I've worked in online marketing and digital for a number of years now. By far, SEO has been one of the most volatile, widely changing items in digital.
To put the rise of SEO into perspective, in a large amount of businesses, marketing functions now have SEO strategies, that sit ALONGSIDE digital marketing strategies, in the same way that awards, events and offline poster advertising sit together. The concept that SEO is its own marketing channel is testament to its importance in digital marketing.
One of the things I have heard for a long time and continue to hear from our Project, Account and Sales teams is a simple question: "my client wants to know how we build for SEO".
I thought sharing my views on what this actually means would be useful. I think more useful for readers would be the understanding of the question you are actually asking and why you are asking it.
What's in a question?
The rise of SEO came with a number of good and bad elements. The good side was more leads, growing businesses a Chanel shift from the high street to the internet, an industry I love. The downside of this, like any growing industry, was that bad companies (known as black hat's) damaged a lot of companies digital reputations, due in part to huge competition to onboard more clients.
A lot of these SEO companies also moonlight as website developers, and aren't very good at it. As competition increased, sales teams needed to find an edge to beat the competition. This is squarely where this phrase came from
'The difference between ourselves and agency X is that we build with SEO in mind'
And so the phrase was born. No one knew what it meant, clients loved it and good sales people exploited it.
So what did they do to build with 'SEO in mind'?
Nothing. Well, nothing different from what they normally did.
So what does building for SEO really mean?
In an honest world, the statement is a good one. Building a website which can perform better on Google, or has the ability too, is hugely important as after all, this is a crucial marketing channel for businesses.
So what does that consist of?
1. On Page SEO
On page SEO, or technical SEO as it is often referred to contains a number of different items. The key on-page SEO items to consider are;
- Meta Data, including titles, descriptions
- H1 Titles (and other header titles, particularly H2 subheaders)
- Language declarations
- Broken links (making sure there isn't any)
- Alt tags for images
- Content (make sure your content is rich, unique and adds value to the page)
2. Structure URL
The way your websites URL's are built is highly important. Recruitment websites benefit from being easily structured, however I see lots of examples of poor URL structure. My advice is to follow these guidelines;
- Make your URL structure simple: I.e. if a human understands what the page url will lead to, then Google will too
- Try to include keywords in the URL
- Keep your URLs short for key pages. A shorter URL may not have a direct SEO benefit, but from a user standpoint, they are far better
- Match your URL to your page titles and H1 tags - this is important for search result pages which you are looking for Google to index
3. Infrastructure Speed/Servers
A majorly overlooked item of building for SEO, is the speed of the website itself. Website speed has a direct impact on how your website performs on Google. Google page speed insights is the tool you should be using to monitor your websites speed post go-live. A good benchmark is to aim for speeds on desktop and mobile of over 85/100.
When most web companies talking about building with SEO in mind, they are talking purely from a 'front end' point of view. My view, is that SEO starts from the platform you are using. Your platform should have all the tools to help you manage your SEO, as without these tools, you will have major problems. Wordpress has some tools which you have to plug in to it, which can help, the Yoast plugin is popular for example. These plugins often get outdated and as a result stop working on Wordpress websites, so ensure that you are using a platform that is stable and constantly innovating.
Content is hugely important for SEO, arguably the biggest factor to having success. Make sure when you are writing content, that it is engaging, relevant and adds genuine value to the visitor.
When it comes to the word count, I don't tend to worry too much about the number of words - I'm more concerned if a human would find it interesting. With this in mind, people are more likely to read, share and distribute your content, which all has a positive impact on your website SEO.
But that doesn't mean word count (or, for that matter, other unique content elements on a given page such as videos, images, etc.) isn't a factor in SEO rankings. Subpages struggle to rank at all if they don't meet a minimum of 300 words without some other unique, compelling elements to buttress it, and some think the sweet spot on word count was even around the 2500 mark, though research and expert views do vary on this.
Whatever the case, the matter of content is an item overlooked by many website developers, so make sure you plan your content early!
Similar to having technology that enables you to perform well for SEO, having good reporting tools are crucial also. Google Analytics is an obvious place to start, however your platform should have tools which let you know just how well the website is working. You should be able to answer questions such as;
- Where does my traffic come from
- Which channel leads to the most candidate conversions
- Which landing pages are performing best
- Which keywords are performing well for me and overall, which keywords am I ranking for
Answering these questions will help you optimise your website from not only a user perspective, but also from a Google perspective
With Google now favouring websites which are mobile optimised, it goes without saying that your website needs to look great for mobile devices. As a minimum, your website should be 'responsive' meaning that no matter what device, the website will be large enough for the user to use easily.
For more tips on best practice, download our free ebook A Recruiter's Guide to SEO.