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In this article we will cover a beginner’s guide to Search Engine Optimisation. Answering questions such as: What is it? How does it differ from other online strategies? How do I do it?

In the world of online marketing there are so many acronyms it can all get a bit confusing. SEO, SEM, PPC just to name a few! This article aims to clear up some of the confusion you may be facing and give you a good idea of when you should be focusing on SEO.

What is SEO?

Firstly, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. It’s a catch all term used to group together different methods of making your website more visible and relevant to search engines. Doing this will improve how high up you rank on any given search engine. The closer you can get to the top of the first page, the more clicks your website will get.

SEO differs from SEM (Search Engine Marketing, also referred to as PPC or Pay Per Click Advertising) because you cannot directly pay the search engine to be shown at the top of search results. SEO and SEM are also referred to as Organic and Paid results respectively.

Another key difference is that SEO is not a quick and easy process. It can, and will, take months of consistent effort to begin to see your website begin to climb the ranks of the search results. SEM on the other hand is a quick process. You collect keywords, create your advert and then compete for the top spot. To get more information on how to improve your Pay Per Click campaign, read this article about Google Ads.

So, how do you actually go about Search Engine Optimisation?

The First Step – Keyword Research

Keyword research is up there as the most important aspect of SEO! Without using the words that your customers are using to find things within your market, they will never find your website and you’ll find it very hard to rank highly in the results. For more information about keywords click here, and for an online tool which will give you lots of helpful information and ideas for keywords, click here.

For a brief description, keywords are the words in which your customers use in the search bar to find different things on the internet. Your website will be ranked higher the more accurate your list of keywords is and the more efficiently you use them. A brilliant way to use keywords within your website is to make it easy for search engines to find them. For example, when writing descriptions of your services or products make sure your headers are clear, concise, and use the words you think your customers would use to find those products.

Even though SEO is controlled by a computer, you still want to write your content for human eyes. Google will actually penalize you if you were to repeat keywords over and over again just for the sake of it, so make sure you always have the end user in mind!

­The Second Step – Competitor Research

Secondly, you’ll want to check out all of the businesses that are competing with you within your market niche. Really take time to look through their websites and discover how they’re structuring their content. Is it all focused around certain keywords or themes? Have they prioritised certain types of content such as blogs? Or are they more focused on videos and infographics? Make a note of the common themes you see and head on to step Three.

The Third Step – Design or redesign your website layout and content

Now you have taken time to discover what keywords your customers are using and what sort of content has been popular for your competitors, it’s time to take a look at your own website and optimise it for that content.

For example, let’s say you run an organic fruit and veg business and you’ve just started to sell your produce online. Your competitor research has found that similar businesses have lots of content on how their produce is farmed. You could have a think about writing a blog on what goes on at your farm and how brilliant your ethically sourced produce is. Make sure to use the keywords your customers are using in the blog and lay it out clearly so the search engines understand what it is you’re writing about!

It’s important to stay frequent with your content. How frequently you should update your content will vary from industry to industry, but a good baseline is a minimum of one time per week. It doesn’t always have to be in the form of a blog post though. You can upload photographs of something that has happened in the business, or a video of a team member explaining something you think your customers would like to learn more about. Be sure to describe these bits of media as accurately as you can!

The Fourth Step – The Technical Stuff

There are some behind the scenes factors that will greatly affect how well your website ranks for SEO.

Google now ranks every website on how well it performs on a mobile device. Did you know over half of all searches are done from mobiles? Your website must be created with a responsive design. It should automatically format the website for easy viewing on any screen size and speed in mind. You could have the best content in your market but have awful SEO results if these two points aren’t addressed! This step may be difficult to carry out yourself if you don’t have much technical know how. It’s advised to hire a specialist to look after this for you. Outsourcing does mean an initial cost, however, further down the line when your website is ranked number one and you’re leading your market, the cost will seem more than worth it!

Link Building is another very important step. The prior link will give you plenty of information on how to create content with effective links built in. The key points are that you should link to websites that contain more knowledge about the topic you’re writing about; and you want to gather backlinks from other websites to improve your overall domain score!

A great tool to help you with the foundations of SEO is Yoast SEO Plugin for WordPress
We wrote a article about the plugin recently that provides a complete overview. You can read that here

Conclusion

Search Engine Optimisation is a process which you want to pay constant attention to. Always keep it in mind when creating content. It can take 5+ months to start seeing tangible results so don’t be disheartened when the results come slowly!

Outsourcing this work is a common tactic used by many websites. Make sure that the short term cost won’t be too much to handle before the long term payoff!

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