New to search engine optimisation? Or want to understand more about what it means and how it works? If your answer is yes to one or both of those questions, then this is the page for you!
Firstly, search engine optimisation (or SEO) is the practice of using a variety of digital methods to boost the quality and quantity of website traffic, thus increasing the online awareness of your business. The higher your website ranking on SERPs, the more likely it is for people to click on your website.
There are so many elements that affect SEO, and so it can become pretty confusing and very time-consuming. However, we’ve got the tips, tricks and information you need to make sense of it all.
Search engine optimisation is a vast subject, so you’ll probably want to master the basics of SEO before attempting anything too advanced. If you’re unsure of the what, how and why’s of SEO, then briefly: SEO is optimising your website to encourage higher levels of better-quality traffic when a relevant search is conducted online. Generally speaking, the better your website is optimised for relevant searches, the higher it’s likely to rank on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Fundamentals of SEO
Even when you’ve carried out your website optimisations, and you see a high level of traffic, that doesn’t necessarily mean the work is over. You want to convert those visitors into leads and sales, and whilst traffic may have increased, conversions may not have. It’s essential to understand that any SEO activities you carry out are for the benefit of your customers, not the benefit of search engines. This is why creating engaging, authoritative content is key to maximising the opportunity of increased website visitors, and encouraging them into conversions.
There are several ranking factors that offer insight into the areas that need focusing on:
- On-page SEO
- Off-page SEO
- Technical SEO
Each factor has its own role in the optimisation of a website, and should be consistently measured against goals to ensure SEO success.
The basics of technical SEO
Technical SEO can go into so much detail that only those with an advanced computing degree can understand. However, in relation to the very basics of technical SEO, there are a number of key components to consider:
- Optimising images
- Customising URLs
- Developing SEO-friendly meta-data
Each tactic mentioned above can significantly improve your chances of gaining greater visibility in search engines, as they will offer more context into what your page is about, and who it should be aimed at.
On-page SEO basics
Keyword research is crucial to carrying out effective on-page SEO optimisations. Understanding how your target audience uses search will help advance your potential for appearing higher in search engine rankings.
If you’re wondering how to conduct keyword research, here are a few free tools readily available:
- Google autocomplete
- Related Google searches
- Google keyword planner
Other search engines may also offer their own tools to help you with your research.
Optimising webpage content is also a vital part in ensuring your SEO is effective. The header tags (or heading tags) are a feature used by bots to understand the most important parts of your content that best relate to a search query. Organised as H1’s, H2’s, H3’s all the way down to H6’s, signals the importance of the section they relate to (with H1’s being most important, and H6’s least important). Only the most analytical and in-depth content should refer to anything past a H4 tag, as it can get increasingly confusing for readers.
Off-page SEO basics
With basic off-page SEO, it’s important to consider the following as a minimum:
- Producing shareable content
- Establishing a listings page
Each of these will help provide a foundation that can be built upon with other off-page SEO methods.
Backlinking offers businesses the opportunity to have links to their website featured on other online pages. This will help bots identify how trustworthy your business is, with the more endorsements you receive from other pages, the more trustworthy and authoritative your business is perceived to be. This is also similar to shareable content, the more your content has been shared online, the more popular your business is likely to be, and shows search engines that your content is relevant to certain audiences. Listings pages can also give an indication of relevance and trust, particularly if you’ve been given multiple reviews, and are actively replying to those reviews.
Specifics of on-page SEO
On-page SEO (or on-site SEO) is necessary to ensure your website gains the visibility needed to attract new leads and customers, and meet business targets. It encompasses everything a customer sees and interacts with, so your on-page SEO strategy needs to include research that better informs the content featured on each page.
What is on-page SEO and why is it important for local businesses?
On-page SEO is basically what it says on the tin. It’s an organic method for optimising each of your website pages in order to gain a higher search engine ranking. On-page SEO involves both page content and HTML tags (headings and meta-data) that can be optimised.
There are a number of reasons why you need to use on-page SEO for your website. Firstly, and most obviously, it helps search engines understand your website and the purpose of your content, allowing them to identify whether it’s relevant to a searcher’s query or not. It’s also a method that gives you more control (compared to off-page methods), as you have the power over the type of content your website showcases. If you put effort into a comprehensive on-page SEO strategy, you will see a boost in organic traffic.
Some of the key factors of on-page SEO include:
- Content (written, images and video)
- HTML tags
- Content auditing
These are just a few on-page SEO methods that need to be looked at to improve the searchability of your website, and each factor needs to be kept updated. The way people are using search is constantly evolving, and it’s important to keep your on-page SEO knowledge up to date with changing trends.
Factors of on-page SEO
Each factor of on-page SEO including content, HTML tags and content auditing, can be broken down into additional activities. Each activity will work towards positively impacting your websites’ visibility:
- Keyword research
- Header tags
- Optimisation of images
- Use of blogs
- HTML tags
- Content auditing
- Analysis of relevant data
- Updating of on-page SEO strategy
While it may take time to complete each factor, it’s necessary to make sure your customers and potential customers get the best quality content and user experience you can give. Businesses need to remember that their website shouldn’t be created for the sake of turning up in search results, and instead, it should be for customers who are seeking the products/services being offered.
What to look for in on-page SEO analysis
When you carry-out your on-page SEO activities, it’s important for having a plan for analysing the results, and in order for success to be measured, objectives need to be identified as part of your strategy.
It can take up to six-months (sometimes longer) for a Google bot to index and rank your webpages, with other search engines varying in the time it takes them to do the same. This means any analysis you conduct regarding the on-page SEO techniques you used should be conducted at least six-months after your updated pages are published.
Two key areas of analysis to focus on include:
- Keyword ranking
- Webpage traffic
If one of your goals includes having certain webpages ranked at a specific position in search results, then carrying out a search for your target keywords will be essential in understanding whether that target has been met.
If your on-page SEO tactics have been successful, you should also be able to see a positive uptake in organic webpage traffic. One thing to note is that while increased traffic is a good sign your SEO is working, if you’re not seeing increasing revenue, then your content might not be right for your target customers.
Having a decent rank in search engines will only (hopefully) get your more visitors. However, it’s the content on the webpages themselves that will be one of the deciding factors on whether those visitors purchase from you. This is why it’s best practice to do your research and write content for your target customers instead of for search engines.
On-page SEO best practices
There are several best practices to follow when performing on-page SEO:
- Conduct keyword research
- Avoid low-value tactics
- Don’t re-write every page, only the ones that aren’t performing
- Display your contact details consistently across your website
- Have a clear linking strategy
- Ensure your website navigation makes sense
Following each of these best practices will help you save time in the long-run, and allow search engine bots to read and index your site more easily. The better a bot can understand your webpages and how they link, the more likely those pages are to rank well on results pages.
Specifics of off-page SEO
Off-page SEO (or off-site SEO) can help make or break webpage rankings on results pages, depending on which tactics you use, and how you use them. Search engines are getting smarter every year, and understand if you’re using any underhanded methods, which is why it’s important to have a comprehensive off-page SEO strategy that avoids disingenuous activities.
It’s also important to note that off-page SEO won’t do much good if you haven’t paid attention to on-page SEO. There’s no real point in directing people to one of your webpages if it hasn’t already got the content it needs to educate/inform/entertain your readers, and keep them engaged or drive them towards a purchase.
What is off-page SEO?
Off-page SEO, as you’ve probably guessed, is the complete opposite of on-page SEO. It involves actions taken outside of your website that still has an impact on its visibility. Anything from your social media activity to backlinking, and even digital advertising, counts as off-page SEO and can have an influence on where your website ranks.
Why is off-page SEO important?
There are several reasons why businesses carry out off-page SEO activities, and one of them is visibility. Off-page search engine optimisation allows for businesses to be visible on other platforms and to a wider audience, which in turn, can lead to greater numbers of people searching your business online.
Social media, listings profiles, and guest blogging, are all readily available tools and tactics that offer businesses the opportunity to engage with audiences that would otherwise be outside their reach, particularly if it were only more traditional methods being stuck to. The bots that crawl and index your website also take into account any digital activities you perform outside of your website.
How does off-page SEO work?
Those search engine bots we talked about earlier don’t just take into account the on-page methods you’ve used for your website, they also recognise off-page methods of SEO.
Search engines want to know how active your business is in the digital marketing world, as well as how authoritative and trustworthy your content is. There are numerous factors that can help a bot determine whether your business is legitimate, trustworthy and customer-focused. Some of these include the use of internal links used within your content, reviews of your business and your replies to these reviews, as well as guest blog posts you’ve written for other sites. Analysing each of these helps search engine bots contextualise your website and understand its relevance.
What are off-page SEO factors?
While there are many factors of off-page SEO, a few key ones include:
- Social media
- Listings profiles
- Guest blogging
Each factor has an impact on how bots see your website. Having other relevant and trustworthy websites link to yours will only be seen as a positive thing, and simply existing on social media and creating regular posts show these bots your business is active.
While listings profiles are a factor of off-page SEO, they shouldn’t be used as a source of backlinking. Instead, view them as a tool to increase traffic and trust. Replying to reviews on these profiles will also help show your business is relevant and active.
Guest blogging can be a way of showing bots you’re a trustworthy business, and a way to drive more traffic to your website, only as long as the site you’re creating a guest blog (or guest post) for, is also recognised as a trustworthy site.
Believe it or not, both traditional bookmarking and social bookmarking are also off-page SEO factors, and can help bots understand the popularity of your webpages and the context of which they’re being saved and shared.
Measuring the success of off-page SEO
As with any marketing activity you carry out, measuring its success is vital in understanding whether your efforts have paid off, and if not, how you can adapt your strategy to improve upon the results.
There are several metrics you can look at to help analyse how effective your strategy has been, which include:
- Website traffic
- Social engagements
- Link clicks
- Domain and page authority
- Quantity of links
Most, if not all of these measurement factors should help you understand where you are in terms of reaching the objectives you’ve set out to achieve for your off-page optimisation tactics. They will also offer an insight into what may need improving within your strategy, for example if there are very few link clicks to your website from a guest blog you’ve written, then perhaps it wasn’t the best site to feature a blog, in terms of appealing to your target audience.
If you ask businesses what their main goal for SEO is, often the answer will be to rank at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs). However, it’s not always possible for a business to rank so high at a national (or even global) level, but it is possible to ensure your website is optimised to appear in local searches. Local searches are becoming increasingly popular. In fact, over a two-year period, there was over a 900% increase in mobile searches for ‘near me today/tonight’ (Think with Google, 2018).
What is local SEO?
Local SEO allows businesses to market their content to their target local communities. Through local SEO, businesses can rank higher on SERPs when location specific keywords are used.
Those search engine bots mentioned earlier, can recognise relevant information from listings pages, social media pages and websites, to offer more insightful results that best match a searchers query.
Why is local SEO important?
Local SEO provides businesses with the opportunity of growth. The better your visibility (particularly within your local area), then the more customers you’re likely to receive. Considering that almost half of all Google searches are for people seeking local businesses, if you’re not showing up, then you’re missing out on a huge potential to increase your customer base.
Local SEO ranking factors
Understanding local SEO ranking factors will be essential in producing a successful local SEO strategy. There are three categories Google’s algorithm uses to produce local search results:
With relevance, search engines want to understand whether you’re the right fit for a searchers query. Areas to focus on include:
- Listings information
Then with distance, search engines need to know your business’ proximity to the searcher. There are a couple of ways someone might search locally:
- Non-geo modified search (no specific location is mentioned, but Google displays the most relevant local search results anyway)
- Geo modified search (a specific location is mentioned within the search)
Finally, in terms of prominence, Google tries to understand who the most credible businesses are, which is done through looking at:
- Inbound links (backlinks)
Keyword research for local SEO
Keyword research is vital for understanding which words and phrases will best propel your business to the top of local search results. There are several factors to think about that will help inform the most relevant keywords for your business:
- Google autocomplete
- Including specific business information
- Optimising content for voice searches
- Using ‘service in location’ keywords (what your business offers and in which location)
It’s important to note that keyword research and implementation isn’t a ‘one-and-done’ project, as the way people are using search is constantly evolving. Voice search is becoming more popular with the emergence of smart speakers, and this is only ever going to transform further, so it’s essential to consistently develop your keyword research and use that to inform your local links and content.
Google My Business optimisation
Google My Business (GMB) is a valuable (free) tool that Google offers to businesses that want to gain more control over their digital profile. As well as another place to hold vital information about your business (like business address, opening times etc.), it’s also great for local SEO purposes.
The information you include o your GMB profile creates signals that have a direct influence on local pack rankings in Google searches. This means it’s essential to fill out each section of your profile thoroughly, and to make sure you’re encouraging customers to leave reviews, and that your replying to these reviews (both good and bad) to show Google your business is active. This will give your business the best opportunity to have a prime position when relevant local searches are conducted.
When creating your profile, there are several things to keep in mind:
- Whether you need to manage multiple locations from one account
- Verifying your location (or locations)
- Making use of the GMB posts option
- Images to include
- Creating an engaging and accurate business description
On-site SEO for local businesses
If you want your business to rank locally, then optimising webpages for local search is highly recommended. Some of the specific areas you should focus on include:
- Title tags
- Alt text
- Meta tags
- Whether your website would benefit from multiple location pages
- Creating local content
- Making sure your website is mobile-friendly
There are a variety of tools online that can help you check how well your website is optimised for search, including Google’s mobile friendly test tool and the Moz Bar, which reveals the page and domain authority scores of your website and the websites of your competitors.
As mentioned before, technical SEO can go into so much depth that you may have to be a developer to understand what’s going on exactly. However, there are areas of technical SEO that can be explained a bit more simply.
What is technical SEO?
Technical SEO encompasses a chain of processes that make it easier for search engines to understand your website and fit it into context with a search query. It covers a range of off and on-page SEO methods, as well as its own special concoction of factors.
Search engines read websites using three processes:
When a search engine bot crawls a website, it’s making note of new content (including written text, images and videos). Once this is complete, the bot will add it to the search engines’ ‘index’ (essentially a database). When a search is then conducted, bots scan through the index to find the most relevant results.
Why is technical SEO important?
Technical SEO should by no means be ignored. Whilst some areas can be confusing, not implementing any technical SEO methods can be detrimental and could lead to your website not showing up in search rankings at all. And if you’re not showing up in searches, you’re not going to be engaging all those potential leads that will now move on to competitors.
What is a technical SEO audit?
A technical SEO audit involves looking into the deep, dark depths of your website to uncover areas tat need addressing and updating, in order to boost opportunities for ranking well in related searches.
Technical SEO auditing for beginners
The more basic level of technical issues that may arise, and can be a quick win to solve, include:
- Creating an organised site structure
- Ensuring your website is indexable
- Optimising your meta data
- Regularly checking page speeds
- Understanding the difference between Http and Https
- Ensuring your website is mobile friendly
- Applying structured data
- Avoiding duplication of content
- Getting rid of low-value pages
Everything mentioned above will help tidy up your website, and make it easier for search engines to crawl, index and rank your site accordingly.
While SEO is a lengthy process, when done correctly, it can provide huge benefits to businesses looking to improve their online visibility. You may have to wait 6-months or more to see visible results, but without SEO, your business isn’t likely to perform well.
If you want to learn more about how we can help you create an effective SEO strategy, contact us today!