With all the talk of GDPR recently, we thought it was time for a change of subject.
How’s your web traffic?
Particularly in light of the new rules, encouraging people to your website is arguably more important than ever. Here we revisit some SEO basics – the nuts and bolts of search best practice – to make sure your site is as visible online as possible.
Revisiting the SEO fundamentals
Search engine optimisation tends to fall into two parts – the creative and the technical. The creative element is all about content and links – creating the hooks and shop windows that will make your site appeal to Google and the other search engines.
The technical element can often be the poor relation – the less glamorous aspect of optimisation. And because it can be more difficult to get right, it’s often neglected. But it’s definitely no less important.
In a blog, digital agency Econsultancy uses the analogy of a train to illustrate technical SEO, saying that ‘no matter what the carriages look like (on-page content), if the engine (technical SEO) doesn't work properly, nobody will ride the train’.
Here we look at five SEO ‘housekeeping’ actions – technical and non-technical – you can take now to ensure your site is optimised.
1. Make sure your content is Google-friendly
Which of course, actually means ‘reader-friendly’. Because what Google and the other search engines are trying to assess when they crawl your content is ‘how user-friendly is this site?’
So instead of trying to write for search engines, focus on writing content that works for your audience. Read more about why high quality content is so important in the era of SEO.
And did you know that Google publishes its own digital content style guide? The guide is a really useful resource for anyone producing content for the web, outlining Google’s style and content preferences.
Of course, if you work in a regulated industry, any online content has to meet regulatory standards as well as Google’s ones. Find out how to write copy your Compliance team can approve first-time to reduce the time taken to publish new pages.
2. Fix broken links
Whether they’re within your site or external pages that you link to, a broken link makes for a sub-optimal user experience – and will lose you brownie points with the search engines.
If pages move, change or are deleted, your links may lead to non-existent sites or irrelevant content. One of the criteria search engines use to determine your rank is whether your outbound links connect to relevant, content-rich pages.
Make sure you regularly audit all the links – both internal and external – on your site to make sure they’re still active.
3. Make it mobile-friendly
Earlier this year, Google rolled out its ‘mobile first indexing’.
What is it? In a nutshell, it means that Google uses the mobile version of your website to assess and rank content.
With mobile devices estimated to account for 57 percent of all web traffic, it makes sense for search engines to prioritise the mobile experience when ranking sites.
If you have a separate mobile version of your website, or your mobile site is slow or not intuitive, this will count against you when it comes to SEO.
Read more about the design, style and writing standards you need to meet to make your site mobile-friendly and take steps to address any shortcomings. You can also use Google’s own mobile-friendly test tool to see how friendly your site currently is.
4. Check your meta-descriptions
For the less technically-minded, a term like ‘meta-description’ can be an instant turn-off. But stick with it, as these nuggets of content play a big role in your SEO success.
The meta-description is the text that appears in Google when your page appears in its rankings (like the Perivan Technology one below):
Unfortunately, it’s often overlooked – written once when the page is created and never revisited. But if your content, objectives or business focus has moved on, it’s important to update your meta-description in tandem.
And even if your site hasn’t changed, the external landscape might have done. In December 2017, Google increased the maximum length of these search results to 320 characters (from 160) – so if you haven’t looked at yours since then, you may be missing a chance to say more about your firm.
5. How fast is your site?
Page speed – the speed at which your site loads – is due to become a ranking factor next month.
Although it won’t be one of the primary factors used to determine rank, it will form part of the suite of things Google looks at to decide where your page appears.
And because slow page speed is one of the chief causes of user frustration – and of course, user experience is already a key ranking factor – speed really is a vital element of your SEO toolkit.
Page speed really is a technical aspect of website development – and as such often the preserve of developers rather than marketers. But it’s worth checking the speed of your site to make sure it’s not scuppering your SEO efforts.
If it is very slow, look at ways you can edit the content – perhaps working with technical experts to ensure you don’t lose functionality or Google-friendly features in the process.
Keep on top of SEO to keep on top of the rankings
SEO isn’t a one-time job. As these tips show, maintaining or improving your rankings demands regular attention and reviews of your site’s design and content.
Some automated workflow systems incorporate web-testing capabilities, which can help you to manage your site. Using one of these can help you to determine how mobile-friendly pages are as you build them, rather than once they’re live – always a bonus.
With mobile compatibility a key and growing element of SEO success, you can read more in our 10 ways to make your website mobile-friendly. It has useful tips on how to deliver a mobile-friendly experience. Download a free copy here.
Nothing in this document should be treated as an authoritative statement of the law. Action should not be taken as a result of this document alone. We make no warranty and accept no responsibility for consequences arising from relying on this document.