If you’ve never heard of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) before it’s easy to think it is super technical and complex.
Don’t worry if you’re not a digital marketing expert, we’re going to break it down into four easily digestible areas:
1. What is SEO?
2. Keyword Research
3. On-page SEO
4. Off-page SEO
What is SEO?
The simplest way to describe SEO is the process of getting your content to rank in the top results when searching for a specific keyword you are targetting on a search engine such as Google or Bing.
Before we dig deeper let’s quickly look at how search engines work.
Search engines can be thought of as a giant library, that has three main functions:
1. Crawling – The discovery process where new content is found by the search engine.
2. Indexing – The content found during the discovery process is then stored and organised where it then can potentially be presented to someone if they type in a search query relating to that specific piece of content.
3. Ranking – Ordering the content in such a way that the content that will answer the searcher’s question best appears first.
Note: If you want to get a deeper understanding of how search engines work I recommend checking out this article from Moz.
When referring to “results” in SEO we are talking about the organic results on a search engine results page (SERP)
(Insert image of SERP)
Why is this such a big deal?
Say you’re a business that sells mattresses, every month the words “mattress” and “best mattress” get 25,000 Google searches.
Now imagine if your mattress business web page comes up first when people search for these keywords.
This is what can turn a business that is struggling to survive into a business that is making hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars a year.
Obviously, in reality this process isn’t as easy and straightforward otherwise everyone would be able to do it.
Let’s explore what you need to do to help get your website closer to SEO success.
Before we can even think about optimising our on-page and off-page SEO we firstly need to work out which keywords we want our website to rank for.
Earlier when we discussed how search engines work we mentioned the idea of “ranking”.
In order for a search engine to know what keyword to rank a webpage for it needs to understand what the webpage is about.
This is where keyword research comes in.
Keyword research as defined by Hubspot is when “people use keywords to find and research actual search terms that people enter into search engines.”
Before you can start writing great quality content you need to choose the keywords you want to target before you start.
Our quick summary of the keyword research process is:
2. Narrow down your list – prioritise your keywords based on relevancy, monthly search volume and competition level.
3. Plan your content around these keywords – after narrowing down your list come up with content ideas and topics that focus on keywords you want to target.
We could easily dedicate a 5,000-word article just on keyword research so if you’ve never done it before I highly recommend reading this great article on Backlinko to help you get started.
On-Page SEO is focused on all the measures you can take within your website that directly affect your search engine rankings.
We’ll now go through (in no particular order) what these measures are and how to do them correctly for your own website.
- Optimised page titles and meta descriptions: Make sure you include your target keyword in the H1 title and meta description. A good rule of thumb is thinking of a H1 title as a book title, H2s as chapters and H3s as subheadings.
- Proper URL Structures: Your URLs should be short and sweet while incorporating your target keyword straight away if possible (and still be readable by a human). E.g. https://www.website.com/seo-101 is better than https://www.website.com/what-is-seo-beginners-article-2019
- User-friendly navigation: Make sure links are clearly labeled, visitors are able to tell where they are on the site at all times and have a search bar available to look for specific content.
- Optimised internal links: Look for relevant internal link opportunities so you can link your more authoritative pages to sales or product pages.
- Text Formatting: Headings should be logical and clearly identified. Try to incorporate your keyword into the first sentence of your article, this will help search engines identify the purpose of the page.
- Image optimisation: Images are an easy way to make your content more interesting (which hopefully means people spend more time on your website). Fill out as much detail as possible in the alt text and image descriptions to help your images rank in image searches. Don’t forget to compress the file so it doesn’t slow down your site, you can use sites like this to do it quickly and for free.
- User-friendly 404 pages: Make the 404 user experience easier for non-technical visitors to understand. This can be done by simply adding a message that says “Sorry, we couldn’t find the page you were looking for” or if it is in line with your brand/industry make the error message funny.
- Fast loading pages: Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to find out how fast your pages are. The tool will tell you exactly what you need to fix or optimise and how to do it in order to improve the page load speed.
- Mobile-Friendly pages: After Google’s move to mobile-first indexing this factor is more important than ever. A few best practices for mobile-friendly design include avoiding the use of flash on your pages, steering clear of large popups (which can be annoying and difficult for mobile users to close) and designing for the “fat finger” by using large buttons and icons that make it easier for visitors to navigate your site. Obviously, there is a lot more we can go into regarding mobile-friendly design, I recommend learning more about it here.
- Top quality fresh content: Google loves fresh content plus it’ll increase the number of keywords your site can potentially rank for.
- Outbound links: Here we are talking about links from your site to other sites. Ensure all outbound links actually work (aren’t broken) and are linking to a trustworthy source.
Off-page optimisation refers to all of the SEO techniques outside of your website that you can use to boost your search rankings.
Having great content that is SEO optimised can only get you so far.
A key indicator that search engines use to identify which web pages are worthy of ranking highly is the number of high-quality backlinks pointing to the site.
A backlink is simply a link to your site from another site.
Backlinks aren’t created equally, getting a relevant do follow backlink from a website that has a high domain authority e.g. nytimes.com, cnn.com, reddit.com, etc. carries significantly more weight than a random backlink from your next door neighbour’s vegan pet food blog.
We’ve outlined some strategies you can use to build relevant backlinks that can help lead you to SEO success:
- Link-worthy content: People like reading content that is entertaining, teaches them something or solves a problem. Therefore, if your content manages to tick these boxes people will have more reason to link to your site.
- Guest posts: Look for high-quality relevant blogs that have a steady amount of organic traffic that you can contribute a blog post to. This tactic used to be super easy but now can be quite difficult since so many people are competing to get backlinks through guest posts. I recommend building relationships with bloggers and webmasters first rather than asking to contribute straight away (they get bombarded with guest post requests every day).
- Infographics: These are visual illustrations that summarise complex or large amounts of information into an easy to read format. Again this tactic used to be less competitive but for it to work today you really need to invest serious time and money to make an infographic that will grab the attention of other sites.
- Broken Link Building: This strategy is great because it usually doesn’t cost much money or time. I recommend using Ahrefs recently updated Content Explorer tool to find broken pages that have a bunch of backlinks. Then building content that is better than the broken page and doing outreach to the sites linking to the broken page telling them that they are linking to a dead page and should link to your awesome (and working) page instead!
- Content Promotion: Don’t be shy to share your content on social media. It’s quick and free plus it can help to boost your social media followers and engagement.
- “Skyscraper” technique: Brian Dean’s famous strategy involves looking at a popular topic within your industry and then building the most comprehensive and in-depth version of it. Not only will this encourage people to link back to the resource it will also do wonders for your site’s reputation.
We are just scratching the surface here, link building is arguably one of the most expensive and time-consuming aspects of SEO. In saying that, it’s still possible to get great results if you are willing to put in consistent time and effort into it.
We hope this article helped build your understanding of SEO and opened your eyes to the potential it has for your website or business.
If you’d like to read more about SEO Prosperity Media presented an SEO 101 deck at an event we run in Sydney called Online Marketing Sydney.
The deck looks at the basic key elements of SEO and goes into some detail on tips and tactics on how you can futureproof your SEO strategy.