Search Engine Optimisation. Possibly one of the most talked about and debated techniques for many companies. From small business to large companies, improving search engine ranking always seems to be on the radar.
So what efforts should you be concentrating on in the New Financial Year to help improve your SEO?
We see SEO as a three-tiered approach, and not all improvements require a developer’s assistance. In this series, I thought I’d explain the “SEO Components” we review when auditing a website and how you can work these into your strategy for the new financial year.
Before I start, let me stress that NO ONE except Google and the other search engines know exactly what is used to rank search results when crawling websites. However, there are certain elements we know are included in the algorithms. I’ll touch on some of these things here (not everything, as that would be a very long article!).
We review SEO with a three-tiered approach – the technical set up of the site, a look at the authority of the site and then the content. Each of these do work hand-in-hand with one another, but we find breaking it down is the easiest way to determine how to improve SEO as a whole. We’ll take a look at the technical side of SEO first.
Unless you know a little HTML, there’s a chance you will require a web developer’s assistance with this section. As a little warning, be cautious of using “SEO” specialists. While some are legitimate, unfortunately there are a lot of dodgy companies out there (for lack of a better word). You don’t want to get caught in Black Hat SEO practices as this type of activity, if punished by search engines, can take years to counteract. The best advice I can give here is to do your research and try to work with a reputable company, and particularly one with a solid client list. This should help weave out the dodgy companies to the legitimate ones.
What’s involved in a technical SEO audit? Here are a few things to look for when reviewing your site structure for SEO:
Title and Meta Description are both important technical elements that should be considered for your website. These elements work together to display your website in search results. Keep these important things in mind:
Here is an example:
Your website should be structured using HTML headings – H1 to H6. Google (and other search engines) use headings to understand your data – with H1 tags perceived as more important than H2 and so on. It’s important to structure your headlines so that search engines can easily make sense of the data. For example, a recipes page might have “Recipes” as H1, “Beef Recipes” as H2, “BBQ Beef Skewers” as H3. You should try to have at least one H1 tag on each page.
Without an alt text attribute on your image, search engines won’t know what your images are representing. For example, let’s say you have an amazing photo of your BBQ Beef Skewers but they’re named “IMG 5234” (straight from the way the camera saved the image out). There is no way for search engines to read this image. Even if you have photoshopped “BBQ Beef Skewers” over the top of the image, search engines can’t read this. To get around this, all images on the website should be given an alt attribute to tell search engines what the image is about. Search engines can then use this text signals to rank images in search results.
Every website should have a Sitemap. Sitemaps basically tell search engines the location of all the internal pages and the importance of the pages on the website. Having this information makes it much easier for a search engine to find and index pages. The XML Sitemap should be submitted to Google Webmaster Tools, Bing Webmaster Tools and submitted to the robots.txt file.
A side note on robots.txt: Your robots.xt files is the first file to be crawled by search engines. While it doesn't directly affect the website’s SEO, it does make it easier and faster for bots to crawl the website – which can indirectly improve your SEO.
Page speed has been highlighted as being used by search engines to rank search results. A slow-loading page takes longer for a search engine to crawl which can negatively affect SEO. Aside from SEO, a slow-loading page is also very bad for user experience. People hate waiting for websites to load – you’ll find a lot of potential customers will in fact leave the site if the load time is too long.
Click here to check your page speed using Google PageSpeed Insights.
This is a funny one – Google doesn't see underscores as word separators. Therefore something like:
“My_Awesome_Dog” would be read from Google search as “MyAwesomeDog” – which won’t make much sense.
Fix this by ensuring you use hyphens (or dashes) in between words instead. These are read as spaces by Google. Using the same example:
“My-Awesome-Dog” would be read as “My Awesome Dog” – something that now makes sense and can therefore be displayed in search results.
These are just a few things to double check on any site currently live or in production. Other things to check for include:
As I mentioned earlier, this part of SEO may require the assistance of your web developer depending on how tech-savvy you are. However, some of these parts you will be able to check without requiring assistance. While much of this may have gone over your head, having a correctly structured website is critical for SEO as it ensures search engines know your site exists, and are able to quickly and easily crawl the pages and make sense of them. There is little point having a fantastic site if search engines do not know it exists!
In the next part, we will look at how Content and Authority affect SEO – and how you can look at improving each to help your SEO.
Need help creating and implementing your digital strategy for the upcoming financial year? Contact Arcadian Digital. We’ll take a holistic view of your digital business and provide solutions to improve your online presence to assist in achieving your business objectives.