In this quick, beginner’s guide to SEO, we hope to give you all the information you need to get your head around search engine optimisation and to give you an introduction to the resources that will help you get started on an SEO strategy that will benefit your business.
As a business owner today, it’s pretty hard to escape the term SEO or to avoid the phrase Search Engine Optimisation. It’s no surprise that, as the internet’s become more than just a mere tool for business, and developed into the marketplaces and communication channels that business takes place in, the previously underground technical strategies involved in web design and digital marketing have been pulled into the mainstream. As the internet’s evolved, SEO has taken a central role in business.
You can be forgiven, however, for still not fully understanding what SEO actually is. It is a largely technical process, after all, and one that’s jam-packed with jargon that, at times, can seem impenetrable. But one thing that search engine optimisation is not, is impossible to understand. It isn’t wichcraft, it isn’t rocket science, and you don’t need a PHD to do it. In this quick, beginner’s guide to SEO, we hope to give you all the information you need to get your head around search engine optimisation and to give you an introduction to the resources that will help you get started on an SEO strategy that will benefit your business.
So what is SEO?
Simply put, SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, is a broad section of marketing that’s used to get websites closer to the top of people’s search engine results. For a website to appear higher in those results, it needs to look like a higher quality resource to search engines. SEO covers all the technical and creative processes involved in presenting a website as a high-quality resource and gaining it a higher ranking. It can involve everything from code formatting to creative blog writing to PR. As long as the aim of the process is to improve the ranking of a website, then it’s part of SEO.
Why is SEO important to your business?
For businesses, being visible on the results page of relevant searches is now not just an important part of marketing, but an essential aspect of modern business. The vast majority (67.60%) of search engine users only click on the first five results on their results page. If your business’ website is consistently outside of the top five in your potential customer’s search results, then you’re losing out on business.
How do search engines work?
When the internet was first invented, these algorithms simply returned webpages with the highest volume of the searched words - or keywords. As the internet became more popular, the algorithms were increasingly exploited and search engines have needed to continually update their rules for ranking websites to make sure their users are getting the highest quality results. This has meant that certain techniques that used to work to improve a website’s ranking, will now actually result in your site being penalised by a search engine. For example, overly using keywords is now seen as a detrimental factor and a much wider range of SEO practices should be employed to ensure a high ranking.
What do search engines use to rank your page?
While most of the big search engines - like Google, Bing and Yahoo - keep the exact workings of their algorithm a closely guarded secret, they do all give best practice advice. And, combined with independent research available in blogs and on news sites, a lot of the factors that Search Engines use to rank your page can be easily researched.
A search engine’s algorithm consists of hundreds of different known components, far too many to mention in this guide. However, these components can be broken down into four main groups: technical SEO, user experience, content related SEO, and off-page SEO.
Technical SEO includes things like the speed at which a page loads in a user’s browser, or how well it works on mobile devices and smartphones.
User experience would include ranking signals like the duration a user spends on a page before bouncing back to the search engine results.
Content can make or break a website. Search engines will use a number of factors to determine whether the content on a site is high quality, like the length and the breadth of information included within it.
Off-Page SEO refers to the techniques implemented outside of your website that impact your site's ranking. This generally involves improving the perceived authority of your website by encouraging other webpages to hyperlink back to your site. This is known as back linking. To find out more about it, take a look at the Moz’s SEO Resource Centre in the tools and resources below.
Tools and Resources
Like a lot of digital technology, SEO is a complex process that develops and changes as the technology evolves. Here are some of the best tools and resources that will give you an understanding of the basic processes and jargon and help you stay on top of the algorithm changes.
SEO Glossary of Terms (Search Engine Journal) - A comprehensive guide to all the jargon used in SEO. Essential reading for a beginner.
Google Webmaster Youtube Channel - This Youtube channel from Google’s webmasters is a great resource for getting started on SEO, giving you snappy, well-articulated answers to all things Google.
Google Webmaster Central Blog - Google’s official blog, covering the search engine’s news and updates
Neil Patel - Comprehensive guides from a master of SEO and digital marketing.
Matthew Barby - A blog jam-packed with SEO tips from the former Global Head of Growth and SEO at marketing software giant, Hubspot.
Moz’s SEO Learning Centre - From the people behind some of the best SEO tools for link building, this SEO learning centre covers off-page SEO simply and in-depth.
Google Search Console - Formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools, this free tool from Google gives you information on things like: the ranking of your site, errors preventing your site from appearing in search results, and which of your pages are performing best.
Google: Keyword Planner - Part of Google’s tool portfolio intended for help with paid search, the Google Keyword Planner is perfect for identifying and selecting the keywords you’re going to target for paid search campaigns.
Google Trends - Another free tool from the world’s most popular search engine, Google trends does what it say on the tin; it identifies the trends in behaviour of people using the search engine so you can adapt your strategy and gain more traffic.
Microsoft Bing Ads Intelligence - A keyword research tool from Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, Microsoft Bing Ads Intelligence is a keyword planning tool that helps you build and expand on your keyword lists using the Microsoft Office Excel interface.
Wordtracker’s Free Keyword Research Tool - This tool from Wordtracker is one of the best for identifying longtail keywords, the terms people search that involve more than three words.
Moz: Open Site Explorer - Open Site Explorer from Moz is the ultimate tool for identifying link building opportunities. Simple, easy to use, and powerful.
Neil Patel: Ubersuggest - From the man behind the blog, Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest does what it’s name suggests: it suggests. Identify and categorise the keywords that are the best option for you to target.
Answer the Public - Another simple and powerful tool, Answer the Public helps you to develop a winning content strategy by providing you with the questions people are asking around your keywords.
WooRank - Identify and solve problems that might damage your website’s ranking with this free and nifty tool.
"SEO is undoubtably an excellent tool to support businesses with their digital marketing activities. It is a cost-effective method to utilise into your digital marketing strategy, however SEO takes time so should be an ongoing commitment to your business. Before embarking on an SEO activity, I have found it both useful and important to utilise SEO auditing software solutions such as SEM Rush, Moz, Woo Rank (mentioned further on) Google Algorithm Changes https://moz.com/google-algorithm-change to guide and drive my chosen strategy.
The Business Growth Hub’s digital team runs a wide range of courses on a variety of digital marketing topics, including PPC, SEO and Google Analytics. In addition, 1-2-1 support is available for eligible businesses with our expert Digital Advisors. For more information please contact me at Olivia.firstname.lastname@example.org “Olivia Axon Digital Marketing and Events Apprentice at GC Business Growth Hub