SEO Basics | Part Two
This is part two of our three-part series designed to teach you the basics of search engine optimisation. Keep reading to learn about website search engine optimisation or go back to part one and learn how to optimise your webpage for search engines now.
“Google receives over 63,000 searches per second on any given day.”
This fact from SEO Tribunal highlights a massive opportunity. To take full advantage of this opportunity you need to not only focus on individual content pages but step back and take a look at your website as a whole. The following article will show you three cross-site factors which you can optimise to improve your ranking on search engines.
It’s important to note that unlike with webpage optimisation, website search engine optimisation usually requires the assistance of more people – in particular developers. Don’t let this put you off as the results will be worth it! Identify the items that are easiest for your business to improve and use the results from these to support your case for future enhancements.
#1 Create a Hierarchical Website Structure
Like a well-organised closet, having an organised website makes it easier for everyone to find what they’re looking for. A structured website will help you to:
- Rank higher overall on Google
- Get more of your pages to rank on Google
- Rank more relevant pages for each search term
- Easily add, remove or edit your website content
- Avoid creating duplicate website content
So, what does a well-organised site actually look like?
As you might organise your closet into dresses, jeans and jumpers, similarly you can organise your website into different content types. Alternatively, you could organise items by their function rather than their type, for example, office-wear, evening attire and weekend-wear. It all depends on what will make the most sense to your customers.
But in terms of an actual website…
A website’s structure should follow (and guide) the user’s flow. From an SEO perspective, this flow starts with their initial search term and the intent behind that search.
A basic hierarchical website structure might look something like the following:
In this very simple example if someone searches your brand name they’ll most likely end up on your home page. If they search contact details for your brand they’ll see a link for your contact page in Google and be easily able to satisfy their search intent.
Now, let’s imagine that someone has a support query but are uncertain of the exact support they need or simply don’t have the terminology to explain their problem. Having a ‘hub page’ for support lets them self-navigate through your site structure as follows:
With the above example, someone who has a highly specific search intent eg. to repair their iPhone screen will see a listing for this exact page in Google. They are more likely to click on this result and less likely to leave your site straight away when they get there.
Satisfying your organic search visitors satisfies Google and improves your ranking.
A hierarchical structure also helps Google to understand the context of your page content in relation to the entire site. If it’s nearer the Home Google knows that it’s core content. If it’s below a hub page Google knows that it shares similarities to other pages in that hub.
While implementing some level of hierarchy on your site will benefit SEO don’t ever do this at the expense of the user experience. Don’t get too granular or you’ll end up with a site that’s difficult to maintain, with thinly distributed traffic and excessively long URLs.
#2 Provide Easy Navigation Around Your Website
Once, you’re happy with the structure you need to provide easy navigation around your site. Navigation helps users and Google crawl your site to find related and relevant content. It also allows you to guide users to complete actions aligned to business goals.
Main header & footer navigation
The main header navigation on a website often reflects the site structure and is usually shared across all pages of the site. Having simple, clear and consistent navigation that’s always visible allows visitors to easily move around your site and find what they’re looking for. This, in turn, reduces the number of people who view one page and then exit your site and increases the amount of time they spend on your site. All good signs for Google.
The footer navigation often functions as a simple site map allowing users to navigate through your site on a more granular level than in the main nav. Many sites use this for links to corporate pages such as privacy policies, careers pages, contact pages etc.
Aside from the main header and footer navigation most large sites include additional navigation to help users move around their sites. The following are some examples:
- Breadcrumb Navigation: This appears at the top of content pages to help users know where they are on a site and return to where they came from. Like Hansel & Gretel!
- Pagination: Ordinal number navigation sometimes shown at the bottom of article archives or category pages – it can help or hinder SEO depending on implementation.
- Left or Right-hand navigation: Often used on older or very large sites. This type of navigation can often hinder attempts at mobile optimisation – essential to SEO.
There are lots of types of subsidiary navigation. When optimising your site structure you may decide to remove some or add others but whatever you do keep it simple!
Internal link navigation
Internal links are links from one page or content section to another page or content section within the same site. When correctly and judiciously implemented they can help to improve your website user experience, increase conversions and enhance ranking.
- Broken Links: Many sites, especially large or old sites have broken links because the pages were removed without a redirect. This is bad for users and SEO.
- Internal Links: These are text-based links embedded within a content piece to navigate to another page. It’s important to ensure the text of a link is contextually relevant to the page it’s linking to. Internal links should never interrupt the user flow.
- Anchor Links: These are links which are used to navigate between a particularly long piece on content on a single webpage. For example when you click on an item in a Table of Contents which ‘jumps’ you further down the page.
#3 Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly
Most businesses today receive more than half of their website visitors from mobile. If your site doesn’t work well or look good on mobile your visitors are significantly less likely to consume your content, fill in your forms or purchase your products.
A mobile-friendly website is no longer a luxury it is a necessity.
The damage to your bottom line and brand reputation aside, since April 2015 Google actively began penalising websites which they deem as unfriendly to mobile users.
So what makes a website mobile friendly?
A mobile-friendly site is . . . fast.
People are impatient and won’t wait more than one or two seconds for a page to load. Check how fast your pages load by using Google’s PageSpeed Insights. This tool lists the technical items which are slowing down your pages. Show the results to your developer and ask them to fix what they can and explain the ‘why?’ behind anything, they can’t fix.
Unoptimised images and issues with the code used are common reasons for a slow site.
A mobile-friendly site is . . . secure
Today security and data protection are paramount. That is why Google and users give preference to a secure site. This is a site where the URL starts with HTTPs rather than HTTP. You or your developer can use tools such as Cloudflare to take care of this for you.
A mobile-friendly site is . . . responsive
In the past businesses built specific websites for desktop and mobile use. Today most companies create one responsive site where the images and content resizes, adapts and hides depending on the size of the screen it is being viewed on. This approach is easier to maintain and can adapt for mobile phones, tablets, laptops, desktops and Smart TVs.
To make sure that your website is mobile-friendly simply use it on your mobile! You should also use Google’s Mobile-Friendly tester and ask your team members to help test it.
A mobile-friendly site is . . . easy-to-use
Apart from being responsive, a website needs to be easy to use on mobile. This means; text that is big enough to read on a small mobile screen, buttons that are easy to click, forms that are short and easy to fill in and content that does not require endless scrolling!
You can either implement the necessary changes for both desktop and mobile users or you could ask your developer to hide problem elements on smaller screens.
Optimising an entire site for search engines is an ongoing and collaborative process. Don’t take it all on yourself, ask for help and evangelise SEO at every opportunity.