SEO is the promotion of a website online. We work towards a better position on search engine pages for multiple terms with our own industry. Terms that are searched by potential clients and connections.
Websites are optimised through content such as written articles, images and video. That content must develop and evolve.
A business gains further online reach, builds connections and will encourage sales by growing a website and its popularity through SEO. I’ve come up with 5 basic SEO principles that can help you understand the steps to success.
Search engines set quality guidelines that are part of any SEO journey. These are rules website owners should adhere to if they want the website to rank well.
The guidelines help quality websites to rank well and prevent malicious websites from reaching the top spots.
There are different ways to execute SEO. You may have heard some of the terms, which I will explain in this post:
The term SEO can encompass anything and everything a brand does online to promote itself – even social media to some extent.
The minute factors are accumulative, they are building blocks. A good website should aim to follow all, or most of, the rules.
What does SEO stand for?
So, what does SEO stand for? SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimisation, which simply means to optimise a website for a better position on search engine result pages – known in the industry as SERPs.
When a query (a search) is made the SERP lists the results. It’s likely that you use a SERP every day.
When we ‘do SEO’ we maximise the website’s potential – ultimately to get it seen. We want to drive web traffic to it, encourage sales and brand exposure.
Organic means natural and so organic SEO is to ‘achieve a position on a SERP, naturally’.
Websites that rank well are honest, clear and easy to use. Successful websites provide for visitors through interesting articles, inspiration and entertainment.
A website will be listed higher on search engines when it does these things well.
An individual page, post, image, PDF or video can rank well organically, whereas others on the same website might not do so well.
The stronger parts of a site will help weaker parts to rank better, although ideally a business should constantly revisit content to improve it.
Another determiner for search rank is the website’s popularity. Is the audience engaging? Do people visit it frequently?
Google Analytics can evaluate these dimensions.
So there really is a natural process in organic search engine optimisation.
Read what is a ‘search engine organic listing‘?
Paid for advertising
Paid for adverts appear on search engines like Google as well as their partners.
Adverts are marked ‘Ad’ on Google, they appear top and bottom of the organic results.
Paid advertising is also known as PPC – pay-per-click because marketers pay for each received.
Paid for advertising is an SEO tactic in itself. We are not entirely sure if paid advertising helps organic SEO, Google doesn’t tell us.
PPC can help exposure because users see brand names more frequently. It’s easy to buy from a brand that’s in front of the customer as they navigate the web.
I’m not a PPC marketer but here is a good post from Digital Third Coast – Does PPC Help SEO? which explains about paid for advertising.
Local SEO has become increasingly important for small businesses competing in a local area.
Google created local search so that small businesses need not compete with similar businesses on the other side of the world.
For example, if you make a search for ‘coffee’ whilst you were in Melbourne, Australia it’d be unlikely that you’d want results for cafes in Oxford, England. Google makes sure that local results are provided.
Google understands location and search intent.
A big contender in local search is Google maps, because it is so regularly used – local businesses need the top spot on Google maps to gain custom.
It’s paramount because the visitor is likely to pick a cafe from the first few results. Resulting in an instant loss for businesses that don’t show.
People readily make searches that include words such as ‘near me’. A contending website needs to be visible in those results.
Factors such as links (to and from) websites in the geographical area, reviews and localised content help a business to appear in local searches.
On-page SEO is a branch of search engine optimisation which, as the phrase determines, takes place on the website itself.
Much of the time we use content – articles, images and video to help on-page SEO.
But there are many other on-page SEO factors which have an influence on where a website ranks. Here are some of them.
How website build affects rank
The obligation of a website owner is to help search engines understand the reasons that a website has been created.
Google rewards websites that make an effort to abide to search engine quality guidelines.
Predominantly, search engines understand HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) – the standard language developed to build web pages and applications. Similar languages have been written to add functionality and to comply with rules such as DRY (do not repeat yourself).
For search engines to understand them, each page must be clearly and correctly marked up. Code heavy pages are less favourable because search engines have to sift through them.
Website packages add code to enable non-coders to make changes so packages are slightly less desirable. On saying that website packages really have their place as they enable website owners to make updates.
HTML elements like title tags and paragraph tags show search engines what is most important on the page. HTML5 and schema markup are the standard ways to let search engines decipher the page.
Let the visitor (and search engines) know what the page content consists of by using H1 tags at the beginning of the page. The H1 tag should include the key phrase to help the page rank better.
H2 tags, paragraphs, links and media need to be correctly tagged and positioned in the page hierarchy.
Search engines look for a secure certificate on websites because it shows the owner of the website is looking after users. SSL certificates encrypt information transmitted between the server and the computer.
Written content for search engine optimisation
Good written content is search engine fodder. Search engines trawl content (and media) on a website which helps them to know where to rank the page.
Well written pages supply search engines with information that help users once a search query has been made.
This is the basis of ranking well – providing informative answers, inspiring content or some entertainment.
Images on web pages
Images strengthen articles and help a web page or post to rank better – search engines want to see visuals because users like visuals. A web page with no image looks uninviting – almost like a Word document.
Photos are also ranked independently on Google’s image search. An image that ranks well helps the page to rank better.
Videos on web pages
On certain searches, where video is appropriate, YouTube videos are often the first result. These days, a high percentage of searches result with the watching of a video.
On certain searches Google assumes that a video is required. Searches that start “how to” will often trigger this. Google tries to preempt the intention of the search.
Obviously most of the videos in the results are on YouTube, which is the second most used search engine today. So when you are posting videos use your YouTube channel and make sure you include your key terms there too.
Embed related videos from YouTube onto your posts/pages to strengthen your content.
Ultimately search engines strive to provide users with the most appropriate answer and the best experience, so the next few SEO tactics are vital to a hard working website.
Websites have to be really easy to move around so people can find what they are looking for. But ease of use is not only for humans but also for search engine crawlers.
Crawlers are programmes that trawl (or spider) websites, discovering content. They send the information back to the search engine.
Use hyperlinks throughout your content to direct users to other content that might help them. This also helps crawlers to spider the content, and find other pages on the website, so that they can be indexed.
Search engines reward websites with navigation that is simple. Navigation must be mobile friendly so that users on mobile devices still have a good website experience.
We’ve all seen a non-mobile friendly website before. You’ve done a search using your phone and been sent to a website with tiny, illegible text. So small that you need to zoom in to read it.
You’d also have to scroll back and forth to see the content. That website is not mobile friendly and it creates a difficult experience for the user.
Over 60% of searches made are on a mobile device.
Search engines penalise websites that aren’t mobile friendly. Their mobile friendly competitors will be automatically ranked higher.
Website owners must be sure that the pages download quickly on all connections, even slow connections – take into account different parts of the world – rural areas have much slower connections.
Google considers a slow downloading website to be a bit of an ordeal for a user, so penalises websites that when people can find what they are looking for. Fast.
Search engines have the ability to test the download time of a web page. If a page takes too long, it won’t rank well. Google refrains from sending its users to a slow loading site.
Consider that someone will quickly leave a website that takes longer than 2 seconds to download. They will return straight back to the search result. That’s just two seconds for you to inspire a new visitor.
Clarity on websites
More important than you might think is the ABOUT page on a website. Google looks for clarity – a sense of honesty and openness from the company. That way a user can ascertain exactly who they are buying from. Knowing the company will help users to make buying decisions.
Write about yourself, tell your story and give plenty of background information on the company – this clears uncertainties and creates a connection with your audience.
Align the information (company name, phone number, address, opening times and prices) on your website with that on the social media and directory listings. Google picks up signals about your business from all over the internet, not just your website.
Which leads us to off-page SEO.
The term SEO also includes the refinement of a company’s online profile, outside of the website itself. By this I mean the appearance of the company on social media and on directories such as Yell, Local, Hotfrog, FourSquare and there are many more.
Off-page SEO has become increasingly important in recent years because it is somewhat more barefaced than on-page SEO.
These are influences that are largely controlled by the company’s clients and colleagues. Which is why they are also feared.
Google likes to see others appreciate your hard work and your awesome content. That way they really can recognise the effort you make.
This makes off page influences so valuable.
There are a few popular and widely recognised review sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, TripAdvisor, Yell and Google+.
These large, well known sites already hold millions of loyal user profiles and they spend time weeding out fake ones.
Reviews on your business profile helps your website to rank better – search engines see real people giving true value.
Never be inclined to review your own company or have friends create reviews.
Search engines can collect information – like relationships – through social sites, so will easily determine a fake review from someone close to you. Fake reviews are more damaging than beneficial and will hurt online credibility.
NAP stands for Name Address Phone Number. It’s a term used to refer to correct company information on pages and profiles across the web.
Listings can be confused for separate companies when details are different.
The ‘name, address and phone number’ are not the only details that need to be aligned either. The term also refers to the logo, opening times, prices and much more.
A company that lists correct information on all platforms across the net sends positive signals to search engines.
Be sure your own business profiles on all websites and social media platforms are up to date, explanatory and have clear links back to the company website.
Consistency also helps your audience.
Back-links are links to a website from external websites.
Links from sites with a high spam risk can negatively affect rank.
However links from well ranked websites that are in similar industry are advantageous to page rank.
Build honest relationships with companies who have similar online values.
External links throughout content, linking to other websites benefit website rank.
Support points throughout your content by linking to external articles.
Google aspires to build an accessible web of interesting content, so be generous with links. The website will be rewarded
Social media for SEO
Although unconfirmed by search engines, there is evidence to say that social shares count when it comes to SEO.
Articles that have engagement via social media may rank higher. I’ve seen analytics that suggest it.
It makes sense because popular, worthwhile content is a ranking factor.
Summary – what SEO means
The term SEO means so many things now as there are a multitude of factors that help search engines to recognise when a website owner is provide for its users.
Guidelines give good reasons for website owners to look a website.
A good way to think of SEO basics is by splitting it into two groups, on-page SEO and off-page SEO.
The better known ranking factors are listed here:
On-page SEO factors
- Build and structure of a website.
- Security certificate.
- Written content.
- User experience.
- Website navigation.
- Mobile friendly.
- Speed of web pages.
- Clarity provided by a company.
Off-page SEO factors
- Online reviews.
- NAP consistency.
- Social media engagement.
There are lots more.
Provide a quality website for your audience, with informative answers and never be deceitful.