Your SEO Starter Guide
If you are a business owner who currently has a website or are in the process of having one built, then the term Search Engine Optimisation (SEO for short) is one with which you may well be familiar.
In terms of your internet marketing strategy, SEO has a key role to play. If you want to attract visitors to your site – especially paying customers – effective SEO needs to be one of the mainstays of the whole operation. It really shouldn’t be ignored, and to do so, would certainly represent a missed opportunity. Indeed, some might say it would be completely irresponsible to turn a blind eye to SEO – like playing a round of golf without any golf balls. A major handicap!
At the same time, one doesn’t want to fall into the trap of getting bogged down with the minutiae of SEO. Having a working understanding of what it entails is probably more than sufficient for most people. Let’s face it – you don’t need to know the inner workings of a computer or a smartphone to be able to get the most out of either of them. The same goes for SEO.
So, here’s a basic overview of what SEO is all about. If you want to learn more, there is a wealth of useful information that’s been written on the subject and we have provided some further links at the end of this blog, which you may find of interest. But, for the time being, we trust that the material we supply here will suffice.
At Diagonal, we will always ensure your website is properly optimised. By that, we mean the site is populated with relevant, original, search engine friendly content, compatible across all platforms including tablets and smartphones.
In short, well-honed SEO will help your site become the best shop window to the world that it could possibly be.
What is SEO?
Search engine optimisation is basically the name given to the process of ensuring your website is well prepared to be recognised and advantageously ranked by the major search engines, like Google, Bing and Yahoo. These organisations use what are called bots to trawl through the website pages of thousands upon thousands of sites, collecting information and indexing them accordingly.
The search engines then use algorithms to analyse each page that’s been indexed, taking into account hundreds of ranking factors or signals. From this, for any given category or query, they determine the order in which pages should appear in the search results.
The objective is to be as near to the top of the rankings as possible – ideally, the first page of searches. Anything lower and the website could run the risk of being ignored by potential visitors. And certainly, if your website doesn’t get a look in until page 53, you probably won’t get spotted at all.
Keywords – the basis of SEO
The foundation of SEO is keywords. These are the words that people type into the search engines when they are on the hunt for particular products or services.
The idea is that these self-same words or phrases appear in your website content and anchor text (the text that can be read and clicked) so that visitors are directed to your site. If these keywords don’t show up on your site, potential customers are likely to be directed elsewhere. So, getting them all present and correct is vital.
Understanding what these keywords are is crucial. Some of them may be extremely obvious but others – which might be just as important – may not be immediately so. For this reason, keyword analysis is advisable to ensure that we uncover the most popular search words or phrases.
Content is King
It’s a well-worn term, but it remains an inescapable fact. Having a website that is populated with high quality content, containing the right keywords, should always be a top priority. Not only will it appeal to the search engines, it will also be of genuine use to your clientele. Educating them and gaining their respect should always be the goal. To maintain a good position with the search engine, it will pay to keep the site regularly updated with fresh content, such as blogs, new product or service announcements. Sites that stagnate tend to slip down the rankings, to be replaced by competitors who take time to produce new content.
This is the back-office work that goes into ensuring each individual web page is search engine friendly. For instance, making sure that all the necessary heading and title tags are in place, that keywords go into URLs and even to test the page-loading speed in the browser.
This is the process of getting links pointing to your site from other sites. They are also known as backlinks, so termed because they ‘point back’ to your site. It helps to have a variety of different types of links, including from popular sites and links with good keywords in the anchor text. One way of building backlinks is to produce sector-relevant blogs for other influential sites (such as trade bodies or influential bloggers, who have a large number of followers). Incorporating these off-page links will provide highly effective support to your organically created content.
Ideally, you would want a balance of on- and off-page optimisation, as they will both assist with your site ranking. Everything starts with the on-page material because this is the core content on the site and will form the basis of good SEO strategy. However, the links that off-page optimisation offer can be equally as powerful in driving traffic (visitors) to your site.
Whilst content and page optimisation are the bread and butter for achieving organic results, there are other elements to SEO that are worth mentioning.
Images and Graphics
By content, we are also referring to images, illustrations and infographics that may be present on the site. Good quality pictures of products or illustrations, as long as they contain the relevant keywords in the description and in the sub-heads, will also help with your page rankings.
URL is short for Universal Resource Locator and is a more technical name for the website address you type into the browser to direct you to a website. Every page will have a unique URL.
These are little descriptions which inform the search engines what the subject matter is on any given page. The metadata isn’t actually displayed on the page, but it is visible to the search engines and will influence the way they rank the page in terms of its relevance and importance.
Alt tags or alt text (short for alternative text) are used within the standard HTML code (which stands for hypertext mark-up language) from which the website content is created, to describe the appearance and function of an image on a page. This is especially relevant for eCommerce sites. Applying alt tags to images, such as product photos, can positively impact an eCommerce store’s search engine rankings.
This is a highlighted link (often coloured or underlined) from a hypertext file, that you click on to take you to another location or file, either within or outside your website. Again, this can be a very useful SEO tool.
The role of Social Media in SEO
Given the influence of social media, it is little wonder that the major platforms bring huge influence to bear on Google rankings and, hence, the optimisation process. The likes of LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest are now extremely influential as far as the search engines are concerned. Ensuring that your website is correctly interfaced with any social media platform you may be using, should be a key feature of your SEO.
If you are looking to build a business through digital marketing, and especially eCommerce, then SEO will undoubtedly play a big part. Keeping a close eye on where you are ranking – as well as monitoring what the competition is doing – should be an ever-evolving process. One thing is for sure – with SEO, things never stand still or stay the same.
We hope this provides an overview of what SEO is all about and what it entails.