CLIMB GOOGLE RANKINGS
In the fifth of our series about digital skills, Tom May looks at how to optimise websites so Google and people will find them
In the fifth of our series about digital skills, we look at how to optimise websites so Google will find them
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is both an art and science. It’s about ensuring that when people search for a relevant term online – for example, ‘cheap hotel in Birmingham’ – your website appears high up the results page, in a way that grabs attention and encourages click-throughs.
You might think SEO is something you can hand over to someone ‘technical’ once the website is designed. But rather than being bolted on after the event, it’s increasingly baked in to the design process from the start.
“For brand new websites, SEO is definitely something clients want to discuss straight away,” says Mark Stringer, managing director of Manchester agency AHOY. “And for those undertaking a refresh, it’s usually the next question after the UI discussion.”
Exactly what’s requested will vary from client to client. “Smaller businesses and sole traders tend to ask about marketing in general, or maybe even how to get on Google,” says Eji Osigwe, head of design and development at Cedarwood Digital, also in Manchester. “Larger businesses seem more aware of the terminology and the kind of work involved, and so may ask for very specific work.” HOW SEO WORKS There was a time when SEO was a dark art involving tricks like ‘keyword stuffing’, which meant visitors were often greeted by the mindless repetition of a phrase like ‘cheap hotel’ through a site. Thankfully, in 2018, search engines are more sophisticated, and so nowadays the most fundamental building block of SEO is, quite simply, to create a quality website people will love.
“Strong, quality content that keeps visitors engaged – especially content informed by an up-to-date keyword strategy – will help you move higher in search results,” says Eric Johnson, director of experience design at 50,000feet. “Think of the winning formula as visitor time spent + high-quality content + keywords.” TECHNIQUES FOR BOOSTING SEO Specific techniques can also boost your SEO further. One is to structure the information on your site so it can be displayed as a separate section within your main listing. “Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) is a good example of high-quality, useful content that will get included,” notes Johnson. “The next time you search on Google, check out the ‘People Also Ask’ module, which displays questions that are similar to your search; this will help you get an idea of questions to include in your FAQ.”
Another important thing to consider, especially when it comes to refreshes and rebrands, is 301 redirects. These little bits of code send both site visitors and search engines to a different URL when, for example, a temporary campaign ends and you want people to visit the main site instead. Broken links will get you penalised on Google, so a solid 301 redirect strategy is vital to good SEO.
SEO is not an exact science, though, because the algorithms used by search engines like