The goal of this article is to give a brief overview of the basics of SEO. It is an ideal guide for website and business owners who want to do their own SEO – or anyone who would like introductory knowledge on the topic.
Most forms of digital marketing can be divided into two main categories, paid marketing and organic /“free” marketing. SEO is the term for organic search engine marketing – as opposed to paid search engine marketing (often called PPC/pay-per-click marketing).
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) refers to actions and strategies that are implemented to get more traffic to a website from unpaid organic search results. SEO involves understanding the search intent of your audience (what are they looking for) and delivering this in a format that search engine crawlers can find and understand.
The Difference Between White Hat SEO and Black Hat SEO
You might have heard of the terms “White Hat SEO” and “Black Hat SEO”. White Hat SEO refers to SEO techniques and best practices that follow the rules and standards specified by search engines. White hat SEO aims to add value to users by delivering the content they’re searching for.
Black Hat SEO involves techniques to try and trick or “spam” search engines to gain an unfair advantage. Black hat SEO strategies can cause your website to be penalised or even removed from search results, and for this reason, it’s best to stay away from them. Black Hat SEO aims to deceive users into visiting your website.
Why Invest in SEO?
You might be wondering why you should even bother investing in an SEO strategy when you can buy ad space and utilise paid marketing strategies. In our opinion, it’s always better to use both paid and organic marketing, as putting all your eggs in one basket can set you up for failure if one of those strategies fails.
Furthermore, SEO (and most organic strategies) provide an amazing vehicle for long-term growth – which supplements all your earnings from paid advertising. This means it’s an amazing investment for long-term growth.
If that hasn’t convinced you, maybe this will: The top three organic results on search engine results pages (SERP) make up a whopping 65% of all clicks. In addition to this, close to 60% of all web traffic comes from Google’s organic search results. If done correctly, SEO has the potential to get your website to the top of SERP and provide consistent traffic to your website.
You also don’t need to be an SEO expert to be able to improve your search rankings. Understanding the basics can go a long way – read on and we’ll show you the basics of SEO and how you can start tackling SEO as a beginner.
What is SEO and How Does it Work?
SEO consists of many sub-activities and strategies such as link building, technical website audits, keyword research, and content writing. Organic marketing, in general, is “free”, but it has a high cost in terms of time investment and it can take a long time to start seeing the fruits of your labour – particularly for SEO. The goal is always to increase the organic traffic to your website from the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
When it comes to search engines, most SEO professionals direct most of their time and effort at Google – but why is this?
Google is the world’s most used search engine, with 92% of the global web search engine market attributed to them alone. DuckDuckGo, Microsoft Bing, Baidu, and Yandex are alternative search engines but for the purpose of this article, we will only be focusing on SEO with Google in mind.
Basic SEO Setup
The first step of SEO is to make sure people (and search engines) can actually see your website. If they cannot see you, how are they going to support you? To do this, you need to find and submit your sitemap on Google Search Console. A sitemap (or XML sitemap) is a map of all the pages on your website that allows Google to see and track your website along with all of its pages.
Once you are able to drive traffic to your site, the next crucial step is to keep those eyes on your page. This can be done by creating content that isn’t just optimised to please Google’s algorithm – but is appealing and valuable to your customers. In doing so, you hope to attract the right audience to your website and eventually build their trust and become an authority or useful resource in your industry.
If you stand by the saying “all publicity is good publicity”, you may need to change tactics because that just isn’t true for SEO. All traffic is not created equal. If you get SEO wrong, such as by investing in Black Hat techniques, you can damage your reputation or be penalised by Google, and that’s worse than not doing SEO at all. So it’s best to make sure that you get the basics just right – and actually put in the work to add value to your users.
Content Writing for SEO
We’ve already mentioned that content is important, but what is “content”? In SEO terms, content is anything you create to attract and build a customer base and to encourage customer interaction. It can be anything from your website to blogs, emails or podcasts, and much more.
Content informs searchers of what you offer and explains how this helps them and why they need your product. However, to reap the benefits you have to produce high-quality original content. Great content has a clear message and a single call to action (CTA) and should be found on a clutter-free website that is run with effective SEO techniques.
If you provide the right kind of content, people will spend more time on your website, increasing your click-through rate and search engine rankings.
How do you write great content? Your content should be written after doing “keyword research” – so that you write about something that people are actually searching for. Your writing should be clear and concise: What makes you exceptional compared to your competition? Why is your business the best solution to your customer’s problem? You want to communicate your unique value, and guide them toward taking action – without coming across as “pushy” or giving a hard sales pitch.
Avoid stuffing your content with keywords, not only is this transparent, it doesn’t add value to your users and won’t do much for your rankings. Instead, focus on writing content that is valuable to your audience, and incorporate your keywords organically.
Website Optimization for SEO
Optimizing your website and its content will make it easier for search engine crawlers to find, crawl, and rank your website, which will allow people to find you. There are a few things you can do to make your site easier for crawlers to navigate and index.
Let’s have a look at a few things that you should optimize:
- Keywords – choose the top keywords that people are searching for and you want to rank for, keyword research tools are helpful for this, but you can also use Google’s ‘related searches’ and suggestions to guide your choices. You should then generate content or product pages for each of these keywords.
- HTML tags – Your keyword should ideally be part of your title, H1 heading, some of your subheadings, and the first paragraph of your content. It should also be used in a few paragraphs throughout your content (the general rule of thumb is to use it no more than 10 times to avoid being flagged by crawlers). Also, be sure to use only one H1 and title tag on each page to make the topic clear.
- XML sitemaps – There are tons of fantastic plugins for building sitemaps. Sitemaps are important because they help crawlers find your website and all of its pages. If there are pages that you don’t want crawlers to see, simply add a ‘nofollow’ instruction to those pages.
- Internal links – An Internal link refers to a link on your website that points to another page on your website. For example, if you are writing a blog post about one of your products, you might want to link to the product page on your website to make it easier for readers to purchase your product. These links help increase the overall value of your site.
- External links – An external link is a link to another website. External links can be useful for supplying more information to users and crawlers as well as signaling trustworthiness by “citing” your sources with a link.
Conclusion: Applying The Basics of SEO to Your Business
We hope that this article will help you to understand and start applying simple yet effective SEO strategies. Implementing a few basic SEO practices (such as submitting your sitemap on Google Search Console and writing great content) can do a lot to increase traffic to your website, build your customer base and raise your profit.
The great thing about SEO is that the basics that you need to get started are easy to understand (you don’t have to be a computer whiz) and SEO doesn’t have to cost you a cent (if you write your own content and use free SEO tools). The main cost is that it can be a hefty time investment – and it can take a while to see any results – which is why we recommend investing in other revenue streams first, that can deliver short-term conversions, before investing in SEO.
In general, remember to choose an objective that matches what you’re trying to achieve on the platform, consider how you can use its targeting features to reach your ideal audience, and always consider the intent of the platform in relation to your advertising strategy.
This article was brought to you by Syte. We’re a specialist e-commerce and lead generation digital marketing agency dedicated to driving up your bottom line.