SEO Basics – Getting started with Search Engine Optimisation
In this article, we get back to basics with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). You may be starting to dip your toe in the ocean that is SEO or perhaps you’ve spanned the seas for many a year.
Enough of the nautical metaphors.
Let’s set sale…
Let’s get started…
Table of Contents
Can search engines access and read your website?
This is the first step in SEO success, if the search engines cannot find your website and read your content the rest of your SEO actions will not work.
Search engines use bots to periodically crawl your website and index your content. Once that content has been indexed, they will rank it in comparison with pages of the same ilk.
What can block search engines from crawling your website?
There are few things to check to make sure search engines can access your content.
Some CMS frameworks create their own robots.txt which is a file that lives on your server and instructs search engine bots what to crawl and what not to index. If your robots.txt file is blocking all bots, then they will skip your content and not index it.
If you don’t want to block any of your content from appearing on SERP’s (Search Engine Results Pages) your robots.txt would look like this:
User-agent: * Allow: / Sitemap: http://www.example.com/sitemap.xml
Create a sitemap.xml file
A sitemap is a file that lives on your server and it is a map of all your pages on your website. Search engines use this file to discover more pages on your website that might not be internally linked to.
The usual way to create a sitemap is to use a plugin within your CMS. If you are using WordPress, the plugins: Google XML Sitemaps and Yoast will create sitemaps automatically.
If you have a static HTML/PHP website, there are a few online sitemap creators that will create the file for you. Once created you’ll be able to upload the file to the root of your public_html folder.
Once your sitemap file is ready, you need to tell search engines where it is by submitting it through their search console. If they are able to read it, they will report back on how many pages it has found and indexed.
Does your content answer the searchers queries and is it compelling?
The most important aspect of writing great copy that has good SEO, is to write with your audience in mind. Search engines algorithms want to find the best content that answers their users queries in the best way.
Try not to focus on trying to get your keyword phrases into every sentence. You want your audience to learn and develop from your article and they can tell whilst reading, what your intentions are.
Break the content up so it is easily readable. Use punching titles that grab the readers attention and it will aid scan readers to find the content they need quickly. Having the right structure to your posts will boost them to the next level and can make your article look and feel interesting.
Typography is the main controller of how your content is read. Use title tags correctly and only have one H1 tag at the top of your article and then use H2 or H3 tags for the rest.
Too much text to read can be off-putting to readers and losing their attention is very detrimental to the success of your posts. Break the page up with interesting and relevant images. Images can be pinned to social channels as well and will link to your website.
Have fun creating your content and that will come across in your articles.
Is your content Keyword Optimised?
Keywords and phrases are set within your content to highlight what the information on your page is about. It is a great way to target the audience you want and search engines will qualify your content and drive traffic to it.
Keywords should live in all aspects of your content and finding the right balance is key. Don’t overdo them. Here is a list of where your keywords and phrase should appear:
- Title Tag – The first impression of your article is seen through your title tag.
- Content – Use your keywords throughout the main body copy.
- Url/Slug – Search engines handle your content through Urls and using keywords will help them understand your content.
- Meta Descriptions – Hidden in the header of your page, this section tells search engines a brief description of what your content is about.
- Images – Make sure you are filling in the alt tags of your images and describe the image.
Do your pages load quickly?
Page speed affects SEO in a great way. Googles ranking system is about delivering the best user experience to its users. A slow-loading website is a bad user experience and is frowned upon by all the major search engines.
If your audience has to wait too long for your content to load, the chances are they’ll close the tab and start a new search.
To test your page speed, use Googles really useful tool:
The results will give you ways to better your page speed on desktop and mobile.
Some optimisation advice is:
- Optimise images – lower file size and correctly sized images
- Eliminate render-blocking resources
- Remove unused CSS
- Reduce server response time
- Implement server-side cache
Does your title, url and description grab the users attention?
More and more people are online and statistics show that they are increasing their time spent digesting information on the internet.
This has lead to users having less patience and needing to quickly get a feel that the content presented to them will cover all of their requirements.
We can make this first positive impression by setting out clear and attention-grabbing titles that will relate to your audience.
For example, which appeals to you more?
“Information on spam filters”
“Are your emails getting caught up in Spam filters? We have a guide that can help you”
We hope your answer was the second title and that particular title works are:
- We posed a problem our target audience can relate to.
- We then inform our audience that we have the solution.
- All they need to do is read the article.
Are your articles the best, most comprehensive and share-worthy content out there?
Every hour of every day, new content is being published on the internet.
This is not to say that all content is created equal, however, by focusing on your target audience and being critical of your own content, it can give you an advantage.
How do I write the best content?
We need to take the measure of what you would class as a successful piece of content. Are your aims to engage the reader, show authority and compel the reader to share your content with friends and colleagues?
Metrics that help track the success of your pages are:
- Reader engagement: shares, comments and time spent on-page.
- Click-through rate (CTR): Call to actions, form submissions and additions to your customer funnels.
A common question asked in digital marketing circles is “how long do you spend writing each article?”. The answer could be “enough time that makes sure the content answers every query our reader has and do they leave with a positive emotion”.
To give an answer based on experience: 6-8 hours is a good average from start to finish for writing an in-depth article. For a simple ‘how-to guide’, between 1 to 2 hours is a good estimate.
The main takeaway from this section is to always write with your audience in mind. Make sure you answer every aspect of their queries with concise and comprehensive information. Achieving this will draw the reader back to your brand, and they’ll relate to you as a source of useful information.
If they have found your content engaging and useful, they will have the confidence to share the information with others.
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