What is SEO?
SEO stands for ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ and is the process of growing the visibility of your website content in organic search results. In essence, it is a strategy that aids in directing people to your website when they search for a product/service that is relevant to what you provide.
Why is it important?
By driving traffic to your website, SEO can help to increase website visitors that have the potential to convert into leads. Targeting audiences through paid ads can be a beneficial technique, however it is not as direct as SEO and let’s face it, it’s not cheap either.
By leveraging the power of good SEO, you can appeal to people who have shown commercial intent relating to the product or service that you provide, without eating into your marketing budget. Now chances are, people are not directly searching for your brand but rather something that is related to what you offer. Good SEO can help you to appear highly on their search results.
‘Search Engine’ Optimisation…?
We say that, but let’s face it, we’re talking about Google. With 92% of the global online search market, optimising for search means optimising for Google.
There’s one main feature that gives Google its popularity, it presents its searchers with relevant results. In order to rank highly in its organic results, it’s a case of being in the right place at the right time, you have to be the right brand, offering the right product for the person who is searching.
Things to note about Google
Now you are aware that a focus on SEO should be directed towards your rankings on Google, it’s important to look at the structure of the Google results page. When you search something on Google, the results are presented in different areas on the page, these are:
- Sponsored Results
- Organic Results
- Sponsored Shopping
As you can immediately see, none of these results can be deemed as the ‘top’ result, and the positions of these categories can move dependent on the device that is being used. For example, on a desktop the Sponsored Shopping results appear down the side of the screen, yet on mobile they appear at the very top. If a user specifies a location in their search, this also has an impact on the layout of the results page, as Google will show the physical shops nearby that offer the product/service that they have searched for.
This therefore means it’s important to understand the searchers intent, you need to truly comprehend how people will search for your product in order to increase your exposure.
Where to start?
It can be difficult to know where to begin with SEO. It is not the simplest marketing strategy out there; it requires time and dedication. So, let’s break it down into some manageable steps.
One of the biggest things to note about SEO, is that it’s all about your levels of authority. Before you dive into Keyword Research or Technical Optimisation, it’s crucial that you understand that you should be consistently working towards presenting yourself as trusted, relevant and reliable. Alongside everything else, this will lead to better rankings and more hits, without it then you will struggle to rank.
While the content of your website is obviously critical to the people viewing it, when it comes to SEO, it’s how that content looks to Google’s robots that really matters.
Yes, you read that right, robots! We’re not quite on about actual robots, but rather big chunks of code that constantly crawl the web, reading and indexing all of its content. These ‘robots’ are undoubtedly clever though; they don’t see your website like us humans do. Whilst you work hard to make your website aesthetically pleasing and visual to look at, search engines also recognise all the underlying code.
To make life easier for these robots, you should present your website’s content in a format that they can understand. The easier it is for them to scan, the more chance you have at boosting your rankings, so here are some things to consider:
Having a quick loading time on your website is not just something you should be concerned about when it comes to SEO, it’s really important to your visitors that the web pages load efficiently. Search engines are also placing more emphasis on this matter, as they read faster loading websites to be of a higher quality. There are several factors that can slow down your web page such as large images, embedded videos, content that changes size as the page loads and much more.
Duplicate content that appears across multiple pages can cause issues when it comes to a search engine identifying the quality of your text. It can be difficult for those little robots to determine which piece of content/page is relevant to the search.
Make sure your URL structure (the string of text you see in the bar at the top of your browser – see below examples) is short and simple, this will make it easier for the search engines to scan. Your URL structure for each web page should aim to include a keyword that summarises the page content but should have very little detail beyond this.
As search engines can only read text, you need to ensure that any links (things that you click on to take you to another page) are formatted in the text. Otherwise, you may find that search engines are unable to navigate your website and therefore cannot scan all the necessary content.
Similar to page speed, deadlinks are something that you shouldn’t just be concerned about when it comes to your SEO strategy. Deadlinks lead your users to non-existent web pages, if your users were to come across too many deadlinks on your website, it could have a detrimental effect on their user experience. In terms of SEO, your content will be classed as being of a lower quality if the search engines scan too many deadlinks.
Alongside the technical optimisation, you also need to ensure that the content on each web page is formatted in the correct way. Next, we’ll take a look at some of the crucial, but rather simple ways you can optimise your content:
The title tag on your web page may not be where you would expect. It is not actually the headline of the page, but the text that appears in the tab at the top of your browser, it also appears as the title of your web page in search engine results. Sometimes, both your headline and your title tag will be the same, however that’s dependent on how you have your website set up.
There are some general rules to follow when formatting your title tag:
- Search engines like Google typically display the first 60 characters of a title tag in their results, so aim to keep your title shorter than this, that way it will be displayed in full.
- Add your core keyword to your title tag if possible. If it’s going to sound forced or unnatural then it’s not worth including, but if slots in seamlessly then it should definitely be included.
- Write a compelling title tag, this will make it more clickable and enticing to your potential audience.
Dependent on the content you include in your meta description, it doesn’t always appear on your web page, however it will appear under your title tag on any search engine. You need to ensure that it is a high quality, concise and inviting summary of the web page. A well written meta description can help to increase traffic, as more people will be willing to click if they are provided information about your site.
Moving on to the content aspect of your site. There are plenty of things you can be doing to optimise both the copy and the format of your content:
Writing engaging, informative and educational content is the key to building authority. You will most likely have several different web pages that act in their own way, for an example a ‘Home’ page might offer an overview of your product, whilst an ‘FAQ’ page provides quick answers to questions and a ‘Blog’ page might provide much more in-depth and engaging content on a number of topics relating to your brand.
Whatever the content is, you need to ensure that it is well written and engages your audience in the way you intend. Perhaps you could use your keyword research to inspire the subjects you write about on your blog.
Of course, not everything you upload to your website will be something that you want your audiences to share, however you must aim to provide some level of content that can be shared. The more your content is shared and linked to, the more authority you will start to build up, search engines rely on links as a measure of the quality of your content, therefore the more it is shared, the more likely you are to rank.
As mentioned before, duplicate content is something you need to be careful of, as it can dilute the quality of your content and confuse the search engine. Make sure all the content you publish has some substance to it. Now, there’s no hard and fast rule of how little or how much each web page should contain, but keep in mind that the more pages you have with little content on (50-200 words) the more damage this can do to your ranking position. Ensure you have a balanced variety of written content to avoid this problem.
Keyword Research and Targeting
This stage is not as important as many people think, whilst Keyword Research doesn’t really add much to your SEO, it is a vital tool to help you understand what people are searching for, enabling you to create relevant content that relates to the searches.
If you’re unfamiliar with keyword research, then in short it is a process of investigating which keywords you should be targeting, based on factors such as relevance, authority, search volume and competition. There are several different techniques you can use to determine the keywords you should be targeting.
Expanding on the ‘shareability’ aspect, links (also known are backlinks) are important in helping you to rank. Those robots scan for both the quantity and quality of links to a website to aid in determining a website’s authority. Building up backlinks is an important element of your SEO strategy, so here are some things to consider:
If the site linking to you is popular, then a search engine will deem it to be of high authority and a good resource, this will only boost your chance of ranking.
Similar to the above point, if the website that links to you is deemed trustworthy by the search engine, then it will boost your chance of ranking.
If the website that is linking to yours, covers topics that are relevant to the ones you cover, then it will count towards your level of authority.
It can be difficult to build up backlinks, unlike your content, you are not in control of who links to your website. It can take a great deal of planning; you have to have both a strategic and imaginative approach in order to achieve. Below are a couple techniques you could try:
The chances are yourself or a member of your team can provide expert advice on the subject surrounding your product/service. Pitch writing a guest blog post on another website, and in return they will likely let you link to your website a few times.
Build contacts with trustworthy and relevant websites. This way you can potentially strike up a deal of linking to each other’s sites when appropriate.
Don’t rush your backlink process. Good backlinks are hugely beneficial for your SEO, but bad backlinks are equally just as harmful to it. If you’re desperate for backlinks, your backlinks will look desperate! There are no shortcuts here; take your time to build good relationships, generate great content, and quality backlinks will organically appear as a result.
One final note
It’s important to know that the age of your website, is one of the single most important factors in determining your ability to rank highly. As you would imagine, the longer your website has been around, the more opportunity Google has had to scan and index it. You’ll have had a higher number of visitors and this could also lead to a higher level of authority. Google will be more confident in ranking your website highly, if it is confident that you are the right fit for its users, longevity is important in boosting this confidence.
It’s so important to approach your SEO strategy in an appropriate manner, otherwise your efforts will be wasted. In the early days of SEO, it would have been possible for you to essentially trick Google into ranking your website highly. It was once possible to rank well, by stuffing your content full of trending keywords, adding lengthy titles to your website that cover any and all topics a customer may search for, or creating link farms that share links to each other’s websites. Nowadays, Google tends to penalise these techniques as it can be misleading for their users.
So, take some time to digest all the information you’ve just read; SEO is a big subject and even covering the basics can take a while. Hopefully, by splitting up the process into manageable chunks, you can start to research and develop a strong SEO strategy. Remember SEO doesn’t work overnight and that everyone has to start somewhere. Your approach will constantly evolve, and eventually, once you’ve dedicated enough time to the process you will see results start to happen.
Refer back to this guide whenever you need to help getting started with your SEO strategy.