This month, I continue and conclude with some practical tips you can apply to boost your website rankings fast. Please keep in mind that SEO is a deeply complex and is forever changing so this guidance is intended only to give you the basics.
What sort of things influence how a website ranks?
Experts all have different approaches but there are some hard and fast rules most agree on. Keep in mind, though, that what is relevant today may not be tomorrow as Google’s (and others’) algorithm, and the way they rank pages, changes around 8 times per year. At TFA, our methodology is based around three area: On page (visible website content), under the bonnet (code and structure) and off page (external content and backlinks). I will explore each of these in turn and give you some things you can do yourself.
First things first, some quick wins.
Does your website run on the WordPress framework? If so, there is a plugin called Yoast you should install as this will help to guide you, and even automate, some of the most basic changes you can make What it does is very limited so it is no substitute for expertise; you will find it very helpful, however, and it’s free. There are other plugins for other content management frameworks but this is the one most recommended.
The way you build your website pages, how they connect together and all of the content you put on them (not just the words, images, media and documents too) are all taken into consideration by Google. Think of your site as being like a tree; your home page is the trunk then all the other pages branch out from there. Google applies a score to your whole website (Domain Authority) and also to every page (Page Authority) based on how reputable the content is. Broadly, these scores are based on factors like how much traffic they receive, how many pages you have, how long they have been there, how often they are updated and how they link together. Your aim should be to have a page of content about every single thing you do and then, in turn, these pages should “drill down” into related information e.g. variants, case studies, blog articles, news. Avoid having a website where all of the content scrolls on one page; just as a human does, Google wants to see structure and logical order to information. Again, think about the branches of a tree and expand your site as much as you can.
On page content.
The key to success is driving traffic. One of the highest traffic pages we have seen was for a client who made sensors. By including a simple conversion tool on the page, the traffic went through the roof from engineers searching for such a tool (and these are their target customers)!
One of the most useful pages you can introduce, if you do not have one, is a Frequently Asked Questions page. Why? Because a large percentage of searches are questions, by intent, and are not direct. For example, “What accreditations should a plumber have?” means someone is probably looking for a plumber and this can lead them to your page.
As a general rule, make sure the content your produce for each page adheres to this set of rules; always be thinking about the keywords you are trying to rank for and make sure you have done your research:
- The page loads in under 5 seconds as images and media are well optimised.
- The page is mobile responsive (the layout and text adjust for smaller screens) and it passes Google’s mobile-ready testing tool.
- The page title and URL contain keywords that reflect what’s on the page. You can use hyphens e.g. “industrial-metal-washers-copper-round-2mm.html”
- There is a meta description that summarises the key parts of the page.
- There is an H1 page headline that contains a keyword.
- All images and media have filenames using the same schema as above and also alt tags that describe what they are (this helps them to appear in Google Image searches).
- Content is not too thin and is at least 500 words per page.
- Include your keywords without over-using them. Find different words that mean the same thing and try not to repeat the same keywords more than 2-3 times.
- Have at least one link on the page to other content that expands on that topic.
Once you have completed the above checklist, you can manually resubmit the page URL in Google’s Search Console and ask it to re-index the page. Typically, the results of your changes can be seen within a few hours — not weeks, as they were in the early days!
Under the bonnet.
Unless you are a web developer, there will be little you can do here. This is where we undertake around 20% of our SEO work. What you absolutely can and must do is make sure you have a sitemap.xml file, which is an index showing Google the structure of your site. We had one client with a website of over 2,000 products and not one page was indexed in Google. Why? Because this one file was missing! Once fixed the entire website indexed overnight.
Off-page – building routes into your site.
You want as many other sites and resources as possible linking back to your website, BUT they should be reputable sites. 10,000 backlinks built by a questionable offshore business will give you less benefit than 10 links from high traffic, highly trusted websites. It is quality over quantity as Google gives you an aggregated link profile score. Your first stop for high-value backlinks should be Google My Business, Yell.com and LinkedIn. All of these will enable you to create a free profile for your business that adds lots of “trust” value to your domain and page scores. The more of them you have, the better, but you don’t need that many to see a big difference.
Hopefully, that helps you build your understanding of SEO, some of the work that goes into a good strategy and the difference simple changes can make. Get more content, get it optimised and watch your website traffic climb!
Written for, and featured in Pulse Magazine