The Basics of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

A lot of people consider search engine optimisation a black art, something completely unintelligible to us mere mortals. That’s not true. Whilst some of the more advanced techniques really are magic, 90% of SEO boils down into one simple statement:

If you make your website better for a human reader, then it will be better for a computer too.

So what does this look like in practise? Well, here are five ways.

1: Content is King

If you create better content, whether that be blog posts or better static pages, there is more information for a search engine crawler to look through. With more words on the page, you’re more likely to get a match for something somebody types into a search engine. However, if you over-use keywords to the point where a human reader won’t want to read it, you will be penalised by all the major search engines. The search engines want you to have lots of well-written content!

2: Make your website easy to navigate

Make sure every page on site is easy to get to. If it’s impossible for a human reader to get to a page, a search engine cannot find it either. And with better navigation and more descriptive links, you will find both users and search engines having a much easier time. If you really want to make sure that a search engine can find everything on your site, create a sitemap, which is a computer-readable menu designed specifically for search engines. If you’re using the WordPress blogging engine, installing the Google Sitemap Generator plugin will do this for you.

3: Make sure your content isn’t duplicated

There’s two parts to this: First of all, don’t steal content from other websites and have it on your pages verbatim. You’ll be penalised by the search engines, and your users will be unhappy. Secondly, make sure there is only one URL for each page on your site. Do you have http://example.com/page and http://www.example.com/page? That looks like two different pages to the search engines. You’ll want to use HTTP redirects to point everything to a single canonical URL. On Loop Foundry’s website, we have four possible URLs for our about page: http://www.loopfoundry.com.au/about, http://loopfoundry.com.au/about, https://www.loopfoundry.com.au/about and https://loopfoundry.com.au/about. If each of those pages was treated separately by Google (or any other search engine, such as Bing or Yahoo!), we would be splitting any possible traffic five ways. We point everything to our SSL-enabled site, in order to make search engines only look at that single domain.

4: Add descriptive text to all images

Computers can’t look at images and understand them. By adding alt tags to your images, as well as captions where appropriate, you can give search engines some idea of what the image might contain. Google can’t guess that an image is a photo of a tree, but if you tell it, then Google won’t have to guess at all! Providing captions and alt tags has another benefit: it helps blind users! The blind (and other vision impaired users) can also use the alt tags and descriptive text to understand an image.

5: Make your website as fast as you possibly can

Readers don’t like to wait for a slow website. Research suggest they won’t wait longer than a few seconds for a page to load. If your website takes more than two seconds to load over a reasonable broadband connection, there is scope for improvement. By having a slow website, not only are you annoying your users (who have to wait) but most search engines will penalise you for speed as well. The best resource here is Google’s PageSpeed Insights, which will give you a score and suggest how to improve.

So there you have it. Five basic things you can do today (Seriously! Start now!) to make your website nicer for your users and rank higher on the search engines.

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