A simple guide to SEO
Posted: October 3rd 2016
If you don’t know much about SEO or have no experience using it, it can come across as a bit of a mystery to start off with. You may even be wondering what SEO actually is. Well, you won’t have to wonder for much longer - we’re here to give you answers.
In a nutshell, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and it is a technique applied to websites to help them rank higher in organic search positions within search engines, to drive more relevant traffic to their pages and make it easier for them to be found online by the right people. Once SEO is broken down into smaller chunks of information, it’s actually not hard to grasp at all.
From the basic rules to the more detailed techniques, this simple guide will tell you all you need to know about Search Engine Optimisation in a way that’s straightforward and easy to digest. With a thorough read, the right attitude and a sensible plan for incorporating search engine-friendly elements into your website, you’ll be seeing results and driving valuable traffic to your site in no time.
1. Why do I need SEO?
The majority of website traffic is driven to websites through search engines – this is known also known as organic traffic. No matter what you’re selling or how much you’re posting, being visible in search engines will inevitably benefit you in some way, shape or form. This is why SEO is so vital.
Search Engines like Google don’t just provide an audience for your business – they have a thorough process through which they target websites and place them in a ranking order depending on the best quality websites to match the search in question. There is a structure to their positioning and competition is tough. With comprehensive SEO application, you can use this process to your advantage and gradually climb higher up that SERP (Search Engine Results Page).
Ultimately, SEO will link you to more and more interested customers the longer you keep at it. It can be a lengthy process, but don’t give up on it and it could hugely affect your business in the long run.
2. How does SEO work?
There always comes this point where people question: how? How can you get behind those big white search engine screens and alter the way websites like Google work? It may seem complex but if you use the right techniques and put the work in, you can let Google know you’re worthy of that top spot.
Search engines have a series of different algorithms, with Google Panda and Penguin being two of the biggest algorithms to date. These algorithms run against your site to analyse hundreds of different factors. It basically just checks over your website and from the data collected, it intelligently figures out whether or not your website is worthy of being placed into its index (or SERP) for a series of different keywords.
Most search engines use software robots called ‘crawlers’ to carry out this process. These will pick up on relevant keywords in the title, subtitle, main body of text and metadata, along with any internal links within the website making navigation for the website user easier.
While there are many aspects to keep in mind when applying SEO, one of the main factors to focus on is keywords. These are significant phrases and search terms that are relevant to the content you want to rank for, and it is crucial that you choose these carefully if you want your SEO strategy to be a success. Keywords are split into two different groups: short tail and long tail.
Short Tail Keywords: Short tail keywords are terms that are usually one or two words long and have a wide audience, e.g. ‘web designer’ or ‘website designer’.
Long Tail Keywords: Long tail keywords are terms that are three words or longer, targeting a specific audience usually within a location, e.g. ‘web designer Middlesbrough’ or ‘website designer in Middlesbrough’.
3. What's so important about keywords?
Every internet search starts with words being typed into a search bar – these words are the keywords. There is a goal in mind every time a person types these words and they will tend to trust in whichever pages Google deems the most appropriate and feeds to them first. Keywords are the organisers of search engine results, so getting them right is essential.
It’s a given in this day and age that Google has the answers to anything people want to know. Just think of the amount of keywords people use in searches every day… so many keywords we can’t even imagine! And once people have searched for something on Google, it’s very rare that they extend their search further than the first page of results. Ideally, you need to be somewhere on that first page, so optimising for the right keywords is very important. Otherwise, you might risk being lost among the thousands of pages that are too far away from the keywords to be found at all.
One of the most important things to remember about using keywords is that it is about being found not just by anyone, but by people searching for the right reasons. Doing the proper amount of research on which terms or phrases are right for you is vital. Ranking for the right keywords can make or break your website, and you need to be found by the people who are asking the questions you have the answers to.
As one of the main components of SEO, you should try to make your keywords consistent throughout every part of your website. To maximise your website’s potential, you should choose an SEO-friendly domain name that is snappy, memorable, easy to type and unique with some of your main keywords in there if possible. Domain names should also be flexible so the website is not just limited to one sort of product; this is targeted more towards e-commerce websites.
4. What is the difference between onsite SEO and offsite SEO?
Onsite SEO is something that you can do yourself quite easily if you’ve done your research. With access to your website’s CMS (Content Management System), you can make sure your website’s content, titles, tags, metadata and image alt tags are all optimised for your chosen keywords without any hassle. These keywords will be picked up by search engines when they crawl your website and – if done correctly – help you improve your ranking. It is essential that every page in your website has a unique page title and Meta description as this is used to sum up in a sentence to Google what each page is about, and Google will give more credit to pages that are original.
Offsite SEO has a slightly different, less direct process but if it’s applied properly, offsite SEO can prove just as effective as onsite. Offsite SEO involves ensuring you have a substantial number of external links, otherwise known as backlinks, from established external sites. These can be high page rank online directories or just respectable and industry-relevant listing websites – if established sites trust you enough to share your website, it will eventually be rewarded a higher ranking.
Getting the right mix of onsite and offsite SEO is important, and this can be done through tracking your website’s Google Analytics to see which traffic channels your website is receiving the highest amount of traffic from. This will show the results of your onsite and offsite SEO, so you can work out if they have been carried out correctly. If you apply both consistently and carefully, your website will start to show more positive results and ultimately generate more customers for your business.
5. What else affects search engine rankings?
There are hundreds of ranking factors that can affect a website’s position on the SERP of Google or similar search engine pages. They are constantly striving to give the most credible and accurate results for their users, so the factors they use to order their rankings are always changing. It would be pretty much impossible to track every significant factor and apply it to your website, but if you’re aware of some of the key factors, you’re sure to benefit from noting them down and considering how your website is performing for each.
One of the main Google algorithms that crawls websites for results is Google Penguin. This has just recently released an update: Penguin 4.0. The basic purpose of Google Penguin is to make sure all links created on a website for SEO purposes are genuine and relevant to the page in question. If you are building links for the sake of it, a process known as ‘black hat SEO’, Penguin will hunt them down and make them toxic. Providing your site with interesting, relatable links – known as ‘white hat SEO’ – will keep your rankings positive. You can read our blog which gives you all the info you need about Penguin 4.0 here.
As stated previously, keywords are a vital part of your SEO strategy. They go alongside many other factors though, including: domain, backlinks, informative content, metadata, page titles, website design, website navigation, internal links, website speed, responsivity etc.
Think about how someone who is viewing your website for the first time would react to your landing page. If there are factors there that would turn them away, whether it’s a poor layout or a slow loading time, Google will pick up on this too. Improve your site, enhance how you present your services and it will slowly but surely start achieving those higher search engine positions.
To sum up…
All of this may sound like a lot to take in, but believe us – it’s worth it in the long run. The more you put in, the more you get out. Pair your SEO techniques with strong content and customers will be driven to your website from all kinds of places.
According to Moz CEO Rand Fishkin, “SEO is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of the traffic that you earn through the organic results in search engines.” Take it in, start to apply it, be persistent and you'll notice the difference.