SEO 101 – Have you got the basics right?

Everyone wants visitors to their website; we want to be the result that flashes up first when a potential customer types their query into Google. You can attract visitors through paid search (Google AdWords) and/or by organic search (normal search results). So how do you get listed on the first page of Google search results? Your site must perform well for the Google Algorithm in order to appear in the top listings, you must optimise your site.

SEO 101: Google Image

A properly optimised website can help increase its own rank in the organic result pages of search engine listings. A higher rank boosts visibility and can increase the level of traffic that a website receives. A good website is optimised for both visitors and search engines, providing a good user experience encourages people to stay on your site and to pay return visits. You must ensure that your internal linking structure is clear and easy to follow.

The results from Moz’s Ranking Factors 2013 study theorise that after links, keywords are believed to be the most important factor in the Google algorithm.  They specifically found it was important to use keywords in your title tags, the body of the HTML, the meta description and the H1 tag.

Keyword research and selection

You must establish the words or phrases that are associated with your business, the words that your customers would use to find you in an online search. Once you have your list of keywords that you want to rank for, you can now begin to optimise your site for them. It is important to consider what words your customers use when searching online as opposed to the words that are used on business websites to make the website sound more professional. For example many opticians try to rank for the word ‘Spectacles’ however the more commonly searched word is ‘Glasses’. You can insert keywords in the following places:

1. URL

A URL is the path to your website and to its individual pages.  A URL may consist of a domain name, a directory and a file name. Each page on a website has its own URL. These should be clear and concise so that if a user is typing from memory they don’t have to remember extra characters and numbers that are unnecessary.

 TIP: What happens if a user types in a URL for your site that doesn’t exist or clicks a broken link? Instead of getting the typical ‘this page does not exist ‘ get your web designer to set up a custom 404 page to redirect users to other areas of your site.

2. Title Tag

A title tag explains to users and search engines what a particular page is about. The information that is used in a title tag is the information that is displayed in the top line of a search result. Good page titles are essential to draw people to your site, they must reflect the information that a user will find when they click on a search result. Using keyword rich page titles can help websites to rank higher for the keywords used.

  •  The title for each page should change to reflect the content of that page
  •  Include the relevant keywords for each page in the title tag
  •  Place more important keywords near the beginning of the tag when possible
  •  Do not stuff title tags with keywords
  •  Keep it brief and to the point
  •  Title tags should not exceed 60 – 69 characters as they will not be fully displayed in search engine results
  • See image below: I searched for ‘running shoes for women’ (this was one of the results), the title tag is displayed on the top in blue and the words I searched for, all appear in bold, this places further emphasis on these keywords which can help to highlight the relevance of the result to the user
Google Search Result

Google Search Result

3. Description Meta Tag

The description meta tag is contained in the head tag of your website code. This provides a brief description of your page and is the logical follow on to your title tag on each page. This description may appear under your search result in Google.

  • Create a description for each web page
  • Each description should be no longer than 160 characters and should entice a user to click on the link if viewed in a search result
  • Use relevant keywords for each page but do not stuff this space with keywords that relate to another page
  • The detail from the description meta tag is displayed in the image below under the URL (www.boots.ie)
  • The second sentence is cut short as the text in the description meta tag is too long
SEO - Description Meta Tag

Google Search Result

Keyword Meta Tag

The keyword meta tag is also contained in the head tag of your code. There is some debate on the use and/or importance of this tag. Traditionally it has been used to enter keywords but more recent research suggests that it is not used to determine keywords and has no benefit to SEO. However it is useful in showing what your competitors believe to be their keywords as common practice is still to fill this tag in. Go to your competitors homepage, right-click and select view source.  See image below the keywords that Boots.ie presumably wish to rank for – health and beauty, health, beauty, shop, pharmacy etc

SEO - Keyword Meta Tag

Boots.ie Keyword Meta Tag

4. Page Header/ H1 Tags

  • You should only have one unique H1 Tag per page, think of it like your newspaper headline
  • Include your keyword if possible but again write a catchy header for your reader, don’t lose sight of readability in an effort to tick the SEO box
  • H2 to H6 tags can be used as paragraph headers or subsections

5. Website Content

There is no point in trying to rank for certain keywords or phrases if you don’t use these words in your site. Some pointers to remember when creating your content:

  • Write text suitable for websites – people don’t read they scan
  • Make it easy to read – use paragraphs and spacing
  • Create original content
  • Write for your readers not for search engines
  • Remember to use your keywords/phrases but don’t overuse them
  • There is no need to use the same exact wording over and over, search engines have evolved to understand that you are describing the same product/service with different terminology
  • Use visual content such as infographics or photographs
  • Ensure that you save/upload all images with a keyword rich description

Quality Content:

  • Draws people to your site
  • Encourages people to link to your site
  • Increases ‘stickiness’ – keeps them on your site for longer
  • Google gives a higher ranking to sites which produce regular, fresh content
  • Integrating a blog with your website is a great way to produce regular fresh content

Tip: You will be penalised by Google if you have the same content in different place on your site or on different sites. Publish first on your site to indicate that it is the original document. Use rel = “canonical” to avoid these issues with duplicate content.

Some other factors to consider are a) site maps b) the loading speed of your site and c) mobile

Site Maps

Search Engines rely on information retrieved by bots or spiders that examine or ‘crawl’ a website and catalogue the information that they find. This information is then displayed as a SERP (search engine result page). Without a site map the Google bot is dependent on using the links that are used throughout the site to detail the structure of the site. So why not help them out by creating a site map.

  • Create two types of sitemaps- one in plain text for end users and one written in XML for search engines.

Site Load Speed

Slow load speeds can cause visitors to leave your site and can be detrimental to your SERP listing.  Use a free tool like Page Speed Insights or Web Page Test to check how your site performs.

So what is an optimal site load speed?  If your site loads in 0 .8 seconds, it is faster than 94% of other websites.

Mobile

Over 50% of the adult American population now own smartphones with Europe not far behind. Mobile traffic accounts for 15% of global internet traffic. Google recently announced that it would penalise sites that were not mobile friendly. It is important to ensure that your site provides a good user experience across different devices.

So that’s the easy part! Here is a blog post that discusses the 200+ possible ranking factors if you fancy some further reading.

Now you have the basics sorted you can focus on earning links to further enhance your ranking. Earning links (more pc to say this now than discussing your link building strategy 😉 ) is the real challenge. The quality of your inbound links is ultimately what will propel you to the top of the list, taking into account some other factors such as localisation, personalisation and social signals to name a few.

Voilá you’re number one! Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy.

SEO Check List

by Janis Meehan

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