If you want your website to develop and maintain a healthy flow of visitors, then search engine optimisation is a must. In a recent study, 57.8% of all website traffic originates from Google, compared to 5.2% (Facebook), 4.8% (YouTube) and 3.7% (Bing). Organic SEO works by optimising your website for the search engine that you want to rank for.
Welcome to your handy ‘how to’ guide for SEO - or how to steer targeted traffic to your website from a search engine’s organic rankings and how to improve your website’s rankings in the organic section of the search results.
In this website SEO guide, you will find...
- Finding keywords
- Running an audit
- Content planning
- Content length
- Writing for SEO
- Internal linking
- External backlinks
- Social media posting
- Mobile SEO
- User Experience
Introduction to website search engine optimisation
When you search for something in Google (or any other search engine), an algorithm delivers what that search engine considers the best result. Websites and web page rankings are based on many factors, but mainly:
Relevance - pages that are closely related to the specific keywords.
Authority - if the content is accurate and trustworthy (via backlinks).
Usefulness - how users interact with the search results (UX signals).
Your website SEO goal is to make sure that a search engine sees your site as the overall best result for a person’s search. Why? Because over 60% of all traffic on the web originates from search engines like Google, Bing and YouTube.
Considering that the first result in Google nets around 20% of all clicks - the benefit to your business from harnessing search engine traffic is huge!
Finding keywords for your website
TOP TIP: use keywords most relevant to your target customers.
To succeed with website SEO, you need to create content around topics that your customers search for. And unless you know who your customer is, it’s almost impossible to understand the types of things that they search for.
To succeed with SEO, you want to optimise pages on your website for both Product and Informational Keywords, so when your target customer searches for your product, you show up in the search engine results; and for associated / relevant keywords they use, you show up for those too.
Keyword research tools can help you figure out how many people search for each keyword and how difficult it will be to rank on the first page of Google for that term. The best all-around free keyword tool is Google’s Keyword Planner.
We also regularly use Neil Patel’s Uber Suggest service. With Uber Suggest you can find useful keywords in your business area and see how competitive these keywords are. You can also track what keywords your competitors are ranking for, as well as find ideas for content writing such as traffic-yielding blog titles.
Tracking competitor websites is a really useful method to see what keywords they are driving traffic for. Chances are they are ranking for certain keywords because they deliver a return on investment.
This is a great place to start.
Neil Patel has loads of really useful videos on his site all the time. Here is one for getting started.
Running an audit
TOP TIP: an effective SEO audit is essential for higher rankings.
A recent client installed a health check service by Ahref to identify any technical issues linked to their website. Their health score started out at 22%. They are now at 67% and rank #1 for “bike repair london”.
Site Audit tools crawl all the pages it finds on your website – then provides an overall SEO health score, visualises key data in charts, flags all possible SEO issues and provides recommendations on how to fix them.
TOP TIP: add your main keyword as early in your content as you can.
You will need to use your keyword or key phrase within the first 25 words on your page. Why? Google puts more weight on terms that appear at the top of a webpage.
Focus on one long-tail keyphrase (usually 4+ words) that searchers use in Google and other search engines and don’t try to optimise your content around several different terms. Use your main keyword or phrase a handful of times in your content. That way, Google knows what your page is about.
Title tags and meta content
Make sure your keyword or phrase shows up in your title tag and URL, then, add your keyword to your meta description because it helps your snippet stand out in the organic search results. Next, sprinkle in a few variations of your main keyword through the content.
Use internal links to send instant authority to your new page, using anchor text that includes your target keyword to help Google understand that your page is about that specific topic.
- Write unique titles, descriptions, and content and avoid duplication
- Optimise your title tag for SEO by including your keyword early on
- Use one keyword per title - others just highlight what the page is about
- Write compelling, shareable titles that make people want to learn more
- Optimise images properly to help your pages rank higher in web search
- Name your images with descriptive filenames to help explain the content
- Use image alt text to let search engines know what your image is about
- Use keyword-rich anchor text as a guide to exactly what a page is about
- Send links from older pages to newer ones that don’t have link authority
Website content Length
TOP TIP: make sure to include the most important keywords, in the right places and in the right number
Google’s own SEO starter guide states, “Content should be factually accurate, clearly written, and comprehensive.” Comprehensive is not a synonym for lengthy, but refers to it being complete and including everything that is necessary: sizable enough to cover everything a user might want to know as an answer to their query.
The length of the copy on that page should be as much as is needed to aid the user in completing their goals on the page - without losing the interest of the user - whether that is quickly identifying the answer to a question, providing an in-depth explanation of a subject, or simply conveying the specs of a product.
There is no ideal word count for SEO. Instead, look at the purpose of the page. The purpose of a page - what the page has been created to do - is of high importance when considering its ability to rank well in organic search results. However, as a guide we recommend between 900-1500 as research by Tabtimize corroborates with an average count of 1449:
- Yoast – Word count and SEO: 1.000.
- Search Engine Journal – What’s the ideal blog post length: 1.900.
- Backlinko – We analyzed 11.8 million Google search results: 1.447.
Writing for SEO
TOP TIP: For your content to rank, it needs search engine optimisation.
SEO writing is the process of planning, creating, and optimising content with the primary goal of ranking in search engines. Generate a list of content topics because you need to write content that your target customer needs, wants, and cares about to succeed with SEO and content marketing. You can read more about copywriting tips for conversion rate optimisation success here.
Find questions that your target customer asks online, and answer those questions with your content. You can manually look for questions on sites like Reddit and Quora or to speed things up you can use a free tool called Answer The Public.
Turn your topics into related keywords and outline content to match search intent. Look at the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) for each keyword as a guide, then write your comprehensive high-quality content with that search intent in mind.
Use your keyword in your content
Specifically, make sure that your keyword appears in:
- Your URL
- Your title tag
- The first 100 words of your page
- In an H1 or H2 tag
Use only one H1 tag per page. H1 tags are like title tags, so if you use more than one on a page, it can confuse search engines.
When your content is optimised for SEO you will need to optimise your title tags for clicks, as organic click-through-rate is a Google ranking signal. You can do that by:
- using a specific number in your content title
- creating intriguing, emotionally-resonant titles
- writing unique, compelling meta descriptions
Meta Descriptions (VERY IMPORTANT)
TOP TIP: use this formula. ¨This is a (content overview). Learn how to get (specific benefit) from this (content description)¨.
Meta descriptions or tags are HTML attributes that are designed to describe the content of your page; regularly appear in SERPs and can impact organic click through rates. Pages with meta descriptions have 5.8% more click through rates than those without and Google recommends writing a unique one for every page you have.
- Use Benefit-Driven Copy
Your meta description needs to clearly describe the benefit someone will get from your page. What this benefit is depends a lot on what your page is all about and the keyword that people used to bring up your result.
- Stay Under 155 Characters
Google limits how much of your meta description tag they show in the SERPs. Specifically, they tend to only show the first 155 characters of your description. So you want to keep your meta descriptions below the 155 character limit.
You can also use the helpful SERP Snippet Preview Tool from Portent. It will make sure that you’re under the character limit and preview how your result will appear to Google searchers.
- Check out Google Ads
Why? The placement of Google Ads are based on how much advertisers bid and Quality Score. When you see an ad in the search results, you can be confident that it has a high Click Through Rate. This means you have a proven copy that you can use in your page’s title and description.
First, search for your target keyword in Google. Then, keep an eye out for any copy that multiple ads use. If that copy makes sense for your page, incorporate it into your description.
- Include Your Target Keyword
You want to mention your target keyword at least once in your meta description because it can help you get more clicks. Google makes your keyword bold in the SERPs which helps it stand out. And, your keyword emphasises that you’re a good fit for the person’s search query.
SEO Friendly URLs
TOP TIP: use hyphens as “word separators” in your URL.
SEO friendly URLs are designed to meet the needs of users and searchers. URLs optimised for SEO tend to be short and keyword-rich. Along with your title tag, link anchor text, and the content, search engines use your webpage’s URL to understand what your content is all about.
Your URL should contain a keyword that you want your page to rank for, preferably, that page’s target keyword. Also, there’s a strong correlation between short URLs and high Google rankings.
HTTPS has more to do with security than URLs, but HTTPS is the new standard, so it's time to consider switching over if you haven’t already. Plus, Google has said that HTTPS-secured sites have a ranking advantage.
“URLs with words that are relevant to your site’s content and structure are friendlier for visitors navigating your site.” Google
Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) Keywords are related terms that search engines use to better understand content on a webpage. Google relies on words that frequently occur together (not synonyms) to understand the page’s overall topic.
Google Autocomplete is one of the fastest and easiest ways to uncover LSI terms to use in your content. Just type your page’s keyword into the search and you’ll find a list of terms that users search for when they search for anything related to your keyword. Include those terms in:
- Your title tag
- In image alt text
- In your H1 header
- H2 or H3 subheader
- In the content itself
Also “Searches Related to…” is similar, but instead of Google suggesting keywords as you search, it gives you related terms at the bottom of the search results.
A brief overview of technical website SEO
Featured Snippets are short snippets of text that appear at the top of Google’s search results in order to quickly answer a searcher’s query. The content that appears inside of a Featured Snippet is automatically pulled from web pages in Google’s index. Common types of Featured Snippets include definitions, tables, steps and lists.
According to Search Engine Land, a Featured Snippet gets approximately 8% of all clicks. There are 4 main types of Featured Snippets that appear most often in Google’s search results.
The Definition Box:
This is a snippet of text designed to give searchers a direct, concise definition or description. Definition boxes are commonly used by Google to answer “what is” queries.
You need to provide Google a short (40-60 word) snippet of text that they can directly use in the Featured Snippet. It also helps if you have “What is X” directly above your definition.
This is where Google pulls data from a page and displays it as a table. Unsurprisingly, Google tends to get content for Table Featured Snippets from tables.
You can optimise for this featured snippet by presenting lots of your data in tables and as long as your HTML uses the <tr> tag to present the data in a table, Google should have an easy time “reading” your table.
The Ordered List:
This is a list of items presented in a specific order. Google tends to use Ordered Lists for queries that need a set of steps or for rankings.
The key here is to lay out your page so that the specific steps or lists of items are presented in a way that Google can easily understand. Specifically, you want to wrap every item or step in H2 or H3 text, and present each item as a subheader.
The Unordered List:
This is Google’s way of presenting a list of items that don’t need to be in any particular order. Look for a search results page that already has a Featured Snippet in the form of an unordered list.
If you have a list of potential keywords to target, you can either search for each one and note whether or not the results for that term have a Featured Snippet, or you can use a tool like Ahrefs to zone-in on keywords with a Featured Snippet.
TOP TIP: use at least 4-5 internal links for every post you publish
Internal links are a great way to optimise your content for users and search engines. Here’s why: internal links are helpful to users because they help them find related content on your site.
And they’re helpful for search engines because it helps them index your site’s pages… and understand your site’s structure and architecture.
TOP TIP: share content on social media posts and guest blogs
Google wants to send people to content that has everything that searchers want. And that “everything” includes helpful resources on other websites. So by adding external links to authority sites, you’re making your content more SEO-friendly.
SEO for Mobile
TOP TIP: intrusive pop ups are annoying and can seriously affect your search engine rankings.
“Google only cares about the fact that people can load all the pieces of content on your page, read the text without having to zoom or scroll, and interact with any buttons present.”
Jayson De Mers
58% of all searches in Google are now done from a mobile device and 95% of all mobile searches are through Google. Google’s Mobile-first Index now ranks search results based only on mobile-versions of the page, even if you’re searching from a desktop. So your site really needs to:
- Load resources across all devices
- Not hide content on mobile versions
- Load quickly like mobile users expect
- Have working internal links and redirects
- Have UX that’s optimised for any device
How can you make your mobile content more readable?
- Use at least 14px font (preferably 15 or 16)
- Use short paragraphs (1-2 lines per paragraph)
- Go with a line length between 50-60 characters
- Ensure contrast between text and background
- Make header images really small and unobtrusive
- Use negative space between text and buttons
- Put social share buttons in a tab bar with Sumo
- Do a mobile speed test at ThinkWithGoogle.com
TOP TIP: better interaction + better performance = better business
Improving your site’s user experience (UX) can help with your SEO. UX can directly help with SEO because if enough people bounce from your site to the search engine results, this tells Google that your result didn’t give that searcher what they were looking for, and your search engine rankings start to fall.
UX can indirectly help with SEO because people are more likely to share and link to user-friendly sites. So if your site is hard to use, has intrusive popups or ads, and has broken links, people aren’t going to link to it, even with great content! Find out more useful tips about the business value of UX and redesigning your website or visit our User Experience page at Higher Ground.