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The Bare Bones of SEO

Starting right from the beginning

What is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimisation. It means increasing the likelihood of your content appearing at the top of search engine results (e.g. on Google). This is important for boosting traffic to your website. You might have heard a lot of different things about what you need to do to improve SEO, or been confused with some of the technical terms surrounding it. Put your worries aside and let this guide be your starting point.

1. Get familiar with Google

Understanding SEO means knowing what will put your content at the top of search results. Google takes into account the following things when ordering its results:

(note: these are not necessarily in order of importance, Google changes its metrics regularly)

Keywords

High quantities of relevant words (including synonyms) will boost your content ranking. Favoured pages include keywords in the page title, the first 100 words, page headings and the URL.

Quality of Content

Regularly updated content is favoured, as well as pages that people tend to stay on for a while.

Social Sharing

A surprising but high priority metric is how often your page has been shared online on social sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+

Internal media

Including multimedia, such as images and videos, increases the amount of time people spend on your website and improves SEO.

Links

Google likes links. An increase in links leading elsewhere pushes your content up the rankings. It’s also beneficial if other pages link to yours.

Mobile Friendliness

The vast majority of high ranking websites are optimised for mobile viewing. This is becoming more important according to Google.

Content Length

Some reports see Google disproportionately favouring long-form content (1000+ words). However this does not seem to be a high-priority, with sites of varying lengths ranking well.

Loading Speed

Loading speed certainly is important. Reports suggest 40% of users will abandon the page if it takes more than 3 seconds to load, reducing the estimated quality of your content.

Note that these are only some of the metrics Google uses to rank search results. In reality there are over 200 others. However, those above are likely to be the most important and the things you are most in control of.

2. Improve your content

Keeping in mind what Google uses to rank search results, here are some basic tips to improve the content of your web page.

Be smart with keywords

One of the most common mistakes people make with SEO is making it all about keywords. They are important, but knowing to what extent will help you immensely. Good practice is to handle key words in two stages:

  1. Research – Understand what your web page should be focused on by researching what keywords people are searching for. Use google.com to determine which phrases are most searched for in your industry
  2. Adapt – Base your content around your research so your page contains information that people are looking for. Boost the effectiveness of your keywords by including them early on in your content, in the page title, the URL, and even in alternative image text/captions

Focus on user experience

While it may seem tempting to layer your content with a million keywords, this will probably be detrimental to your SEO. Google now, more than ever, is basing its rankings on content quality. But what defines quality? In general the longer people stay on a website, the higher quality and relevance it is assumed to have. That’s why creating engaging content that is interesting, informative, inspiring or simply very useful, should be your ultimate goal.

It also means it’s a great idea to embed media like images and video into your web page. Video is especially good, because it increases time spent on web pages massively – the average user spends 88% more time on pages with video!

Make it accessible

On the other side of the same coin, making your content accessible – easy to read – for a wide audience is just as important. This might not be possible for every industry, and it may depend on who your target audience is. But as a general rule, making your content easy to read will improve how many people stick with it.

Whether you’re writing about engineering, sports or rocket science, appeal to a general audience by simplifying your sentences and keeping vocabulary as basic as possible. There are various tools online (and even built into Microsoft Word) that will tell you the Flesch Reading Ease Score of your writing. This will give you a good idea of how to adapt your writing for the average reader.

It also helps to make your content easy on the eye. Huge chunks of text are off-putting for readers, so breaking up your content with subheadings and bullet points is good practice. Doing this also provides an opportunity to simplify and reinforce your messages.

Once your content is informative and relevant, with media to back it up, you’re done with the bulk of your content. Now the focus shifts behind the scenes.

3. Optimise your web page behind the scenes

This is where things might start to feel technical and daunting, but have no fear. The jargon you see is just unreasonably complicated ways of referring to simple concepts. We’ll start with your ‘CMS’. Or, your ‘Content Management System’. This is a prime example of an unnecessarily techy phrase. It’s simply the thing you’ve used to build your website. One of the most popular of which is WordPress. Whatever you use, here are three things to ask your web developer to do to improve SEO:

Edit Permalinks

These are the page URLs, the things that appear in the web page address bar e.g. www.example.com/home. Your CMS should allow you to edit these to include your dedicated keywords. For example, if your keywords for that page are ‘straw hats’, you could change the permalink to www.example.com/straw_hats.

Social sharing buttons

As mentioned earlier, one of the most important SEO factors is the number of times your page has been shared online. Therefore, making it easy for your page viewers to do so is important. Ask your web developer to include social sharing buttons, for example for Twitter, Facebook and Google+, on every page. With just a couple of clicks your visitors will be able to share your content around the web.

Loading speed

Statistically 75% of users would not revisit a page that takes longer than 4 seconds to load. If people get frustrated with your page loading speed they probably won’t stick around for long. Without getting too techy, there are a couple of ways to increase loading speed. The first is to choose a premium hosting service, and avoid shared services that are typically slower. The second is to use a Content Delivery Network, which provides fast loading times no matter where you are in the world by accessing the closest local server.

This only scratches the surface as far as the technical side of SEO is concerned, as things can get admittedly complicated. But if you take into account the information above and implement it well, it should be more than enough to significantly boost your SEO

4. Rinse and repeat

SEO isn’t a one-time job. Remember, regularly updated content is looked upon favourably by Google. In order to keep ranking highly, it’s important to optimise all of your online content using the same steps as above.

Once you’ve done that, it might be time to start implementing a dedicated online strategy. Content marketing is a way to generate interest in your products or service indirectly, by engaging online through blogs, videos, social media posts and more. To get you started, we’ve got a guide on that too.

For now, have fun trying to improve your content and climbing up the Google ladder. If you need help with your digital marketing, our team can manage your entire online campaigns from start to finish, including web design, content marketing and SEO improvement.

How can we help you?

Let us help your company grow, contact us today to discuss your marketing needs.

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