Search Engine Optimisation. SEO. The final frontier. The great unknown. The elusive capture.
If you’re confused with SEO, you’re not alone. The majority of people know the acronym but what does it actually mean to optimise your website?
Essentially what you are trying to do with SEO is improve your website’s visibility and ranking. Visibility being how prominent a website is in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) and ranking being where that website is placed in the SERP results.
The objectives of SEO are to produce traffic (people to your website) and drive conversions (placing orders/ filling out the contact page.)
Times have changed and the traditional bricks and mortar shop just won’t cut it. A website is important but SEO is imperative in getting your brand out there in the digital world. The only way for new customers to find you is to show up in search results.
So, how does Google rank a page? There are a few factors. Firstly, you need to be relevant to the query. There is no point bringing up a list of boarding kennels if the person has searched for a hotel! Then, the results are ranked according to their popularity or their informativity. Every time you search for something on Google, its algorithms are hard at work collecting the most relevant pages and weeding out the ones that aren’t. Now wouldn’t it be great if we could have these algorithms! Everyone is number 1 in their field! You get a 1! You get a 1! Alas, Google keeps their algorithms tightly under wraps in order to produce authenticity with their results. However, over time SEOs have identified ranking factors which they consider when ranking a page.
The 3 Key Ranking Factors of SEO.
- Technical set-up
We’ll start with your technical set-up. This refers to your pages on your website and the topics and keywords that are embedded within it. Once Google’s algorithm has scanned these it can add your website to its index where you will show up in searches for relevant queries and searches. Sounds simple, yes? Ah, unfortunately not so. You see, a web page looks very different to a search engine. The pretty pictures, formatted text, links, graphics, colours are nothing but text to a search engine. This is why it is so important to format your files and check your links! If Google’s algorithm cannot scan it, it will remain invisible. Another important thing to note in your setup is the speed in which the page loads. If it is too slow because it is loaded with too many high-res images/photos etc. then Google will indicate that the page is of lower quality thus diminishing its ability to rank higher. Also, duplicating content is a big no-no because search engines find it near impossible to identify the differences between them. You can be penalised for it, which means you won’t show up at all in search results.
Now we come to content. Everything comes down to content. This is what the customers want, so that is what Google will deliver! In terms of SEO there are several things you need to have on your website’s pages. Keywords – yes, yes and yes! These are the important bits of text that will bring your customers to you. You don’t want just anybody knocking on your door, do you? No, you want people who have been invited! It’s the same with SEO. You want people to come to your website who are ready and willing to buy or consume what you are selling.
Here are a few ways you can optimise your content:
- include keywords in your page’s URL,
- post the title at the top of the page,
- ensure keywords are in the first 100 words so that Google’s bots know that this is, in fact, related to the search
- give your images/ ALT tags file names that include your keywords (remember, search engines only see text – not graphics!)
- add semantic keyword which are variations of your number one keyword to support Google’s bots in determining your relevance in searches
- include internal links to other pages on your website which help to prove a relationship between pages, thus strengthening your relevance in different queries.
Finally, the last ranking factor for SEO is links. These help to solidify a page’s popularity. Gaining backlinks (same thing as links) to your page are like gold. Every time someone references your page and adds a link to your website, you gain a backlink. Brilliant you say – I’m going to ask everyone I know to link to me! Well, hold up there because it’s not that simple. Google splits backlinks into two parts: high-quality links and low-quality links. If you have too many low-quality links (say the ones from friends with no context or relevance) this can negatively impact your rankings in search engines.
To finish, have you been tempted by Black Hat Strategies? Don’t. Just don’t! These strategies involve manipulating search engine algorithms to improve your rankings and can include keyword stuffing (repeating words or phrases, adding words that are out of context or using keywords that are not relevant to the page), cloaking (hiding keywords so that users cannot see them but search engines can) and buying links. The above strategies violate search engine guidelines and if you get caught (and you probably will!) your website will be completely wiped from search listings.
So, there you have it. Three key ranking factors that will support your optimisation in search engines. If this has raised any questions, please call or email us here at Cultivate Digital. We are always happy to discuss ways to support your Google rankings.
And remember, there are no shortcuts in SEO! Think of the old adage ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is!’