Getting your content in front of the right eyes is a huge part of success online. It’s important for any digital business that their websites are fast, user-friendly and that they rank highly in search engines.
Search engine optimisation has changed significantly over recent years - gone are the days of companies throwing hundreds of hidden keywords into their website’s code in order to rank highly in Google search results. Search engines are now very cultivated with how they assess a page’s content. It’s smart, contextual and important.
There are at least 200 ranking factors taken into account by Google, but here are some of the main criteria that affect your site’s ranking power to give you a better understanding of the basics of SEO.
How do I get my website to appear on the first page of Google?
A common question I’m asked by my clients at Onespacemedia - and there’s never a short answer unfortunately. Other than paying for expensive digital advertising services such as PPC (pay-per-click) or AdWords, getting your website listed on Google’s first page is ultimately down to the energy and accuracy of your SEO efforts. Aside from having your website setup correctly from a technical perspective, adding high-quality content to your website is an important part of increasing your search rankings - while creating a better user experience for your users.
So how can I ensure that my content is high-quality enough for Google?
First, you need to understand the method used by Google to index your content.
Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)
"Latent Semantic Indexing? But I don’t have a PhD in Mathematics!" It sounds complicated but it’s actually a fairly simple concept to understand, and your content can be very effective if you apply some basic techniques.
To put it simply, Google now uses a combination of algorithms to understand two key things:
- Your content and its context
- A user’s search intent and its relationship to specific keywords
LSI assists search engines by identifying related keywords to deliver more accurate search results.
Take the word 'squash' which could appear on pages ranging from the latest Delia Smith recipe, to an ecommerce site selling the latest Dunlop squash rackets. Search engines will use LSI keywords to build context to pages that contain “squash” to provide better search results for the user. For example, the site selling squash rackets would include LSI keywords such as 'sport', 'strings', 'ball', and 'grip'. Targeted keywords are still important and context is key in bumping your content up the rankings.
Identify your target keyword
Building your list of keywords should be the first and one of the most important parts in any SEO process - you should ensure your SEO keywords are as relevant to your audience as possible. You need to understand the keywords your audience are looking for and work hard to fold the keywords into your content. The process of identifying your keywords warrants its own article but I’ve listed some helpful resources below to help you get started:
Include target keyword in title tag
Ensure that your keyword is in the <title> tag of your webpage. Ideally, you’ll want the keyword to appear at the from of as close to the front as possible of the tag.
Include target keyword in the page’s URL
It’s still a good idea to to include your target keywords in your page’s URL. Firstly, it will help indicate to users what to expect by clicking on links to your page - important considering that URLs are clearly displayed on search results pages.
Keep your URLs short
Keywords effectiveness in URLs decrease as URL length and keyword position increases. Try to keep your URLs as definitive as possible. Including keywords in your URL and keeping URLs short can improve your site’s search visibility. Although, bear in mind that URLs are only a minor ranking factor search engines use when determining a particular page to a search query, so as much as it’s worth taking into account, make sure your URL is still useful to a user.
Include LSI keywords in your content
LSI keywords are keywords that are semantically related to your primary keyword. You need to ensure they are as relevant to your content as possible. Think about how big the internet is - your site will be rewarded with higher rankings for including relevant LSI keywords.
Longer content tends to outrank shorter content. According to a study based on 1 million Google search results, the average Google first page result contains 1890 words. Longer content also tends to naturally include more LSI keywords, which should help build context for search engines to better understand your content. It’s recommended that there’s at least 300 words of text on each page.
Use external links
Linking out to authority sources can be very positive for your SERP ranking. A study from Reboot suggests that there is a direct positive correlation between a page’s outward links and its SERP rankings. Ideally you should link to 2-5 external sources per page.
Use internal links
Not only do internal links improve website navigation for your users, but they also help distribute page authority and ranking power throughout your website. When linking your pages internally, you should consider the following:
- Use anchor links to help search engines understand the relevance of the link
- Link deep - the deeper the links the better.
- Try to avoid linking to top level links that appear in the site’s navigation
- Minimise duplicate links
- Use links that are natural for the user - search engines will positively rank good user experience
- Keep the links on a given page to a reasonable number
References and further reading
15 SEO best practices for structuring URLs
9 tips for writing great headlines in 2017
Using keywords on your website
What is latent semantic indexing and why does it matter for your SEO strategy?
What is latent semantic indexing?
Study - Outgoing Links Used as ranking Signal
We analyzed 1 million Google Search results. Here's what we learned about SEO