What is SEO? A Beginner Guide to Search Engine Optimisation for 2019
What is SEO?
SEO drives two things: rankings and visibility.
Ranking is the process search engines use to determine where to place a website in search engine result pages (SERPs). SEO helps to ensure that you are ranking competitively and your website appears higher in SERPs. This will drive more visitors to your website.
Visibility is how prominent your website is in search results. High visibility means your website is leading in SERPs whereas low visibility means your website is not showing for many relevant search queries. SEO expands a website’s visibility in organic search results.
SEO will take time. You will be taking data from your various online channels and deciding what content to produce. Marketers do so much to drive traffic to their website through social media posting, inbound marketing campaigns and ads, but SEO is different.
Creating the right content that is optimised for your users’ purpose helps you ensure a steady stream of traffic to your business. Following SEO best practices will help your website eventually sustain itself and therefore give you more time to focus on content creation.
The best SEO results come from managing and updating your content on a regular basis. This can be achieved by undertaking the following SEO activities.
The keyword research process will guide your entire marketing strategy. Keyword research involves researching specific topics your audience is interested in and identifying search terms they use when looking for information and services relevant to your business. This is an ongoing process and you will need to be able to adapt to changing consumer needs.
SEO is about bringing the right people to your website. It is not about bringing any random to your website. However, attracting the right people is only possible if your content ranks for the keywords they are using when searching. Otherwise, there is no way for them to find you amongst the clutter. This is why SEO starts with keyword research and discovering what phrases potential customers are entering into their search bars.
The keyword research process involves identifying terms and topics relevant to your business and then converting them into initial keywords. Then you conduct extensive research into these initial keywords to discover the related terms that your audience would use. Think about the problems that your product or service solves, and what search terms will potential customers use to find your solution. These terms will often begin with question words, active verbs or modifying words such as “how to,” “why is my” and “best way to.” You will need to use a keyword research tool or the most accurate and extensive results.
Keyword competition is the level of difficulty involved in ranking for a particular keyword. It gives you an idea of how many pages you need to beat to rank higher in SERPs. You must take into account your entire competitive landscape as well as regular keyword research and competitor keyword analysis is a key aspect in the early stages of SEO.
Competitor analysis shows which strategies are working in your industry and what you need to do to improve your keyword ranking. Understanding who your competitors are and seeing where they stand can lead to a more comprehensive understanding of what your goals should be. Knowing where your competitors are strongest and weakest can help you determine how hard it will be to rank above them and the resources that it will take to do so.
Once you have identified your keywords, search for them on Google and find out which pages are ranking highest. Repeat this process for all your main keywords. You might notice that a few particular websites show up in most of your searches. These should be added to your list of competitors.
Find out what keywords these websites are targeting by using a competitor analysis tool. Analyse their websites and look for keyword density, metadata and backlinks. Look over their content and social media marketing strategies and analyse the usefulness of information, factual correctness, expertise and credibility of information. Evaluate their content according to Google’s EAT (expertise, authority, trust) guidelines.
SEO-Optimised Landing Pages
A landing page is a page on your website that focuses on information targeted towards a particular user and is optimised to encourage one of these actions:
- Get a visitor to click (to go to another page)
- Get a visitor to buy
- Get a visitor to give permission for you to follow up
- Get a visitor to tell a friend
- Get a visitor to learn something which could include posting a comment or giving you feedback
SEO-optimised landing pages are those optimised for search engines with features that make it appealing to algorithms. The primary goal of an SEO-optimised landing page is to rank.
The key aim of an SEO-optimised landing page is to improve the user experience when visiting your site, especially for the first time. Simply directing people to a home page can leave them confused and unclear as to the actions they need to take in order to find the exact information they need. Landing pages that are optimised according to SEO best practices will drive more people who need your services directly to the information that they need.
When building or optimising your landing pages, consider the following SEO best practices as your template:
- Publish as a custom URL
- Choose your keywords
- Include keywords strategically in your title tag, meta description, header tags, image file names and content
- Do not worry about the length of your page
- Secure backlinks
- Leave your seasonal landing page online
- Speed up your page
- Make your content shareable
Optimising your content includes strategically placing keywords in text, using optimised headings and subheadings and placing internal links to maximise engagement. This ensures users who land on your page do not bounce and therefore have a higher chance at converting.
Even though an algorithm dictates the order of websites on Google’s SERPs, you must remember that Google designed their algorithm to reward websites that create the best content and not websites who are best at working the system. Google’s search algorithm ranks your content based off engagement measures such as total traffic, organic traffic, direct traffic, time on site, bounce rate, SERP CTR, brand mentions on authoritative websites and return visits.
First, you must create high-quality and relevant content that will attract and engage a loyal audience. Then, you start optimising this content for search engines.
The main task is to ensure that Google understands which keywords you want your page to rank. To achieve this, make sure you include at least the main keyword in the following sections:
- Post Title: include it as close to the start of the title as you can
- URL: only really include the keyword and remove stop words
- H1 Tag: default setting includes this so make sure your platform has this setting.
- First 100 Words of Content: reassures Google of the topic
- Meta-Title and Meta-Description Tags: search engines use these to display their listings and understand the topic
- Image File Names and Alt Tags: include keyword in the file name of at least one image because Google only sees file names
On-Page Optimisation: Metadata Management and Technical SEO Audit
On-page optimisation, also called on-page SEO, ensures search engines understand a page’s topic and keywords and match it to relevant search queries. On-page optimisation is the process of optimising various front-end and back-end components of your website so it ranks in search engines and brings in new traffic. These components include content elements, site architecture elements and HTML elements.
On-page optimisation is an important part of SEO because it tells Google about your website and how you provide value to potential visitors. This process optimises your content for both human eyes and search engine bots. It is important that you understand and apply on-page optimisation correctly.
The elements of on-page optimisation include high-quality content, page titles, headers, meta-descriptions, image alt-text, structured mark-up, page URLs, internal linking, mobile responsiveness and site speed. Take some time to understand the purpose of each of these elements and how to optimise them on your website.
The following factors also help confirm your page’s credibility and authority:
- External Links: links to other content
- Internal Links: links to your own content
- Content Length: longer content usually ranks better
- Multimedia: keeps readers on the page longer
Two ways to ensure on-page optimisation are by managing your metadata and auditing your technical SEO.
Metadata is what describes each page on your website so that search engines can evaluate the relevance of your content and determine whether your page will be visible in SERPs. Essentially, it is a set of data that describes other data. It is information that we insert to describe our content. This includes tags at the end of your article, keywords, page titles and description tags.
Search engines are good at finding pages that mention particular keywords, but they do not necessarily know how relevant that text is to the topic of the page. They can find all the pages that mention the word “accounting,” but only the metadata that we include can determine whether the page is specifically relevant to accountants. Metadata is also particularly useful for describing non-searchable content such as images and videos.
However, simply including more metadata does not make the information more useful. Metadata management does that.
Here are some ways you can manage the performance of your metadata:
- Check all your content has title tags and meta descriptions
- Focus on your headings and content structure
- Include alt text in your images
- Use robot meta tags to guide search engines on how they should access your content
- Search for duplicate pages and use canonical tags to avoid duplicate and similar content on your pages
- Create a checklist for what you need to do when you create new content and make meta tags part of your routine
Technical SEO Audit
Technical SEO is the key ranking factors embedded in the structure of your website.
To understand how technical SEO affects the overall performance of your website, it is important to conduct a technical SEO audit. A technical SEO audit is the process of analysing and tracking key website performance metrics that impact on all areas of your website. The goal is to identify areas in your website’s structure that are negatively affecting its performance.
To audit your technical SEO, the main areas of your website to check on are:
- Website navigation and links
- Simple URL structure
- Page speed
- Dead links or broken redirects
- Sitemaps and robots.txt files
- Duplicate content
Make sure these areas are working and there are no errors.
Backlinks are references to your content on other websites. Whenever another website mentions you and points their readers to your content, you gain a backlink to your website. Websites with many quality backlinks are generally favoured by Google because it assumes someone would reference a popular or high-quality website over a mediocre one.
There are many advantages to backlinking, including:
- Building Brand Authority: the more your brand is visible on other reputable websites, the more your audience will see you as a trusted member within the community.
- Driving Steady Referral Traffic: referral is often a large percentage of how customers find your website as not all traffic comes from social media or Google.
- Long-Term Advantages: high-quality backlinks can drive traffic to your website for years which means there is potential to create long-lasting traffic streams.
- Creating New Relationships: when someone reads an interesting post and sees a link to your content, there is a good chance they will click through and want to read more. This can lead to valuable actions such as liking a LinkedIn page or contacting you.
- Brand Name Exposure and Awareness: the more times your customer is exposed to your brand in an associated website, the more likely they are to create strong brand recognition.
Backlink building can be a challenging activity and requires creativity, strategic thinking and patience. You will need to come up with a link building strategy and here are some strategy examples:
- Editorial, Organic Links: websites that reference your content on their own
- Outreach: contact other websites for links
- Guest Posting: blog articles that you post on third-party websites and those companies allowing one or two links to your site in the content
- Profile Links: when setting up an online profile you can list your website
- Competitive Analysis: analyse competitor’s backlinks to identify ones they could recreate for their sites too
The primary way to earn high-quality links is by networking with other websites that have a higher authority score and asking them to link to your content. Make sure that content is highly relevant to the other website’s content.
If you run a local business, Google allows you to position your website in front of potential customers in your area. For this, you would implement local SEO.
Local search results look different to general search results. They appear only for searches with local intent (e.g. “restaurant near me” or when a person has clearly included a location). They contain results specific to a location and concentrate on delivering specific information to users so that they do not need to go elsewhere. With the rise of local searches containing the phrase “near me,” it is only fair that Google will try to present the closest businesses first.
Google assesses authority in local searches not just by backlinks, but by any reviews and citations. It is important to have ways that customers can generate reviews of your business as well as working with other websites to attain credible citations and recommendations.
Keywords are also an essential component of local SEO. However, one additional element is the presence of a company’s name, address and phone number on your website. Without this information, Google will have trouble identifying the location of your business.
Google My Business is a way for business owners to have more control over what shows search results. Google My Business gives you the tools to update your Business Profile and engage with your customers for free. Your Business Profile appears right when people are searching for your business or businesses like yours on Google Search or Maps. The information you include in your Business Profile plays a huge part in your rankings.
A conversion happens when a visitor to your website takes an action you care about such as making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, filling out a form or downloading an app. They are “converting” to a customer. The actions that you care about will be customised according to your business goals and client needs. This means you need to actively communicate with your customers.
Conversion tracking is a powerful tool that lets you see how well your online platforms are doing. Even if your organic traffic is good, if those visitors do not convert to customers then this traffic is not useful for you. It is a long-term planning activity that will involve trial and error because you cannot always predict your conversation success. The data recorded by conversion tracking will allow you to identify which areas of your campaign are working and not working so you can optimise your keywords and other SEO content accordingly.
One of the most effective ways to track your conversions is through Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a comprehensive online tool that can help you personalise your tracking, build your tracking URL, use your tracking URL and define your goals. After you have identified what customer actions you want to track as a conversion, it takes just a handful of steps to get your conversion tracking up and running.
SEO will take time. Creating the right content and effectively using SEO best practices will take time. However, creating content that is highly optimised will lead to higher ranking in search engine results and a higher conversion rate for your business. By undertaking the SEO activities above and taking time to ensure you manage and update your content on a regular basis will help you achieve your maximum SEO potential.
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