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Richard Sharrock

September 15th, 2021

SEO

SEO – A Beginner’s Guide to the Essentials 

Search Engine Optimisation – One of the most crucial marketing strategies for anyone who owns or manages a website, from blogs and portfolios, to e-commerce and social media. Despite having a reputation for complexity, learning the basic concepts of SEO can be a relatively simple procedure and can quickly set you on the right path to fully optimising your website.  

For those who aren’t aware of why it is such a valued strategy, I’ll explain it in the most simple of terms – the better your site is optimised, the higher it will rank on the Google index. In the following sections, I’ll cover some of the jargon, some of the crucial components and a few techniques to elevate your website to the higher ranks.

Ranking

When you search for something on Google, the compiled results are all part of Google’s index. For your site to be entered into said index, it has to be ‘crawled’ by bots known as ‘Spiders’. Once these Spiders have crawled through your site, it’ll be entered into Google’s index and will be ready to show up on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). 

Now, this is where ranking comes into play. The first few websites to appear upon your search are the highest ranking sites. The further you descend, the lower the ranking goes. Needless to say, the highest-ranking positions are the most sought after; ergo breeding highly competitive contenders. To truly compete for these high-ranking positions, your website has to be as flawlessly optimised as possible – which brings us swiftly to our next point.

Keywords

Arguably the most crucial factor of SEO is the use of keywords and keyphrases. Besides maybe the bounce rate (the rate in which people enter then leave your site after viewing only one page), this is the primary way which Google’s algorithms judge the quality of your content. Depending on which keywords you choose your site to be identified by and how often those keywords appear, this can indeed make or break for your site.

Ideally, you want to choose a keyword that appears often, but not too often throughout your site. Five times is usually considered the maximum before Google assumes that you’re ‘keyword stuffing’ (disingenuously spamming). Ensure that your chosen keyword makes your site identifiable (e.g. a blog about Italian food may want to consider having ‘Italian Cuisine’ or other synonyms as the keyword). It’s always best to make sure your keywords appear a couple of times on each page too, and it is often advised that you have a separate keyword for each page. Additionally, keyword distribution matters. You don’t want three keywords crammed into your introduction, try and space them out evenly.

This is where market research can come in incredibly handy. The more you research your target audience, how they search for things, the types of language they use and their aims – the more you’ll be able to lure them into your site by pandering to their online behaviour. For example, say you own a website aimed at selling products to an older demographic, it would be far more effective to use ‘long-tail’ keywords rather than ‘short-tail’ since they’re more likely to search in a conversational tone. (long-tail being longer, more specific and more formal keywords whilst the latter is shorter, more snappy keywords without connectives and stop words).

If you struggle to think of your own keywords, there are several tools out there with both free and premium plans which can generate keywords for you and can compile research about your keywords such as search volume, search difficulty, cost-per-click and other useful statistics which can play a huge role in lifting your ranking. If you do need any of these sites, we’d recommend Ubersuggest, SE Ranking, Google Ads Keyword Planner and Keyword Sheeter.

Quality Content / SEO Friendly Content

Ensuring that you consistently upload interesting, well-constructed content to your site is likely the most water-tight method of increasing your ranking. The better your content is, the more it lends itself to being shared, commented on and recommended by other people. Not only does this directly build trust and authority, but it can do so through ‘Link Building’. External links (links from one domain to another, in this case, a link from an external site-directed to your site) will add credibility to your website and will play a huge part in increasing your ranking. Naturally, it will also lead to an increase in traffic – and with the great accommodation for UX (User Experience), could ease your bounce rate. Furthermore, consistently updating your content will let Google know that you’re an active user – also boosting your ranking. 

There is an awful lot you can do with ‘On-Page SEO’ which will give fundamental advantages to your site. Let’s use blogs as an example; the structure of your blog, the length of your paragraphs and the arrangement of your headings will all play a significant role in both SEO and UX. Long paragraphs with too many words can be dreadful for your bounce rate, and the last thing you want to do is disengage your reader with disorganised headings, bulks of text and terrible formatting. 

UX

Since I’ve previously mentioned UX, I’ll skip the basics. But something to bear in mind is that poor UX will always translate into poor optimisation. A prime example of this has a website with a disorderly header, too much text and jarring colours, or just one of these things alone. As soon as a user lands on your page, they’ll be leaving it in no time. Meaning your bounce rate shoots up and your ranking plummets. So before you even focus on producing top quality content, make sure that said content can be framed on a neatly designed web page with appropriate colours, tidy text and other inviting features. Make your site as easily navigable as possible with the right balance between graphics and text; and to accommodate for the type of user, you’ll attract, use the suitable reading pattern to ensure they don’t flock from your site upon arrival.

The speed of your site can also be detrimental to your UX. Optimise your site speed as much as possible, whether it’s by compressing images, caching your pages or narrowing down on your plugins. Site speed is a topic which warrants a whole guide dedicated to itself alone, but these are a few of the basic ways to prevent long loading times – therefore, preventing your bounce rate from skyrocketing – and finally, your rank declining.

Meta Description

On the SERP, just below the title tag, you’ll see a small body of text containing a brief overview of the page, otherwise known as the “meta description”. There are a few well-established rules for submitting a good meta description but what you should remember is that once you’ve grabbed a users attention with your title tag, the next thing they’ll be reading (providing they don’t immediately enter your site) is the meta description. The last thing you want to do is write a meta description that is above 155 – 160 characters as it won’t be showing the whole thing. Make sure it’s a good indication as to what your user will be viewing and keep it as orderly and concise as possible; treat it like an advert for your site and most importantly, ensure you get some of your keywords in there, which will likely come naturally if you’ve written the meta description as an overview. 

To give you an idea of the distinction between the good and the bad, see the comparison between the meta descriptions for Tesla’s website and the Captain America: Civil War Review from The Guardian.

Tesla: “Tesla is accelerating the world’s transition to sustainable energy with electric cars, solar and integrated renewable energy solutions for homes and businesses“.

The Guardian: “19 Apr 2016 – Captain America: Civil War review – an aspartame rush. 4 / 5 stars. Entertaining mayhem ensues when some the Avengers reject…

Ultimately, there are a multitude of different ways of conducting SEO. What we’ve covered throughout this guide are the bread and butter of the process – but these fundamental factors should be more than enough to get you off the ground and to start at least experimenting with your website. And bear in mind that applying these techniques, even much more advanced ones, isn’t going to promote you to the first page of Google overnight. It’ll take months at least. But the sooner you do it, the sooner you’ll be ranking higher than you’ve ever done before.

 

For more on SEO, check out our blog on Common On-Page SEO Mistakes.

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