SEOSearch Engine Optimisation
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the science, not art, of optimising the ranking of your pages in search engine results.
This involves both optimisation of the actual pages themselves (on-site SEO) and how they are promoted (off-site SEO).
The Evolution of SEO
Search Engine Optimisation has had to evolve in line with advances in search engine algorithms. Search engines seek to evaluate pages (and entire websites) based on human evaluation criteria.
Subsequently, advances in natural language processing and semantic search favour well-written content, over pages with the highest density of keywords stuffed in the most prominent of places.
Another advance in search engine algorithms has been the ‘social graph’ of how pages are linked to by people and pages of authority on relevant subjects, and how visitors engage with pages. These metrics all seek to determine the most relevant pages to serve for any given keyword.
Knowing what counts…
Evaluating to Optimise
When you evaluate a page for SEO, a useful acronym to recall is RATS – Relevance, Authority, Trust and Security. This breaks down into the following:
How relevant is the page content to the search term (keyword)? This is all about on-site SEO, such as how well the keyword matches written content on the page and metatags in the page code. Importantly, this includes natural language variations on the keyword and associated terms.
The age of the page content is also taken into account. Page content that has not changed for a long time can have a negative effect, as search engines may consider content to be out of date.
How much authority on the topic does the page or site have? This is largely about off-site SEO, such as whether experts in this field, or sites with high traffic volumes or authority, link to this page for this topic.
There is an element of on-site SEO at play here though. For instance, a new page on a site with high-authority on a given topic will inherit a degree of authority – just because of its location.
How reputable is this page? This is where the old black-hat SEO approach of buying huge amounts of backlinks falls foul. If your page is linked to by a significant volume of disreputable sites, this will count against your ranking.
There are tools to determine whether these links exist and to help you remove association with them. Quality of page code and content are also factors in this evaluation. Keyword ‘stuffing’ in copy is frowned upon and will negatively impact your ranking in this area.
Trust can also be seen to include quality as an aspect of the scoring now; trusting whether a page will load quickly and well on any device attempting to access it. For this reason, it is advised that all pages are mobile-optimised and performance-optimised. Failure to load quickly and reliably counts against a page in search engine optimisation.
How secure is this page? The broad use of HTTPS is considered favourable by search engines nowadays. More crucially, pages which become hacked and infected with malware will be stripped from search results rapidly. Search engines do not want to be responsible for directing users to potential sites of infection!
Off-site SEO (or off-page SEO) consists of all the activity to influence a page’s ranking that is done away from that page. The essence of this is the link equity from any external location linking back to the page in question. Link equity is a function of how much authority the linking location has for search in question.
Equity is determined by the linking site’s popularity (volume of traffic), relevance to the keyword topic, age of the link, text used in the link and associated copy, authority and trustworthiness of the linking domain and page.
Off-site SEO encompasses, but isn’t limited to, the following approaches to receiving backlinks:
When you produce excellent content and other sites choose to link to this, it results in a backlink. Such as the excellent page about off-site SEO by MOZ.com here.
Where you create content which is shared/promoted by other sites, such as a download or other proprietary asset of value.
Social media marketing
Content shared via social media channels and conversations linking back to your pages can have a superb impact on their ranking. Moreover, the reach of a social media post can be enormous, presenting great potential for relevant traffic to reach your page.
Traditionally, off-site SEO was dominated by the purchase of backlinks and registering pages with various directories. There is still value in the latter approach, but algorithms have evolved to downgrade the equity of links generated in this manner.
The rule of thumb here is if the links are easy to generate and not highly relevant to your market/topic then the value will be negligible. Keep efforts in this space highly-relevant and think about where your audience would go to find links, rather than simply looking for link volume.