Getting your website to rank highly in search engine results pages (SERPs) is important to making sure users can find your content when they search for relevant queries online. Both on-page optimisation and off-page optimisation techniques need to be adopted in order to drive best results.  On-page optimisation includes all activity that can be affected on the website under the control of the business, inclusive of website structure, quality, accessibility and shareability of the content, website load time and meta data. The first part of our two-part blog series will delve into how each on-page technique should be implemented to increase page ranking on SERPs.

What are SERPs?

Your web pages appear in search engine results pages (SERPs) when users search for relevant terms, as shown in the image below.

How to optimise your meta data for search

Content is King

Launched in 2014, Google’s latest algorithm change Panda 4.0, rewards websites for creating high-quality content preventing those with low-quality content from reaching the top of Google search results.  Wondering what defines quality content?  Well, our good friends at Google have provided us with some guidance on quality content here,  however, to sum up, content must be linkable and supply the demand.  If web users cannot link to content, it is unlikely Google will be able to, thus it will be unable to rank in SERPs or drive traffic to your website.

In order to increase rankings, you must stay on Panda’s good side, which can be done by implementing a few simple rules:

  • Consult with Analytics to discover top performing pieces of content
  • Create a content plan based on the above results
  • Optimise content according to keyword and audience research (use Keyword Planner and Trends)
  • Co-create with engaged users and partners
  • Ensure content is published on a regular basis
  • Write with the end-user/customer in mind

Everybody needs a little structure

The structure of content is pivotal and for search marketing, consists of title tags, alt text and URL structure. Title tags are considered as one of the most important elements for SEO as these are viewable in SERPs, browsers and external websites, e.g. social networks. To increase your ranking in SERPs, there are a few best practice tips to optimise title tags that you can follow. It has been advised that title tags should be restricted to between 50 and 60 characters in length, as this promotes better readability, however having slightly longer titles which incorporate keywords has also proven effective. Secondly, if you decide to use keywords, having these at the beginning of the title will increase performance in search results, as they are more descriptive and appealing to the web user, thus more likely to receive clicks. Often, the viewing of your title tag will be the first interaction a user has with your business, so portraying an authentic, compelling and positive image is essential.

Additionally, the structure of your URLs helps search engines to better translate your web page’s content - the more simple, accurate and easy to comprehend, the more likely search engines will promote your pages over others. As with title tags there is some best practice to be followed. Firstly, a URL should be readable, interesting, descriptive yet brief and inspire the user to click on the link. As such, keywords separated by hyphens are necessary for user readability and webmasters are more likely to get search engine-referred traffic. Hyphens are preferable to no spaces or underscores in URL structures as search engines find them easier to identify and read.

Alternative outcomes

If you utilise imagery on your website, especially in high volumes, alt tags can support your SEO efforts, as images are not indexed by crawlers. If alt tags are not used, ranking on search engines is likely to be lower. Alt tags should make use of keywords relating to the page content, which will not only increase visibility in search engine rankings, but also allows the images to feature in Google Image results, driving additional traffic to your content.

Nobody likes to be kept waiting

After Matt Cutts’ announcements back in 2010, a patent released in February 2014 states pages that load faster can be provided with a ranking score bonus, placing them higher in search results listings. As the significance of providing an exceptional user experience has been realised, page load speed has naturally come to the forefront. PageSpeed Insights within Google's development tools is an excellent starting point for analysis, providing information regarding the page load speed alongside recommendations of how to improve it, i.e. remove unnecessary tracking codes (although beware of generic advice like minifying JavaScript, which is likely there due to custom development on your website). After addressing load time issues, Work Coach Cafe reported a 40% growth in traffic illustrating how one change can produce significant results.

Choose your words carefully

Keyword research is regarded as one of the most important, valuable and high-return activities in the search marketing field. Research into the types of terms your audience are using to find your products/services can be done using a range of tools, such as Google AdWords’ keyword planner, Google Analytics (look at keywords people are using within your internal search or to come to your website), Google Insights for search,, WordStream and Google Trends.

Initially, when identifying keywords it is essential to decide if they are relevant to the content and if the user will find what they are looking for upon reaching the website. Understanding the level of the competition for the keyword is also key, as this helps to determine how your website could realistically rank. Keyword research helps to identify shifts in demand, respond to marketing conditions and factors that could support a higher position in SERPs.

Considering all of the above will help to increase your position in SERPs in a positive way, however there are a number of other factors to consider which will also positively contribute to ranking position. The ability to be accessed by crawlers, including multi-device friendly content (i.e. a responsive website), is given brownie points by Google, in turn increasing ranking in search results. Combining this with off-page optimisation techniques will deliver even greater results.

Part two of this content optimisation blog series will focus on how off-page techniques can increase website position in SERPs .