An introduction to SEOStarter Guide

This article will give you a general idea of what SEO is. I will introduce you to SEO basics and guide you on the first steps to optimise your search engine visibility.

While it is quite difficult to find a definition of something as broad as SEO I came up with a rather general definition, which I will break down for you in the following: 

"SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation, describing the optimisation of your brand's visibility & ranking in search engines."

So what is a search engine? 

A search engine can be visualised as a massive digital library with content such as web pages, videos and images and allows you to search those contents providing you specific search results for your query. While there are more obvious search engines like Google & Bing serving you with web pages, images and videos there are also more specific search engines like YouTube (Video), Pinterest (Images), Facebook & Instagram (Social Network)

In this article, we will take a more general approach and focus on getting you started with a holistic SEO approach. 

How to rank in search engines - Ranking factors

Numerous factors influence rankings, and for valid reasons, they are not disclosed to the public to prevent manipulation, which is often referred to as Black Hat SEO. Google, the foremost search engine globally, frequently updates these ranking factors with Google Search Core Updates to enhance the quality of search outcomes, resulting in a superior user experience. This brings us to a fundamental aspect of SEO - User Experience - which stands as a crucial ranking factor and is central to any effective SEO strategy. This is because the ultimate goal should not be to tailor your content to search engines but to your audience.

Although Google does not disclose the specifics of the ranking factors, they offer advice on the principles we should adhere to. Some of the key ranking factors are widely recognized as the most crucial.

  • Authority - How well-known is your brand? This is often assessed by examining the backlink profile of third-party sites that link to your website.
  • Mobile experience - Depending on your audience, it's not uncommon for 70%-80% of your visitors to be using mobile devices. Google evaluates their experience, which is a crucial ranking factor.
  • Technical aspects - Google also assesses whether your website is safe to visit; one of the most important factors for this is the SSL certificate, which ensures that your connection is encrypted.
  • Search relevance - Google checks the relevance of your content to the user's search intention. This means that if someone is searching for a landscaping service in Edinburgh and you offer landscaping services in Glasgow, your website is less likely to be displayed.
  • Content quality - The search engine strives to assess the quality and originality of your content.
  • User Experience - As mentioned earlier, UX is one of the most critical ranking factors, as it aligns with one of Google's primary business goals: providing the most relevant search results for the user.

Next, we will look at the 3 main pillars to help us understand the search engine better.

3 main types of SEO (technical, on-page & off-page)

When speaking about SEO there are often 3 types of SEO that get mentioned: Technical SEO, On-Page SEO, Off-page SEO

Technical SEO

This involves optimizing various technical aspects of a website, such as site speed, mobile-friendliness, and crawlability, to improve its visibility and indexing by search engines.

  • Fast Loading Speed - Web pages need to load quickly to retain visitors and improve user experience. Slow loading times lead to increased bounce rates and decreased search engine rankings.
  • Crawlability - Ensure search engine robots can crawl and index your website effectively by optimizing internal linking and using robots.txt to guide robots through your site. This ensures that all important content is discovered and indexed by search engines.
  • Dead Link Prevention - Regularly check for and fix broken links to prevent 404 errors, which can negatively impact user experience and search engine rankings. Use tools to identify and address dead links on your site, maintaining a smooth browsing experience for visitors.
  • Duplicate Content Management - Avoid duplicate content issues by using canonical tags to specify the original page and consolidate link equity. Ensure each page has unique and valuable content to maintain search engine rankings and avoid penalties.
  • Website Security - Implement HTTPS encryption to secure data transmission and protect user privacy, meeting the basic requirements for website security. Secure websites rank higher in search engine results, enhancing trust and credibility with users.
  • Structured Data Markup - Use structured data to provide context to search engines about your content, helping them understand its meaning and relevance. Structured data markup can improve visibility in search results and lead to rich snippets, enhancing the presentation of your content.
  • XML Sitemap - Create an XML sitemap to help search engines navigate and index your website efficiently, ensuring comprehensive coverage of all important pages and content types. Including all relevant pages in the sitemap enhances the discoverability of your content by search engines.
  • Hreflang Implementation - Use hreflang tags to specify language and regional targeting for international websites, ensuring that search engines deliver the appropriate version of your site to users in different regions. Proper hreflang implementation helps improve the international visibility and accessibility of your website.

For a technical rating, you can visit Google Page Speed Insights: https://pagespeed.web.dev/

On-page SEO

This focuses on optimizing individual web pages with relevant content, proper keyword usage, meta tags, and internal linking to enhance their search engine rankings and user experience.

  • Write Unique, Helpful Content - Create original and valuable content that meets the needs of your target audience. Avoid duplicate content and provide insightful information that distinguishes your page.
  • Place Target Keywords Strategically - Conduct keyword research to identify relevant keywords for your content. Strategically place these keywords in your headings, paragraphs, and other on-page elements to enhance search engine visibility.
  • Write Keyword-Rich Title Tags - Craft descriptive and keyword-rich title tags that accurately reflect the content of your page. Include primary keywords towards the beginning of the title tag for better optimisation.
  • Write Click-Worthy Meta Descriptions - Write compelling meta descriptions that entice users to click on your search results. Include relevant keywords and a clear call-to-action to improve click-through rates.
  • Use Headings and Subheadings to Structure Your Page - Organise your content using headings (H1, H2, H3, etc.) to create a logical hierarchy. This not only helps users navigate your page but also provides search engines with valuable context about your content.
  • Optimise URLs - Create SEO-friendly URLs that are concise, descriptive, and include relevant keywords. Avoid using numbers or special characters in URLs and use hyphens to separate words.
  • Add Internal Links - Include internal links to relevant pages within your website to improve navigation and distribute link equity. Link to related content to provide additional value to your users and encourage further exploration of your site.
  • Add External Links - Include authoritative external links to reputable sources that provide additional context or resources related to your content. Outbound links can enhance the credibility and trustworthiness of your page.
  • Include and Optimise Images - Use high-quality and relevant images to complement your content and enhance user engagement. Optimise image file names, alt text, and captions with descriptive keywords to improve accessibility and search engine visibility.

Off-page SEO

It encompasses activities performed outside the website to improve its authority and reputation, such as acquiring backlinks from reputable sources, social media marketing, and online reputation management. These efforts aim to boost the website's credibility and ultimately improve its search engine rankings.

  • Backlink Building: Acquiring high-quality backlinks from reputable websites to improve domain authority and increase search engine rankings.
  • Social Media Marketing: Leveraging social media platforms to promote content and engage with audiences, which can indirectly impact search engine visibility.
  • Online Reputation Management (PR): Monitoring and managing online reviews, mentions, and brand sentiment to maintain a positive online reputation.
  • Guest Blogging: Writing and publishing content on external websites to build relationships, increase brand visibility, and acquire backlinks.
  • Influencer Marketing: Collaborating with influencers or industry experts to promote content and reach new audiences.
  • Local SEO: Optimising for local search results by claiming and optimising Google My Business listings, acquiring local citations, and encouraging customer reviews.

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