How To Improve Your Website's SEO

Key Strategies you can use to Improve your Internet Presence

If you ever started a business that required some sort of domain hosting, it would become apparent how important search optimisation (SEO) is in driving your business and increasing your clientele. You would also realise how difficult it is to achieve a high level of search optimisation. It is a rough science and can be elusive for anyone to grasp (except for Google, of course). However difficult it may seem, it remains necessary to understand for any business looking to make a presence on the internet. In this article, we will try to demystify SEO as a concept and explore all the key strategies you can deploy to improve your website’s SEO. These strategies are well-researched and battle-tested. For simplicity’s sake, when talking about search engines, we will only invoke the example of the Google search engine, as Google remains the dominant player in this space (who uses Bing nowadays anyway… like seriously).

Search engine optimisation has come to mean many things to different people. SEO, in its most basic form, refers to the on-page and off-page design strategies you might use to improve your search engine rankings. This usually means altering the layout and content of your website. For the most part, the code that runs Google’s search engine is unknown. Apart from the few articles they have published over the years, it is impossible to predict how a site will rank on Google’s search engine. The weight that Google puts on each criterion is hidden from prying eyes. The characteristics themselves signify important aspects of any site and are important to consider when designing a website.

1. Content

The Google engine must process user queries in real-time and return results in milliseconds. When a user types in a query, the engine breaks it up into words and phrases and returns the pages that match up best against it. The quality of the content will determine how high a webpage ends up.

1.1 Effective use of grammar and keywords

When it comes to SEO, content is king. Effective use of grammar and keywords will ensure a higher page ranking. Make sure that the material is not too difficult to read. Aim for a conversational English style. There are plenty of tools on the internet that measures the complexity level of text. Readable provides a good application for analysing the reading level of text.

1.2 Sizable Content

Aim to increase the content (i.e. text) to a sizable amount. Google translates the size of a page to how useful it is. Adding more relevant text to your site will also boost the average time spent by users on your webpage.

Dwell time is an important measurement you should keep in mind when developing your site. The search engine leverages the data it fetches from the Google Chrome browser to measure the dwell time. It also pulls in how often a page is bookmarked. Google will use this data to infer how a user interacts with a page and to judge how relevant a page is.

1.3 Try to Avoid Mature Content

Google negatively marks a site on inappropriate words or content. You should remove any mature content from your site. Google has a harsh scoring system and wants to keep Google search safe for kids to use.

1.4 Clear and Logical Layout of Content

You have to make your site more friendly to crawlers. When you fragment your text too much, crawlers have a hard time extracting keywords and phrases. Google will also mark the page as more difficult to read. Google uses static analysis to judge the usefulness of a website (i.e. how easy it is to read). It primarily uses content arrangement as the key measurement.

1.5 Effective use of Keywords

Google collates words/phrases that it thinks has importance on your site. This includes (amongst other things) text that is bold, headings (i.e. h1 tags) and italic text. Once identified by Google, It will use these words to store your webpage in a keyword -> URL map data structure known as a reverse index. The reverse index is a data structure that maps important keywords to website URLs. The reverse index will be indexed in real-time to retrieve web pages that match a query. It remains crucial that Google chooses the right words of impact to map your page with.

  • Repeat key words: Try to aim to repeat keywords 3-4 times. When the page is judged for those words, it will have higher relevancy.
  • Do not be generic with your keywords: You must focus on highlighting words that are important to your domain (i.e. the sector your business is in). Casting your net too wide will hurt your website’s relevance score for the words that matter. You have to be the judge of that. Google can detect search manipulation better than anyone.

1.6 Effective use of Meta-Data Tags and Attributes

Google Crawlers utilise several meta-data elements supplied by Html. Make sure that each image has an alt attribute. It makes your website more accessible. Make sure the alt tag is descriptive and includes keywords that are relevant to the image.

Name resources (e.g. images, videos) with appropriate descriptive names. For instance, Instead of simply "dog," an image of a happy corgi dog jumping around should be titled "happy_corgi_dog_jumping_around."

Meta Description is another important element that you should include. It is used to define the description section that appears under the title after a search on Google. The words included are automatically marked as significant by the crawler so make sure you front-load any significant keywords that you want to be advertised.

Meta Title works the same way as Meta Description. The same rules apply. Make sure you do not make the title too long. Make it short and snappy.

2. Performance

Google will penalise your web page if it takes too long to load. The two measurements to pay attention to when it comes to your website performance are First Contentful Paint (FCP) and Time To Interactive (TTI). FCP measures how long it takes for the browser to render the first part of DOM content after a user navigates to your page. TTI measures how long it takes for a webpage to become fully interactive. Lighthouse (a free static-analysis tool) can assess these two measurements. Lighthouse is an easy tool to use and there are plenty of tutorials available online.

2.1 Reduce the Memory Footprint of Images

You can improve load times by reducing the size of images. Reduce the aspect ratio of your image to a ratio that is more akin to how it will be shown on your website. For instance, you should reduce an image that was originally 1280x1280 pixels to 50x50 pixels if you know that image will only be used as an icon. You can be sure that such a resolution will not be utilised, and reducing the aspect ratio would have no affect on the image quality. This optimisation would drastically decrease the memory footprint of the resource and mean the image would load a lot quicker on the browser. You can also compress the image to reduce the memory footprint of an image further. There are several excellent free picture compression tools available on the internet. TinyPng is a personal favourite. The difference between a compressed and uncompressed image is discernible to the naked eye.

2.2 No Videos that Automatically Play

Try to avoid using videos that automatically play (e.g. a video styled lander page). Videos are OK (and even encouraged) as long as the user initiates them. It's not a good idea to load the video all at once. It should be kept on a specialised CDN that allows video data chunks to be dynamically served to your website.

2.3 Dynamically Render Content

Instead of statically rendering content on your page, dynamically load it instead. All resources (e.g. images, text files, videos) have their own URL and must be fetched before they can be used on your website. Statically rendering a web page entails rendering all of the content of a page at once (i.e. at load time), making a series of requests in the process for resources that will be displayed. Instead of going with this approach, you can leverage a front-end framework like ReactJs or Angular to render content on demand (i.e. when the user needs to view it). This reduces the content that needs to load when the page is visited. If you are using a platform like WordPress then there is a lot of really good support out there.

2.4 Choose a Good Host Provider

Load time is dependent on the provider hosting your page. Choose a provider that has servers in the location where most of your users are.

3. Continual Updating

Consistently updated content is rated as one of the best indicators of a site's relevance, so make sure to keep your website up to date. It is important you incrementally improve your site. Find new ways of updating your content.

3.1 Include a robots.txt File

You can serve a robots.txt from your domain. The robots.text is an xml document that defines all the pages under your domain. It also includes the timestamps for each page's most recent update. The robots.txt helps the crawler identify all the pages under a domain that need to be crawled. You can alternatively request your page to be recrawled directly. This will reduce the time you need to wait for your pages to be recrawled by Google. Both approaches should be utilised after each deployment.

3.2 Include a Blog Section

This is significant enough to warrant its section. Having a blog area on your website is a great way to keep your site fresh with new content. This will keep bringing new visitors to your site. It's an effective technique to get users to remain on your site for longer. It also provides an opportunity for you to advertise keywords that are relevant for your sector.

4. Advertise

4.1 Spread your Website on Other Domains

Use social media sites like LinkedIn and blog sites like Medium as a good opportunity to reference your website’s URL (shameless www.olobird.com plug). These sites have high popularity scores. Google uses a popularity score (in addition to content score) to measure the relevance of a page. Google sees hyperlinks as a recommendation. A hyperlink from my homepage to your page is my endorsement of your page. The crawlers make an account of these recommendations for the sites they crawl. A page with high popularity referencing your webpage would have a greater bearing than a lower one doing the same. So the quality and quantity of the reference are equally important in determining the popularity score.

5. Credibility

5.1 Do Not Plagiarise

Do not copy and paste articles across multiple blog sites. Google will penalise you harshly for duplicating content across domains. Use the official import tool to publish your blogs to Medium after you have published them to your site.

5.2 Include Outbound Links

You want to leverage the popularity of other sites. Including a lot of outbound links (i.e. links to other sites) that are relevant to the content is a very effective way of doing that. Google recognises information from a page that has been well-sourced. Make sure you are selective with the outbound links you chose and that they are relevant to your content. Another essential thing to validate before going to production is no broken exists on your page. A broken link will be heavily penalised by Google. You can easily prevent this with a standard automated test. It would check all outbound links are active before deploying your site to production. You can check manually by testing each hyperlink yourself (Do not test in production). If that is not possible for your type of site then there are plenty of tools on the web that carry out that check for you.

5.3 Use a Trustworthy Domain Provider

The site has to be trustworthy. Hosting your domain on a cheap domain host provider might negatively impact your SEO. Just because a service is cheap, it does not mean it meets good quality standards. The quality of service should never be subsidised for price. Google identifies domain providers that exist on the cheaper side as prime targets for criminals. A hosting provider registers their credentials on your behalf when sending your site to DNS servers (i.e. the servers that map the domain with your IP address). So, Google has access to this information. Only partner with companies that have a good track record of being reliable.

Conclusion

We at Olobird are always looking to improve our SEO. The most difficult part of SEO is initiating a presence. It is difficult to go from near obscurity to having a presence on the internet. It takes a lot of trial and error and patience. The little we do know about Google’s search engine comes from the few papers Google has released over the years and the number of studies on its performance. The weighting Google puts on each strategy still remains a mystery. We can say with a good amount of certainty that applying these techniques will give your site the best chance of building a solid presence on the internet. There are many more ways to improve your SEO. These strategies were specifically utilised in designing and developing www.olobird.com.