Search Engine Optimisation
Beauty is important and usability is critical, however, neither will work for your revenue stream if no one comes to the website. SEO is the tool to drive people to your website.
No matter what your website is about, it is one of your most valuable assets online. Through your site, you’re able to gather visitors and show them what you’re offering and encourage them to buy your product, get a subscription, or read your blog posts. All these actions are crucial to any website, and yours is no exception. If you want to grow the number of your customers (or readers) you have to increase the traffic your website regularly generates. And to do that, you need to get serious about your website’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Just having a website accomplishes next to nothing in a world with a billion+ websites online.
When people have questions, they Google. When they’re stuck, they Google. When they need advice, they Google. All day long, everyone asks Google all sorts of questions. And every time someone asks Google a question, they’re articulating an intent. They’re saying, “I’m trying to do this” or “I want to solve this” and those are the kinds of folks you want visiting your site. But that means you need to write those blog posts that contain the answers to their questions.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is an evolving science. While some of the core principles may stick around forever, the more nuanced parts of it are subject to continuous change.
How Google finds your site
Google has built a giant database of hundreds of trillions of web pages which its algorithm then analyses and ranks. It does this by sending out scores of digital robots, or “spiders,” which visit page after page and add key words they find to the database. The spiders also follow the links on each page to see where they lead. This is known as “crawling.”
What Google wants and how it ranks your site
In the recent past, you could easily score top positions on Google SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages) by literally pumping keywords into your content. That’s how SEO experts were doing it left, right and centre.
But, over the past few years search engines, especially Google, have been improving their search algorithms to become better and better at spotting empty content that has no value beyond being chock full of search keywords. That era of SEO is over and we’re better off for it.
While the days of manual link-building schemes and keyword stuffing are over, your search engine rankings can be boosted by utilizing several tools that will optimize your WordPress website for search engines, without abusing the system.
One of the main ways that Google works these days is that it looks at your website and reads the ‘real’ text within your pages. Updates to the algorithm have enabled Google to start serving up content that better matched searchers’ intent – not just their keywords.
The search engine analyses tons of pages for their content. It learns the relationships between the terms and the context they usually appear in, which enables it to also build expectations as to what terms are prone to appear in a specific context. Using RankBrain, Google then picks the results according to these expectations. So, to rank better you do not have to use a few keywords over and over again. You have to build a cloud of associations related to your main topic and deliberately use the words and concepts from this cloud all over your content (the graphic at the top of this page is a representation of a cloud of words).
If you want your website to be found when people enter, for example, ‘high heeled shoes hurt my feet’ into the search field you need to ensure that you include text that includes information about how high heeled shoes hurt feet. Strings of words are important. These days search engines treat pages in terms of “topics” rather than specific keywords.
You want to rank for those common keywords that are specific to your business niche/market place. But — you don’t. The competition is so tense that it is not worth your efforts. The traffic for these words will be small in comparison with the visits you can get from long-tail keywords. This typically means using generic layperson’s terms to describe your products and services as opposed to industry jargon (unless you’re in a very niche business-to-business industry). An example from the medical field would be to use “ear, nose, and throat doctor” instead of “otolaryngologist.” Long-tail keywords are more about users’ intention, which is exactly what search algorithms are about right now.
There’s no magic solution to get you to the top of Google search results, and I would recommend avoiding anyone who says there is. I can’t guarantee that your website will appear in the number one position (apart from when your unique company name is entered)… nobody can.
Google sends bots out to review your website at irregular intervals, so results may not be immediately obvious. When you get a new website on a new domain the whole process takes time – from weeks, to months and even years.
Google incorporates over 200 signals that are used in determining search rankings. Factors like relevance, topicality and reputation are the most important. The results depend on many variables, including:
- what someone enters as a search query
- what competition you have
- whether your competitors have improved their own rankings
- how often your website is updated
- how long your website has been live
- domain name and extension
- whether your website is mobile-friendly (responsive)
- Facebook shares, Google+ 1s, and other social metrics
- mentions of brand name on other news, media and press sites
- quality of links and link sources
- and most importantly, as mentioned above, it depends on the content on your site
Consistent, high-quality content published to your website can increase your rankings in Google, and thus, the traffic to your site which can result in leads for your business.
This isn’t an overnight accomplishment, but even Google wants to know if your business is trustworthy before they reward you with better rankings. Google’s SEO rules are bound to change, but rich, valuable content seems to be the one thing that they’ll never shut out.
Here are a few things that you can do to help your website’s ranking in search results:
- Create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your product or interest
- Think about the words visitors would type to find your pages, and make sure that your site includes those words
- Increase visitor numbers – the more people who view your site, the more Google regards your website as ‘relevant’
If you find yourself at a crossroads when trying to come up with content ideas, then your best bet is to research what your competitors are doing. You should never steal the content from another site, but you can use the content your competitors create as inspiration for your own content creation process. If you’re looking for help in your content creation, then please let me know. I may be able to help.
WordPress is famous for being well designed for SEO right out of the box and standard search engine optimisation is performed on all websites that I launch. If your site was designed and developed by i4design and hosted on the i4design server, it will be fast, mobile ready and have a concise site structure – also important factors that help improve your search engine rankings.
Apart from the above, to give you the best chance of ranking well on Google you need to perform off-site SEO. This includes all the other things that affect your ranking, such as Google Business and listings in directories. To keep up with competitors that have comparable sites to yours, but are consistently appearing higher in Google’s results, you’ll also need to look at using Google AdWords.
With Google AdWords you have the ability to pay Google for top placement. Your ad will potentially show up at the top of the search results for the keywords you choose. Some keywords are more expensive than others, and Google sets that price partially based on the number of people bidding for that keyword. To put it simply, the more you spend, the more Google will favour your site.
There are always those who claim special knowledge. The reality is, there are no hidden tricks of the trade that will improve your ranking. Listen to the real professionals from the SEO field to understand what to do to succeed in your aspirations.
Relevance and authority remain the driving forces in terms of organic traffic
Before spending too much money on SEO, please remember that content is the most important factor that determines how well your website performs against the competition. There are no quick and easy fixes… but you can improve the chances of your website being found by Google – for free – by adding plenty of relevant, fresh content.
Despite some people’s assertion that SEO is doomed and Google wants to stamp it out, SEO is still an effective and profitable approach to traffic and lead generation. It’s just that SEO isn’t just about SEO anymore – SEO as a discipline has expanded to encompass so much more than just the traditional keywords and links.
Google’s primary objective is to deliver the best and most relevant search results and in so doing, improve the service for their users. When someone visits a Google site and performs any kind of search, Google aims to understand what the person is looking for and then deliver the best answer it can find in the least number of clicks. And that’s the reason Google keeps refining and improving their search technology.
Once upon a time people spent huge amounts of time and money generating as many links as possible containing the keywords they wanted to rank for. It became possible for even poor quality sites, with little or no relevant content, to rank quite well using almost nothing but this strategy. If this had been left unchecked, eventually the quality of Google’s search results would have been compromised and its ability to deliver relevant results would have been harmed.
So Google updated its algorithm, and as a result websites where the owners created artificial links moved down in the search engine results, and websites that were popular because they had great content moved up in the search engine results.
The bottom line is that Google wants its search engine results to be full of sites that are popular for having great content – not businesses that have figured out how to game the system.
How to help people find your local business via Google
If your website is about a local business be sure to sign up for Google Business. This will increase your search presence and help people to find you via Google maps. Google also wants to see your full address and contact details (the same one as in Google Business) displayed on your website. These days, if you are a local business, having a website isn’t enough to rank well in Google’s local search listings.
Google compares your website to your direct competitors in your geographic market area. The business that Google decides is the most trustworthy, authoritative, popular and attentive to its customers receives the highest rankings for target search terms.
It greatly helps to have your server located near your target audience’s location. The website will not only respond faster for your local visitors, but search engines can pick up descriptive signals from it.
If your business provides Australian or New Zealand based services it’s better to have a ‘.com.au’ or a ‘co.nz’ domain name extension rather than a ‘.com’ domain name extension. Because of search personalisation, Google prioritises local results. Having a geo-specific extension will also help you rank for specific countries where people are inclined to choose a local link.
Google’s Matt Cutts Gives a Nice Overview of SEO and It’s Value
For SEO to work, the search engines must see off-site website activity. This means other websites need to mention you and/or link to you. This can be derived from a variety of activities, but someone other than your mom needs to know your website or blogs exists.
Social media activity helps. This includes popular networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+. Social signals may not be used in ranking algorithms, but it does not mean that they cannot influence rankings. Booming social activity makes your content visible to the right group of users, which increases your engagement metrics. The more visits you get, the more sharing you receive that leads to more links to your content. It is a happy cycle.
Surprisingly, adding the name of your city and local area in your tags and copy do not seem to play a part in how well your site ranks for a particular region. Even though it has long been assumed that using the name of your location in title tags, URLs, and copy would help you rank in regional searches, studies show there is no statistically significant correlation with this tactic and local Google ranks.
Of all the factors examined, the number of a business’ Google reviews had the highest correlation with rankings. Reviews are the most important ranking signal in Google’s local search algorithm. Because of this, you should be doing all you can to grow that number (and the ratings those reviewers give you) to improve your local rankings. Turns out Google loves reviews — not just Google reviews, but all of them – including, for example, reviews on platforms such as Yelp and TripAdvisor.
Black Hat SEO vs. White Hat SEO
There are two distinct types of organic SEO consultants and tactics. One is called white hat SEO and the other is called black hat SEO.
White hat SEO consultants only perform tactics that adhere to Google’s best practices and quality guidelines for website and content.
On the other side of SEO (aka the dark side) is black hat SEO. The people that practice black hat SEO don’t care about what Google wants. They have one singular goal of manipulating the SERP to position their content at the top, and they’ll do so regardless of the risk. Please don’t consider this because practicing black hat SEO techniques can lead to a website being removed entirely from a search engine’s listings or index.
On-Page vs Off-Page SEO
On-page SEO refers to the things you can do on your own website to improve your site’s appearance in search engines results. In essence, on-page SEO involves making it as easy as possible for search engines to index your site’s content properly.
Off-page SEO refers to the things that happen off of your website, but that improve your site’s rank in SERPs. Off-page SEO generally involves getting other sites to link back to your website through a combination of link-building strategies — guest blogging, creating high-quality content that earns backlinks from other blogs, participating in forums, commenting on other blogs, and so forth.
While content is important, technical SEO is just as significant since it lays the foundation for any on-page optimization efforts. It is the scaffolding that makes sure that search engines can properly understand and index your website. A number of SEO elements have become particularly important in recent times, such as site speed, mobile friendliness and site architecture.
You need to make sure the hosting and design infrastructures of your site have all the basic elements in place:
- Your site needs to load fast — a factor that actually influences several different ranking factors because of how it impacts a visitor’s experience.
- Your site needs to be mobile-responsive.
- Your site needs to be safe and secure.
- Your site needs to be coded clearly and cleanly.
Pay Per Click and Organic SEO
PPC is for marketers with hopes of a quick high, and can accept zero long-term value. SEO is the opposite. There is minimal short-term value, but a huge amount of long-term benefit.
For start-up companies or those new to internet marketing, a blend of PPC and SEO might be the best option. SEO takes time and you don’t land on page one of Google overnight. For SEO to work you need to have a strategic, long-term plan in place that is executed over time. SEO requires you to nurture your website. You need to build your authority and credibility with the search engines. At the initial stages of your SEO plan, PPC may be a great short-term option for search traffic while you work on long-term SEO objectives.
Paid ads can gain higher exposure for your brand and, due to the high conversion rate, you can experiment and receive quick results that will allow you to change the strategy if needed. You can target different kinds of keywords, and reporting gives you insights about what works best at the global and local levels. You can then optimise your content for successful organic searches.
The thing to remember is that you cannot build a website and just wait for traffic to come. You’ll be waiting forever because the internet is completely filled with website upon website all waiting for visitors. You need to have some sort of marketing plan to bring traffic into your website. Be it Pay Per Click, Search Engine Optimisation or social media – a plan is needed.