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 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, regularly updated, keyword optimised content to your website is an important part of increasing your search rankings - while creating a better user experience for your users.
How does Google index content?
Googlebot - Google's web crawling bot - crawls web pages and creates an index of the words it finds throughout the page, as well as where they are (e.g. content tags, title tags and alt tags). When users enter search queries, Google tries to return pages that best match searchers' intent. Relevance is determined by over 200 factors, but perhaps most importantly PageRank - a guage of the value and importance of your site based on the links that point to it.
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 - without keyword stuffing. 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 as early as possible.
Include target keyword in the page’s URL
While URL's don't have a huge impact on search rankings, it’s still a good idea to to include your target keywords in your page’s URL to help indicate to users what to expect by clicking on links to your page. Use keywords in URLs with care - semantic accuracy is key for usability.
Another benefit is that when URLs are copied and pasted, and when there's no anchor text used in a link, the URL itself serves as that anchor text (which is still a powerful signal for rankings).
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.To correctly render in all browsers, URLs must be shorter than 2,083 characters.
Although, again, bear in mind that URLs are only a minor ranking factor search engines use when matching a particular page to a search query, so as much as it’s worth taking into account, making sure a URL is semantically accurate is key.
Another benefit is that as URLs get copied and pasted, and when there's no anchor text used in a link, the URL itself serves as that anchor text (which is still a powerful signal for rankings).
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. It’s recommended that there are 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
Study - Outgoing Links Used as ranking Signal
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