So far, our Web Best Practice series has taken you through designing a great site for mobile, tablet and desktop users, making sure their experience is consistent and useful, tuning up your order process with a smart order confirmation page, and writing the best copy about your product. Now it’s time to draw in the audience by adopting the Best Practice for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
SEO fine-tunes your web site to increase the number of visitors you receive from search engines. There are many factors to consider, from the words on your page to the way other sites link to you on the web. Often, SEO is mainly about ensuring your site is structured in a way that search engines understand. SEO can increase website traffic by boosting you up in the search results for particular search queries. The aim is to ensure the highest ranking by being more relevant than your competitors. This process can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are our top focus areas to improve your search ranking.
We would all like our pages to rank at the top, however to make SEO work for you successfully you need to select your keywords wisely. The best way to do this is to create a list of words you would use in a search engine to find your site, then you can begin narrowing these words down. Remember to be specific. It’s not solely about getting visitors to your site, it’s vital that you get the right type of visitors.
When choosing key words:
• Stay clear of industry jargon – if your clients probably won’t be familiar with it, try to avoid technical language.
• Use qualifiers – add appropriate qualifiers. Words such as ‘discount’ and ‘reliable’ can be added to phrases as qualifiers. Make sure when choosing qualifiers that they work for your company.
• Be aware of synonyms – don’t take it for granted that your preferred term is the same as your customer’s. They might always type “e-commerce” and you’ll miss them if you only consider “ecommerce”.
• Misspelled words – You might be tempted to use commonly misspelled words as your target keywords to optimise search results. However spelling mistakes on your website will not make a good impression. You can get around this by using your keyword’s alternate spellings in the meta tags. The same applies to synonyms – in cases like ecommerce vs e-commerce, it’s best to remain consistent in your copy.
• Language – who visits your site? If you have many foreign visitors to your site remember to use appropriate languages.
There are three types of query which you need to be aware of, each with potential to lead to a sale. They are separated based on the intent driving the search. Understanding these different intents allows you to focus keywords for different areas of your site depending on the stage the customer is at.
The three types of queries are:
• Informational queries – searching for information
• Navigational queries – searching for a specific site or page
• Transactional queries – searching to purchase
Be aware that your keyword density must be between 2-4%, so for every 100 word block your key word should not be repeated more than twice or thrice. Exceeding this will result in Google counting it as over optimisation. Ensure your keywords do not override the quality of the content.
Low Traffic Keywords – The Long Tail
Don’t just concentrate on high-traffic keywords. Sometimes lots of low-traffic keywords can provide you with more website visitors than just a few high traffic keywords.
Long tail keywords are a type of keyword phrase that has at least three, and some times as many as five words in the phrase. They are used when a website wants to refine search terms to the web page, as well as when the searcher is looking for something rather specific. These keywords are very specific, and although they draw less traffic to the website, they do tend to draw more quality traffic, which leads in more conversions than normal keywords.
Keywords should ideally be placed in your title tag, header tags, link text and alt tags where appropriate. Also ensure that these keywords appear within your web page content, focusing on the beginning or end of the page. Ideally place your keywords once in the first and last sentence of the content and once every 100 to 150 words in the body of the content, this is a good keyword placement guide to follow.
Use Title Tags
Title tags are arguably the most important factor for SEO. Placed within the head section of a page, however unlike other parts the head section, title tags are viewable without having to open the source HTML of the page.
You need to write a title tag for each page of your website that accurately reflects the content of your page. These title tags should include your keywords/phrases and make sense to clients. Remember to incorporate synonyms and alternate phrases to optimise additional search visibility.
Pay attention to these guides:
· In general, title tags should be no more than 12 words or 70 characters long
· Try not to repeat words more than twice
· Ensure keywords on your title pages reflect the page content
Use Image Alt Tags
For each image on your page always use an alt tag. These aid the partially sighted and help optimise traffic from image search engines.
· Do not allow your browser to resize your large images to make them look smaller
· Make your file sizes as small as possible without sacrificing the quality of the image
· Provide a good description
Use a Good Meta Description Tag
Meta description tags won’t improve your search engine ranking. However, the text is usually shown in the search engine results. A good meta description can therefore draw attention and improve the chances of people clicking your link over your competitors! Always keep your meta description within 157 characters.
Using sophisticated link analysis, search engines can discover how pages are related to each other and in what ways. Through links, search engines judge the popularity of a website by the number of pages linked to them. Trusted sites tend to link to other trusted sites, whereas spam sites have very few links. To earn trust and authority with the engines, you’ll need the help of other link partners. Growing your link profile is critical to increasing website traffic and SEO success.
• Relevant links – links within your industry are more important than irrelevant links
• Maintain your links – continue to earn fresh links to keep your popularity
• Earn trust – earning links from highly trusted domains will drastically help your ranking
Check for Broken Links
Regularly check your links as broken links can cause many problems. If search engines cannot access a page on your site, they can remove your pages from the index.
Your Domain Name
To achieve the highest possible ranking ensure your domain name contains some of your keywords. The better the match is to your keywords, the better your ranking will be.
• Leave out words you do not need such as ‘a’, ‘for’, ‘the’ etc
• Use hyphens instead of underscores, as this is the way that Google and other search engines prefer to crawl and index URLs
• Always use lowercase, do not use capital letters
• Put your best keywords at the front of your URL
Content is King
Thorough content that fulfils a searcher’s needs should earn the highest rankings. Search engines sort web page results in order of content that best fits the search. This is why content is critical to SEO.
Despite advances in technology, images and other non-text content are often ignored by search engines, therefore your most important content should be in HTML text format.
If you need to use non-text content:
• Search boxes can be supplemented with navigation and crawlable links
• Images in gif, jpg or png format can be assigned ‘alt attributes’ in HTML, providing search engines a text description of the visual content
• Flash or java plug-in contained content can be supplemented with the text on the page
• Video & audio content should have an accompanying transcript if the words and phrases used are meant to be indexed by the search engines
• Remember, search engines do not have eyes, so you need to supply information for them to understand the image
Keep Content Fresh
Keeping up to date with fresh content will improve your rankings. Maintaining new, useful content adds relevancy to your site in the eyes of the search engines.
By Mark Withers.
Feel free to drop us a comment with your own experience or tips for SEO best practice. We’d love to hear from you!