Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is often misunderstood by the average business person. Often if you ask someone to define SEO, the usual response is “It’s that Google thing, right?” or “It’s about getting to number one on search results”. Well, both of those statements are in some way true. However, they show a lack of understanding of its impact or the thought process behind a successful SEO strategy.
In this blog post, we’ll break SEO down to it’s fundamentals and bridge the gap of digital marketing knowledge you may have. Next time, when you are looking to find an SEO company or marketing agency you know exactly what you are paying for. Most importantly, understand that this is a long-term strategy and needs to be developed over time.
We recommend to implement SEO for at least 4-6 months to notice significant effects.
1. What is SEO?
SEO can be defined as the systematic approach to ensuring you are reaching your audience through organic search. Organic search would mean, through unpaid search results. For example, if someone needs to find a solution to a problem such as “How to lower blood pressure”. The top results that appear are what the search engine would think are most relevant. The deciding factors would depend on a number of aspects such as outside sources linking to the same content (inbound links), the structure of the web page, the keywords used and the quality of content such as videos, images and even word count.
The average mobile phone is more powerful than computers from only a decade ago, so more recently factors include how mobile-friendly your website is. Search engines are simply “crawlers” or as we like to think of them, “detectives” and need to find the most relevant information for the end user – possibly the consumer of your product or user of your service. Although a great website design is important, it is not a leading factor when it comes to search engines.
Search engines are simply “crawlers” or as we like to think of them, “detectives” and need to find the most relevant information for the end user – possibly the consumer of your product or user of your service.
2. On-Page SEO
On-Page SEO relates to what you can do within your website to enable the search engine to detect relevant information.
- Focus on hierarchy – How does your website appear? Does it flow from page-to-page?
- Keep content fresh and up-to-date. Relevant information is usually the most recent as out-of-date information could be deemed irrelevant.
- Optimize your layout with defined page headings (H1, H2, H3 etc)
- Use bold texts where possible to highlight keywords
- Is your website of high quality? – Are there images, videos, slides or other visual content that would make your website more user-friendly
- Are you linking content to other pages on your website? (internal links)
3. Keyword Research
Before you focus on your on-page SEO strategy, research the words that your target audience will likely be typing and optimize your page based on these keywords.
This part of SEO is often overlooked but forms the basis of all the other activities and results. Be careful of your use of the keywords however, search engines will penalize your page for unnatural use.
Find a list of best practices to follow below:
- Use keywords in your headings
- Avoid “stuffing” of keywords – remember your website is also meant to be easy to read.
- Do not create pages just for SEO with little or no value at all for the intended audience
- Do not mirror a website or produce duplicate content – be original!
Have you noticed how longer, more informative websites, blog posts or articles tend to be found more easily when using Google? This is because this also factors into how well you rank. We recommend using at least 300 words per page to have sufficient content. However, if you truly want to go for that ‘number one spot’ then dig a little deeper. Do more research into your field or hire an expert to write a guest article. Content that has over 2,500 words will tend to rank higher. Personally, we would say aiming for around 1,500 to 2,500 words should be more than enough for your SEO strategy.
Long-form content that has over 1,500 words will tend to rank higher. However, in my experience anything between 500 to 1,000 words should be sufficient.
Ensure your website is mobile-friendly. This should be common sense in 2016, however, there are a large number of websites that are still optimized for desktop and not mobile. Just recently, mobile search has overtaken desktop search and this trend is only going to continue. Mobile devices are the go-to tool to search for your next purchase, find a mechanic or plumber or to Google that famous actor or actress whose name you can’t quite remember!
5. Off-Page SEO
Off-page SEO could be defined by asking yourself these important questions.
- How are you building links to your content? (external links)
- Are these external links of good quality?
- Are they high ranking on search results?
- What authority do they have?
- How are you getting influencers to link to your website?
- How good is your content marketing strategy?
- Do you have good social links?
As you can probably tell, it’s all about links! You may have heard of the term link building before, right? Well this strategy ultimately determines how high you will rank in search results. This is the most important factor and where the cost of expertise comes in when reaching out to a marketing agency or consultant.
6. Link Building
Build authority and credibility.
Internal links are when you link one page to another on the same website. These are important for when the search engine indexes or categorizes your page.
These are links from other websites or sources directing traffic to your page. These inbound links are a major factor for SEO. Why? They build authority and credibility. They separate the experts from the rest of the crowd.
We would recommend to be very selective when approaching companies online that offer a link building service. It’s always best to approach this strategy organically. Seek a digital marketing expert that understands the impact of bad links (low quality) compared to good links.
Examples of good links are listed below starting with the highest in quality:
- Authoritative sites e.g. Government bodies, industry leaders or universities etc.
- Influential blogs or social media
- Network Partners/Companies
- Discussion forums
- Directory links
A great tool to use to discover how a website ranks on Google is the Mozbar which you can download for Google chrome or Mozilla Firefox.
It allow access to important SEO metrics at a glance as you surf the web. Check out our results when searching for “10 best places to eat in Nottingham”. It instantly shows you the websites that are high in quality with page authority and domain authority scores. A restaurant featuring on one of these pages that has their own website linking to it will increase their SEO due to the high authority links.
7. Content Marketing
Content marketing is the art of communicating with customers without selling with the intention of influencing buying decisions. In terms of SEO, this is a great way to build links.
Content could be in these forms:
- Educational blog post (yes, this post is a form of content marketing) or
- Infographic or
- High quality image that is emotionally engaging or inspirational
- A cool video that is highly engaging, funny or share worthy
- E-book or free guide that teaches the consumer a new skill
- Funny videos or memes
Results can be achieved by educating customers, sharing useful information such as guides or tools related to your products or services that you offer or just being a “giver” – a sharer of useful information. Content usually has two aims, either to increase sales or to increase brand awareness. So decide what your goal is before opting to use this strategy.
8. SEO Analysis
The final element of your SEO strategy is tracking and measuring your results. As Google is the most used search engine, we’ll focus on Google Analytics. You can measure basic SEO metrics for your website by analyzing the return on investment (ROI) from your activities.
SEO factors to measure:
- Google ranking or positioning
- Conversions – for example, the number of increased sales from a campaign
More specifically, in Google Analytics, you can measure
- The level of traffic
- Content accessed
- Traffic sources
- Referring sites
We hope you have found this post useful and it gives you a good basic understanding of some SEO principles. You can always do more research, however with so much information on SEO on the internet, it may be easier talking to someone who understands it.