New to SEO? Or maybe you need a refresher? Whatever your experience level, it is important to have a solid grasp of the basics to create a sound SEO strategy.
Today, we’re going to briefly explore what SEO is, why you need it to survive online and what steps you need to take to set yourself up.
First of all, what is SEO?
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is all about ensuring that your website can be easily found by search engines – and, by extension, your clients. The ultimate goal of SEO is to get your website to rank on the first page of a search engine so that you can reach potential customers before your competitors.
There are two major components of SEO: on-page and off-page. On-page SEO covers all the things you can do to improve your website, while off-page SEO refers to any page-ranking factors that are outside of your website (e.g. link building, social media, paid ads).
That being said, SEO takes a more organic approach to building traffic. Most SEO can be done for free, with the only cost being your time or hiring an expert to refine and manage your strategy for you.
Why is SEO so important?
As of writing, there are approximately 200 million active websites, with the number increasing every second. As you can imagine, it is difficult to stand out among the crowd, even if a user is searching for what you offer.
It’s a well-established fact that most users don’t go to the second page of results, but even if you do find yourself on Page 1 you may not be seeing traffic. According to a recent study, the first organic search result has an average click-through rate of 28.5% compared to the last few results, which are in the single digits.
To be seen by your potential customers, you need to be in the top few results.
Traffic from search engines is the most stable when compared to digital marketing strategies like email marketing or social media. Additionally, the more clicks you get the more you rise in the rankings, which in turn increases the clicks you get (and so on).
With SEO, users who are clicking through to your site are already interested in what you have to offer. This allows you to target people who are more likely to convert.
In the long run, a well-executed SEO strategy gives you a better ROI than paid advertising and other digital marketing strategies.
What are search engines looking for?
To decide what pages to show a user, search engines follow a simple process:
01. First, they will send bots known as crawlers to search the Internet and find any content that has been published. This can be websites, images, videos – anything that has been posted online. These results are compiled and placed into an index.
02. When a user submits a query, the search engine’s algorithms analyse the index, applying hundreds of ranking factors to decide which pages are most relevant. The search engine then displays results from most relevant to least.
There are a number of things that affect your ranking – too many to name here – including:
- Site structure and speed
You can find a complete list of Google’s 200 ranking factors here.
Keywords are the cornerstone of any good SEO strategy. And while it might sound easy, finding the right words to carry your business to success can be difficult.
To start, you’ll need to come up with a list of words related to your business or industry. Say you’re a plumber. Some of the words you may come up with include:
- Blocked drains
- Clogged toilets
- Emergency plumber
Once you’ve come up with a full list of possible keywords, you can then use a keyword research tool to see how much traffic it receives and how difficult it will be to rank. You’ll want to pursue the keywords that are most relevant to your business.
It is important to note that while keywords are crucial, you shouldn’t be trying to fill your content with as many as possible, as Google will penalise your website. Above all, you should be trying to create high-quality content that meets the user’s needs.
Remember the crawlers we mentioned before? To ensure that search engines can easily index your page, you want to make sure that each page on your site is linked in a logical manner.
Not only is internal linking good for the search engine, but it’s good for users too. A solid internal linking strategy guides the user through your website and helps them find what they’re looking for.
Your domain name should be short and easy to remember – your business name is typically the best choice. Make sure to stay away from hyphens where possible and avoid Top-level domain names outside of .com, .org, or .co.au.
Apart from this, you’ll want to make sure that the URLs that are short and descriptive, incorporating your keyword where possible. When URLs are easier to understand, users are more likely to trust and click on them.
The main title that shows up in the search results is crucial – after all, it has to convince a user to click on it and visit your site. You’ll want to keep this short (around 60 characters) so that the whole thing is displayed and make sure that it aligns with your customer’s search intent.
You’ll also want to make sure that your main keyword is integrated into your title if possible, as this will tell both the search engine and the user that your content meets their request.
A website’s meta description appears beneath the title on the results page and provides you with space to tell the user what they’ll find if they choose to click through. Think of this like ad copy – you want to create a short description that sells your brand and makes you stand out from the rest of the results on display. Keep this under 155 characters to ensure that your entire message is visible.
You’ll also want to make sure to include descriptive alt text for any images you include. As search engines can’t understand pictures, telling them what the image contains can help it become indexed and show up in Image results.
Core Web Vitals
Introduced in 2020, Core Web Vitals are a way that Google measures user experience. This includes things like load time, interactivity, and how stable the content is.
You can find out more about Core Web Vitals and how to implement them here.
Building links from other websites is absolutely crucial. This shows search engines that others see your website as an authority, meaning it is more likely to show up higher in the rankings.
There are a few ways you can do this: guest blogging, for example, where you write content that is featured on another website that can then link back to yours. You can also take a look at what your competitors are publishing and create content that is better quality, meaning that others may start to link to your page instead.
Domain authority is a value between 1-100 assigned by a search engine, with those that are higher on the scale being preferred.
Your authority is determined by factors such as how long your domain has existed, the number of backlinks you have, and the number of 404 pages.
With nearly half of all Google searches being for local information, this is something you can take advantage of as a local business.
To start, make sure you’re registered for Google My Business (it’s free!) and that you include information like your operating times, reviews, and contact information.
Things to avoid when doing SEO
To wrap up our guide, here are a few beginner’s mistakes you’ll want to avoid:
- Hidden links and text
- Duplicated content on your pages
- Overusing keywords (aka keyword stuffing)
- Buying backlinks
- Broken internal/external links
- Not creating mobile-friendly pages
And there you have it! Hopefully, this was a useful peek into the world of SEO that can give you a solid footing for where you want to go next.
As you can imagine, it’s impossible to cover everything here, so if you have any questions about SEO or where to start, feel free to reach out!