Understanding search engine optimisation for google

If you are a small business owner who isn’t inclined to get involved with the ongoing maintenance and improvement of your website and you prefer to leave it to a team of experts to handle on your behalf, then quite possibly you roll your eyes and heave a big sigh when the subject of  Search Engine Optimisation crops up.  It can be unsettling to pay a sum of money each month for a service, with no guarantees that you will get the results you are hoping for and very little idea of what you are getting for your money.  There’s sometimes a trust issue.  Most SEO experts out there are genuine, I’m sure.  But it’s true that there are also those who will gladly take your hard-earned cash each month and do very little for it and even decline to explain to you, what specific actions they are taking to help your website on its journey up the rankings.  Let me shed some light:

What is SEO exactly?:

Search Engine Optimisation can be loosely defined as the things you can do to your website to get Google’s attention and make sure your web pages obtain a high-ranking placement in the search results page (SERP) when a search query is made that is related to your business.  This then brings more traffic to your website.  There are of course other search engines, but I’m focusing on Google.

‘You Wouldn’t Understand’:

Some highly paid SEO Consultants will tell you search engine optimisation is a ‘dark art’, ‘very complex’ and ‘not something that be easily explained ‘.  The truth is there’s no real sorcery or mystery involved and it’s not that hard to get to grips with a reasonable understanding of how it works and the sorts of things you can do to improve your SERP.

What can be achieved?:

While the actions available to you are fairly straight forward, it is true that the results cannot be guaranteed.  Nobody can claim to ‘definitely get you to the top of Google.’  It can also take a long time to see the results of your efforts, although this has recently improved due to the Google algorithm update (Penguin) which means changes are now taken into account in real time.

What you can do is get a solid SEO plan in place and keep working at it from week to week and month to month.  This needn’t cost the earth.

What does Google want from me?:

This is a good question to ask and to think about things from Google’s point of view.  Ultimately, Google simply wants to be the best search engine.  The more people use Google, the more people are exposed to (and click) the paid adverts and the more revenue for Google.  So you have to help Google be the best.

To put this another way, Google is looking for ‘great user experience‘.  They will take into account how quickly your page loads, how long visitors stay on your site, how often your website content is shared on social media, how many decent websites link to yours and so on.  Google wants to provide the most super-relevant content possible for any given search query. 

Whereas there used to be ways to trick Google with webspam techniques, that can’t really happen anymore.  Stay within the guidelines and you’ll be able to get Google’s attention without being penalised.

Assuming you have already done your keyword research, here are some top tips to get started with SEO. 

This is by no means a full list of all possibilities, but a few key considerations and a good place to start:

On-Site Considerations:

Write great content:

Think about natural language and avoid keyword stuffing: it should be genuinely interesting to read and truly engaging.  Also consider what somebody looking for your product or service would actually type into a search engine and try to include the words or phrase in relevant, good quality content.  Be consistent throughout your page.  More words is better nowadays.  Avoid pages that are too content-thin by aiming for at least 300 words, ideally upwards of 500.  In years gone by, hidden keywords used to do the trick.  Not anymore.  If your keyword phrase does not appear on the page, then the page will not be ranked.

Write a great Meta-Description:

This is the wording that most search engines will use to describe your page in the search results.  Put the search phrase first and aim for under 160 characters.

Avoid Keyword Cannibalism:

Try to ensure that each page within your site is optimised for one main keyword or topic.  If you have several pages targeting the same keyword, then Google won’t know which one to prioritise and all of them may suffer as a result.

Label images:

Make sure the keywords appear in the file names and alt-tag descriptions.

Make frequent changes:

Show Google that your website is active and keep the spiders coming back to crawl your content.  This is why a blog is so useful for SEO, plus it’s another opportunity for fantastic relevant content.

Internal Links:

Make sure each page links to at least one other page within the site and use keywords in the link, rather than ‘click here’

Titles and Heading Tags:

Try to make sure they contain your keywords or phrase.

Off-Site:

Social Media:

Frequently link to your website to drive traffic.  Also share great content and encourage others to send it on.  Make sure your social media profiles are excellent.

Sitemap:

Submitting a sitemap to Google is easy and quick to do.

Build Inbound Links:

Don’t ever pay for dodgy links.  Spend some time gaining links from quality 3rd party sites such as related or local businesses.  You can also upload videos to YouTube and link back to your site.  This is an important element of your SEO strategy that should be ongoing.

Test your Site:

Remember what I said earlier that Google rewards great user experience?  Take advantage of Google’s mobile test to ensure your website is fully responsive and renders well on all devices.

Additionally, use Google Speed Checker and follow suggestions for improvements.

There is lots more to talk about on the subject of SEO, but we’d be here all day and you probably need to go and get some work done.  I hope you’ve found this useful.

If I can help you with any questions or you’d like a free assessment of your website’s current SEO situation, then please drop me a line or give me a call:  07967 628112  Clare@cornerstonedigital.marketing