Content and content marketing is something you hear talking about every day now and not without a reason. Good, focused content is very powerful in adding SEO value to your website. A good story will keep your readers interested and optimised content will bring your website to the top of the Google search. The key here is having a clear plan as to what exactly each of your pages is about.
Say you are a small business selling different types of homemade ice cream. The first thing you want to do is to do a keyword research finding out which are the terms people look for when they look for homemade ice cream. There is a bunch of tools both free and paid ones you can use. Here is just a quick selection of our favourite ones:
Once you have a clear idea of what each page will focus on and which keywords you will use to make it SEO friendly all you have to do is to go ahead and write a nice piece of content. Keep in mind that at the end of the day you are writing for humans rather than machines, so make it interesting, don’t overstuff your content with keywords and don’t use spammy techniques.
There are lists with hundreds of things that you can do regarding on page optimisation, but let me point out a few that are the bare minimum:
Make sure your main keyword is also included in your H1. This will help Google understand what this page is about and help you rank better.
Create individual page URLs with the respective main keywords as this is also a ranking factor and generally good practice.
Make your content unique with respect to other pages on your website and the websites of your competitors. At times copying content can be tempting but it can end rather badly as Google even penalises websites for such actions.
Once you have done this and optimised the content on all your main pages, something you can consider is blogging. This is a good way to drive traffic to your website by creating relevant and unique content for your target audience. Here the key is to find either evergreen or alternatively current topics in your field that your audience could be interested in. Create blog posts with content that is comprehensive, unique and has that added value for both your customer and your company.
If you find this is something for you, you can even create content calendar and plan out how often and what kind of blog posts you are about to produce. With regards to your website, the best case scenario would be someone linking to these posts, but that is a whole different chapter.
On page optimisation
What is on page optimisation?
If you type in ‘What is on page optimisation’’ into Google you get the following definition:
‘Onpage optimization (AKA on-page SEO) refers to all measures that can be taken directly within the website in order to improve its position in the search rankings. Examples of this include measures to optimize the content or improve the meta description and title tags.’
Google is becoming more and more sophisticated as time goes by, one of the major ranking factors in the Google search engine is content relevance. How relevant is web page to the user search? That is what you now have to consider when putting your page together. What is the benefit to the end user? How will your content help or solve the user’s search. You have mere seconds to get the user’s attention with your website. The longer a user stays on your site and the more they interact with your site the better.
If you put your time and effort into these areas they will pay off with better ranking and search traffic to your website. We recommend a a tune and test method, which means you make strategic changes to your site and then wait to see how your traffic and ranking improve. Once you understand what works you can then make changes that will benefit your website and analyse those results.
Meta tags are used by search engine to determine the subject matter about your web page.
Search engine then use this information to index your site appropriately based on a user’s search. If used properly meta tags can influence the ranking and conversion (click through) to your website.
A title tag is an HTML element that should be specific to each page. This title will be visible in the search result and to have it all visible you should keep your titles between 50-60 characters. This estimation, however, can change due to different character sizes.
Well written title tags with valuable keywords will help you influence rankings and convey the subject matter as well as catch the reader’s attention. Therefore when writing your title tags you should keep in mind both your customers and the search engines that crawl your page.
While title tags are short, one-line descriptions, meta descriptions are a longer format text excerpts from the web page. Just like title tags, meta descriptions are visible in the search results. While Google would automatically select the text snippet with the searched keywords from your page it is a good idea to create specific meta descriptions for each of your pages.
Meta descriptions are not a direct ranking factor, however, they have value in increasing your click through rate (CTR). Writing an appealing copy will increase your CTR as this is the first thing people will usually see. Next, you will do much better if you avoid duplicate meta descriptions and keep them between 150 – 160 characters so that the search engine does not cut off the ending.
Heading tags are HTML elements that are formatted with h1, h2, h3 tags and so on. Over time the significance of this ranking factor has decreased yet it still is a good practice to use for on page optimisation.
To write the perfect title you will need some valuable keywords mixed up with variations as well as compelling phrases. You have to remember that at the end of the day the people are the ones who will be reading your content. And they are the ones you want to impress. Search engines, on the other hand, will crawl your site and index these heading tags to use them as ranking signals.
Friendly URL Strings
Back when the Google hadn’t rolled out the countless updates, exact match domains were a strong ranking factor that could bring your page on the top of the search. It doesn’t work the same way anymore, but there are still ways you can optimise your URL strings.
1. Make it human friendly
The rule of thumb is that the easier it is to read the URL by a human eye, the better. For example, take the following URL string.
The H1 of the page is How to become an eCommerce expert. The first thing we can see that the page title is replicated in the URL which s a good practice as it gives the user an idea what is she going to see as she clicks the string. Looking at this URL we know right away that we will be reading a blog named How to become an eCommerce expert in contrary to something like an unrelated string of numbers and letters.
2. Keywords in the URLs
While exact match domains don’t carry the value the used to, keywords are still a good sign. So if the page you have is about eCommerce expert, have this keyword in the URL. Besides, matching keywords in the URL will benefit your CTR. People use URLs to choose which search result to click.
3. Shorter URLs are better (in most cases)
This does not directly relate to SEO, but it has a bigger implication with the user experience. This is not about URLs that are under 60 characters, but if your URL string is over 100 characters, there must be a way to shorten it. Users will thank you as it will be easier to copy and share the link without losing parts of it. And as we know every share and every link is of great value.
4. Titles & stop words in the URLs
It’s a good practice to use the title of the page in the URL. You don’t have to do it always, especially if the title is too long, but this will support your keywords and assure your visitors that they are going to see exactly what they expect to.
Coming back to the earlier example https://www.bootcampmedia.co.uk/blog/how-to-become-ecommerce-expert/ the actual title of this page is How to become an eCommerce expert which is also replicated in the URL. If you look close the URL has skipped an. This is because words like and, or, a, but, of, the etc. are stop words and are not necessarily needed to include in the URLs. It’s a great way to shorten up your URLs so just use your best judgement when figuring this out.
User Friendly, Authoritative Content
While we talk a lot about about optimising content to make it more accessible for search engines, even more thought should go into making sure your content has authority. People are looking for real life solutions to their problems. No matter what is your business you need to establish a certain trust between you and your customers.
Creating an authoritative content will give you and your products more credibility. So how do you create authoritative and user friendly content?
- Offer useful solutions to your customers’ problems.
- Create content that would attract links from other credible sites.
- Make sure your content is fakt checked and reliable.
- Encourage social sharing of your content.
Your customers and search engines alike will appreciate the added value you have put in this content.
Since the beginning of Google search, Google has rolled out a large number of updates. Some of them were announced by Google but even more that were recorded by SEOs who track the different movements in rankings.
Google search algorithm is something that SEO specialists restlessly analyse to understand the causes and effects of certain SEO techniques. But as soon as a key influencer is found everything changes when a new update comes around. Here is just a small insight in the main Google algorithm updates that has changed the way rankings are assigned.
Caffeine – June 2010
This could be called one of the most important early Google algorithm updates. There were others before that but they were nowhere close as influential. Caffeine update in its core was created to speed up crawling and indexing webpages. This made the search results much more current.
Panda – February 23, 2011
Panda, also called Farmer, is an algorithm update that was focused on the quality of content. This was a major update that according to Google at that time affected almost 12% of search results. Panda influenced the rankings of pages with thin content, pages with high ad-to-content ratios, content farms and similar quality problems. Since it first rolled out in 2011 it has been refreshed and updated numerous times to Panda 4.2 in 2015.
Penguin – April, 24, 2012 (first released)
Penguin was the first major update to target websites with spammy links. Penguin was designed to penalise sites that were buying links or ones that were acquiring them through link networks. Every time a new Penguin update rolls out the sites that have taken action to remove the bad links can regain their ranking. Just like Panda, there have been numerous updates and refreshments to the Penguin update taking it to Penguin 4.0 in 2016.
Knowledge Graph – May 16, 2012
This is the first time Google started rolling out Knowledge Graph. This change affected less the ranking and more the experience of search. This was a step towards semantic search where Google started providing “knowledge panels” about certain people, places, things, companies etc.
Hummingbird (RankBrain AI)- August 20, 2013
Hummingbird (RankBrain) was designed to focus on the meaning of each word in the search query and the whole search phrase together using AI (artificial intelligence). This improved the matching the whole search phrase to the search results rather than just certain words within it. With the focus on the semantic meaning, Humminbird made the search faster and more precise.
Pigeon – July 24, 2014
This algorithm update was focused on improving the local search. With Pigeon update, Google was able to provide more precise and relevant local search results and integrate local search algorithm closely with the core search algorithm.
HTTP/SSL Update – August 6, 2014
Even though this update happened almost three years ago, this change has been a big talking point in the recent months. With this update, Google stated that it would give a preference to secure sites over ones with HTTP. While it was supposed to be a “lightweight” boost in 2014, in 2016 it became a much stronger ranking factor.
The Quality Update – May 3, 2015
This update was rolled out quietly and Google was not keen on giving any particular clues about how it works. But just as mentioned in the title, this update changed the core algorithm in how it assesses the quality of a page.
Mobile first Update April 2015 (mobilegeddon)
Google rolled out an update around April 21st 2015 and website around the globe noticed ranking changes just the day after. Mobile updates will continue to dominate the search engine rankings for the foreseeable future. Expect more updates soon.
By now you must have figured that Google rolls out update after update and most of the time SEOs don’t get any heads up of explanations. A way to keep up with the latest news on the updates is just keeping track of some reliable SEO blogs. This way even if an update comes you will get the smartest heads in the industry tackling the most likely causes and share ideas on how to cope with the results.
Keyword Targeted Content
Certainly, a big component of on page optimisation is keyword targeted content. You can very well be an expert in your business but what matters here is knowing how your target audience talks about you.
Best practice is to focus one page around one important keyword. But before you can do that you have to do a keyword research. There are a lot of ways you can do this. Let me list the few that could get you started:
- Look at your main competitors and what are the keywords they focus on.
- Write down all the terms you want your site to come up for in search results.
- Run these terms or phrases through a search engine and look at the suggested searches. These can be real gold mines.
- Next, you can go even more advanced and use keyword research tools like the ones mentioned earlier to research the volume and other metrics of keywords you are interested in.
At this stage, you can either get a copywriter to write you the targeted piece of content or do it yourself. Just remember to avoid keyword stuffing and make sure your content is lengthy enough. It depends on the page you are working on, but the optimal word count should be around 500 words or more.
Internal Links and Outbound Links
The very basic difference between internal and external links is that internal links point towards a URL on your own website while external links either come or point towards a webpage on any other domain outside your own. Both internal and outbound links can add SEO value when executed the right way, so here are some pointers to start with when creating these links.
Internal links are there mainly to help your users navigate through your website and guide them to resources or pages that might be the most useful for them at any point in your website. But they also help to establish information hierarchy and spread link juice. Here are some good practices when creating them.
Make sure you establish a clear navigation that reaches all of the pages you want the Google to rank. Creating a good hierarchy helps Google crawl your website. Besides, Google also takes into account the number of internal links pointing at one page. It takes this as an indicator of importance, therefore giving this page bigger value.
The biggest mistake you can make with regards to internal links is burying or making your main navigation invisible to Google. This will harm the ranking of all the pages in your navigation as Google will have difficulties of finding them.
Finally, anchor text is very important when creating both internal and external links. Best practice would be using a related and descriptive anchor text. For example, if you want to point towards a page of the Best songs of the 80s, you should choose words like songs, 80s music etc. in your anchor text. Make it clear what your users are going to see next!
Internal links are important, but outbound links have proved to be the single most valuable SEO tool and therefore are much more difficult to gain. Link building is a major part of SEO and there are million different takes on it, but here I will try and summarise what are the core things to know about external links.
There are two types of external links: the ones that are pointing towards your website and the ones you have on your website pointing to external sources. Gaining external links pointing towards you is what gives your website the biggest ranking boost, so let’s talk about that first.
The first thing you want to know about the external link is the value of it. This value consists of many indicators like:
- The trustworthiness of the linking domain.
- The popularity of the linking page.
- The relevancy of the content between the source page and the target page.
- The anchor text of the link.
- The number of links pointing from the source page towards the same page.
- The number of root domains linking to the target page.
- The number of alternative anchor texts used in linking to the target page.
- The ownership connections between the source and target domains.
Using black hat techniques or for instance having too many similar anchor texts can trigger spam detectors that will harm your rankings or even penalise your website.
It’s important to evaluate the points mentioned above whether you are pointing towards a different domain or you find external links pointing towards your website. Google also uses these links to find related content and establish knowledge hubs, therefore your best option is to try and get links from related websites in your industry as they will be much more relevant in the eyes of Google bots and your readers.
A very important part of page optimisation that often gets overlooked is image optimisation. Google not only crawls your text content but also your visual content. The following tips all add value to your page ranking. Make use of it!
1. Image Name
While image name might seem insignificant it actually carries SEO value. The best way to make use of this is to name your images accordingly with keyword rich titles. This way users are more likely to find your products.
2. Alt Tags
When you hover your mouse over an image you see a little caption that is where you can see an alt tag. However, alt tags are meant to substitute images that for any reason are not able to load. The alt tag will display a description of what this image is showing. This is another great way to use keywords and descriptive content to rank your website.
3. File sizes
We all love big, great quality images, but the pitfall here is that big images take longer to load and if you are opening an online store with dozens of high-resolution images on one page that will slow down your website considerably.
What you can do is reduce the file size of your images using programs like Adobe Photoshop. Here it is made really easy for you as you can just choose the option to save for web. If you don’t have access to Photoshop there are loads of other options out there that will do the job just as sufficiently.
Images are not the only things that can slow your website down. And the speed of your website is very important. Research shows that most people wait no longer than 3 seconds for a website to load. And Amazon has discovered that 1 second decrease in their page load would cost them $1.6 billion a year.
Speed is not a joke. Here are few key ways to make sure your website can keep up:
Cut down on redirects – each redirect means twice the loading time, it’s that simple.
Leverage browser caching – browser caching allows certain elements of your website to be loaded faster as the visitor comes back to your site. You can use different tools to help you do this.
To test your site speed and identify the flaws and the ways you can solve them one of our favourite tools is provided by Google. PageSpeed Insights will give you a score for both desktop and mobile version of your website and identify problems according to the urgency.