This ultimate guide to SEO is a great resource for anyone looking to nail the basics. Feel free to leave any questions or comments below!
What is SEO? The beginners’ guide to SEO
Don’t know your SEO from your SEM? Your PPC from your LSI? Whether you’re new to SEO or are looking to brush up on your skills, let us help you to make the most of the often-confusing world of digital marketing. Our handy guide to SEO will cover the basics when it comes to SEO in marketing, from how search engines operate to why SEO is so necessary if you want to make your business a success.
1. Guide to SEO: the basics
So, what is SEO?
The most important question in this guide to SEO, let’s begin with the basics. SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, is a marketing technique used to rank your website better in search engine results pages. Its aim is to improve the visibility of a website in the natural, or organic, search results. It seeks to match the most relevant answer, or webpage, to its matching query.
But, it’s not quite as simple as that. There are many aspects of SEO in marketing. Companies have so much to consider, from content to keywords, backlinks to web design, that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with where to begin. While SEO creates so much potential for every business, it’s a minefield if you just don’t get it. And we don’t blame you – it is a tricky subject after all!
We have designed this handy guide to SEO to answer your burning SEO questions – from keywords to generating leads and improving traffic, we’ve got you covered.
How has SEO in marketing changed over time?
The search landscape has changed hugely over the last decade or so, and this guide to SEO is just the start. At one point, marketers championed keyword stuffing, and using dodgy backlink techniques were very effective. Even those from low-quality directories and blog comments, which today would be classed as spammy, would have a huge impact on driving your rankings. However, today we place much more emphasis on creating an exceptional user experience. Google now takes into consideration, not just engagement, but how much and where it happens on your site. Essentially, if you’re not keeping your site visitors engaged, your rankings will drop.
In the past, SEO placed a huge focus on singular keywords, instead of the long-tail keywords (three and four keyword phrases specific to your business) we tend to use now. SEO today is much more content focused than ever before, it’s ultimate goal is to provide value to your readers, rather than just spamming them with keywords.
Read through the rest of our guide to SEO to find out how you can get your website ranking now!
Why does my website need SEO?
It’s simple, really – the higher you rank in the SERP’s, or Search Engine Results Pages, the greater the possibility that potential customers will visit your site. Similarly, users are more likely to trust your business if it’s got a top-ranking position. While other aspects of digital marketing, such as social media and outreach, can direct visitors to your site, most people will find you via search engines. This means that, without the backbone of a professional SEO strategy, it can be easy to sink beneath your competition.
All major search engines, such as Google or Bing, collect huge amounts of data and information from every page online, with the aim of spitting out the best answer to any question or search term. These search engines have their own algorithms, which are essentially step-by-step instructions that instantly collate the information and turn it into the results we see. However, if you want SEO to work for you, it’s all about sending the right traffic to your site. In simple terms, you need to ensure your goals match your visitors. In this SEO guide, we’ll tell you what you need to improve online.
Without SEO, will my site still be visible?
Search engines provide searchers with targeted traffic, that is the people who are looking for businesses or services like yours. While your site will, obviously, still exist without SEO, you’ll miss out on a huge amount of valuable traffic and opportunities. Sites that rank within the top few organic spots, or in the featured snippets, are the most visible and, in turn, tend to have the highest click-through rate.
So, if you’re not doing SEO then your visibility isn’t increasing, which could mean the difference between having no visitors and getting leads or enquiries. SEO is the most cost-effective method of marketing and every marketer knows that search engines provide invaluable exposure and traffic to your site. This means that investing in SEO can help you to keep your costs down when compared to other marketing techniques.
It’s not just about search engines
Most people think that the main goal of SEO is to improve your rankings for search terms and, while that’s true, there’s much more to it than that. SEO is as much about the people browsing your site as the search engines themselves. Great SEO in marketing services place your audience at the forefront. What are they searching for? What keywords are they using? Once you’ve established how your audience is searching and viewing content online you’ll know how best to target them. After all, creating a great user experience, for example offering users the answers they’re seeking, means you’re providing an excellent service that will keep your audience coming back for more.
2. Guide to SEO: how do search engines work?
Okay so now, from our handy guide to SEO, you know what it is, but how does it actually work? How does Google know what pages to rank and where? When it comes to SEO, the reality is that you’re trying to rank pages within a site rather than the whole site itself. Think about the different pages on your own website, from your home page to your product pages, contact forms and blog. Not all of them will rank for the same terms, or even turn up in the same results.
So, how does Google find the web pages that best match your query? Search engines work by crawling the pages of your site – basically following the links to find other pages. Search bots crawl your site and then add it to the search engine index. The crawling software identifies new sites and updates and changes to existing sites along with dead links. Much like you would if browsing through a website, the crawlers go from link to link, bringing back the data to its search engine.
Indexing and ranking
The search engine bots then process each crawled page, creating an index of a specific site. This index is a huge database where Google stores all the relevant information to be used later when needed for ac specific search. Essentially, an index paints a full picture, or sorts, of your website. What keywords you’re using and how much you update your site along with what products or services you sell.
We’ll use Google for this example. In simple terms, indexing is the process of gathering information to add to Google search. Once the information has been collated, the webpages are added to Google’s searchable index, meaning they show up in the results for relevant searches.
This index works in the same way as an index in a book – allowing them to find the right keywords for the right query. It’s simple really – you need to make your site accessible if you want to rank. Google ranks sites, at a base level, by determining what each page is about and then seeing how relevant it is for that certain enquiry.
When it comes to SERP’s, Google prioritises those sites that are high-quality and relevant in relation to a searcher’s query. But relevance isn’t simply finding a page with the correct words. Instead, it’s much more complicated than that. Search engines promote authority pages to the top of its rankings by evaluating whether your content or keywords are relevant to what the searcher is looking for. Similarly, search engines determine quality based on how valuable your backlinks are along with your domain authority and how trusted the sites that link to yours are – but more on this later.
3. Guide to SEO: what are the SEO techniques?
While there are over 200 factors search engines consider when ranking websites, some are more important than others. When crawling, indexing and determining your rankings, search engines will look at both on and off-page SEO. But what are they?
- On-page SEO is what you rank for – what is your site about? What customers are you trying to attract?
- Off-page SEO is how high you rank –how authoritative is your website? Are you getting huge amounts of traffic? Why?
The first step in SEO is to determine what it is you’re actually optimising your site for. You need to identify the key terms your audience is searching for – also called ‘keywords’. By determining what you want your website to rank for, you can decide what to write about, and which terms to include. However it’s not quite that simple. There are some factors to consider when trying to determine your keywords:
Search Volume: How many people are searching for you keyword? The more people searching, the larger your audience will be. If there’s a low search term for your keyword, think about trying variations of it. For example, if your initial keyword idea was ‘SEO in Marketing’ try searching for ‘Marketing SEO’ or ‘SEO Marketing Techniques’, they may have a larger volume.
Relevance: When it comes to keywords, the most important element to consider is relevance. Is your keyword relevant to your business and the types of customer you’re looking to target?
Competition: Much like SEO itself, certain keywords are ultra-competitive. There’s a simple rule -the more competitive a search term is, the harder it will be to rank for it. You need to understand your prospective customers, and how relevant the keyword is to your business when deciding to use a highly competitive keyword. If it’s super relevant and you know your audience are searching for it, it still might be worth optimising your content for the particular phrase.
Once you’ve decided on your keywords, it’s time to create some valuable content. But did you know that the content on your web pages is a crucial factor in determining your online rankings? ‘Quality content is now more important than ever’ is an often-used phrase when it comes to SEO, and for good reason. Useful, engaging content that attracts and retains your audience is crucial if you want to rank your site. Your customers are looking for a site that appeals to their wants and needs – content that addresses these needs will give you an improved chance of earning those top rankings.
While there’s no rule of thumb when it comes to content, here are our top tips:
- Use shorter sentences and paragraph: This helps you to avoid confusing the reader and ensures they can easily follow your text.
- Avoid keyword stuffing: That’s loading your page keywords to try and manipulate your rankings. Instead, include your keywords as naturally as possible in your text.
- Use variations of your keyword: No-one wants to read the same thing over and over. Try varying your keyword or phrase throughout, not only will it pass more authority to your site, it’ll also keep your readers interested.
- Include a call to action on almost every page: Calls to action are instructions to provoke your audience to respond. By telling visitors what to do next, you can lead them in the direction you want, whether that’s to contact you or make a purchase.
Responsive, SEO-friendly design
Did you know that around 60% of online searches come from mobile devices? In recent years, mobile web browsing has overtaken desktop computers as the first-choice device for internet surfing. In 2018, Google’s mobile-first index was rolled out worldwide. All this essentially means is that Google begins with the mobile version of your website when indexing your site and that this acts as the starting point for determining rankings. Simply put, the mobile version will be considered the primary version of your website. While Google will still index your site if you don’t have a mobile-friendly version, it could negatively impact your rankings.
Similarly, a responsive website design is no longer optional, but necessary if you want to reach those top spots. Responsive web design means that you don’t have separate versions of your site. Instead, it adapts depending on the screen size it’s being displayed on. No matter where your customers are browsing from, they’ll be able to see all of your site content while receiving the same great user experience. Not sure why its good for SEO? Here’s how:
- Usability: If your mobile site looks different, or contains less information than your desktop version, you’ll lose repeat visitors. With responsive design, your customers get the same great experience no matter the device they’re using.
- Ranking for mobile searches: We know that, when it comes to mobile searches, Google ranks sites that are mobile-optimised higher in the SERP’s. With a responsive design, your site will rank equally on both mobile and desktop searches.
- A decrease in bounce rate: Sites that aren’t optimised for mobile devices are often hard to read, impossible to navigate and downright clumsy. If your site offers the same experience to both mobile and desktop browsers, your visitors are more likely to stay on your site, it really is that simple!
Link building is one of the most challenging aspects of SEO yet has a huge impact on rankings. In fact, links are Google’s number one ranking factor. While there’s more to off-site SEO than link building, it’s a great place to start. So, what is it? Essentially, backlinking refers to a link, or reference, from another page that points to your own site. It’s no secret that it is critical to success when it comes to organic rankings. A strong backlink profile can impact your rankings more than any other factor, while high-quality incoming links mean your site will be seen as a high-quality, valuable resource.
However, not all links are equal. Link building to low authority, or spammy, sites can actually harm your SEO efforts. Here’s what to look for to build the strongest backlink profile possible:
- Choose sites with a high domain authority: Domain Authority, or DA, is a search engine ranking score that predicts how well your site will rank in search engine results. DA is calculated by analysing the quality of inbound links to your site. The higher the DA, the higher your website will rank.
- Make sure to vary your keyword anchor text: If you build multiple links to your site with the same anchor text (the clickable text in a hyperlink) Google will penalise you, as it looks spammy. As we explained earlier in this guide to SEO, varying your keyword will help to show Google what your site it about, without penalising you.
- Build links to relevant sites: The whole point of link building is to pass trust and power to your site. This is why one of the easiest ways to determine how highly a search engine values your site is to see what phrases or terms the page, or site, already ranks for. The general rule of thumb is, the more relevant the site is, the more useful it will be in improving your site’s SEO.
With people now expecting instant results, we tend to have a short attention span when it comes to slowly loading websites. Almost half of all internet users expecting a site to load less than 2 seconds, while these users will also abandon the site if it hasn’t loaded within 3 seconds. It’s fair to say, then, that site speed has a huge impact on user experience and, ultimately, sales and conversions. Search engines understand the importance of speed and rank higher those websites that load quickly.
Here are just a few of the ways you can increase your page speed:
- Optimise images: Make sure any image you upload to your site are as small as they can be, along with being in the right format. While PNG’s are better for graphics, JPEG’s tend to be the correct format for photographs and images. Similarly, using websites such as TinyJPG and Compressor.io to compress your images will reduce the size yet retain the quality.
- Use a caching plugin: If you’re using WordPress for your website, an easy way to decrease loading times is to install a caching plugin. Normally, each time a person visits a site online, the server must retrieve the most recent data, calculating it and then loading the page for the user. However, if your site hasn’t been updated these results will be exactly the same. Website caching works by remembering your site without having to process each separate request. In short, website caching makes your site fast.
- Clean up your database: Old, unused plugins can run beneath the surface of your site, increasing the page speed even though you’re no longer using them. Similarly, when using Content Management Systems like WordPress, your database can become clogged with drafts, forgotten images and deactivated plugins. Delete all the things you don’t need and watch your site speed improve.
Enjoyed our ultimate guide to SEO for beginners? Contact the SEO experts today!
Now that you’ve read through our guide to SEO, you should be well on your way to understanding how to create a winning SEO strategy for your site! While many business owners assume they can expect instant results from SEO, we know that isn’t the case. A great SEO marketing plan takes understanding, knowledge and a whole load of dedication. Whether you’re looking for more information on our guide for SEO, or need a marketing company to help you grow your business, we can help! We’re a full-service London digital marketing agency with a dedicated team of experts. We’re friendly, passionate and always looking for clients we can help. So, if it sounds like we’re the right fit for you, why not get in contact with us today? We look forward to discussing your business with you, and helping you to take that next step!