A Beginner’s Guide to SEO

SEO graphic

In the last decade or so, search engine optimisation has gone from being a little-known area of technical wizardry to one of the most important marketing mediums. Today, enlisting the expertise of talented and hardworking SEO agencies (such as Bluesoup!) is a priority for businesses of all shapes and sizes because, in the digital age, this really can be the difference between success and failure.

In this blog, we’ll take you through the basics of SEO. Whether your company is just starting out and you’ve never had to think about it before or you’ve been established for years but are worried your SEO knowledge may be out of date, we’re here to help. And, if after reading this, you think your business could benefit from our team’s expertise, why not ask us to carry out a free SEO audit on your site? Just click here and fill out the form to get in touch.

What is SEO and why does it matter?

To put it simply, SEO is the practice of helping a website get to the top of the Google listings (and those of other search engines, such as Bing) for certain words and phrases that potential customers tend to look up. If, for example, your business specialises in selling used cars, your SEO efforts could be focused on ranking highly for keywords like ‘second-hand cars for sale’.

The reason SEO has become increasingly important of late should be self-explanatory: more people are now using search engines to inform their purchase decisions than ever before. Whether your company sells clothes or cars, hairdryers or holidays, it is vital that you appear when someone types in a phrase related to your service or product.

There’s nothing complicated about the concept of SEO but ranking for your chosen keywords can be an absolute minefield. Google is always tweaking its algorithm (the automated process that uses many different factors to govern how often and highly a site appears in its listings), so staying on top of and adapting to the near-constant changes can be hugely challenging.

On-site SEO

There are loads of ways you can make your website more SEO-friendly – so many, in fact, that it can be tricky deciding where to start. You may already know that ensuring a site is populated with relevant, up-to-date and high-quality content (by which we mean blogs and permanent, static pages called ‘landing pages’) should be one of your top priorities, but there are plenty of other things you can do to boost your SEO performance. Here are just a few examples of some of the most important:

Make sure your site has a clean and logical URL structure. For example, having a page that ends with ‘.com/products/laptops’ would be much better than ‘.com/shop/products/category-6/laptops/display.html’.

Use basic HTML in your content so that it can be found more easily by Google. Simple things like making your title an H1 tag, heading up any subsections with H2 tags and adding descriptive alt text to any images can have a big impact. You can find a comprehensive beginner’s guide to HTML here.

Ensure your site design is mobile-friendly. According to research, mobiles accounted for a massive 58% of web traffic in 2018, but a significant proportion of sites are still far too difficult to navigate on handheld devices. The mighty Google algorithm has recently moved towards ‘mobile-first’ indexing, meaning its ranking calculations are now largely based on how accessible your site is when people use it on their mobiles, so having a robust cross-device design has become much more than a ‘nice-to-have’ – it’s essential if you want to rank well.

Content

We’ve already mentioned how producing great content should be an important pillar of any site’s approach to SEO. However, there is much more to this than just setting up a blog and posting something new every couple of weeks.

Ten years ago, you could have got away with filling your site with paper-thin content that was only 200 words long and not really relevant or interesting to any of your potential customers; if it featured your target keyword, the chances are that publishing any content at all could benefit your rankings. Now, though, Google has – through a series of algorithm updates – clamped down on low-quality content, forcing websites and agencies to drastically improve their output.

Today, businesses must pay a lot more attention to the art of writing engaging, substantial and original content that could genuinely be helpful to searchers who land on the page – and most SEO departments worth their salt would agree it’s not before time!

Off-site SEO

Honing your off-site SEO is the other strategy you will need to focus on if you want to feature above your competitors for all your key terms. The simplest way of describing this area of SEO is that it all revolves around persuading authoritative, high-quality websites to link to yours; again, however, succeeding at this has become far more complex in recent years.

In the past, you could submit your business to any number of spammy, generic directories and participate in countless ‘link exchanges’ with other websites which had absolutely no relevance to your own yet see positive results almost instantly. As with content, though, frequent and persistent abuse of the link building process has forced Google to adopt a tougher line, and any sites which now engage in such ‘black hat’ techniques run a huge risk of being detected and penalised – something which has led to many formerly high-ranking companies disappearing from the search engine’s listings, literally overnight.

Along with running a generally trustworthy, well-regarded business – and boosting your profile with more traditional ad campaigns – the best way of gaining links back to your site (helpfully known as ‘backlinks’) is to create excellent, innovative content and, just as importantly, to promote it in the right places. Once you’ve published your latest blog, video, infographic etc., you should start seeking out influencers who may be genuinely interested in and wish to share it, whether this means contacting bloggers, other companies or even media outlets. Getting links from this kind of source is a sure-fire method of improving your rankings.