Earlier this year, we carried out some research asking UK marketers about their attitudes to search engine optimization and it revealed some fascinating findings! We’ve always felt that many in the SEO industry have deliberately tried to pull the wool over people’s eyes by portraying SEO as a ‘dark art’ that only experts can understand. We know this just isn’t the case, but our research suggests that there is still a vast amount of education needed.
Nearly a quarter of the marketers surveyed said they didn’t know much about SEO. A further 23% of marketers were also unsure about the advantages of SEO, with 14% saying there were no benefits as far as they could tell. Of those that did feel there a reason to invest in SEO, the most important benefit was identified as driving traffic with 30% highlighting that driving traffic volumes was a valuable result and 32% saying targeted traffic was a positive outcome.
With this in mind, we’ve put together six simple components of SEO that we think are important for businesses of all sizes that are looking to increase their online visibility.
1. Get your keywords sorted
Keywords are the words and phrases that a search engine user types in when they want to find what they are looking for. Google matches these keywords to the content of a website to rate the relevance of the site.
You can help (and influence) how search engines rank your website against keywords by including them in your site – in page titles, meta descriptions and titles – and in your site copy. Ensuring your homepage contains keyword rich content will work alongside the other elements of your on-site SEO to help search engines identify your site as highly relevant to those keywords, and increase your rankings for them.
2. Optimise your page titles
Your page titles are one of the most powerful weapons in your on-site SEO armoury. The page title can be seen in the bar at the top of your web browser’s window. In HTML (the coding language that sits behind every webpage) the page title is the text included in the <TITLE> tag, which sits in the header of the HTML file.
Search engines attach significant importance to page titles. What’s more, the title can serve as your headline in a search-related page listing, helping to drive click throughs to your website. Beginning the page title with a relevant keyword or phrase is important for maximising the SEO benefits of this small piece of text.
3. Write compelling meta descriptions
Meta descriptions, like page titles, sit in the header of the HTML file on every webpage. A meta description is a short paragraph of text that describes what the page is about. Whereas page titles appear to visitors in the top bar of a web browser, meta descriptions are only visible to search engines.
Despite this, meta descriptions can be highly visible to visitors before they arrive at your site as Google often displays this paragraph on its search results page, under the page title text.
4. Use keyword-rich headings
Headings are usually fairly easy to identify on a webpage as they are typically in a large, bold font. But to make them useful for search engines, headings need to be properly tagged using HTML heading tags: <h1> for the main heading, then <h2>, <h3> and so on for subheadings that continue down the page.
Headings aren’t just important for breaking up content on your website to make it more scannable and digestible for your visitors. Both main headings and subheadings are very important for search engine optimization, as Google uses headings to better understand the make-up and relevance of your content.
5. Use easy to understand filenames
Every page, image or piece of media on a website has a unique file name, for example your homepage might be home.html and your logo will be logo.jpg.
Search engines take particular note of the names you give to these files. Because of this, it’s important to save your images, media and webpages with names that include relevant keywords.
6. Include a sitemap
A sitemap is a catalogue of the pages on a website. The list is structured in a directory format so that it’s easy to see the relationship of pages to each other.
Sitemaps can provide website visitors with a comprehensive overview of a website’s content. More crucially, sitemaps can also be extremely valuable for SEO as they are a great way to help search engines find their way round your website more easily and increase the chances of all your pages being indexed.