Search engine optimisation (SEO) describes the actions you can take to improve how and where your webpages appear in organic search results.
Organic searching (i.e. search engine search results that do not include paid advertising) drives the lion’s share of web traffic, at around 53 per cent, ahead of paid advertising, social media, and other avenues. Not only is it more trusted by users and therefore receives more clicks, but smart SEO can help organic search to build results for you over time, whereas paid ads need ongoing spend to continue doing their job.
In short, a strong SEO strategy is vital to guarantee the quality and quantity of visitors to your webpages.
Search engines use ‘crawlers’ to move through websites looking for answers to people’s search terms, in the form of keywords.
Keywords are vital to improve your search result ‘ranking’, meaning how high you’re placed on search result pages, and you should utilise these across your website. You can use keywords in the titles of pages, in the body of a page (for example, a sentence in a blog), URLs or even as alt text for embedded images.
Links are also pivotal to effective SEO, and can be categorised into three types: inbound, internal, and outbound. The most important of these is ‘inbound’, which is when a third-party site links back to yours. For example, your heritage site being listed on your local tourism board’s ‘Places to Visit’ section of its website. Inbound linking has the most impact as it’s seen as a trusted recommendation for you and your content.
‘Internal’ links are as they sound and are links that take users from one of your webpages to the next. There are three main ways you can use inbound linking to support SEO: for general site navigation between pages, for ‘related content’ links, or as a site map (i.e. one page with all or lots of your internal links on it).
Thirdly, outbound linking is when you link from your website to another. This also helps SEO as it demonstrates association between your website and other trusted sources. For example, linking site visitors to the Google Maps location of your heritage site.
It’s really important to be purposeful with your SEO, and not utilise keywords that aren’t relevant to your own website and content or engage in ‘keyword stuffing’ where you overuse keywords out of context. Search engine algorithms are often able to detect this, and it can sometimes have a negative impact on your ranking.
Moreover, the quantity of your web traffic is irrelevant if it’s not of the right quality. For example, it’s better to drive ten people to your site that spend time on, and engage with it, than send 100 people who are going to bounce off as soon as they realise it’s not what they were looking for.
Similarly for links, you should only be looking to link to and from sites that are relevant. You might receive email requests to ‘cross-link’ from agencies working on behalf of businesses, to increase your web traffic. Again, this can have a detrimental impact if it’s obviously inauthentic and irrelevant to your own site and content.
Despite this, authentic partner-linking can be extremely valuable, so do ensure you’re reaching out to relevant partners and making sure you’re including one another’s links on your webpages. A ‘resources’ section is an effective way of achieving this.
Consider your end audiences, your end goals (for example, donations, downloads, or registrations), and then what you can do to bring the two together. For example, if your audience are tourists and your end goal is donations, what search terms might bring them to your page with the hope of them donating to support your cause.
As mentioned earlier, there’s a myriad of places you can use keywords throughout your site. Generally speaking, the more visible the content, the bigger the impact it will have on SEO. For this reason, URLs can be great for SEO, and building a clear site map structure can help you make the most of this. QuickSprout has some useful tips on some practical steps you can take to achieve this.
However, both alt text and ARIA tags (used to make webpages more accessible) can also be effective, as can including keywords in closed caption videos.
Keywords for SEO can be split into two categories: ‘head’ and ‘long tail’. ‘Head’ refers to general and popular search terms, while ‘long tail’ describes search terms related to words and topics that are more specific and less often searched for. These have less competition and can pin-point user intent more, and so are arguably more valuable to you and your SEO tactics!
In addition to this, Google Analytics can help you learn more about who, when, and how people interact with your own website, while Google Search Console can provide you with insight on how to rank better in organic search results.
Keywords and links, and where you place them, can play a major part in driving people to your website.
However, before starting to explore SEO, make sure you’ve set out a clear target audience and the objective/s for when people land on your page.
You should use authentic and relevant content and third parties’ links to ensure that you achieve this, and above all else ensure that your content stands out for the right reasons. Google’s Webmaster Guidelines is a useful resource for further information on this.
Be bold, clear, engaging, and useful, and you’re more likely to keep people on your pages for longer.
Finally, make sure you’re analysing the success of your SEO along the way, whether that’s looking at clicks (from searches), bounce rates (the number of visitors who left your website after landing on the initial page) or the time visitors spend on pages.
SEO might sound a little abstract or daunting to those unfamiliar with it, but it’s simply about using the tools available to us to make the way we describe and present our content as clear and detailed as possible.
- Five Easy Steps to Creating a Sitemap For a Website
- Moz Keyword Explorer
- Get Key Words
- Google Webmaster Guidelines
- Google Search Console
- South Wales Miners Museum
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Please attribute as: "How do I create content with search engine optimisation (SEO) in mind? (2022) by Matt Horwood supported by The Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0