What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. The world of SEO can be quite overwhelming, so we’ll explain it as simply as possible, without overlooking any of its complex techniques. Quite simply, SEO is a marketing strategy whereby businesses use certain strategies to improve their website’s rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs). Have you ever wondered how certain websites manage to reach the top of Google’s results page? SEO!
So, SEO has two main purposes: to boost the number of people to you site and to increase the quality of the visitors to your site. This means you’re attracting not only more people to your site, but also the right people e.g. the type of people who would be interested in buying your products/services. Targeted traffic! Now, let’s delve a little deeper and look into how SEO actually works.
How does SEO work?
To understand how SEO works, it’s firstly important that you understand how search engines work. As you already know, Google, Bing, Yahoo and Yandex are all examples of search engines. Here’s something you might not know. Search engines consist of three parts:
- Crawlers/spiders/bots. Search engine crawlers travel through the web and gather information about page speed, social signals and internal linking.
- An index. All this information the crawlers collect is then put into an index.
- An algorithm. The search engines then use an algorithm to determine where pages are positioned on the SERPs. This is according to the pages’ relevance to search queries, as well as their usability and credibility. We’ll discuss how to go about increasing usability and gaining credibility in more detail in the sections below.
So, this is essentially how search engines are organised. For example, Google’s mission is to ensure that all the results at the top of its results page are relevant to users’ search queries, user-friendly and pages which provide quality content. So, keep Google’s mission in mind when modifying your website.
What this means is, SEO and organic search results go hand in hand. You might be asking yourself, what are organic search results? Essentially, organic results are ones which are considered relevant to what someone’s searching for. Organic results are the opposite of paid search (pay per click advertising).
So, now you know how search engines work, let’s get into the nitty-gritty. Let’s talk about how to apply SEO to your own website and get your rankings up. We’ll look into a few of the best techniques to boost your rankings, both On-page and Off-page strategies.
On-Page SEO Techniques
As you’ve probably guessed, On-Page SEO techniques are strategies which are used on your website. Examples include your keyword content, internal linking, page speed and site structure. Let’s look into these techniques in more detail.
Using relevant keywords is crucial to SEO. Otherwise, how will your audience find your page? The keywords you use should be words which describe the content on your page best.
Start out by carrying out your keyword research. There are a few different means of doing keyword research:
- Think about which words you audience would use in the search engines.
- Look into the keywords your competitors use and think about how you can compete.
- Use Google Analytics/Google Trends to see what people search for most to investigate traffic potential.
When deciding on your keywords, you’ll need to establish how many competitive terms vs less competitive terms you’ll want to include. You’ll want to include both competitive and less competitive terms on your site. You’ll see why. Keywords which are very specific and have less competition make ranking higher easier when a user searches for that specific term. These keywords are called ‘long-tail’ terms, as opposed to the more generic ‘head’ terms. Let’s take an example:
- Head terms are generic, competitive terms. Example: Shoes.
- Mid-tail terms are less competitive than head keywords. Example: Running shoes.
- Long-tail terms are specific, uncompetitive terms. Example: Pink Nike running shoes for women.
Choosing your keywords can be difficult. If you’re struggling to get started, think about your USPs, the products/services you sell and what makes your company unique. Additionally, where you place your keywords is equally as important as which keywords you choose to use. Let’s take a look.
Where should I place my Keywords?
There are important locations your keywords must appear in. This includes your titles, headings, opening paragraphs and your metadescriptions. However, ensure you avoid keyword stuffing! Keyword stuffing is an example of Blackhat SEO. This can result in your site being banned or penalised. Instead, carry out sustainable, Whitehat SEO. A way of overcoming this form of Blackhat SEO is to use synonyms and related word forms of you keywords e.g. different tenses.
Another thing to avoid is keyword cannibalisation! This is the process of your content competing with itself, for instance using the same keywords in more than one of your blogs. Use unique keyphrases for each post!
1.2. Quality Content: Search Intent
Quality content is super important to your ranking. Ultimately, quality content is content which focuses on your audience and their needs. For instance, this might include posts which provide answers to questions or solutions to problems. This is where search intent comes into play. When you’re writing, it’s vital to keep asking yourself ‘what are my audience’s search intents?’
Search intent is important to SEO because relevance is key to Google’s ranking algorithm. But how do you know what your audience’s search intents are? Simply, search the keywords you want to rank for in the search engines and see what kind of context they appear in. Examples of search intents are:
- Informational intent: people want information about a product/place/service etc.
- Navigational intent: users want to find a particular website.
- Commercial intent: people researching before investing in a product/service.
- Transactional intent: the visitor wants to buy a product/service.
As we’ve touched on in this section, relevance is particularly important to search engines’ algorithms. So, be user-focused and ensure your content is relevant to your audience’s search intents.
Internal linking is the process of linking from one page on your website to another page on your website, for example linking to other blog posts of yours. Here’s exactly how internal linking can improve your SEO:
- It can help Google understand your content through discovering pages it relates to.
- Internal linking can boost your visibility. This is achieved through encouraging users to spend more time on your website by inviting them to read something similar which they may find useful.
- Internal linking also adds to user-experience. It can help users find what they are looking for through navigation.
This one speaks for itself really. To be reading this, you clearly use the internet yourself, so you’ve probably felt the pains and dissatisfactions of slow-loading pages caused by large images which aren’t optimised.
Quite simply, pages which are slow loading are not user-friendly, and do not rank well! They’re also super frustrating. Overcome this and test your site-speed with Google’s Page Speed Insight Tool.
Site structure is also important for your SEO. Here’s why:
- The more structured your site, the better search engines understand your content.
- Site structure also helps with usability. It should be easy for your visitors to find what they are looking for on your site, whether it be a specific product or a piece of information. If not, they’re not likely to buy from you or return to your site!
So, how do you achieve good site structure? Think of a pyramid. A pyramid has different levels. So should your website. An example might be [Homepage > Categories > Pages/Posts].
Now you’ve grasped all the important On-Page SEO strategies, we’ll move onto some Off-Page strategies and explore their uses and importance.
Off-Page SEO Techniques
Off-Page SEO strategies are strategies which take place somewhere other than your website. For example, through the use of social media and backlinks.
Social media is powerful. Social platforms can help boost your site’s bounce rate, which is essentially the number of visitors to your site. As a result, every click onto your site increases traffic and consequently boosts your rankings.
Firstly, you’ll need to think about what platforms your audience actually use. Make sure you’re using the right networks.
Most platforms, including Facebook and Twitter also have the ‘share’ feature. When used effectively, this can help boost your visibility further. So here’s a tip. Think about the types of posts people often share. The first thing that comes to my mind is posts which offer prizes. This could be a clever way of enticing people and attracting more traffic to your site.
In addition, social signals are an important ranking factor for many search engines. What this means is, the more likes and shares on your socials, the higher you’ll rank. Take note however, that social signals are more important to some search engines’ ranking algorithms than others.
Backlinks, also called inbound links, are a process whereby one site links to another site. Backlinks are signs of a site’s credibility, trustworthiness and the quality of their content. Of course, you’ll want your site to be associated with all of these things. Search engines recognise a site’s credibility earned through their backlinks and ensure that trustworthy sites are ranked highly.
You might be asking yourself, ‘what’s the best way to build backlinks?’ There are actually a few ways. You can either ask for backlinks directly or gain them ‘naturally’ through building new connections. The latter is considered the best means of obtaining backlinks.
Remember, these links need to be relevant to your own content. Not only this, ideally, you’ll also want links from sites which have high domain authority. Backlink quality is more important than backlink quantity. However, don’t forget, if you overload your site with backlinks in an attempt to gain credibility, you could be penalised. This is another example of Blackhat SEO!
The Holistic SEO Approach
It’s crucial to think about every aspect of your site, including site security, mobile optimisation, site speed and last but certainly not least content quality. This is what we call the Holistic SEO Approach. It’s recommended that you apply the Holistic SEO Approach when optimising your site. You’re much more likely to rank highly if you consider all areas of SEO, not just one or two!
Why is SEO Important to my Business?
SEO is a must for every business, small or large. We’ve touched on how each technique can enhance your site’s usability and readability. We’ll finish by illustrating how SEO can benefit your business.
- SEO can boost your website’s visibility through increasing organic traffic to your site. It helps people find you! How will you sell if you’re not found?
- Optimising your website through SEO can also increase your site’s credibility and trustworthiness. Search engines position such pages near the top of their results pages as this is where most online traffic is congregated.
- SEO can enhance user-experience. For example, good site speed and site structure encourage users to stay longer on your site!
- SEO helps you target the right audience, and in turn this can help to boost your site’s ROI.
- Investing in SEO is cost-effective for your business. It’s an affordable marketing strategy, especially in comparison to other strategies out there.
The key Takeaways
You should now have a much clearer understanding of what SEO is and how it can boost your rankings and brand’s visibility. We’ve covered some of the best practices to optimise your website, both On-Page and Off-Page techniques. The key takeaway is to remember to take the Holistic SEO Approach. So, be user-focused, relevant to your audience, and take care when it comes to keyphrase density and distribution. The SEO world is now at your fingertips!
But before you leave…
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