In the ever-changing world of online marketing, it can be hard to keep up and make sure your website is being found in Google searches.
This is why you need to know about SEO.
There’s always new tips for optimising your content in response to algorithm changes, however if you have the foundations of SEO covered, you can respond quickly and tweak your content as needed.
It’s easy to do your own SEO once you know the basics, and it’s vital to understand SEO before outsourcing so you don’t get ripped off by dodgy consultants.
So what is SEO?
And what can you do to get your business found online?
- content length and readability,
- headings and keywords that tell them easily what the content is about,
- reputation (how many other people are talking about you online and linking to your site),
- quality of content – are people sticking around to read what you have to say – think about session times and bounce rates.
- engagement and relevance.
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is primarily about adapting your content to appeal to the search engine algorithms, thereby ‘optimising for search’.
Here’s 3 SEO basics to help you improve your ranking in search engines
1. Using Keywords
Keywords are a core element of SEO. They’re essentially what Google uses to identify what your content is about so they can show it in relevant search results.
By using targeted keywords and phrases, you are helping Google find the most relevant content to show all of us when we’re searching for your services.
Keywords should be used in a natural, relevant way throughout your site, as Google now penalises keyword stuffing (adding as many keywords as you can to a title or alt-tag).
Keep it readable and natural.
You can assess which keywords are best for you to use by checking three metrics.
1. “Cost-Per-Click” (CPC) which means how much someone pays for an ad that results in a click through to their page. The lower the CPC, the less competitive (and easier to rank for) that keyword is.
2. Monthly search volume, which is the number times people search that term on average per month. High volumes are better, because more people are using that exact keyword or phrase in their search.
3. Competition. This is a measure of how many Google Ads are targeting that keyword.
Ideally, you would target keywords with high search volume, low competition, low CPC.
Keywords don’t have to be a single word, they can be a phrase, which we refer to as ‘long tail keywords’.
For many smaller sites, there’s almost no chance of appearing on the first page for your primary keyword, for example: Kids Clothes, but you may be able to get there with a more detailed phrase like ‘what kids clothes to pack for summer holiday in Europe’.
There are plenty of tools out there to help you find the best keywords to use
My favourite is a simple (free) Chrome extension called Keywords Everywhere. This sits in your browser, and whenever you search for something on Google, it brings up the details for your keyword, as well as other related keywords that people are searching for.
In the example below, I searched for ‘what is CPC’ – so it’s a lot easier to rank for ‘what is cpm’ than ‘google analytics’.
Some other ways to find out what people are searching for are:
- Check in your Google Analytics and see what keywords are leading people to your site
- Type your keywords into other sites, such as Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and see what other search suggestions come up.
- Use a free tool like Keyword Shitter – no joke!
- Search on Google, note down what Google is suggesting as related searches. This video below explains how you can create a quick keywords list using Google Search.
2. Reduce your Bounce Rate, increase your session times
Search Engines favour sites that keep people reading and watching for longer, because if one person likes your stuff enough to stay, then others will too.
There are 3 metrics you need to track in your Google Analytics:
- Bounce Rate – the % of sessions where the visitor viewed just 1 page. The lower the bounce rate the better.
- Session Duration – the average length of visitor sessions. The longer the better.
- Pages per Session – the average number of pages visitors look at in a single session.
You should aim for a bounce rate of 2% or lower if you can!
To reduce your bounce rate and increase session times, I recommend the following:
Create Internal links
Add links to relevant pages of your site throughout your content (especially blogs) – this encourages visitors to click to another page and keep reading (reducing your bounce rate).
Write enough, not too much
Your content needs to be long enough to get your message across and keep people reading. This means getting that nice balance between giving enough information and not waffling on.
The current minimum is 600 words for a blog, and 300 words for a page, which is pretty short and sweet. Longer pieces will keep people engaged longer, as long as you’re giving them interesting and useful information.
Boring text just for the sake of adding more words will make people click away faster.
Use videos and imagery
Adding high-quality videos is a great way to increase engagement.
Whether it’s a Who am I?, product review, how-to, behind the scenes – people love video and they are being favoured by Search Engines.
TIP: If you’re using video for your content, consider using a site such as Rev.com to transcribe your content into a blog post you can then post with the video.
3. Use SEO-friendly writing and formatting
Did you know that writing content for a website is different to writing a document in Microsoft Word?
Using a combination of meta tags and on-page content formatting helps Search Engines work out what your page is about so it can deliver the most relevant content to people searching.
Here are my top tips on how to produce SEO-friendly content:
Create unique Title and Description tags
You might have heard about meta data – your title and description are the most important meta tags on a web page.
You can’t see them on your page, they’re what Google shows in their search results. The Title tag is also visible in your browser tab if you hover over it.
Most websites will have a default setting for the Title tag which uses your page name (the H1) and your site name. However it’s best to customise the Title tag for your pages so you can use your keyword phrase.
The meta-description is the few lines of text that appears on Google underneath your hyperlink. This is where your audience can see a snippet of what to expect when they click on your link.
Google defaults to showing the first lines of content on your page so it’s much better to customise your descriptions.
Your description is much more important to tailor for your audience, so include your keywords here in a natural and relevant way.
A good description will encourage a click, a poor one will do the opposite!
Headings and subheadings
Format your pages using the pre-set heading styles, and keep to the hierarchy. Search engines use headings and subheadings to scan the content and assess the key topic of the page.
When formatting, these are listed as H1, H2, H3 etc.
- H1 = Heading 1 – this should be used for the name of the page
- H2 = Heading 2 – use this for main sub-headings throughout the piece
- H3 = Heading 3 – for subheadings within a section
- H4 = Heading 4 – for other key text you might wish to highlight or lower level subheadings.
It’s great if you can use your main keyword for each page in the page’s H1 heading, or next best would be in the H2.
For blogs, you can use online headline generator tools to make sure your headline is appealing to your audience as well, which will help generate more clicks to read the article. For more about writing blogs, check out my tips in How to Write Blogs Like a Pro: 5 Copywriting Hacks You Can Try Today.
Alt-tags exist so that screen readers can identify the contents of an image for people with vision impairments. But Search Engines use them too – to help them identify the key theme of the content on each page.
It’s an ideal place to include your keywords and help Google see that your images are relevant, but make sure not to over-use your keywords or you’ll end up looking spammy.
Image file names
Every image added to the internet retains its original file name. For photos, this is usually something like DCIM1234.
By renaming your images with relevant keywords, you can help ensure your image appears in search results for your keyword.
File names should use a hyphen between words, and ideally describe what the picture shows, for example blue-girls-dress-cotton-smocked.
SEO is a long-game strategy
The tips above certainly aren’t everything you need to know about SEO, but they’re a great place to start.
In the same way, understanding the basic foundations of SEO can help you create better content that’s engaging and builds your brand reputation.
As technology changes search engines will continue to give priority to websites that optimise their user experience, engage the reader and create connections and genuinely add value.
Social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest are search engines as well. If you’re using social media you can optimise your page, images and videos using many of the tips above and help your content get found.