What is SEO?
SEO stands for “search engine optimisation.” In simple terms, it means the process of improving your website to increase its visibility when people search for products or services related to your business in Google, Bing, and other search engines.
The better visibility your pages have in search results, the more likely you are to increase traffic and attract prospective and existing customers to your business.
How does SEO work?
Search engines such as Google and Bing use bots to crawl pages on the web, going from site to site, collecting information about those pages and putting them in an index.
Think of the index like a giant library where a librarian can pull up a book (or a web page) to help you find exactly what you’re looking for at that time.
Algorithms analyse pages in the index, considering hundreds of ranking factors or signals, to determine the order pages should appear in the search results for a given query.
In our library analogy, the librarian has read every single book in the library and can tell you exactly which one will have the answers to your questions.
Search bots estimate exactly how well a website or web page can give the searcher what they’re searching for.
Unlike paid search ads, you can’t pay search engines to get higher organic search rankings, which means SEO experts must put in the work.
For example, content quality and keyword research are key factors of content optimisation, and crawlability and speed are important site architecture factors.
Why is SEO important to marketing?
SEO is a fundamental part of digital marketing because over 94% of people who use Google only look at the first page of search results, and most people only click on the first three results.
83% of people worldwide use Google, but this concept applies to every search engine. So, what do you do if your website appears on the 12th page of results instead of the first page?It is an important question because, in essence, you could be losing potential clients and sales. If users are clicking on your competitors because they appear on the first page of search results, you are not only losing sales but also market share.
There are 5 areas of importance:
Visibility and Rankings – the higher you rank, the more likely your clients will see you and ultimately increase your Click Through Rate (CTR)
Web Traffic – one of the main goals of SEO and you increase web traffic when you increase visibility and ranking.
Authority – The concept of authority is relatively new in SEO, but it’s becoming increasingly important to search engines because it’s becoming more important to web users. Essentially, authority means that your website is trustworthy, high quality, relevant, and has something to offer. The more authority your site has, the higher your ranking will be, and the more prospects will come to trust your brand.
Better User Experience – Another reason SEO is critical is because all the time you put into generating great content and optimising your site with on-page SEO improves the usability of your site, and this creates a seamless and positive customer experience.
For instance, when you take steps to make your site responsive, it will make it usable for all your mobile visitors as well as people who visit from a laptop or desktop. Similarly, by increasing your page load speed, you’ll reduce your bounce rate and encourage visitors to spend longer on your site.
Growth – In the end, the ultimate reason SEO is essential is that it can help you achieve many of your business goals. SEO can help you build better relationships with your audience, improve the customer experience, increase your authority, drive more people to your site, give you an edge over the competition, and increase conversions, which means more sales, more loyal customers, and more growth for your business.
15 ways to improve your organic SEO
- Good hosting –The foundation of the website (the servers it’s on) has a huge impact on SEO such as SiteGround and Bluehost.
- Make sure your website is indexed by Google. Your web designer should/will be familiar with this. The internal Sitemap of your website is submitted manually to ensure that your website, or pages or your website of your choosing, is listed. This must be a top priority to ensure your business is “out there” in the digital space and starting to gain organic growth.
- Permalinks– One big area that is usually overlooked (or not known about) are Permalinks – how you URLs are formatted. Listing articles as “Post name” so the date of the article is shown with no long-winded links. Useful info on this can be found here on Yoast
- Put in page titles and descriptions (metadata and meta descriptions) –this is what you’ll optimise in your SEO tool. 50-60 words on average for a title is a good reference point and 120-160 for the description.
- Use a Headings and HTML structure –ONE h1 as the title per page, post and any post type. Generally, the keyword or long-tail keyword phrase is in the heading of the post. You can use as many h2’s, h3’s, h4’s, etc from there which leads us to basic HTML structure. This is a combination of the proper heading structure and the content that accompanies it. Once you have one main h1 as the title, you can use as many h2-h6 as you’d like. Just make sure it’s structured with good hierarchy and in order. Ideally all h2s, h3’s etc will have the same styling and font size as well. Meaning you don’t have h4’s that are bigger than h2’s. Good web design plays a role in SEO.
- SEO friendly content –As we talked about earlier, there’s no exact number of words that should be on a page. 250-500 is a good average for your standard front page, services page, etc and blog articles are going to vary between 500-2500 + on average. The trick is to include your keyword intentionally in the content (in headings and throughout the content) so that it is both nicely readable (by a human) and appeases the robots.
- Use clean HTML –It’s super important to make sure your HTML is clean. Practically, this means when copy and pasting code or content from other documents, you put it in the “plain text” editor. This is again, one for your web designer to ensure best practice.
- Good site linking structure is in place – A website isn’t just thrown together. Could it be better designed to incorporate well-structured internal linking?
- Optimise loading speed –The biggest thing here is images. Make sure all are optimised for web. Google does not want to direct people to a site that takes too long to load, and they bounce away. There are also some great plugins (WordPress) which will help with automatic image compression or media library optimisation, such as Smush.
- Add “alt text” to images –This is the process of optimizing your images with keyword and Google friendly terms. This is often how Google will choose what displays in the “images” section when you Google something and it will contribute to making Google happy all around. Side note: this can be an intricate process and isn’t going to be done on every image. Particularly with adding a ton of images during the design process but at least adding alt tags on the front page and main pages (that are or will rank) is good practice.
- Make sure website is secure (SSL Certificate) –This is now a must for any website as Google doesn’t like sites that aren’t secure. You can purchase an SSL Certificate from wherever the site is hosted from. Then you can take the steps to make sure the site (and all the files and links) shows up as https (secure).
- Site mobile optimised –This is common now that with most website builders that things will align for mobile but it’s important to make sure. Sometimes mobile responsive warnings can have a negative impact to a site’s ranking.
- Additional SEO settings –This would include any schema or any business listing information. For example, you can add Footer NAP (name, address, and phone number) as a Google snippet in the footer of the site along with any important page links that may or may not be in any menu in the site. This is a big win for local SEO when you put the full company name, address, and phone number in the footer so it’s on every page.
- Website is submitted to Google Search Console – this will help you in monitor, maintain and troubleshoot your site’s presence.
- Any errors, duplicate links & are fixed –Make sure that the website is thoroughly checked for any 404 errors and ensuring that there is a page created to ensure
SEO is such a huge subject area and is vital for your marketing strategy. There’s so much to discuss in this topic such as SEO in video, SEO in social media, podcasts, infographics, email signatures, email marketing and so on.
It also takes time to grow through nurturing, this isn’t going to happen overnight. A specialist SEO company is a great start in the journey, and it should be integrated into your marketing budget.
These agency companies go into greater depth and can provide a complete SEO marketing strategy with a data driven approach such as detailed keyword research – short, medium and long tailed keywords – and competitor research.