SEO would be a much easier task if we all knew exactly what Google wanted us to do. But like the existence of intelligent lifeforms on other planets or the inner workings of Clive Palmer’s mind, no one really knows… at least, not completely.
The SEO community have spent years researching and experimenting to build their own understanding of Google. Based on their ongoing experiences, they have developed a toolbox of effective techniques and strategies that enable them to get the best possible results. While they may not have access to the algorithm blueprint, they have the right tools to construct a strong SEO foundation for your business.
When trying to unravel the mysteries of the Google algorithm, you first need to acknowledge why it exists in the first place. The purpose of all search engines is to help people; it’s all about providing answers to questions and solutions to problems.
Google has established its position as the most used search engine in the world by continually improving its ability to deliver the highest quality content. As a business in its own right, it is driven by the desire to consistently provide the best possible service and ultimately, generate revenue.
On average, Google rolls out 2 algorithm updates per day, from minor modifications through to major changes, also known as ‘core updates’. Once these core algorithm updates are publicly announced, it’s up to the SEOs of the world to determine what has changed and attempt to reverse engineer the impact if a specific industry or business has experienced a sudden drop in rankings.
Thankfully, Google doesn’t leave us completely in the dark. To ensure we’re not all playing the digital marketing equivalent of pin the tail on the donkey, Google has a readily accessible set of Webmaster Guidelines that explain the basics of how the algorithm will read and interpret your website.
Basic tips for good SEO
As a starting point, Google gives us four top tips on how to win favour with the algorithm.
1. Put your customers first.
As your website content is meant to be consumed by people – not search bots – Google wants your website to be tailored to the needs of the user.
2. Tell no lies.
Avoiding dishonest and deceitful behaviour is more than a commandment in the bible. With the user’s interests in mind, Google wants you to provide accurate information and to be upfront about your offering.
3. Say bye bye black hat.
There are some dubious SEO hacks, also known as ‘black hat’ tactics, that some digital marketers may use in attempt to improve your rankings. But when you’re on Google’s turf, you need to follow their rules, and that means adhering to best practice.
4. You do you.
Think about what makes your business unique. What value can you deliver to your customers that no one else can? Find ways to communicate your competitive differences and make your website content engaging for your users. The more you can do to stand out, the better.
Let’s talk best practice
When Google can easily understand the content on your website, it will have the confidence to display your site in the SERPs (search engine results pages). By following best practice, you will be helping Google to interpret your site, giving you the best chance of improving your SEO performance.
Organise your site hierarchy
You could say that you need to take a Marie Kondo approach toward structuring your site. If a particular page doesn’t spark joy or provide value to the user, then it probably shouldn’t be there. The aim is to only include the most important pages and to order them in a clear and logical way, enabling the user to intuitively navigate between them and easily find the information they need.
Optimise your content
They say content is king for a reason. Your content has the power to influence user behaviour and whether they decide to submit an enquiry or complete a transaction. To optimise your content, you need to communicate your offering, expertise and points of difference, while structuring your ideas in a clear and consistent way and using headers as appropriate.
From your product and service pages right through to project showcases and blog content, you need to be applying this approach to every page on your site. To further impress Google – and more importantly, your website visitors – you should regularly refresh your content by keeping it up to date and continually adding new information via blog posts.
Optimise your images
Once you’ve nailed your written content, you also need to look at optimising the images on your site. Using correct naming conventions is one way to achieve an easy win. All you have to do is upload images with descriptive, customised file names. For example, an image labelled ‘SEO expert working on laptop’ will provide Google with a lot more context than ‘picture-1’. You can also provide even more detail via the ‘alt attribute’ field in your CMS (content management system).
It’s also important to ensure you’re uploading image files that aren’t going to slow down your site. The larger the file, the more likely it will be to impact your site speed, directly affecting the quality of your UX (user experience) and in turn your SEO performance. Before uploading media to your site, you will need to compress the file, while maintaining image quality. As a general rule of thumb, an entire web page should be no larger than 1-2MB, while header imagers should aim to be less than 200KB.
Keep it mobile friendly
With more than 50% of internet usage taking place on mobile devices (Source: Statcounter Global Stats), you need to ensure your website is mobile friendly, both for UX and visibility in search engines.
In 2019, Google made the move to mobile-first indexing, opting to crawl the mobile version of all websites, rather than desktop, reinforcing the need for all sites to be mobile friendly.
How to avoid bad behaviour
While the Webmaster Guidelines provide an overview of best practice, they also contain guidelines on activities you should avoid. Here are some of the practices that Google would consider to be bad behaviour.
- Auto-generated content
- Link schemes
- Web pages with limited content
- Duplicated or unoriginal content
- Sneaky redirects
- Hidden text or links
- Use of irrelevant keywords
- Malicious behaviour including phishing, installing viruses, trojans etc.
Boost your SEO performance
While it’s good to know the basic dos and don’ts of SEO, the Webmaster Guidelines are just the tip of the iceberg. To set your site up for success, you’ll need to dive deeper to continually improve your site and boost SEO performance.
At BirdBrain, our digital marketing specialists live and breathe the world of SEO, with a proven track record for helping our clients achieve results. If you’d like to open our SEO toolbox, get in touch with our team today.