Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of improving a website in order to encourage greater visibility in search engines and ultimately increase 'organic' or 'natural' search traffic as a result.
Why is SEO important?
Search engines are not only the primary means of navigation across the web but they also serve highly targeted traffic, i.e. users who are actively looking for the information a site offers. Therefore, maintaining a high level of visibility within search results is crucial in order to maximise the potential audience and improve the click-through rate.
How do search engines work?
The goal of any search engine is to provide the user with the most relevant and high quality content for their search term. So, in theory, the more relevant and high quality a piece of content is, the higher it will appear in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). However, in practice, search engines need to be able to both find the webpage in the first place and then measure its value and they do so by using complex algorithms that check and weight content against a vast array of "ranking factors".
What does SEO involve?
The exact number and constitution of ranking factors used by search engines are closely guarded and ever-changing. Nevertheless, SEO can be split into two distinct categories:
- On-site - e.g. ensuring code is valid and easily read, tags are used correctly, content is original and informative
- Off-site - e.g. having authoritative and relevant sites link back to yours, cultivating a strong social media presence, having content shared by influential sources
Crucially, the goal should always be to ensure that the user is provided with the best possible experience and the most relevant content; after all, this is exactly what search engines want too.
What are we doing?
When creating or editing webpages, it is essential to think about SEO. Use this checklist to help optimise your pages.
- Write for users and not search engines (!)
- Ensure each page is unique and definitive
- Avoid content that adds no value to users
- Place crucial information 'above the fold' (at the top of the page before scrolling)
- URL should ideally contain most important target keyword(s) which describes page
- Use dashes instead of underscores to separate words
- Ensure URL is lowercase to avoid potential duplicate content issues
- Title tag should be unique and relevant to page content
- Include most important target keyword(s) for the page within Title tag
- Ensure Title tag is compelling and unambiguous to encourage clicks
- Title tag should be between 20 and 60 characters
Description Meta tag
- Description tags are not used for ranking but can encourage clicks
- Ensure Description tag is compelling and informative
- Do not exceed 155 characters otherwise tag may be truncated in search results
Keyword Meta tag
- Keyword tags are not used for ranking and may be seen as spam
- Use Keyword tags sparingly if at all
- Each page should have one unique H1 tag containing the most important target keyword
- Subheadings should use H2-H6 header tags in a logical manner
- Use alt text to describe images
- Alt text should be unique for each image and contain target keyword(s) where applicable
- Link to relevant internal pages frequently where this will benefit the user
- Avoid generic and non-descriptive link anchor text such as 'click here'
- Link to relevant and authoritative external sources in context
Last reviewed: 10/04/2014