There are several factors that can affect your website’s rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs), both on and off-site. While many off-site techniques have proven to be very effective, and therefore well-worth looking into, in some ways they can be more difficult to conduct and control. On-site SEO on the other hand encompasses a range of different processes that can help to boost your website’s position in the SERPs, most of which you can take care of yourself. We’ll be covering the basics of on-site SEO in today’s post, going into more detail about the specific tasks you can perform in the weeks to come (don’t worry, we will be talking about off-site SEO in more detail very soon, so keep your eyes peeled on MAD4 over the coming weeks to find out more).
But before we get into all of that, let’s clarify exactly what we’re talking about here. What is SEO, and why should you care?
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. It is the process of improving the visibility of a website in search engine results pages (e.g. Google), to attract higher volumes of free or “organic” web traffic. On-site SEO therefore refers to the incorporation of search engine-friendly elements into a website, to help boost its rankings.
Why does SEO matter?
More website traffic equals more potential customers. Even if your website isn’t used to make direct sales, potential customers will still use it to find out more about your business, and it could ultimately be the thing that encourages them to engage. So, if you rely on your website for sales or lead generation, you’ll want to make sure it is easily accessible to as many people as possible, and that means getting it onto Google’s first pages (especially since Google’s page 1 results enjoy 95% of all search traffic!).
So, how exactly does SEO work?
The competition for web traffic is fiercer than ever before. More and more businesses are taking to the internet to promote their products and services, having realised that Google is the first port of call for lots of people (81%, in fact) when researching things to buy or places to go.
Therefore, to give all businesses a fair chance in the SERPs, Google has had to develop a set of complex mathematical processes (“algorithms”) to help it decide what content to serve up first when a search query is submitted.
If your website successfully meets the criteria of Google’s algorithms, its chances of being called upon when a certain search takes place will therefore be greater. But what makes things difficult is the fact that nobody is 100% sure on the criteria that makes up Google’s search algorithm; A. because the algorithms are constantly being updated, B. to ensure that its competition cannot replicate its formulas, and C. to stop spammy websites from manipulating the system and capitalising on the traffic.
Unfortunately, that means there is an air of ambiguity surrounding SEO – much of what we know as a community is based on years of testing (and subtle hints dropped by the people over at Google HQ!). We can be sure however that by utilising the following best practice recommendations, it is possible to drastically improve your website’s position in Google (but before you get too excited, it’s worth noting that SEO, both on and off-site, is an ongoing process which can take many months to take effect).
Increase the relevance of your website
Search engines have become increasingly sophisticated over the years, but they are still just machines at the end of the day, and Google needs a little help in understanding your business.
By weaving your key words and phrases into your website’s DNA where possible (e.g. in page names and headings, body content, image alt tags, meta data etc.), you’ll be able to give the search engines a better idea of what it is you’re offering, making it more relevant to the searches that may take place within your circle.
Using Google’s Keyword Planner tool, do some extensive research into the words and phrases that are most commonly searched in relation to your industry and products/services. Not everyone will describe your business in the same way that you do, and you may therefore have overlooked some of your most frequently searched keywords.
Once you’ve nailed down your key words and phrases, begin working them in to your website as much as you can without going completely overboard and ending up looking spammy (aim for a keyword density of around 10% - your content should still sound natural and make sense when read). This will help to increase your chances of being found on Google when those words/phrases are searched.
Only publish quality content
As I mentioned above, Google is all about improving user experiences. That means only providing the end user with high quality content that is relevant and useful.
If your content is “thin” (e.g. if there is less than approximately 400 words per page), full of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes, or stuffed to the absolute brim with keywords (so much so that it no longer makes sense), don’t expect to receive a rankings boost until you’ve sorted it out.
One of the best ways to add quality content to your website is by starting up a blog and uploading regular posts (ideally once/twice a week, but at least once a fortnight). This will give you the freedom to expand your website without having to make any fundamental changes to its core pages. If you’re worried about not having enough topics to cover, don’t be! The list is endless. Here are just a few ideas that you could explore:
- Publish how-to guides – for example: “How to save for a house deposit”; “How to become an occupational therapist”; “How to install your new sound system”.
- Share industry news - let your customers know that you are up to date with current affairs and the latest trends within your field.
- Offer hints and tips – for example: “8 tips for travelling across Europe”; “Where to find the best ski slopes”; “Renovating your kitchen on a budget”.
- Address any FAQs you may have received
- Share testimonials and client recommendations
Though you might feel apprehensive about starting a blog and the effort that is involved, the majority of your posts really only need to be between 400 - 500 words long. Throw a few longer pieces in there (1,000 - 1,500 words) for good measure and you’re away.
Make your website accessible on all devices
We’ve talked about this a lot recently, but it’s worth mentioning that Google is now penalising websites for not being fully mobile-friendly. This is not without good reason - as you’ll probably agree, it’s quite frustrating to come across a website on your mobile and not be able to see the whole screen, or have to wait for ages while the content loads.
Your website must be responsive (able to scale down to fit smartphone screens and other mobile devices) if you want to earn a 1st page position in Google.
For more information about mobile-friendly website design, have a read of our series on responsive design, starting here.
So, there you have it. We hope this post has given you enough to get your teeth into when beginning your on-site SEO efforts. This post is part of an SEO-focused series, so keep your eyes peeled for more information over the coming weeks. As always, if there are any topics you’d like to see us discuss, don’t forget to let us know in the comments section below.