Search engine optimization is an art rather than a science. There’s no definitive way to achieve a high ranking in search results, and the goalposts are constantly shifting as Google and Bing/Yahoo refine their algorithms to prevent black hat marketing techniques. Since these changes are rarely publicized, there’s a fair amount of guesswork involved, beyond periodic announcements that a once acceptable practice is now being frowned upon.
Fortunately, there are plenty of simple SEO techniques that even a well-designed website might lack, but which don’t require a degree in software programming to install. Take a look through our list, and see whether your site could benefit from any of these tips and tricks:
- Title tags. Every HTML document has a title tag, but yours might not be optimized. SEO specialists Moz believe that title tags are second only to text content in affecting SEO rankings. They should sum up a page’s USP in 70 characters or fewer, using key search terms.
- Meta descriptions. This is another concise page summary whose tags may appear in SERPS results. Within 160 characters, produce a site-level description for the homepage, and page-specific descriptions elsewhere. Each tag should contain one or two keywords.
- XML sitemaps. More sophisticated than robots.txt files, XML sitemaps provide a detailed breakdown of pages available for scrutiny. They also outline a page’s history and other data that helps the ranking process – an SEO technique well worth knowing.
- Long tails. Googling the word “soccer” delivers 818,000,000 results. “Soccer coaching New York” will deliver location-specific results. Use popular search terms of four words or more (known as long tails) across your site to attract relevant traffic.
- Landing pages. Instead of directing every blog audience and PPC ad campaign to your homepage, create bespoke landing pages. These help to identify worthwhile (as well as unproductive) traffic generators, while boosting SEO with new and unique content.
- Schema text. Few websites have successfully harnessed this relatively unknown SEO technique. By adding context to database contents, schema text can generate far more accurate page descriptions in search results. It’s reassuringly simple to achieve, too.
- Image alt tags and file names. SEO techniques aren’t always subtle. Which says more about a sofa: DSC1234.jpg or Brown_Leather_Sofa.jpg? As well as renaming image files, populate the accompanying alt tag captions with keywords that might also rank.
- Keywords in custom URLs. This follows on from previous SEO techniques. Permalinks are URLs linking to specific posts, and a permalink containing the words “flash sale” ranks better than today’s date or a random alphanumeric string.
- Page loading times. Google now takes this metric into account as part of its support for mobile-optimized websites. Ditch unnecessary CSS or WordPress plugins, compress images, create subpages and embed video content from YouTube’s servers.
- Regular content updates. Another factor taken into account by search engines involves update frequency. A weekly blog or news story shows the site is active and maintained, while also providing huge scope for adding in long tails and keywords.
- Internal links. Using anchor text with relevant links to other pages is a simple and dependable trick for increasing a site’s perceived value. Internal links help crawlers understand its layout and hierarchy, providing there are plenty of pages to connect.
- Quality inbound links. Even more valuable than internal links are inbound ones from reputable and relevant third-party sites. A platform with a .gov or .ac domain is the Holy Grail, but any relevant inbound links suggest your own portal contains value.