Successfully running a website means more than just creating an attractive layout and offering the best products or funny cat photos! The people of our fine world need to know that your site exists and that means your site needs to perform well in search engine results listings. There are many ways to help or harm your site’s search rankings and your competitors are likely working hard to make sure you stay below them too – so what can you do? We at Crucial Web offer a variety of assistance to help your site get nearer the treasured first page of Google and other search engines too. Let’s get into the details...

What is search engine optimisation?

First, some definitions:

The chances are that if you have launched a website, expecting to welcome hoards of visitors quickly, without knowing about SEO, you will likely have been disappointed! SEO is the process of deliberately changing all aspects of your website with the aim of it’s pages being more highly valued by search engines and to receive more web traffic to the site as a result.

Since most search engine companies do not fully reveal the exact process that they use to decide which sites get to rank for the top spots in their result listings, SEO can sometimes seem mysterious. The reality, however, is that there are well defined best practices which we can turn to in order to get the results we need. Companies like Google do tell us something about the factors (signals) they take into consideration when calculating ranks and through experimentation we can build up a good idea of what will work and what won’t.
Search Enging Optimisation Elements
The list of ranking factors that Google, for example, is known to utilise reaches into the 200+ region, but fortunately for us we only need to heavily focus on a relatively small number of them in order to make our site competitive for a particular niche or market sector. Some key optimisations can be made by editing the wording and layout of your pages, but other factors such as the speed that the pages load and also the number of other websites that contain links that point to your site are very important too.

Due to the wide variety of tasks that need to be completed to achieve successful SEO, the process takes time and may require some professional assistance - particularly if you are not technically skilled or lack the time needed to optimise to a level that can win against your competitors. In the following sections we will look at the process in more detail and how we can help you, should you need us.

SEO ranking factors (signals)

Each major search engine uses it’s own algorithm and rules to determine the rankings for specific keywords that people may be searching for. However, in general, the following are recognised to be among the most important signals / factors that determine search engine success or failure:
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Text Content: The text you add to your pages needs to be high quality and relevant. This means it must be clear and technically correct in terms of spelling and grammar. The text needs to convey meaning that is valuable. Longer pages, with more text, tend to be valued more highly than shorter pages.

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Keywords: The text on your pages also needs to contain certain keywords that you have identified as being popular search phrases in search engines. Numerous tools exist to help with this. Use keywords in page titles, headings and page addresses (URLs) too, but don’t overdo it!

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Regular Updates: The more fresh you keep the content of your pages, the more valuable search engines tend to consider them.

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Images & Audio/Video: Adding multimedia content to your pages will help to differentiate them and increase their value.

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Web-server Configuration: Ensure that your pages load quickly (less than 2 seconds is great) and is served using an encryption certificate (the page address will begin with https: instead of http:).

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Mobile Friendly: Test your site on small screen devices to ensure they display correctly and load quickly.

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Remove old and duplicate content: Make sure the pages on your site are focused, fresh and relevant.

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Metadata: Add descriptions, titles and OpenGraph information to your pages to help them perform better on social sites and to motivate sharing. (Add this information to the ‘HEAD’ area of your pages or in the relevant input area in your site’s admin system).

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Schema & Micro data: Various forms of specific metadata exist to define the structure of your site in ways that search engines understand. Adding these tags to your pages can give your site a nice boost.

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Internal Links: Connect together the internal pages of your site in intelligent ways, so that search engines can gain extra insight as to the purpose of each page. The ‘anchor’ text you us in the links needs to be relevant to the page’s content.

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Backlinks: This is one of the most important aspects of SEO. All sites on the web are given a ‘Domain Authority’ score by search engines and when a site links to another site, the ‘DA’ of the originating site is taken into consideration when calculating the ranking of the page that is being linked to. You need to acquire as many high quality links as possible to get the best results in search engines.

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Negative Links: Some sites might links to your pages that have received ‘black marks’ from the search engines and they can actually harm your rankings. In these cases you need to identify the problem sites and manually inform the search engine operators that you wish to ‘disavow’ the links, so that they will no longer cause your site to be devalued.

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Social Media: The number of shares and likes your pages receive on social media is often taken into consideration too, though not to a huge extent. The more the better!

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Don’t cheat! There are many sneaky tactics that people have used over the years to try to artificially boost their rankings. Generally, this is a bad idea and your site may be penalised as as result, so don’t do it!

SEO best practices

Great SEO means paying close attention to all of the search engine ranking factors. Some are simple to stay on top of, while others take some time and perhaps some specialist software tools, such as SemRush or ahrefs too. The bottom line is that anything that you do from this list is likely to help your site’s ranking to some extent, but you are always going to be competing with others sites – so being aware of their strategies and level of SEO investment is critical to creating great results.

There are many strategies to achieve SEO greatness and your mileage with any of them may vary greatly. Each site is unique and each target market is also unique, so predicting results isn’t always straightforward. Due to the wide variety of possible challenges involved with this work it is good to have a set of ‘best practices’ to employ which will always ensure you are pointing in the right direction. In addition to the tips that were previously mentioned in the ranking factor section:

On Page SEO (Page content and HTML)

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Duplication: Do not repeat content or page titles on multiple different pages.

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Titles: Keep your page titles below around 55 – 60 characters.

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Meta Descriptions: Make sure your meta descriptions for each page are clear and meaningful since these hugely influence the rate at which your page will receive clicks and this in turn alters your search rankings. Roughly 150 characters is a good length for meta description text.

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Relevance: Make sure your content is highly relevant to your target keywords for each page.

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Headings: Make good use of H1 and H2 header tags on each page. Your H1 heading should contain your main keyword at least once, but probably not more than once.

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ALT Image Text: Ensure the images on your site contain ALT tag text since this helps your images to rank in image searches. This text is also needed to improve accessibility for the visually impaired who are using screen reading technology too.

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Image Filenames: Make sure your site’s images have meaningful filenames.

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Readability: Pay attention to the readability of your page – ensure that you break up long sections of text into  smaller paragraphs and use other grammatical elements to help the text to flow.

Off Page SEO (Backlinks and external factors)

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Competition: Use SEO software to identify sites that your competitors have scored links from.

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Backlink building: Develop a strategy for acquiring links from valuable sites with high Domain Authorities – without violating Google’s policies. You can use Email outreach to contact the site’s operators or find other solutions.

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Content Exchange: Produce great content and exchange it with other sites – this will often result in a link being added to your site.

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Real human interaction: Ask relevant people you know to link to your site from suitable places. For example, if you are a professional you could speak with other professionals and industry bodies. If you provide a service and have clients you could ask them to help you out with backlinks too.

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Social media: Don’t forget to add links to relevant pages to the descriptions of your videos and posts on social media – plus to the relevant areas of your profile pages too. Although social sites tend to add a ‘nofollow’ tag to links on their pages (which usually means they don’t provide you any SEO boost value), Google has announced that they are now paying more attention to links marked in this way.

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Webmaster tools: Connect your site to Google’s Search Console and Bing’s Webmaster tools to ensure that you get tips direct from them regarding changes they detect that you need to make. You may need to fix errors they identify and this is one of the best ways to keep up with any new policies they introduce.

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As you can see, SEO is a mix of science, art, intuitive magic, social graces and happy accidents! To be consistently successful in ranking your sites highly in search engines requires dedication, understanding and a lot of hard work. The days of tricking Google and taking shortcuts are long gone and so careful attention to even the small details is essential.  We at Crucial Web are always ready to help our clients assess the current state of their website and to develop a strategy to move forward towards improved results.

We are happy to consult with you to identify areas that you need to tackle and to make suggestions for actions that need to be taken, plus to plan out a sensible plan that will get you where you need to be in the shortest time possible. If you prefer to have us do all the hard work for you, we are absolutely able to do that to. Our team will audit your site and systematically set about optimising your site and building appropriate backlinks at a rate that fits your budget and other requirements.

We will never guarantee that you will beat your competitors or reach that hallowed top spot in Google because there are way too many factors involved for us to be 100% sure we can deliver on it. In truth if any SEO company makes you such a promise you should be very careful of their intentions! What we will guarantee, however, is that we will use industry best practices and only ‘white hat’ tactics that are within the published guidelines of the major search engine services. We will continually monitor our results and adjust our strategy in response to your needs.
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