It’s an inarguable fact that search engines are crucial to the success of any business with an online presence. So how do you make yours climb the search engine ladder?
With over a trillion sets of search results returned every month, and the majority of web traffic originating from search engines, it’s essential for every company to achieve a respectable position within results pages. This should ideally include a position on page one; the second page is only accessed in a quarter of cases.
With over two thirds of the market to itself, Google’s endlessly evolving algorithms provide the last word on a website’s performance and profile. However, Microsoft’s Bing also remains a popular choice among many users, so both engines should be catered for when designing a website or developing an online presence.
Here are ten key steps to bear in mind:
- Get technical. Every web page carries identifying data known as title tags which provide search engines with a concise summary of their content. A text file called robots.txt can perform a similar job for the whole site, so ensure both are completed.
- Keep everything working. Search engines hate pages that have been moved or deleted, so keep your site navigation consistent. Check regularly for missing pages, ensure links or embedded files continue to work, and use a reliable web hosting firm.
- Local heroes. Many people search for specific terms in a locational context. Using geographic references as a local business identifies the region/s you cover. This is a great way to boost ranking positions, and distinguishes you among a crowded market.
- Optimize your text. Packages like Google Analytics can identify the search terms people commonly use, and your site should feature these words and phrases. An exact phrase match (or long tail keyword) achieves superior positions on results pages…
- …But don’t go too far. Search engines are very adept at differentiating keyword-stuffed text from copy intended to be read and enjoyed. Repetition and overuse of keywords will damage the site’s ranking for a long time, so striking a balance is vital.
- Blog about it. Blogging provides search engines with evidence that a site is being regularly updated, which helps ranking results. It can also generate extra traffic by incorporating commonly searched for terms that may appear as extra search results.
- Be social. Social media can also boost a site’s ranking, with every new link helping to drive traffic to your site. Search engine algorithms prioritize sites with lots of inbound links, though these will be more valuable from academic sites than social media ones.
- Streamline the site. With most of the world’s internet usage now via mobile devices, search engines favour sites that download quickly. Slick sites with sub-pages will load faster and rank better, whereas plugins and auto-playing videos achieve the opposite.
- Avoid dedicated mobile sites. Good web design should deliver responsive sites whose functionality isn’t affected by shortcuts like hamburger menus in lieu of button bars. The days of separate desktop and mobile sites are over, and the search engines know it.
- Keep people on board. Search engines can monitor whether people stay on a page they’ve arrived at, or rapidly return to search results. Good content keeps people engaged and stops them leaving, which boosts a site’s perceived value and quality.