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Natural referencing, also called search engine optimisation (SEO), is a set of techniques aimed at placing your site in the first natural search results. It consists of optimising a site to increase its visibility and credibility by improving its ranking in search engines.
SEO positioning must be distinguished from paid positioning, known as search engine advertising (SEA), which refers to Google ads. SEO thus only affects the results ranked by the search engine’s relevance algorithm, and not the advertising results.
How natural referencing works
In general, Google has one goal: to offer users the most relevant answer to their question. Thus, the pages that offer the most interesting and high-quality answers will be placed in the top positions.
Natural referencing is based on three pillars, which are essential for climbing in Google’s search results.
Websites are analysed by bots. It is therefore essential that they are accessible, readable and clear. This requires, among other things:
- A clean and well-organised source code..
- A robots.txt file to guide the bots via instructions.
- An XML sitemap
- Optimised page loading speed.
- A well-organised site structure by grouping content by topic.
Content is essential for the natural referencing of your site. Google cannot take your website into account if it is nothing more than an empty shell. Offering quality and relevant content allows you to rank for strategic keywords, and therefore move up in the search results, but also to get backlinks naturally on sites that find your content interesting.
To make your content readable, it is important to organise it around hn tags. Make sure there is only one H1 tag per page, and that your Hn tags are not duplicated. Similarly, be sure to complete your metadata and alt attributes.
Finally, incorporate internal links into your content to link to your thematically related pages and share link juice with your entire site.
Popularity refers to the number of external links pointing to your site. This is one of Google’s main ranking criteria.
However, keep in mind that, although the quantity of backlinks is important, you should also take into account their quality: it is better to have one good quality link than 100 poor quality ones. In fact, if you do spam on blogs and forums, Google will notice and penalise you.
Several criteria are taken into account to assess the quality of a link:
- Links must be made on quality sites and thematically close to yours.
- Links must be dofollow, so that they are taken into account by Google’s robot.
- Links pointing to your site must come from different domains.
- The links must be within the content.
If you respect each of these criteria, your netlinking strategy will look natural and you will avoid Google’s penalties.
Interest of natural referencing
The goal of SEO is simple: generate free traffic to your website and keep it there. Attracting new users to your pages will allow you to increase your number of customers and therefore boost your revenue.
Some figures that demonstrate the value of SEO
Search engines, especially Google, have become very popular since their creation and are now used by a large majority of the population. SEO is essential to gain visibility.
In addition, positioning in search results is also essential to attract as many visitors as possible. To give you some figures, sites in first position get around 36% of clicks, those in second position 33%, and those in third position 21%. In total, more than 9 out of 10 clicks are made on the first page. Therefore, working on your organic positioning is essential if you want to position yourself in your market.
The concrete advantages of natural referencing
Implementing an SEO strategy is a sustainable investment over time. Indeed, while social networks require regular maintenance to maintain their visibility, being well positioned allows you to continuously attract visitors, as long as you maintain this position.
In addition, SEO has a positive impact on the entire site. It not only optimises the visibility of a website, but also the user experience (UX) and the brand image of the site. In order to be well-positioned, the site must be technically well-designed. For example, it should not take too long to load, navigation should be clear, internal and external links should be relevant, and so on. All these elements help to improve the UX and give the impression of a coherent and relevant site.
Disadvantages of natural referencing
Ranking well naturally is not easy. On the contrary, it requires a considerable amount of SEO work beforehand.
A time-consuming method
SEO is a technique that consists of gaining Google’s trust, which is not as easy as it seems. It is therefore important to be consistent in your netlinking strategy to avoid being penalised by Google, and not to forget any of the 200 optimisation criteria.
A website optimisation strategy includes carrying out an SEO audit, defining an action plan, implementing it, working on the pages, publishing content, developing netlinking, etc. In total, it takes an average of 6 months to start seeing the results of your SEO strategy.
In addition, Google tries to offer the most relevant answer possible to the search query. Therefore, to rank well, you have to be prepared to spend time on content writing, strategic keyword analysis, etc.
A method that requires technical expertise
It is necessary to bring a certain amount of technical expertise to the table in order to implement an effective SEO strategy. Indeed, in order to optimise its positioning, a site must generally undergo technical improvements. However, not everyone has the capacity to implement the various corrections required. This is why it is sometimes necessary to call on the services of a developer, unlike in the case of SEA or social networks, which do not require as much technical knowledge.
An uncertain method
SEO relies on an intermediary, the search engine. But since we depend on an intermediary, we cannot fully predict the results of our actions. Especially because the intermediary in this case is Google, a search engine with complex and evolving algorithms.
Moreover, if you adopt a bad SEO strategy, it can have the opposite effect to the one you intended. Indeed, an overly aggressive and unnatural SEO strategy can lead to penalties from the Google Penguin filter, and therefore make you lose visibility.
The different types of positioning
Natural on-site referencing
When we talk about on-site natural referencing, we refer to all the elements intrinsic to the page itself:
- The HTML tags: metadata, hn, alt attribute…
- Rich snippets
- The structure of URLs
- Page loading time
- The internal mesh
- The sitemap
- Keywords: their relevance, their location, their density
- Quality and quantity of content
- The aspect of mobile compatibility
These elements, by contributing to good indexing and improving the visibility of a page, are beneficial to natural positioning.
Natural off site referencing
Off-site SEO refers to the elements outside the web pages:
- Site popularity
- Netlinking and backlinks
- Competitive benchmarking
- Social links
Off-site SEO is based on the popularity of a site: if you offer quality content that people like, you will get backlinks to your site.
Local referencing applies to two different situations:
- When a user performs a general search in a specific geographic area. For example, if someone in Paris types “supermarket” in their search bar, Google will show supermarket sites based in Paris.
- When a user performs a general search that includes a geographic location. Similarly, Google will show Paris-based supermarket sites if a user types ‘supermarket Paris’.
There are a few techniques to optimise your local referencing:
- Carefully fill in your Google my business form.
- Include the exact address on every page of your website
- Register with local directories and sites
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