Search engine optimisation (SEO) has become such an important focus in PR and marketing that everyone from hobbyist website owners to web teams for the largest media groups spend a lot of time focusing on how Google will view their content.
If you’ve only just joined the party, SEO involves doing what you can to your web content to ensure it will rank as high as possible in Google searches. In the early days of search engines, online marketers were not subtle in their efforts to bring their writing to the attention of Google and Yahoo, overusing keywords and paying for links to their site. Today’s search engines have grown in sophistication, so “keyword stuffing” and “link farms”, that promise multiple links for a fee, are quickly detected, with websites being penalised for trying to game the system to draw attention to their pages.
Of course, Google now dwarfs all other search engines, in terms of its usage. While Google gives some guidance to the online community as to what it considers makes a good webpage, it will not reveal exactly what ingredients make a webpage rank on the first page of search results. And what’s more, it is constantly updating its algorithms. So, while it is difficult to stay on top of all the twists and turns, there are some SEO fundamentals that are unlikely to change anytime soon.
1 Don’t get so preoccupied with SEO that your writing doesn’t look natural
Google’s algorithms are looking for well-written content – essentially Google will be looking for the same thing as your readers are. So be careful about using keywords in places where they don’t really work, or having headings and subheadings that are too repetitive because you think they might be better for SEO. Links should also be behind natural text, rather than “click here”. Good content is everything when it comes to driving traffic to your website – it is this that will get you the likes and shares.
2 Get other websites to link to yours
Google counts the number and quality of links when it ranks pages, so links pointing to your site will help it to rank higher. Deep links that go direct to your article, rather than the homepage, from authoritative sites will get the best results.
3 Use ‘no follow’ links when linking to commercial content
“No follow” links should be used any time you do not want your site to be seen as endorsing another web page – if you are linking to an advertorial or advert, for example. If you allow comments on your website, making links in visitor comments “no follow” will prevent “comment spam” from affecting your website’s ranking. Google has been known to penalise websites that have too many links or have links to low-quality websites.
4 Give journalists a reason to link to your site
If you are sending out a press release, or supplying an article to the media, try to have something complementary on your website that would be difficult for the publication to duplicate. This could be some sort of tool that relates to the subject matter, if you are feeling quite ambitious, or a complex infographic.
5 Use links to high-authority domains – and don’t forget internal links
Links to external high-authority pages are still important for building SEO. Internal links to your new blog post will not only point people to it, but also help to build a map of your site.
6 Commercial sites will rank better if they contain useful information
If your site has a retail element to it, you can increase its SEO by having non-commercial information on it too. This is why many online stores now have blogs.
7 Get the important keywords into the heading
Abstract headings that work in print won’t work online – newspapers sometimes use a different headline in their online editions for that reason. Keywords that people are likely to be searching for should appear in the main heading.
8 Promote new content with social media posts
The more engagement you get from social media, the better the ranking. Social media shares alone will increase a page’s ranking.
9 Make sure content is relevant
It can be tempting to weave references to TV shows, films or major sporting tournaments into your content in order to drive traffic to your site. But consider whether this aligns with your audience. Dr Who fans probably won’t be interested in a website that sells boiler parts.
10 Use subheadings
Subheadings, or crossheads, make text-heavy pages look more accessible. Using the subheading setting in your CMS will help Google to recognise them, rather than just using bold text.