I touched on the subject of SEO in one of my last blog posts (Bye bye traffic! Why you should care about Google’s bias towards mobile friendly sites), and went on to explain how Google is now penalising sites in their search rankings if they’re not optimised for mobile devices. I thought it would be helpful to expand on this and go through some of the other main factors that affect search rankings and what you can do to pump some extra Google juice into your site.
How popular are search engines?
When you’re looking for a product or service, where do you look first? Chances are you go straight to Google! (Statistics show that over 90% of people start with a search engine). For professional services you can’t deny that personal recommendation has big impact on the choice of a provider but for those that haven't had a personal recommendation, Google is king!
Where’s the best place to hide a body? - The second page of search results!
Search engine statistics show that over 75% of users never scroll past the first page of results which really highlights the impact that SEO can have on a business’ online success (or failure!).
With the UK online retail industry currently valued at around £100 billion and high street retail stores closing down left, right and center, it’s not hard to see that the internet is rapidly becoming the first port of call for most products and services.
How do search engines work?
If you’re interested in understanding the basics of how search engines work behind the scenes, I’ve included a short (3 min) video by Google explaining how they do it.
What factors are taken into account when a search engine is deciding what order to rank page results in?
As discussed in one of my last blog posts, one of the more recent developments in SEO is Google’s announcement that sites that aren’t mobile-friendly will now be penalised in search results. However, as you would expect, there are a lot of other factors taken into account.
No one knows exactly how Google’s search algorithm calculates a site’s search ranking as it is updated more than once a day, on average. This means that the relevance and quality of search results are constantly improving and it makes it very difficult for people to cheat their way to the top! However, there are a number of general rules we can follow to improve our organic search ranking.
Every day across the world, there are now more iPhones sold than babies born! And with mobile browsing on track to eclipse desktop browsing later this year, ensuring your site is designed to play nice with tablets and mobile devices should now be standard, not an afterthought.
Good Coding Practices
When search engines crawl through web pages, they look to the code to work out what parts of the page are headers, paragraphs, images, etc. and therefore making sure that web pages are properly coded up means that the site’s indexing will be more accurate.
For example, if someone searched Google for ‘hobnob biscuits’, it would go off and look at all of the sites it has indexed and return the pages that contain the words ‘hobnob’ and ‘biscuits’. The order in which it would return these results would, in part, depend on how those words were coded onto the page. If it found a page with those words within a paragraph it would know that this page has something to do with hobnob biscuits - however, if there is only one or two references to it in the entire page, it is likely that most of the page won’t be relevant. If it then came across another page where the words ‘hobnob biscuits’ were found in the main header of a page, it would assume that the whole page is related to hobnobs, and therefore give it a higher ranking.
As well as the actual code on each page, the overall speed and performance of the site is also taken into account to make sure users aren’t hanging around for too long waiting for pages to load. This is particularly important for mobile users where they’re out and about and need to access information quickly like train times, maps, telephone numbers etc.
Content & Frequency of Updates
Recently there has been quite a lot of hype around blogging as an SEO technique - there are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, site owners that are actively updating the content on their site are seen to be more likely to reply and engage with visitors and therefore by giving search ranking precedence to these sites, the quality of search results are naturally improved.
The second reason is word density. As I mentioned briefly earlier, a search engine will partly decide how relevant a web page is by how many times it finds the search term within the content. If a business blogs about issues relevant to their business or industry, their site will be updated regularly with content that contains keywords and search terms that search engines will pick up on and index, subsequently increasing their relevance and improving search rankings.
Backlinks are links to other web pages. For example, a link to www.mcvities.co.uk/products/hobnobs on the Codepotato site is seen as a ‘vote’ by Codepotato for Hobnobs (a vote I’m sure would be fully supported by our MD!).
The more backlinks a page has on other websites, the more ‘votes’ it has and therefore the higher it will appear in the search rankings. This can be a particularly effective way of improving SEO, especially when coupled with blogging. If blog posts are well-written and relevant to the customer/client base, every time someone shares it on their own website or on a social media platform, they will get credit for the backlink.
If you write posts that are engaging enough to go viral on social media platforms, you can get some mind blowing SEO kudos from search engines!
An SSL Certificate makes sure that when a web page is served to your browser that it has been downloaded from the intended server which stops hackers mimicking websites to gain sensitive information about its users. If you’re interested in learning more about SSL Certificates, check out our recent blog post.
That all seems like a huge headache! Can’t I ignore all of that and just pay Google to put me at the top of the search results?
The short answer is yes. BUT there are a few things you might want to think about first...
Firstly, paid search results are largely ignored by users which is evidenced by SEO statistics that have shown 70-80% of links clicked in search results are organic results.
Secondly, it’s currently estimated that around 20-25% of ads (including paid search results) are being blocked before they reach the page by ad blocking plugins and statistics show that this percentage is rising by 43% each year. This suggests that paid ads won’t get you very far even in the short term and is only going to become less effective over time. If you’re after long-term SEO success, you need to adopt the right web practices (ideally from design stage) and focus on improving organic search rankings.
What’s the next step for optimising my site for search engines?
If you fancy having a go yourself, there is a great tutorial from Yoast (Developer of SEO plugins for WordPress sites) that walks you through, step-by-step, how to significantly improve search engine rankings for your WordPress.
Alternatively, if you don’t feel you’re quite tech-savvy enough for that or simply don’t have the time, we’d be more than happy to help - give us a call and we’ll have a chat about what we can do for you.
With search engines now playing a monumental part in how consumers find products and services, effective SEO can mean the difference between success and failure for businesses in any industry. Although there is a fair amount to take on board, a lot of it simply comes down to employing good design and development practices which should be standard for most web design agencies.
In addition, it’s important to remember that content is king and blogging can make a huge difference - not only does it show your clients that you know your stuff, it significantly increases the relevance of your site to search terms related to your industry and product/service as well as providing regular site updates to attract extra kudos from the search engines!