THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO SEO

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THE WHAT AND WHY OF SEO

We live in a world of information at our fingertips. At the heart of finding, collating and sorting that information are search engines.

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93% of online experiences begin with a search engine

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Google alone carries out over 3.5 billion searches every single day

Accounting for around 65% of global search traffic, Google are most definitely the big boys in the playground.

A 2011 study by Slingshot SEO revealed that the first result on a Google search received 18.2% of total click through traffic. That share falls below 2% from the fifth result on down. 75% of users admit to not even scrolling past the first page of search results.

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process by which we are able to produce and present our online content in a way which best fits this modern search landscape. And make no mistake, SEO is vital to a vibrant, successful online presence.

There are 3.42 billion internet users today, accounting for 46% of the global population. That’s a huge market expecting the best from your online presence, whether you’re a bricks and mortar retailer or a shiny, full-service digital agency.

How Does Search Ranking Work?

Search engines run sophisticated computer programmes known as algorithms which utilise ‘search spiders’ to crawl the internet, assessing and ranking websites by an established set of criteria. These algorithms are incredibly complex, and the more data they receive from search results and the engagement of their users, the more complex they become.

Key to understanding how they assess this digital landscape is the art of relevancy and reputation.

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Relevancy

At the heart of good SEO. In simple terms this is how well matched the content of your website is to the desires of your audience. Search engines are only helpful for as long as they link up the information people want to find, with the information that websites provide. The way this is done is through relevant, targeted keywords and phrases.

If you don’t mention you’re an awesome cocktail bar in Cambridge on your web page, nobody is going to be able to find you when they search for ‘Cambridge cocktail bars’. Angling your digital presence to answer the most appropriate user queries is how SEO drives good web traffic.

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Reputation

A measure as to how trustworthy your domain and your content may be. Search engines use a range of factors to ascertain this, but in the easiest terms it’s how much of an established and respected authority you appear to be on a given topic.

What this guide will do

Relevancy and reputation are simple summaries of the vital guiding principle of good SEO, linking up the most relevant and beneficial content users desire from the queries that they provide. As algorithms that search engines use grow in their understanding of search users, the importance of that natural understanding grows with it.

It’s clear that the art of SEO has become so shrouded in jargon and confusion that picking out the right path can be a challenge. This guide will demystify the mysterious, offering clear, concise advice on how to completely optimise your online presence using SEO  best practice.

Where best to begin? In the next section we’ll debunk some of the myths seeking to cloud the issue.

Further Reading

Beginner's Guide to SEO: https://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo
SEO: A Comprehensive Guide For Beginners: https://blog.kissmetrics.com/seo-guide/

SEO: Myth and fact

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The world of SEO is a constantly shifting landscape, algorithms are updated, machine learning grows more powerful and to stay relevant the requirements for good practice must adapt and grow along with them.

In such a dynamic, changing landscape it’s understandable that confusion can occur. Many of the misconceptions surrounding SEO are a direct result of the fast-paced nature of changes.

These misconceptions are sometimes so pervasive that it can be difficult for a newcomer to SEO to understand where the truth might lie. In providing this guide to best practice SEO, we need to first tackle some of those misconceptions head on.

# Myth 1

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Google knows you’re ‘doing SEO’ and punishes you for it.

No, it doesn’t. The most recent substantial Google update, the rather friendly sounding Hummingbird, continues from predecessors towards the goal of better providing users with high-quality results that answer the need framed in their search query. The idea of quality goes back to relevance and reputation. Good SEO is ensuring your website meets Google’s definition of quality, while providing the content to answer the needs of the searcher.

# Myth 2

Cramming in keywords will improve rankings.

No, it won’t. Do you want to find a website about how to peel a mango that simply repeats the phrase over and over again? No. You want content that meets your need and resolves your frustrating mango peeling conundrum. Search algorithms are smart, and they’re designed to find the relevant, high-quality site to resolve a user’s query.

# Myth 3

Social media links directly help SEO.

Sorry, they don’t. Links are indeed a vital part of good SEO best practice, but social media links from the likes of Twitter and Facebook do not directly contribute. Don’t discount them because of this however. What social links help to do is raise awareness of your digital presence, and may build an organic interaction as people return to your site at a later stage. There’s a strong argument that social shares also help build the idea of reputation, rather like signals Google uses to establish authority. Using social media as your entire link building strategy will not provide the same direct results as good link building, but social media still has value building your brand organically and potentially adding to the idea of reputation and authority.

# Myth 4

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Any link will do.

Sorry, not all links are born equal. In the dark days of so called ‘black hat SEO’, some practitioners would build entire websites of poor quality links, driving up search rankings with spammy inbound links. Not only have search engine algorithms learned to recognise this poor practice, they actively now penalise websites which utilise it. Building natural, high-quality links is the way forward.

# Myth 5

SEO is instant.

Alas, it is not. It takes time to build up a positive search ranking. A huge part of SEO is building a positive digital reputation. Nobody expects to build a great reputation overnight. SEO best practice is about producing quality, relevant and respected content and building your brand online. You may not see immediate results, but you will see results.

# Myth 6

We did that SEO thing already.

SEO is not a one-time thing, it’s an on-going, holistic approach to your online presence. SEO best practice is all about quality and relevance. We cannot emphasise this enough. To suggest you should only strive to be quality and relevant once wouldn’t be something you’d even consider in other aspects of your business.

So where next? Let’s take a look at the impact site speed and accessibility have on your rankings.

Further Reading

SEO Myths: https://www.optimizesmart.com/12-strong-proofs-debunk-seo-myths-educate-clients-seo/
17 SEO Myths You Should Leave Behind in 2016: http://offers.hubspot.com/seo-myths

Site Speed: Fast or Last?

A user’s first impression of a website is the site speed. That’s the time it takes a website to load. We don’t live in a world of screechy 56k dial-up anymore. People expect an experience that mirrors this.

What’s site speed, and why does it matter?

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Site speed is a factor of page speed, the time it takes a particular page on your domain to load. Site speed is an indication of the speed of the whole domain, using a representative sample of pages.

Site speed isn’t simply a case of user experience (UX), it’s also a confirmed ranking factor for Google. But what metric is actually measured? Research seems to show that time to first byte (TTFB), the time it takes a browser to receive the first byte of response from a web server, may be the deciding factor in this ranking. As with many ranking factors it’s unclear the full impact, but unlike many, at least Google have come out and said it does matter!

It’s clear why. A huge motivator behind Google’s search ranking system is to provide users with the best possible experience. That means not only sourcing and linking the best content for a user query, but offering the solution which can most quickly answer that query. A slow site will significantly detract from meeting that need.

If annoying your customer isn’t bad enough, slow site load times can also add to another negative ranking factor for Google, what’s known as the Return To Search Engine Results Page (RTSERP). That’s how many users visit your site, then immediately abandon it to return to search results without looking past the page they land on. The quicker they do this, i.e the less time they spend on your page, the worse this looks in Google’s analysis of the value added by your website. Slow load speed means people leave out of frustration. This isn’t theoretical: a 2012 consumer study showed that 67% of UK consumers abandon online purchases due to low load speeds.

It’s worth watching this video on the impact of queries, long and short clicks and click through rates on Google rankings to understand the importance of this better.

So intuitively you might think that having a small, sleek, quickly loading site is the answer. To an extent this may be true. However there’s a good chance you’re then making sacrifices on quality and depth of content simply for a single ranking factor.

If time to first byte (TTFB) is indeed the metric measured, as seems to the case, then in pure ranking terms worrying about large sized, high-quality content may not be as significant an issue as the back end infrastructure used to provide your web services.

Your web servers, databases and network infrastructure may be a more significant ranking factor than you think. Delivering that first byte may well be exactly the factor that Google is ranking. Don’t mistake that direct ranking correlation as the only impact on your search rankings however, ultimately your user satisfaction and behaviour can have just as an important organic impact on your optimisation. Fast websites make people happy. Happy people visit more often, and spend more of their time on your website. So what’s next?

Other important ranking factors for site speed

Unnecessary fancy flash videos can slow load times.Too many HTTP requests. These are the requests sent to web servers for files on your web page. Assess them, remove those deemed unnecessary.Images not properly optimised will also slow down load times. Make sure images are properly sized for your web page.Bulky code can cause issues. Assess and trim white space or unnecessary spacing and line breaks.Lots of funky embedded external media. Ask yourself do you really need to embed external media to your site? Once you do so, you’re at the mercy of the host’s load speed.

  • Unnecessary fancy flash videos can slow load times.
  • Too many HTTP requests. These are the requests sent to web servers for files on your web page. Assess them, remove those deemed unnecessary.
  • Images not properly optimised will also slow down load times. Make sure images are properly sized for your web page.
  • Bulky code can cause issues. Assess and trim white space or unnecessary spacing and line breaks.
  • Lots of funky embedded external media. Ask yourself do you really need to embed external media to your site? Once you do so, you’re at the mercy of the host’s load speed.

Finding and fixing site speed issues

Whether you think you have issues, or you’re just plain diligent and want to check all the same, there are a number of tools you can use to assess your site speed:

Google’s page speed insights tool not only analyses site speed, but offers some basic advice on areas to improve on.

The Firefox add-on Firebug provides a wealth of development tools, a speed analysis tool being one of them.

And webpagetest.org offers an alternative analysis with a simple to use interface breaking down results.

The above tools  should offer some helpful insight on where to focus your time. Next up? The importance of mobile.

Further Reading

How Loading Time Affects Your Bottom Line: https://blog.kissmetrics.com/loading-time/
10 Ways to Speed Up Your Website –and Improve Conversion by 7%: http://blog.crazyegg.com/2013/12/11/speed-up-your-website

MAKE IT MOBILE

Wondering whether to optimise your website for mobile? It’s not even a serious question anymore. If you want to remain relevant, you need to think mobile.

According to the We Are Social’s 2016 report, laptops and desktops accounted for 56% ofweb traffic in 2015, down 9% year on year. This is still the largest market share, but it’s what happened to mobile that should get your pulse racing. Mobile phones accounted for 39% of web page views globally in 2015. That’s a huge 21% increase year on year.

Mobile Speed

One of the most significant limits to mobile web browsing used to be the problem of data connectivity. That’s no longer such a challenge. The average global mobile data speed today is roughly 2 MB a second. Erickson reported the average monthly data traffic per smartphone was over 1 gigabyte in 2014, and predict that to increase five-fold by 2020. You don’t need to be scared of a mobile site that looks good anymore.

That doesn’t mean you should discount loading speeds. Page speed is still a ranking factor, and although mobile data speeds have come on leaps and bounds in recent years, it’s still slower than your average broadband.  

Want to speed up your mobile page? Optimise your images, minimise your code where possible and try to remove as many redirects as you can. Oh and don’t use flash. Many mobiles don’t support it, so it’s often a waste of resources.

AMP

If we’re talking mobile speed, we need to talk Accelerated Mobile Page, or AMP. This open source initiative, spearheaded by Google, Twitter and various other exciting tech giants, aims to dramatically improve page speed for mobile users.

This is seen as particularly important in international markets like Indonesia, where mobiles accounted for a whopping 70% of web traffic in 2015. In a country with 326 million mobile phone connections, that’s a big market to tap.

Given Google’s own involvement in the project, and their continuing drive for faster web pages and better user experience, it’s postulated that AMP may go on to be considered a ranking factors for mobile SERPs, in the same way ‘mobile friendly’ is now. Even aside from the possibility of AMP conferring a positive ranking benefit in itself, the functionality of it as a platform which delivers faster load speeds most certainly does.

AMP HTML is essentially a custom version of HTML. A basic understand of the language means AMP should be an easy step forward. Luckily there’s a robust AMP tutorial ready to lead you along the way.

SEO for a smaller screen

Mobile screens are smaller than laptops. It’s such an obvious statement, but it’s one with significant consequences for SEO. Those consequences are made clear in a recent eye-tracking study undertaken by Mediative. Some key takeaways to consider:

It takes 87% longer for the first organic result to be seen on mobile.

Just 7.4% of total clicks were below the 4th result.

Only 62.9% of tasks resulted in a user scrolling down.

11% more clicks went to Google’s knowledge graph on mobile compared to desktop.

The top sponsored ad was viewed by 91% of searchers

If you’re the kind of business that gets a significant portion of your traffic from mobile, or work heavily in markets like Indonesia where mobile far surpasses desktop access, then these results can have serious consequences.

The key takeaway is that mobile square ‘inchage’ is extremely valuable, and the limited screen size makes that competition all the more fierce. It also means ranking in the top 4 organic results is even more important than it is on desktop.

So what should I do?

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Google made it clear in discussing a recent update. If your site is not optimised for mobile, it will do poorly in mobile search results. This is something they’re very keen to push, with an update in May 2016 looking to amplify ‘mobile friendliness’ as a ranking factor for mobile results. Thankfully they also made it easy for you to see through their eyes, by providing a handy tool to check your site. Just input your website, and let Google provide its own assessment. Simple.

If you want to make things better? Some quick tips.

Mobile may offer unique challenges, but if there’s one thing it shares with its dated desktop cousin, it’s the benefits of good keywords. That’s where we go next.

Further Reading

Make site mobile friendly: http://www.practicalecommerce.com/articles/115764-make-your-website-mobile-friendly-now-3-ways
App Store Optimization – A Crucial Piece of the Mobile App Marketing Puzzle:
https://blog.kissmetrics.com/app-store-optimization/
17 Testing Tools for Mobile UX:
https://blog.kissmetrics.com/testing-tools-for-mobile-ux/

Keywords

Keywords. The clue is in the name. They’re vital to effective SEO and at the heart of the idea of relevancy. Get them right and our online presence will benefit greatly. Fail to give them the attention they deserve and you may forever languish in the lower pages of search engine results. Here we take a look first at keywords and the theory of targeting, before moving on to some useful resources for your keyword planning.

Funnel the right traffic

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The traditional marketing funnel is a useful tool in understanding the path of good keyword conversion. Grow awareness. Cultivate interest. Provide consideration. Deliver conversion.

Sanity vs Vanity

As a shoe retailer it might be tempting to go all out targeting the keyword ‘shoe’. It’s what you’ve got. It’s what you want to sell. ‘Shoe’ is an incredibly popular search term, so surely targeting the top will get you the search ranking you dream of? Well no. That’s vanity talking.

First of all there’s a huge amount of competition for the term ‘shoe’. Unless you’re far and away the largest shoe retailer out there, you’re going to find it tough to rank. That’s problem number one. That’s applying the sanity part.

Problem number two goes back to relevancy. How many people actually searching for the term ‘shoe’ are really looking to buy the type of shoes you sell? Maybe they’re just looking up shoe sizes because they’re curious. Maybe they want to know what shoes their favourite celebrity was wearing at the Oscars. This would be an example of a keyword right at the top of the marketing funnel. The term ‘shoe’ may at best raise awareness. Use of content with a more defined key phrase, perhaps answering questions such as ‘what shoes are best for running?’ would move us further down the funnel, providing interest, maybe even consideration. But if you want to convert, you need to look to the long tail.

The Long Tail

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High-frequency search terms like ‘shoe’, terms which garner hundreds or thousands of daily searches, make up only about 30% of all internet searches. 70% of searches actually lie in what is known as the ‘long tail’. These tend to be more detailed, specific searches which produce far more targeted results.

The benefit of the long tail is that these searches are made further down the conversion journey. A user searching for ‘Size 10 men’s training shoes in white’ is far more likely to convert to purchasing those shoes than the higher frequency but broader term of ‘shoe’. Ranking well for long tail searches provides relevant traffic which can deliver real conversion.

Three types of search

Of course not everyone is looking to buy shoes. That’s just an example of one type of search. There are three broad types of search to be aware of. Ultimately they’re defined by searcher intent.

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Navigational

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This is the act of inputting a specific search term with the intent of finding a particular website. It’s nearly pointless trying to target this type of search. Somebody Googling ‘Facebook’ is unlikely to want to visit Amazon.

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Informational

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These are searches covering a broad topic, for example searching for ‘world’s biggest cities’. The searcher is looking for information on a given topic. Generally these are queries without any financial value. It’s for this reason that Google has been pushing its own knowledge graph, the informative results to queries that are becoming amore common response to informational searches. That’s not to say you can’t derive a benefit from targeting these queries. The kind of keywords which could work would provide answers, value adding blogs, how-to videos explaining a topic. These can help deliver authority on given topics which may well result in later benefits for your business.

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Transactional

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This is where the real benefit in keywords often lies. These are the searches which indicate intent to complete a transaction. They can be broad queries like ‘buy trainers’ or more targeted such as ‘Size 10 men’s trainers in white’. These searches live in the sweet spot of the marketing funnel, the ever-present chase for conversion. It’s here that long tail keywords can really deliver value.

Where to do your keyword research

We’ve defined where keywords can deliver the most value, but how do you decide upon the keywords to use? Here are some great places to look.

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Your business knowledge

So often overlooked in technical SEO recommendations, but your hard-won business knowledge should be a vital first step in your keyword research. Who is your customer? What are their favourite brands or topics? What’s your experience of the target segment and the types of things they’re looking for? This traditional style of persona creation should give you a good foundation for the keywords and terms which you should explore.

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Google AdWords Keyword Planner

This is often the first point of call for an exploration of keywords. Google’s rather helpful tool not only provides estimated search volume of given keywords, it also has the option to search for similar terms, given you an indication of other words or phrases which could drive traffic. If that’s not enough, it also provides an estimated cost of running paid campaigns.Search for your chosen keyword, then assess the search volume under Local Monthly Searches. Be aware however, this figure represents the total searches for the given term, not the numbers you will directly achieve.

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Google Autocomplete

Such a simple tool for keyword research but often overlooked. Google’s autocomplete function is actually a very powerful resource. When we type in words to Google, the complex Google algorithms try to help us out by predicting what might come next. That prediction is a good indication of the types of terms people are searching for. This can give you a great insight into keywords phrases. It may also lead to you wondering what Shoes of Prey are.

google autocomplete example
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KeywordTool.io

An alternative and easy to use keyword planner. Keywordtool.io offers a simple, free search function that will take your suggested keyword and provide up to 750+ alternative long tail keywords. It actually works by using data from Google’s own autocomplete function.You can search in 192 Google domains, in 83 Google language interfaces. The free version simply offers you the alternative keywords without any metrics. Keyword Tool Pro offers search volume, cost-per-click for campaigns and indication of AdWords competition.

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Screaming Frog

This is the reverse engineering side of keyword planning, using competitor research. Screaming Frog is an extremely easy to use piece of software which crawls a given website domain, hunting down various useful snippets of information for SEO. On top of a lot of very useful technical data, it also picks out keywords in use on a particular website. Using Screaming Frog can give you a helpful insight into what keywords the competition is using. If you’re feeling competitive you can try and rank for the same words, stealing your competitor’s traffic. Alternatively you can use this to inform your own choices so as not to overlap with a competing term.

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SEMRush

Another superb resource, and one that’s perhaps less well known. SEMRush aims to make it easier to assess market opportunities by collating and presenting a wealth of search data such as competitor’s organic and paid search results, link building and advertising. For keyword research purposes it also displays some valuable data on words and phrases that can help identify terms to target on your own website. There’s a limit to both the depth of results and the number of daily searches for the free version, with various packages for paid content.

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Where should my keywords go?

So now you’ve identified your keywords, where do they go? Here’s a brief list, and an image to explain.

• Page title – Keywords near the beginning. Make each title unique

• URL – Sensibly structured and easy to read

• Page headings and H1-H2 – Tags inserted in body of copy

• Body of the text – Nearer the top of copy is generally better. And make it read naturally!

• Image alt attributes – Ensure it relates to the image

• Image name – Ensure it relates to the image

This is a best practice guide on where to put your keywords. But always remember, do not cram them in! That goes for page attributes like above as well as the body of the content.

Further Reading

Keyword Research: The Definitive Guide: http://backlinko.com/keyword-research
Keyword Research: http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/how-to-do-keyword-research-ht#sm.00000mkgu8174ie3av90w84ie86ok

Site Structure

Your site layout not only determines the ever important usability, and how easy users find it to navigate, but also plays an important part in the technical side of search ranking.

How they crawl

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How easy a site is to navigate translates into how easy it is for a web crawler, the tools by which search engine algorithms search and assess websites, can navigate and index your website. If the web crawler can’t do this easily, your search rankings will not be favourable.

You should be aware that crawlers have a ‘crawl budget’, dictating how long they will spend crawling a given site at a given time. The less authority a site has, the lower the budget. That means you’ve got a limited amount of time to impress.

Imagine yourself as a bricks and mortar retailer. You want to arrange your stock in a way that makes it as easy as possible for your customer to find what they want. Now think of these web crawlers as a mystery shopper, assessing the way your store is set out and using those results to recommend (or not) your business to others.

The site structure is the framework of your entire digital presence. Optimising it provides a smoother, more enjoyable user experience, but also delivers tangible benefits to search rankings.

Your site layout not only determines the ever important usability, and how easy users find it to navigate, but also plays an important part in the technical side of search ranking.

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Plan the hierarchy

Sites should be structured with the homepage at the head of the tree, with roots of category, subcategory, and further pages such as product pages logically linked, using an easy to follow process.

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Keep it simple

Be sure to name each section in a logical way that mirrors the terms that users will be searching for.

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Watch your crawl depth

Aside from a crawl budget, web crawlers like Googlebot also dislike too great a ‘crawl depth’. That’s a reference to how far down a chain of links a web page is hidden. Keep things simple, categorised, and don’t send crawlers down a dark and winding digital alley.

The sitemap

You’ve gone to the effort of planning and implementing a well laid out domain. Make sure and create an XML sitemap to derive the full value from having done so.

These are a quick, easy way for webmasters to inform search engines about the layout of their pages and how best to crawl them. The crawlers will find their way across your website anyway, but think of this like giving them a roadmap to make the process that bit easier.

The URL

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These are the signposts for your users. A good URL can make a huge difference in user experience and the resultant web traffic that you receive.

Create sensible internal links

Internal links point to another page on the same website, and how these are implemented can directly impact your SEO. Ensure the anchor text used as the basis for the link uses a relevant keyword. Use of the word ‘here’ to indicate a link is dated and terrible for SEO. Internal linking provides further data for crawlers on relevancy and detail of your site layout. They allow users to navigate through your website, help establish information hierarchy and help spread what’s known as authority’, or the metrics of ranking, throughout your site. Again this is a logical process. Ensure each of your web pages has a link from another page on your site, and to another page on your site. Follow the established hierarchy of your web structure. And don’t just throw links in all over the place.

Redirect with 301

Sometimes your website will quite naturally end up with several different versions of a piece of content in multiple locations. There are a number of valid reasons this can happen, say the change of name of a product requiring a new URL. Well discuss the idea of duplicate content itself in more detail, but in architecture terms 301 can be a great help.

With all these pages of similar information, which should crawlers crawl? Use a 301 HTTP redirect to direct crawlers to the relevant content. It’s important you use 301 and not 302, as 301 actually distributes ‘link juice’. How much juice? Open for debate, but a recent 301 redirect study suggests as much as 15% could be lost.

Canonicalize!

Canonicalization is the process whereby you direct search engines towards the original version of content.

Do this by adding the tag rel=canonical as part of the HTML head of a web page. As below:

This method passes around 90% of the ‘link juice’ to the original content and is quick and easy to implement.

HTML or CSS should be your building blocks

HTML is the original building block for the World Wide Web, but it’s come a long way since. HTML and CSS should still be the fundamental tools for good site building. Fancy coding with JavaScript, Flash and others can reduce a crawler’s ability to fully index your site.

Make it HTTPS

Google wants to see websites running on secure HTTPS servers. That’s important enough in itself, and provides a small ranking boost. On top of this more and more browsers, and indeed users, are savvy to the possible security problems of alternative servers. Hosting on secure HTTPS can be a real benefit for your traffic and ultimately your search rankings. This video offers a look at the technical sides of these challenges for you.

SUMMARY

In Summary, there are 3 main benefits to proper site structure:

The structure is in place, it’s time to optimise your pages.

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Further Reading

How to Create a Site Structure That Will Enhance SEO:
https://blog.kissmetrics.com/site-structure-enhance-seo/
Chapter 3: Site Architecture & Search Engine Success Factors: 
http://searchengineland.com/guide/seo/site-architecture-search-engine-ranking

ON PAGE SEO

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Page title

No longer than 55 characters. Check title length if unsure. Use keywords in titles. Best practice is to include two keywords if possible, and ensure the title reads naturally. If your brand has name recognition that can drive traffic, be sure and use it.

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URL

Make URL’s easy to read and logical. Include keywords. Follow site hierarchy. Separate words with hyphens if required. Shorter is always better. Best practice - http://www.example.com/category-keyword/subcategory-keyword/primary-keyword.html

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Internal links

Ensure every single page is linked from another page, and to another page on your website. Add these links naturally. Use descriptive anchor text as the basis for internal links.

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Outbound links

Use descriptive anchor text. Link outbound to pages relevant to the content of your own page in order to help crawlers identify the topic. Links to high authority sites in particular can help build trust and establish authority in a topic area.

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On page copy

Provide unique content about the subject relevant to the page. Use keywords at the start of copy where possible. Break down into easy to read sections with headers and sub-headers. Include keywords in headers/sub-headers where possible. Aim for 500+ words, depending on and assuming it’s relevant to the topic.

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H1 tag/H2 tag

Should include keywords relevant to the content of the page. Do not repeat keywords.

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Social sharing buttons

Provide easy to use social sharing buttons. The easier your website is to share the more likely you are to generate traffic from these sources.

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IMAGE ALT ATTRIBUTES

Ensure all images have alt image attributes. Use relevant keywords that relate to the image.

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Page speed

Make sure your page loads quickly. See our section on page speed for tips.

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Image optimisation

Images can account for a large amount of the bytes on your website. Optimise them to ensure they only take up as much space as they need.

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Hidden keywords

Don’t hide keywords in images or flash videos. Crawlers can’t ‘read’ this text, so the benefits linking searcher intent to that keyword will be absent.

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Link back to category page

Ensure your page links back up the chain of architecture.

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Link back to subcategory page

Ensure your page links down the chain if applicable.

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Link back to the home page

Standard practice is a logo in the top left linking back. Ensure every page has these ‘breadcrumbs’, so that users know where they are in your site, and how to get back.

Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is content that appears on the World Wide Web in more than one location, or URL. That could be multiple locations on one site or on several separate domains. There are four main reasons that this can be a problem.

So what does all this mean?

The Myths of Duplicate Content

# Myth 1

Duplicate content will destroy your search rankings across your entire domain.

Thankfully not. There seems to be very little evidence that the odd piece of duplicate content will severely diminish a sites ranking. If your entire website is made up of duplicates of the same piece of content, you’re likely to come out very badly on search rankings. Other than that, you don’t need to be afraid of duplicate content damaging all your hard work. The duplicated content itself may not rank highly, but the rest of your website will be fine.

# Myth 2

Republishing your own guest posts will hurt your site.

Really? See above. Blogs can be a great way of driving traffic to your site. Don’t be afraid that reposting that amazing article about the mythological healing powers of asparagus on your own blog that you posted somewhere else previously is going to hurt you. Use the canonical tag to ensure search engines know where the original content can be found. More on that in a second.

# Myth 3

Web scraper sites will ruin you

These are sites which automatically trawl the internet, curating and reposting relevant articles to their topic or niche. They may sound like the devil, but some of them can actually provide a valuable service curating news or providing similar services. The worry is however that in frequently scraping and curating your content these sites will somehow make your own look like spam. Again this is very unlikely to ever occur. Scrapers can actually help in some ways, as by lifting your content and any internal links you have included they can end up directing traffic to your site.

Get canonical! 

Canonicalization is the process whereby you direct search engines towards the original version of content. It’s pointing a digital finger at the official version.

Do this by adding the tag rel=canonical as part of the HTML head of a web page. As below:

This method passes around 90% of the ‘link juice’ to the original content and is quick and easy to implement.

Use 301 redirect

Another alternative to work around duplicate content is the 301 permanent redirect. Add these 301 redirects in your .htaccess file to redirect your users, Googlebot, and other spiders to the appropriate version of your content.

Noindex follow

A useful alternative if you’re worried about large amounts of duplicate content is use of the meta tag ‘noindex, follow’. This note essentially asks crawlers not to index a particular page, but directing them to continue to follow links within the page. It should be added into your meta-tag at the header of the page.

This can be particularly useful in issues of pagination, that is the practice of breaking up content over multiple pages or URLs, such as an article over several pages or multiple images in a gallery. Rel=next and rel=prev is recommended for dealing withpagination.

The answer to duplicate content?

Like much of SEO best practice, dealing with duplicate content involves a whole lot of logic and common sense with a small slice of technical knowhow. What’s important is that you don’t quake in fear at the idea of any and all duplicate content, and maintain a consistent approach to any content you deem requiring one of the solutions discussed above.

Where next? We’ve had a look at the technical side of SEO. Now let’s take a look at the users.

Further Reading

Duplicate Content SEO Advice From Google: http://www.hobo-web.co.uk/duplicate-content-problems/
What is Duplicate Content?: https://searchenginewatch.com/sew/how-to/2049078/duplicate-content-101

User Engagement

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The ultimate goal of a search engine is to match user intent with the appropriate web page. Yet the actual impact of user engagement can be a murky old world. User-based metrics, and their impact on ranking factors, are notoriously difficult to pin down. So what are they? And which might be ranking factors?

Let’s start with this great correlation study from Moz and SimilarWeb. The numbers shown are mean Spearman’s correlation. This study perhaps doesn’t cover all the factors, and we should always be careful of the peril of correlation vs. causation, but it does give us a good basis to explore the ranking potential of user engagement.

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Visits to your site – Ranking factor? Yes – but it’s complicated

Thisfactor relates heavily to the idea of name recognition. The more visits you getto a site, the higher you tend to rank. It seems pretty simple.

Howeverthis is likely to be correlation rather than causation – bigger brands tend tohave more links, authority and online presence than smaller brands. It’s fairlyobvious from what we know of SEO that the more you improve your visibility,trust and name recognition, the higher you will rank.

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Time on site – Ranking factor? Probably

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Return to Search Engine Results Page – Ranking factor? Almost certainly.

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Page views – Ranking factor? Probably

We can gather the three above under the heading of engagement. Time on site does indeed seem to indicate a slight positive ranking benefit. The longer someone spends on your site, the better. Likewise a greater number of page views also seemed to correlate with higher rankings.

RTSERP, defined in this study as ‘bounce rate’, shows a negative correlation, which is what we would expect. The higher the bounce rate from your site, the worse your site will rank. This makes a lot of sense when looking at user engagement as a whole. If a user immediately clicks back from the first page on your site they visit, they’re then unable to engage in any of the other activities on your website that may add further user engagement benefits to your search ranking.

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Global Rank – An assessment, not a factor.

This is a SimilarWeb metric that correlates website traffic and user engagement to assess the idea of authority. A lower ranking, i.e being in the number one spot, does seem to correlate with higher search ranking. Although this is more an endorsement of their assessment than a metric to aspire to.

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Click Through Rate – Ranking factor? Maybe

In its simplest form this is the number of people who click on a link against the number of people who have the opportunity to do so. There’s been a lot of talk about this metric over the years. A recent study seems to indicate that this is not a ranking factor, but others argue to the contrary. If you want to dive into the argument then this is a great summary of click through rate studies. The most convincing argument is perhaps the simplest, why would Google overlook a ranking factor which delivers a direct assessment of their own ability to match searcher intent?

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Meta-descriptions

Meta-descriptions are the short bodies of text which describe an individual web page in search results. In many ways they are the very first impression your user will receive of your website. It’s important that first impression is a good one. Ensure it’s less than 155 characters long, so it’s not cut off in search results

Write a meta-description that educates your user as to what your page is for, entertains or excites them to want to visit it, and offers a relevant sample of what they can expect on your page. The actual text in a meta-description doesn’t directly rank in SEO, so there’s no point throwing in keywords you don’t need to. Instead think of this as your first chance to impress your user, and let your brand, your organisation or your offer shine. The more engaging your meta-description is the higher the click through rate you’re likely to receive.

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Linking Process – Yes, again it’s complicated.

We’ll go into linking in more detail to come, but Google has long looked at linking as a tacit peer endorsement. The better quality a site is, the more likely it is to be linked to. The more high-quality links in, the more users are endorsing a particular site.

What does this mean for user engagement and search ranking?

We know Google and other search engines are built on matching searcher intent. It’s hard to see how user engagement wouldn’t be a part of that. Unfortunately it’s also hard to see just where that interaction might lie in influencing the ultimate search rankings.

There’s a lot of excitement over Google filing patents in regards to algorithm updates and possible technical answers to some of the challenges around tracking user engagement, but Google aren’t so keen on everyone getting excited by patents.

Best practice guideline for user engagement?

Whether or not user engagement directly impacts search ranking factors, and understanding how to measure that, may ultimately be superfluous to the argument. Having a beneficial web presence is all about user engagement. You want to deliver what your user wants, in the easiest form for them to interact with, and in a way that encourages them to do so as much as they possibly can. That’s just smart business.

Build your website to cater for your user. Curate your online presence so you can deliver what they want. Once you’ve done that, you’ve already won half of the SEO argument, even if you can’t measure exactly how you’ve done it.

Further Reading

User Engagement: http://www.thesempost.com/user-engagement-as-a-google-ranking-factor/
User Engagement Metrics Aren’t a Ranking Signal, But You Should Treat Them Like One: https://searchenginewatch.com/sew/opinion/2422545/user-engagement-metrics-aren-t-a-ranking-signal-but-you-should-treat-them-like-one
Search Engine Ranking Factors 2015: https://moz.com/search-ranking-factors/correlations

Internationalisation

The world’s a big place. But the World Wide Web opens it up more than ever. Can any market ever truly be just domestic anymore? So in this international world, how is our digital presence impacted, and what does that mean for SEO?

Know your market

Knowing your market is key to any good business. Understanding that market is even more important when it comes to internalisation.

So you want to a web presence in Indonesia? That’s 250 million customers just waiting for you. So you need to set up your website in Bahasa Indonesian? Except 70% of web traffic in Indonesia is from mobile, so you need to focus not just on the language, but on the optimisation for their preferred method of consumption.

Wait a minute though, maybe you can add in the 30 million people in Malaysia, really open up that regional market? Except in Malaysia the common business language is English, and there’s a roughly equal split between laptop and mobile web consumption. How do you balance an optimised digital presence in the region? Welcome to the problem of internationalisation.

Should I Internationalise?

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Do you have the traffic?

Your first question should be, is there enough interest for you to internationalise your web presence? Use Google Analytics to check your volume and trend of traffic by location and language.

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What’s driving that traffic?

What are the identifiable keywords, phrases, pages, topics or referrers driving your traffic from a given location? Does that translate into a tangible business benefit that will reward internationalisation?

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Is the business case worth it?

It may be a complex cost-benefit analysis, but it’s better than a shot in the dark. What’s your current conversion rate from domestic traffic? How might that translate with the traffic you estimate you’ll receive internationally? What’s the competition locally? What’s the cost of setting up an international web presence?

Language vs country targeting

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Assuming the business case for internationalisation is a convincing one, you need to look at the options for how to move forward. Is it best to target by country, or by language? That is something you need to seriously consider. We can’t tell you the answer. It will depend on your business goals and the traffic you’re targeting. Here’s a handy decision tree from International SEO Consultant Aleyda Solis, hosted on Moz.

Best practice recommendations

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There are a confusing array of options on how to set up your international web presence, and depending on whether you decided on a country targeting or language targeting approach that can change.

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Understand the market.

That’s browsing habits, methods of consumption, search habits, purchasing habits, competitors. Check things like content consumption, social stats, Alexa rankings and ComScore data.

Understanding linguistics

That’s not just the language, but how it’s read. English may be read from left to right, but some languages are not. That means all that focus on the top left of a web page you might be targeting? Flip it over and think again.

Make it easy to switch

If someone lands on your English page but wants the Spanish, don’t make them search for it. Make it easy, obvious and logical how people switch between languages.

Don’t automatically redirect

There’s nothing worse than a web page making a decision for you. Let users choose the language, don’t auto-detect from IP addresses or similar.

Use language meta-tags

Add the HTML meta tag advising search engines of your language or location. Google might not use it, but other search engines and software do.

Use Hreflang tag

This is a meta-tag which Google can use to reference the language and location of your page, thus making it easier to serve up relevant results for people searching in that language.

Geolocate if you need to

If you’re country targeting, and not using a ccTLDs, then use the geo-targeting option of search engines to specify your target country.

Host locally

If possible, host on a local IP address to the location targeted. Evidence seems to indicate this will impact your local search rankings. This may be down to site speed as much as the actual IP address.

Don’t use Google translate

Google translate is great if you’re on holiday trying to order dinner. It’s not great if you want to be an internationally respected business. Use a proper translation service.

Further Reading

Internationalisation:
https://www.seroundtable.com/google-international-seo-faqs-15786.html
The Ultimate Guide to Multilingual and Multiregional SEOs:
http://searchengineland.com/the-ultimate-guide-to-multilingual-and-multiregional-seo-157838
FAQ: Internationalisation:
https://sites.google.com/site/webmasterhelpforum/en/faq-internationalisation#q1

Schema Markup

Schema markup is a vocabulary or code which you can add to your website HTML to improve the information your website provides to search engines, and thus the information search engines provide to users.

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What it does

Schema doesn’t just tell search engines what your data is, it tells them what it means.

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Why you should use it

Utilising schema will allow you to more effectively manage the information displayed by search engines in SERPs, presenting ‘rich snippets’ of information.

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Knowledge panels

It also helps to inform Google what to display in knowledge panels. This can be particularly important in engaging mobile users.

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How do I use it?

No new skills needed. Scheme simply requires you to add unique schema vocabulary to HTML microdata.

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Who will benefit?

You, and your user. Allowing you to more accurately represent the relevant information in your SERP means better user experience and better engagement.

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What can it show?

It can show an awful lot. Most often:

  • Creative work – Author, illustrator, ISBN, audio, creator, genre etc..
  • Events – date, time , duration, work featured, work performed etc…
  • Organisation – address, email, employee, review, image, telephone etc..
  • Person – address, birthplace, children, brand, honorific, image etc…
  • Place – image, address, event, photo, telephone etc..
  • Product – award, category, brand, logo, review, offers, image etc…
  • Social Channels – URL, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc…

Is it worth using?

A Searchmetrics study found domains with schema integrations rank four places higher on average than those that do not. As with all such studies it’s hard to isolate this single factor, but the correlation is strong.

Only 0.3% of domains were using schema as of Searchmetrics 2014 study, yet 37% of Google results were displaying rich snippets. That’s competitive advantage waiting to be delivered.

Some organisations have reported as much as a 28% increase in click-through-rates from implementing schema.

How to use it?

It starts with Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper.

– Select the type of data you want to markup.
– Add the URL you wish to markup.
– The markup tool will load the trial page.
– Highlight and mark those aspects you wish to markup. Do this until complete.
– Add the HTML.
– Then add Schema markup to your page.

Check the Structured Data Testing Tool to see how it will look on your page.

  1. It starts with Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper.
  2. Select the type of data you want to markup.
  3. Add the URL you wish to markup.
  4. The markup tool will load the trial page.
  5. Highlight and mark those aspects you wish to markup. Do this until complete.
  6. Add the HTML.
  7. Then add Schema markup to your page.
  8. Check the Structured Data Testing Tool to see how it will look on your page.

Tips

Further Reading

Rich Snippets: All You Need to Know:
https://builtvisible.com/micro-data-schema-org-guide-generating-rich-snippets/
How to Boost Your SEO by Using Schema Markup:
https://blog.kissmetrics.com/get-started-using-schema/
Schema.org Structured Data: https://moz.com/learn/seo/schema-structured-data

Prelaunch Checklist

You’ve read the guide, you’re ready to go. Let’s summarise the most important best practice recommendations, and run you through your prelaunch checklist.

SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMISATION

  • Yes it’s very important.
  • No you can’t just do it once.
  • Yes if you’re going to do it, do it right.

THE CHECK LIST

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SITE STRUCTURE AND FORWARD PLANNING

  • Vital to good SEO, search indexing and good user experience.
  • Have you planned your site structure?
  • Is your site built with with HTML or CSS?
  • Is your architecture simple. Home page -> Category -> Subcategory?
  • Does every page link back to the home page?
  • Will every page link to another page, and from another page?
  • Have you created a sitemap to inform web crawlers how best to crawl your site?
  • Are the URL’s short, read naturally and use keywords?
  • Are you hosting using a HTTPS certificate to make your site secure?
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SITE SPEED

  • Is a ranking factor
  • Is your host server, database and network infrastructure able to speedily handle your expected web traffic?
  • Are your images optimised to reduce size and decrease loading times?
  • Do you have unnecessary, clunky flash videos?
  • Are your pages stuffed full of unneeded files, clogging up transfers with too many HTTP requests?
  • Is your code trim, with no unnecessary whitespace and bulk?
  • Do you have too much embedded external media?
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MOBILE

  • Not an additional consideration, but an integral one.
  • Have you put extra emphasis on load speed?
  • Is your mobile site produced using AMP?
  • Have you taken into consideration the additional importance of screen space and search ranking?
  • Have you avoided using flash or pop-ups?
  • Are buttons large enough to be used?
  • Is your app indexed?

POPULATING YOUR WEBSITE

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KEYWORDS

  • Vital to ensure relevance and higher search ranking.
  • Do you know your market and what they’re looking for?
  • Are you too ambitious or broad with keyword choice? Understand vanity vs. sanity.
  • Have you included long tail search terms that will convert?
  • Have you completed research with Google AdWords Planner, Keyword.io, Screaming Frog or SEMrush?
  • Are keywords in page title, URL, near top of body of copy, image alt attributes, image name?
  • Have you avoided consistently repeating the same keywords?
  • Do keywords read naturally in the copy?
  • Does your copy generally read naturally?
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ON PAGE OPTIMISATION

  • Crucial in search ranking and relevancy
  • Are page titles no more than 55 characters long?
  • Are URL’s simple, logical and including keywords?
  • Does you link to and from every page, and to the home page?
  • Are all links, inbound and outbound, anchored with relevant anchor text?
  • Do you provide unique copy, relevant to the topic?
  • Are keywords near the top of copy and in headers if possible?
  • Do you have H1 and H2 tags with relevant keywords?
  • Are social sharing buttons prominently displayed?
  • Are all images tagged with an alt image tag relevant to the image?
  • Have you optimised images for size and loading time?
  • Have you avoided hiding keywords in images or flash where crawlers cannot reference them?
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DUPLICATE CONTENT

  • Not the immediate negative ranking factor some fear
  • Have you used canonical tags to advise search crawlers of the original and authoritative source of content?
  • Have you used 301 redirect to direct search engines to the appropriate version of duplicated content?
  • Have you used ‘noindex, follow’ notes to advise crawlers not to index a particular page, but still allow them to follow links?

CONSIDERATIONS FOR SUCCESS AND DEVELOPMENT

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USER ENGAGEMENT

  • Difficult to measure, but clearly an important part in an optimised web presence
  • Do you continue to ensure your website loads quickly, delivers content users want and provides a smooth user experience?
  • Are you tracking visitors, search terms and relevant referrers?
  • Are you continuing to improve UX by reducing load times and providing a good linking structure to increase page views and time on site?
  • Have you provided an engaging, descriptive and relevant meta-description that will both inform and attract users to your site and individual pages?
  • Does your website cater to your users?
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INTERNATIONALISATION

  • Can open up a wider market if the returns make the costs worthwhile.
  • Have you assessed the web traffic you receive and tracked language and geographical locations to assess potential user base?
  • Do you understand what’s driving that traffic to you, why, where and the volume and trends?
  • Have you considered the business case of costs to deliver an international online presence vs returns it could generate?
  • Have you assessed the benefits of language vs. country targeting?
  • If country targeting are you using a country code top level domain, ccTLDs?
  • If language targeting are you using a sub-domain of your main site?
  • Is switching between languages easy to do and logical?
  • Have you avoided automatically detecting and setting languages or redirect to country/language specific site?
  • Have you included language meta-tags?
  • Have you included hreflang tags?
  • Have you used the geo-targeting option on search engines to designate specific countries if not using a ccTLDS?
  • Are you hosted on a local server if possible?
  • Have you avoided using Google translate or some other automatic translation service?
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SCHEMA MARKUP

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LINK BUILDING

  • One of the most important aspects of good SEO
  • Are you producing high-quality content that people want to link to?
  • Have you built natural, high-quality links by building relationships?
  • Have you avoided spammy, low-quality links that will negatively impact you?
  • Are you linking with appropriate anchor text?
  • Are you generating fresh links or reliant on dusty old links?
  • Are you attempting to build links with high-authority or popular sites?
  • Do you have your own blog to curate fresh content that’s link-worthy?
  • Are you utilising  social platforms to build your presence?

How to measure ROI

Great SEO can deliver significant benefits to your business. But how do you track that? Measuring ROI is a hugely important aspect of any business area, and the digital space is no different.

Here we look at the best metrics to track, what they can show us, and equally importantly, just how you go about tracking them anyway.

What to track?

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Source of visitors

There are three main ways visitors will arrive at your site, direct, referral or search.

  • Direct – The process whereby users type in your URL, click a bookmarked link, an untracked link in an email etc..
  • Referral – By clicking on links located throughout the web, on a trackable email or promotional link.
  • Search – Through the process of an answered query in a search engine directing users to your site.

All three of these metrics provide valuable insight, but in terms of measuring the impact of SEO, it’s search traffic that we’re most interested in. Keep a track of the monthly volume of traffic, and its percentage share of overall traffic to your site. This way you can evaluate through fluctuation in traffic if specific efforts made recently have paid off, or conversely if some new changes to search rankings have somehow seen your website lose traffic.

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Share by search engine

As important as measuring the share of traffic received from search engines can be, measuring how that share is proportioned can also deliver some great insights. Google, Bing and Yahoo dominate search traffic globally, with the odd exception.

Understanding and measuring the share you receive from individual search engines allows you to assess the impact of changes you yourself make, but also that search engines make to how they rank websites.

If you find your search traffic with Bing and Yahoo has remained steady, but your Google traffic has dropped significantly, chances are there’s been an algorithm change at Google that’s impacting your search rankings, and it’s time to investigate. If you find all three of the search engines are throwing you less traffic it may well be an issue of accessibility or a technical change on your website.

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Keywords and Phrases. Which landing pages drive your traffic?

Tracking keyword rankings is one ofthe more clear-cut metrics in SEO. By understanding the entry/landing pages forusers arriving on your site, you can make a good estimate about the kinds ofthings they’re searching. (This is particularly important since Google nowwithholds keyword data). This insight helps you to appreciate the benefits ofusing particular phrases, so you can further develop and identify key termswhich could generate more traffic.

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Number of pages receiving search referrals

Understanding the total number of pages on your site receiving referrals from search engines can help you understand how your wider site and its underlying architecture is performing.

By tracking this number we can see how efforts such as site architecture improvements, link acquisition and other structure changes improve how your website is crawled by search engines, and how much of it is ultimately indexed.

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Backlinks

As a vital part of SEO understanding the volume and origin of backlinks to your site can help develop a wider SEO strategy.  This links back to assessing the source of your visitors, but the navigational side.

Understanding where backlinks are originating from, what content they point to and who the influencers are that are leading that traffic can help develop future SEO strategies around content.

How do we measure?

These are the metrics you need to measure, but what’s the best way to go about it? Let’s look at some of the best tools for the job.

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Google Analytics - Free

A fantastic free tool which can offer a wealth of information about your website and the traffic it receives. It provides data on user engagement such as time of visit and bounce rate as well as letting you track things like downloads of a particular resource from your site.

Analytics also gives you some fantastic demographic information on your users, providing details of their location as well as aggregating data. Since it’s Google software, it’s also able to integrate with the likes of Google AdWords, Search Console and AdSense. It’s well established, and there are some great Google Analytics tutorials to get you started.

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Google Search Console - Free

Once setup this tool will provide data on the top search queries driving traffic to your website, along with the pages on your websites receiving the most visitors. The search queries option will show the top search queries driving your traffic, as well as the pages it is being driven to. Since you can integrate it with Google Analytics it streamlines two useful resources rather handily. Rankings are only held for 90 days, so you’ll need to audit regularly to track over time.

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Cognitive SEO – Free 14 day trial then monthly from US$ 99.

This software can be a handy tool for analysing the benefit of links to your site. It provides details of backlinks and the anchor text which is driving traffic to you, along with content auditing and a rank tracking. This can help you understand what kind of content you have that is creating links, and what the keywords in anchor text that deliver it are.

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SEMRush – Free with premium options then monthly from US $69.95

Another great tool for looking into keyword rankings and organic traffic. The free version reveals the top 10 organic results, but has a limited amount of searches per day. The pro version allows 3,000 reports today and reveals 10,000 results per report. This is a great review of SEMrush functionality and some of the other data points it will help analyse.

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Moz Pro – Free 30 day trial then monthly from US$ 99

Moz Pro leverages the knowledge of some great SEO expertise to provide easy to digest data on everything from keywords to propriety metrics on authority and site rankings. On top of keyword insights it offers up some useful looks at metrics around both external and internal links.

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SEO PowerSuite – Free basic functionality, or purchase from £229 one off payment

SEO PowerSuite is another option that covers much of the benefits of Moz Pro and SEMRush. The free version allows you to carry out keyword research, but that’s about it. If you want to pay for extra features it has the benefit of being a one off payment. SEO PowerSuite offers keyword research, ranking data, link auditing and site auditing.

All measured up?

Hopefully now you’ve got a good idea what to measure and how to do it. Do it often, and do it right. Only by tracking over time will you gain a true understanding of the impact of your SEO efforts.

With a solid grasp of SEO and an understanding of what needs to be done, let’s finish up on some tools which can help you along the way.

Further Reading

Measuring And Tracking Success:
https://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo/measuring-and-tracking-success
5 Must-Know Google Analytics Strategies To Measure SEO Success:
https://blog.kissmetrics.com/google-analytics-strategies-to-measure-seo/Schema.org
How to Measure SEO Success:
https://searchenginewatch.com/sew/how-to/2285550/how-to-measure-seo-success

tools

Welcome to the digital tool shed! By now you should have a solid grasp of SEO, the benefits it can bring, and the best practice guidance on how to deliver those benefits.

Now sit back, grab a cuppa, and browse a list of useful tools that can help you along the way.

General Resources

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Screaming Frog – Free with premium options

A great analysis tool and all round excellent resource. Will help you build an XML sitemap, check for broken links, assess your site structure, check meta-tags and attributes, research competitor sites for keywords and generally generate some very useful data.

SemRush – Free with premium options

A great all round tool both for keyword research and measuring metrics to analyse the impact of SEO efforts. Delivers robust data on traffic, links, keywords as well as delivering some great possibilities in competitor research.

Google Analytics – Free

A fantastic free tool which can offer a wealth of information about your website and the traffic it receives. It provides data on user engagement such as time of visit and bounce rate as well as letting you track things like downloads of a particular resource from your site.

Google Search Console – Free

Once set up this tool will provide data on the top search queries driving traffic to your website, along with the top pages on your website for traffic.

SEO PowerSuite – Free basic functionality, or purchase from £229 one-off payment

Free version allows you to carry out keyword research. Paid version offers keyword research, ranking data, link auditing and site auditing.

Moz Pro – Free 30 day trial then monthly from US $99

Provides easy to digest data on everything from keywords to propriety metrics on authority and site rankings. On top of keyword insights it offers useful metrics around both external and internal links.

Speed and Structure

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Google PageSpeed Insights – Free

Will provide insights into page speed and suggest changes to improve it.

Firebug – Free

An add-on for Firefox which allows you to edit, debug and monitor CSS and HTML as well as providing a speed analysis tool.

AMP Project – Free

Simple, easy to follow tutorials on how to build your site with the Accelerated Mobile Project.

Schema Structured Data Markup Helper – Free

Step by step help on building schema markup data to improve SERP listings.

Schema Data Testing Tool – Free

Link Analysis

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Moz Open Site Explorer – Free with premium options

Provides valuable insight into backlinks and domain authority.

Majestic – Free with premium options

Detailed, in-depth look at backlinks, with a lot of historical data.

Cognitive SEO – Free 14 day trial then monthly from US$ 99.

A handy tool for analysing the benefit of links to your site. It provides details of backlinks and the anchor text which is driving traffic to you, along with content auditing and a rank tracking.

Keyword Research

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Google AdWords – Costs vary by project

One of the best ways to assess and analyse keywords and the benefit from targeting them. Build targeted campaigns based on the popularity of words and cost analysis.

Keyworids.io – Free with premium options

A supremely easy to use keyword research tool that generates a wealth of suggested terms to help target your content.

On Page Optimisation

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Moz Title Tag Checker – Free

Simple, easy to use method of checking your title tag length.

Meta-tag Checker – Free

Simple, easy to use method of checking how meta-descriptions will display in SERPs.