To better understand why we need to undertake Search Engine Optimisation, it is useful to know how search engines actually provide the answers to our search queries.
A search engine undertakes three main tasks to arrive at a search result. It first has to crawl the web to collect the pages that are available; it then indexes these pages and finally ranks the pages in response to a visitor typing in a search query. The search result returned to the visitor consists of a number of ‘snippets’ of information from each web page, called search engine results pages (SERPs).
The search engine ‘crawls’ the web to identify relevant pages for indexing and assess whether they have changed. A search engine crawls the web using software called a robot (or crawler, or spiders…) which visit web pages.
It then compiles an index containing every word on every page along with the page address. The HTML mark-up code is ignored, so the index is based on the readable text only.
The search engine then weights its index using a complex algorithm based on a variety of factors (which are constantly being updated and streamlined) and then stores the index as part of its database. The index contains all the pages that contain particular words in a search query, but they are not sorted in terms of relevance.
The search engine therefore has to rank the pages within an index in an attempt to provide the most relevant search results based on many ranking factors, including
There are also negative ranking factors such as including hidden text on a page, keyword stuffing or a lack of real content, which adversely affect the relevance of your page, or in extreme cases can result in your page being excluded and blacklisted from the search engine.
We believe the most important element for Search Engine Optimisation is to provide visitors with good, relevant content that has been written in a way to optimise the use of keywords and phrases. This not only makes the site more easily indexed by the search engines, but also more discoverable by your target audience.
First and foremost, your web site must have a strong, sound foundation. A site that has been built with a coherent structure and hierarchy, using good web design standards, is accessible and adheres to a set of basic SEO rules stands a much greater chance of being crawled and indexed, than one that is poorly structured, badly coded or uses older, outdated web development techniques. For this reason, there are a number of technical factors that must be considered to ensure search engine success.
It is something of a mantra at Google, but their advice has always been that good content will result in good search engine ranking. It is therefore imperative that your web site contains good content to ensure that there is something from which to glean search results from. It stands to reason if Google’s index is constructed from only the page content that pages with little content are going to fare worse than others with lots of content. And pages with lots of relevant content are going to fare even better. Of course, that content can be given something of a leg-up by ensuring that it is written in an optimised manner.
Writing for the web is a different discipline from other forms of copyrighting for three main reasons: the medium itself; the way that people find it; and then how they interact with it. On the web, people are trying to find out something or want to achieve a task. This differs from advertising copy for example, where the prime objective is to gain someone’s attention. On the web, you already have your audience’s attention – now you must help them achieve their goals. People tend to scan a web page rather than read it, so you need to adjust how you present your content. A further complication is that the copy needs to be optimised to ensure that the content is discoverable via a search engine.
Foundation content is the basic, essential content that covers the central concepts of your web site. Although content on a web site must be flexible and fluid, every site should have foundation content that is pretty much fixed and provides useful and relevant content to the visitor that’s search engine optimised. Other content areas of the web site should also link to foundation content, cross-referencing it and future content should also refer back to it. By utilising foundation content you ensure that your web site always conveys core messages and will always have a presence within the search engines, no matter how often other content is changed and updated.
When it comes to writing the actual content, there are a number of rules for writing for the web. These include using the active voice, ensuring keywords and phrases are contained within headings, sub-headings and meta-tags. Sentences should be kept short and snappy and techniques such as bullet pointing and content chunking can help to make web copy easier to scan and read.
The search engines use a number of factors to assign each page of your site with a PageRank that can determine how well it performs in the search engine results. By far the most important of these is the number of inbound links from trusted sources that your site contains.
These days the rise of social media has meant that inbound links can be far more effectively gained by exploiting the social media channels and allowing your audience to talk about you and share your content.
Google and other search engines take into account the rate of change of a site, so it is a good idea to ensure that some content on the site changes at least daily. This can be achieved in areas such as news, blogs and new articles and publications.
All of our web sites are built utilising the principles set out above, but if you feel that your existing site could benefit from optimisation, all is not lost, we can undertake an SEO audit of your existing site and undertake remedial action to help improve your rankings.