What is SEO? The Basic (But Essential) Guide

You’ve heard you need a website to stake your claim in the digital world. Only now, you’re hearing your website needs to be SEO optimised, responsive and all these other things. Firstly, you ask, “What is SEO?” Your next question is most likely, “Why do I need it.”

You’ve heard you need a website to stake your claim in the digital world. Only now, you’re hearing your website needs to be SEO optimised, responsive and all these other things. Firstly, you ask, “What is SEO?” Your next question is most likely, “Why do I need it.”

Well, my friend, buckle up! We’re going to answer both these questions, as well as give you a hand with what you can do for your own website.

The Big Question—What is SEO?

SEO is an acronym for search engine optimisation. In as few words as possible, SEO is the process of improving your online visibility through organic (non-paid) activities, namely for a better spot on search engines, such as Google and Bing. Sounds easy enough, right?

The problem is, only Google (or other search engines) knows exactly how you can win their affection. This is how SEO was born.

How do you ‘do’ SEO?

Anything you do to help users find you easier on search engines is considered SEO. As we mentioned above, only Google knows the specific ways to do this, however their intent is always the same—to provide the most relevant information to answer the searcher’s question. While what they consider most important to achieve this may change, keeping this in mind will help you make the right decisions regarding your SEO.

There are two types of SEO; on-page and off-page. We’re going to go through a few basics of each, however, please note, this is only the tip of the iceberg. If you really want to step up your SEO game, talk to an expert.

On-page SEO

Anything you do to your website with the hopes of improving organic traffic to a page is called on-page SEO. Your overall goal for your website should be to create an easy, fulfilling experience for the user so they will be more likely to become a customer. To do this, you need to convince Google (and other search engines) your website will provide a great user experience, such as fast load times, easy to navigate, etc. You will need to focus on the front and backend of your website to achieve this.

Frontend SEO

The frontend of your website is anything the user can see. There are so many things to take into account when working on the frontend of your website, but are just a few things you need to take into account:

Create Easy Navigation

If users have difficulty finding the information they need, they will leave your website. Consider the workflow people will take to learn about your business, products or services and then contact you. Create a home, about and contact page, and then decide on your products and services page. At the very least, you will want a parent (main) services or products page with drop-down (child) pages for each you provide.

Put yourself in the shoes of someone visiting your website. Can you always see your business’s contact information in the header? Were you able to quickly locate an enquiry or booking form, size guides, shipping and return information or anything else they need to know about your information. If you get lost, even for a second, so will your user.

Add Good-Quality Content

We discuss this more in-depth in our article, How to Write Website Content That Sells Itself: Tips from a Copywriter. The main takeaways are this:

  • Write unique content. Do not have duplicate content anywhere on your website, unless it is cited.
  • Write for the user, not for search engines (aka overusing the phrase or word you think people will use to end up on your page).
  • Be informative. Think about why someone is looking for your product or service. Focus on how they will benefit from it, rather than the physical thing.
  • Create a brand personality. Make your brand likeable, easy to relate to.

Of course, there is much more to take into account, but this gives you the general idea. Be real. Solve a problem. Make users feel something so they remember you.

Stick to the Point

This ties in both content and navigation, so we thought we’d make it a point of its own. Each page on your website should be able a different topic. For example, your About Us page is about your brand, your Contact page is how they can reach you with any questions and your individual service or product pages are about that specific thing.

Say you’re a plumber. You’ve created your home, about and contact page. You also create a Frequently Asked Questions page to answer common problems people contact you with. Great start. Now, you write a list of all the services you provide. By typing them into the Keyword Planner and Google Trends, you can see emergency plumber, gas plumber and drain cleaner are all services you provide people are regularly searching for. Create pages for each of these with the intent of staying on the topic. Answer the following questions:

  • Why does someone need this particular service?
  • What specific problems may they be facing?
  • How do I solve their problem?
  • What makes my business different to my competitors’?

Backend SEO

The backend of your website is what keeps your website running, but the user does not see. As with any part of SEO, there is a lot we could cover, but these are just two things you’ll need to ensure your website has:

Website coding

Responsive Design

The longer someone spends on your website, the more likely they are to convert to a sale. If a website isn’t easy to use, the rate of people leaving your website will increase, resulting in less sales. This applies to people using smart devices to view your website.

More and more people are using their smartphones and tablets to search for things online. It may surprise you to know a website is designed for desktop computer use, not smartphones and the two are very different. Things like horizontal scrolls, pop-ups, images or videos being too large and text being cut off are all problems of a website that is not built for all devices.

A responsive website can adapt to whatever device the user is searching on. You will need to know code or talk to a developer about making your website responsive.

Easy-to-Crawl Code

Google uses something called a Spider or Crawler to determine the quality of a website. The easier your code is for the Spider to crawl across every page of your website, the better it will rate you (although you will never know how they actually rate you other than the result quantifiers we’ll discuss below). Part of this is having good navigation, but having clunky, unnecessary code will also deter the spider. When the Spider hits a dead end, it will leave your website—so, if your codes stops or makes the Spider stop, so does your SEO.

Off-Page SEO

We already know Google wants to provide their users with trustworthy sources of information. You can say you’re trustworthy and amazing as much as you want on your website, but what Google really wants to see is others saying the same.

As you can guess, off-page SEO is the work you do outside of your website to build trust in your brand. The more Google can see people love your brand, the more they will reward you with better visibility on the searches relevant to your brand—in theory, anyway.

You can do this by:

Having Consistent NAP

NAP is your name, address and phone number. Wherever your business details are displayed online (called citations), you want to ensure they are all identical. Having consistent NAP across online business directories, social media and other websites will help both users and Google identify your business. The more Google can identify your business, the better your chances of them assessing that page and how users like you there.

Learn more about NAP.

Building Quality Backlinks

While we were talking about your NAP above, we mentioned online business directories, social media and being mentioned on other websites. Every time these things mention website, it is called a backlink. However, only quality backlinks are good for your SEO. For example, a government or authoritative website is better to link to than a poor-quality website with very few visitors to their site.

Learn more about quality backlinks.

People Reviewing Your Business

What better way to see what people think about your business than with reviews! Before you go writing reviews or adding testimonials all over the place, know this; Google can see the IP address (web location) and email address used to submit a review. If it’s not legitimate, they’ll know, which can have a negative impact on your SEO.

Learn more about the benefit of reviews for SEO.

Remember, there are plenty of ways to build trust online, not just the three we listed above. We would be here for a long time if we wanted to list them all, so please contact us if you want more help on this topic, or any of the above.

How do you know if your SEO efforts are successful?

There are many ways for you to measure the success of your search engine optimisation. Your position on search result pages (known as SERPS) for a user looking for a topic relevant to your business, is an obvious one. Then there is how many people click on your website from the search engine result pages.

Receiving 1,000 new visitors a day? Great! But how many of them are turning into a customer? A low conversion rate of visitors to leads can indicate a problem with either your on-page SEO or the search terms your website is being listed for. This brings us to our next point.

Who can help with Search Engine Optimisation?

A search strategist is someone who spends a large portion of their day researching and testing Google (and other search engine) algorithm changes. They have access to tools to help them analyse a website or their own work, and make alterations and recommendations to suit.

However, a search engine specialist cannot re-code your website or write content (unless they can, then that’s great!). What you need is a complete digital marketing service, who can look after creating you a search engine optimised website, run SEO improvement campaigns and support your traffic growth with search engine marketing and other activities.

Someone like Localsearch—recent finalists of the 2018 SEMrush AU awards—can help you with an amazing website, to set a good foundation, as well as an SEO campaign.

There you have it. Hopefully now you can inform other business owners confused about SEO some of the basics they need to know. Feel free to share this article to them for them to reap the benefits too.

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