SEO – a moving target

Paragon’s expert Head of SEO, Jonathan Fink works his way through the SEO minefield and outlines the priority ranking factors he sees for 2019. This is the first in a series of blogs to help you improve your Organic and Paid Search results in Google.

SEO – a moving target
more

 

If you’re not optimising for Google, you’re not optimised

There are other search engines. Honest. Are you one of the selected few who regularly use Bing? Realistically, when it comes down to it Google has 95% of the market and so getting it right for the Google search engine should be your top priority.

But it seems that SEO requirements for performing in Google change all the time. It can be hard to keep up with the latest developments, and often advice online seems to conflict or place different emphasis on different strategies. But it’s clear that well-optimized websites do generate more traffic over the long term, which can equate to more leads and sales. And that’s what it’s all about – if you want your website to be more than just a passive brochure, it needs attract the right kind of prospects and play an active role in converting them to becoming paying customers.

Don’t game the algorithm, but work with Google

Google’s algorithms do not read websites exactly like a human, and so without SEO Google may have trouble indexing, classifying and rankings your content in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). 

Even the concept of what a ranking is, has got more complex over the years.

It used to be simpler, when you just had the ‘free’ (organic or natural) results. Then along came paid search ads – and over time their number, positioning and format changed. The ads started to take up more space a gain a variety of so-called ‘extensions’.

Then Organic search results gained more features, such as ‘sitelinks’, ratings and reviews, breadcrumb trails (schema) and other features. Google added map results into the mix, product results, video, news items, social media content, structure information (Knowledge Graph) and many other additions to the traditional ‘natural’ search listing. 

The net result is, that your customers often you have to scroll a long way down the page to see the search rankings of an actual manufacturer, retailer of service provider. The trick, of course, is to produce content that makes its way into one of the structured or ‘vertical’ search queries, to appear above competitors.

What are you missing out on without SEO?

Why is this important? Bear in mind that sites appearing in the top three ranked positions tend to gain more than half of the clicks of a given search query. If you are ranked at position one, you will see a CTR (Click through Rate) of around 34% even on branded search terms. That sounds great, but below position one, that average CTR drops off dramatically. Being on page two and beyond practically counts for nothing, as you’ll get very little traffic from anything other than Top 5 placement in SERPs. So it’s important to understand: a) how do you get into these all important positions and b) ideally how can you guarantee position one for branded search term, which will deliver better CTR and c) how can you capture most of the market who’s never hear of you, through competitive ‘generic’ keyword search terms… the options are myriad, and require strategic SEO planning in order to success in SERPs over time.

Beyond traditional SEO

SEO is the process of ranking higher in search, but it has also come to mean gaining traction in the non-traditional search results outlined above, as well as increasing CTR from your ranked positions, and supporting the effort to improve user engagement and retention rates on your site. It’s a bit of a minefield, to put it mildly.

On the plus side, there are some key pointers that can help. Below I’ve listed the top 10 priorities for getting your site ranked higher in 2019 in Google with a mini summary. We’ll explore some of these in more detail in later blogs posts.

  1. Having a secure website when it matters  - by using https

The right kind of URLs is increasingly a strong ranking factor. That means having a secure website on https. This is especially true for any website that takes payments or gathers users’ details and, for example, any site that relates to important aspects of peoples’ lives.

  1. Accessible and index-able content

To perform better your most important content should be in HTML text format, and easily index-able by Google ‘crawlers’. Images, Flash files, Java applets, and other non-text content are often ignored or devalued by crawlers, despite advances in their technology.

  1. Optimal Page Speed - especially on mobile devices

Slow page speed means that search engines can crawl fewer pages using their allocated crawl budget, which could negatively affect your indexation. Page speed is important to user experience, which is a ‘soft’ ranking factor now. Pages with a longer load rank lower in mobile search results.

  1. Domain and URL Authority

Domain Authority influences how you rank. A link from a website with high authority is more valuable than a link from a site with little or no authority. But the calculation of DA and Page Authority (PA) needs to take into account not just the volume of links, but also their quality.  

  1. Mobile compliance and seamless UX

Anything from 50% to 70% of your webs traffic could be coming from mobile devices.  Your website needs to look great and function well to ensure an optimal experience on mobile devices. Again, failure to comply could means that you don’t rank for generic terms on mobile search.  

  1. Optimised and relevant content

Search engine optimised content is one of the most important elements of SEO. It plays a vital role in determining who finds your website and what information they take away once they have landed there. User engagement is now a ranking factor too, so getting them to stay is important.

  1. Flawless technical SEO

But what we mean by ‘technical SEO is making your website seamless for Google indexation. Instead of off-site or on-site SEO, technical SEO is the practice of optimising the backend of a website. Page speed, mobile compliance and server redirects are example ‘technical SEO’ topics.  

  1. Backlink profile

The number of backlinks a website has is a good indicator of its popularity or importance but it is also the quality and relevance of those links. Backlinks are used as Google’s reputation tool and more good quality backlinks shows your site has a good reputation and can be trusted.

  1. Use language aligned with your users

When optimising for search, it is critical to target the right keywords. Think about the correlation between your targeted keyword and the content on the page. Imagine you are the searcher. What kind of information would you expect to find on the sites that are ranking in your industry?

  1. Optimal site architecture and use of Schema

Site structure is critical for creating seamless user journeys and helping search engines to index your site. Internal linking is a very important aspect of this. Site structure can be refined in search by the use of Schema, which is a way of enhancing your search listings by providing more info in the code.

---------------------------------------------

Unless you are an SEO expert, all this can seem like a total minefield. Your website may be under-performing in search engines, and generating a lot fewer enquiries and sales than it potentially could. But how can you tell which of the priorities above you are not meeting, and what is their relative impact on your site? Don’t worry – as we can help you unpick this, and bring your site in line with the latest best practices in technical SEO.

---------------------------------------------

For help with any of these or wider SEO and PPC, contact Paragon