SEO, otherwise known as Search Engine Optimization has long been thought to be the ‘black magic’ of the Internet. However those days are over, and there is nothing magical about SEO any more. In fact most of it should actually be best practice for any website designer worth their salt.
What is SEO?
In essence SEO is the practice of making your website easy to read by search engines so that they rank you higher. However in recent years this practice has changed towards making your website as user friendly as possible, popular, AND easy to read by the search engines. It involves setting up your web pages correctly, ensuring your site is built right, loads quick and grabs attention. Plus it can even include generating high quality links from relevant sources, and getting your audience to engage and talk about you all over the internet,
How SEO Works?
Search engines, Google in particular, determine how websites will rank based on over 200 factors. The goal of SEO is to optimize as many of these factors so that your website ‘ticks’ as many boxes as possible for Google. Before I tell you what some of these factors are, its important that you understand WHY Google has chosen them. The core of Googles success is in delivering the search results that users find the most useful. So every aspect of the their algorithm is designed to satisfy the searcher. Because at the end of the day, the better results they provide, the more consumers use their service. So although below you’re going to discover different ranking factors, they all come from the same root: giving your customers the ultimate online experience. Some of these factors include… – Keyword density – Headlines – Meta Data – Internal linking – Backlink authority – Anchor Text Density – Page Speed – Bounce rates – Page engagement – Image optimization – Click through rates – And many, many more
Why SEO can be so powerful
Recent studies have revealed that the first 5 listings in Google account for 67.60% of all clicks. Therefore if your website isn’t in the top 5, or even the top 3 positions you’re virtually non-existent in Google. However with that said, if your website ranks #1 for your ideal search term, then you’ll be able to capture almost a third of all search traffic, giving your business a enormous benefit to your competitors. So it makes sense that a #1 ranking is the ‘holy grail’ for SEO’s and business owners alike.
The 2 Areas of SEO
In order to get your website as ‘optimized’ as possible, there are 2 main area’s of SEO – On-Page SEO and Off Page SEO. These 2 area’s have dramatically different needs if you want your website to rank well. To help you understand them both, I’ll expand on them separately.
On-page SEO is also known as technical SEO. This is the ‘techy’ side of making sure your website is the best that it can be. When creating pages on your website, think through which keywords you’d like it to rank for, then optimize for it using the following tips Here is a quick 12-point cheat sheet to On-Page SEO:
- H1 Tags – Ensure that each page has a H1 that contains your pages target keywords
- Meta Titles – This is the name of your page. Ensure it contains the keyword that you’re targeting in a user friendly manner
- Meta Description – Although it doesn’t have a direct impact on SEO, your meta description is responsible for getting people to click on your website from the search results so make it as appealing as possible.
- Internal Linking – Lets say you sell cars, and in a blog you mention a particular model car that you sell, then you should create a link to that page on your website. This will help tell Google which page to rank for what.
- Image Alt Text – Because search engines can’t view your images, they instead ‘read’ your images Alt Text to see if its relevant to the page. Ensure that you accurately describe the image in 4-5 works, including your keyword
- Page Speed – Google knows that searchers want websites to load fast, so they push sites that load quickly. You can test your site here.
- Bounce Rates – If your visitors leave as quickly as they come, then to Google that’s a red flag. It indicates that your website doesn’t match what their looking for and as a result you’ll struggle to rank well. Instead, make your site clean and welcoming with a fresh, modern design
- Contact Information – The internet is full of Scams, so the more contact information that you have on your website, the better you’ll rank.
- Social Sharing Buttons – Social signals are becoming a much larger part of search algorithms, and prominent social sharing buttons can increase sharing by up to 700%
- Enough Content – When writing for a standard web page you need a minimum of 300 words, and if you’re looking to optimize a blog aim for over 1,500 words.
- 404 errors- Google HATES Broken links, because it know that users also hate them. Checkout your Webmaster tools account to find any 404 errors that you might have. If you find any, 404 errors, then redirect them to the relevant category or parent page that the user will like.
- Use the right redirects – If a page is going to be gone for ever, then use a 301 permanent redirect. However if a page is only going to be gone temporarily, then stick to a 302 temporary redirect.
We recommend using tools such as SEMRush and Google webmaster tools.
Off Page SEO
Now that your on-page SEO is complete, it’s time to take a closer look into the SEO that occurs ‘off page’ and on the rest of the internet. From a satellite overview, off-page SEO proves how popular your website is to Google. It takes into account the number of other sites that are your ‘friends’ and who link to you and how often. Google also takes into account the quality of your ‘friends’. The ‘cooler’ and more popular the sites that link to you are, the cooler Google is going to think you are. So when it comes to Off-Page SEO, its not all about the number of links that you have, but also the quality, and where they are coming from. Below are the 15 things to look for when beginning your Off-Site SEO:
- Number of links – As a general rule of thumb, the more links that you have to your website the better. However with that said, it’s essential that they do play by the rules below as well as the other 32 factors that Google takes into account.
- Number of linking root domains- Having a vast number of different sites that link to you is like having more friends who think you’re cool. Generally the more the better
- Linking domain age – Because of the emergence of PBN’s (Or private blog networks), search engines are starting to trust links from older sites more as they are less likely built just for spam. Avoid PBN’s at all costs as they will result in long term damage for your website.
- Alt tag (for image links) – Just as anchor text tells search engines what the link is about for text links, the Alt Text of an image works the same way. Ensure that your Alt Text is relevant to the page its linking to.
- Authority of linking page – There are 2 factors when it comes to gauging authority of your website, they are Domain Authority (Gauging the total authority of the website) and Page Authority (The popularity of the exact page that is linking to you). Generally a page with a higher PA will be more powerful than a link on a brand new page with no authority.
- Authority of linking domain – This is essentially how ‘popular’ your friends are. The higher the authority the linking domain is, the more ‘juice’ it will pass to your website, much the same way being friends with friends with a celebrity boosts your popularity more than an average person
- Links for .edu & .gov TLDs – This is a grey zone as there is constantly debate over if links from .edu and .Gov domains are more powerful. If nothing else, they certainly pack more authority than ordinary websites.
- Links from competitors – There is no higher compliment in SEO than for your competitors linking to your website.
- Links from spammy sites – You want to avoid links from spammy sites such as ‘indiancheapseolinksforfree.com’. I know this is an extreme example, but there are a lot of spammy, low quality sites that people get links from, the trouble is that these often do more damage than good.
- Nofollow links – Nofollow links don’t pass through any ‘seo juice’ to your site, however there is theory’s about them making your website appear more ‘natural’
- Diversity of link types – The ideal link profile contains links from guest blog posts, images, anchor text, branded links as well as select directories.
- Backlink anchor text – This one requires a fine balance because too much anchor text and you’re risking over optimizing for a keyword, but too little and you’re leaving potential rankings on the table. We recommend keeping anchor text rich links to less than 10% for most websites.
- Country TLD of referring domain – If you’re a local plumbing business in Brisbane, then a link from a.com.au domain is going to be more helpful than from a .ru (Russian) domain. The reason? Because it simply makes more logical sense.
- Linking domain relevancy – Nothing sends Google’s ‘Spam Sensors’ off quicker than a plumber with 500 links from hairdressing websites. Keeping your links relevant to your domain boosts your rankings quicker, while simultaneously decreasing the likelihood of you getting penalty’s.
- Link location on page – Just as a journalist puts the most important information at the top of the page, Google treats links higher up on the page as being more important.
This is just a snippet of 47 factors that Google takes into account when looking at your off-page optimization.