What is SEO? 10 Essential tips to improving your SEO

How to improve your SEO

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is simply the process of improving your website to achieve a higher ranking in search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, and others. While it may sound scary at first, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, by following some of the tips below, you’ll be well on your way to improving your own website’s search ranking.

We have listed 9 surefire ways to improve your websites SEO and get yourself ranking in Google search results well.

1. Quality Content

‘Content is King’. To put your best foot forward to reach for that organic SEO, first and foremost your website needs to offer value to the user. You will never appear in organic search results if you have no value.

Increasing organic search through quality

SEO is a long-term game, and it requires a lot of effort and consistency to see results. However, there are a few easy things that you can do to make sure you’re on the right track towards getting more organic search traffic so you can stop spending a fortune on that none converting google ad of yours. The intro paragraph is a great place to start. The goal of the intro paragraph is to quickly introduce the topic at hand. Your goal at this point is not to explain the topic at hand but to briefly explain it. The goal is to show the reader that you actually know what you’re talking about and that you’re not going to waste their time.

It is through this added value provided by quality content that you will gain (domain) authority (viewed as a reputable source), and this usually comes in the form of original good content, which answers the questions that people are asking.

A good strong piece of content (pillar content) — would be an original article, or blog post, which does not get dated quickly, and is written with target keyword in mind, this type of long-lasting content is known as evergreen content and can help drive organic traffic to your site.

There is little value to a website if it has copied all of its content from another site (even if it was ran through a spin writer in an attempt to hide the source) — as that counts as duplicate content, and can work against you if Google’s algorithm catches on.

SERP

The global organic search engine results page (SERP) is a pivotal point in search engine marketing (SEM). As many websites strive to achieve this coveted position, trying to achieve this is becoming increasingly difficult. There are various factors that affect one’s visibility in the organic SERP, including Keyword Rank, Domain Authority, Page Authority, and Link Building.

Black Hat SEO

SEO, or search engine optimisation, is a term that was first coined in the 1990s and has been a part of Internet marketing from the very beginning. It’s a method of getting traffic from the search engines. But what exactly is “Black Hat” SEO? Many of the people involved in SEO are well-intentioned, trying to do the right thing by directing people to the sites they are looking for. However, there are others who don’t share the same desire to help out. They want to get the traffic for themselves or sell black hat SEO, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

The days of black hat SEO keyword stuffing (filling a page with a key search term, as many times as you can) have gone, though many people still attempt this in their SEO tactics shamelessly, it is starting to bite them in the butt as is ever proving to no longer to be a ranking factor. I say ever proving, as Google keeps hush about what magic goes on behind their search engine result positioning (SERP) mechanics. Though SEO experts do see patterns when comparing their website’s SEO results after each Google algorithm update.

White Hat SEO

White hat SEO refers to a style of search engine optimisation (SEO) where the techniques used focus on creating quality content and building quality links rather than employing questionable search engine optimisation techniques. White hat SEO is the “good guy” of SEO, and its ultimate goal is to improve search engine rankings and enhance a website’s marketability, not to trick the search engines with smoke and mirrors.

There is a lot of debate as to what white hat SEO is, as there are some questionable grey areas, and some people even wonder whether it is a legitimate strategy to rank in the search engines. Some people think the term “white hat SEO” is just a catchphrase used by internet marketers to promote their link-building schemes, and that it has no meaning. However, the truth is that white hat SEO is a legitimate strategy that you can use to rank in the search engines; the only thing is that it takes more effort and is harder to maintain. But if you’re willing to put in the work, you can reap the rewards.

Backlink Strategies

Backlinks are one of the most important elements of SEO. Having backlinks is a sign that you are a quality site, so you want to have as many as possible pointing your way, which are from high quality, relevant sites. The problem is that getting these backlinks is difficult and time-consuming. What you want to do is focus on getting backlinks to your key pages (pillar pages). This helps you get more traffic and thus, make more money — or so the theory goes.

Internal / External Links

Your quality content should also be structured, concise and offer additional resources or citations, via either external or internal links. These links should link to/from relevant keywords, known as an anchor text (anchor text HTML), which simply means if someone clicks on that keyword, they will be taken to an article/page/site about said keyword.

Link building reinforces the notion once again, that you are indeed a reputable source, and in turn improves your Google search engine ranking.

2. Image Optimisation

Nobody likes it when a slow site makes them wait. And it only takes a few extra seconds to make a page-load that much faster (or slower). One of the best ways to make your site faster is to optimise the images you use. That’s because images can make up a significant portion of the data on a page. Even a small change in the size or format of an image can significantly reduce the load time of a page. Using a program like Photoshop or GIMP to optimise your images is a very effective first step.

When we talk about image optimisation, we’re usually referring to the way the image will be used on the web, but there are other factors that can affect the file size of an image. File type, colour depth, compression, and resolution all play a part in image optimisation.

Although this is an aspect of your page speed SEO, it is such a major aspect, that we gave it its own section at position #2 to emphasise its importance.

It is best practice to reduce the size of images prior to upload to reduce the file size, and thus reduce the page loading speed. This can be done by only ever using PNG if you need the image to have transparency (alpha channel), otherwise use JPG or even better WebP for smaller image sizes.

Manual Optimisation

Image file sizes should be no more than 100–200 KB (that’s on the heavy end of the spectrum). Additional factors to consider include colour palette limitation and various forms of compression (ie lossy) which you could try tweaking to reduce the size of the image. Many photo editing softwares have a range of variables to tweak prior to export — it may be a little hit and miss, but experimenting to find that optimal quality/size ratio is key.

Automated Optimisation

Alternatively, if you are not a whizz at photoshop, or have a backlog of images to optimise, you could simply try an automated image compression software. We highly recommend ShortPixel, due to its ease of use, free plan, and budget-friendly premium plans. The pictures you see on this site are being served by Short-pixel and have increased our site speed dramatically.

ShortPixel will not only reduce all the images on your website in size without any loss to quality, but it also creates backups, automatically reduces images sizes as they are uploaded, and as an option serves WebP formats of the images for even faster results. Result.

3. Site Loading Speed

Site loading speed is one of those topics that many SEOs and webmasters have difficulty to tackle, especially for larger, more complex sites.

We mentioned slow sites earlier, but did you know that 20% of users drop off for each additional second past that key 2-second mark — so if your site takes 7 seconds to load — don’t be expecting any good traffic results next time you check your analytics.

The general rule of thumb for site loading speed is 1.5 to 2 seconds for desktop, 1 to 1.5 seconds for mobile. Above this, you will lose visitors and potential customers. The following methods below can help you increase the speed of your website.

(FYI: Website speed can be checked for free here: https://tools.pingdom.com or here https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/)

(FYI: Website speed can be checked for free at Pingdom tools or Google Page Insights)

Methods to speed up your website

  • Compressing imaged or serving WebP formats.
  • Combining CSS / JS / HTML files.
  • Lazy loading images and iframes.
  • The use of a CDN (content delivery network — such as cloud-flare — (psst, they have a free plan.)
  • Keeping programs/plugins updated
  • Deferring Javascripts (making them load later)
  • Reducing web fonts
  • Using a caching program

One WordPress plugin we highly recommend for doing all of the above is WP Rocket. No affiliation, just an awesome tool.

4. Document Object Model

The DOM (Document Object Model) is the site structure of the page. All elements on a website adhere to certain criteria to be displayed, and this comes in the form of an inverted tree.

ie HTML> BODY > P (paragraphs) > UI (unordered lists) > li (lists).

The structure of the DOM is usually accounted for if using a webpage builder/cms like WordPress but is vital to keep in mind for technical SEO if free hand-coding.

Nested Elements

Nested elements do play a part when editing your blog. Ie, each page should have only one H1 tag (Headline), subcategories should be H2(2nd Headline), and paragraphs should be P tags etc.

And as for size, for optimal page SEO ranking a page should consist of a minimum of 600 + words, preferably more. There are various tools for comparing content length, page rank position and keywords — one great example is called PostPace.

5. Keywords

Choosing keywords for your website is an important part of internet marketing, or being found in general. Choosing the right keywords for your site will help your site rise in search engine rankings. If you want to be found by your audience, you should choose keywords that they are likely to use when they are searching for your site.

Keywords can make or break a sites success.

Before choosing your keywords, you should do your keyword research. Find out what question people are asking about the subject (long-tail keywords), what are the trending or popular terms for your subject (focus keywords) and what are people searching for in Google or Bing (a synonym could perhaps be getting higher search rates.)

A handy tool for viewing these statistics is to create a Google Ads account — and use their keyword finder tool

Keyword AI Software

As I write this article, I am using a software called Market Muse, which helps with discovering subject topics, compares them to current trending content and lets me know what information I may have overlooked, to help improve the quality of this article. There are similar great programs on the market, at a lower price point, such as Frase.

It is important that you only use keywords pertaining to the subject matter of the page — or this could confuse what the purpose of the content is.

Focus Keyword Locations

  1. The title (H1)
  2. The subheadings (H2)
  3. The content copy (P)
  4. Site meta description (We talk about this next)
  5. The page meta title (title tag)
  6. All the alt tags of the images on the page (provided the image is of the mentioned keyword.)

6. Meta description tag

The meta description tag (meta tag)is an HTML element that is visible in a search engines results page, and it is responsible for providing a description of a web page to users. This description is usually a short summary of the contents of the page (containing the keyword). Typically, Google will use any description they find, so it is important that you provide a high-quality description that is specific and relevant to your page.

Additional metaData could come in the form of page descriptions — a unique description about the page the user is seeing. This description should be around 155 characters long — and contain 2–3 keywords relating to the page.

alt tags

Alt tags is another form of metadata and should consist of keywords related to what the image is showing. “Say what you see”, as the saying goes. This allows the image itself to be indexable, thus allowing and way for people to come across your site through image searches directly from the search engine search query organically.

7. Backlinks & Domain Authority

Domain authority, or DA as it is more commonly known, as an SEO value that measures how strong a single website is within the overall Google hierarchy. Websites with a higher DA are considered more authoritative and can pass more link juice down to other sites (backlinks), which is very important for SEO. If your website doesn’t have a high DA, it most likely won’t rank highly. Fortunately, you can increase your DA by optimising your website and building a better search engine optimisation foundation, by following this guide.

The domain authority (DA) of a website is based on a score from 1 to 100 that Google gives each page of a website it ranks. The higher a page’s DA, the more likely it is that Google will rank that page higher than a page with a lower DA.

Backlink Profile

In simple terms, a backlink profile the number of other websites pointing back to yours (inbound links). The more websites linking to yours shows that your site must offer value — though it is important that these backlinks are of high quality or can actually have a negative effect on your SEO. I am sure you have seen emails of people promising to sell backlinks, these are usually of low-quality websites and are categorised as spammy, so can in fact harm your SEO, and get your site blacklisted for search results.

Selling Snake Oil SEO

Many black-hat SEO firms, who promise “1st page on google” SEO services, yet often don’t deliver, work by linking many spammy low-quality sites to yours, thus increasing your backlinks — this may work in the short term, but it is likely you will be penalised once caught out — which can be detrimental to companies as they will no longer be listed in any search results. So don’t try to cheat.

You can monitor your backlinks with a backlink analysis tool or backlink tracker, MOZ is one of the more widely used tools out there.

With good backlinks and time — your DA (Domain Authority) will increase, thus giving your website more credence in the eyes of search engines.

Domain Authority can be checked here.

8. Responsive Website

Responsive web design ensures that your website is malleable enough to shift its layout according to your visitor’s device, whether that device is a laptop, desktop computer, tablet or mobile device. This means that your site will be able to fit all kinds of screens without having to make your visitors squint, or push their page to the side, to read. Most good web designers have gone responsive by this point, but if you happen to have a website that’s not, now is the time to update.

If a website is not mobile responsive, it will give a lower rank in the SERP.

You can check if your site is mobile responsive using Google’s free mobile-friendly tool.

9. Robot.txt

If you run a website, there’s a good chance you use a robots.txt file to control how search engine spiders crawl your site. It’s a plain text file that’s placed in the root directory (where you would place your index.html file) of your site, and it’s used to tell the search engines whether or not they’re allowed to crawl and index your site’s pages. If you’ve never heard of a robots.txt file, you’re not alone; it’s not a very well-known file (unlike, say, your sitemap.xml file), but it’s an important one to know about.

Sitemaps, meta tags, and other SEO (search engine optimisation) techniques are usually enough to ensure that search engines can crawl and index your pages. However, in some cases, you need to tell search engines not to crawl or index certain pages. Robot.txt is a file that lets you deliver this message to robots (crawlers and spiders) without getting your hands dirty. So, if you need to tell a search engine about a page(s) that you don’t want it crawling, you can do so with a single line in your robot.txt file.

It is important that your site is allowing itself to be indexable — if a site is undergoing maintenance or construction, there is a chance that your robot.txt is asking not to be indexed.

If you are not able to scan your site — try checking the robot.txt.

10. Sitemap

Sitemaps are a standard element of website XML sitemap protocol. It is created to allow web crawlers to index and submit your website to their search engines. XML Sitemaps are created so when the crawlers come to your website they have a clear way to get around. Having a sitemap is important because it allows search engines like Google to crawl your site and index your content. It is important to let search engines know what pages are on your site and what links are available for crawling. A sitemap also allows users to find what they need more easily. This sitemap is like a family tree, showing search engines the layout of your site, allowing for more optimal indexing.

You can upload your sitemap to google console to make sure it has the latest version periodically, though Googles bots tend to find their way around fine unless you ask them not to view certain pages.

Some SEO programs, such as RankMath and Yoast SEO plugin, automatically create your sitemap for you and keep it updated and posted to Google, so you do not need to worry about keeping it updated with every change.

Bonus: Social Media

One last factor I wish to add is off page SEO, in the form of social media. Similar to having high authority domains linking to you, it helps tremendously to have social media accounts feeding back to your website. Other forms of off page SEO could be podcasts, reviews and content marketing. Not only does this offer more backlinks, but gives your local SEO a massive boost.

Google My Business

A fast way to improve your off-page SEO is to have a Google My Business account (GMB is free). GMB will place additional information about your website in the search results, and also place you on Google maps for all to see, making is an all-important tool in digital marketing.

TL/DR

Good content = GOOD

Bad web design and buying backlinks = BAD

I hope these SEO techniques help set you on your way to success in making you an SEO expert with your SEO strategy, or at least save you money by utilising the power of search engine optimisation, and depending less on google ads.

Good luck with your SEO efforts.

Alex

(Originally posted on eggheaddesigns.co.uk)

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