Search engine optimisation is an increasingly popular topic, that is widely misunderstood. Although many understand its significance in today’s digital world, it’s ever-evolving nature makes it quite tricky to grasp for many. For brands, marketers and entrepreneurs alike, the importance of understanding SEO is paramount. In fact research shows that 93% of online experiences now begin with a search engine, highlighting the necessity of implementing it within our marketing strategies.
In this starter guide, I cover key fundamentals as well as top tips and strategies to help you get the most from your SEO efforts. So le’t jump right in…
What is SEO
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the practise of improving the quality and quantity of your organic website traffic from search engines. This involves optimising your website, inline with best practises, to appeal to search engines like Google and Bing. There are various ways to do this, which I’ll be covering further along in this guide.
There are many benefits to optimising your website in order to appeal to search engines. Here’s just a few:
- Generates brand awareness
- Cheaper means of boosting web traffic in comparison to paid ads
- Helps you bypass competition
- Drives high quality leads and maximises conversion rates
- Improves user experiences
How search engines work
Search engines place significant importance on user experiences. In order to give users relevant, high quality content, they use various ranking factors to determine the quality of websites. Search engine algorithms (the programming that determines a website page’s significance) ultimately dictate how your website will be ranked to browsers. The idea is generate SEO-friendly content that is appeals to search engine algorithms in order to reap the benefits mentioned in the previous section of this guide.
Further along in this guide, I cover key ranking factors that search engines algorithms measure.
1. Setup Google Search Console & Bing Webmaster
Assuming you already have a live website, the first thing to do is to make sure that is indexed by search engines such as Google and Bing. You can do this by setting up Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools and submitting a sitemap.
2. Install Yoast SEO
On completing this step, install Yoast SEO on your site. This popular tool will help you to optimise your site for search engines by giving you step-by-step recommendations.
Other useful tools:
Other free tools you will find useful in implementing SEO best practises and measuring your success are Google Keyword Planner and Google Analytics.
Below I cover key elements you will need to consider before getting started.
What is a keyword?
Keyword research is the backbone of SEO and the bread and butter of any SEO strategy. Keywords are the terms used by browsers when looking for something online e.g. ‘blue jeans’. Researching keywords your customers are using will help ensure that your brand is ranked for the correct search terms, and customers are more likely to find your site. Browsers’ search intent varies. For example someone looking to buy a product online (transactional search) and someone researching about a particular topic (informational search) are likely to use different types of search terms. These are usually defined by length, as shown below:
Keywords defined by length:
- Short Tail Keywords (also called broad, head or generic keywords) – typically the most competitive keywords with the highest volume of search traffic. They usually consist of one or two words
- Mid Tail Keywords – usually less competitive than Short Tail Keywords. They usually consist of two or three words and tend to be more descriptive.
- Long Tail Keywords – usually the least competitive as they tend to be more specific. They typically consist of multiple words.
Best practice for keyword selection:
As mentioned prior, the selection of your keywords will usually set pace for the rest of your SEO efforts. Here’s a few tips for beginners:
- Target Long Tail Keywords
- Target low competition keywords
- Target low authority websites
Top tip for keyword research:
One simple way to discover Long Tail Keywords is by using Google search. Simply type a word in Google, don’t press enter or click ‘Google Search’ but instead check out Google’s suggestions based on what people are searching the most.
Highly recommended tools for keyword research:
- Google (Free)
- Google Keyword Planner (Free)
- SEMrush (Paid)
- Ahrefs (Paid)
- Keyword Tool (Free & Paid)
The SEO triangle
Now that we have touched on keyword research, we can move onto the main pillars of SEO that determine how a site is ranked. As detailed in my international best-seller, Digital Marketing Strategy, ranking factors can be broken down into three areas and understanding each of these is vital to SEO success. By creating The SEO Triangle, the aim was to help others focus their efforts for the best possible rewards when it comes to SEO. Below I go into further detail into these three elements; Content, Technical and Links.
Content is indeed king. Not only is it central to any marketing strategy but from an SEO perspective, the likes of Google and other similar search engines consider it a key ranking factor. Here’s key areas to focus on:
No doubt, on-site content is a major signal to the search engines. It signifies what your site is about. The idea is to optimise content on each page of your website starting with a relevant keyword as it will dictate the terms for which you rank.
Earlier I recommended Google or Google’s keyword planner. Not only are these tools free, but with over 87% of desktop browsers using Google, you can rest assured that the data is very reliable.
Following identifying the optimal keyword, the following will also need to be optimised to match your keyword:
- page titles
- core content
- rich content
You do need to ensure you avoid any ‘Black Hat SEO’ (or underhand) techniques such as keyword stuffing where you deliberately try to force search engines to rank you on a key term by repeating it in a way that is not natural for the reader.
Off site content includes any content that is not on your website but also contributes to your site’s ranking e.g. social media content, guest blogs and influencer marketing. More or less, the same practises for on sight content also apply for off-site content:
Your content needs to be considered high quality by search engines. This means it shouldn’t be ‘Thin Content’ – anything that appears to be of little value, too short or copied from elsewhere as it will cause you problems rather than helping you.
You should keep your content fresh. If you publish surveys then update them regularly. Blog often. Static websites get old quickly and search engines are looking for the sites that will answer the user query now not 6 months ago.
As part of your content strategy make sure you answer consumer questions, provide local content and are as broad but relevant as possible.
The technical aspect of your SEO strategy is key. It all comes down to how your site is built and managed in order to improve search engine rankings. There are many considerations here but we can break them down into simple categories detailed below:
Speed – Your site must be fast to load on any device. Slow loading will impact your rankings. In today’s mobile world consumers do not have time for slow sites and search engines know this.
Architecture – Your site should be simple and your url folder structure should be as high up as possible. Avoid /home/product/2019/primary-lines/fashion/shoes/Adidas/product-name and try to bring it right up to somewhere like /shoes/product-name. Your key pages should be directly off the main url.
Navigation – UX is another signal so ensure your site is easy to navigate and is engaging and clear on the actions users can and should take.
Security – Your site should be HTTPS – that security signal has become far more important in the last decade.
Code – Ensure your coding is clear and remove any unnecessary code. This goes a long way with search engines. Also avoid our-dated coding languages.
Tags – Get your head tags accurate, so for example you only have one H1 tag on the page and it should clearly represent what the page is about. Get you meta titles and descriptions right.
Mobile friendly – With over 50% of traffic now coming from mobile devices, search engines such as Google and Bing now prioritise websites that are optimised for mobile devices. This is a must for any website.
Schema – Placing clean schema code on your site will help search engines provide more detailed results for browsers as well as boost your site in the search engine result pages (SERPs).
Links are an important factor in ranking. If a large number of high quality sites link to you then this is a clear signal that your site is worthy of being linked to.
If however a large volume of low quality sites link to you and very few high quality ones then this looks suspicious and can harm your ranking. You can add your site to directories or pay to be listed but this is not a genuine sign of quality and so you should avoid it.
That’s not to say you can’t have links from lower quality sites but if you do you must ensure they include a ‘nofollow’ tag to tell the search engines that this link is not to be used for SEO reasons and is purely promotional.
Best practises for link building:
- You should not be trying to buy links or force links into your site as these spammy tactics can get your website penalised by Google and Bing
- A good way to get high value links is by building real relationships within your niche and echoing this online
- Add links to your site on social media pages to pass value over. It’s worth noting that the strength of your profiles matters
- Having fewer relevant, quality links (links from clean, high authority websites) is better than having lots of low quality links which can be harmful to your site
All in all, search engine optimisation is one the most misunderstood and complex areas of 21st century marketing. A channel that is constantly changing and highly competitive. One that relies on technical, creative and relationship skills.
I hope this comprehensive guide has helped break down the fundamentals of SEO and put an end to some of its common myths and misconceptions. No doubt, SEO is not a one-time thing, but rather a long-term initiative. It’s ever-evolving nature also means that keeping up to date with latest changes and updates will have a significant impact on your SEO performance.
If you require any support with your SEO efforts, my team and I can help! Get in touch below to book a free consultation!
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