So What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimisation (or SEO) is something that we get asked about by clients on a daily basis. It is something that really dumbfounds people. We totally understand that to someone not familiar with search engines (think Google, Bing, Yahoo) the task of understanding why one website or page ranks over another can seem overly complicated.
It is confusing mainly because Google doesn't provide any real guidance on how it ranks, their argument being that if they published what the ranking factors were, every website on the planet would look exactly the same. I kinda get their point.
All Google is trying to do is give their audience the best experience possible. They want people coming back again and again. They don't want people wandering off to Facebook to get information.
If that means delivering a text ad in the search results, a phone number in your mobile ad or an organic search result than that is what they will do.
If we cheat the system, rank highly for a page that doesn't provide the user with what they wanted to see, Google will eventually get wind of this and penalise that page.
Our job at Revolver Digital, as a digital marketing agency, is not to help you get around the search engine's ranking algorithm. Our job is to make sure your website is set up appropriately so that when users come from Google, Bing etc. they are landing on the exact information they were looking for.
There are two main elements to Search Engine Optimisation:
- Onsite SEO
- Offsite SEO
This post will discuss onsite SEO. We will discuss offsite SEO in a further post.
Here is a list of things you can do by yourself, that aren't too difficult to help improve your SEO efforts in 2017.
On Site SEO Explained
There are two elements to onsite SEO:
- Content on Your Website
- Technical structure of your website
Creating good content (such as blogs, podcasts, videos etc) about your chosen niche is an important part of good onsite SEO. The technical structure of your website involves things like meta titles and descriptions, header tags on your pages (H1, H2 etc) and how you categorise the pages of your website that give the content a logical flow for your users.
Analysing a site's structure can be a difficult thing to do if you built the website yourself. You might be a little too close to it and how it functions and may not be willing to accept that your structure is not properly optimised for google's website crawlers. It does take some experience undertaking numerous site audits to understand how it should be structured. Things such as:
- Are menus in the right places?
- When a user clicks on a link are they directed to the page appropriate for that link?
- Are your contact details visible in the header and the footer?
- Do internal links go to posts that still exist?
- Do you have a slow loading animation on your landing page?
Have a friend or relative sit down at a computer and watch them as they navigate your website. Look at where they place the cursor and what links they gravitate towards. If it isn't what you would expect then maybe you need to revisit your structure to optimise it for useability.
You need to keep your site structure simple. Don't make visitors learn how to use your site.
The title tag is the most important technical element of your web pages. This is what is shown in the organic search results in google for that web page. Ideally your meta titles are:
- Unique: Every page of your website should have a unique title. If they don't, google doesn't know which page you want to rank for and thus will penalise both pages.
- Not Missing: A system like Screaming Frog (discussed below) will show you if you have any meta titles missing from your web pages.
- Character Lengths: Should be no longer than 70 characters. This is because they will get cut off by the search engine in the search results. They should also be long enough to show google what is on the page. Aim for between 60-70 characters on all your meta titles.
It is the meta description that is visible under the meta title in the search results. They have no direct influence on your organic rankings but they certainly do indirectly. It is like a little piece of advertising for that web page and a well worded meta description will get clicked on more. If google notices that this page is getting clicked on more than the other pages near it in the search results that page will get moved up the rankings. The meta description also has a maximum character length of 160 characters with the ideal length being between 150-160.
Heading Tags are shown by the symbols </h2>. If you are using WordPress you can find them by selecting the text based version of that page. There should be only one H1 tag on every page. Use headings appropriately on your web page to make it easier for your readers to consume your content and give google a chance to understand the key elements of that page.
Duplicate content has got a lot of bad press over the years but it has definitely been overstated. If you directly went to another webpage, copy and pasted the whole page and dropped in on your website, it would not receive a penalty. It's just dumb..
That other page obviously ranks better for that topic (that's why you found it in the first place) and the fact that your ripping it off means you believe it's better than what you can write. If that is the case, hire a professional content writer. You can hire a copywriter on websites like Pro Blogger to write an article for you for less than $50.
The 3 main tools that we use to analyse a website's SEO are:
Screaming Frog SEO Spider
Screaming Frog is a bare basic tool that you can use to analyse the SEO of your website. It has a free element so if you have less than 500 pages on your website and you don't need to do lots of customisation than it is perfect. The paid version is about AUD $200 a year and give you a bit more functionality such as multi-site projects. If it gets you one more lead per year than it is probably worth the investment.
Raven is great for ongoing reporting of your SEO. It has some beautiful reports that can be scheduled to analyse the ongoing health of your website(s). For pure technical reporting Screaming Frog gives a lot more information but Raven certainly is prettier. There is no free option for Raven and packages start at aroung AUD $150 a month.
The Moz.com itself is an amazing depository on information related to SEO. Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz, is a prolific content generator on all topics related to SEO. We use Moz mostly for offsite SEO such as rankings and link building strategies.
Google Has Gone Secure
You may have noticed this if you have been to any websites recently that do not have the field https in the URL. Google Chrome now provides visitors with a warning stating that this website is not secure. This means that if your website has a login or a form that needs a password your visitors will see this warning.
If your are having a new website built you certainly need to get your web developer to implement the https security on it. Even if you have an existing website, for about $70 a year you can now purchase the SSL certificate necessary to have https enabled. Google has announced that https will become a ranking factor for organic searchers quite soon so it is important to get your website ready for this, especially if you are in a highly competitive market.
The simple aspects of onsite SEO can be done relatively quickly and cheaply. Invest the time and fix your website to improve your organic rankings and the readability of your website.
Author: Steven Feeney is the Co-Founder and Head of Growth at Revolver Digital. An ex-finance nerd who now really loves digital marketing.