SEO – How to rank higher in Google

seo, google, search

A Beginners Guide

SEO or Search engine optimisation is the name of the game! The aim of the SEO game is to get your website as high as possible in the search results returned by a search engine like Google. 

Where it starts

A user decides they need a pair of boots. They want black, high heeled, knee high boots. The thing is – there are a million pairs of boots that match that description. If you have a shop with a website that sells black boots, it is up to you to make sure that when the user enters their search, you show up so they can buy from you! This is where Search engine optimisation comes into play. 

This all sounds very easy until you realise that the recipe to get you to the top of the search is a secret. Search engines use algorithms to display results to a user. An algorithm is a set of rules that determine what gets shown, to whom and when. This algorithm is not public. Based on research designers have a fair idea of how to rank well. We will look at some of the basics that help a website rank well

SEO Glossary

Before we delve into it lets look at a few terms that may come up over and over again and explain what they mean

  • SEO – Search engine optimisation – techniques used to bump a website up the search results
  • Keyword – the word the user will enter in a Search engine when they are searching for something
  • Long tail keywords – search phrases – as opposed to singular words
  • Rank – how far up the search results you appear based on a ranking system with the Search Engine
  • CMS – Content Management System – WordPress for example
  • CTR – Click through rate – the percentage of users that click on a link
  • Organic Traffic – Traffic that originated from a search engine query
  • Meta tag – code snippets in the head of a website that a search engine displays in search results
  • SERP – Search Engine Results Page – the results displayed that are most relevant to your search query
  • Spider/crawler – a bot that crawls and indexes websites

Why is SEO important? 

Simply put, the higher you appear in a SERP the more chance you have of a user clicking on your website i.e the higher your CTR is. If they click on your website link you have won half the battle. Lets have a look at how search engines work so you get an idea of what designers are up against when they carry out SEO work on your website. 

How do search engines work?

There are about 50 billion pages on the internet! How do you find anything?! Search engines are just like search fields in a website, except they search the whole internet for whatever is input in their search bar. Things change quickly on the internet as businesses open, close, move, merge and everything else. To keep order on that mess and ensure things stay up to date, search engines use a crawler to find new content. These bots scrape webpages for information and they index links, images and videos. 

There are 3 steps that a website has to go through to appear in a SERP

  1. The crawler discovers your website – self submit via Google Search Console or the bot could take a while to find you via someone else’s link
  2. The pages are indexed by the crawler – they are put in order
  3. The user enters a query and the search engines analyses their index and shows the most relevant web page results to the user. 

How the spider would view your website:

As you can see below, not everything is indexable. The crawler only indexes certain elements and text. This might look like a pile of rubbish text to the human eye but it makes sense to the crawler.

How does the search engine decide what is most relevant? 

Search engines have a ranking system that they use to determine what is most relevant. There are many factors to consider when it comes to getting a webpage ranked and understanding these is essential to a successful SEO project. Remember when we spoke about not knowing the recipe to success earlier? This is what we are referring to. There are over 200 factors that affect rank. Not only that but we only know a portion of them. We will discuss the most researched ones that have shown to make a difference. 

Links

Linkage gets a bit complicated to say the least. There are 2 different kinds of links in a website, internal links and backlinks. Lets quickly look at both

Internal Links are links between pages of your website. They help the bot find pages in your site and they help users find their way around your site. The better your trail around the website is the more user friendly search engines will determine your website to be. User friendly is becoming a most important ranking factor.

Backlinks are links to your site from other websites. If a site links to yours it indicates authority and community recognition. Link quantity is a ranking factor so the more backlinks you have the higher you rank but not all links are created equal. Links from authoritative sites will have more influence on your rank than links from less popular websites

Keywords

The words user search for. We optimise pages based on words we think users will search for. However there is a fine line between using the word ‘naturally’ and over-optimising by using the word too often. Over distributing your keyword will make your page unbearable to read. Using an SEO tool like Yeost SEO will help you determine the correct level of distribution. We normally look to use the word in the domain or url, page title, header page and spread out in the content of the page. 

Long tail keywords are a more modern approach to keywords. The way users search the internet has changed from searching for one or two keywords to users simply entering a whole phrase into the search bar. Optimising for long tail key phrases should be considered in a good SEO plan. 

Site Age

Newer websites won’t rank as highly as older websites on this factor. You just cannot buy that experience! The older you are the higher you rank

Staleness

Old websites do rank higher than new ones but they need to keep their content updated to ensure they don’t start dropping down the ranks. Search engines see how often websites get updated and new content outranks old content even if that old content is gold. Regular updating is a must for all websites. If the content portion of your website doesn’t change often then blogs are a good way to show search engines that your website is active. 

Website speed / best practise / accessibility 

Search engines favour faster, more user friendly websites. There are many factors that affect site speed which we won’t go into as that’s a whole other blog! Using Lighhouse in Chrome devtools is a good way to determine some basics for your websites performance, SEO issues, best practises and accessibility. 

Mobile responsiveness

It has become known that Google is favouring mobile responsive websites over desktop sites. This goes along with their user friendly criteria. The way we use the internet has change greatly over the years and search engines change their ranking systems based on this. We use the internet more on our mobile devices than on desktop and for that reason mobile responsive websites will rank higher than desktop sites. 

What now?

There are many, more granular avenues that we can look at more closely and we will do that in the next few blogs. In the meantime if you need a hand with search engine optimisation reach out and we will only be too happy to help out.

Contact us on info@simplywebdesign.ie

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