The 3 Pillars of SEO

Although many digital marketing terms are used more this year than previously, we find there is still a fair amount of confusion out there about what Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is. This is not surprising as there are so many parts to a successful SEO campaign: meta-tags, keyword density, duplicate content, canonical URLs, redirects…. the list goes on.  So in this post, we’ll aim to break things down into what we at MXA Digital call “the 3 pillars of SEO”.

1. On-site SEO

On-site SEO refers only to content on your website that Google uses to determine what the page is about.  In reality this can mean a whole host of different factors that can be optimised on your site to help Google determine how relevant your content is to the search query the visitor used.

  • Keywords as page title – a strong ranking factor is using your target keywords in your page title.
  • Keywords as H1 Tags – H1 tags are the 2nd strongest on-page ranking factor. Typically your web designer will style the site accordingly, so you will usually get the H1 tag as a larger font than the H2 tag, H3, H4 etc.  H1 and H2 tags are usually as far as you need to go with H tags as the 3s, 4s, 5s are of diminishing importance.
  • Content – If your page is about Pet Food, and your H tags are about Pet Food, then it makes sense that you mention the term “pet food” in the paragraph text of your page also.  When it comes to writing content you should make it as informative, unique and valuable as possible.  This is important for a few reasons:
    1. Search Engines (like humans) LOVE valuable and unique content.  Delivering up-to-date, relevant information on a subject will be seen as a good ranking factor.
    2. The more valuable and interesting the content, the more people share / like and distribute it across the web.
  • Engagement and Traffic Data.  It is widely thought that Google and some other engines use traffic data as part of their algorithm, meaning if your page ranks number 1 for a particular search query, but 99% of users do not click on your result, the algorithm will decide “people aren’t that interested in this result, it’s probably not that relevant to the query, I should rank it lower down the list”. You can really help the share-ability of your content by including “social sharing” buttons on your pages.  Some content management systems like WordPress and Joomla have a vast array of plugins that will do this job for you without the need to touch any code, or hire a developer.
  • URL – having keywords in your page URLs is also a strong on-site ranking factor that you should be using.
  • Image alternative text – One factor we often see overlooked with website builds is alternative text for images.  Whilst not the strongest of factors, it is still relevant and search engines do use it, so why waste the opportunity? When uploading an image to your site give it a good file name e.g. “Small-dog-enjoying-food.jpg” is a whole lot better than “image_v2_2_345_final_finalfinal_approved.jpg”.  Similarly, giving your image relevant alternative text, or ‘alt text’, will be beneficial for both search engines and end users alike.

Most good web designers will build you a website that has all these elements in place, its then up to the person updating and adding content to the site that you fully utilise these factors.

2. Off-site SEO

Off-site SEO refers to the links and references that your site/brand has on websites on the internet other than your own. Encouraging relevant links back to your site is the best way to boost your website in the search results. So what are some good methods for getting string links back to your website?

  • Create content that people will share and reference. This is a great way of gaining links back to your website.  Take this post for example, we write this article and post it on our website.  We then share the post out over our social media channels which enhances the reach of the post.  A business owner,content developer, marketing manager, blogger or web designer finds the information relevant and interesting and posts a comment on one of their channels which links back to our original post. This is a relevant link to our site. Other users might then click on that link, sending our post referral traffic.
  • Get your company or brand known with local activity. This can be done through variety of different ways- for example give a talk on your area of expertise to a local business or networking group.  Typically, the organizer will publicise the talk to members and place a link to your website in the promotional material and website.
  • Register your business with local directories, e.g. Tomson’s or the Yellow Pages, they will link back to your site on your listing.
  • Register with directories in your industry or professional bodies. For example, if you are an architect in Belfast, your could get your business listed here:
  • Use Social Media – Social media properties also provide the opportunity to link back to your website.  You should register the social media accounts that you think would be most beneficial to your business. If you design jewellery, Instagram might be a great place to show your products.

3. Technical SEO

Technical SEO means the technical aspects of how the website performs to a search engine.  Usually a website developer will need to be involved in order to construct the site to the best technical SEO standards.  The good thing being is that once they are in place, they don’t usually need to be revisited very often, if at all.

When we talk of technical SEO we really mean things like:

  • Load speed – how quickly does your website load up? Google uses this as a determining factor as a slow loading website will likely provide a poor user experience (as people searching on the internet are generally impatient!).  In turn this also could lead to traffic data being poor, as users click the link then but don’t wait for the page to load, giving you a high bounce rate.
  • Sitemaps – sitemaps give you a good way to tell Google where all your content is in relation to the rest of your pages.  You can also submit the sitemap through the Google Search Console.
  • 404 pages – Providing a 404 page that gives the user options to find what they are looking for is good practice.  You can then examine the 404 reports and fix any broken links periodically.
  • Navigation structure – some websites have a CMS which is flexible in how it structures the pages and URLs, others need to be set-up at the start of the site build.  It’s good practice to structure your website into easily understandable sections which accurately represent your content.

Doing a good job of these 3 types of SEO will ensure you have the best chance of success in the highly competitive search landscape.  If you would like further advice on any of the topics covered here please get in touch to discuss your needs.  We are an SEO specialist based in Belfast.