The 10 Minute guide to SEO

Written By Stewart Ritchie
Posted On July 22, 2015

Getting found is search engine is both painfully simple and massively complex all at the same time.  Here’s everything you need to know in a ten-minute run down.

1. SEO is part of a larger strategy

Search Engine Optimisation for its own sake is a largely pointless endeavour, as most things are.  Take a good, long, hard look at why you want to do SEO and if it actually solves a problem then go for it.  If its a band aid over something else then you’re asking for a world of hurt. One example of this is a ‘Software As A Services’ (SaaS) business that has a high cancellation rate for its software after a few months. The solution here is to fix and improve the product so your existing marketing (that is already getting results!) is more effective, not improving the marketing to get more customers you can lose all over again.

2. SEO is a tactic for traffic generation, you have other options.

Search Engine Optimisation is only one way of getting traffic to your site. Other options exist within this space.  As an alternative, you could focus on getting traffic from Social media, Email Marketing, Pay Per Click Advertising and Referral Link Building. Search Engine Optimisation is a long process and you won’t see results immediately – how does this fit with your strategy and do you have the resources to carry on the process in the long term?

3. You have to know your value proposition

Search engine optimisation is about finding people while they are looking for something. To do that you have to know what they’re looking for a why that’s valuable to them. If you don’t understand this you will never be able to produce content that ranks and converts. Making the whole thing useless.

4. You need to be able to convert.

SEO is time consuming and expensive – it takes you months and if done right becomes a really valuable asset that can help generate leads and win clients for a long time. There is no point engaging in SEO unless you know your site is able to convert the visitors into customers. If you have no marketing funnel – don’t do it. SEO is part of a larger marketing process and unless you have a way of turning those visitors into customers it will waste your time and money. Get the building blocks in place first.

5. Do your research

There are a few things you need to know for Search Engine Optimisation. People search for some words more commonly than others. You can research which keywords and combinations get a high volume of search traffic using Google’s Keyword Analysis Tool. This will show you how frequently a search term is used. Next you need to know how difficult it is going to be to rank for that keyword. There are a variety of tools out there that can help you work out why a particular page is ranking for that piece of content but there are over 200 factors in the Google Ranking algorithm to consider. The trick is to get a balance between how often a page is search for, how well a keyword converts for you and how easy it is to rank for that search. You can rank easily for keywords that aren’t searched often but you might not see results, or you could struggle to rank at all for very well optimised keyword that gets lots of traffic.

6. Content Content Content Content

The search engines are getting smarter and smarter. In the past there were many ways to game the system. You could have hundreds and hundreds of back links from non-related sources and you could stuff keywords everywhere to try and adjust your search rank. These days the value of these tactics is vastly reduced. Focus on creating content that solves problems, gets shared on social media and generates natural link profiles. Google and the other search engines are getting more and more concerned with quality, not just the algorithmic determination of a pages content.

7. Optimise your page

Your page should then be optimised to help Google know what it’s about and who it might be valuable for.  There are many different factors on your page that influence how it might rank and how Google understand the page. A good start is the content of the page. Make sure your titles, heading and content read well to humans and provide content fro the piece. Do not stuff any of these things with keywords. You should have good quality, semantic mark-up that helps the search engines understand what parts of your page are content and what parts of navigation, headers, footers, etc, etc.  You micro formats to provide extra information.

As a guide look at your site as if you were a blind person, perhaps using a screen reader – can you  understand what your site is about with the layout taken away. Optimising for people and value is how to rank well. Websites that have a focus on accessibility will rank better. What’s good to accessibility is good for search meaning.

Help Google to know better what your page is about by using links. If you’re writing about technology, a link to apple.com is going to help google understand that you are writing about technology and not about fruit. Use the links within your site to build these relationships but also link out to authoritative external pages that help Google categorise your content as high priority by association.

8. Seed links back to your page.

Links are the current of the internet. In the past, the sheer number of links was what was important. Now the quality of those links matter far more. A bad link from a spammy site can hurt your search listing as much as a good link from an important external site can help.

Use social media to circulate your posts and see links back to your content and pages. Great content will develop a series of links back to it from other sources that find it via social media. Reach out to others in the same circles and ask for links, particularly from influencers in your markets. Write content and guest blog for other sites building links to your content from them.

9. Optimise your whole site

The quality of your whole site has an effect on if a single page will rank. Look after it and nurture it. Always be improving it for users. This means more content. More content keeps the site active and builds the overall link profile. Always do what is best for your users.

Google recently added some new factors to its search algorithm to help detect high quality sites that try and help users…

  • HTTPS
  • Mobile Optimised
  • Site Speed

Previously thought of as nice to haves. These factors now have an influence on how you appear in search engines. Use these factors to help you rank.

10. Don’t get attached

The algorithm is always changing and you are up against hundreds of thousands of competitors for those search rankings.  Unless you keep the process going and continue your search optimisation process, you will lose your ranking and your traffic will drop. Changes in the algorithm can make or break a site in a day. If you had a spammy link profile you were almost completely destroyed in the Google Penguin and Panda updates as thousands of sites had penalties.

Always do what’s best for the user and don’t try to game the system. Do what they say and follow the search engine’s advice – then you won’t have a problem.

Stewart Ritchie
Lead developer and founder of Powered By Coffee. Stewart has been building websites for 15 years and focusing on WordPress for 5. He founded Powered By Coffee in 2011 after finishing is masters degree. He lives in Guildford Surrey with his wife Sydney and their two cats.
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