The basics of search engine optimisation.
It’s time we face the facts: we are all full-blown search engine addicts. We conduct over 4,000 Google searches per second, and depend on our search engine buddies for answers to just about everything – ‘Where can I book cheap flights to Thailand?’ ‘How can I open a wine bottle without a corkscrew?’ ‘Who invented liquid dish soap?’. Luckily, there are simple steps to make the way we ask our questions, and the way we get our answers, work for your company.
SEO, or search engine optimisation, is about taking advantage of the Googling culture to increase the visibility of your business. In a nutshell, it’s about communicating the right messages to search engines so that your webpages appear on relevant user searches, which means more traffic and more leads. We’ve put together some basics to help you get started.
1. On-Page SEO
On-Page SEO revolves around optimising each of your individual web pages to increase their ranking with search engines. The main way to accomplish this is to choose the best, most appropriate keywords for each of your webpages and then communicate those keywords to search engines. So, step one: find those magical keywords!
Finding the right keywords can be a challenge. You may have buzzwords within your industry that aren’t known or used in the general public, so your keywords will depend entirely on your target audience. Think about who you want to be searching for your content, and then use a program like Google Adwords Keyword Planner to see statistics on different keywords and help you determine which one is right for your page.
Once you’ve got your keywords, communicate them to the search engines by incorporating them into your metatags and your webpage content.
Metatags are a category of HTML items that supply search engines and website visitors with information. They are broken down into two categories: title tags and meta descriptions.
– Title Tags
Title tags are used to demonstrate the topic of a page on your site in a concise way. This title will appear in various parts of the internet, including the bold blue letters of a web search and the tab of the user’s web browser. The title tags are the most visually outstanding element of a search, and are therefore critical to whether or not a user will click.
A good title tag will be 50-60 characters long, with the important keywords first, followed by the less important words. It will be unique to one webpage (don’t repeat your title tags), will accurately and concisely describe the content on the page.
– Meta descriptions
Meta descriptions are the brief descriptions that show up below the title tag on a search engine results page. They describe the content of the link, and are made to help the visitor discern of your page is relevant to them.
A strong meta description will be 135-160 characters long, with the incorporation of keywords and a call to action. The copy will be readable, relatable and engaging, and will be unique to each webpage. Think of your metadescription as a concise advertisement, telling the visitor why he or she should check out your page.
Content is the other critical element of your on-page SEO. It should be strong and robust, and deliver on what your metatags promised. Your keywords should be scattered throughout your content, but not to the point of keyword cramming, as search engines are now programmed to downgrade sites that are too repetitive or seem spammy. Use different forms of the same word or related words to cater to different types of searches.
4. Off-page SEO
Off-page SEO is based on external links to your pages. References to your work on other websites, mentions on social media and bookmarks all improve off-page SEO. The premise is that, when other sources cite you, they are letting the search engines know that your site is trustworthy and has useful information. Search engines are programmed to promote helpful, popular websites, which means that strong off-page SEO will increase a page’s rankings and lead to more exposure.
Website administrators are constantly trying to game the off-page SEO system. Companies pay for low-quality sites to link to their pages, participate in link-exchange schemes with other websites where they would agree to link to one another’s work, and comment on forums just to leave a link to their website. But website programmers have become savvy about off-page SEO cheating, and are constantly reprogramming to downgrade sites engaging in these activities.
The only way to ensure strong off-page SEO over the long term is to do it the organic way—by creating good content that people actually want to link to. Visual content, blog posts, promotions and competitions are good ways to get users engaged with your content and linking to your webpages.
SEO is an entire universe unto itself, but with these basics you can get your company on the path to search engine success.