It’s almost 30 years since the first search engine was created, and 20 years since these electronic librarians began directing us towards information and answers. Since the early Noughties, optimising websites to impress search engines has evolved into an art form, practised by everyone from amateur bloggers to digital marketing agencies. This is now viewed as essential for achieving a coveted – and vitally important – position on the first page of search results.
To the uninitiated, Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO, might resemble a mysterious dark art whose rules constantly change. There’s an element of truth in that – Google and Bing are endlessly refining the algorithms used to determine which websites rank the highest for specific search terms. The exact composition of these algorithms isn’t made public (to prevent unscrupulous agents gaming the system), but we do know that certain elements will increase a site’s overall performance. Similarly, some actions can cause irreparable damage to a platform’s ranking prospects. Examples include paying for hyperlinks, registering an obscure top level domain, and not acknowledging readability/usability among mobile audiences when designing web pages.
Below, we’ve listed ten easy ways to boost a website’s SEO performance. None of them is unduly complicated or industry-specific, but the effectiveness of each suggestion will depend on how well your site already performs in these regards:
1. Add a blog or news page.
Regular updates show Google and Bing a site is still active. Upload a few hundred words of relevant, easy-to-read content on a weekly basis.
2. Encourage social media sharing.
Bing places more value than Google on social links, but publicise new content on every social platform to boost SEO with both engines.
3. Never duplicate content.
Replicating third-party data damages SEO performance, so link to external sites instead of republishing their material. This has another benefit…
4. Add links to other sites.
Although organic inbound links are more valuable, outbound ones are easier to set up. They boost a site’s relevance and perceived trustworthiness.
5. Keep people engaged.
Average site visit times impact on SEO performance. Prevent abandonment with quality content, and multiple internal links to other pages on-site.
6. Research industry keywords.
Choose relevant keywords or short phrases, and use one a few times in each new article. This links the text with search results for that term.
7. Add a meta description.
This SEO-friendly two-sentence summary appears below a page’s address in search results. It’s the ideal place to squeeze in a few extra keywords.
8. Add image tags.
Web pages with photos rank more highly than those without. Boost SEO performance by adding keywords and phrases to the images’ filename and tags.
9. Reduce page loading times.
This is a key SEO factor, so avoid autoplaying video files and compress image sizes as far as possible. Minimise HTML code and plugins, too.
10. Use header tags.
Subheadings break up text, making them easier to read and keeping people on-site. Headers matter to search engines, so populate H2 tags with keywords.