SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimisation, which means to enhance a website for better position on search engine result pages. These are known in the industry as SERPs.
A search engine result page is a list of results returned when you type a query (a search term) into a search engine.
The term SEO also includes the refinement of a company’s online profile, outside of the website itself. By this I mean the appearance of the company on social media and on directories such as Yell, Local, Hotfrog, FourSquare and there are many more.
Many factors affect the rank of a website on a search engine, so the term ‘SEO’ means a number of things.
What does on-page SEO mean?
On-page SEO is a branch of search engine optimisation which, as the phrase determines, takes place on the website itself. On individual pages and posts and on media like images and video that are included on the site.
Many factors – such as the build of the website all the way through to written content – have influence on where a website is ranked. Here’s how.
How website build affects rank
The obligation of a website owner is to help search engines understand the reasons that a website has been created.
Google rewards websites that make an effort to abide to search engine quality guidelines.
Predominantly, search engines understand HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) – the standard language developed to build web pages and applications. Similar languages have been written to add functionality and to comply with rules such as DRY (do not repeat yourself).
Whatever coding is used, each page must be clearly and correctly marked up so that search engines understand them. Code heavy pages are less favourable because search engines have to sift through.
Website packages add code to enable non-coders to make changes so packages are slightly less desirable. On saying that website packages really have their place as they enable website owners to make updates.
When web pages are put together, HTML elements like title tag and paragraph tags show search engines what is most important on the page. HTML5 and schema markup are the standard ways to let search engines decipher the page.
H1 tags must be used at the beginning of the page to let the visitor (and search engines) know what the content consists of. The H1 tag should include the key phrase to help the page rank better.
H2 tags, paragraphs, links and media need to be correctly tagged and positioned in the page hierarchy.
Search engines look for a secure certificate on websites because it shows the owner of the website is looking after users. SSL certificates encrypt information transmitted between the server and the computer.
Written content for search engine optimisation
Good written content is search engine fodder. Search engines trawl content (and media) on a website which helps them to know where to rank the page.
Well written pages supply search engines with information that help users once a search query has been made.
This is the basis of ranking well – providing informative answers, inspiring content or some entertainment.
Images on web pages
Images strengthen articles and help a web page or post to rank better – search engines want to see visuals because users like visuals. A web page with no image looks very uninviting – almost like a Word document.
Photos are also ranked independently on Google’s image search. An image that ranks very well helps the page to rank better.
Videos on web pages
On certain searches, where video is appropriate, YouTube videos are often the first result. So many searches that are made these days end up in the watching of a video.
You’ll find that Google tries to preempt the intention of the search – so when certain searches are made such as ones that start “how to“, Google will assume that a video will help.
Obviously most of the videos in the results are on YouTube, which is the second most used search engine today. So when you are posting videos use your YouTube channel and make sure you include your key terms there too.
Embed related videos from YouTube onto your posts/pages to strengthen your content.
Ultimately search engines strive to provide users with the most appropriate answer and the best experience, so the next few SEO tactics are vital to a hard working website.
Websites have to be really easy to move around so people can find what they are looking for. But ease of use is not only for humans but also for search engine crawlers.
Crawlers are programmes that trawl (or spider) websites, discovering content. They send the information back to the search engine.
Use hyperlinks throughout your content to direct users to other content that might help them. This also helps crawlers to spider the content, and find other pages on the website, so that they can be indexed.
Search engines reward websites with navigation that is simple. Navigation must be mobile friendly so that users on mobile devices still have a good website experience.
Using a device you must’ve ended up on a non-mobile friendly website before – you know when it has tiny, illegible text that you need to zoom in to read? You’d also have to scroll back and forth to see the content. That website is not mobile friendly and it creates a difficult experience for the user.
Over 60% of searches made are on a mobile device, so websites that are not mobile friendly are penalised by search engines – they won’t be ranked as highly as their mobile friendly competitors.
Website owners must be sure that the pages download quickly on all connections, even very slow connections – take into account different parts of the country – rural areas have much slower connections.
Google considers a slow downloading website to be a bit of an ordeal for a user, so penalises websites that do not ensure people can find what they are looking for. Fast.
Search engines have the ability to test the download time of a web page. If a page takes too long, it won’t rank well. Google refrains from sending its users to a slow loading site.
Consider that someone will very quickly leave a website that takes longer than 2 seconds to download. They will return straight back to the search result. That’s just two seconds for you to inspire a new visitor.
Clarity on websites
More important than you might think is the ABOUT page on a website. Google looks for clarity – a sense of honesty and openness from the company. That way a user can ascertain exactly who they are buying from. Knowing the company will help users to make buying decisions.
Write about yourself, tell your story and give plenty of background information on the company – this clears uncertainties and creates a connection with your audience.
Align the information (company name, phone number, address, opening times and prices) on your website with that on the social media and directory listings. Google picks up signals about your business from all over the internet, not just your website.
Which leads us to off-page SEO.
Off-page SEO has become increasingly important in recent years because it is somewhat more barefaced than on-page SEO.
These are influences that are largely controlled by the company’s clients and colleagues. Which is why they are also feared.
Google likes to see others appreciate your hard work and your awesome content. That way they really can recognise the effort you make.
This makes off page influences so valuable.
There are a few popular and widely recognised review sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, TripAdvisor, Yell and Google+.
These large, well known sites already hold millions of loyal user profiles and they spend time weeding out fake ones.
Reviews on your business profile helps your website to rank better – search engines see real people giving true value.
Never be inclined to review your own company or have friends create reviews.
Search engines can collect information – like relationships – through social sites, so will easily determine a fake review from someone close to you. Fake reviews are more damaging than beneficial and will hurt online credibility.
NAP stands for Name Address Phone Number and is a term used to refer to the alignment of all company information on pages and profiles across the web. If details are incorrect the listing could be seen to be for a different company all together.
It is not just a requirement that ‘name, address and phone number’ are aligned either – the term also refers to logo, company name, opening times, prices and much more.
Search engines receive positive signals when they see, clearly, that the company is using other platforms and is listed well across the net.
Be sure your own business profiles on all websites and social media platforms are up to date, explanatory and have clear links back to the company website.
Back-links are links to your website from other websites. Back-links on relevant websites are advantageous to page rank.
However, links from sites with a high spam risk can negatively affect rank.
Build honest relationships with companies who have similar online values.
External links throughout content, linking to other websites benefit website rank. Support a point by linking to articles.
Don’t be mean when it comes to links out. Google wants to build an accessible web of interesting content, so be generous.
Social media for SEO
Although unconfirmed by search engines, there is evidence to say that social shares count when it comes to SEO.
When followers share or engage with articles posted on social media, those articles have been seen to rank higher. It makes sense because search engines then see it as popular, worthwhile content.
Summarising what SEO means
The term SEO means so many things now as there are a multitude of factors that help search engines to recognise when a website owner is helping users.
Guidelines give very good reasons for website owners to look after a website.
Just a few of the better known ranking factors are:
- Build and structure of a website.
- Security certificate.
- Written content.
- User experience.
- Website navigation.
- Mobile friendly.
- Speed of web pages.
- Clarity provided by a company.
- Online reviews.
- NAP consistency.
- Social media engagement.
There are lots more.
Provide a good website for your audience, with informative answers and never be deceitful.