SEO: Not just a bunch of words

December 2014
News Item
Adam Humphries
17th December 2014

When it comes to Google, being king of the hill isn’t always easy. Many organisations launch their website only to wonder in dismay why it never appears in Google searches.

If websites were ranked by good intentions alone, there would be no need for SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Sadly this is not the case and the reality is that forethought and effort are very much at the centre of getting yourself seen on Google.

SEO is often branded as an aftercare product to help pick up failing websites. It’s also often seen as some kind of dark art that only a few truly understand. This blog will dispel some of the myths of SEO whilst showing how to get a website off to the best possible start.

One persisting myth is that SEO is all about picking a handful of keywords and packing your site out to the gills with it. Use those keywords regularly enough and you’re set to soar to the top of Google right? Sorry, those days are long gone! The reality of SEO is that there is no such thing as the perfect page. All you can do is stick to some fairly simple principles and the rest is down to experimentation and analysis.

Here’s what we think are the most important criteria.

Does your site have great UX (sorry, User Experience)?

A site could have the best written content in the world, but if its hidden six clicks deep and written in Comic Sans, then its just not going to have the impact it was intended to. Put simply UX is the art of making sure that a site is a pleasure to browse.

  • Is your site visually appealing?
  • Is the content interesting, well laid out and accessible?
  • Is it interactive?
  • Is the style of navigation consistent through out the site?

These are the kind of questions that you should be asking before you’ve even written the first line of HTML. Drastically changing the UX of an existing website is much harder work that just getting it right from the start.

For a website to have amazing UX you also need to make sure that it can be displayed on multiple types of devices. Now everyone is moving away from desktops and migrating towards tablets and phones, not having a responsive website will count against you.

Is it spider friendly?

Every website has spiders crawling all over it. Search engines employ these little bots, who tirelessly trawl the Internet mapping websites. When a spider visits a website it will (unless told otherwise) set to work investigating and reporting back what it finds to Google. These spiders are not by any means Google’s only eyes and ears but they play a big part.  Spiders struggle to understand poorly written, broken or old websites. The long and short of it is that having a modern, well coded website that obeys best practice gives it the best chance of being noticed by Google and being taken seriously.

Is the content uniquely valuable?

The web is a big place full of the weird and the wonderful, so creating content that stands out to Google is no mean feat. Simply picking a bunch of keywords and trying to be the first person on the Internet to use them is not necessarily the best starting point. It would be more effective to focus on the features that are unique not just to the site but also to the Internet; what it is the user can take away from the page that they might not get elsewhere. On the Internet, uniqueness leads to interest, which leads to people sharing your content socially across the web. And of course, sites that are regularly shared, discussed and linked to will rank better on Google.

Can it be shared easily?

In today’s digital culture if something is popular that’s probably because it was shared on social media.  At a time when most Facebook users have more than 200 friends, a single share can get your content impressive exposure. Google takes social media very seriously and will take into account how many times information from a site has been shared when it is calculating its importance. Adding a few social media buttons to content is an easy way help encourage people to share it. None of us can afford to underestimate the power of social media.

But what about the keywords?

Keywords are not magic beans, but there is no doubt that choosing the keywords carefully is a good idea. Here are some tips:

  • Use keywords sensibly and clearly. Using the same keyword 32 times on a single page, won’t win any favours with Google.
  • Give keywords prominence in titles, headings, alt tags and descriptions.
  • Remember that Google is as interested in the context of the words being used than the actual individual words themselves.

Hopefully this blog provides some ideas of the things to take into account when it comes to SEO. We’ve not gone into too much technical detail to keep the bigger picture view in mind, but as outlined above, there’s much more to SEO than simply stuffing the living daylights out of your site with a handful of keywords.

By Adam Humphries