Search Engine Optimisation
Struggling to compete with your competitors in search engine rankings? Tom Brand of Found explains how to make sure you remain competitive…
For any SEO strategy to flourish, it’s essential to have a website that is technically equipped to meet the expectations of search engines’ complex algorithms and the spiders that will frequently crawl your site, assuming they have sufficient access.
Technical weaknesses on a website can hinder its chances of ranking highly in the search engine result pages. Everything from missing title tags to slow load time can have an impact on the overall success of your SEO campaign.
Tom Brand, SEO lead at London-based digital performance agency Found, highlights seven simple steps you can take to ensure your site is search engine friendly.
SITEMAP – NOT FOUND
A Sitemap is a way for a webmaster to feed data to search engines and pass on details about your most important pages, in order of priority. It allows search engines to more intelligently crawl the site.
Using a Sitemap can’t guarantee your webpages will appear in the SERPs, but it is best practice to have one. For more detail on what should be included or how to set one up, Google’s Webmaster Tools offers detailed explanations on creating Sitemaps.
CANONICAL DOMAIN CHECK FAILED
If you fail a canonical domain check, it means that your homepage is accessible via more than one URL, without having the correct technical instructions in place. Examples of homepage variations: www.found.co.uk, found.co.uk, www.found.co.uk/index.html or Found.co.uk/home.asp
If your website has multiple home pages with different URLs, you need to make sure that the correct canonical tags have been implemented or that you have 301 (Moved Permanently) redirects in place to combine the value in one location.
Found’s free SEO Tool can carry out canonical checks on individual pages and will help you identify some of the common duplications which can occur. Remember, with multiple functioning URLs that display identical content, the effectiveness of inbound link equity can be split, reducing your site’s overall SEO potential.
PAGE LOADING TIME
Even though connection speeds are generally improving, slow loading websites are still an issue for many users.
As mobile becomes more and more predominant, it is equally no surprise that the load time of mobile sites is crucial too.
Having HTML that is not compressed, simply means that there are unnecessary white spaces and line breaks in your code. Taking out any blank lines so that your HTML is only the actual code helps minimise the size, and is an incredibly easy fix to implement using any online HTML compressor.
HEADER TAG ANALYSIS
Header tags (< h1 > < h2 > < h3 >) are important for content hierarchy and for communication with the search engines on which headings you want them to prioritise.
Improper use of tags can lead to a very confused content structure. To avoid this, make sure that each page has properly nested and unique < h1 > tag, and that any subheadings use < h2 >and < h3 > tags where appropriate.
It also helps to incorporate keywords and phrases into your header tags, because not only do search engines deem them as important when describing a webpage, readers are attracted to the biggest headline on a site just as they would first read the major headline of a newspaper.
ALT ATTRIBUTE IS MISSING IN IMAGES
Search engines don’t read images, so it’s essential that you tag them with text, otherwise you may lose out on the opportunity to add relevancy to your page through a keyword rich description.
Just how you would ensure your webpages and blogs are optimised for search, your images alt tag should be relevant and descriptive. Vague descriptions are to be avoided as it can lead to you losing relevant Google Images traffic.
If your image source is men’s jumper, consider making your alt tag as specific as navy blue cashmere men’s jumper at London Fashion Week. Note that descriptive does not mean keyword stuffing and this is important to avoid in your content and alt tags.
The most important errors to solve in the metadata analysis section are the title tags. They are still widely recognised as one of the most important on page factors for SEO.
Each individual webpage on a site should have its own unique title tag which is concise, optimised appropriately and relative to the content on the page. Title tags should be limited in length to roughly 70 characters (depending on character width), to avoid them becoming truncated. This can be achieved by removing unnecessary stop words such as: a, the, we, with, etc. Be sure to include your primary keywords for that page at the start of the tag whenever possible, as this is known to carry more weight.
Description tags or meta descriptions, are also important, enabling users to view a snippet or overview of what each page is about directly in the search results. Webmasters should focus on producing a well-written 156 character piece, which will tempt people to click through to a site.
Meta descriptions are no longer a ranking factor considered by the search engines but high quality, enticing descriptions can significantly increase the click-through rate to a website. Relevant words to a users search within the description will appear bolded, further reassuring users the page is relevant.
The inclusion of keywords tag will not have a negative impact on your website, but won’t have a positive impact either. The keywords tag is no longer used by search engines to rank your site and should be removed where possible.
Keyword analysis refers to the body content on your webpage being analysed. Similar to the metadata analysis, it’s essential that the quality of the writing is strong and that the content is unique.
It’s important to have well-written and engaging content for your visitors, but bear in mind that search engines will use the most frequent keywords and phrases within the copy to categorise your page (and site) so it’s important to include relevant keywords where necessary.
This does not mean keyword stuffing or over optimising as doing so will run you the risk of making your page appear spammy. However, too little and search engines might have a hard time understanding which keywords the landing page is trying to rank for.