SEO, also known as Search Engine Optimisation, is the process of improving your website in order to appear higher on search engine results. The higher you rank, the more discoverable your website becomes to people searching for your industry, products or services.
The most popular search engine is, of course, naturally, Google – which apparently processes around 8.5 billion searches every single day. Despite a vast majority of people using Google as their go-to search engine, there are dozens of other hugely popular competitors, like, Bing, Yahoo, or DuckDuckGo. The reason we bring this up is that each search engine will have its own unique set of guidelines to follow when trying to optimise for higher rankings.
Most of our tips and tricks for SEO are universal and will benefit your position in all the major search engines, but it’s important to research the guidelines for the specific search engine you wish to rank in, before spending time optimising your site. If you know that there’s a particular search engine you wish to focus on, do your research to find out what rules and guidelines they set out.
Before we dive into the main bulk of this article, we want to express that the tips shared in this blog post only scratch the surface when it comes to SEO. Some complicated elements require a more advanced understanding of SEO and website coding. So, if you’re not 100% confident with what you’re doing – we’d recommend reaching out to a specialist or using an SEO agency. If you feel as though this might be the best route for you, here are some of the top resources available online for delving deeper into the world of SEO:
Search Engine Land: https://searchengineland.com/guide/what-is-seo
That being said, there are also quite a few basic steps that any SEO beginner can implement to help improve rankings on Google and other search engines – and that’s what we’ll be looking at in this article. We’re going to be looking at 5 simple elements that you can improve to boost your website’s rankings. Let’s dive in…
Research And Use Relevant Keywords
Keywords are the building blocks of successful SEO and one of the main focus points for SEO strategies. The reason behind this is that when people search for the thing they’re looking for, search engines will use the wording to match them with relevant content. So, you need to make sure that you’re using the same wording as your target audience in your online content. Another way of putting it – is keywords!
For most businesses, target keywords would be focused on what you do and where you do it (your location). For example, a car mechanics’ target keywords might be “car mechanics Southampton or “vehicle repair Southampton”. This is because it covers what they do and where they do it. This is enough to cover the basics of what your target audience might be searching for.
If you’re not sure where to start with keywords, there are plenty of free tools available online which can help with finding relevant ones for your business (we’ll list a few below for reference). However, there are some basics you can do yourself to get started.
You know your business better than anyone else, so brainstorm any relevant words and phrases that you can think of. Write a list of any words that relate to what you do, how you do it, and where you do it.
Each URL on your website can rank separately on search engines, so we’d recommend creating a separate keyword list for each of your main service/product pages, as well as your homepage. These will form your basic keyword lists.
Keyword Research Tools
As we mentioned, as well as coming up with a list of your own, you can also use some free online tools to determine keywords. These online tools use data from Google and other search engines to determine popular keywords that are linked to your particular services and/or products. These are useful as they will highlight keywords that you yourself might not have thought about but your target audience are actively using. Much like anything in marketing, having your efforts backed up by real data will also bring the best results. Here are some of our favourite free tools:
Page Titles And Meta Descriptions
Once you’ve determined your keywords list, you will then want to pepper them into your actual on-page content.
We’ll start with the page Meta Title and Meta Description. As you can see from the image below, this is the title and description that appears for your page, when showing up in the search results.
Depending on how your website is built, you may be able to edit the meta description and title directly from your website control panel (CMS) or in your SEO plugin if you’re using one. Otherwise, you may need to get a developer involved to make changes.
What we’re looking to achieve here is to insert some of our chosen keywords into the title and description of the page, but in a ‘natural’ way.
Your meta title should be between 50-60 characters long. Any longer and the search engines will cut off the end of the title and what is displayed might not make sense to the user. The page title and description are the only things shown in the search results for readers to go off of – so we’re aiming to clearly indicate what the page is and what it’s for. This helps potential readers have a better understanding of what they’d be clicking on, but also clearly tells the search engines what keywords to rank for.
Pro-tip for meta titles: try to include the chosen keyword as close to the beginning of the title as possible, and end the title with your business/brand name to keep the branding prominent.
The meta description, on the other hand, appears below the title in search results and is a short paragraph used to summarise the content of the page. Similar to the meta title, search engines limit the number of characters that can be used. You get 160 characters to use in the description, so choose your wording carefully. Try to naturally fit some of your chosen keywords into the description but avoid ‘keyword stuffing’ as Google may see this as spammy behaviour and penalise your rankings.
Optimise Page Content
Once you’ve got your page titles and meta descriptions created and optimised, the next focus is to optimise your page content. Our keyword brainstorm should have provided you with a list of related terms that should all be included.
We need to then weave these keywords into our page content in an organic way, ensuring the page is focused on reader intent. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes; what would they want to read after finding your site from the target search term? Have you answered their query and provided them with enough useful information for them to make a decision to use your services/product? Again, you’ll know your business better than anyone, so we won’t tell you what or how to write – however, the important thing is to organically include as many of your keywords as you can, so as to make your page as discoverable as it can be.
There are several various elements to a web page that can affect your SEO, with the main components being:
- Header Tags – H1, H2, H3
- Body Content – the copy on the page
- Images & Alt text – the images you use to support your copy or article
Consider the heading and subheadings on the page. You can even optimise these by including your chosen keywords where it is natural to do so. Use a proper hierarchy for your heading tags starting with 1 single H1 tag to give an overview of the whole page, then H2 and H3 tags can be used to highlight important headings throughout the rest of the page.
Create written content that accurately describes and promotes your service/product. Aim to use all of your keywords where it is natural to do so. Don’t worry about volumes or specific instances of the terms – just write as naturally as possible and try to use the terms that you identified in your research. This will optimise your page tenfold.
Images can also be optimised. Web browsers use the image ‘alt text’ to inform search engines what the particular image is about, as well as aiding visitors who can’t see the images on the page, such as screen-readers.
As with most of our content tips, when writing Alt Text, try to describe the image as accurately as you can, adding in your keywords where possible.
If done well, Google and other search engines will now have a stronger understanding of what your website is about, the first stepping stone to ranking higher for particular keywords. Your page will become visible for a wider array of terms and you will be reaching a larger cross set of customers which should aid awareness (and generate more leads and sales from your website).
Want to learn more about Alt tags? Here’s a useful blog from Moz.
Link building is an essential element of driving visibility for competitive keywords. The bad news is link building can be a long-winded process before seeing any results. It’s also built up quite a bit of a bad reputation over the years as people have tried to find loopholes and shortcuts to link-building, meaning Google and other search engines have had to keep a close eye on the types of links your website receives.
Receiving links from spammy websites or ‘link-farms’ can seriously hurt your organic rankings, and occasionally see your website blacklisted by Google completely. On the other hand, developing and creating a strong network of links from trustworthy sources can boost your organic rankings to the next level.
Try to focus on gaining links from sources within a similar industry to yours and reach out to industry-leading blogs/websites to ask if you can provide some content in return for a link to your website. There are other link-building methods but we won’t go into them too much here, we recommend reading a few blog posts on link-building if you want to learn more:
- The Beginner’s Guide To Link Building – moz.com
- Link Building For SEO: The Definitive Guide (2022) – backlinko.com
- A Beginners Guide To Link Building – ahrefs.com
Technical SEO and Site Health
Optimising the content on your website is a good way to get started with SEO, but an equally important part of SEO is having a technically sound website. A lot of the tips we’ll mention in this section won’t be visible to visitors of your website, as most of it goes on in the background, but it will benefit your SEO from search engines’ perspectives and give visitors a better experience on your site, even if they don’t notice it.
Fix Broken links:
Having internal and external links is important for your website, it lets visitors seamlessly navigate from one section to another. Although, occasionally, links might be added incorrectly or a change of URL might mean the link breaks, resulting in a 404 error page. Ensuring your website has no broken links will help keep your site healthy and functional. A big bonus in search engines’ eyes.
Again, there are several free tools online to check your site for broken links, but we highly recommend Screaming Frog. They have a free version of the crawling software which highlights a whole host of useful data such as broken links, multiple H1 tags, missing image alt text and much much more!
Page Load Speed:
Optimising your website for load speed is becoming a vital part of any SEO strategy. Pages that meet a certain threshold for load time can benefit from a boost in search engine rankings. Google itself has said that all websites should aim to load in under 3 seconds. Any longer and customers will lose interest and return to the search results before even giving your website a second thought. You can use some free tools to determine how long your website takes to load, as well as a list of suggestions on how to improve the load speed, our favourite is gtmetrix.com but Google also offer its own page speed insights tool.
The way people browse the internet has changed dramatically over the last decade, with mobile phones now being the number one device used to browse the internet. 62% of all website traffic now comes from mobile devices, and this is expected to keep increasing. Having a website that works just as well on mobile as it does on a desktop is vital to ranking well. Google will even penalise sites that don’t have a mobile-friendly website.
A mobile-friendly website needs to have easy-to-read text, clear buttons, a vertical structure, as well as mobile-friendly navigation – to help visitors browse through the website with ease.
Is your website mobile friendly? Use Google’s free online tool to check: https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly
BONUS TIP: Register With Google Search Console.
Google Search Console is a brilliant tool. It will analyse your site and provide feedback on how you can improve your search rankings. You can see what keywords your site gets traffic from and use this data to continue optimisation on your website.
For every business owner, getting your website in front of your target audience is high up on the priorities list. The truth is; in order to do this, you need to follow and adhere to Google’s (and other) search engine guidelines. Much like social media algorithms, if you’re not keeping up with the latest ways in which these platforms are working, your prospects just aren’t going to see all your amazing content.
However, as you’ve also just learnt, there are loads of really easy things you can do RIGHT NOW to boost the discoverability of your website. All it takes is just a little bit of understanding of the lingo and background in the technical stuff. Hopefully, this blog has given you more than enough in terms of how to get started, as well as links to pages where you can even further your SEO understanding. Good luck!
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