What is SEO? A Quick Guide & Tips
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is an activity which is designed to optimise a website, so it appears higher in search engine results.
Search engines, like Google, want to show searchers the best and most relevant results. To know what it should show to searchers, it uses ‘bots’ and algorithms to score websites – so it can decide what’s suitable for search terms, words and queries.
For example; if someone searches for ‘black shoes in Derby’ – Google wants to show searchers sites and pages which are relevant to that query – and it uses a range of factors to determine if a web page is the right answer. Factors it considers range from the content on a page, to what sites link to that page and even, how long people similar to that searcher have spent on the page, previously.
To help you better understand what affects where your website appears in organic search results, we have listed the five elements which matter – and why.
1. Check your meta titles and descriptions
Titles and meta descriptions are what appear in search engine result pages (SERPs) and explain what a link is leading to. Google and other search engines use the quality of this information as a ranking factor, using it to determine what a page is about and what it should show for. Meta titles and descriptions need to be accurate and honest as if they are misleading – this can lead to a high bounce rate (which can lower rank).
Optimising meta titles and descriptions is also crucial to click-through-rate (CTR). Engaging, well-written titles and descriptions can help to increase the number of people who click from the SERPs onto a web page.
2. Fix Technical Errors
Technical website errors can make a user’s experience poor and signals to Google that a website may be of low quality. Errors like broken links can be frustrating to users and leave them with a bad experience, which often means a visitor may be less likely to return or convert into a customer.
Technical errors come in all shapes and sizes – and should be prioritised. For most websites, it’s impossible to fix every error identified, as some are part of the design of a website or a result of the CMS being used. Errors should be prioritised in order of how they will affect visibility and rank.
3. Page speed matters
Page speed is the time it takes for a web page to fully display – on either a desktop or mobile device. Page speed is an important ranking factor and can affect where a website ranks in search engine results.
There are many tools out there which allow you to test your website’s page speed. Assessing your page speed is important – and once completed, you will have an idea of what needs to be fixed on your site and why. Google’s search results are now ‘mobile first’. Mobile first means that if a site has a mobile URL or AMP page, they will show instead of a desktop URL.
Even though ranking is not directly affected by mobile-first, it is still important to be aware of and make sure your website loads quickly on mobile devices. Ranking is affected by normal SEO practices such as mobile friendliness and device page speed as it has always been, but it does not affect a site’s mobile-first rank.
4. Backlinks = Quality
All backlinks are great for SEO, right? Wrong. Backlinks are links to a website from other external websites. From Google’s point of view, backlinks are valuable because they signal a website’s relevance to search engines. Google describes a backlink as a “vote of confidence by one website to another”. A link indicates that your website is relevant to a specific subject based on the anchor text and content used. The more links a site has, the more relevant it’s likely to be search term or topic – as lots of other sites have chosen to link to them.
It’s not just about quantity. Links from irrelevant or spammy sites can have a detrimental effect – so it’s vital that the backlinks you have and look to gain, are from high quality, relevant websites.
5. Content Matters
Content can be a useful tool in helping your pages rank in search engines. Search engines, like Google, read the content to establish what your website is about and then determine where it should rank in their search results. Good quality, informative content can help increase your chances of ranking as search engines want to provide searchers with the best, most useful content.
Creating content which is optimised for SEO can be tricky, but many tools can help establish what needs doing. Some of the top things to be aware of are including your targeted keywords naturally in your content. Don’t try and stuff keywords in every sentence; make sure they make sense in the content. Google regards ‘keyword stuffing’ as a signal of poor content.
Every piece of content you upload should be unique and not duplicated – duplicate content is disliked by search engines as it doesn’t want to show unoriginal content. Also, make sure to be reviewing and updating old content on your website to ensure it is still relevant and useful.
Written by: Becky Morris
Job title: Digital Marketing Assistant
Bio: My role is to make sure websites are optimised for search engines (SEO). I am responsible for reviewing and analysing sites and their incoming links, making sure they receive organic search engine traffic and gain higher ranking positions.