Search Engine Optimization A functional strategy to gain rankings
Search Engine Optimization is a rather very complex task. Generally, it is the tweaks that help web pages gain higher ranking in search engine result pages (SERP). In this article, we provide a very practical approach to SEO and the steps that have been used to gain good ranking for various websites as we know and have adopted in the optimization of some of the websites we have designed, managed and optimized for ranking.
There are two broad elements of SEO. The first is on-page optimization and the second is off-page optimization.
on-page optimization refers to the things you do directly on your website while off-page optimization refers to the measures taken outside your direct website which ultimately lead to higher rankings.
Some SEO experts have argued that on-page efforts are far more important and will yield better results than off-page strategies. On the contrary, they both contribute to the success of the web page and have different weights which determine ranking success. Recently, off-page factors like backlink gains have proved to be more relevant in helping ranking than on-page methods lie webpage title, description and keyword selection.
On-Page Optimization - The First Step
If you are creating a brand new website on a new domain then a website audit will not be necessary. But if you are re-designing an existing website or seeking to improve optimization for a website, then you will need to consider conducting some kind of audit. This article details how to conduct a website audit.
The audit will give detailed insight into what needs to be done to bring the website to the standard required for it to be seen as a quality website according to Google's recommendations. A few elements will be considered in the website audit.
Website Speed: Website speed has become a factor, though minor, in website ranking. Speed plays a key role in the experience of users who visit your website. When a website is too slow, it also leads to a high bounce rate.
You will need to check the speed of your website with GTMetrix , Pingdom or any other tool. These tools will suffice to test the speed of your website.
Google PageSpeed Insights
PageSpeed Insights is a brainchild of Google. This app measures your site's performance across multiple devices, including desktop and mobile browsers. This is useful if your visitors are accessing your site from a variety of screen sizes and devices.
This is a free tool that gives you full-site performance information including load time, page size and an analysis of each page on your website.
GTmetrix gives you a complete history of the website's loading speeds and a report that suggests ways to improve the performance of your website.
WebPagetest gives insights into the load speed of your website and a breakdown of your site's performance. It's unique in that it allows you to select a country to view your report from, so you can see how your site performs across different countries.
YSlow is a browser plugin that lets you track the performance of any site you're currently visiting. It doesn't give you the actual load time, but it does break down over 20 different performance criteria. This helps performance comparison.
Responsiveness: By being responsive, a website can be viewed on all devices including mobile devices like Android phones. iPhone and tablets. Google now ranks responsive websites higher than non-responsive sites and this means your site has to be mobile friendly. Besides, mobile devices do not attract as much 50percent of total website traffic and even more than that in some environments. Not having a mobile friendly website is a disadvantage as it affects user experience, increases bounce rate and reduces the confidence of users in your site especially if you run an e-commerce website.
Other checks: Other relevant op-page factors you will need to check are branding, colours, images, coding, themes, website architecture, content just about anything on the site itself. Content is very critical especially when considered along the lines of freshness, text ratio, and originality. Google pays much attention to content originality as well as the word count. Most web pages that rank on the top 10 for searches have high text volume/word count. This is not to say you have to copy and paste to increase your word count. No! You have to plan and write your content to gain the attention of users and impress the search engines on the quality of your posts.
On-page Optimisation - The Next Steps
Keywords have become one of the most misunderstood elements of SEO. While some authors have played down the importance of keywords, it is our view that keywords still play an important role for as long as search outcomes are still dependent on keywords.
Having the right mix of keywords can make much difference. The starting point is to begin with keyword research to understand the right keywords that are currently being used in searches. These will be implemented in building your content, writing page titles and page description.
You may want to read more on the Role of Keywords in SEO
Implementing On-page Optimisation
Having the right keywords, you can now proceed to execute your strategy of using them to develop your content.
Backlink Generation - Backlinks are hyperlinks from other websites pointing back to your website. The importance of backlinks have compelled webmasters to buy links and get involved in link exchange programs. These are not recommended for good SEO. In fact, Google frowns at it and will penalize your site if you get to buy links just to manipulate and give a wrong impression about your website popularity.
Backlinks come naturally and when that happens, it can be very rewarding. All you need to do is focus on quality and useful content and expect users to share and make reference to your content.
Google has also made clear that the quality of backlinks matter. If you get backlinks from very poor quality sites or sites that are currently under some kind of Google penalty. Then that would not work in your best interest. In fact, Google will use that to associate your site to be of poor quality and could also downgrade your rankings. So, the key to having a beneficial backlink is to have it from high quality websites. The best way to do this is to focus on building quality content that gets natural backlinks.
How to Create Backlinks
Press Releases - Getting backlinks through press releases is easy. But in certain industries, press releases are not a normal practice to generate links. Notwithstanding, if you can develop a credible and reputable mailing list of high quality websites, sending out press releases to them could just be one great way to gain backlinks.
Citations - A citation is a place on another website where your business's name, address and phone number is listed. You should aim to have as many of these as possible.
Social Signals - Social signals are currently not a ranking factor to reckon with. They are Instead trust factors. Having a good social signal tells Google that your brand is popular and so should be trusted. Since Google uses historical factors and user experience into consideration in ranking, it follows that having a website that is perceived to be trusted will tell Google that such a website can gain a higher rank. Google wants to have quality websites dominate its top pages in SERPs.
Contextual Links - These are links that are placed in the middle of surrounding content for example any link surrounded by relevant text would be classed as a contextual link.
Competition Analysis - This guides on where competitors are getting their backlinks from and the amount and quality of such links. Using tools such as ahrefs and SEMrush we can see where competitors are getting their backlinks.
Guest Posts- Google has not endorsed this strategy as a good link building strategy. The rule will be to ensure that your posts appear in high quality websites. It will certainly be rewarding.
Broken Link Building - We use the analytics to determine broken links and fix them or redirect them to other relevant pages where we are unable to get a fix. Assume that one of our posts have been deleted, you have re-designed your website completely and the link to a particular content has changed. If another website owner has used such a link, it should be returning a 404 error which is not good for users, The recommended practice is to contact the website owner to update the link or you use 301 redirect to the relevant page.
SEO is versed and critically important. It will not be possible to exhaust all that should be done in one post. We recommend that you use other posts on our SEO section to learn more.
Thanks for reading and let us have your comments and inputs on what you think are so important that we have missed.
Traffic from mobile users now surpass those besktop and laptop users contrary to what was the case at the time of publishing thia post. Edited November 17, 2022.