Published on: 13 Jan, 2015
Your website won’t just appear in search engine results just by itself. It takes a bit of clever planning to ensure that your customers find your website when searching for the product or services you offer. This process of search engine optimisation (SEO) frequently changes, as search engines regularly alter the algorithms that determine your website’s position in search results. SEO is, therefore, a continual process of reviewing and improving to ensure that you stay ahead of the competition.
Listed below are five signals that are currently known to be crucial components of the algorithms used by most search engines. A good SEO strategy will, therefore, incorporate a mix of these.
The reason that search engines are constantly changing the algorithms that determine search results is to discourage and reduce the effect of SEO manipulation. At the end of the day, the search engine’s purpose is to deliver the best possible user experience for its browsers. Remember that in almost all cases, the content is the reason visitors come to your website. Therefore genuinely compelling, unique and relevant content is rewarded with higher SEO ratings.
It’s important to remember you’re ultimately writing for your audience and not for solely focused on writing for SEO. Focusing on the former will ensure your content isn’t just seen as web spam, however, there are a few good practice writing tips that are favourable to SEO. Techniques include repetition of your keywords, the use of sub-headings, and embedding links within your copy.
When designing or reviewing your site architecture, you should be aiming for ease of navigation for your users and ensuring that the most important and highest quality content is never more than a few clicks away.
The optimal internal linking structure for a website is about 3 clicks, and you should also ensure that your pages cross-link to each other so that none of your important content is stuck in a silo, which are pages that can only be accessed from preceding pages.
You should also monitor your website’s loading time, as slow loading times can be penalised by search engines in their search algorithms. There are a wide range of tools, protocols and services available that can help you analyse what is slowing down your website – for instance, internal objects or scripts, and how you can speed it up.
When having a new website designed it’s important that you demand minimum accessibility compliance and aim for valid HTML and CSS. The W3C (international standards organisation) sets these standards, and this can mean search engines are more able to read your website. The W3C has an online validator which you can easily use.
Finally, remember to keep your website as accessible to all users, no matter where they’re accessing if from, or on what platform or device. A mobile website design is crucial to ensuring that you rank high on mobile searches, which is increasingly taking over from traditional PCs, and really is the future of internet search and your business’s success.
For your website to be successful in attracting visitors, it’s not just your own content that’s important, but also the presence of links to your website in other locations on the internet. These are known as backlinks, incoming links or inbound links.
The appearance of links to your website on other websites is an important factor used by search engines when assigning your rank in the search results because they can serve as a measure of a website’s popularity and authority. It’s essentially a recommendation when another website includes a link through to yours.
It’s, therefore, worth exploring the different places on the web where you can get links to your domain. For example, asking clients or suppliers to endorse you on their website and include a link or creating high-quality content that people want to link to. Search engines also judge backlinks based on their quality and with Google’s Penguin updates quality is an important factor to consider, along with the actual anchor text itself. Too many links using keyword anchor text just looks spammy as does 100s of links built overnight from low-quality websites.
It’s worth pointing out that not all backlinks are equal. Just to add to the plethora of things you need to remember some backlinks have an attribute called “no follow”. This tells search engines not to pass any of the linking websites domain authority on to your site. Whilst you shouldn’t let this stop you from acquiring these kinds of links, it’s worth keeping in mind that ideally, you want to be focused on “follow” links.
Nowadays SEO for your website cannot just be limited to optimising content and backlinks and should include a strong social media marketing strategy. Some think that websites can exist and be optimised without a social component. While this is possible, it’s a no-brainer to include this, as social media is now central to the way consumers access and share content.
Social signals are direct links from somebody’s social media channels or profile to your website. They are generally populated when people like your page enough to ‘share’, ‘like’, ‘retweet’ or ‘+1’ a link to your website and it’s content. These are really important, as they are essentially social validation and endorsement of your business.
Generally speaking, a backlink actually requires somebody to put the effort into creating it, whereas with social media is much easier to share your page or a post that you put out.
Most if not all links from social media channels will have the attribute “rel=nofollow” meaning you won’t receive any authority benefit. But as stated earlier they’re still worth building as they are indexed by search engines and will contribute referral traffic to your website.
Although the exact science of the relationship between social signals, SEO and a website’s subsequent search engine ranking is still hotly debated, many search engines have admitted that social signals are now an important part of the algorithms that determine rankings, in the constantly evolving challenge to distinguish truly popular content.
Another aspect of SEO to consider in the mix is user signals, which is essentially the new kid on the algorithm block. Although some search engines have been using user signals for a few years, their prominence really has grown in the last year or so. Again, like social signals, this is about validation from others and their experience of your website. User signals include click through rate, the amount of time visitors spent on the website, and also bounce rate. Click-throughs are largely regarded as the most important of these. The most successful and authoritative websites have higher click-through rates.
To increase click-throughs, start with having eye-catching titles and meta descriptions for your website. Overall, building the strength of your brand is a must – so that when people search particular keywords, they recognise your brand and are compelled to click on it.
Getting the right mix
SEO is a constantly evolving process for businesses. As people get better and better at cheating and manipulating the system to boost their rankings, the search engines counter this by changing the goalposts. A few years ago, SEO was as simple as having lots of content with a plethora of keywords thrown in. Now it involves sophisticated online marketing strategies that must involve all of the five areas mentioned above.
It’s about constantly evaluating and analysing your website and looking for areas of improvement. At the end of the day it’s important to remember your audience and customers, and keep them at the heart of your strategies. Successful websites contain genuinely good content that browsers want to click on, consume, and share with their peers. This organic endorsement is gold-dust and will lead you to success.