Welcome to The Beginners Guide To SEO. This article is all about the fundamentals of SEO, what it is, and best practices to implement on the two most popular search engines in the world; Google and Bing. By the end of this article, you will have a full understanding of SEO, how it works, and how to implement changes on your own website.
What is SEO?
Search engine optimisation, or SEO as it is more commonly known across the web is the implementation of different criteria in order to increase the volume of traffic to a website as well as the overall quality. You may also hear people call SEO ‘organic traffic’ which means that you have received visitors from non-paid search results.
Although SEO is about getting on the right side of search engines, it is worth noting that the work you do on your website needs to appeal to people. This course will show you how to understand what your prospective customers are looking for and how to answer the questions they have.
By successfully answering their questions, you will improve the quality of traffic to your website and increase your conversion rate, whether you are attempting to sell a product online or provide a service.
What are Search Engines?
A search engine, like Google or Bing are answering machines. They use robots to crawl and evaluate billions of pieces of content to determine which website is the best suited to answer your query.
Consider for a moment, the number of images, videos and web pages that are currently online, well a search engine will catalogue all this information and index it in an order determined by multiple ranking factors.
A search engine wants to put the best answers in front of you, why? So you keep on coming back and using it. We will touch more on the ways a search engine works and processes the information later in the course.
What is an organic search result?
In simple terms, an organic search result is a non-paid listing. To benefit from organic search results, you will need to have a strong and effective SEO strategy.
In the earlier days, if a user typed something into a search engine, they would receive both paid and organic results. These days however, the top spot position is a lot more difficult to achieve thanks to the introduction of image carousels, ‘People Also Ask’ boxes and featured snippets which basically answer a user’s question without them even needing to click through to a website.
For example, if you completed a search for “Bristol weather,” you’ll see an up-to-date weather forecast at the top of the search engine results. This allows your question to be answered immediately and without having to click through to a website.
Even though this might seem a bit unfair, a search engine has got the user experience at the forefront of its business model. However, remember that search engines make their money from advertising, so the better the user experience, the more likely you are to continue using their services which allows them further opportunities to profit from your queries.
Why is SEO important?
It is always worth investing in social media and paid advertising to generate website traffic, but the reality is that the majority and most cost-effective traffic available to you is through search engines.
To appear at the top of a search engine is extremely beneficial for several reasons.
1. Your website will appear more credible to searchers.
2. Your click through rate will be far higher than if you were to run a paid campaign.
3. Your advertising budget would go a lot further.
Point number 2 in this list is worth noting. Did you know that of all searches, only 2.8% of people click on paid advertisements? That means that SEO has 20x more traffic than Pay Per Click (PPC) on both desktop and mobile.
If you set up your SEO strategy correctly it can pay dividends over time, whereas paid advertising needs continuous funding to send traffic to your website. Creating high quality content, that answers questions, will remain at the top of search engine results and provide you with a constant flow of traffic.
What is White Hat and Black Hat SEO?
This is where you need to be very careful because if you get this wrong, a search engine could penalise you and place you at the lowest end of their search results.
White Hat SEO is what you want to be aiming for. It is all about adding value to your website by publishing helpful content and answering questions. This is a strategy that abides by search engine rules and if implemented correctly, will ensure that your website is successful.
Black Hat SEO needs to be avoided like the plague. This is where someone will attempt to spam a search engine to gain higher rankings. It is an extremely dangerous tactic and has even made businesses bankrupt due to the penalties that search engines have dished out.
What does Google want?
Google is the most popular search engine in the world, so it is worth knowing exactly what it wants from you. Here are the basic principles to live by:
- Never deceive website users.
- Avoid black hat SEO and tricks intended to improve rankings.
- Make your website for people, not search engines.
- Create valuable content.
What doesn’t Google want?
Take note, these are the things that Google doesn’t want to see. By engaging in even one of them leaves you at risk of receiving a penalty.
- Using hidden text (keywords or phrases the same colour as the background)
- Showing different content to search engine robots than what you show to website visitors.
- Taking part in link building schemes.
- Building pages to rank well for specific searches to funnel traffic.
- Creating pages with copied content.
Stop for a moment and think about your own website, do any of these apply to you? If they do then you might have just solved the first reason why your website isn’t ranking for what it should.
What does Bing want?
Next up is the second most popular search engine in the world, mainly down to the installation settings on devices powered by Microsoft. Bing accounts for nearly 3% of searches (which shows just how powerful Google is with nearly 92% of the share). Although Bing uses a very similar algorithm to Google, they require some additional work:
- Social shares provide positive signals and as a result can impact how you rank.
- Ensure page titles are relevant and clear.
- Write engaging content.
- Backlinks are a signal of popularity.
- Build a fast and responsive website with a focus on user experience.
- Describe what is in an image using ALT tags.
What doesn’t Bing want?
Much like Google, there are certain things that would be wise to avoid. Make a note of the points below and avoid them when creating or optimising your website in the future.
- Minimum page content that focuses on adverts or affiliate links.
- Keyword stuffing in page titles, URLs, and content.
- Duplicate content.
- Spamming link tactics or the purchase of links.
- Avoid non-letter characters in URL’s.
Google My Business Guidelines
Your business will qualify for a Google My Business listing if you operate locally or provide a service within a local area. To successfully benefit from a business listing, Google have created some basic principles that you need to be aware of. To check if you are eligible, does your business fall into any of the following categories:
- My business has a physical address that it operates out of (e.g. estate agent)
- My business operates at the address of customers (e.g. electrician)