A Beginner's Guide to SEO
If you’re new to SEO and need a simple guide to the concept or just want to brush up your SEO knowledge, our Beginners Guide will definitely be of use to you!
Here we ask the questions you want to know the answers to. Hopefully the following will help you in your SEO endeavours!
What is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)?
SEO is a method of digital marketing that focuses on improving the ranking of your organic search results (not paid search results) in hope of driving organic traffic to websites.
Search Engines are very clever, but do need help from website owners to provide the best and most relevant search results for their users.
SEO not only helps you to improve your search engine presence but improving the user experience of your website by improving creative and content elements.
SEO is not about buying links and keyword stuffing, or focusing solely on the keywords rather than the quality of the website copy and design. These methods can actually have a negative effect on rankings, as Google and other search engines do penalise for this type of activity.
All websites can benefit from SEO!
The majority of website visits comes from organic search engine traffic from the big three search engines: Google, Bing, and Yahoo!.
As online competition continues to increase, any of your competitors who have optimised their websites for search engines will have an advantage.
An improvement to your organic rankings can result in an increase in organic search engine traffic, which could lead to an increase in enquiries and conversions. SEO can help to improve the quality of the traffic entering your website, which can decrease the “bounce rate” of a website - a term used to measure the percentage of users leaving the website from the first page that they have seen when entering the website. So, the lower the bounce rate, the better!
What Are the Main Components of SEO?
Always design, build and edit a website with usability, user experience and search engines in mind.
A good website structure provides the foundations for SEO. Optimising your website structure will give you a higher chance of ranking well on search engines.
Website Hierarchy - It is always a good idea to plan out a hierarchy of your website structure before you develop your website. A “hierarchy” is a way to organise your website content in a simple way that makes sense... imagine a tree, where information is organised in to sections and subsections, like branches and leaves! Your website hierarchy will also become your navigation and your URL structure, so everything important begins here. Plan to include a separate page/URL for each product or service so that each of these pages can be optimised for the applicable search terms.
URL Structure - The second main element in developing strong site structure is your URL structure. Your URL structure should follow your website hierarchy. This usually means using simple English for web addresses, rather than any confusing codes or numbers.
Good URL: www.example.co.uk/page-name
Bad URL: www.example.co.uk/?pg=497
Responsive Website Design - having a responsive website design that is optimised for all devices is now a key factor of SEO. In 2015, Google introduced an algorithm that resulted in mobile friendly websites ranking better for mobile searches than unresponsive website designs. Well, it does sound logical right? Especially as you can expect roughly 50% of the visits to your website to be via a mobile device!
Structured Data - Some types of website content can benefit from the use of Structured Data - additional formatting that can be added to your content to help the search engines show it in the most effective way. Products, event listings, business listings, even recipes - they can all make use of Structured Data.
Optimising Website Meta Data
Website meta data are snippets of information that appear in the HTML code of a website page and help to tell search engines about the content of a website page.
When carrying out your website SEO, it is important to optimise the following for relevant search terms that you would like your website to rank for.
Title Elements - All web pages should have a title, and the HTML title element (also known as a "tag") tells both users and search engines what the topic of a particular website page is. The contents of the title element will usually appear in the first line of a search engine listing. Each of your pages should have a unique title, as this helps Google to distinguish how the page is different to other pages on your website. Titles can be both short and informative - usually around 60 characters. If the title is too long, search engines will not be able to show the whole title within the search result.
Meta Descriptions - A page's meta description provides search engines with a summary of what the page is about. Whereas a page's title may be a few words or a phrase, a page's description meta tag might be a sentence or two or a short paragraph - usually up to 160 characters. Meta descriptions are important because search engines might use this within your search engine listings. Having a different meta description for each page helps both users and search engines, especially in searches where multiple pages from your website may be listed. Meta descriptions are a perfect opportunity to provide both search engines and search engine users with a quick summary of what your individual website pages are about!
Optimising Website Content
- Write direct, relevant and high-quality content for your website.
- Update your website regularly with fresh sharable content - for example, news posts, blog posts or case studies.
- Image Alt and Title Attributes - these allow you to attach a description to images on your website. You can also optimise these image attributes with relevant search terms - but don't overdo it, as it can hinder website accessibility and usability. If an image is purely decorative, for example, it shouldn't really have any Alt or Title attributes.
High Quality Link Building
High-quality external inbound links and internal links can help to improve your search engine presence. Simply put, link your website to others’ and have them link back to yours!
Internal links are links within a website pointing to another page of the same website.
You can increase the number of internal links within your website by linking individual news, blogs and case studies to the most relevant product or service-based pages and vice versa. This will also help to improve User Experience for your website visitors.
External inbound links are links from other websites pointing to a given website and will usually take a little bit more effort.
Links from different websites will hold different link 'equity' - for example, a link from the BBC news website would hold more value than that of a local news website.
You can start by adding your company details to relevant, high-quality business directories and applicable forum chats.
News posts, blog posts and social media are a good way of building high-quality, relevant external inbound links.
When writing a news post, blog post or case study, be sure to include links to the websites of any mentioned business partners, clients or customers. If you then inform them of this content, they will then be inclined to provide a link to your post, whether via their own news section, blog or via their social media.
Can I Carry Out My Own SEO?
Do you have a website Content Management System (CMS) that you can access?
In order to edit your own website content and meta data, you will need to find out whether your website has a Content Management System.
If your website doesn’t have a CMS, there are a few options for you:
- Your developer may add your requested content changes for a fee
- You could ask for a CMS to be added to your website for a fee
- If your website is looking a little dated, it might be worth considering having a new website designed and developed with a CMS, as the costs should not differ greatly. If your website no longer functions or looks the way you want it to, creating a new site is a great way to start an SEO campaign with website structure, usability and user experience as a main factor.
The concept of SEO can be confusing and can be tough to get your head around.
If you find the idea of carrying our your own website SEO a tad daunting, at Source we provide SEO consultancy and SEO Management services, so do give us a call on 01743 366 336.