In a world of competing voices, everyone’s trying to get that edge that gets them noticed. This is why Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a huge deal. Any site that stands a chance of being found by the curious searcher is going to have to adhere to certain principles that can be found in the six pillars of SEO.
We’ll take a look at each pillar below, but let’s begin with how SEO actually works.
SEO – What Happens?
At its most basic, SEO is the process of making a site more discoverable. We could go into even further detail with a discoverability definition, but suffice to say that when search engines scan the internet for material that’s relevant to the search term they’ve been given, they look for certain signals. These signals can be found in a website and can also be found in the user behavior of visitors.
When particular signals are found, this determines the ranking of that site on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), so are crucial to the success of the site. There are ways a site owner can boost the SERP position, and these are to be found in the six pillars of SEO.
Pillar 1: Technical SEO
This is the back-end of the website - all the stuff that goes on behind the scenes that web crawlers delve into. Its importance cannot be overstated. This is where some of the information resides that search engines look for, then index, then rank.
A key component of technical SEO is website speed. How fast the site loads influences the bounce rate (the number of users who visit one page of the site then go straight back to SERP). A high bounce rate means a low conversion rate. Consequently, low loading speeds mean low conversion rates.
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The bounce rate affects the ranking of the site. If people are taking a quick look then leaving straight away, then the search engine can reasonably conclude that the site’s not delivering much information that is useful or relevant to the user.
With that in mind, you can increase your website’s speed by compressing images and limiting the number of redirects.
Over 90% of the global internet population uses a mobile phone to gain access. It’s clear that a website that doesn’t make an effort here is going to fail to achieve its full potential. A site that’s judged to be less mobile-friendly will rank poorly on a search engine’s list.
Consequently, it’s important to ensure a site is displaying optimally for the device by using what’s known as responsive design, which automatically applies the right format to the site.
Can a user find their way around a site easily or do they struggle, only to abandon the site after stumbling around to no avail? Such adverse results can mean poor SEO, so they need addressing.
Testing is crucial here. Assume the persona of someone with no prior knowledge and see if various pieces of information are easy to find. If not, a redesign might be in order. A good rule of thumb is to use shallow-depth so most areas of the site are accessible with just a few clicks.
Pillar 2: Content
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Content is what a site is all about. It’s the product descriptions for the shoes that you sell. It’s the information that supports a cloud based phone system for small business usage. It’s the joke of the day on a comedy site. In short, it’s what makes the site what it is. There are three chief aspects to content that every good content creator should bear in mind.
These are the words and phrases that people are using to find material. Do some research into exactly what they are, then set about including those very phrases into your content. This will boost a site’s visibility on search engines. There are various tools out there that can assist with keyword research, many of which are free.
User intent is huge in the world of SEO, referring to the intention behind the search term. So, going back to that site selling shoes, it would be worth thinking about the problems that the site solves.
It could be that the site carries an excellent range of shoes for people with wide feet. Or it could be that speedy mail outs are its thing. Whatever it is that will chime with what a particular user will want, work it into the content, and phrase it in the same way a user might.
Easy to say, harder to put into action. Quality in this case means originality and value. Try to produce content that’s unique to the site and the company image. Ultimately, try to produce content that gives the user a great reading experience. Use wit where you can. Write brightly and with vigor. Pay attention to grammar – it can be dull, but it’s important.
Pillar 3: On-Site SEO
This is all the optimisation that takes place on the site itself. It’s mainly about ease of use and the value the site gives the user. There are several main aspects, some of which, like keywords, we’ve already covered. Others are below.
Have a URL that gives an idea of what happens on the site. If the URL is www.internet-telephones.com, a user is entitled to expect an array of services such as interactive voice response to greet their arrival at the site. If they find instead a range of sunglasses, they’re likely to be a little puzzled, no matter how nice the sunglasses.
A title tag is an HTML code tag that lets you give your web page a title – it’s what users will see when they skim through the results on SERP. It should be a very concise title indicating the nature of the site. The target here is 60 characters or fewer.
These are the short descriptions that outline what the site has to offer. The limit on these is approximately 160 characters, so be direct and to the point.
These are more significant for users than for search engines, but, as they will influence how many users select a site for a visit, they have an impact on SEO.
User Experience (UX)
This relates to the navigation aspect touched on above. User experience covers the way it feels to use the website. The easier and more enjoyable the experience, the better the SEO results.
Pillar 4: Off-Site SEO
This is all about building a site’s visibility by working on aspects that are not actually on the site. Ways to do this include going about getting backlinks from other sites and shares on social media.
Backlinks can be acquired by linking to other sites in the first place. Be careful not to overdo this though - it’s tedious for a user to be faced with a page full of links. Link for strategic gain by all means, but above all link where it adds value for the reader.
Social media shares can be facilitated by linking up with an influencer - share something of theirs that gives your readership some value and social proof will take it from there, boosting your SEO performance.
Pillar 5: Authority
This relates to Pillar 4, in the sense that a site’s authority in the eyes of a search engine is enhanced with the number of backlinks to that site. There are other ways to build up the authority of a site though, and chief among these are authoritative content and brand recognition.
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Authoritative content gives a search engine signals that a site is to be trusted. These signals are known as E-A-T factors (Experience, Authority, and Trust) and are quite difficult to measure. A better path to begin with is to try to earn authority by being a voice that people can trust. One idea is to start down the guest post route, which can help with establishing a trusted identity.
Reputations tend to establish fairly readily, so if a site can acquire a reputation for honesty and knowledgeability, backlinks will proliferate over time.
Brand recognition is another aspect that helps with a site’s authority, and again, usually has to be earned. It can be assessed using marketing tools that compare one brand with another for brand strength.
It’s not something that can usually be boosted overnight, though. Brand recognition, like most aspects of authority, comes from being a quality provider. If, for instance, a communications company offers the best virtual pbx service, word will spread. To focus on brand recognition rather than on doing what the company was set up to do is to put the cart before the horse.
Pillar 6: Local SEO
This is all about immediate geographical area, so especially useful for sites with bricks-and-mortar stores. A huge number of Google searches contain a geographical component, eg ‘ shoe shops in Phoenix’, so it makes sense to think about how to optimize local visibility.
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A good start is to get a Google My Business listing. Use Google Maps, then follow the instructions to get the site and what it does up there.
Follow up by trying to get as many local business citations as possible. This simply means getting other site owners to mention you where and when they can. This helps search engines to establish the site’s local significance.
Then it’s a matter of getting customers to post some positive reviews and testimonials and the site will soon climb the local rankings.
There are numerous ways that SEO can be worked on, and we’ve only just started to cover them here. To filter it all down to two takeaways:
- The CEO can help establish the best SEO - don’t leave it all to the techies. The CEO is the lifeblood of the organization so should offer some significant input, at least initially.
- Content is still king. Let it zing and your ranking will sing – so make it your thing.