by James Anderson | 26 Aug 2017
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. The practice of SEO is therefore to optimise one’s website to be as appealing as possible to search engines, like Google. This is very important because as everyone knows, the internet is huge and there are many websites competing for people’s attention. SEO is about making sure that you appear in the top-end of the search results when someone is searching for your website, or a product or service you offer.
Now that you broadly understand what SEO is, let’s discuss 7 factors which are fundamental to good SEO.
The foundation of a good website’s SEO plan will always start with keyword research. Once you’ve decided on your keywords, you can begin creating content around them. The aim is to make search engines recognise that your website ranks highly for certain keywords and should therefore rank your website highly in the search results when someone searches using those terms. Therefore it is important to try and rank for keywords relevant and important to your website.
There is a definite strategic element to this however. For example, if your website sells organic candles, you probably won’t want to make ‘candles’ as one of your keywords, even though it may seem intuitive to do so. This is because you have to think about the intent of someone searching the term ‘candles’ – they may simply be looking for information about different types of candles, or even how to make them! In contrast, using a keyword like ‘buy organic candles’ has a much larger chance of the search converting into a sale, since there is clear purchase intent in the search term.
Creating long-tail keywords is also effective at achieving sales conversions as they are more specific. For example, creating content focused on the long-tail keyword ‘Buy organic candles on a budget’, means that when someone types that term into a search engine, you have a much better chance of ranking highly in the search results, which increases the likelihood of that person clicking through to your website and making a purchase.
Search engines use links to help determine the ranking of your website. Broadly, these links come under two categories: internal links and external links. External links are when other websites link to pages on your website. This can be difficult to achieve as your website will need to add direct value to whomever is linking to your website (or their audience), otherwise they have no reason to link to you. For the most part, this is not something to focus on – if you produce consistently good content and/or provide high quality service, then the external links will come naturally.
Internal links, however, you have more direct control over. Your website gets an overall search ranking from search engines, but your individual pages are ranked as well. This means that if you have certain pages with particularly important content for your audience, it would be good to have those pages ranking well, so that people find them. This is helped by using links from other content on your website, which refer the readers to your most important content. Search engines recognise this as an indicator that wherever is being linked to is important, which is reflected positively in the page’s rankings. It is important to make these internal links as natural as possible – throwing in lots of internal links out of context will be picked up and viewed negatively by both search engines and your audience, which will not help your overall SEO.
Create unique content
Search engines reward unique content and penalise repeat content. If your content is found to be replicated elsewhere on the web, this can severely affect your website’s search rankings, as the search engines think you are copying content. One should never copy content from elsewhere online either way, because it could violate copyright law and land you in a lot more trouble. Even if you own the other piece of content (for example, if you had multiple websites), it is a good idea to recreate the content on your other sites, if relevant, because replicating it exactly will still be seen poorly in the eyes of search engines.
Onsite audit of SEO
When optimising SEO for your website, it is good to do a general SEO audit to determine what needs to be done. There are lots of details which can contribute positively towards your website’s rankings when addressed properly. These include, but are not limited to length of content and headings, title tags, meta tags, H1 tags, images and links.
Thankfully, there are some tools which make this task much easier. WordPress plugins like Yoast SEO come highly recommended and will walk you through all the elements needed to be optimised on your website and how it is best to do that.
Website speed is also a factor in your website’s SEO, as it is something which search engines take into consideration when ranking your website. Perhaps even more importantly though, is the fact that people are becoming less and less tolerant of slow websites and are increasingly likely to leave out of simple frustration if things are taking too long.
To combat this, it’s advisable to use a tool like Pingdom, which indicates areas which are causing the website to load more slowly. Once you have identified any problem areas, you can look at addressing them.
Don’t engage in blackhat behaviour
One of the cardinal sins of SEO, is engaging in what is known as ‘Blackhat behaviour’. This is a term used to describe actions some people take in order to falsely boost their rankings. The classic example of this is buying links, that is, paying people in exchange for them mass linking to your website in order to boost you in the search rankings. The problem is this tactic focuses on search engines, not human audiences. While legitimate SEO tactics are based on what search engines want to see, the idea is that those are based around creating great content and customer experiences, as opposed to those used by Blackhats, which have the sole intention of generating large volumes of traffic to the website, regardless of the quality it provides for users.
This was fairly effective at one point, but search engines have become much more sophisticated since then, and are very good at detecting when this is done. Engaging in blackhat activities can result in your website being delisted from search engines, which would be devastating to your business.
SEO is as much of an art as it is a science and you will gain a flair for it as you practice it. It’s also good to bear in mind that your SEO for your website is never truly over – it’s something which you need to constantly be working on and improving as necessary. Many people have a tendency to create content loaded to the brim with SEO keywords and links, which can make content come across as contrived and unrelatable to any audience, so it’s important that all your content is natural and has the customer’s needs in mind.
Remember, the internet is a dynamic place so always keep an eye out for any updates or changes to good SEO methodology and make sure to integrate them into your own practices. If you keep the above factors in mind and apply with them with savvy strategies you are unlikely to go wrong!
James Anderson – Digital Marketer and former student at NZIE