:If the sites linking to you are from poor sites, are unrelated, or are from link farms this will reflect badly on your site and your rankings.
Not enough text: Lots of big images and little or no text – you’ve got give everyone something to go on!
Keyword ‘stuffing’: beware if your keyword density goes over 10% on any page. If it does you are deemed to be shoving in your key words too liberally and not writing good naturally flowing copy and you’ll be penalized for it.
Flash: search engine spiders cannot read and index pages built with Flash software. If you use it for an animation give it a text description. If you do use Flash, check with your web developer about appropriate HTML versions of the Flash content. Whatever you do, don’t use Flash for the bulk of your home page.
Broken links: pages that are not working and show 404 errors, also password protected areas are inaccessible to spiders and therefore won’t help SEO.
Videos and podcasts are very useful content marketing tools and becoming more and more popular as an effective way to share content; however, as with images search engine spiders cannot index them and therefore will ignore them. To get around this post the script of your podcast or a breakdown of the main points of the video content on a sub-page within your website liked from your video/podcast and you will maximise the usefulness of all your content and it will be indexed and help boost your rankings.
Authentic, valuable information is what people and search engines want. The use of key word stuffing or irrelevant link building is poor practice and ultimately, trying to fool the search engines is self defeating, because not only will they suss you out quickly as a site unworthy of good organic ranking, any site visitors will quickly make that judgement too. Your business and brand is damaged as a result,
so what exactly have you gained?
And of course… Review and amend!
It is important to regularly review search engine results and rankings. Search engines regularly refine the way their spiders perform searches and what they deem as important and valuable for websites. You might hear or read about Google’s algorithms – known to us lesser mortals as the complex way in which Google adjusts how its search engine spiders rank sites. If they decide to make a change you may see your rankings change. Search engines are constantly seeking great, unique content on well design websites, so give it to them, backed up by good SEO practices and your site will do well. It’s also worth remembering that changes in rankings do take time once you have made an adjustment. Posting and updating the content on your site will, however, mean the spiders return more often – another way to give your site the best possible chance of a high organic ranking position.