If you’ve just set up your business’ website, but you’re not sure how you’re going to drive people to it without spending thousands on ads, then it’s time to explore the world of SEO.

SEO is a way for businesses to ensure that search engine giants like Google categorise and prioritise their websites. So if you want to get your website to the top of Google, you need to understand what SEO is and ensure your SEO game is up to scratch. This beginner’s guide to basic SEO techniques will help you do just that!

What is SEO and why is it important?

SEO stands for search engine optimisation. Essentially, it’s a set of practices intended to improve your website’s relevance, quality, performance, and user experience, to boost its visibility on search engines. It’s all about one upping your competitors by ranking higher in the SERP (search engine results page) using organic (unpaid) means. Here is why SEO is important:

Increased visibility: Higher SERP rankings mean your target audience is more likely to see and click on your content and website.

More traffic: Improved visibility leads to more organic traffic. Since search engine users are actually looking for responses to their queries, they’re more likely to click on your content and engage with it.

Credibility: Websites with high SERP rankings are seen as being more trustworthy than those with lower rankings. The more credible and trustworthy your website seems, the more likely it is that you turn casual visitors into customers.

Cost-effectiveness: Paid ads can quickly rack up a hefty bill. Therefore, investing in SEO is actually more cost-effective in the long run. While it requires an upfront investment, you’re more likely to reap rewards for the years to come, so the returns on investment can be substantial compared to paid ads.

Market research: SEO can be a good way to gain insight into what products or services your customers prefer, depending on the queries and keywords they use, and the popularity of different content topics. It can therefore guide your marketing strategy and help you make informed decisions about where to invest your money.

 

 

What are the different types of SEO?

It’s good to be aware that SEO is not a one-size-fits-all process. Rather, it has different facets and sub-categories that all need to be taken into account to ensure that you make the most of your website.

 

On-page SEO

On-page SEO focuses on optimising each individual webpage to improve its search ranking and attract more visitors. Common tasks typically associated with on-page SEO include internal links, title tags, images, headings, meta descriptions, keyword-optimised content, page speed, URLs and alt text.

Search engines are content matchmakers: they tend to match users with the content that best suits their query. Therefore, by ensuring that all your webpages are up-to-date in terms of the latest on-page SEO standards AND meet the needs of your target audience, you increase your chances of search engines prioritising your websites as their proposed content.

 

Off-page SEO

Off-page SEO is all about the activities carried out away from your website that still improve its search engine rankings. Building relationships with other website owners, promoting your website on social media, getting a PR company on board to promote your business and website, managing your online reputation, listing your business on online directories, and earning backlinks are all off-page SEO tactics that have a direct impact on your rankings and traffic.

 

Technical SEO

Technical SEO deals with the technical aspect of your website in order to improve the experience of your users while on the website. You could have the best content in the world, but who wants to visit a slow or glitchy website?

Technical SEO basics include optimising site speed, mobile responsiveness, URL structure, breadcrumbs, XML sitemap, and site architecture, to name but a few. Having all these basic SEO elements sorted ensures search engines can easily crawl and index your website, improving website visibility and rankings.

 

Local SEO

If your business operates in a specific location or region, then local SEO should be an integral part of your basic SEO setup. Local SEO involves optimising your website so it’s more visible in local search engine results.

Search engines like Google have a local search algorithm that prioritises business located in the area where each user’s from. By setting up a Google My Business account, including location-oriented keywords in your content, building citations and managing reviews, you can increase your business’ visibility in your area and ultimately (physical and digital) footfall thanks to SEO.

 

What are the basics of SEO?

Now we’ve established the different types of SEO, we can start to explore their fundamental principles.

 

On-page SEO basics:

Keyword Research
Keyword research involves examining and identifying which specific words and phrases your target audience uses when looking for information on topics adjacent to your products or services. This includes using tools such as Google Keyword Planner, Ahrefs or SEMRush to learn more about a keyword’s search volume (the number of times people search for that keyword), what long-tail keywords you can use, adjacent keywords, and estimated competition.

Through these tools, you can also analyse which keywords your competitors are using, and identify gaps in their content strategy that you can then leverage. Most importantly, by doing this research, you identify the pain points and needs of your target audience, enabling you to optimise your content strategy accordingly.

Content creation
Content creation is part and parcel of any basic SEO strategy. Once you’ve identified the relevant keywords that you want to target, you need to build a content strategy that makes the most of these keywords and answers your target audience’s queries. Content comes in different shapes and sizes – including long-form articles, short blog posts, videos, infographics, etc.

The most important thing is that each piece of content is of high quality. Considering how competitive SEO is, your material needs to be informative, well-written, relevant, and provide a unique perspective on things. In this way, you position your website as a thought leader in that particular topic, increasing your chance of landing a higher SERP ranking.

Meta descriptions
The meta description provides a brief summary of what your webpage is about. It appears in search engine results below the URL and page title. While meta descriptions don’t directly influence search engine rankings, they do play a role in attracting website visitors.

The best meta descriptions are between 155 and 160 characters, informative but straight to the point. When users see that the meta description responds to their query, they’re more compelled to click on this website, which drives traffic to your site.

Headings
Headings are an important component of any on-page SEO strategy. Not only do they provide your readers with more information about the next few paragraphs, but they also provide structure and hierarchy to your content. In this way, both your readers, as well as search engine crawlers, can understand what your page is about.

It’s important to maintain a logical hierarchy to your content. The main title of the page should be designed as H1, while subsequent headings (H2,H3 etc.) should follow. These should represent distinct sections and subsections of the main topic. Make sure you also include the relevant keywords in each section to reinforce topical relevance. However, don’t overdo it, as this can harm, rather than help, your SEO.

 

Technical SEO basics:

Website crawlability and indexability
Ensuring your website can be crawled and indexed by search engines is crucial to guarantee that all your SEO efforts aren’t in van. This includes configuring the website’s robots.txt file.

By doing this, you’ll pinpoint which pages the search engine crawlers should crawl and index, and prevent the indexing of pages with irrelevant content. In addition, it’s also good practice to implement canonical tags to consolidate duplicate or similar content into a single preferred version. In this way, Google will not penalise you for duplicate content.

Loading speed
Loading speed is not only essential to provide a great user experience, but it makes a world of difference when it comes to search engine rankings. Google, in particular, considers page speed to be a ranking factor. It prioritises faster-loading sites over slower ones.

To boost your website’s loading times, leverage browser caching, minimise server response times, and compress all your images and videos. You can also use content delivery networks, such as CDNs, to distribute website resources across multiple servers. This reduces latency and improves loading speeds for people who access your website from different geographical locations.

Mobile-friendly design
According to a study by SEMRush, “visitors on mobile devices accounted for 233% more unique visits than those on desktops.” Therefore, ensuring mobile-friendliness is crucial to any SEO strategy.

With Google’s mobile-first indexing approach – where the mobile version of a website takes precedence in both indexing and ranking) – a mobile-friendly and responsive design is a non-negotiable. This includes optimising elements such as font sizes and button spacing and ensuring that your website adapts to different screen sizes.

 

Off-page SEO basics:

Backlinks
Backlinks are essentially links from other websites that link to your website. They’re one of the most important SEO ranking factors. Why? They serve as a vote of confidence in your website as they show that your content is of a certain quality and reliable. Therefore, having a strong backlink portfolio is an integral part of any basic SEO strategy.

The catch? Backlinks from websites that either look spammy or have low domain authority can undo all the good SEO work you’ve done. This sends a signal to Google that your content is also of low quality. Therefore, the websites that link to your content must also be reputable in order for backlinks to have a positive impact on your rankings.

So how can you get the top websites to link to your content? An email goes a long way, but high-quality content goes even further. Building relationships with website owners is a good way to build high-quality backlinks. However, putting a lot of effort into creating high-quality content that offers value to your readers is a sure-fire way to cement a long-term natural link building (where other websites link to your website based on your high-quality content) strategy.

Social media strategy
Nowadays, social media engagement plays a significant role in off-page SEO by boosting the visibility of your brand. A strong social media campaign can drive traffic to your website and generate social signals that search engines take into account when ranking sites. For example, a video about a brand that happens to go viral will drive tons of traffic to the brand’s website, which in turn leads to Google ranking it higher due to its popularity. Therefore, make sure that you take your social strategy into account when planning your SEO strategy, as the two are now heavily interlinked.

Online reputation management
Online reputation management involves monitoring and managing your brand’s online presence. This includes client reviews and feedback. Negative comments can harm your brand’s reputation and undermine your SEO efforts. Therefore, thanking customers and immediately dealing with negative feedback cultivates an image of an active brand that cares about its customers.

 

 

Wrapping up:

SEO can often seem like an overwhelming task, as there are so many facets and elements that you need to take care of. However, when done correctly, it can lead to massive long-term results and, most importantly, sustainable growth.

By focusing on the SEO areas that make the most sense for your business, you can rest assured that your target audience WILL find you – without feeling overwhelmed by trying too many things at once. Need help identifying which SEO areas you should focus on? Get in touch!

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