SEO is, at times, a bit of an enigma. On the one hand, it is a rapidly changing industry with new technologies and standards being rolled out by the major search engines every year - on the other hand, however, the same core values continue to be central to a solid, safe and effective SEO campaign. In a nutshell, the latest techniques to improve website visibility involve publishing great content on a well-connected site – so pretty much the same as 1998. The question is, has SEO really changed?
We have been building websites for many years and while there are many technical differences between the websites that we are creating in 2016 and those that we developed in 2006, the core methods of ranking a new business site really does remain the same: build a website with interesting and useful information, with an intuitive navigation and logical architecture, and carry out a little digital marketing to get it noticed by a customers and search engines. This is a development strategy that’s pretty much unchanged, but what techniques are new? Which marketing methods are really going to help you get your website seen?
Google said earlier this year that the three most important ranking factors are content, links and RankBrain. So, let’s tackle these one at a time. First up - content.
What is content? There are essentially two types of content on a website: the content that is seen by readers and the content that aids search engines.
Your customers will very likely first see your website via either Google search or a social media post, and the first three pieces of content they see will be an image (either a logo or feature image attached to an article), a page title and a description. So, the first three pieces of content for any given page are the title, description and images; the main body of text is only seen after they click through to your site.
Google ranks pages based on hundreds of signals, of which META titles, headers, and page copy are all very much the key three factors. So, for every page on your website, ensure that these signals are well optimised to meet your customers’ needs.
Search Engine Content
Search engine content is that which benefits Google and other search engines (we’ll include social media platforms in this case). While Google uses your title and meta descriptions, it now also gathers additional information from the copy on your page, main site navigation, other internal links, external links pointing to your website and more technical site information, such as XML sitemaps, rich snippets and other Schema markup.
Making use of all these features, and ensuring that they are all up to date, will in most cases increase your organic search presence.
However, when Google talks about website content, it is not necessarily only talking about the written word. The way in which your website is designed is essentially linked to its “content”. Here, we’ll take a look at several factors that have become vital in the last few years.
Fast Loading Sites
Google has been encouraging website owners to build faster websites for several years now. Although their preferred format tends to change - we have had dedicated mobile subdomains (m.website.com), mobile top level domains (.mobi), dedicated mobile themes, responsive themes and most recently, AMP websites - the single unifying factor in all is website speed.
Make your website load as fast as possible. Google no longer tolerates slow loading websites that hog valuable bandwidth and leave customers waiting for minutes while the site finishes loading. Make your site fast, and Google will reward you.
Mobile Friendly Websites
Speed is not everything. A website that is hard to read or navigate around on a portable device, whether that be a small smartphone or a larger tablet, will not rank as well as one that provides a flawless mobile experience.
Google provides its own tool to allow web designers (and business owners!) to check that their sites are mobile friendly.
The current trend is to create responsive websites that quickly adapt to the size of the screen that is being used, so that the same site is shown to users on desktops, tablets and phones.
Links are still a fundamental factor in the ongoing process of ranking a website. When we say ‘links’, we mean both internal links within a website, such as site navigation and links with blog posts and landing pages that provide a sales funnel to service pages, and external links from authoritative websites.
One major change to SEO that we have seen in the last four years is how Google uses external links to determine the quality of a website. In 2012, Google updated its algorithm with the first Penguin Update, and has continued to improve this feature since. This has meant that some links no longer aid a website in ranking well; however, for the average business that is trying to gain greater exposure, this is not really an issue. The same rules of naturally acquiring good quality links applies - the only challenge is figuring out when a link is going to be good for the overall health of your website’s link profile, and when it is not.
So, there you have it. If you build a fast loading, mobile friendly website, that has good navigation and logical site architecture, with great content that appeals to your readers while also informing Google of what the site is about, you will get your website seen. These are the fundamental principles of building good website and they are unlikely to change any time soon!
This blog was written by Danielle Haley of Freelance SEO Essex, a search engine optimisation company based in Great Baddow Essex. For more information on SEO, PPC or any other aspect of search marketing, please contact the agency directly.