In today's digital era, a Google search is the first touchpoint of any consumers digital buying journey, so businesses need to make themselves easily accessible for the customer. It has becomes imperative that businesses focus on their search visibility, as without it, they don't stand a chance of being found and can't compete in their market
SEO and SEM can be dated back to the first ever search engines but it wasn't until the introduction of Google in the early 2000's that saw search marketing start to play an increasingly important role in a marketer's strategy.
An introduction into search marketing
How does search work & what are the ranking factors?
A search engine's primary function is simple: to organise the internet's content to offer the most relevant results to the questions searchers are asking. They begin by 'crawling' the Internet using bots to follow links from page to page, then adding those pages to their index. The index includes web pages and it's text content, but can include images, videos, and documents. Once a page is in the index it is able to be displayed as a result to relevant queries. In the final step, the search engine determines the user's search query and orders results from what it deems as most to least relevant.
How a search engine decides relevancy is a hot topic and while most search engines like Google refuse to confirm the order of most importance, the top 2 ranking factors are generally considered to be:
- Links (backlinks)
- A backlink, put simply, is a link from an external website that links back to your own site.
- Search engines use backlinks as a ranking signal because when one website links to another, it suggests that they believe that content is noteworthy.
- When search engines crawl websites, they will take into account the quality of the content ie, is the content relevant? Does it answer the query in question? Can Google read the content? How old is it? How long is it?
In addition to the ranking factors mentioned above, there are many other on-page and off-page elements website owners need to consider when trying to improve search performance.
On-page SEO is the practice of optimising your web page for search engines and users. Common on-page SEO practices include optimising title tags, content keywords, internal linking, and URL structure. It is these on-page elements that will be covered below to show individuals simple ways to optimise their on-page ranking factors.
Best practice with URLs is to keep everything as related and concise as possible whilst maintaining a clear logical structure. Don't use capitals as this can leads to simple URL duplication errors.
- Good practice: http://www.example.com/sports/football/premier-league-goals
- Bad practice: http://www.example.com/content2/yy7789op
These are displayed on the search engine results page (SERP) as a clickable headline and every page on a website should have a unique one with a count of between 50-60 characters.
- Good practice: Investment management & financial services | Brand name
- Bad practice: Homepage
H1 and other headers
The H1 (first header) introduces the topic of a webpage - akin to the title of a book, H2s are akin to the chapter titles of a book and H3-H6 serve as subheadings within each section.
- H1's provide structure to a page so that the users and search engines can understand the content that will be displayed.
- Good practice: make your H1 stand out on the page, describe the topic of the page and be between 20-70 characters long.
The meta description sits underneath the title tag and provides a brief summary of the webpage. Although search engines differ, the optimal length for a Google meta description is between 150-160 characters (Google will truncate if you exceed this).
- Good practice: craft a readable, compelling description using important keywords to drive the click through rate of the given webpage.
- Bad practice: Writing duplicate meta descriptions for multiple pages - this will confuse the user and deter them from clicking on your webpage.
Internal and external links should always be used throughout a website to help improve the overall user- journey and provide value to the page it links to.
- Good industry practice: Always link a fund page to a 'how to invest' page, this way the user can find the most detailed information before they go on to invest in a fund - helping to push them further down the sales funnel.
Alt text is the name of an image, or the alternative text that appears if the image does not load or is used by screen readers. This is the information that will be displayed to users with accessibility needs eg. spoken aloud to users with sight issues.
- Good practice: the alt text should describe the image and be specific while , using less than 125 characters.
- Bad practice: starting with the words 'a picture of' or 'an image of'.The search engine already knows it is an image of something and does not need it repeated. Moreover, never 'keyword stuff', instead use keywords sparingly and not in every image's alt text.