If you already have a website up and running but is a little bit unsure of how to get it to work at its optimum, this article is just for you!
Regardless of whether you are running a blog, or an e-commerce site, if you are handling any form of online content, you will need to understand the mechanics of the search engine in order to be able to fully optimise your site. This article will explain to you the mechanics of SEO and also share some of the best SEO practices that you can start using for your website.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is essentially the practice of making small changes to different parts of your website with the objective of increasing the quality and quantity of traffic that comes to your website by means of organic search engine results. It is the process of making your website better for search engines to crawl, index and understand your content. The better the search engine understands your website content, the higher the likelihood of your website being visible and ranked higher in the SERP.
Any online content should be published with these two purposes in mind:
- to help search engines understand and discover your content, and
- to provide useful information and material for the person using the search engine.
Do not underestimate the incremental power of any minor adjustment to your website, and do remember to look into your optimisation strategies through the lens of both the search engine as well as the user of the search engine.
Is My Website On Google?
Firstly before even starting on any SEO work, make sure that your site actually exists on Google’s index, and that a user can find your website. Each index entry is tied to a particular page on your website. It contains a brief description of the web page and also the web address or URL (Uniform Resource Locator) of that page.
If your site has been indexed by Google, this means that the page now exists on Google’s database and Google will be able to retrieve the information in each page whenever a user searches for similar or relevant content.
The easiest and quickest way to determine if your site exists on Google’s index is to simply do a Google search for your site’s URL. Enter in Google Search Bar “site:your homepage URL”. The results should show you all the pages in the website that is accounted for on Google.
Getting indexed in Google is a free and easy process as it is fully automated. Apart from setting up the website, there is nothing for you to do except to make sure that Google understands the content your website.
How Does Google Understand My Website?
Google uses Googlebots, which is an automated software, to look for information on every webpage available and subsequently update the Google Index. This process is called crawling.
To ensure that this does not happen, we have provided you with a checklist of things to do to ensure that Google understands your website:
Have Unique And Precise Page Titles
The title tag informs the search engine and the users what the topic of the particular page is. It should be placed within the <head> element of the HTML document. Each page on your website should have a unique title that is specific to the contents of that page. Try to keep the title descriptive, yet succinct.
Source: Search Console Help
Use The “Description” Meta Tag
This provides the Googlebots with a summary of what the web page is about. Unlike your brief page title, this description should adequately explain to your visitors what your web page entails.
Similar to the page title, this should be placed within the <head> element of the HTML document. Additionally, each page should have their own unique description. Furthermore, the meta tag is an important section of your web page as it provides the text selection for the snippet that is used in the Google Search Results Page (SERP).
Source: Search Console Help
- Make sure that your description meta tag contains all the necessary information users would require to determine if your web page will be useful to them or not.
- Make sure that your description is long enough to be shown in the SERP, especially on different screen sizes. Google does not impose a minimum or maximum word limit on this, but the size and length of the snippet will differ based on the type of device the user is on.
Use The Heading Tag For Content Structure
Heading tags act like visual markers to inform users and Googlebots that the text in the heading tag is important. Additionally, it also works as a precursor to indicate the type of content below it. Ease of reading is very important to your users. You may want to consider having several different heading sizes for better structure and easy navigation throughout your content.
Have Structured Data Markup
Structured data is a code that you can add to the pages in your website to describe your content to the Googlebots so that they understand and thus display your content more prominently in the SERP.
But how does it work?
If you are managing an ecommerce and have included the structured data markup in your product pages, this would help the Googlebots in displaying information that users will find useful and relevant for their search. You can add this markup to the HTML code of your webpages.
In the example below, the addition of the markup will allow Google to display the product name, product price, customer reviews and a short product description:
Additionally, Google can also use the information you provided to deliver relevant results to its users in other formats. For example, Google can pinpoint the location of your store to allow its users to find you quickly and easily. Any relevant information such as store operating hours will also be displayed.
Some elements that you can consider to insert in the markup are:
- Services / Products you are selling
- Business Location
- Business Operating Hours
- Customer Rating
- Company Logo
- Videos about your product
What Is URL?
A Uniform Resource Locator (URL) is better known as the web address. It specifies the location on a computer network. In order for your webpage to be indexed in Google, a unique URL needs to be generated for each individual webpage. Different products will need to have separate URLs. Translations of a particular webpage will also have a unique URL.
For example, if you click on the search result provided below on Fenty Beauty, the URL for that particular page will look like this:
A standard URL generally consists of these various components:
As a good SEO guideline, try to always use https://
The hostname is usually your company name and also your domain name that you use for your email. This segment is not case-sensitive.
Path, filename and query string dictates which content is being accessed. Take note that this segment is case-sensitive.
When pertaining to the homepage, the trailing slash after the hostname is optional as it leads to the same content page.
Example: https://www.mescalon.com is the same as https://www.mescalon.com/
However, for the path and filename, Google would see the trailing slash as a different URL altogether:
Example: https://www.mescalon.com/what-is-seo is NOT the same as https://www.mescalon.com//what-is-seo
Here is a checklist of things to do to ensure that Google display your website as you would have preferred:
1) Have Clear Navigation
A clear website navigation system is important for 2 reasons. It helps your visitors quickly and easily find the content that they want. It can also help search engines understand which content is important to be displayed.
All sites have a homepage or a “root” page. This is the most visited page on the site and is usually the starting place from which visitors will navigate from. You will need to determine how users will go from a general page (homepage) to a page comprising of more specific information.
Some questions to guide you along:
- Do you have enough pages around a specific topic area to create a separate page to describe these related pages?
( Homepage → Topic Page Listing → Page with Specific Information)
- Do you have a large product list that warrants multiple category and subcategory pages?
Here is an example of how a simple site navigation will look like:
2) Create Friendly URL
A clear navigational system will consist of descriptive categories and filenames. It is these descriptions which will be displayed to your visitors. A long and convoluted URL with few familiar words can look scary to your visitors.
Confusing and unfriendly URL tends to look like this:
A meaningful URL that is useful and easily understandable by all visitors will look like this:
- Avoid generic page names such as “page1.html” as these are meaningless to the visitor
3) Use Breadcrumb Lists
A breadcrumb is the series of internal links at the top or bottom of the webpage. This allows your visitor to quickly navigate back to the previous segment, or even to the homepage. Breadcrumbs would commonly start with the homepage, and then list the navigational sequence (from left to right) that helps the visitor get to that specific page.
A good breadcrumb list will look like this:
- Create a naturally flowing navigational system with clear hierarchy.
- Do not over-link and have a complicated web of navigational links. If visitors feel the need to rely on the internal link structure to search for something, this means that your navigation system is too complex already.
- Always use text to control the navigation as it also helps Googlebots to crawl and understand your website.
- A navigational page is for your visitors, which a sitemap is for the search engine.
- Always fix all broken links on your website
4) Have Useful 404 Pages
There will be times when your visitors come to a page that does not exist on your website. This could be due to a broken link, or typing in the wrong URL. A personalised 404 page that guides the visitors back to a working page, or back to the homepage enhances the user experience. Design your 404 page to be consistent with the rest of your site and ensure that the message is aligned to the company’s branding.
How To Optimise Your Website?
Now that you are aware of how Googlebots extract information from your website to be displayed to your visitors, and also some practical ways to organize your website, what’s the next step?
A natural advancement would be to optimise your website, which is essentially to make small changes that enhances your website performance.
1) Create Quality Content
Put yourself in the shoes of your visitor and provide interesting content that is relevant to them. Your visitors are able to distinguish good quality content from bad ones. They will also naturally direct other people to websites that delivers valuable information. It is this organic endorsement that forms the basis of your online brand reputation to Google as well as other users.
Source : Search Console
2) Cater To Various Types of Users
Ensuring excellent user experience a very important factor in website optimisation. In this case, you will need to find out how different types of users search for the same piece of content.
A football fan will immediately search for FIFA, which is a well-known acronym in the football world. However, someone who is new to the sport might search for football world cup.
Both users actually have the same search intention but through different search queries. It is important that you are able to understand this difference in search behaviour and cater to them using a good mix of keyword phrases in the content.
Google Ads provides you with a free tool, “Keyword Planner” to help you find other relevant keywords that you can use in your content. It also provides you with an approximate search volume for each keyword for you to assess if the keyword is useful to you or not.
- Create easy-to-read content
- Organise topics distinctly and have a clear structure in your content
- Regularly publish new content
3) Establish and Maintain User Trust
A website that has good reputation is also one that is trustworthy. Visitors need to feel that you are knowledgeable in your field, and is qualified to furnish them with your insightful and expert opinion on the topic.
Transparency is key. For e-commerce sites, all financial transactions should have obvious customer service information to help your visitors resolve any issues faced. News sites should provide information on the publisher of the content.
Make sure that the content published is factual, clearly written, and complete. If you are providing information about a particular product that you are selling, make sure that the images and information provided is sufficient and describes the product accurately.
4) Use Links Appropriately
Links on your webpage can be internal or external. Internal links are those that lead the visitor to other related pages on your website. External links are those that lead the visitor to content on other websites. Make sure you use suitable anchor text so that both the users and search engines understand the content of the page that you are linking to.
- Avoid generic anchor text such as “page” or “click here”
- Avoid using the URL as the anchor text
- Have clear differentiation between anchor texts and normal texts
- Fix any broken links
5) Use “alt” Attribute
It is inevitable that your website will contain images. The “alt” attribute allows you to define the alternative text for the image in the case that it fails to be displayed. This is useful if your visitor is using a screen reader to view your website. The alt attribute will provide him information about the picture. Also, providing an alt text makes it easier for Google Image Search to better understand your images
- Avoid using generic names like “Image1.jpg”
All the SEO strategies shared are meant to enhance the user experience of searching on Google, improve your chances of being selected by the user and then helping the user smoothly navigate on your website. This guide has provided you with an overview of what makes good SEO practices and only serves to be a starting point before you employing more advanced SEO techniques.
Take note that SEO should never be a one-time activity. Regular SEO checks should be conducted to ensure that your website is performing at its peak at all times.
Always remember that at the heart of SEO is always the user. Every optimisation has to take into account the user needs and how it can be enhanced further.
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