SEO stands for “search engine optimisation”. But don’t let the name fool you, SEO is as much about understanding your customers as it is about understanding how search engines work. Sure, you will need to have an understanding of how your pages are crawled how to effectively target keywords and how to give your pages click-worthy titles, without being “click-bait”, But at a fundamental level, you need to understand your customers and what they will be looking for.
In this article, I will be going over all of this and aim to give you a well-rounded view of what exactly SEO is and how you can leverage this to skyrocket your business, get noticed and ultimately gain higher online conversions.
How search engines work
Every minute of every day, companies like Google and other search engines are continually crawling (also known as indexing) the internet. They have huge dedicated servers running constantly and look out for changes across the internet. These crawlers are often known as spiders. They will crawl your site, take a note of the content displayed and in any meta tags in your code, and can then use this later when someone searches for a term that they think you’re a good match for.
When a user types a search phrase into their search box, an algorithm is run in real-time and returns what the search engine thinks is the best match for the search term entered. There are often millions upon millions of web pages out there that contain some content based around what the user is searching for. So once all the matches are found, they are put into an order.
Understanding the algorithm
Companies like Google do not make their algorithm public, as doing this would leave their business open to abuse. However, we do know that the following is used when making the decision of how to rank your site on them:
Relevancy – This is where your site will be picked if some of your content is related to the users search term. A basic first step but it’s key to make sure the content on your site is relevant to your customers and what they will be searching for.
Authority – Just like you are more likely to use a business if people you know have used them previously and recommended them, Google looks at things like how many other sites are linking to your site (known as backlinks) This can be tricky for newly created sites and it takes time to generate enough backlinks to become authoritative.
Usefulness – It’s important that the content on your page is laid out in a fashion that is easy to consume. You may be a leader in your field and have lots of Authority. But if the content on your page is not deemed to be useful. Then this will hinder your performance in searches. Google will give your site a boost based on a “user experience score” which will look at how many people prefer to click on your links in search and how long they stay on your page compared to others.
In summary, you should focus more on creating the content your customers want to read, keep it relevant and create this in a way that is easy to consume.
How to Optimise your site for SEO
So now we understand a few points of how Google wants to rank your site (this is only the tip of the iceberg – Google uses over 200 data points to give your site a rank). Let look at some actionable steps you can take right now to improve your site’s search engine ranking:
Keyword Research – This is absolutely where you should start. Have a think about what your potential customers will be searching for and what your competitors are already putting out there and ranking for. You can use some nifty tools to see all of this quickly which I’ll link to below.
Content Marketing – Content is king. Once you’ve identified which keywords you want to rank for, you should either review your existing content, or create new content around what you want your customers to find. Great content is also shared more on social media so put in the effort with this step. It will pay off.
Link Building – It can be difficult to get the backlinks you need in the beginning; a basic step is to make sure your business is listed on all relevant directories with links to your site where applicable. You can also try reaching out to local newspapers and bloggers if you have anything newsworthy you want to share, remember to ask them to link to your site if you do. A good way to build links and traffic up is to join some forums where people are asking questions about topics you specialise in, answer their questions and link to your site there.
On-Page Optimisation – Make sure to use keywords in your page URL where appropriate, use alt tags to describe what is going on in images and make sure your page’s meta tags are updated with your keywords of choice. The page structure is also important so make sure you are using the appropriate h1, h2 & h3 tags.
Site Architecture Optimization – Backlinks aren’t the only thing that’s important with SEO, your site should also link back to itself. For example, head on over to read my top 8 reasons why you can’t afford not to have website in 2021.
Top FREE SEO tools you can start using straight away
Google Search Console – Google Search Console (formerly known as “Google Webmaster Tools”) is a free tool provided by Google and is a standard tool in the SEO’s toolkit. It provides rankings and traffic reports for top keywords and pages, and can help identify and fix on-site technical issues.
Google Ads Keyword Planner – Keyword Planner is another free tool provided by Google, as part of their Google Ads product. Even though it is designed for paid search, it can be a great tool to use for SEO since it provides keyword suggestions and keyword search volume, which can be helpful when doing keyword research.
Backlink analysis tools – There are a number of link analysis tools out there, the two primary ones being AHREFs and Majestic. Backlink analysis tools allow users to analyze which websites are linking to their own website, or the websites of competitors, and can be used to find new links during link building.
SEO platforms – There are many different SEO platforms that bring together many of the tools that SEO needs to optimize sites. Some of the most popular include Moz, BrightEdge, Searchmetrics and Linkdex. These platforms track keyword rankings, help with keyword research, identify on-page and off-page SEO opportunities, and many other tasks related to SEO.
Social media – Most social media sites don’t have a direct impact on SEO, but they can be a good tool for networking with other webmasters and building relationships that can lead to link building and guest posting opportunities.
This guide is meant as an intro to SEO, to help you gain an understanding of it and how to leverage SEO to get your business ranking higher on Google with a few simple steps. It’s the basic things that you should be doing on your site, and if done correctly could be the difference between you getting 1 click per month and 1,000 clicks in the beginning.
In future posts, I will be deep diving on some of these topics, and so much more SEO related things, so be sure to check back regularly for that.