The Beginner’s Guide to SEO
Search Engines are truly a mind-blowing concept. By simply typing in a few words or phrases, search engines, such as Google or Bing, can bring back thousands of results to provide you with the information, answers, products, or services that you’re looking for.
But while a quick search will offer you a vast number of different websites, most people will only utilize the first page of results to meet their needs. And that can be a huge problem for your website if it isn’t optimized for search engines.
That’s where SEO comes in. SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the process by which you improve your website’s rankings in a search engine’s results by optimizing your site for the searches that your potential customers would be making.
Utilizing SEO is how you can get your website to the front page of a relevant Google search.
Making use of SEO is vital as it allows people to find you via a web search and can lead to them making use of your product/service. If people can’t find you using a search engine, however, you will likely miss out on an opportunity – and they might find your competitor, instead.
SEO is constantly changing, becoming more and more complex with each passing year. That’s why a crucial part of making the most of SEO is to be continuously learning and staying well-informed.
But with so few people making use of SEO, even using the basics can be enough to get you ahead of the competition.
What places a website higher in Search Engine rankings?
There are many factors that search engines use to judge websites and order their search pages. Google alone uses over 200 different ranking components – many of which are kept secret.
However, to perform well in SEO, there are three main features which all websites must possess:
- Valuable and relevant content
- Search engine friendliness
- Strong authority and trust
Website visitors see these requirements, known as White Hat SEO, as being very important when visiting a site, and so search engines primarily rank websites on these three factors. That also means that by prioritizing these factors, you’re killing two birds with one stone!
Just keep in mind that you should stay away from unethical practices – also known as Black Hat SEO – to increase your rankings. These shady practices are used to trick search engines and quickly increase your rankings. Examples include hidden text, keyword stuffing, and link manipulation.
However, while Black Hat SEO tactics may be temporarily effective, they will quickly lead to your website being penalized or even banned by search engines, defeating the purpose of using them in the first place.
Why is good content important?
When people use search engines, their primary goal is to gather information. Usually, people will seek out a small bit of information – opening times, phone numbers, addresses – and quickly leave the site. They won’t spend any longer than necessary going through the website’s pages.
And this ties very neatly into SEO. Search engines measure various things when a user goes on your website: how long they were on your website; how many pages they went through; and if they quickly came and left your website. And as you can imagine, if the numbers don’t look good, then search engines will stop recommending your site.
However, having good content on your website may convince users to stay on it longer.
Beyond that, valuable content can provide more than just increasing your numbers. It’s also a great opportunity to:
- Engage with and further interest your audience
- Utilize keywords to improve your SEO
- Increase shareability through social linking
Finding good long-tail keywords can be a daunting task but with tools like KW Finder, you can easily find low competition keywords with some traffic. Having quality content increases your chances of growing your website even further.
So, the next issue is trying to figure out what your audience would be searching for. Some great hints can be found using the following search engine features:
- ‘People also ask’ sections
- Autocomplete suggestions
- Related searches
These all contain suggestions that search engines recommend to real people because it is what other real people have searched for. And this data presents you with information on what your audience would be interested in reading.
Doing your research and creating engaging content will pay off in dividends! There’s a reason why they say that ‘Content is King’!
What makes a website ‘search engine friendly’?
While it may seem obvious that you’d want to make your website search engine friendly, how exactly can you go about doing that?
The best way is to ensure that the more technical sides of your site are optimized. Search engines use bots called “crawlers” to navigate your site, meaning that the easier that they can ‘crawl’ through your site, the higher that these search engines will rate your site.
Some important things to consider include:
- Linking to all pages on your website
Crawlers might have a hard time finding your pages and assigning popularity to them if they’re separated and not interlinked. Remember to link to your top pages the most, such as your contact information page.
- Having a clear URL structure
Use URLs that match the type of content that’s on the page, rather than using auto-generated ones with figures and characters.
- Having a good page layout
Having a developed and clear page layout allows crawlers to more easily detect the actual content on the website as opposed to having to sift through code that wouldn’t help your SEO.
- Optimizing titles and meta descriptions
As SEO has changed, titles and meta descriptions aren’t as relevant as they used to be. However, while they might not be as impactful now, take into consideration that they remain a strong influence on click-through rate and overall user engagement.
- Providing a quality user experience
While trying to trick the crawlers – particularly by using Black Hat SEO – might be simple, remember that they are doing their job to optimize the experience for human users like us. That’s why search engines are prioritizing websites that provide a good experience for their users and why these sites climb the ranks in search engine results.
It’s simple: if there is anything that would annoy you when you’re browsing a site – slow loading times; hard to use on mobile devices; heavy on pop-ups and ads – consider that it may be an issue when other users are going through your website.
How do you build a site’s authority and trust?
While you directly have the potential to build your website’s content and potential for being search engine friendly, it’s much more difficult to manufacture its authority and trust.
A website’s authority and trust come from how well-known that website is by other well-respected websites.
When one of these trusted websites link to your site, it signals to search engines that your website can also be trusted. The more websites that link back to your site, the more search engines will trust your site and direct traffic towards it.
However, that’s just one piece of the puzzle. Not all links to your website are equally beneficial. Beyond just having authority and trust, your website also needs to be referred to by a relevant link. A relevant link is a link from a page that’s about the same kind of topic.
As stated previously, this is typically the most difficult part of raising the SEO of your website. But it’s also why your website’s trust and authority are its most influential ranking factors.
Two Final Tips on SEO
SEO is best utilized when it is formatted for both users and search engines. However, the user must always come first. While it’s a good idea to put your efforts into perfecting the technical side of SEO, if the user experience is bad, then it will impact your SEO in the worst possible way.
Finally, remember that success in SEO isn’t immediate. Having patience and being dedicated are necessary to perfect your website’s search engine optimization, but it is definitely worth the effort.