Search Engine Optimisation 101 | Advanced Digital Marketing Blog, Ireland

Search Engine Optimisation 101 - A Beginner's Guide

Aisling Brennan, 12-Feb-2016

Search Engine Optimisation can be a little overwhelming to any small business. There’s a lot of technical jargon and a lot of contributing elements which often causes a lot of confusion. However if you remember there are three branches to SEO, you're [almost] halfway there:

  1. Technical
  2. Onpage Optimisation
  3. Offpage Optimisation


1. Technical

A Technical audit will ensure there are no obstacles to search engine crawlers accessing your content. Technical SEO doesn’t make a website rank, rather it allows it to rank by means of on- and off-page optimisation.

A Techncial audit will examine your website architecture, server response codes, dynamic/unfriendly URLs, any potential crawling or indexing issues, duplicate content issues, XML sitemap issues and site loading time to see if there are any issues preventing the bots from accessing the content.

2. Onpage Optimisation

The most important onpage optimisation tip is to focus on content creation. Make sure you’re solving a real problem faced by real users. Create relevant, accurate, readable and engaging content that speaks to this need and is easily shareable. This is the holy grail of SEO. Everything else below will help expedite ranking, but the focus should be on creating user friendly, engaging content.

Head order
Make sure your Meta tags are in the right order: Title, description and keywords.

Title tag
Your title tag should include your most important information, including your top keywords. Remember results in Google SERPs cut off at 512 pixels (55 characters) so keep it brief.

Description tag
Include the most important descriptive content and keywords. Remember description results in Google SERPs cut off at 920 pixels (156 characters, inc spaces).

Keywords Tag
Although no longer a consideration in ranking, I always include the keywords tag as best practice.

Alt Attributes
Ensure all images have text descriptions associated with them. Ensure all URLs have absolute, rather than relative URLs.

Make JS/CSS External
Google only indexes the first 100k of a page so ensure the most important content is what the search engine bots see when they first crawl your site. Put all Javascript/CSS code in include files.

Ensure you have an HTML Sitemap, with a link to this Sitemap from every page of your site, usually in the footer.

Text navigation
Include a text equivalent to Javascript/Flash navigation--if you have this on your site--as search engines cannot see either JS/Flash.

Robots.txt file
Ensure your website has a robots/txt file, as this tells the spiders what not to index.

Unique, Relevant Content
Create unique relevant content for your website. Aim for approx. 500 words high quality content per page. Since Google Panda Update penalizes low-quality content, avoid duplicate and thin content and focus on creating original content to convey your subject matter expertise.

Regularly check your server configuration for errors, notably 404 errors and 301 redirects. Google Analytics and Google Webmaster tools will help with this.

3. Off site Optimisation

Link Building
The most important of the offsite recommendations, the number of sites linking to another website tells Google how popular, authoritative and trustworthy a site is. I'll discuss Link Building Strategy in more detail at later date.

Google Webmaster Tools
Set up Google Webmaster Tools account which will give you insight into how the search engines view your site and report and crawl errors or penalties.

Mobile Website
Review your mobile experience to ensure download speeds are acceptable, the content is readable, and no usability issues exist.

XML Sitemaps
Create a Sitemaps.xml file as this expedites your website getting indexed by Google.

Speed & Performance
Check PageSpeed Insights in Webmaster Tools to ensure you meet best practice standards. NOTE: Google penalises slower websites, notably slower mobile experiences. Avoid this.

Lastly, avoid any black hat or SPAM SEO techniques. There is no quick way to secure a top ranking. You MUST follow Google's (recently revised) SEO Guidelines.

Good luck and remember SEO is a long-term strategy. But once your website is indexed and ranked, it’s free, regular traffic to your website (until the next algorithm update, that is).

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