Last week I was in London training six wonderful women how to ‘boost their blogs‘. The session covered promotion, how to make blogs engaging, online writing and layout, content ideas, and some more specific issues.
One of the tips I shared was to re-purpose content so I’m following my own advice and turning the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) section of the training into a post…
I talk a lot about online layout and helping skim readers so today I’ve made doubly extra sure that if you’re in a rush you can skim read the bits in bold and still get the message. It’s OK, you can thank me later 🙂
Throughout this blog I’ll use Google as short-hand for ‘search engines’ (in 2016, Google accounts for 70% of online searches globally, Bing 12% and Yahoo! 8%, various others account for the remaining 10%), as the same general principles apply.
On Google alone there are 60 TRILLION indexed web pages, 2.3 million searches PER SECOND and more than 100 billion searches a month. That’s more than even I can manage during a busy evening cheating at Scrabble and it’s a lot of potential hits on your website.
Google uses over 200 “ranking factors” with differing weights in their search algorithm to work out how to rank pages on the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) so this is not meant to be a comprehensive guide.
Rumour has it they make minor tweaks to the formula a couple of times a day, when they make bigger changes or start doing something completely different they tell the world, I’m sure you’ve heard of the Hummingbird, Penguin and Panda Updates.
A quick guide to SEO in 2016:
Content, content, content
I was writing about this back in 2012 (and baking some weird pies from the look of this blog: My Predictions for 2013) but content is still the number one most important aspect of your website. Don’t take it from me, I’m a content writer, I would say that, but so does Google:
Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factors discussed here (Google’s SEO Starter Guide)
This is a HUGE topic (and here’s a blog on the subject) but my top tips for quality content are to:
- Make it unique – don’t copy or steal content (someone’s nicked stuff from my site and it wasn’t nice).
- Make it engaging – be interesting, tell us stuff we don’t know about your business, and make your blog fun.
- Answer people’s questions – why do we search for things in the first place? Because we’re looking for answers.
- Write for people not search engines – keyword-stuffing went out (if it was ever in) at about the same time as Nokia mobiles and phone directories.
- Write naturally – I love online writing because it’s natural, just write the way you speak, there are no airs and graces online.
Over half of all search is on mobile phones so it wasn’t a huge shock when Google made mobile friendliness an important factor for ranking highly in April last year.
WordPress, Wix and Weebly sites are responsive (i.e. they know which device visitors are looking at the site on and change how it appears accordingly). If your site is on a different platform and you’re not sure whether it’s mobile friendly or not, you can check with this tool. If it isn’t, have a chat with your web developer.
‘Likes’, ‘Shares’ and other social media endorsements are a ranking factor.
If you focus on writing good quality, interesting posts people will naturally want to engage with them and share them. What there isn’t much point in doing is buying 500 likes or 1000 followers…
… if 20 people like your blog, 5 of them share it, 3 leave a comment, and 1 person gets in touch to talk about working together that’s great if yours is a business like mine.
If 500 people (you’ve paid) like your blog, 60 people (you’ve paid) share it, 0 leave a comment (because they haven’t even read it), and no one gets in touch (‘cos they couldn’t give two sh*ts about what you do) it won’t help you pay the bills.
Five thousand – five million – likes mean nothing if no one is calling you or buying what you sell. So, absolutely, go for engagement on social media but genuine engagement.
Online videos have been around for years and it’s taken a while for the business world to catch up but now they have and video is becoming more and more popular and more and more important for SEO.
Pages with video rank higher and have higher click-through rates than pages without. You’ve got to make sure that Google can find it though. So, post it on (Google-owned) YouTube and write a great description (you’ve got 5000 characters to play with).
Then post it on your site. Google can’t yet hear and understand a video’s content (though I’m sure they’re working on it), here are their top tips for video SEO.
Link-building isn’t going away, it’s the way the search spiders understand how sites relate to each other and which ones are important. This translates into forming relationships with other website owners and getting INBOUND links from their sites, for example, your local paper, a nationwide travel magazine, a supplier you mention in your blogs…
The more ‘authority’ they have the more valuable the link. So, a link from the BBC’s website is great. A link from What’s Going on Down My Street less so. But it’s still worth having.
Another trend is towards local SEO. 50% of searches on mobile phones are for local businesses so it’s worth making sure you can be found.
- including your business details and address on your website
- using location-specific keywords
- targeting your posts towards local search
Keywords and phrases
Keywords and phrases are still important – search engines need to know what your post is about – but they’re getting cleverer. Google uses semantic search and knows what you’re getting at even if you don’t use the exact words.
Don’t stuff your lovely prose full of keywords and don’t forget the long-tail either (85-90% of searches are for phrases of more than a few words, so focus on your niche).
And lastly, Google likes websites that are regularly updated with engaging, well-written content. So have a blog on your site. That’s all I’m going to say about that. Have. A. Blog.
This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means but these are some of the most important things to think about when you’re trying to get onto page one. If you’ve got anything to add or want to ask me a question go ahead, I’m ever so nice.
DISCLAIMER: There are about 200 ranking factors in Google’s algorithm, this is not meant to be a comprehensive guide. I cannot guarantee that you will get onto page 1 of Google even if you follow my advice. Search results can go down as well as up. Other search engines are available but Google is my favourite.