As search engines continue to evolve and become increasingly more intelligent and efficient at sifting through the seemingly bottomless pit of available web content today, the complexity of web Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is also growing more and more complex. With Google’s continuous algorithm updates, from Hummingbird to Penguin, to Panda, and now Mobilegeddon (in April 2015), there are literally hundreds of ever-changing factors that are taken into consideration when a search engine ranks your website. Most online small business owners don’t have the time or resources to tackle SEO on their own and recognise the need to hire a web search engine optimisation company like Parachute Design.

Let’s look at a few of the most important factors that will affect your website’s search engine performance:

The Search Algorithm

As Toronto website designers and search engine optimisation specialists, we are able to stay current with how the industry is changing and while we understand a fair bit about Google’s search algorithm, we should note that Google reveals only what it wants us to know and keeps much of their search intelligence under wraps. Essentially, everything that happens between a search query submission and displaying the search results is hidden from our view.

Google’s Major Search Algorithm Updates

Hummingbird – In late August of 2013, Google quietly deployed one of the largest ever (up to that time) search algorithm updates, intimately known as Hummingbird. The official Hummingbird update announcement wasn’t made until late September but by that time the Internet and the SEO industry were already abuzz with much speculation because Hummingbird was a completely new algorithm; essentially an entire replacement of the pre-existing algorithm that affected about 90% of all search results. Even though Google implemented the Hummingbird update a month prior to notifying the world, it’s impact did not go unnoticed!

The biggest changes with Hummingbird happened to long-tail search queries, which make up the vast majority of search queries used today. This change was monumental for web Search Engine Optimisation and reinforces Google’s emphasis on semantic search, and matching the meanings of phrases with concepts rather than just matching individual keywords.

Penguin – Google initially released Penguin back in April 2012 as a means of combatting “spam.” By December 2014, after numerous other Penguin updates, Google Everflux was introduced, which is Google’s way of saying that instead of infrequent updates, Google will now be doing continuous Penguin updates in its ongoing efforts to fight web spam.

Panda – Google’s Panda updates were designed to weed out websites that had what Google deemed to be “thin” content, including content farms and websites using shady search engine optimisation practices, scraped duplicate content, and very high ad-to-content ratios. While there were a few minor penalty rollouts as far back as 2010, Panda wasn’t officially introduced until February 2011. Dozens of Panda rollouts have occurred since and today, Google appears to be rolling out new Panda updates on a regular basis.

Mobilegeddon – Google rarely announces when a major algorithm update is going to occur, but in early 2015, their planned mobile update (which has come to be known as “Mobilegeddon”) was a rare exception. In essence, Google was now going to be displaying mobile responsive websites in their rankings and was encouraging website owners, web developers, and search engine optimisation companies to make sure their sites were “mobile responsive,” and could be displayed properly across multiple devices, including handheld cell phones and tablets.

SEO Today

Website search engine optimisation started out as a process of figuring out what worked best for search engine rankings and adjusting web pages to give the search engines exactly what they wanted. Essentially, SEO was “search engine centric“. That has all changed. Today, SEO is all about “user experience” and how to give the website visitor the best experience possible when they visit your website. From the search engine’s perspective, your page credit and rankings are dependent on a cumulative total; how many of the little things you do right in all areas of your website including:

  • Good “user-friendly” website design
  • Clean source code
  • Proper site and server setup, as well as hosting
  • Good, informative content (are you an expert in what is being searched for)
  • Mobile responsive website (one that can be viewed easily on all platforms)
  • Plus much more!

SEO and Content

The most important piece of an effective search engine optimisation strategy is still website content. When it comes to online content, we must now shift our focus from using individual keywords to expanding on concepts (within the page content) that all relate and interconnect with each other. For example, if we are creating a web page about graphic design services, we no longer want to focus just on the inclusion of keywords like “graphic design”. Instead, we should focus on related terms like web design, logo design and brochure design, and expand on these terms creating a broader, but related story. Google now searches “semantically,” which is more in tune with the way that we speak in real life. The change not only makes searches more intelligent and easier, it broadens the spectrum of search results for both the user and the marketer.

Each Content Page Should Be Able to Stand on its Own

Each content page should focus on a specific concept. A common SEO content strategy has been to create a landing page for a keyword or phrase, and then cross-link to more in-depth pages with optimised anchor text. While this method can still be effective, it’s important that each page of supporting content focuses on its own unique concept, so that it’s clear for search engines to determine the most relevant content in any search.

Let’s use “graphic design services” again as an example. As part of our search engine optimisation strategy, we can create a landing page focused on Graphic Design Services, and from this page link to more detailed content pages that discuss areas of graphic design, such as web design or logo design. This “cross-linking” of related pages serves three purposes:

1. To create a body of content that is inter-related and supportive of each other
2. To signal to search engines like Google that you are an expert in this specific area that someone is searching for
3. To ensure that all your site pages have at least one link pointing to them from another page on your website (pages that do not have any links pointing to them are considered “orphaned” by the search engines)

As search engines begin to turn away from specific keywords and look for broader concepts, revisiting the same topic repeatedly using variations on keywords quickly becomes ineffective. Good search engine optimisation companies no longer use this practice as it also degrades the user experience.

Web Page Authority

Websites that search engines (SE’s) consider to be more authoritative on a given subject tend to show up higher in search results, as the SE’s are continually striving to present us with the most accurate, relevant, and valuable content. Ensuring that your website appears as an authoritative source of information is a key piece of an effective search engine optimisation strategy.

The most effective method to gaining authority in the eyes of search engines is by building highly relevant, natural backlinks to your content. For example, if a search engine considers a website by ABC Designs as an authority on graphic design, and they happen to link from their website to our graphic design page, we would get a little bit of a boost, as search engines like Google will see that an authoritative source of graphic design information is basically recommending our website.

To add to your online authority, a strong social media presence on the major social networks is also recommended including:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Pinterest

Be careful not to confuse the two authority building tactics (link building and social media) as they work together to build authority. Natural link building still carries more weight than social media links. Consider link building as a way to foster new and healthy relationships, while social media is more of a passive audience-building tool.

Website Architecture & URL Structure

At a Toronto website design company, our design philosophy here at Parachute Design is built around simplicity in design, and the same theory applies to the way we view website architecture and URL building.

Website Architecture: Using a simple, logical website architecture not only makes for a great user experience for your visitors, but it also streamlines the way search engines rank and organize your website for search results. Unless your website represents a massive enterprise or multimedia website, a good rule of thumb to follow is to ensure that all your web pages are accessible within a few clicks from the home page. Minimising the “work” the user has to do to find what they’re looking for on your website not only reduces your bounce rate, but helps drive more users deeper into the website, and ultimately leads to more conversions.

URL Structure: The same principle can be applied to URL structure. By avoiding repetition or burying your pages multiple levels down in your website, and by keeping URLs simple and readable for users and search engines alike, you ensure your web content has maximum visibility and reach.

Ask Us About Search Engine Optimisation Services

Parachute Design is a Toronto website design company that also incorporates good web search engine optimisation practices into our web design work. For an example of how our SEO and web design practices combine to deliver successful results, have a look at our Stern Cohen case study.

To find out more about how we incorporate SEO services into our responsive web design and eCommerce web design services, please contact us online or call our professional SEO web designers in Toronto at 416-901-8633.