We have created this article as part of our Content Hub feature, to shed light on the technical aspects of SEO in an easy-to-digest way and hopefully give you some key takeaways that you will be able to implement as part of your wider digital marketing strategy. Even without a full-time SEO executive working for your company, there are some things that you will be able to do yourself or with the help of a digital marketing company to make real changes, fast.

Overview: What is SEO and how does it work?

SEO is an acronym that stands for Search Engine Optimisation; the act of optimising your website to rank your pages highly on search engines organically (without needing to pay for positioning). To optimise your site, you need to make sure your website is meeting a number of criteria that search engines look for.

This is where things can start to get confusing for those that don’t have long-term practical experience of implementing an SEO strategy. That’s because there are many different things that search engines look for to determine how relevant your site is and where it ‘deserves’ to be ranked within a specific search result.

Before we move on to what some of these criteria are, it is important to understand how search engines ‘read’ your site. Search engines crawl (or scan) your website using their own bots (coded algorithms) that assess many things about your site including what each of your pages are about, how your site is structured, how individual pages are linked together, as well as to other websites and how well it has been set up from a technical point of view. Once you understand what the search engine bots are looking for, then you can understand what you need to do to provide them with it. Once you know what you have to do, you will need to make those changes. This process is known as optimisation.

There are many benefits of implementing a robust SEO strategy for your website, not least, you will rank higher on search engines. But it is also a great way to reassess what your site actually says about your business. Many people are daunted by the task of undergoing SEO because they see it as additional work on top of the development of their business and building brand awareness. However, if implemented correctly, by working on one you should be improving the other.

Now, lets have a look at the criteria that impact your websites SEO.

Factors that affect Search Engine Ranking

Now that you have an understanding of Search Engine Optimisation and how it works, you need to understand the details about what search engines look for when they crawl your site. It is important to know at this point that large search engine companies like Google will never give a full list of the criteria that their algorithms employ when ranking websites. However, we have a good understanding of what most of these criteria are due to may years of trial and error as well as clues given by search engine companies.

Optimisation factors can be divided into two clear categories, on-page SEO and off-page SEO.

On-page SEO

On-page SEO refers to the factors that are implemented from within your site. These are the things that you have most control over and you can work on to make improvements quickly.

Here are some example of on-page SEO factors:

Title tags

This is the text that is used on each individual page to tell the search engine what your page is all about. Your title tag should be 70 characters long or less and should also include the main keyword (keyphrase) that the content of your page focuses on and it should be as close to the front of your title tag as possible.

Your title tag is the most important on-page SEO factor.

Meta description

A meta description is a brief set of text which explains in more detail what your page is about. This also appears below the title tag in search engines as a small snippet of information that humans read to get a quick understanding of whether the link is what they are looking for. Your meta description should include your keyword (keyphrase).

Meta description

Sub-heading tags

Sub heading tags such as <h1>, <h2> and <h3> are used within the html of your webpages to help both humans and search engines to understand the structure of your content. They can be extremely powerful ways of boosting your SEO. You should include your keyword (keyphrase) throughout sub headings where possible.

Always wrap your page title in an <h1> tag.

Sub heading tags

Internal links

Internal links are the same as normal links but they refer the reader to other pages of relevance. Not only does this keep users engaged in your content for longer periods of time and helps them to find what they are looking for, but search engines also use these internal links to understand the relationship between the pages content and your wider site.

Inbound links

Outbound links

Referring to external websites from within your content is valued by search engines as it shows you are referencing other content around the web. It also helps to understand the relevance of your content when linked to other websites.

Outbound-links

Image name and alt tags

Ensuring your images are named with properly and that they include alt tags which contain your keyword (keyphrase) will have a great effect on your SEO rankings. Search engines like varying types of content so a good mix of text and images is essential.

alt text

URL structure

The structure of your URL is important in SEO. Make sure that your URL isn’t long and over-complicated, it should be short and rich in your keywords.

Multimedia content

Having lots of different types of media within your content will keep your viewers engaged for longer and keep them from exiting your page. This has a positive impact on your bounce-rate and the time on site, two points of data that are very important to search engines.

First paragraph

Your first 100 words should contain your keywords or keyphrase.

Keyword paragraph

LSI Keywords

LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords is the method that Google and other search engines use to study and compare relationships between different terms and concepts within the content of webpages. These keywords are related to your main keywords and help search engines build a better picture of what your content is about and where it should rank. Be sure to research and include LSI’s wherever you can within your content. If you are writing quality, knowledgeable content this should happen naturally.

Tools like LSIGraph are a great way of generating LSI keywords for incorporation into your website content

LSI keywords

Content Length

Make sure that your content is a good length. There is no set length for content on a page, but research has shown that longer content definitely performs better than that which is short and lacks information.

Word count

Off-page SEO

Off-site SEO refers to all the things that you can do away from your site online to improve your websites ranking through search engines. These factors are more difficult to implement than on-page SEO because you don’t have the ability to directly control all of them. This difficulty to influence off-page SEO is valued highly by search engines for that reason – if you do well here it is because others rate your website highly and value the content.

Here is some example of off-page SEO factors:

Link building

Links (link building)

Google and other search engines, use the quantity of links to gauge your sites authority and the quality of its content.

This makes earning links from other websites a crucial part of a robust SEO strategy.

However, it is important to remember quality over quantity here, as poorly respected websites that link back to yours can have a negative effect on your site’s SEO.

If you have noticed lots of poor-quality links from undesirable websites use a disavow list to indicate that you do not want them to be tracked by search engines.

Domain Authority

Your domain authority is a score on a scale of 1-100 that search engines use to work out how well respected your website is around the web. There are many factors that effect your domain authority score, but quality backlinks are a very important factor.

Again, it is a difficult part of SEO to master, but if you improve on all aspects of your websites SEO in general this should be reflected in an overall improvement in your domain’s authority score.

Social Media

Social Media Channels

Social promotion is a contentious issue when it comes to SEO. It is still unclear whether social links have a direct effect on your SEO, but many top search engines have indicated that they do. So, with that in mind it is definitely something that should not be overlooked. Besides, whether search engines track your social linking directly or not is irrelevant when it comes to other areas of SEO such as the number of visitors to your site and time on site. So, utilising social channels to get traffic to your site is vital.

Make sure you are active on social media with a mix of relevant content that is not just your own.

Conclusion

On-page SEO is certainly an easier and faster way of making improvements you your website that will have a positive impact on your optimisation, however the off-page factors may result in better, more substantial improvements to your rankings.

Starting with on-page SEO is a great way to get a less technical introduction to what is required for your website to be a success online.

In this digital age, where people want information and services on demand is it vital that successful businesses implement a robust strategy that includes search engine optimisation.

Where to begin

There is no denying that SEO is a technical challenge that takes skill and knowledge, but that should not deter you from getting started with some of the things that can have an immediate positive effect on your search engine ranks.

If you haven’t begun to implement any SEO on your website and are keen to boost your performance yourself then these basic factors will be the best place to start.

If you don’t have the time or technical knowledge to get to work on improving these factors, but you would like to make an active, conscious effort to get started then you can take on the services of a company like Youbiquity that specialise in making these changes for small to medium sized businesses.

Request a free SEO audit

At Youbiquity, we offer free SEO audits to analyse your current search engine performance against these (and more) ranking factors.