SEO for beginners
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is something of a buzzword these days. More and more of our clients are focusing on where their site ranks in Google. This is great, but often a mild panic sets in when their site is not immediately listed at the very top of the first results page.
Their natural inclination is to reach for Google AdWords in an attempt to boost their SEO. For sure this has its place. But before going for the nuclear option, we always try to steer them toward optimising the content on their site first. By putting in place some simple strategies, they can really make a difference to their site's ranking and for a lot less cost than an AdWords campaign.
We are not a specialist SEO company, and there are certainly lots of those around. However, we've found it better to educate our clients in SEO and then let them manage it for themselves. From our experience, the content owner is always the best placed person to get SEO right.
Find, index, rank repeat
Put most simply, SEO is about enabling a search engine like Google to find, index and rank your website. Google is trying to be the best product it can, and so it's looking to serve up a set of results that best match a user's needs.
What you are looking to do is give everyone's favourite search engine a helping hand. By optimising your site you are increasing the chance for Google to find it, and rank it. So the better the optimisation, the higher the ranking? Well, sort of.
Defence against the dark arts
At this point it's worth pointing out that SEO is a pretty complex business. The playing field is always changing, particularly as Google constantly evolves how it indexes and ranks sites. Similarly, a quick, ahem, Google search, will show you that there's plenty of impenetrable advice out there. It's no coincidence that search engine optimisation is known as a â€˜dark art'.
To get you on the right track, we recommend you use a plug-in on your website to manage your SEO. This will provide you with lots of useful tools to ensure that your pages are optimised as much as possible. If, like lots of organisations, you use Wordpress to power your site, then Yoast is a really good option for this.
It's worth considering SEO as part of an inter-connected strategy. So before sitting down to write an article or news update for your website, think about some keywords that summarise what you are writing about and are likely to be searched for.
You can then use these terms throughout your article in what's known as â€˜on-page SEO'. By doing so you're ensuring that you're optimising every aspect of your page and its content. Similarly, consider what the
On-page SEO is the stuff that you can do to your content and pages to help Google index and rank your website. On-page SEO is really very simple and consists of several key areas:
- Title tags - these are the page titles you see for websites in Google. Title tags are one of the elements that Google will trawl for keywords, so keep them short, descriptive and include keywords
- Meta descriptions - Meta descriptions are the short captions that appear below a title tag. Well-crafted meta descriptions are going to encourage more users to click on your pages
- Content - Sounds kind of obvious doesn't it, but well-crafted, readable content and messaging is a crucial element of on-page SEO. Whilst keywords are an important element, Google is also interested in how relevant your pages are to a user
- Images - Images are the unsung hero of on-page SEO. Optimise your site's images by giving them search engine friendly filenames, which Google trawls
- Alt tags - These are a piece of text that describes what is in an image. These are super important for accessibility, as screen readers will read alt tag descriptions. In on-page SEO terms, Google will trawl alt tags and these will support the ranking of your page
Off page SEO
Off-page SEO is the skillful art of driving traffic to your website by establishing its relevance and authority. This is achieved by having other reputable sources linking back to your website. In that way you are being validated by an already established authority, and search engines like that. Off-site SEO is also driven by any other activity that points users to your site, for example content shares on social media.
One useful way to keep an eye on the effectiveness of your SEO is to use Google Search Console. This tool will help you monitor the performance of your site and help you to optimise your content further. It's a great source of data on your site's SEO and one that we'd recommend you take a look at.
There are lots of tactics that you can add to your SEO arsenal. Take some time at the outset to create a set of keyword terms for a piece of content, then you are able to make sure that they are woven into each aspect of your SEO.
By taking a strategic approach you are putting in place a smooth SEO process for your content. This will eliminate the time drain that is trying to retro-fit your work in an effort to try and force optimisation. But, the real test here are your users. If your content is engaging and your users enjoy reading it, then it's good SEO.
Similarly, try to establish strong, credible relationships with other like-minded websites, social media influencers, articles and blogs. Be careful to try and choose those that are seen as being most relevant and knowledgeable to the topic or industry you are in. By doing so you stand a far better chance of improving your ranking.
We hope this guide really helps you to understand the basics of SEO and in turn improves your rankings. Search engine optimisation is a complex beast, and it's something that's ever evolving. Our advice is to build simple SEO into your processes and you'll start to reap the rewards.