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A beginner’s guide to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Introduction

In this article, we will be discussing the basics of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the process of affecting the visibility of a website, webpage, or web content in search engine results.

SEO encompasses both the technical and creative elements required to make your site more visible to search engines. Wikipedia defines it as “the practice of improving the volume or quality of traffic to a web page by increasing its relevance for specific keywords”.

Keyword research is an important aspect because it determines what people are looking for on search engines like Google and Bing so that you can optimize your site accordingly.

There are many aspects that can affect SEO such as keywords, links, social media posts, etc. However, in order for these things to work effectively, they must be done correctly so you don’t risk harming your SEO instead of helping it.

Why is SEO important for marketing?

SEO is important for marketing because people are more likely to purchase from a site that is higher up on the list of search results.

A site that appears at the top of the first page of Google’s search engine can see its organic traffic increase by as much as 300%.

Statistics show that websites that appear on page one of Google receive more than 50% of all organic traffic.

In some competitive industries, more than 90% of web users ignore search engine results on the second page.

If your website is not on page one of the search engine results pages (SERPs), you’re losing money.

Having a website that is optimized for search engines means positioning yourself to receive more free traffic and internet leads, through appearing on page one of Google’s results.

What is search engine optimization and how does it work

Search engine optimization, or SEO for short, is the process of affecting the visibility of a website, webpage, or web content in search engine rankings.

Search engine optimisation encompasses both the technical and creative elements required to make your site more visible to search engines. All these techniques have been developed since Google’s first indexing in 1998.

Search engine optimization helps search engines discover, understand, and index websites efficiently and delivers search results accurately to individual users.

The key aim of SEO is to make a website visible to people searching for a certain topic or set of topics in any search engine’s organic (non-paid) search results – but it’s not as simple as typing up some meta descriptions tags and hoping for the best. Although search engines are very capable of understanding sophisticated content, it’s important to have a clear strategy and understand how they work in order to develop an approach that will help you get ranked as highly as possible.

This is because Google – simply put – has a really tough job trying to figure out exactly what it is you do. This is because the internet is an enormous, complex place. Every day, new websites appear and others go offline or get acquired.

A very high proportion of Google’s 200+ ranking factors come into play long before someone hits your website by determining how relevant you are to a certain search term – but how can they be expected to know in advance?

There are four key areas of search engine optimization, which when combined together, form a comprehensive approach to increasing your visibility:

• Onsite SEO – how to make the most of your website’s potential

• Technical SEO – ensuring that everything functions properly and that Google has access to all the information it needs

• Content Marketing – how to get people talking about your business online

• Offsite SEO – increasing the authority of your website by getting links from relevant, trustworthy websites or resources.

How do search engines work?

Search engines are constructed on the basis of algorithms. These algorithms have some preset parameters that define how search results are displayed to the user.

For example, one parameter is that a search engine may elect to show more recent articles above older articles when displaying search results for a news site.

The actual construction of the algorithm itself is a secret, and though they are often described as evolving systems that revolve around getting direct answers to search queries as quickly as possible, the details of how each engine does this are widely regarded as proprietary and kept as trade secrets.

While the actual construction of most of the algorithms is secret, the major search engines will often publish some of the factors they use to build their algorithms.

One example is that Google places a great deal of importance on links, and especially where those links come from.

Another example that Google gives as a ranking factor in their algorithm is the semantic meaning of the words on a webpage.

This is why many Search Engine Optimization (SEO) experts believe that keywords are important to consider when building your website or blog.

The evolution of SEO Search engine algorithms changes frequently and SEO tactics evolve in response to those changes.

Who are the main players in search engine land?

Search engines are the key players in the search and dissemination of information on the internet.

Without search engines – such as Bing, Google, and Yahoo! – users would be unable to find websites. In fact, without the input of these major players, the internet simply wouldn’t be what it is today.

The most significant search engines by far are Google, Bing, and Yahoo! Search. Other notable players include Baidu, Yandex, and Naver (more information on these can be found in the sections below).

Google – The undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. As a general rule, if you want your website to show up in results for a popular search term, you would do well to consider how Google will respond to it.

Other search engines include;

Bing – Microsoft’s ‘other’ search engine follows close behind Google in most markets and is steadily gaining ground on the giant since its inception. Bing may be a less obvious choice, but is powered by Microsoft makes it an extremely powerful marketing tool.

Yahoo! Search – now under the control of tech giant Verizon, Yahoo! search has been gradually losing market share to its competitors over the last few years. However, it still claims a significant number of users and offers some great tools for marketers.

Baidu – Baidu is China’s dominant search engine and handles the vast majority of Chinese internet searches.

Naver – In South Korea, Naver is very similar to Google in terms of users and market share, but it does feature a slightly different algorithm which makes it important for Korean publishers who wish to appear in its index.

Yandex – A well-established search engine based in Russia, Yandex accounts for more than half of all Russian searches and operates a self-service ad platform.

Yahoo! Japan – Yahoo! Japan is mostly notable for its popularity with Japanese internet users – it’s the second most popular search engine in the country after Google. In addition to this, it offers some unique features to Japanese publishers.

What role does search engine optimization play with regard to search engine rankings?

Search engines use complex mathematical algorithms to rank web pages in organic search results: the higher web pages are ranked, the more visitors it will receive from search engine results.

The most important factors that influence these organic search rankings are backlinks and content.

When search engines crawl through their databases of websites, they look for links to your website in other places around the internet – but only links from trusted sources can have an impact.

Creating quality content that people will want to link to is a good start, but there are many other factors that affect rankings.

Ranking factors

There are many factors that affect the search engine results page (SERP), including;

  • Authority – Authority refers to how trusted a website or webpage is as an online source of information. Authority is not only derived from the trustworthiness or popularity of a site’s content, but also from external elements such as links pointing to the site. This is why this factor is closely entwined with backlinks, which we explain in more detail below.
  • Content – Content encompasses the quality and relevance of content on your site. High-quality content should include relevant keywords, images, videos, infographics, internal links and external links to other websites and more…
  • Backlinks – A backlink is a link from an external website pointing to your website, or inbound links. The number of websites linking to yours is closely correlated with higher placement on organic search results for your target keywords.
  • Technical factors – Website speed has an impact on search engine rankings. With this in mind, it is important for site owners to run regular speed tests and optimise their sites accordingly. Other technical factors include errors on your website (e.g., 404s) and mobile responsiveness or “mobile-friendliness”.
  • While there are hundreds of ranking factors, we recommend focusing on the
  • Metadata – This is information contained within a website’s meta tags, title, and meta description. The most important of these is your page’s title tag and meta description.
  • Social media – Social signals – such as shares, likes, and tweets from social media sites – These are often referred to as ‘soft’ factors or ‘social ranking’ and indicate that a website is popular, well-liked, and trustworthy.

What is search engine marketing?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the term used for all the steps you take to rank as high as possible in the search engine results.

SEM has nothing to do with ranking at search engines like google, bing, and yahoo; instead, it is a campaign that companies may use to reach potential customers.

Every day we use search engines like google and bing to find answers and products.

With over 3 billion searches done each day on Google alone, it’s important to make sure your website appears among the first few search results on any given query. And if your website does not rank on page one or two of those first few pages of search engine results, chances are high that your potential customers will never even see your web pages.

It doesn’t matter if you have the best products or services on the web; all of that counts for nothing unless people can find your site. The days of simply creating a bunch of web pages and hoping people will come are over – SEO is a necessity for any successful online business. If you want people to see and purchase your products or services, you need to rank high in the search results.

Search engine optimization is one part of search engine marketing. There are many components to search engine marketing, including:

  • PPC Advertising
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Email Outreach Campaigns
  • Local SEO Techniques
  • Mobile Marketing
  • Voice search optimization
  • Video search optimization
  • Content marketing
  • Lightning Deals and discounts

Depending on what you sell and your business model, some of these components may be especially helpful for your business. However, regardless of the size or scope of your search engine marketing campaign, you will need a well-optimized site to have the best chance at showing up high on the search engine results pages.

On-page SEO

The most important form of SEO is On-Page SEO. It is the process of making changes to your site in order to make it more visible to search engines.

This type of on page optimization is achieved when you make changes to your site such as the web content, the meta tags, and the structure of your site in order to increase search rankings and traffic.

First and foremost, for on-page optimization, you want to make sure that your keywords and keyword phrases are used in the text on your site.

Use them naturally in sentences and do not spam them throughout your content.

Use keywords for phrases that people will use when they’re looking for information about what’s on your page, but don’t overdo it either.

Search engines can tell if you’re stuffing your content with keywords or keyword phrases and they’ll punish you for it.

Spend some time writing unique, interesting content on your website that is going to be informative to visitors and add value to people’s lives.

You should be able to write about any topic related to the information on your site, but make sure that whatever you choose will have a good chance of being shared or linked to by people who read your content.

There are some good tools to help you plan and organise your content strategy, and our personal favourite is Surfer SEO and the content planner tool.

With this tool, you can easily plan your writing campaigns and see how much content you’ll need to create to rank for keywords and topics within your niche.

On-page ranking factors

Internal linking

Internal linking offers another valuable way to increase ranking within search engines.

Internal links are valuable because they are the paths that are used by human visitors to get around your site, so it’s important to create them for both visitors and search engine crawlers.

First of all, you want to make sure that every page on your site has at least one internal link to other pages on your website.

This is important because search engines use this to index your site. If you have a lot of pages with zero inbound links, it could cause the search engine bots to think that they are all unique and therefore not relevant to each other.

Secondly, you should link from one page on your website to another if they both refer to very similar topics, usually the keywords or keyphrase that you’re targeting. This will help to rank your other pages in search results as well.

As an example of how this works, consider that you have two different pages on your website: Dog Training and Cat Training.

Each page talks about training tips for their respective animal, but they’re on different pages.

By linking from one page to the other, you can make it clear that Dog Training is similar and relevant to Cat Training.

Off-page SEO

Off-page SEO is the process of affecting the visibility of a website, webpage, or web content in search results by creating incoming links pointing to a website’s URL.

This includes all techniques that involve building a link portfolio to naturally attract links from other sites.

A lot of times, off-page search engine optimization can be seen as “link building” and it is where you create a portfolio of links on other websites that point back to your own site which will help increase search engine traffic.

Off-page SEO can also be interpreted as reaching out to experts in your field or industry for guest blog posts and interviews.

The experts from those fields will often have followers who are interested in those specific topics, so having them write about your brand could help you build an audience that is interested in your products or services.

Off-Page SEO factors

Link building

Off-page SEO is the term used to describe all of the activities that happen on sites other than your own.

The most important off-site SEO tactic is link building, which is the process of acquiring links from other websites.

Typically, you’ll get links by providing value on another company’s site and asking for a link back in return.

Other ways include getting good reviews on third-party sites and writing guest blog posts for blogs in your industry.

You can collect backlinks manually, by simply contact the websites you’d like a link from or by using backlinks services.

A word of warning about backlinks from dodgy sites: In general, major search engines such as Google doesn’t like it when you get lots of links in one go, because (intentionally or not) it creates the impression that the link may have been purchased.

If links come from poorly ranked domains, the page they’re on won’t be seen as credible.

That means that even though you got a link, it’s not good for you – you’ll actually get penalised for having a backlink from sites Google considers untrustworthy.

So if your site is new and doesn’t have any links yet, don’t go out and buy some just yet.   

As we’ve discussed in previous articles, social signals play an important role in search engines rankings. While social media do not directly affect the search rankings of your website or webpage, it is believed that social signals can be a strong predictor of ranking position.

Keyword research – How to find the best keywords for your website/content

A lot of newcomers to SEO make the mistake of ignoring the need for keyword research. Yet, this step is crucial in conducting a thorough SEO project.

Keyword research is a process of finding out what words and phrases people are typing into search engines in order to find information on a particular subject.

Effectively optimizing your content for specific keywords via the use of relevant phrases, synonyms, and plurals is necessary when attempting to rank your site or page higher in search results.

There are a number of tools available online that can help you conduct keyword research with ease – most notably Google AdWords which allows you to enter a few keywords or phrases and will provide you with related searches terms along with some additional data related to the topic.

Using the Google Autocomplete feature is a great way to carry out keyword research. This is because it can provide you with some ideas for your topic and related topics based on popular queries and keywords that have already been typed into Google.

The alphabet soup method is a term that refers to the process of brainstorming for keywords related to your main keyword.

This method entails writing down as many words as possible that start with one letter and go through all 26 letters of the alphabet.

This method can be done for free by just using search engines.

Take your main keyword and type it into Google followed by the letter a and note down all the suggestions. Do this for every letter, by the end you will have a long list of keywords to write blog posts about.

using Google autocomplete to find keyword ideas
Alphabet soup method in action

Keyword research tools

Keyword research tools help you find out which keywords are most searched and what people’s interests and needs are so you can match your content to them.

Keyword research will also help show you which words and phrases people who visit your site or social media pages use so you can include those in your content to increase the likelihood of getting visitors and organic search traffic.

However, before using any keyword tool, it is important to know how they work because search results data can vary from tool to tool.

You should be aware of any restrictions or limits on the use of each tool, such as how many searches you can do daily or monthly.

  • SEMrush
  • Moz Keyword Explorer
  • Ahrefs
  • Surfer SEO
  • Google Adwords Keyword Planner Tool
  • Ubersuggest
  • Ranktracker
  • Google Trends
  • Moz

How to do SEO correctly so you don’t risk harming your SEO instead of helping it

There are many techniques that can be considered to be black-hat.

One is spamming forums with links. This is not only against the forum’s policies, but it will also put you in Google’s bad books.

Another is creating duplicate websites or content that are low quality for the sole purpose of gaining rankings in Google.

Even if these sites rank, they will most likely get found out and will harm your rankings when Google penalizes them.

PBN (Private blog network) is another way of cheating your way to the top.

This involves registering a whole bunch of websites and linking them together, or using sites that are already registered so you can control their inbound links, which will all lead back to your website.

In addition to creating low-quality content in the form of spun articles or press releases, you can also use black hat SEO in the form of hidden links and text.

For example, using keywords as your anchor text to get people to click on certain links within your content that don’t add any value but are there for the sole purpose of increasing your rankings.

If you want to remain safe from Google’s ever-watchful eye, stick to the search engine’s best practices.

The last example is buying links – this behaviour could result in a penalty on your website or webpage for suspicious link practices.

The importance of keywords in search engine optimization

When you’re working on a website, the main thing to keep in mind is the keyword.

A keyword is a word or phrase that people use to search for information online.

Without a doubt, it is essential that you have your keywords in mind before writing content. In order to find the best keywords for your site, think about what people might be searching for when they come to your site.

It’s also important that you choose keywords based on the content on your site.

For example, if your site is about crafts, you want to choose keywords that relate to that topic: such as ‘crafts for kids.’

Semantic keywords

Besides choosing the right keywords, it’s important to use a semantic approach.

A semantic approach means that you need to understand what your text actually says and how people might search for it.

Keyword silos are a great way to organize your content so that it appears in search results.

Think of keyword silos like folders for your files, each focusing on a different topic.

For example, if you’re writing about marketing plans for the year 2020, you could create the following four keyword silos:

  • 2020 Marketing Plans
  • Marketing Tips 2020
  • Marketing Hacks 2020
  • Digital Marketing 2020

Topical clusters are also an effective way of organizing your content.

The best topical cluster topics are specific to your site’s theme. If you’re writing about fishing tips, you could create these clusters:

  • Fly Fishing Tips
  • Boat Fishing Tips
  • Striped Bass Fishing

By using silos and clusters, you can make your content more organized and help Google understand that your website is an authority on a particular subject, and help you show up in relevant search results.

Another important thing in SEO is keyword density.

There are two types of density that you need to think about: overall and core.

With proper coverage, your keywords should be at least 2-3% in an article or page on your site.

For example, if your keyword is ‘crafts for kids,’ you should include it five times throughout the article. However, be sure that your keywords are not too repetitive and don’t dominate the content on your site.

An example of a topical relevance graph for the keyword “Beagles” from Inlinks

Tips on how to write better content that will rank higher in SERPs

Content is king. Create content that is original, informative, accurate, easy to understand, and that your target market will find valuable.

Focus on the basics of good writing practices: keep sentences short and concise.

Ensure you use plenty of subheaders that contain your targetted keywords

Write about topics that are of interest to your target market. Make sure you include keywords appropriate for your niche throughout the content.

Stick with a consistent voice or brand voice for all of your content pieces to make them easier for readers to digest.

Be careful not to overdo it with keywords though- stuffing them in can cause them not to be readable, which may have an adverse effect on rank in SERPs at best, or cause the site to be penalized outright at worst.

Consider a keyword density analyzer, which can help identify where keywords naturally fall throughout a piece so as not to over-stuff these sentences.

A tool such as Surfer SEO is great for helping ensure you have the correct words and density in your articles.

NLP stands for natural language processing, and it is software that is able to understand the text as a human would. This can be used to determine what keywords or key phrases are relevant to the content of your site.

It does this by analyzing the relationship between individual words and how they relate to each other in sentences and paragraphs. This analysis of relationships allows it to form an idea of what the text is trying to convey.  

There are many tools available for you to use to automate NLP processes, including Google’s own RankBrain and the already mentioned Surfer SEO.

Common mistakes people make when trying to optimize their site’s ranking and what they can do about them

It is not uncommon for webmasters to make mistakes when trying to optimize their site’s rank.

One of the most common is using keywords that are too broad. SEOs will tell you that this will only cause your site’s ranking to go down because it has too little content about the standalone keyword.

Another mistake is not updating your site often enough with new content. This means that visitors won’t see your new pages/posts and won’t be encouraged to visit your page again soon.

To fix this, publish new content every week, if possible. It takes some time before Google notices that there is new content on the site and re-index.

To speed up indexing of the new content you can manually submit it to Google yourself via Google Search Console.

Other common mistakes include not using related keywords in your website’s meta titles, having too little text on the page itself, bad URL structure because it affects SEO ranking, and having a site that’s not mobile-friendly.

Tools to monitor the effectiveness of your search engine optimization efforts

There are many tools available to monitor and find opportunities for improving your website’s SEO.

While there are many paid tools, the two single most important tools are free to use and provided by Google.

The first is Google Search Console. It provides information on how your website ranks in Google, what pages are indexed, problems with crawling, errors, etc.

To access Google Search Console, simply sign up here and follow the instructions.

If you have a WordPress website you can install a plugin provided by Google.

The plugin is called “Site Kit by Google” and is free.

The plugin will make it easy for you to connect your website to the Google Search Console dashboard.

The second is Google Analytics. Google Analytics gives a very good picture of how your website is performing, what keywords are bringing users to your site, and where these users came from.

You can connect your WordPress website using the same plugin as above.

Conclusion

The process of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is both the creative and technical aspects of affecting your website’s visibility in search results when you need more organic search traffic to your website. SEO encompasses everything from meta titles to text on a page, URL structure, site design for mobile-friendliness, Google Analytics monitoring, and more. The two most important tools provided by Google are free and easy-to-use: Site Kit by Google plugin that connects with the dashboard for webmasters who use WordPress; and the other being their analytics tool which provides data about how your website is performing as well as what keywords will bring people back to it again soon. If you need help optimizing these things or want guidance on how best to rank higher than today’s competition give us a shout! Our team would be happy to help!

If you are having issues with your website’s SEO, please contact us here

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