| Digital, SEO
The basics of good on-page SEO practice for non-experts
If your business has a website, you will almost certainly have come across the term SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).
Despite sounding complicated, SEO pretty much means what it says on the tin. It’s all about optimising your website to make it more visible to search engines – without having to pay. Paid search is different and involves bidding for the top spots on search engine results pages (SERPs).
So, what’s SEO all about?
Put simply, SEO is about improving your website’s search rankings i.e. how far up search engine results pages (SERPs) your web pages appear.
Why do search rankings matter?
Well, there are around 3.5 billion searches per day on Google alone and, of these searches, the top (non-paid) result gets 31.5% of the clicks. This drops to a meagre 6.5% share of the clicks by the 5th result (figures sourced here).
Essentially, the higher up the page you are, the more likely it is for new customers to click through to your website. And the lower down the list your website is, the higher the chance of being overlooked. Good SEO helps get your site further up the list ahead of the competition.
What can be done to improve search rankings?
Search engines use the content of your website to determine its relevance in relation to the keywords and terms your target audience is searching for. So the first thing you need to do is find out what words people are searching to locate businesses like yours. Once you have your keywords, you can set about making sure your website is optimised for them.
At a glance, here are some of the basics of good on-page SEO for your website…
The title tag is the title that will appear at the top of your page and in the preview on SERPs, linking to your site. It should contain the key term, preferably at the start of the sentence, and it should be less than 70 characters. It needs to be written in plain English and explain the content of the page.
Although Meta descriptions don’t directly count towards your page rankings, they should be filled in with relevant content that contains your keywords. A page’s Meta description appears in links and on the SERPs page and tells a user if the page is relevant to their search.
The headings and sub-heading tags on a page contribute towards its ranking. Use the H1, H2, H3 etc. tags on your page for relevant headings and include your key term in the H1 tag. This helps search engines read a page and find out what it’s all about.
The content of your page is one of the most important things to get right. Your keyword or phrase should appear naturally several times on the page and it’s best to include it in the first line or paragraph of your copy, as well as the title.
Don’t be tempted to try and cram it in as many times as possible; this is called ‘keyword stuffing’ and search engines will penalise your site for it. Instead, write clearly and with the end user in mind, making the copy digestible, informative and relevant.
Search engines like rich, informative web pages that help end-users find the answers they need. Longer content ranks higher than shorter, so try and keep your pages to 300-500 words or more. But be careful! Don’t be tempted to pack your pages with pointless filler content. As we mentioned, your site can be penalised for this kind of bad practice.
A page’s URL displays in the browsing bar at the top of the page and is a part of the link address of that page. Good on-page SEO determines that the page’s key term should be included in this.
Including images on your web pages makes them more engaging to your audience. When including images, they should be labelled on upload to describe what they show and should preferably contain your keyword.
Follow these guidelines, and you’re on your way to on-page SEo sucess…
However, it’s important to note that, while you should stick to these principles wherever possible, you shouldn’t compromise the coherence of your website content in order to meet them. Writing clear, compelling copy that engages visitors with should always be the priority. In an ideal world, you want to try and achieve both simultaneously.
This list is just the basics and there are dozens more things you can be doing to improve the search rankings of your web pages. However, we’d never expect a business owner or manager to know them all! SEO is a specialism and is constantly changing as search engines update their algorithms.
Just like with keeping your car in good condition, there are some simple quick fixes you can do at home, but you’d never carry out an MOT for yourself. Your website’s overall SEO strategy requires an expert’s advice to get it spot on.
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