SEO is a technique that helps in optimising your website so that it can be found by search engines and improve your search ranking. If you don’t have the budget to employ the services of an SEO specialist, there are still a number of things you can do yourself to improve your search engine ranking.
This post aims to provide information on search engine opitmisation, and provide links to helpful articles if you’d like to implement them yourself.
How do search engines work?
Search engines don’t view web pages in the same way as humans. While you may like the design, visual appearance, animation and sounds on a web site, search engines only look for particular items (mainly text) to establish what a website is about.
To achieve this, search engines perform several tasks to deliver search results – crawling, indexing, processing, calculating relevancy and retrieving.
The first thing a search engine does is crawl the web to see what’s there. This is done by a piece of software called a crawler or spider. Spiders follow the links on a page and index what they find on the way. One needs to bear in mind that there are 5.69 billion pages on the web, so indexing can be slow. Sometimes a crawler may not even visit your website for a month or two.
The next step is to index the content. Indexed pages are stored in a database from where they can be retrieved later. The process of indexing involves finding the words and expressions that best describe the page and assigning it to relevant keywords. The crawler doesn’t always correctly identify the meaning of a page though, so you will need to help it along. You need to optimise the page so that it will be indexed correctly and help you rank better in search results.
When a search engine receives a query, it is processed by comparing the search string with indexed pages in the database. There could be millions of pages that contain the same search string, so the search engine calculates relevancy of the pages in its index with the search string.
The algorithms that calculate relevancy assess the page for factors like keyword density, links and meta tags. Search engines also periodically change their algorithms – so you need to stay on top of this by adapting your pages to the latest changes.
The final task performed by the search engine is retrieving the results. The results are displayed in the users’ browser, sorted from most relevant to the least relevant.
Basic SEO is about the following:-
- Understanding what your target audience are looking for. What needs aren’t being met, and what they’re looking for online?
- Creating quality content aimed at your target audience, and focusing on their needs and requirements
- Working on the technical side so that these pages appear higher in search results
Creating content for your website
Keywords are the words and phrases people use to search for products and services like yours. Search engines use these keywords to present the most accurate results to a user’s query.
If you want to read more on keyword research, Hubspot have a great post on keyword research for beginners.
Don’t over use keywords in your content as you may actually harm your search presence. Keywords are important in your headings, URL and meta description, but they shouldn’t be used excessively in your text.
Freshness of content
You need to publish new content and update your older posts for Google to consider it fresh. The more fresh content you publish, the better it is for your rankings.
Google is always looking for new content to add to its’ index, so it’s important to keep your site updated with fresh, quality content that is relevant to your target audience and focuses on their needs.
Technical SEO involves optimising your website for crawling by search engines. A proper technical setup helps search engines to understand what your site is about.
For more information on WordPress, please see my post on WordPress and Content Management Systems.
Images and SEO
Using images will not only bring your pages or articles to life, but they can also be used to improve your SEO. Here’s a list of guidelines for the images you upload to your site:-
- Avoid using stock photos – rather use original images.
- Use images that reflect your topic or have illustrative purposes
- Give your image files relevant names and include your keyphrase
- Use compressed file formats – JPEG and PNG
- Size your images correctly, large image files adversely affect your load speed
- Include relevant alt text for your images that is descriptive and provides context. Read more on alternative text.
SEO is a very extensive subject so if you’d like to read more, I found Neil Patels’ article on SEO Made Simple very informative.