Search engine optimisation (SEO) can be a vast, confusing area for most to bravely venture into. When you are entrenched in a website with multiple, conflicting strategies and changing goals it can be difficult to point your ship in the best direction or even know where your destination should be. Marketing teams can easily become bogged down with so many different industry guides, best practice methods and shared neighbourly techniques that it can be challenging to draw breath.
In recent years search engines have again moved forward by adjusting and upgrading their service in an attempt to deliver the best user experience for their visitors. Providing intelligent search results that now take an incredible amount of factors into account, so much more than just the basic steps that once earned you a top spot on Google. In this blog, I’ll share latest tips and trends that you can use when optimising your current SEO strategy.
1. Walk before you run
Ensure your basics are covered before embarking on more focused SEO techniques. These should already be incorporated into your strategy, for example: optimise your page titles; keep URL structure short, descriptive and categorical; make sure your site has not outgrown the web server resulting a drop in site speed; use correct HTML heading tags, avoiding generic or conflicting titles. Having a sound foundation is vital to build your web presence upon.
2. Create content that earns links
A few years ago when Google released their adjusted search engine algorithm, SEO experts across the globe proclaimed ‘content is king’. Let us clarify this overused buzz-phrase. Relevant, original, shareable content is king. Inbound links are still one of the key factors in how search engines rank your website. An increase in shared content linked from external websites will improve how search engines position your pages and also perceive your overall website. This is especially true when the inbound links come from a source with a greater authority than your site, almost in an endorsement setup. Search engines will perceive these links as stronger than others and add increased value to your site because of this.
“But then we stumble upon that abandoned section of PDFs dating back to 1998. Then we’re in a meeting and so-and-so pipes up to say actually we can’t possibly get rid of that… or that… or that… and by the way, the CEO still wants her letter on the homepage.”Sarah Wachter-Boettcher, Content Strategist talking at Industry 2015
Sarah Wachter-Boettcher, Content Strategist talking at Industry 2015
Aim to keep your content on topic. Tidy out the unnecessary content weighing your site down allowing you to invest your time on the content that will deliver results. View your website as your prized possession – not the company archive for everything including that old kitchen sink.
3. Align your content and SEO teams
Pushing your teams to work together will allow all parties to understand how and why they should adhere to best SEO practices. Content teams may not be familiar with character limits or basic white hat SEO techniques that could massively improve their page ranking. SEO teams may not be familiar with exact content topic or context to be able to adjust fields by themselves. As always, communication is key, and avoiding content chaos should be a principal goal in your strategy.
4. Prioritise mobile SEO
Ignoring users who visit your site on mobile devices is clearly shooting yourself in the foot, but this has been a tactic that has been pressed for a few years now. This should be ingrained in any SEO strategy. Take this a step further and take a deeper look at your mobile support. User experience on mobile devices is another growing factor in search engine algorithms – Google now favours mobile-friendly websites in its search results. If you have an automatic redirect to separate mobile specific website, make sure the user is redirected to the relevant page within it rather than being bounced to the mobile homepage, then having to take extra effort to relocate the original content. Avoid unplayable content by using HTML5 standards for animations, cross- platform compatible video embedding. Design mobile user interfaces for ‘fat fingers’, avoid window popups and give Flash animations a very wide berth with a rather large bargepole in hand.
5. Use an analytical and reporting process that works
Measuring how your web site is performing has become second nature in web development. More often than not the basics are covered by Google Analytics, providing a complex array of statistics about visitors to your website. But what do these statistics really mean? Analytical data by itself is meaningless and needs interpreting to become a useful tool to move forward with. Reports should be straight to the point, in context, easy to understand and should not become just another mundane regular process. As well as highlighting the key gains over a period the report should also show where to improve. There should be clear and achievable action points that will benefit the website when carried out. Improve your report content and take action on the results.
A good example of an effective modern SEO strategy in effect can be seen on the website of NHS England. An overall tidy and organised structure covering the basics of SEO, featuring up to date and relevant healthcare related key stories on the homepage. They use a responsive design to deliver a mobile optimised layout that avoids the pitfalls other approaches may encounter. Their mobile style also features touch friendly navigation elements. Most of their inbound links are probably down to their position and authority as an organisation but their content also begs to be shared. An effective yet subtle optimisation of a very busy website.
When there are such a variety of methods and techniques to implement on our own sites, what is the best way to put these into effect? In my experience, comprehensive guidelines can be exhausting to follow to the letter and can often become redundant and quickly outdated. Teams can easily see change as painful, frustrating and time consuming by default. Tackle this by making change achievable. Start with small adjustments that don’t overwhelm and sell further changes focusing on the benefits achieved over the difference in process.
We cannot become an SEO sensei in a day, or even in five steps. Aim to take these small actions and integrate them into your SEO process. Hard work will pay off and cheap shortcuts won’t last – SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. Investing in the latest techniques will result in an enhanced and more impactful site for your company now and in the future.