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The Basics of SEO – What You Need To Know

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and in simple terms is the process of trying to improve the search engine rankings of a website. By achieving this you will increase the traffic to your website organically meaning these website visitors have not been paid for. Paid listings appear at the top of the searches as Google AdWords adverts, these say ‘sponsored’ underneath – SEO has no effect on these, you bid for this position.

Non-paid or ‘organic’ search results appear underneath a chunk of paid ads, and these cannot be influenced by paying. Organic results are ranked on many different factors including how relevant and popular Google thinks a site is. So how do you improve the rankings of your website through SEO? Well here are the basics…

Keyword Research

The first thing you will be doing when working to improve your rankings, and checking where your website appears for the search terms you want to appear for. These are referred to as ‘keywords’. However, the keywords you think you want to list for and those you actually want to list for may not be the same. You may refer to your services in one way and your customers may use another, so it’s vital that you research the phrases actually used to search for your service/product by your potential customers.

When researching keywords you will want to check how many people searching on a potential phrase per month, and also how high competition is for this phrase in Google. Once you have a potential keyword you can investigate competition further by conducting a search of this keyword – this will tell you how many website pages list for this in Google and you can also see what websites hold the top spots of non-paid results. You will struggle to list as a small business if the top spots are held by massive companies.

If no-one is searching for a phrase there is no point listing for it, and equally if plenty are searching but the competition is massively high then you need to keep looking. Ideally you’ll find keywords with plenty of searches for manageable competition levels.

A good tool that you can use for your research is the Keyword Planner on Google AdWords – this tells you how many monthly searches a keyword or phrase gets on average.

Keywords in Content

Google looks at your website text when ranking your pages for specific searches in their results. You cannot list for a keyword or phrase if it is never mentioned on your website because Google will not see the relevance between that phrase and your website. This is why you need to place the keywords you want to list for in your content, be consistent with your keywords, don’t keep changing the term you use for another variant.

However, keyword stuffing (this means putting keywords randomly into your content where it does not make sense) will do the opposite to your site – search engines can recognise this and penalise the website rankings in response.

When placing keywords in content you should be thinking of the users first whilst still including keywords that make sense for the search engines. For example do not include your keyword of ‘bookkeeping’ in a sentence about giraffes and your visit to the zoo. This will not make sense to your reader nor Google. Make sure the keywords you use flow well and sentences are easy to read. If you write well for your audience then often Google will be happy too.

Meta Tags

Meta tags are text elements that describe the page content, these are placed in the code and are not visible on the website, although title tags do show in your browser tab. The meta titles and meta description are the most important, as keyword tags are becoming increasingly less important.

Search engines will read title tags to help determine what your site is about and therefore the relevance of the website to a search query, so writing unique and relevant title tags for each page can assist your search engine rankings.

Descriptions are also used to persuade someone to click on your website, this is the first snippet of text a user sees in search results to draw them to your website. Ensuring your descriptions are relevant and appealing for each page can help to increase your Click Through Rate from the results pages.

Content Visibility

Search engines cannot see certain types of content so in order for these bots to get a really good idea of what your website is about you need to use content that search engines can read.

If your website is built entirely in flash or images with all the text in the images, search engines will not see any of this content so to them your website may be blank or missing key information. All this work will not count towards your rankings.

To counteract this you need to make sure that written content is in text form and not image form, this means search engines will be able to read this. As bots can’t see images on your website you can provide alt tags for those images you do use, these are placed in the code so are not visible on your website. These give the search engines a short description of what the image is.

URL Structure

A URL is the link that appears in the top search bar when you are on your website, this is what people can use to find your website or help identify what page they are on.

The structure of a URL can aid both users and search engines when created correctly. They provide both parties with information as to where that page is located within the website and give an indication to what the page is about.

Including the keyword you want to list for in your URL can help increase the relevance that search engines perceive your page to have to that keyword. You want your URL’s to have a clear structure and show any folder structure that your website has.

URL’s should not include random letters and numbers; they need to have clear wording that makes sense to users. This will also help users sharing your content as clearer links will persuade more users to click that link.

There are so many aspects of SEO and this is only the beginning. As SEO is such a complex practise we always recommend leaving it to an expert so, if you have any questions or want to know how SEO can benefit your business get in touch today!

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Tierney Crocker
Tierney Crocker is part of the Digital Marketing team at WNW Digital, involved in all aspects of digital marketing and social media. You can email her at tierney@wnwdigital.co.uk

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