The Basics of SEO
SEO optimisation is essential if you want your content in front of the right audiences. Here we break down the 10 basics that you need to be doing to attract visitors to your content.
So how does Google work?
Well here’s a crude example. Google has developed an algorithm that ranks your site. They send out ‘spiders’ across the internet, ‘crawling’ sites (including yours) and check it for over 200 indicators that determine whether your site is valuable or useless. The exact indicators are Google’s secret, but we do know that they include things like backlinks, domain age, traffic, content freshness, etc.
SEO is the art of making sure that Google’s ‘spiders’ are happy with what they find. It’s a complex field which is forever evolving as Google updates their algorithm. But there are a few constants that have remained true since Google’s inceptio. I’ll talk about those here.
1. You need your own domain
Remember website that looked like businessname.moonfruit.com or businessname.wix – these were and are a disaster for SEO. The reason being that Google only wants to point to websites that are considered serious and trustworthy.
A site that doesn’t own its own domain or hosting doesn’t give confidence to Google. Thankfully, this is a cheap fix for businesses. Domains can be purchased from £1 per year and hosting can be as cheap as £4 a month.
2. Original content that helps people
Google’s entire purpose it to provide their customers with relevant and useful search results. Everything they do is built around this premise.
And, to be realistic, the most important thing you can do for your SEO is create massively useful content that solves people’s problems. If you are solving problems that people are searching for then it is likely that you are going to get shared on social media and ranked in Google.
The phrase “original content” means so much more than just blog posts nowadays. You should start expanding into photography, videos and downloadable ebooks.
The idea is to build a relationship with your readers by helping them out. This will mean more sharing and faster results on the SERPS (search engine rankings positions).
3. Organic backlinks
In the early noughties, SEO experts knew that Google placed huge importance on the number of links around the internet linking back to your site. The expectation being that if you were being linked to, you were of importance and reputable. So naturally, SEO experts placed links all of the internet to trick the algorithm, it worked exceptionally well.
Google clicked to what was happening and changed their algorithm to prevent this from happening. Now, having useless links across the internet which have been clearly placed to increase SEO performance can actually penalise your site. This is still practised by some SEO ‘experts’ under what is commonly coined ‘black hat SEO’.
You should instead be focusing on creating organic backlinks to your site. Directory listings for example are trustworthy.
Even backlinks on your own website, to your own content on the same site are useful for Google.
4. Make sure your site is SEO optimised
This is a huge area of interest to SEO professionals as it’s perhaps the easiest and most beneficial way to make Google love your site. But I’ll keep it brief here and to the basics as it is a blog post in it’s own right.
Be mobile responsive – Google prioritizes mobile responsive sites for mobile users, meaning if your site isn’t responsive, you won’t be ranking well for users using their mobiles or iPads.
Clean coding – A cleanly coded site will allow for Google to ‘crawl’ it much faster and see if your site is relevant.
Fast loading – Make sure your site is loading quickly. Not only is a slow site frustrating for the user, it can also be penalised by Google. There are a number of plug-ins you can use on your site to speed it up.
No broken links – Make sure any links you have on your site work, if they don’t Google may deem this as unfriendly to users.
5. Permalink structure
Permalinks are how people locate your blog and its internal posts and pages. They are made up of a root and an extension.
For example, on this post we have:
Now, it is very important to have a good permalink structure. You can change this in WordPress by going SETTINGS > PERMALINKS and tweaking the options. The best option to have in there, in my opinion, is just the post name. So you should select CUSTOM STRUCTURE and then add /%postname%/
However, even better than that is to research what keywords you are trying to rank for and then shorten your URL to match those keywords.
6. Install a sitemap
One of the easiest things you can do is install a Google Sitemap plugin that gives a full map of all your posts, pages and archives.
There are number of plug-ins such as Yoast SEO which automatically generates a sitemap for you and then at regular intervals submits them to Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. on your behalf.
It’s literally giving them a map of your site so they can index it better.
7. Allow comments
Google loves to see sites that allow interaction with their visitors. If you’re regularly posting content, make sure your site visitors can comment on your posts. Not only does this allow for consumer engagement it also builds authority with Google.
8. Pimp your social media
Social media is incredibly important for SEO, Google now places a big focus on your social media activity.
Why? Well because Google is now looking to social media as a signal of an article’s authority and relevance.
If thousands of people are tweeting about it then chances are you have written something pretty good. The best way to get your content ‘out there’ is to share it on social media, where you can build a loyal following who will continue to consume and share your content.
And the best way to get tweets is to build a loyal following and write killer content that they just love to promote for you.
Social media strategies can be significantly different for every business. We’ll cover this in another blog soon but there is one key lesson to remember – interact and engage with people, don’t just shout into the void that you have a new blog post.
9. SEO plugins
I’ve already mentioned Yoast SEO, but we cannot recommend SEO plugins enough.
They do many of the nasty little things on your site which can be time consuming. There are many plugins out there but we recommend Yoast and All in One SEO.
10. Keep up to date
SEO is a constantly evolving field as the search engines update their algorithms.
So keep up to date on the latest best practices, the best place for this is over at Moz.com. Their content is killer and trusted by millions.
Phew! We’re done. Anything we’ve missed or need something explained a little further? Get in touch and we’ll help you out.