SEO for beginners

In Content Marketing, Small Business Tips, Website Design by Loren NallyLeave a Comment

There’s common thinking that SEO is hard. In all honesty, it really isn’t. It just comes down to knowing what to do. There’s an easy process you can follow that will get a lot of the job done.

If you don’t already know, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. It’s about optimising your web pages so that they show up in organic search engines like Google.

Google is by far the most popular search engine around but don’t discount the others. Bing in particular has increased its share over the last few years thanks to its increasing use in Microsoft products, but for obvious reasons, we want to focus on optimising for Google – then we’ll naturally optimise for the others as well.

We’ve all heard lots about the Google Algorithm – there are a LOT of different factors used to rank web pages – over 200 in fact. It’s a bit like a secret recipe – no-one quite knows for sure but we have a pretty good idea at what’s included.

Google’s aim has always been to serve the best content for its users. Those websites that play by the rules and have valuable content available for their viewers will be rewarded with a better ranking.

You need to start with great content and then you optimise that great content. So how do we do that?

KEYWORDS

Yes, keywords are still the top way to optimise your web pages. But it’s important that you’re using the right words – the words and phrases that are both relevant for your website AND that your audience are actually using.

  1. Start by making a list of keywords relevant to your business. Don’t just stick to single words – it’s better if you can create a list with multiple word phrases. 
  2. Next, add some additional keywords like location if appropriate.
  3. Build out your keyword list further. Google can give you some ideas too. Type in one of your keyword phrases and as you type, Google will start to show some predicted alternatives for you. Towards the top of the search page, you’ll also see a section called ‘People also ask’. This is really useful as it provides some clues to what people are actually typing in. Additionally, if you scroll to the bottom of the search results page, you’ll see ‘related searches’ which will give you even more ideas.

There area many ways to find some good keywords and phrases to use for your optimisation just doing this exercise. There are lots more ways but I’m not going into that here (we’d be here all day and this post would be 5 feet long!).

When you have your list of keyword phrases, you need to start optimising. First, let’s look at the things you should do on your web pages themselves – what we call on-page optimisation.

ON-PAGE OPTIMISATION

There are lot of different things you can do on your actual website, but let’s just look at how to use that lovely list of keywords you’ve created.

A rule you should stick to is to dedicate one unique keyword phrase per page and use it as best you can in the following places on the page.

Page URL – First, the page URL – the actual web address for that page. Google will look for keywords within your URL which is its first step to understanding what your page is about so using relevant keywords within your URL will help.

Page title – After looking at the page URL, Google will look to the next level down, the page title. This is the wording you see on the tab in your browser. It’s often automatically generated from whatever you call the page or post but isn’t always the best format. It can be edited within the metadata (see below). Again, using relevant keywords like the unique one you’ve selected all goes to help explain to Google what the page is about and helps Google decide how it should rank the page.

Headings – This could be confused with the page title but it relates to the html code used to produce your web page. Generally, this is simply the headline on your page – like the page title, this is often automatically generated from whatever you call the page or post. In reality, it’s a H1 tag – the most important of the H tags websites use.

Copy – Next comes the rest of the copy. Try and get your chosen unique keyword into your actual text. But don’t be tempted to overdo it. I’d suggest working to a keyword density (the number of times your keyword phrase appears) of around 3%.

That means, if you have 100 words on your page, 3 of them can be your chosen keyword.

Copy is a great opportunity to get similar keyword phrases in too. It’s best to stick to a set of unique terms for each page if possible. So in this post, I could use SEO for beginners as well as beginners SEO.

Images – There are some simple ways you can also optimise your images for keywords.

What? How? It’s an image!

It sounds bonkers doesn’t it but you CAN add keywords to an image.

First, the filename. Aha! Simple, huh? Google will read the names of any images you have on your website so it makes sense to leverage this for your unique keyword too.

But we don’t stop there – you can also add ‘alt’ text (alternative text). This is primarily to provide a description of your image so that if it doesn’t load, it’s clear to the user what the image is. Additionally, it’s used by screen-reading functionality to help visually impaired users.

The best practice here is to add a short description – not just a single word – but ensure that you include your chosen keyword. Then it works for screen-reading, image load issues AND it’ll help Google to rank the page the image appears on.

Don’t forget, Google has a specific image search too that your optimised images can appear on. Often, images will appear on the ‘All’ search results page. But only if you’ve optimised them properly.

Metadata – This is the more hidden elements for your page. It’s edited in the admin area of your website. Usually, websites with a CMS (content management system) like WordPress, Shopify, Squarespace etc. will have areas where you can edit this information.

The main things you’ll want to look for to optimise are the page title (see above) sometimes referred to as the SEO page title as it shows the same information in search results and the meta description.

Google search results example for metadata
Here, I’ve optimised for the term “Instagram bio link tutorial”.

As you can see above, the SEO page title is the bit in blue. The meta description is the paragraph underneath. The line at the top is the URL itself. All 3 areas feature my chosen keyword phrase.

It’s a fairly new page so it’s going to take a while to get a ranking, but the foundations are set. I’m a big WordPress fan and find that the free Yoast plugin works brilliantly for optimising metadata like this.

OFF-PAGE OPTIMISATION

Optimising your pages outside of your site is also something you should be looking at. Basically, it’s anything that promotes your webpage on another website or platform.

In fact, you’re probably already doing off-page optimisation without realising.

Really?

Yep. Even something as simple as social media will be helping your webpages to rank organically in Google. It generally comes down to linking and ‘backlinks’ in particular. Mostly people think that this is just other websites that have a link back to your site, but there’s a bit more to it than that.

Google and other search engines will take the off page signals it finds for your webpages and use it to help rank your page. Those off page signals should ideally be from authoritive, trusted and relevant sources. So stay away from spammy sites that offer you links or the dreaded ‘link exchange’.

Guest Posts – You may have heard that guest posting on blogs helps with your SEO – it does. But keep your business niche in mind and only collaborate with blogs that have content in a similar or related area to you. That will get you the best result.

Social media – Social media like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter will all provide links back to your website.

But there’s more.

Do you produce a podcast? That too will have links to your web content.

Then there’s reviews and comments on blogs and forums.

They all count. Just make them considered, quality actions.


Ultimately, the best approach is to have good quality content on your website. Content that is useful and engaging. If you do that, and follow the simple steps above, then you can’t go far wrong.

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