SEO Best Practices for Websites
The health of your website is linked to your search engine rankings. For this reason, it is very important to ensure that your website health is, and remains, in good order and there are a few things you can do to make sure that this is the case. It sounds simple, and while keeping on top if these key checks is relatively straightforward, there is a lot more to maintaining a high level of good quality SEO on a website.
What is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
SEO is the process of getting pages to achieve higher rankings in search engines. As search is one of the main ways people discover content and web pages online, achieving higher ranks is essential in gaining increased traffic to a website.
With Google and various other search engines, paid ads are often displayed at the top of the page with the organic search results appearing underneath.
Traffic that comes via SEO is referred to as 'organic traffic', whereas paid search is typically referred to as pay-per-click (PPC)
How SEO Affects Ranking in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)
Search engines use an algorithm which determines what pages to show for particular search queries. They are extremely complex and take into account many different ranking factors to determine where they are positioned in SERPs.
As there are so many millions of pages on the internet, it would be impossible for every page to be manually assessed for its relevance. This is where search engine crawlers come in! Google crawls websites or pages, looking for new or updated content, where these page URLs are then stored as a big list for later use.
Indexing is the next step, where Google visitors these pages that have been identified through the crawling process, where they are then analysed. Content, images and video files are all taken into account when Google tries to understand what the page is about.
As a result of this information gathered from the crawling and indexing process, Google displays only the most relevant results to what users are searching for.
By having a complex understanding of your target audience, identifying competitors in the same field and tailoring the content on your website around what users are searching for, you can help your business rank higher.
How to Boost Your SEO Strategy on Your Website
Let's take a closer look at some SEO best practices to help boost your marketing efforts.
There is a free tool available from Google called Test my Site which allows you to test your site's current loading speed. Website loading speed is now a ranking factor and as 60% of searches are now from mobile devices it should be a priority to ensure that your site is fast! So, what exactly is fast? It can be subjective, people simply won't wait three days and it's said we have an even shorter attention span online than the ubiquitous goldfish now. However, if your site loads in 2.9 seconds, it is faster than approximately 50% of the internet, ok. Half isn't bad but it's not really good enough. If your site loads in 1.7 seconds, it is faster than approximately 75% of the internet, which is better, but if your site loads in 0.8 seconds or less it is faster than around 95% of the web, which is excellent.
Researching keywords is one of the first steps when it comes to improving your SEO. You should make sure all the keywords you're targeting are relevant and have a suitable search volume.
This process involves identifying seed keywords and then inputting them into SEO tools such as Ahrefs which will then create a list of keywords relating to the seed keyword. Pay attention to the monthly search volume of keywords and use it to identify what users want to see. From there, you can sort through these keywords and highlight the words that are the most relevant to your business and its services.
After conducting the keyword research process, you can use assign a different target keyword to relevant pages. It allows you to not only create a plan for future content, using those new keywords you are targeting, but you can also optimise the older content on your site that is otherwise ineffective.
Search intent (also known as user intent) is the reason behind a user's search query. Users are looking for more information, whether it's an answer to a question or details about a service they need. You should always take the reader's search intent into account and make sure the content on your site matches what users are looking for. This will help you rank higher and help boost your SEO strategy.
By conducting the previously mentioned keyword research, you can understand variations of keywords and phrases that people are searching for to understand what it is your audience wants. You can match relevant keywords with high volume to pages on your site and create a content strategy that will deliver results.
Metadata is the information that a website provides to search engines to fill out the SERPs with all the relevant information it needs for searchers and it lets Google know what your pages and site are about.
Below are the main 2 most important meta tags on a page:
Meta Title Tags
Also known as the title tag or page titles, this describes the title of a page that users will see in the SERPs. Depending on what platform the content is on, it may be referred to as the page title in the backend of the site.
To effectively optimise and write compelling title tags, you should aim to have between 55-60 characters that feature that page's target keyword and if you have space, also include the company name (e.g. this page title 'SEO Best Practices for Websites | Innovation Visual').
Meta description tags refer to the smaller text just beneath the title in the SERPs that gives a bit of information about what to expect on the page. As with the meta title, you should include your target keyword in this and a call to action if possible to encourage users to engage with your site and its content.
Internal links greatly benefit SEO in a variety of ways and can simultaneously enhance your site's user experience. Let's have a closer look at some best practices.
1. Have a Wide Range of Content
The first step is to make sure you have enough relevant pages on your site to link to. Creating content is a major part of ensuring any website is well optimised and your site should have many internal pages that target relevant keywords that your business wants to rank for.
2. Use Keyword Rich Anchor Text
Anchor text is a link label that indicates to users what they can expect on a linked page if they decide to click on it.
For best practices, you should make sure the anchor text is easily distinguishable. By default, links will show up in blue but depending on your preference or business colour palette, you may choose to make this a different colour.
3. Ensure Links are all Relevant
Internal links need to be relevant to help improve user experience and improve website ranking. For example, if you've got a pillar page that talks about your services, your links should be focused on guiding your users along their customer journey and providing them with the most useful information to give them what they want.
Quality links tell search engines that your website has valuable information and is well structured. It also helps Google crawlers identify what your site is about and assess its relevance to a user's search query.
4. Don't overdo it
As valuable as internal links are, you shouldn't include them simply for the sake of it. Our advice would be to include no more than 1 internal link for every 100 words of content. There can be exceptions to this, particularly with calls to action at the end of a blog, where you may want multiple links to direct users to. Ultimately, one of the most important factors for ranking is relevancy and if you have lots of links that aren't helping any users, your ranking can suffer.
If done correctly, appropriate internal links that align with what a user is looking for help them to easily navigate your website. Using anchor links, you can redirect users to specific high quality content and pages of your site that are relevant. If they find what they are looking for, they are more likely to stay on your site for a longer period of time. By keeping users on your site for longer and providing them with the most relevant content, they will discover topics of interest you are more likely to see an improvement in conversion rate.
When linking internally on your website it is vital to avoid errors, such as 4xx errors. A 4xx error, usually a 404 error, is generated when a page is not found. 404 errors most commonly occur when website content has been removed or moved to another URL.
You should make sure that users are not clicking on a link that leads to a 404. This can increase bounce rate and provides a poor user experience. Google Search Console can help you find any 4xx errors on your website so they can be rectified.
Sometimes it is necessary to redirect a page to avoid a 4xx error. When this is done it is important to implement the right type of redirect.
301 redirect – search engines are notified of a permanent URL change with the 301 redirect. The value of inbound links will be transferred to the new site/page
302 redirect – used when a site must be temporarily redirected. Search engines will anticipate the site address being active again. Inbound links will continue to point to the temporarily redirected page.
Redirects should be avoided unless it is necessary to do so. To implement a redirect, you need to access your .htaccess file. Plugins are available for Content Management Systems (CMS) such as WordPress as well.
You may not realise but the images on a page can negatively impact both search rankings and user experience dramatically if they are not correctly optimised.
If you want to follow good SEO practices, a web page should load in three seconds or less, or in other words as quick as possible. As internet browsing has become so accessible and users expect results quicker than ever, it's important that you don't miss out on potential customers as a result of a page that didn't load quick enough. Some users may be put off by the time they have to wait that they will go to a competitor's page that loads quicker. So what can be done to improve this?
File size is one of the biggest influencers on page load time. Small web graphics such as those used in a blog post should typically be less than 300 KB, but the smaller you can get them, the better. It is worth mentioning that if your file size is too small, you can lose a lot of clarity in the image, and that doesn't benefit you either. As for larger images such as fullscreen background images, they should be no larger than 1 MB.
Alt text is important for a variety of reasons, for both Google Images and on page images. It is a key factor when it comes to search rankings. The aim of alt tags is to provide the context of an image to crawlers, as they can't see the image visually. When a site cannot correctly display an image, its alt text will show instead, so it's always best to ensure you have keyword rich alt text on every image.
For a step by step guide on the image SEO optimisation process, visit our how to optimise images for web blog.
Proper Implementation of Https
Is your website over http or https? If your website is currently over http then it is being marked as ‘not secure’ by web browsers such as Google Chrome, which could spell disaster for your traffic. http websites do not scramble the data that users enter into a website in forms etc, whereas https websites will make sure that data is encrypted to keep it safe from potential hackers. The ‘s’ in https stands for secure and search engines will inform a user if a site is not over https.
Think about the implications of your website being flagged as not secure. This could lead to potential customers leaving your site because they don't feel they can trust it, which could easily impact not only sales but conversions too.
In addition to user experience, whether your website is over https or not is a ranking factor in Google search results, meaning that if your website is not over https and your competitors are, then they will rank above you for that.
So, make sure your website is over https by implementing an SSL certificate. There are several things to consider as well as common pitfalls to avoid when migrating a site from http to https, so it's worth making sure it is done properly by a professional so as not to damage your site rankings. The Innovation Visual team have carried out a number of successful SSL certificate implementations, so speak to our team if your website is currently over http.
Improve Your Website SEO Health and Boost Your Rankings in Search Engines
This article outlines some great starting points for making sure your website is in good health. However, testing your website speed, improving internal links and making sure your website is over https really is only a starting point. Great SEO is a complex beast so you might like to read on to find more, take a look at the 'Want to know more?' box on the right for even more about how to implement great SEO on your website.
If you would like to find out more about implementing the fixes mentioned in this article, or how we could help your site performance, then please get in touch.
Find out more about how to rank higher in organic search with our useful guide.