A simple Google search for the key phrase search engine optimization yields more than 18 million results. So despite some reports to the contrary it clearly remains a hot topic, and for good reason. Businesses know that a prime position on the first page of Google search results still gives them the opportunity to attract huge numbers of visitors to their websites, thereby generating more leads and customers.
Google’s ranking algorithm is a closely guarded secret, and changes constantly, but there are certain common sense principles which can be applied to achieving the best possible ranking for a website or page.
First understand Google’s objectives
Put very simply, the company derives its profits from advertising revenues. The more people who use its search engine, the more attractive it becomes to advertisers and the more it will profit from selling ad space through its pay-per-click and display networks.
Google is therefore very committed to delivering the best possible experience to those who use its search engine, and this means that website owners need above all to be concerned about the relevance and quality of the content they provide on their sites.
That said, although the old days of winning rankings with cut and paste content and purchased spam links are long gone, there are still some simple steps you can take to optimize your site.
1. Domain and page name
The first thing Google looks for when processing a search is a relevant domain name, so you should ideally choose one that relates as closely as possible to your core product or service. But if you’ve already opted for a more generic domain name you should still try to ensure that your internal page URLs (titles) are closely related to the page content.
A good meta description – the 160 characters that appear under the headline in the search results – will also help ensure a good click through rate. And this in itself will help with Google rankings.
2. Speed of loading
The speed at which your site loads when a visitor clicks on it is an important performance metric for Google. Google Webmaster tools and analytics can help, but there are also numerous other tools online which can analyze and help fix your site.
3. Make it easy for the search engines
As powerful and sophisticated as Google and other search engines have become, they may still take time to find and rank all the pages on your site.
One of the best ways to speed the process is to use a sitemap page on your site, and also a Google friendly sitemap.
If you’re using a WordPress site, there are numerous free plugins which can help with this, but you can also use Google Webmaster tools. Also be aware that a search engine friendly site map is not the same as a visitor sitemap and ideally you should have both.
4. Internal Navigation
Google measures the time visitors spend on your site, and the number of pages they visit, and regards this as an important measure of quality. So make it as easy and as enticing as possible for visitors to move between different pages and consume their content.
In particular, this means that each page of your site should include several links to other relevant pages within your site – using good, clear anchor text which makes both the link and its relevance obvious.
But Google’s advice is not to overdo this. Don’t link every page to every other page; instead also use header, footer and category menus so that visitors can easily find what they’re looking for.
5. Make Your Images Google Friendly
Engaging images and videos can be a great way of drawing people to your site, but they need to be used properly if Google is to find and rank them. So use the ”alt” attribute in your page HTML to describe the image or video and put a text caption beneath it.
These steps will undoubtedly improve your site’s ranking, but SEO is a complex and rapidly changing field, so consulting with experienced digital marketing professionals is often the most cost-effective way of increasing your flow of free traffic.
Contact Ballantine today to find out how we can help you with your SEO and PPC requirements.
I'm the Director of Digital Services and Partner at Ballantine, a family-owned and operated direct mail & digital marketing company based in New Jersey. and started in 1966 by my great uncle!