Search Intent

Since it was launched all the way back in 1997, Google Search has grown increasingly sophisticated and intelligent. Where once it simply looked at your search term and gave you a list of web pages containing that term, the search engine's algorithm can now understand and interpret queries on an almost-human level.

This acute understanding of search intent is visible in the highly-tailored results that Google now delivers whenever a search is performed. Here's just one example:

  • The search term 'swimming pool' usually indicates an intent to go swimming, and so Google responds to this query with a list of local pools and leisure centres.

  • However, if you type 'swimming cap' into Google, the results page is dominated by shopping results. This is because the algorithm has deduced from your search term that you're looking to buy something.

  • Now type in 'swimming rules' and notice how most of the results are information-based. There's a featured snippet, along with a 'People also ask' section that answers a variety of swimming-related questions. All of this indicates that Google interpreted your query as an attempt to learn about swimming.

Three very similar searches, three very different sets of results.

Swimming search results

This example demonstrates just how much Google (and its competitors - you'll get similar results if you try the same experiment on Bing or Yahoo) can now read into our search queries. Superficially, the phrases 'swimming pool' and 'swimming cap' are very much alike, but modern search engine algorithms have a very strong grasp of what different words mean and - more importantly - what we mean when we use those words.

How was this achieved?

Google and the other search engines didn't get this clever overnight. Their current level of sophistication is the result of years of testing and fine-tuning and gradual improvement.

In Google's case, a technology called RankBrain is largely to thank for the algorithm's advanced understanding of search intent. RankBrain is an artificial intelligence system that learns as people search; when you google a phrase that RankBrain hasn't seen before, it makes an educated guess based on the meanings and common usages of the words you entered, then serves up results accordingly.

Here's what this process might look like in action:

  • You want to go and see the new family movie Penelope and the Magic Pencil at the cinema.

  • You go to google.co.uk and type in 'penelope magic pencil screenings'.

  • Google's algorithm doesn't immediately understand what you mean, but RankBrain knows that the word 'screenings' is semantically related to movies and cinemas.

  • Armed with this insight, Google now looks for cinema-related results that contain the words 'penelope', 'magic' and/or 'pencil'.

  • The best results are served to you via the Google results page. If Google can see your current location, the results are probably sourced from cinemas in your local area.

(In reality, of course, Google's all-knowing algorithm would already be aware of the Magic Pencil film and would thus have a far better clue as to what you were after. This is just a hypothetical example that shows how RankBrain can infer meaning from what looks at first glance like a string of random, unrelated words.)

So what does this mean for my website?

As Google has become more and more sophisticated, website owners who rely on organic Google traffic have had to become more and more sophisticated in their tactics. Ranking on the first page of Google results is no longer as simple as picking a popular keyphrase and using that phrase a certain number of times within your page copy; even if your page has a tonne of great links from high-authority websites, this won't necessarily guarantee you a high organic ranking in the current search climate. Google now prioritise search intent above all else, which means that webmasters and SEOs must do the same.

In order to get the very best results, search intent should be kept in mind throughout the entire website optimisation process, starting with keyword selection. Let's say you're setting up a new online sports equipment store - you're trying to decide what kind of searches you want to show up for, so the first thing you do is visit Keyword Planner and type in 'sporting goods' to see what gets the most searches.

When you order the resulting list of keywords by number of searches, it looks something like this:

  • sprinter (12,100 searches per month)
  • sporting (9,900 searches per month)
  • sports clothing (8,100 searches per month)

Lots and lots of people enter the words 'sprinter' and 'sporting' into Google every month, but trying to capture that traffic with a sporting goods website would be virtually pointless because the vast majority of those people won't be looking to buy sports equipment. Instead of picking the most popular term you can find that's vaguely related to sports, it's far better to pick a term that reflects the intent of your target audience.

Here's another example. According to Keyword Planner, 1.5 million people google the word 'tennis' every month, whereas the term 'buy tennis shoes' only gets a few thousand searches in an entire year. However, the 'buy tennis shoes' people are a far better match, intent-wise, for your ecommerce website than the people who simply type in 'tennis' - they could be looking for player rankings, or match reports, or information on the sport itself, whereas you wouldn't type in 'buy tennis shoes' if you weren't at least thinking of buying some tennis shoes.

If you're not sure whether the keywords you've chosen are a good fit for your website, google them! The results that pop up should give you a pretty good idea of what people mean when they use each term. For instance, most of the results for 'best football boots' are informative articles and lists, suggesting that Google sees this as a learn term rather than a buy term.

Best Football Boots

This keyword might be worth targeting with an informative, well-written blog post, but your shop page probably isn't a good fit.

By contrast, the results for 'cheap football boots' are all online stores where you can buy football boots, indicating that this term is a better match for your store's footwear department.

Cheap Football Boots

Creating intent-optimised pages

So you've chosen a good set of keywords that are highly relevant to your website and what it has to offer. The next challenge is actually ranking for those keywords (i.e. appearing among the top results when somebody types one of those keywords into Google). To do this, you'll need to create content that meets the needs of your target audience.

What that doesn't mean is writing a thousand words about your chosen topic. As we explained earlier, it's not enough to just repeat your keywords over and over again and hope that Google will take the hint. You need to properly assess the intent behind each term you're targeting, then craft a high-quality web page that satisfies that intent.

We've already seen several examples of what that looks like in practice. You want to be the #1 result for 'best football boots'? You need to research the latest products and write a thorough article that lists the best boots and explains what makes them so great. More interested in showing up for 'cheap football boots'? In that case, you need to make sure you've got a secure, smooth-functioning ecommerce website that makes it easy for people to buy boots online, and at genuinely low prices.

Again, if you're not sure what kind of content you need to create for the keyphrase you're targeting, head to Google and see what already ranks on page 1. This will tell you what Google considers a good, relevant result for that query.

Do I still have to worry about writing keyword-rich copy?

This debate has been raging for quite a while now. Back in the day, targeting a particular keyphrase meant including that phrase in your website copy as many times as you possibly could. Known as keyword stuffing, this practice is best avoided in 2017 because the Google algorithm now penalises websites that do it.

With that in mind, it's best to take a more cautious approach these days: use your keyphrase frequently, but NOT to the point of sounding 'unnatural'. The litmus test is to read your content aloud - as long as it sounds like something a human might actually say, you're probably safe. Here's an example...

  • OK: Looking for cheap football boots? You've come to the right place! Here's at Charlie's, we've got a huge range of brand-name football boots at bargain prices. Our boots may be cheap, but they're certainly not lacking in quality - check out all these 5-star reviews from our previous customers!

  • NOT OK: Welcome to Charlie's cheap football boots store, the best place to buy cheap football boots online! We have a huge range of cheap football boots to choose from - order your cheap football boots now, or read our reviews to see what other customers think of our cheap football boots!

Nowadays, most SEO authorities agree that keyword density is nowhere near as important as tailoring your content to search intent. In other words, identify the need that you're trying to meet, then write copy that's suited to that need. Somebody who wants to buy a toaster is going to be more interested in your prices, your website layout, and the security of your online checkout system than in how many times you've written the word 'toaster'.

However, while this principle - 'make web pages for users, not search engines' - sounds reasonable enough in theory, it's a bit muddier than that in practice. While search engines are incredibly intelligent, they're still nowhere near as intuitive as actual human beings, and Google do still rely on keyword matching to some extent. Remember our Penelope and the Magic Pencil example from earlier? Your cinema won't show up for a term like that unless you've got the name of the film somewhere on your page, just as your sports store probably won't rank for 'cheap football boots' unless you've used the word 'football' in your copy at least once or twice.

Put your keywords in the right places.

The main difference between SEO in 2007 and SEO in 2017 is that, when it comes to keyword insertion, quantity doesn't really matter. Don't worry about keyword density or anything like that - instead, focus on making sure that your keywords are present in the places that count.

In rough order of importance, these are:

  • Page title tag. This should be a succinct summary (approx. 40-60 characters) of what your page is about. You definitely need to include your primary keyword here if you're going to have a shot at ranking.

  • URL. We're not suggesting that your domain name ought to be www.yourkeyword.com (in fact, Google have penalised unnaturally keyword-rich domain names in the past), but it's a good idea to look to your keyword list when choosing URLs for your internal pages. This isn't essential, and you definitely shouldn't create spammy-looking URLs just for the sake of getting your keywords in, but it makes it easier for search engines if your football boots page is actually called /football-boots rather than /store/category/footwear/46.

  • H1 heading. As long as it makes sense from the user's point of view, you should try to include your main keyphrase in your page's main (h1) heading. Some people will tell you that your h1 and your title tag have to be different from one another, but Google won't mind if they're identical; indeed, this might make more sense from a user perspective, since the heading on the page will match the heading of the Google result they clicked on.

  • Alt tags. Every image on your website should have an alt tag (a piece of HTML that tells search engine bots - who can't see pictures like we can - what an image depicts). If the images on your page are relevant to that page's content, it should be relatively easy to include your keyphrase in at least one alt tag. Consider using synonyms and variations of your keyphrase so that you're not using the same tag for every image - for example, if you've already got an image tagged 'football boots', you could use 'soccer boots' or 'nike football boots' for the other images on that page.

  • Meta description. The meta description (usually) serves as the little snippet of text underneath your link in the Google results page. This should be around 150 characters in length, and while it doesn't seem to have much of an impact on ranking, it's worth including your primary keyword(s) here too if it's reasonable to do so. However, the main aim of your meta description is to give readers a reason to click through to your website - so make sure it's enticing!

As far as the actual body text of your page is concerned, you shouldn't really have to think about whether or not to include your keywords: it's difficult to write even a few sentences about football boots without using the term 'football boots'. Bear in mind also that RankBrain assesses meaning and relevance based on the semantic relationships between different words and phrases, so a page that mentions 'football boots' over and over again probably won't rank as well as a page that uses lots of different football- and boot-related terms (goal, pitch, striker, tackle, kick, grip, studs, and so forth).

Summing up

Here's a basic plan to follow when trying to optimise a website for search intent:

  • Identify keywords that are relevant to your website and express clear intent to do/buy/learn whatever it is you're offering.

  • Use Google to see what sort of content currently ranks for those keywords. In-depth articles? Online shops? Local business listings?

  • Create content that meets the needs expressed by the keywords you're targeting.

  • Be sure to use your keywords in the right places (title tag, h1 heading, et cetera) while still focusing on helping the user and meeting their needs.

Of course, this is just the first step - links, reviews, blog posts, social shares, and lots of other things are often necessary to make it onto the first page. However, if you follow this plan, you'll have a strong chance of eventually achieving high rankings and capturing lots of high-quality traffic that actually converts.

If you need help driving organic traffic to your website, get in touch with Designer Websites - our SEO experts can help you to select the right keywords, create the right content, and reach the right people.

SEO vs SMO

So, you have a new website. It looks good, it’s quick and user-friendly. There’s just one small problem. No one can find it.

If this is the problem you’re currently facing, you may have found yourself scouring the internet to find a solution. If you have, you’ve most likely been thrown into the world of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). This method of digital marketing works to put your website on the front page of Google for search terms that relate to your business.

If you’ve delved a little further, you may have also come across a term called Social Media Optimisation (SMO). SMO refers to optimising your social media platforms to bring more traffic to your website. SEO has been around since the introduction of search engines back in the 90’s. SMO, however, is a relatively new method of driving traffic to your website and only came about in 2006 when it was first mentioned in Rohbi Bhargava’s article 5 rules of social media optimisation.

Though their abbreviations differ by just one letter, SEO and SMO are vastly different. This article will explore the differences between SEO vs SMO.

What are SEO and SMO?

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Search Engine Optimisation uses a variety of different methods to make your website rank highly on the search engine results pages (SERPs). These methods include: 

  • Keyword Planning

Keyword Planning is the process of choosing a specific keyword(s) to target on each page of the website. This is vital to SEO as a clear keyword strategy means pages will not compete with one another for the same search terms. Each page will have a specific purpose. 

  • Good Quality Optimised Copy

Each page on the website needs to have unique, optimised copy that focuses on specific keywords in order to rank highly on google. The copy needs to be well-written and easy to understand.

  • Meta Title & Description

Ensuring each of your web pages has a unique meta title (the title of the page which tells Google what the page is about) and a meta description (the snippet of text that appears below the title in the SERPs) is another important part of SEO.  

  • Link Building

Link building is a part of SEO which aims to gain links from other websites. Each link to your website from a reputable source is a good sign to Google, as these links are effectively ‘votes’ for your website. Combined, this alludes to the popularity of the website. The aim of link building is, therefore, to gain high-quality links in order to improve the ranking position of the website.  

  • User-Friendly Website

The user-friendliness of your website is relevant to SEO. If your website is unresponsive, slow and difficult to use – it’s not going to get a good ranking on google. 

Social Media Optimisation (SMO)

Social Media Optimisation is a digital marketing method which focuses on making your social media platforms engaging enough to bring traffic to the website. 

  • Create Shareable Content

Increasing social links through SMO involves developing content that people want to share and link to. Creating a blog on your website, for example, is ideal for this method of SMO as it is easy to link to. 

  • Make Sharing Content Easy 

This method of SMO involves adding share and social link buttons to your website and blog in order to encourage sharing, recommending or bookmarking. 

  • Providing Value to Users

This includes adding outbound links into your content even if it doesn’t help drive traffic to your website. This helps your website as you will gain a loyal follower base who will see you as a fountain of knowledge. Valuable content also helps with SEO as Google’s rank brain algorithm decides that useful resources should be at the top of the SERPs.  

  • Rewarding Loyal Followers

This type of Social Media Optimisation involves rewarding your loyal followers with the occasional ‘thank you’, follow back, or even competition prize. By letting them know you value their support, you will gain a loyal follower for life.  

Do SEO and SMO help one another? 

Whereas SEO mainly focuses on improving your websites ranking and the ability to drive visitors through the likes of Google - SMO focuses on driving traffic via social media platforms. Both SEO and SMO operate in different spheres, but they do impact one another.

The main priority of both SEO and SMO is to drive traffic to your website. It makes sense that they should work together to bring as much traffic in as possible.

Though no one truly knows precisely how much different factors affect the Google ranking position of a website, it has become clear that social signals do affect SEO rankings indirectly. In fact, in 2010 retweets on Twitter were even described as a ‘new form of link building’. More recently, another study was conducted which concluded that a larger presence on social media does gain a higher place on the SERPs.

In fact, to see SMO impacting SEO, just search the name of a popular brand on Google. It’s more than likely their Twitter account will be listed within the first 5 results.

Mcdonalds SMO

This is clear evidence that Social Media does have an impact on SERP’s.

Likewise, if you’re spending time and money on SMO, directing people to your website from social media, or trying to gain links from other businesses via social media, then it is important that you have a high-quality website with a good user experience.

Driving visitors to a website with a poor user experience will just result in a high bounce rate (single page visits). The user-friendliness of a website is part of SEO. Therefore, it is clear to see that SMO can also be impacted by SEO.

Why SEO and SMO Should Work Together

 SEO is a fundamental part of digitally marketing your business and SMO is gaining importance as social media becomes a larger part of everyday life. If you do one without the other, it is likely that your business will be left behind.

Google changes their ranking factors frequently, so it is important that your social media platforms are fully optimised. The value of social signals could change in the future, so SMO will ensure you’re prepared if their value increases. Furthermore, SMO is a good way to drive traffic and increase brand awareness.
However, you also need to ensure your website is fully optimised as this is where your conversions will happen. This is why SEO is essential and should be used in conjunction with SMO.

Depending on the business, the benefits from SMO can sometimes be seen quicker than the benefits of SEO. However, if you stop updating and optimising your social media platforms, the traffic can bottom out quickly.

SEO, on the other hand, is more long-term. If you achieve a high-ranking position for your website through SEO, it is less likely that you will lose mass amounts of traffic if you pause SEO efforts for a day or two.

Therefore, though they have different methods of driving traffic, every business marketing strategy should ensure SEO and SMO work together in harmony to drive as many unique visitors to your website as possible.

Do you need help with either SEO or SMO for your website? Get in touch with our SEO experts today to find out how we can help you.

Even though search engines are complex and technologically advanced systems, they are by no means perfect, and often, are not as effective as we'd all like them to be. For instance, search engines can sometimes struggle to interpret website data. To help search engines better understand the information on our webpage, we can 'mark-up' our webpages with something called 'schema markup', which makes page data easier for search engines to read and interpret.

Although schema markup has been around for a while, and is a very a powerful form of optimisation, very few sites actually use it and are missing out on potential benefits. In some cases, this is simply down to lack of knowledge, so with this article we hope to help our readers understand schema markup, and how to best use it.

What is Schema Markup?

Implementing Schema markup is the process of adding structured data elements to the code in your webpages. These structured elements make it easy for search engines to quickly, and easily read your web page, so that they can interpret your data and represent it in the correct way for appropriate searches. As a result of this structure, the search engines can very quickly pick out elements from your pages to show in the appropriate search result formats e.g. images, price lists, reviews, etc.

For example, let's assume you're writing an article about Philadelphia - the film that allowed Tom Hanks to pick up his first academy awards - you can mark it up using the 'movie' item type to inform the search engine that your page is about a film, and not the city, or the brand of cheese, and that way it will be picked up by the search engines and potentially displayed as part of their search results.

 

So, as you can see from the above snippet, Google have output a result that represents the film, gathering their images, links, dates, etc. from a variety of sources online. If you use schema markup correctly then they would potentially use your site as a source, and provide a link to it for the user to follow.

If your webpage isn't marked up in this way, it can still be read by the search engines of course, but essentially the easier and faster you make this for the likes of Google, the more likely your site will be shown in results like this. So, adding structured data allows you to provide clear context to your information.

Another example of the use of structured data can be seen below, and in this instance the searcher has entered a term that Google have interpreted as - this person wants to see a film reel type result of batman films by date. This type of result displays a chronological order of the Batman films based on the search term 'Batman Film Series'. 

There are in fact many different structures or layouts in the search engine results these days, and they all essentially come for schema markup from within appropriate websites. For example you've probably seen location-based results, image or product based results, event driven results, news feeds, etc.

Deciding what structured data to use can be difficult, and you may be worried that not every search engine will be able to understand your structured data markup - but there's no need to be concerned because this structured data has a standard which is controlled by Schema.org. In fact, if you want to learn more about schema you can visit their website, which is a great place to start when your planning your structured markup content.

Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and Yandex collaborated - yes, you read that correctly -  to develop a specific vocabulary of tags (or microdata) that you can implement directly into your HTML, to help you define the different elements of your content - like reviews, opening times, dates of events, or images. This vocabulary helps to standardise schema markup and is fundamentally an agreed-upon set of code markers, or tags, that inform all the major search engines exactly what to do with your data.  

How Does Schema Benefit SEO?

Schema markup helps to clearly define data elements in a page, often referred to as microdata, which in turn will make it easier for search engines to pull out the relevant parts of your webpage as and when they need it.

Search engines often refer to this microdata as Rich Data, Rich Cards or Rich Snippets, which essentially means that these bite size chunks allow them to produce richer results for their customer – the searcher. 

So, by making it easier and faster for the search engines to index and retrieve your data, you in turn increase your chances of them choosing to show your website in search engine results, increasing your visibility and potentially your revenue.

We all use search engines to find products we want, and we all want faster results that are easier to decipher without having to click through lots of pages. So, this is what the search engines recognise, and schema markup allows them to get that data to the screen quicker, and present it in a smart way.

Take the below result for example, we don’t have to click on the page to see the price, the review rating, or whether they have stock of the Java Peanuts, it’s done simply in the search engine result itself with the aid of schema markup.

 

Here is an example of a website using schema markup 

Now, schema by itself will not necessarily improve your rankings, but the more user friendly and search engine friendly you make your website, the more likely it is that you’ll appear high up in the search engine results. As discussed, schema markup will improve your visual offering and make it easier for the search engines to reach-in and pick out appropriate information; so really, it’s an obvious choice to include them. 

Not only that; as we're in the age of artificial intelligence, and as voice search becomes more and more popular, the need to make your web pages easier for search engines to read is becoming increasingly more important.

Despite all this, only a small factor of the web uses schema markup on their websites - with schema.org claiming that only over 10 million websites have implemented schema markup, which is around 1% of the total number of websites in the world wide web.

So, what's stopping SEO's and website owners from implementing schema into their websites?

Why Aren't People Using Schema Markup?

If you're new to schema, or you struggle to understand code, marking up your webpage can be difficult, which is why most SEO's are put off by use this SEO technique. Even tools such as Google's Structured Data Markup Helper, which was designed to help you implement schema independently, requires you to have a good understanding of schema in order for you to use it to mark up your webpage. 

Also, many SEO's struggle to understand schema markup vocabulary, and find that the information provided on the schema.org site hard to follow, and due to the lack of help and resources, many just give up trying to implement schema to their webpage, missing out on all the benefits.

Many people are also put off by using schema markup, because they feel it provides zero benefit in terms of traffic, with some SEO's even suggesting that they lose traffic from featured snippets because the web searcher can find what they're searching for without having to click through to their site. In most cases, this isn't going to be strictly true; of course if you're result shows data like a higher price, zero reviews or no stock, compared to the next result showing the opposite, then yes you just shot yourself in the foot, but to the end user this was useful information, right? So like anything its a case of strategizing how you present your markup in the results. 

Despite the misunderstandings of schema markup, it is a seriously beneficial and useful SEO technique, and is one that is relatively easy to utilise if you have the understanding, and coding ability to implement. Here at Designer Websites, we have a team of expert web developers and SEO specialists that can optimise your website using schema markup, among other techniques of course, so please get in touch if you'd like to discuss further. 

To request a quote or for more information on our website optimisation services, please click here.

With billions of daily website views coming from traffic on search engine results pages, SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is vital to any digital marketing plan. Across the globe, businesses desperately strive to achieve the top spots on Google's SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) in order to generate the most traffic to their business. However, in order to achieve these positions, it is much more complicated than simply having a fast website or just targeting keywords. With the most popular search engines constantly tweaking and altering algorithms, businesses are constantly kept on their toes in an efforts to master SEO.

There is no quick fix to achieving and maintaining a space on the front page of SERPs (no matter what some dodgy SEO companies may tell you!). It takes a combination of techniques to fully optimise your website. Ultimately your website should be very easy and quick to use, it should contain valuable unique content, it should be hosted professionally, it should properly handle errors, redirects, sitemaps, indexing bots, etc. In fact the list of boxes that your website should now tick is very long indeed, and most of these elements are very technical and will need properly qualified and experienced people to implement them. 

SEO now comes hand-in-hand with user experience optimisation, and Google will no longer accept cheap tricks to get to the top of the results page. Instead, Google explains that"Search engine optimization is about putting your site's best foot forward when it comes to visibility in search engines, but your ultimate consumers are your users, not search engines.With that in mind, when considering how to SEO, below are some things to consider.

Keyword Analysis

Although we’ve already mentioned it’s not the only way to help rankings, it remains a very important part of SEO. It involves researching what people are searching on Google when they’re looking for a service like the one your business provides. Then you can target this traffic by having the keywords appear in all the right sections of your website (such as the title tag, Meta tags, page headings, etc) and ads. 

SEO Copy Writing

In the not too distant past, website optimisation experts were often guilty of filling up pages with keyword-rich copy, but these days it's absolutely vital to make your content more user-friendly and readable, but this doesn't mean you forget keywords altogether, it just means you need to work harder to include appropriate keywords, whilst making the content engaging. Copywriting is a balancing act between targeting keywords and providing interesting and useful content for the user. No one wants to visit a website that’s full of useless information, and Google will penalise you for cutting corners. Instead of flooding your copy with keywords, it’s key to maintain readability and an appropriate keyword density.

Coding

To ensure your website can be easily indexed by search engine bots, and that it will run at an optimum speed, it’s important to get your coding correct. You want code-light pages that load very quickly, you need to use the latest compression algorithms, you need to utilise the latest coding standards and include important meta information, rich cards, schema tags, etc. If you want to rank highly across different browsers, your coding has to up-to-date, it has to be responsive to ensure it works on any device, and is cross browser compatible. Avoid template type solutions, or systems where the coding structures are likely to be old and out-dated.

Optimised Website Hosting 

Providing super fast and reliable website hosting is absolutely essential to a well-optimised website, otherwise, all of your other SEO efforts will have been in vain. Correct error handling procedures and redirecting is also really important. You either need a dedicated web server or at least a host who has a very high end dedicated server and holds fewer than 50 websites on it themselves. The speed of the server is significantly more important than it's location, so make sure that the response times are very good. 

Link Outreach/Building

Not to be confused with dodgy link-building of the past – a technique that led to a steady stream of dodgy links spamming the internet (through directories, etc), which is now often branded a black-hat technique. Trying to acquire links synthetically can earn you a Google penalty, which can get you removed from SERPs. However, there is still value in worthy links that are achieved by content creation specialists liaising with site owners. Google still uses inbound links as a part of their algorithm, but now they are more interested in the value of these links rather than the quantity you've amassed. Make sure you avoid any dodgy link building tricks, just focus on networking effectively, and making sure your content is interesting and easy to link to. Ideally, generate content that naturally generates links and shares from real users.

Social Media

With the majority of people checking their social media before they’ve even got out of bed, it’s now more important than ever to make sure your business is within the social matrix. Although there is still some debate about how valuable (if at all) social media is, it's good for brand awareness and potential back links.  By having a well-oiled social marketing plan, you can potentially improve your rankings on the search engine results, so it's worth doing! 

Mobile Friendly Websites

Another development that highlights how SEO is constantly evolving to fit in with the daily lives of users. Search engines such as google value the way your website translates onto other devices such as mobile phones and tablets.

 

When considering how to optimise a website the above is simply a brief introduction, and is by no means a comprehensive list of techniques. Website optimisation is actually a varied and a constantly evolving process, which requires the expert knowledge of SEO practitioners. Here at Designer Websites, the wealth of experience we have developed over the past decade ensures we understand the technical aspects of website optimisation better than anyone else.

Click here to learn more about our SEO services or request a free quote for our SEO services here today. 

Keyword Cannibalisation

'Cannibalisation' is a very scary-sounding word, isn't it? It certainly conjures up some very grim mental images. While keyword cannibalisation isn't quite as grisly a concept as its name might suggest, it can cause big problems for your website, making it difficult for search engines to identify each page's purpose and potentially dragging down your rankings as a result.

If you're unfamiliar with the idea of keyword cannibalisation, fear not - in this article, we'll talk about what it is, how it happens, and how to rectify it.

What is keyword cannibalisation?

Keyword cannibalisation is what happens when your website contains multiple pages that target the same keyword(s). Ideally, every search term you wish to rank for should be targeted on one page and one page only - otherwise, you're just forcing your own pages to compete with ('cannibalise') one another.

Here's an example of how this might happen. Imagine you own a second-hand furniture shop, and you want your website to be the #1 Google result for the popular keyphrase 'antique furniture'. In order to achieve this, you:

  • Use the phrase 'antique furniture' numerous times on your homepage
  • Dedicate one of your internal category pages to 'antique furniture'
  • Write a blog post all about antique furniture, sharing lots of helpful information for potential customers

This may seem like a strong strategy, but what you're actually doing is making it difficult for Google and other search engines to identify which of your three 'antique furniture' pages they should actually be listing as a result for that query.

Why is keyword cannibalisation a problem?

As mentioned above, the problem with keyword cannibalisation is that those pages with the same keywords will be competing against one another in the SERPs. As a result, some or all of those pages may not rank for your chosen keywords at all, or all may just rank lower than if just one page was targeted. That's an issue, because in spite of the keywords they share, each of the competing pages may actually serve a totally different purpose from its brethren.

Generally speaking, Google will not list 2 or more pages from the same website among its top 10 results for a given query UNLESS the algorithm is pretty certain that the user is looking for that specific website. (For instance, Googling 'eBay toys' will bring up a number of pages from eBay, whereas the top organic results for 'antique furniture' are gathered from a variety of different sites.) Google like to hedge their bets, and in most cases, they've got a better chance of satisfying the user if they show 10 results from 10 different sources rather than taking multiple pages from a single site.

This means that, when Google's crawlers look at your website, you want it to be absolutely crystal-clear which page is best suited to which search term. If you're presenting several different pages as possible responses to the query 'antique furniture', Google will get confused and may pick the wrong page to rank (e.g. a blog post rather than your main 'antique furniture' category, which might have had a better chance of driving clicks and conversions). Worse still, if none of the competing pages particularly stand out from the crowd, they may even decide not to rank any of your pages for that keyword at all.

Here are some other issues that may occur as a result of keyword cannibalisation:

  • Content Quality - It would be difficult to have a plethora of pages on the subject of  ‘antique oak furniture’ (for example) and ensure that each one was made up of interesting, useful and original content. Spreading your content too thinly across too many competing pages will inevitably reduce the overall quality of your website, and when it comes to ranking, unique high quality content beats quantity hands-down. Poor content not only leads to poor user experience, it also leads to high bounce rates and discourages people from sharing pages.

  • External Links - Even if you do manage to make your competing pages share-worthy, you risk splitting your link equity and diluting the search engine 'juice' you receive when other websites link to yours. It's far better to have a single page/resource for each subject you wish to cover, because that way, anyone who links to you will easily be able to identify which of your URLs they should send their users to. If 10 people want to link to a page about 'antique oak furniture', you ideally want all of them to link to the same part of your website - this will have a greater impact on your rankings than dividing those 10 links between multiple destinations.

  • Internal Links - The above applies to internal links, too. Internal links are a big ranking factor; in order to determine the hierarchy of your website (i.e. which pages are most important), Google and the other search engines pay close attention to which of your own pages you link to from other parts of your website, how often you link to each page, and what words you use when you do so. If you've got just 1 page about 'antique oak furniture', you can simply link to that one every time you mention that subject elsewhere on your site. If there are 30 'antique oak furniture' links on your website - 10 to a category page, 10 to a specific product, and 10 to a blog post you wrote - it will be difficult for the bots to ascertain which of those linked pages might make the best result when somebody types 'antique oak furniture' into a search engine.

What can I do about keyword cannibalisation?

If you’re over-using keywords on purpose because you believe it will boost your rankings, we would strongly recommend that you stop right now. Keyword cannibalism often happens by accident, but some site owners, and even some online marketing agencies, mistakenly think that using the same keyword in multiple titles and headings throughout a website will help that website rank better for the cannibalised keyword. As we've explained, though, that simply isn't the case.

Hopefully, you’re now in a position to avoid keyword cannibalisation from the get-go. When creating a website, you can avoid this error by making sure you have thoroughly planned the site architecture. Every page should be detailed, unique, and serve its own distinct purpose. If two of your pages are giving users more or less the same information on the same subject, then one of them is a waste, and likely damaging your rankings. Furthermore, all keywords, titles and header tags should be unique to their page. Once you know what pages you need and what each one's function is, it should be relatively easy to choose the keyword(s) for each page using a tool like Keyword Planner.

If you’ve already got a cannibalisation problem (not to be confused with a real-life cannibal problem, which we unfortunately cannot help with), then it’s time to clean up your pages. Start by going through your website and identifying groups of pages that are targeting the same keyword; then, review each group and pick the ONE page from each that you think best addresses the search term in question. (Tip: take a look at which page currently ranks highest for that keyword on Google - it's probably safe to assume that that page will have the best shot of climbing higher once the cannibalisation issue is resolved.)

Once you've selected one page for each keyword, you have 2 choices regarding what to do with the other cannibal pages:

  • Get rid of them. If the cannibal pages don't actually serve any purpose to the user, the best thing to do is delete them and use 301 redirects to send their URLs to the good-quality page you've chosen to keep. This will mean that any links to the cannibalised pages pass their ranking 'juice' to the good page instead. Anyone who attempts to visit any of the deleted pages in the future will be redirected to the page you kept.

  • Retarget them. If your cannibalised pages are important to the broader user experience on your website, then you can keep them, but what you'll need to do is de-optimise them and target different keywords instead. For instance, let's say that you've decided to use a category page as your landing page for the term 'antique furniture' - that keyword also appears heavily on your homepage, and since you obviously can't delete your homepage, you should instead do a bit of keyword research and identify a different search term to target there. (Perhaps a more generic term that covers your entire offering, rather than just your antique line.)

The golden rule when it comes to keyword cannibalisation is that every page of your website should offer something unique. If every page serves a different purpose, there's little risk of crossover between keywords, page copy, and meta tags because you'll need different words to describe each page's function. Keyword cannibalisation can be a pretty good indicator that you have multiple pages stepping on each other's toes and offering basically the same information/service to the end user - if that's the case, either strip those unnecessary pages out or justify their existence by giving them their own unique focus.

If you need help with your website’s SEO, our team of experts are more than happy to help. Contact Designer Websites now to discuss your requirements.