What is SEO?
If you have been trying to get traffic to your website at any time, you’ve likely heard of this mysterious thing called SEO. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. In short, SEO is one of many ways to market your website so that you get more traffic, more leads, and ultimately make more sales.
SEO techniques enable people who are searching for your topic to find it (using a search engine like Google Search or Bing), due to the content and information that you put on and off your site. There are two types of SEO: website optimisation and off-page SEO. In this guide, we’ll talk about both types of SEO and why you need to use it for your business.
On-page SEO, another name for website optimisation, encompasses the code you use on your site to make it easy to access and load fast. Further, it involves the titles of your articles, pages, and blog posts. SEO informs how you should format your content in terms of the URL, title, H1 and H2 tags. In addition, optimising your website for Google encourages you develop good titles, and write meta descriptions that get results.
It should be obvious at this point that search engine optimisation is imperative for any business owner who wishes to get more targeted traffic, build their business and provide excellence to their customers. Remember, good SEO is all about improving the content on the internet, not ranking by any means necessary. Search engines just want to send their audience to high-quality, relevant, honest content.
Now let’s start learning SEO and how you can use it – starting today.
Search Engine Optimisation Basics
When we talk about search engine optimisation, we must acknowledge that the number one search engine is Google. There is no way around it. With over 2 trillion searches happening every year, 100 billion per month, and 2.3 million per day, it cannot be ignored. Google’s job is to deliver quality information to their audience, and they’re serious about it.
Therefore, when you think about SEO, you must think about Google and what Google teaches as best practices for webmasters, to ensure that your audience can find you. If you think you can reinvent the wheel here, or trick the system, you’re wrong.
It’s easy to think of it as a if you were the CEO of Google. Your customers are searchers, who use your website to find information that is relevant to what they searched for. If your customers do not find what they are looking for quickly, they become unhappy. If they discover that a different service, Bing for example, provides results that are more accurate to what your customers were searching for, they will stop using your service in favour of the more accurate search engine.
Thus, by aligning yourself with Google’s mission, to stay in the search business by providing searchers with accurate, high quality information, and you will have no trouble ranking well in the search results. Thankfully, though it may take a little longer and you may need to work a little harder, there are numerous ways that you can improve your ranking using good SEO techniques.
Two Types of SEO
We mentioned the two types of search engine optimisation. Website optimisation consists of anything you do on your website to help search engines differentiate between important content and unimportant content. Things like the content itself, how you format the content, the titles you give the content, and more, all matter.
Off-page SEO concerns itself with anything you do off your site to help your website look more attractive to search engines and your audience. That is, gaining ‘backlinks’ (links back to your site) that help your audience and the search engines know that your site has valuable information about the topic you cover.
On page SEO is a way to make the site more accessible, usable, and accessible. There are many ways to optimise your website, which will not only help the search engines find the content that your audience wants, but will also make the website more attractive to users. After all, users are the most important factor when it comes to your website. Here are the main factors that can be optimised for better ranking.
Page content – All the content on your page and keywords;
· Page and content formatting – How you format the content;
· Smart URLs – Choosing the right URL structure;
· Internal linking – How and what you link to within your site, internally;
· Image alt text – The description within the alt text of all images;
· Navigation – How users navigate your site and allow search engines to crawl your site;
· Meta descriptions – How each page is described in the meta description;
· Keyword density – This describes the ratio of keywords to other content;
· Site map – Helps search engines index your site and (if public) helps users find things;
· Site speed – How fast your site loads each page that your audience clicks on;
· Usability and accessibility – How easily your users understand and use your site.
Paying close attention to these parts of your website will improve your traffic, help you get more sign-ups for your email list, and hopefully make more sales. It’s one of the most important aspects of building an effective website that works for your business.
Off-page SEO involves techniques that you use off of your website to improve search engine results so that you can get more traffic. Using off-page SEO tactics can help build your brand, build connections with your audience, and send traffic to your website. Using the right tactics depending on your goals, as detailed below, can improve your traffic and authority factor substantially.
Social media Marketing – Using the platforms your audience uses can gain you some respected backlinks to your website.
Discussion participation – Commenting intelligently on discussion boards, forums, blog posts, and on social media;
Guests blogging and writing – Submitting original and unique blog posts and articles to high-ranking authoritative websites and blogs;
Branding – Your branding should be consistent with all things you do on and offline;
Trusted directories – Use association directories like the Chamber of Commerce or well-known directories;
Apps – Offering your customers an app is another way to get them to come back to your site;
Press releases – Sending out press releases is a legitimate way to get attention and links;
Speaking – Whether it’s in person, in public, or on an online show, it’s a great way to build your brand;
Q & A sites – Getting a link back to your site by answering questions about your niche can make you an authority. Quora is a great option here;
Video marketing – Using video through Facebook Live, Zoom.us, YouTube and other mediums to spread awareness;
Customer service – Providing amazing customer service;
Email marketing – Getting people on your list and then marketing to them via the list;
Influencer marketing – Using popular influencers to talk about your products and services;
There are so many things you can do off page to enhance awareness and improve your image to customers and search engines. The more authoritative inbound links that go to your website, the better you look to not only search engines but also to users.
The best place to start with search engine optimisation is with on-page strategies and tactics.
Developing Your Keyword Strategy
Types of Keywords
There are single keywords, long-tail keywords, keyword phrases and more. Some keywords are related to the market and some are related to the customer. There are product-focused keywords, thought leader keywords, competing keywords, and related keywords.
Additionally, there are geotargeted keywords. For the purposes of this guide, you’re going to want to find long-tail keywords, keyword phrases, and low-competition keywords. A low-competition keyword is easier to rank for because the big-name brands aren’t spending a lot of money trying to attract people to that keyword.
The first thing you need to do is conduct keyword research. At first, don’t try to come up with too many keywords. But understand that each page needs to have its own main keyword for which you want it to rank, meaning that when someone searches for that keyword, you want them to find that particular content you’ve created for that keyword. But first, find the keywords. There are many ways to go about it.
· Guess – This might seem like terrible advice, but if you’re part of your own demographic then you probably already know some keywords. Make a list of what you’d search for if you were looking for information about your niche. That’s a good starting point for finding more keywords.
· Your audience’s vocabulary – Find where your audience hangs out and observe their discussions and questions. The type of words they use are words you should add to your keyword list.
· Use keyword tools – Hubspot have a great article outlining the best keyword tools to use, The 9 Best Keyword Research Tools to Find the Right Keywords for SEO. You can use any planner to help you find good keywords and keyword phrases, as well as assess the competition level of the keywords you choose. We prefer SEMRush, who provide a great deal of value for all of your SEO needs.
· Google Trends – This is a great way to find out what is trending in terms of what people are searching for in each niche. You’ll be able to find a lot of content ideas, especially during seasonal spikes.
· WordStream – This keyword search tool offers a lot of features that you can use, and they also have a free version for limited use.
· Amazon.com – This is a great way to get ideas for keywords. Just start searching with your guesses and see what comes up.
· YouTube – Like Amazon, finding keywords using YouTube is a great way to find what’s popular.
· Twitter – Twitter is an amazing search engine that you can use to find keywords, starting with other keywords to see what turns up in a search.
· Yoast SEO – This plugin for self-hosted WordPress will make keyword suggestions if you upgrade it.
· Ispionage.com – Want to spy on your competitors to find out which keywords they’re using? This is great software to do just that.
The thing to keep in mind about keywords is that you don’t want to overstuff your website and content with them. Each page of your website – whether it’s your home page, contact page, about page or a blog post – should focus on only one keyword. In addition, you want to keep your keyword density between 1 and 2 percent.
Creating Your Site Structure
Your site structure tells Google, and your audience, what parts of your site are most important. The moment someone gets to your website they’re either going to find what they want, or they’re going to leave. The right site structure will improve SEO and usability too.
Plan Site Hierarchy in Advance
It can help people to write out on paper the navigation of their site. The best site structure looks like a triangle, with the smallest part at the top – which is the main menu. After that, everything links out further and further until you get to an individual blog post and content pages, which are going to mostly be discovered via internal linking.
Make It Logical
The linking structure should be logical in nature. The best way to think about this is to try to put yourself in your customer’s mind and start from the beginning. If you looked at your site for the first time, what would you do? Do you know? Fewer top menu items are better than more, but ensure that it makes sense for the audience.
Set Up Main Categories
When you set up your main categories for your blog, it’s important to choose fewer categories rather than more. You don’t want more than three to seven categories. If you feel like you need more, you’re likely going too far outside your niche. Don’t be broad.
Set Up Subcategories
You can have a lot more subcategories than main categories. Ensure that they go with the main categories very well so that the linking structure makes sense. For example, if you have a pet store, a good link might look like this: http://www.yourpetstore.com/cats/breed/mainecoon. This URL makes for a great keyword-rich link to that category.
Choose the Right Anchor Text
Anchor text means that when you click on a word, it goes to a place in your website. Anchor text needs to be clear so that when your audience or search engine notices the link, it makes sense. There are various types of ways to use anchor text: exact match, partial match, branded, naked link, generic (“click here”), and also images. However, with images it’s best to use text over an image, or an image and text, for the benefit of the search engines.
Keep Important Things Up Front
When setting up the structure, remember that you want to keep the important things up front. The main menu needs to consist of the things most people are used to seeing. For example, “Home”, “Blog”, “Shop”, “About”, “Contact” and so forth. Then put everything else lower into the wider part of the triangle.
Use Internal Linking for Deeper Content
To make navigation even more effective, it’s important to develop an internal linking strategy. One way to do that is to always link to more relevant content under any content that your audience is reading. If you do it right, you can take them to all the content you want them to read in order, leading them to your sales page to purchase your product or sign up for your email list.
The main thing is to make your navigation simple. It should be easy for your audience to look around, and easy for the search engines to crawl your website. Remember that using anchor text is better than using images when it comes to structure and linking.
SEO Technology and Tools That Make It Easier
One way to win the SEO game is to employ all the technology and tools that you can find in your quest for awesome SEO results.
· Google Webmaster Tools – With all the tools Google has, you’ll be able to make your website better by following their advice. After all, everyone else is only trying to disseminate the same message about SEO, but they have to wait until Google comes out with the information.
· Yoast SEO – We’ve mentioned this before and it deserves mentioning here too. This is so much more than a plugin, and it works on WordPress. When you upgrade to the premium version, you get so many features that it’s hard to describe how important Yoast SEO is in this paragraph. Please check it out.
· Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool – This web crawler lets you crawl any website to analyze the onsite SEO so that you can make improvements. There is a free version and an upgrade to get more features.
· Quick Sprout – If you want to grow your traffic right, this software will help you by analyzing your website and then giving you tips on improving it. You can scan your own site for free to start with. It will point out what is optimized and what is not, and how to do it faster. Plus, you can get a consultation with an expert too.
· Moz Pro – They will help you target the right keywords and ensure that they’re providing the value that you hope for. It makes it a lot simpler because it tells you what to do. Using the pro software, you can conduct keyword research, find out ways to improve, and so much more.
· WooRank – This software offers an in-depth review and gives you the information you need to improve the SEO on your website. It includes advanced SEO audit, a keyword tool, a site crawler, SEO monitoring and more. They offer a free trial, and after that you can pay about US$49 dollars a month for a pro plan.
Every day, new tools come out to help. But one of the best tools out there is WordPress. Google loves most WordPress themes because they’re designed to be both search engine and user friendly.
Why User Experience Is Important for Good SEO
· Users First – Search engines are important, but users are everything. Users are your audience, the people you’re trying to help, and your bread and butter. Therefore, if any part of SEO seems wrong for your audience and you think it would bother them, don’t do it. But, test it out first to see what happens. You can always change things.
· Make It Responsive – We can’t repeat this enough, but all websites need to be responsive. One reason is that search engines prioritise these types of sites. The other reason is that users are more likely to use a mobile device to read the emails you send, which means they’re more likely to click through to your site via email on a mobile device.
· Keep It Clear – You want the information on your website to be crystal clear. When someone comes to your site there should be no mistake about the point of your site, the reason you’re there, and what you offer. The best thing to do is to fill your site with content that speaks directly to your users.
· Content Is King – From your home page to your about page and the blog, the content on your website is extremely important. You need to publish relevant, targeted, customer-centric content on a regular basis. It’s this content that will enhance the SEO the most.
· Include a Call To Action (CTA) – If you want content to do anything but entertain, you’ll need to always include a call to action (CTA). Some form of CTA should be on every page of your website. Whether it’s “Share”, “Sign up”, “Buy” or something else, tell your audience what to do next based on the page they’re on.
· Rid Your Site of Clutter – You’ve probably accidentally clicked on a link that looked like a wonderful article full of great information, only to go to a website that’s flashing and cluttered with ads and links so badly that you couldn’t enjoy the content at all. This harms your SEO and harms your users’ experience.
· Increase Trust – Using your website, social media, and other content, it’s imperative to build trust with your audience. The best way to do that is to ensure that the content you use is accurate. If your audience experiences inaccuracies and problems, they’ll lose trust. · Benefits over Features – When you’re describing any products or services on your website, focus on what your audience/user wants to know. They do not care about you; they care about how it benefits them. Focus on that. · Colour Is More Important Than You Think – It’s tempting to design a website based on what you like. That can work if you’re an average member of your own audience but if you’re not, you really need to research your audience and understand something about colour theory to get that part right. · Use Images Thoughtfully – If you use images, you want to be sure that you don’t clutter the site with too many because it will slow down the site. Plus, as mentioned earlier, be sure to include the alt-tag information too. It helps search engines, but it can also help your audience if for some reason they can’t see the information. · Test Everything – The most awesome aspect of anything online is that you can always change it. If you try something and your users hate it because you get emails or see bad comments online, you can fix it and let them know. They’ll appreciate it and you’ll be a hero.
Sometimes in our quest to get SEO perfect, we forget why we’re doing all this. Don’t be that person. The most important people are your audience. Everything you do should put them first. But thankfully, creating an amazing user experience is great for good SEO too.
When you focus on your users, you can’t go wrong. If the SEO you employed causes someone to click on a link and they don’t find what they expected to find (or something better), they’ll be disappointed and click away. When they bounce off your website, that is bad for SEO. Create value for your audience, and add the technical aspects of SEO, and then think about your audience as you create the content and information they need to solve their problems.
Writing Content with SEO in Mind
Now that you have some of the more technical information out of the way about SEO, let’s focus more on creating and writing content with SEO in mind for your audience. Again, the content that you put on your website is one of the most important SEO factors. Plus, it’s one of the most important things about your website because that’s partly why your audience visits it. For a more comprehensive guide, check out our article on how to write content for Google.
· Research Keywords – Use one of the tools mentioned above to research keywords. Make a list of them. Start with the least competitive keywords. Put them in a spreadsheet and start creating content around them based on your upcoming promotions.
· Plan Your Content in Advance – Don’t just start writing and creating content without planning. When you have your keywords, either create products that match the keywords, or find products that you can promote. Then, put it on your editorial calendar so that you can plan it all out well. You’ll need blog posts, emails to promote blog posts, memes and blurbs for social media to promote the blog posts. Plus, you need content to promote and educate about the problems your products and services solve.
· Use Keywords Wisely – Don’t get carried away with keywords. You don’t want more than 2 percent. Too high a keyword density or your site will be considered spammy, and the content will not be fun to read. Remember to use a different main keyword for each page.
· Mind Your Formatting – Another important aspect of SEO and content is the formatting. Use good keyword titles and keyword subheadings; use the H1, H2, etc.… tags to show the search engines what’s important and what the content is about. Plus, it’ll make it easier for your audience to read.
· Include Images – A website looks better with images, and it breaks up the text. Plus, a good image can explain a concept and create a mood in the reader that you desire from them. When you do include images, don’t forget to fill out the alt-tag description of each image.
· Don’t Over-Optimise – When you seek to optimise your site with SEO, don’t get carried away. More isn’t always better. Stick to the guidelines and avoid making your site unusable to your audience.
· Update Your Site Regularly – Not only should you ensure that all the technology you use for your website is updated, you need to also make sure that you have updated content on a regular basis. You don’t have to blog daily, but the more relevant, accurate, and targeted content you post, the better.
Search engine optimisation is the best way to get organic traffic to your website so that you can solve their problems. If people can’t find you, they won’t know how much you have to offer them. If you think about it, if you don’t use updated SEO practices and work to provide the best experience to your audience that you can, they’re going to miss out. Then you’ll miss out.
Use Google Analytics to Understand Traffic and Visitor Behaviour Better
Google Analytics offers a range of tools that you can use to your advantage. It’ll allow you to understand your traffic flows better, learn where you’re going wrong and what you’re doing right. From there, you can make a variety of tweaks and changes to your website and general approach in order to improve things going forward.
Understanding the behaviour of visitors to your website might also provide you with insights that help you improve your website going forward. Doing this will help ensure you get more traffic by encouraging people to come back. But they’ll only do that if they like what they see and have a positive experience on their first visit. Find out more about how Google Analytics can benefit you with your Google Analytics Guide.
SEO Vs PPC
When first getting into digital marketing and exploring their options, many business owners wonder how SEO stacks up against PPC (pay-per-click). I mean, if all those ads are at the top of search results, wouldn’t it be better to focus on a PPC campaign? Also, most importantly, which one will generate more leads overall?
The short answer is that SEO and PPC aren’t opposing digital marketing tactics. Both have their advantages so they actually complement each other.
The first, and perhaps the main advantage of PPC is that brings faster results. You don’t have even have to make any changes to your website or add any content, you just need to bid for your desired keywords and you’ll have a more prominent place in your potential customer’s search results.
Secondly, PPC is an efficient way to test different aspects of your marketing campaigns, such as the effect of targeting various keywords, updated marketing copy, stronger calls to action, etc. You can engage in techniques like split testing (also known as A/B testing) to see which version of an ad works best with your target audience. You can then use this information in other parts of your digital marketing strategy.
Thirdly, though PPC doesn’t have a direct effect on your SEO, it may have an indirect one. Potential customers who’ve seen your ads are more likely to click through on an organic listing of your site, because they’re already familiar with your brand.
SEO takes longer to yield results. However, in contrast to PPC, is free (your time notwithstanding) if you choose to do it yourself.
By the same token, your PPC ads will only be displayed while you continue to bid for keywords. As soon as you stop paying for them, you’ll lose your prominent position in your prospects’ search engine results. However, if you stop publishing new content or optimising your site, it will take time for your competition to take your place. This is because your previously published content will still be there, as well as all the links from other websites that point back to your site (backlinks).
Better still, as long as your content is up, the more opportunities there’ll be for site owners to discover it and subsequently link to it. The better your content, the more likely this is to happen.
For these reasons, it’s wise to view SEO and PPC as methods of digital marketing that work alongside each other- instead of against each other. PPC yields quick results and can land you a few key clients while you’re implementing the rest of your digital marketing strategy. SEO, meanwhile, takes longer to bear fruit, but it continually rewards you for your past efforts and can continue to work for your business – even when you’re not working on it.