SEO. Search engine optimization. Sure, you have heard of this, but do you know what it means? We are starting a new series of articles on SEO. This is the first one with basic principles explained. It will also be an interesting read for those with advanced knowledge – it is always good to return to basics and make sure that you haven’t missed anything important.
The trickiest thing about SEO – nobody knows what the most important factors are influencing how search engines can find a website. There are just smart guesses. Search engines announce that algorithms change from time to time. However, there are a couple of rules that will improve a website’s chances of being found. So in this article, you will find out:
- How we search and what search engines are looking for;
- What is SEO;
- On-page SEO tips and tricks;
- Off-page site promotion for better SEO results.
How do we search?
Search engines display results on pages or SERP’s based on a keyword that is entered in the search field. SERP stands for ‘search engine result page’. A search engine should find this term on your website to display it as a result of the particular search. Every SERP is unique. Even when the search keyword is entered from the same IP address and location several times in a row, results may differ. The search engine tries to provide the user with the most relevant search results possible.
Three primary types of search could be indicated:
- Informational – the user is looking for additional information and usually the object is not connected with commercial intent – nor from the provider of the information, nor the one who is looking for results. For example, in this case, the search query could be “Richard Branson”.
- Navigational – the user is looking for a specific website if he can’t remember the URL or he just doesn’t want to spend time remembering. An appropriate search query here could be “Visual Composer”.
- Transactional – the user is looking for something to buy. This is where the biggest fight for the user occurs. Here it is possible to find all merchants that are selling the product that was indicated in the search term. In addition, competitors are paying Google to be shown along with the content that refers to the original product.
Let’s look at what this looks like in real life. I have searched for the term “sketch app”. Most likely this search corresponds to transactional intent, although it could be informational and navigational as well. Let’s take Google first.
Google provides us with the official site Sketch App – that’s what I was looking for. Sketch has done good SEO – there are a lot of direct links to different sections so I can quickly navigate and find what I need without wandering around. But there are also similar pages displayed as a result. This is another brand with a similar name that also can fit me according to my search.
Let’s see what happens when I enter the same search query in a different search engine. Here are results from Bing.
Once again, it’s the product I was looking for initially. The search engine also provides me with the link to the Google Play store where there is an app with the same name and the link to the Adobe product with the same name. To sum it all up – before choosing the name of the product or domain, it is worth testing whom you are you going to compete with. If there are a lot of options available for one search query, it is probably worth choosing another name. Otherwise, you will generate a lot of competitors for your product or brand right from the day of its launch.
What is SEO?
SEO is search engine optimization. And by the search engine, we mean Google as well as Bing, Yahoo, Baidu etc. SEO is everything that you do to make life as easy as possible for search engines to discover your site. Why is this important? Because it brings organic traffic to the website. Organic traffic is free – you don’t have to pay for users visiting your website. This traffic might come from any place on the internet where your website is mentioned. The only difference is – search engine considers some sources to be more reliable than others so you have better chances to be noticed.
SEO is divided into two categories – on-page SEO and off-page SEO. On-page SEO is all technical tricks and knowledge you should use to improve the visibility of the website on SERP. Off-page SEO is everything that makes your website visible everywhere, for example, on other websites or social media.
On-page SEO tips and tricks
- Titles – the website title should include all the most important keywords that describe your product, service or company. You should also pay attention to the post titles – first words should be the ones that your potential clients will most likely be looking for. The next most important thing is formatting titles – they should be marked as “Heading 1” or “<h1>” for the main heading and “Heading 2” or “<h2>” for the subheading.
- URL’s – usually titles affect URL’s because the same words are automatically included in the address of the post by platforms that you use for website administration. The most important thing is to pay attention to how your URL is constructed. For example, figures should not be included that don’t make any sense and won’t help search engines to associate a particular site with some keywords.
- Links – you can use outbound as well as inbound links on your website. Outbound links connect your site to other resources that you mention in the content. Inbound links connect previously created content inside the website that you want to quote.
- Visuals (images, video, infographics) – visual content makes it easier for the user to understand your content. Various research reveals the importance of the visuals due to the fact that nowadays people would like to get as much information as quickly as possible. But be careful! Too much visual information in high resolution can slow your website. Users don’t like to wait – if they don’t get content quickly, they will leave. If this is what many users do, search engines will notice it and they don’t like it. This can influence your website’s appearance in future SERP.
Something else they don’t like and which is a common mistake is picture names. It takes some time to create an appropriate name and give it an appropriate description, but it is worth it. Otherwise, Google Image Search will never find pictures on your site. Do not directly use the name of the image for the camera “IMG6384” or similar.
- Textual content – what you write, how and how often you write – it matters to search engines. They really appreciate evergreen content and websites that get updated all the time. What content should you publish? Put yourself in the shoes of users – content is created for them so it should be appealing. If the content is interesting, the search engine will react positively to the amount of time the user spends on your website.
- Keywords – should be inserted in the first 100 words of the text. Be careful – search engines don’t like text that is too crowded with different keywords. Bear in mind that they are looking for LSI keywords instead. These are keywords that are related to the content semantically. What does this mean? If a customer is looking for “apple”, then there are at least two options available as to what will be found – fruit or the technology brand. So just a keyword without additional context no longer makes any sense.
- Mobile – Google announced back in 2015 that it doesn’t like sites that are not mobile friendly. More than that – Google punishes them by not showing them in search results. But mobile is not just for Google. It is also for yourself – the amount of people accessing a website via mobile devices is rising all the time.
Off-page SEO tips and tricks
- Social media – although the sharing buttons should be integrated with the content in the web page and could refer to the on-page SEO, we are adding them here. Social media is one of the most powerful traffic generators to your website if you are developing interesting content there and referring to the website there. Moreover, this is an opportunity to create a community that will be loyal to your company and will even share the content further.
- Links – make sure that the link to your website is in all sources associated with the industry you are working in. Occasionally, you should check sources where your traffic comes from. There could be some bad sites that don’t help it to rank higher in search engines. Try to get rid of them and focus on sites that also provide high-quality content to their users.
- Other marketing tools – feel free to use any marketing tools that help and are appropriate to your business. Put the reference to your website everywhere so it is always visible.
SEO, of course, is mostly about your website and its visibility on a search engine. Although it is part of your overall marketing strategy, you cannot achieve good results in the long-term based on SEO alone, but it can help a lot. However, analyze and pay attention to the quality of your brand and product to be successful in business.