It was only recently that the two most important factors in achieving a first page or high ranking on search engines, such as Google, were the amount of links you had and the amount of traffic you had previously received.

This has now all changed. Unscrupulous SEO practitioners using techniques that artificially inflated websites links and traffic numbers have forced Google to revaluate its ranking criteria. Google is now less of a popularity contest and more motivated by individual ‘user experience.’

Google still wants you to have good quality links (the equivalent of digital recommendations) from other sites and still wants to see solid numbers visiting your site but they are now focused on what happens once visitors get to your site. Google is asking ‘Are they finding what they expected?’ ‘Are they spending a reasonable amount of time on each page and exploring lots of content?’ ‘Are they coming back repeatedly to find fresh and original content updates?’ ‘Are you providing video and other rich media to help make your site more engaging?’

If you are focused on user experience and regular, original content updates you are better positioned to build your ranking and profile on the ‘new and improved’ Google.

What if I haven’t done anything on my website since I built it?

If you built your website 2 years ago and haven’t updated your content or maintained an SEO campaign, you may seem to be okay. You may have even retained your place in Google searches…but don’t get too comfortable, Google is coming after you. 

On average, Google is updating its search algorithms 500 times a year. Although many of these changes are small, combined they are substantial and just because you haven’t been penalised yet, doesn’t mean your website isn’t in Google’s cross hairs. The best time to update your content and SEO strategy is before it impacts on your ranking.

What do I need to do to improve my Search Engine Optimisation?

Improving your Google ranking should not be your only aim. You should be working to make your website a better experience for your target audience. This means looking at everything from content, keyword/phrase usage, navigation and the use of rich media (video ETC). You also need to look at your technical SEO, which is the code and architecture behind the structure of your website.

Keyword/phrase usage

Until recently, most websites added keywords and phrases into their code, to make them appear in as many organic searches as possible. Most websites in existence today still have dozens or even hundreds of keywords buried in their code. Bad news is, if you own or run one of those sites, Google hates you. You’re a Dinosaur and Google will hunt you down. 

What you need to do is get rid of those keywords altogether and make sure only a couple appear in copy on each page. Doing this is not a task for the uninitiated, you need to know how to analyse keywords and exactly the rules on how and where to use them. Google is ruthless on this and you need to work with experts to get it right.

The role of content updates in Search Engine Optimisation

If you think you can just copy content from somewhere else and use it to update your website, you’re in for a rude shock. Google demands that all of the content on your website is at least 80% original, and they can tell if it’s not. The consequences of using other peoples content can be dramatic and may include blacklisting your website, so it doesn’t appear at all on Google.

Spend the money to generate fresh, original and engaging content, optimised for search engines. It is not only Google who will reward you for your endeavours, your new customers will as well.

Technical Search Engine Optimisation

When it comes to technical Search Engine Optimisation, there is bad news and there is worse news. The bad news is that if you have a site built by a gifted amateur (most web developers fit into this category), then you have a ‘house built on sand’. Good Technical Search Engine optimisation is a lot like good engineering. You need to understand the fundamentals and get the groundwork right, before you start to build. If the architecture of your website was poor from the outset, or your website was built more than 2 years ago, or you or your developer used a template to build your site, you’re probably better off to tear it down and start again. The reality is, it will probably be cheaper in the long term.

Now for the worse news. There has been a dramatic change in the way people are engaging with the web. They are now using ‘multiscreen’ engagement. Put simply, people are using a computer, their smart phone and tablet at different stages of the same search. Google is responding by updating its algorithm to factor in ‘mobile optimisation’. Mobile optimisation refers to how your website looks and operates on different mobile devices. Most sites are not optimised for mobile devices and this is starting to impact on their Search Engine optimisation. It is expected in the very near future that mobile optimisation will become a key factor in your ranking. This is yet another reason why you may be better off starting all over again. 

Link building

Link building is still a contributing factor to your sites Search Engine Optimisation profile and should not be overlooked. You may need to look at your link building strategy and check if it is still in line with Google news link rules.  

Social media

Social media is increasingly playing a role in your website ranking. Links from social media sites are considered important by Google. If you’re a B2B business, this does not mean you should run out and set up a Facebook page but there are ways you can use LinkedIn and Twitter to build your profile, without investing a great deal of time or money. You just need to speak to someone who understands these mediums.

How do I start my new Search Engine Optimisation strategy?

Your Search Engine Optimisation strategy should not be viewed in isolation. It is a part of a much larger review of your marketing activities and a good place to start this review is by talking to the team at Digital Storytelling Collective.