Much has been written about the importance of SEO (search engine optimisation) to businesses in their efforts to grow their enterprises online and make more of their websites. The trouble is, with no formal qualifications required to tout your services as an ‘Internet marketer’, it’s often impossible to tell whether someone really knows what they’re talking about, or whether they’re applying a series of industry buzzwords to cover an alarming lack of knowledge.
You can visit SEO blogs, forums, websites, and webinars, receiving tens of thousands of snippets of advice about what you should, and shouldn’t, be doing – yet the sad truth is much of it has been written by people with less understanding of how Internet marketing works than the people following the advice.
Give Google what it wants
The first question to ask yourself is “what does Google want?” Google is a search engine. It’s THE search engine. It commands over 90% of the search traffic here in the UK, dwarfing its competitors Yahoo! and Bing. It gets this level of dominancy not because of its branding or because of its advertising, but because it works. When people search Google, they’re looking for information, answers and solutions. They search for these things on Google because it gives those answers better than any other search engine. Google works hard to remove results which are of low quality, devoid of useful information, don’t answer the searcher’s questions and appear in duplicate. Only the best sites rank well in Google, because Google wants it that way (and it makes a lot of money from doing this by the way) so, in order for your website to enjoy the lofty heights of Google’s front page, it’s quite simple what you need to do… give Google exactly what it wants.
This applies to any website, business or industry. If your website is filled with original, useful and relevant information regarding your industry, Google will be more than happy to offer up your website to anyone searching for information. As a golden rule, ask yourself this: If you were looking for information on your industry, and you found your own website, would you be happy – or would you look for a better resource? If you’d look elsewhere, so will someone else searching online and so will Google.
This means SEO is really quite simple. To ‘optimise’ your website for search engines, you need to give them what they’re looking for. They’re after content, and lots of it. Update your website with regular news from within your industry. Publish helpful guides, FAQs, articles, interviews, lists, dos and don’ts, white papers, infographics, videos… as much as you can about your industry. The more you publish on your website, the quicker your website expands, the richer with content it becomes and the more enticing for Google it turns out to be.
Of course, there are some things you can do to increase the chances of your content ranking within Google, and they’re fairly easy to implement too. Here is a quick rundown of some content optimisation techniques:
Ensure all of your page titles are unique
The page title is what appears in the Title Tag, at the top of the browser window and as the hypertext in Google when you complete a search. It is the single most important on-page factor when it comes to SEO, so it’s perhaps surprising many websites fail to ensure all of their pages have unique Title Tags or, in some cases, have no Title Tags at all. Without unique Title Tags, named accordingly to correspond to the content of the page, how can you expect Google to find the correct pages of your website when someone makes a search? If you stored all of your own documents on your computer and named them all the same, or named them all Untitled Document, you’d struggle to find what you’re looking for too. Google is good, but it’s not that good. Make your Title Tags unique and descriptive, but don’t fill them with keywords – there’s no point them ranking in Google if people don’t click on them because they think they’re spam.
Don’t use a Meta Description Tag
This is a controversial one, and something many SEOs may disagree with. It’s also not always appropriate but, when dealing with content, it’s 100% relevant. The Meta Description Tag appears in the head of your website’s page and, contrary to some beliefs, has no impact on your website’s rankings within Google whatsoever. However, where the description tag does come into play is in your website’s click-through rate when your website appears in Google’s results pages. The description tag is displayed on Google when your website’s pages rank for searches. If you don’t have a description tag, Google will use what it sees as being the most relevant snippet from your page to match the user’s search – and a description displayed on Google which is relevant to the search will yield a higher click-through rate than a default description which is not relevant.
Sometimes, Google will choose to show a relevant snippet anyway – but you can force it to do this by leaving out your Meta Description Tag altogether.
Use social sharing options
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ – whether you’re an avid user of these sites, or whether you loathe them with all your heart, you can’t ignore them when it comes to getting more traffic. Each of these sites offers specific sharing buttons and code for website owners to place on their pages to allow readers to share content with others. It is essential you make use of these features, not just for the direct social traffic, but because Google also considers social shares with its algorithm. Facebook has over 1 billion users, Twitter has over 500 million – not offering a simple ‘1-click’ sharing option means your content is missing out on a potential deluge of traffic.
Always allow discussion and never close off comments
Many blogs and websites choose not to allow comments, or to close comments after a defined period of time, such as a few months. This is a mistake as a piece of content on a website isn’t a fixed entity – it’s a living, breathing thing which grows and expands over time. The more comments a page receives, the more interactive it is, the more it grows and the more content it possesses. Google loves to see websites which are hives of activity, and articles which receive comments months and even years after they were written will rank well within its pages, above similar articles which receive no feedback.
Remember though, it’s still about the content
You can spend minutes on your SEO, or you can spend years perfecting it, but the important thing to remember is that SEO merely allows Google to more easily index your website; the content on your site gives Google a reason to rank it accordingly. It’s what you write that counts.