Mastering the art of search engine optimisation (SEO) can be a steep learning curve. There are countless theories on how to make sure your website ranks highly when people search for relevant terms online, but while some SEO strategies are on the money, others are so far wrong that they can end up harming your business.
Fortunately, there are some tried and true basics you can use to improve the visibility of your website in online searches. I thought I’d share a few SEO basics learnt from experience (and hours of reading).
But first, what is SEO?
Search engine optimisation is the art of making your website look attractive to the automated tools search engines use to assess websites.
These tools check if you are offering relevant information to the person who is searching, based on the terms they have searched for. The factors influencing search rankings include website age, originality of content, website hosting, frequency of external links to your content and much more.
The basics of SEO
Use fresh, original content that relates to what you do
If there’s one tip you take away from reading this blog, I suggest you use original content on your website. This might be a series of blog posts, articles, images or videos.
For those without the resource to make strategic SEO a priority, a focus on quality, original content means you stand a better chance of staying above changes in algorithm while delivering visitors to your website the best possible experience.
Websites with unique content receive more visitors. They may be the first or second to explore a topic in a new and novel way, or share something original. This makes it easier for them to rank highly in search engines because few other sites are talking about the same subjects. Regularly published, original content helps search engines identify that you are active and serious about your online presence.
There is also a bonus to be had from keywords within original content relating to what you do. One client I wrote for was in the recreation industry. Once enough articles were written, their site could be found in nearly every web search relating to their realm of expertise, thanks to keywords found in original articles on their website.
Choose your words carefully
When people think about SEO, keywords are likely to be the first thing that springs to mind. And for good reason. Without understanding the search terms your audience uses, it’s more difficult to deliver searchable content.
Keywords are important when it comes to SEO, and a strategy for creating and seeding web content keywords can be a valuable investment. As an example, a recent SEO update of web content for a client hosting a nationwide competition resulted in a 50 per cent increase in pageviews for that year.
Page headings are also important to consider, as these will form the ‘headline’ of search engine listings. As with journalistic writing, the initial paragraph of written content is also vitally important. It should not only summarise the content presented on the page, but also be engaging.
Consider tools to boost visibility and identify keywords
If you have the time to explore SEO in-depth, free and paid search tools can assist you in optimising web content and attracting visitors. There are a lot of tools out there, but one of the best known tools for attracting visitors is ‘Google AdWords’, a paid service that delivers search suggestions based on keywords and the searcher’s browsing history.
While you may or may not want to invest in pay-per-click advertising of this nature, it can be interesting to browse the Google AdWords Keyword Planner to see which terms are popular, and which might appeal to your audience without major competition. Other tools such as Moz or Yoast can assist you in identifying keywords and setting a solid SEO strategy.
Get quality links to your website
If websites with a good reputation provide ‘backlinks’ to content on your website, this will provide a boost to SEO.
While links from reputable websites hosted on .gov or .edu domains (.govt.nz or .ac.nz in my stomping ground New Zealand) may be gold, links from sites with a dubious reputation are unlikely to bring much benefit, and may negatively affect searchability.
What about duplicate content?
You might expect duplicating content across multiple websites would expand your audience. In reality, it may have the opposite effect. Duplicate content can be viewed as unoriginal and uninteresting, or even manipulative plagiarism, thus reducing online visibility.
But there are situations in which duplicate content is justified, for instance announcements relevant to multiple organisations might get published on three or more websites near-verbatim, or a website blog might be published to a platform like Medium.
If receiving lower search engine rankings for repeated content seems daunting, there are ways around this. One way is to establish a canonical link. In essence, this tells search engines the duplicate content should be considered as a reproduction, and the original content should be credited.
Asking questions is a massive part of optimising websites. Think about what you can control, search it and see if it comes up. If you didn’t find it, try using a more advanced or specific search. If you found it, does it look like you want it to? If not, why not? Which results page does your content appear on? Does data back up your thoughts?
Understanding why is essential. Many answers can be found with a short Google search, but there are also SEO experts who are happy to help. If you want professional advice on increasing your online visibility, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.