Over the last decade, SEO’s gone from being something hardly anyone in the mainstream understood to a huge, intimidating industry full of agencies and consultants and algorithms named after black and white animals. Back in the day, most websites’ contribution to SEO was to dump a load of hidden keywords at the bottom of each page in the same colour as the background.
Today, most people have a better understanding of what it entails, but many still make mistakes. They’re easy to make, since Google’s algorithms are regularly updated and quite hard to keep track of unless you read the Moz blog faithfully. Are you still making them? Here are 6 things you need to bear in mind:
1: On-page SEO optimisation for your website
Every page you create for your site should follow a checklist. Even if it’s just a ‘Contact Us’ page, it requires optimisation. It needs a header (an H1) and sub-headers (H2s or H3s) where relevant; this makes it easier for Google and your readers to scan through. Keywords are important: try to get them in your headers, but don’t overdo it. There’s no set amount of keywords you need per page, and in fact pushing in the same word 40 times could harm your ranking. But Google does need to see that if your page is about cars, that associated words are in there. It’s part of how Google decides whether your content is relevant.
Each page also needs a meta title, and a snippet (this is the short preview you see on Google’s search results). Every photo or image on your page should have alt text. This is to show the images are relevant to the text, and also makes content more accessible for blind people. There are a few more factors, but the above are key.
2: Mobile optimisation
It’s only recently that mobile has overtaken PC in terms of search traffic, and Google’s algorithms take this into account. Your site needs to be optimised for mobile. If it’s not scalable, and users have to zoom in by 300% to see things, Google will penalise you. Mobile-optimised sites also load faster and can load instantly on social media, whereas unoptimised sites may take ages and lead to high drop-off or bounce rates. There are plenty of tutorials online which can help you optimise for mobile, or you can, of course, talk to us.
3: Site errors and 404s
Broken links. We’ve all accessed a page which no longer exists and been frustrated by a boring (or even a witty) message informing us that this is a 404 page. Well, Google’s not keen. It’s very important that you check regularly for broken links, and make sure that any page you take down isn’t linked to somewhere else internally or externally. If it is, that link will need updating. So how do you deal with broken links? Re-direct them, temporarily or permanently, to something relevant on your site.
It’s actually best not to take pages down at all if you can help it. For example, if you’ve got a Black Friday page on your site, don’t delete it once Black Friday’s over and create a new one the year after; that URL has value as long as it’s live. Simply add a holding page, or a countdown page, and use it again the next time it’s relevant.
4: Site load speed
We can’t stress this enough. A slow loading speed will see your site penalised by not just Google, but as mentioned previously, by all social media channels. Site speed can be optimised in a number of ways, and some are obvious; for example, if you’re uploading photos taken with a great camera, make sure they’re not 15MB! And of course, you’ll also be penalised by your users. Who’s going to wait two minutes for a site to load when there are hundreds of others on the same topic? You’ll find your bounce rates are greatly improved by speeding your site up, and it’s no longer optional if you want to rank.
5: Quality content
This one has never been more important than it is today, with billions of sites on the web competing for the same places on search engines. Ensure all your content is well-written or designed, interesting and most importantly, relevant. Years ago, people wrongly interpreted the way to boost their SEO rankings as ‘have as much content as possible’. Now, it’s more like ‘have as much pertinent, focused content as possible’.
Check who your users are using Google Analytics and create content that resonates based on your product and audience. Don’t go off on a tangent, and keep things varied - sometimes an infographic is a nice break from long pages of text and can do the same job just as well. And answer the questions you think your audience will want to know the answers to, in the least number of pages possible. Don’t make them hunt for your phone number, FAQ, or blog by going through ten other pages.
6: Optimise your presence elsewhere on the internet
Many websites still aren’t taking the above into account. Your social media presence, Google My Business listing, presence on trust or review sites and basically any listing for your site all affect your rankings. Google’s algorithms make decisions based on trust, and your brand needs to be consistent, updated and interacted with.
If you’ve got a Facebook page with 2 followers and an out-of-date address, update it and implement a social media strategy to get some engagement. If your Google My Business page doesn’t have reviews or a photograph, fix it. And if you’re listed on TrustPilot and have hundreds of reviews but haven’t replied to any of them, do it. In a polite, relevant way, using keywords if possible. Everything counts.