Speaking Google’s Language
Search Engine Optimisation Basics
How do you describe your website to a machine? That’s the foundation of great SEO. SEO provides clues about your website that robots understand. The more complete the information you provide, the more likely your site will be indexed and ranked.
Google uses 200+ ranking signals. These signals contain a lot of information about your website and particular pages – from what your content says, to how popular it is. Improving these signals or completing more of them can make your website more findable and help search engines serve it to the most relevant users.
The most important include:
Title Tag – A title tag tells users and search engines what the page’s topic is. (It’s the title that appears on the search engine results page (SERP) and in the title bar of your web browser.) Title tags are included in the <head> element of the HTML document. For maximum SEO value, title tags should be between 50-60 characters and include relevant keywords.
Meta Description – Your meta description is a concise overview of what’s included on the page. This shows up in the Title and URL on the SERP. Ideally, each page’s meta descriptions should be 165 characters or fewer description of what the page is about and include relevant keyword(s) or phrases that your targeting.
Image Alt Tags – Image alt tags describe an image within the HTML. Crawlers can’t scan images. Instead, they read the HTML for clues about what an image is. Therefore, you can include text describing what’s included in your image. If your business sold smartphones, for example, you might include keywords in your alt tags, e.g. “iPhone 8, black, 64GB” for a picture of an iPhone.
Unique Content – Duplicate content is content that appears on your website in multiple places. If you use multiple URLs for a single page, that can ding you for duplicate content. Or if you borrowed text from a distributor’s website – that can also result in a duplicate content penalty. Crawlers don’t know what to do when they find duplicate content. Which page is the most relevant for users? The result: Traffic gets split between the two pages. Keep your content unique across all pages, and if you’re using multiple URLs, use canonical URL tags to make crawlers aware.
Canonical URLs – Sometimes, a web page can be accessed by multiple URLs. For example, you have a single page with a unique URL for mobile and desktop. Therefore, in your HTML file, you need to tell the bot which URL is the master copy and which is a duplicate. For example, if you had a mobile and desktop page using the same URL, for your mobile page, you might add a canonical URL for the homepage, letting the crawler know your mobile page is a duplicate.
Snippets – Have you noticed ratings stars or recipe information in search results? Both are examples of rich snippets. Essentially, snippets are structured data in your HTML code, i.e. reviews, author by-lines, videos, music, etc. By adding these snippets, you’re helping the crawler understand what’s on your page and providing more information for users.
Keywords and Keyword Phrases – Use relevant keywords and keyword phrases in your content. These are exact words/phrases and synonyms that clearly explain the information on your page. And you should use them to create a clear hierarchy. Use keywords in your Title Tag, meta description, in your H1 and H2 tags, as well as the body of the webpage. Keywords help search engines determine which pages are most relevant for users.
Avoid Keyword Stuffing – Be wary of overusing or spamming keywords. Carefully use keywords and keyword synonyms. Don’t overuse a specific keyword; instead, use variations that mean the same thing and place them strategically throughout the body of the page. Use keywords naturally. Dramatically increasing the number of keywords on a page will not help to rank. Your content should be easy to read, meaningful, unique and hopefully interesting to a reader.