A beginners guide to SEO – So you’ve finally finished your amazing website, you are uploading regular content, and social media promotion is on point – but why is your amazing and polished business website not getting the traction it so rightfully deserves. If it’s buried on the third, fourth, or fifth page due to poor SEO (search engine optimisation) – Then you have to change that. Not to worry, dear reader, this article will walk you through the ten steps of SEO and give you helpful tips on how to pull in more traffic. With a lot of practice and dedication, your website will be pulling in those clicks like crazy!
Most people aren’t at all aware of what drives traffic to websites. How does a website get noticed and clicked? Is it social media? Word of mouth? Luck? Here are some interesting facts: 64% of organic traffic comes from manual searches. Over 25% of users click the very first thing that comes up. But social media drives only 10% of traffic to websites. The first page of Google receives as much as 92% of search traffic clicks, whereas the second page hovers at around 6% of all website clicks.
First things first.
WHAT IS SEO?
To comprehend what SEO is and how it functions, you must first understand search engines -Google, DuckDuckGo, Bing, etc. What makes a website rank ahead of its competition in search results? There are dozens, even hundreds of websites that can cover the same topics or sell similar products, but they will all rank differently. A search engine does the job of indexing all the pages circulating the web, like a digital spreadsheet, and uses algorithms that understand the flowing of data (traffic, backlinks, impressions, keywords, etc.) to place any given website in its most appropriate position based on different factors, such as relevance and authority.
SEO is, simply put, a means of getting your website to rank better for search engines. It’s about framing websites in alignment with what search engines understand and displaying relevance value and ranking it accordingly. However, one common misunderstanding ought to be cleared up: SEO does not truly work on websites as a whole, but rather on the individual pages found on them.
WHY SEO MATTERS
We touched briefly on the ways that SEO can benefit you, but to further crystallise the point, think of your proclivities when searching the web. You’ve Googled something, you’re seeking to learn “how to knit a pair of socks”, for example, and right away you’re presented with a myriad of options. Which website catches your eye? For the majority of people, it’s the first one. Even if you scroll down through the options, it’s still a 95% chance that you will click on something on the first page and ignore the second and third pages. This is why SEO is important. You want your pages to be optimised so that they show up as close as
possible to the top of the first page. The first few listings are the golden spot for receiving more traffic to your website.
THE 10-STEP SEO CHECKLIST FOR BEGINNERS
We can now go over the 10 most important SEO tips for beginners that will help drive more traffic to your website.
Make use of keywords and relevant terms
Keywords make the SEO world go round. Keywords are indicators of the main topic; they allow people to find your website/page/article when typing something relevant into the search engine. Keywords are typed into search engines, thus our emphasis on trying to make the keywords used on your website reflect the search tendencies of your target audience. It may be anything as simple as “cars for sale London” or a long-tail-keyword search like “best place in London to buy a vintage car”. It should be noted, though, that shorter keyword combinations typically get more searches, which
can make them more difficult to rank for. Long-tail-keywords have a lower search volume but are more tailored. This means that by using long-tail-keywords, you are better able to target your intended audience. We would advise a blend of both long-tail and short keywords. It is also advised to be mindful of the search volume and rank difficulty of the keywords being used. The search volume tells you how often a specific keyword is being searched – the higher the search volume, the higher the interest in this topic. On the other hand, rank difficulty displays how difficult it will be to rank in search engine results. Yes, keywords are essential, but there are nine more key aspects to address that will boost traffic.
Spread out your keywords
Once you know your keywords, you need to know where to put them. Back in the wild wild west of the world wide web, people used to do something called “Keyword Stuffing”, which was, as the name indicates, an attempt to get more traffic to your page or article by over-inflating the quantity of keywords used beyond a necessary number and to a ridiculous degree. It worked for a time. But we do not do that anymore! Search engines caught on to this cheesy tactic and altered their algorithms to flag such cases. These days things are more civilised. Here is where you should be using your keywords to not disrupt the flow of your written content:
First and final paragraph of your post
Scattered throughout the text of your post
SEO your permalinks
A permalink is a URL you see when you access a webpage. A permalink can reveal a ton about the general framework of a website. Though a permalink should not be overly lengthy, it should be detailed enough to tell the user what your page is about, as well as feed the algorithms the correct information. These algorithms, as we mentioned earlier, track all activity on the pages of your website to better grasp the content of your site and index it appropriately. Therefore, be sure to use succinct and relevant terms in the URL. For instance, if you run an online crafts store, arrange your pages with the proper permalinks to show people what they accessing and to help contextualise the information. It establishes a more crystallised hierarchy for search engines and aids in SEO.
So here is what it may appear like:
www.shoeshop.com – you begin with something small.
www.shoeshop.com/boots – then you add a relevant category, a page for all the boots.
www.shoeshop.com/boots/shoesize/colour/brand – and you keep narrowing down until you reach a specific item in the shop.
As you may have guessed, permalinks are permanent, which means that you must understand the correct ones for all the individual pages of your website. We would dissuade you from using dates or other details that could change.
One important factor to understand is that the longer a page has been active on the internet, the better it tends to play into SEO. So, ideally, you would be updating a page over time instead of creating and deleting them. But the reason that older pages rank better is not that they’ve been around longer. It is because they have had the time to establish some authority through generated traffic, link building, and more. The ability to renew pages with updated information is essential, so you do need to create permanent permalinks.
Here is how this would play out. You write an article titled Top 10 Best Gaming Headsets for 2020. This is an amazing title, but in your permalink, you would exclude the 2020 bit. This allows you to update the already well-written article a year later and write Top 10 Best Gaming Headsets for 2021. The same principle should be applied to holiday pages, like the Christmas Sale page that you can update annually for years to come.
Use hyperlinks to web your content together
If sections of what you are writing are related to your older posts, then it would do you well to link them to each other. Hyperlinking your content is beneficial because it improves the user experience by guiding the reader to relevant and useful content on your site, and it also helps the algorithms with indexing and contextualising.
Your links should, of course, be written neatly and understandably so that site users can know what it is that you are linking to. Whenever possible, you ought to use keywords and link them. These keywords would, ideally, would be different from your URL, page title, or header tags. Search engines certainly favour pages with a lot of links branching out of them. For instance, linking to a smaller internal page on your site’s home page improves the SEO of the page being linked to.
But irrelevant hyperlinks can also harm your SEO score and negatively impact the user experience on your website. As you can imagine, embedding hyperlinks that are not related to the topic would be pretty frustrating and off-putting. Similarly, a search engine crawls the pages of your web to figure out what they are about and how useful they are to users. When the page’s links do not correlate with the page’s keywords, this only confuses the algorithm and it will rank you lower because of the discrepancy.
No keyword stuffing
Content is king! No matter how much you manipulate your website, if the content is not there to give substance, users won’t stick around. Do your best to provide detailed and important information with your content. Above all else, aim to be helpful and make the user experience smooth and satisfying. Quality over quantity is the rule of thumb – more words does not equal better content – as there is a clear correlation between word count and ranking, as well as the depth of the article and ranking. Of course, your style of writing could have an impact, too, but in general, clear, detailed, smooth flowing writing with a conversational tone works just great across the internet. Do not try to cheat the system by scattering keywords everywhere – this strategy will only get you so far since the algorithms that you are using can pretty easily recognise such cheap tactics.
Optimise your images
It may not seem like it, but images are incredibly important here. From the reader’s perspective, images help with the visualisation of written content and make it more understandable. When it comes to SEO, images help your pages to be crawled by algorithms. Now an image itself cannot be indexed or contextualised, but what’s embedded in the image can: ALT-text (image description). Inserting keywords into image descriptions is an effective way to ensure that Google will index it for your specific keywords.
You have surely noticed, whenever searching something up on Google or Bing, the images that appear at the top of your search results. These are a practical way of drawing people into your website because what they do is let people know that your website and your images are relevant to the search topic. It is also important to compress your images since this will help maintain website speed, which is vital for SEO. There are a variety of free image compression tools you can use, so do your website a favour and optimise your images correctly.
Another thing you can use to optimise your images is a site map. According to Google, this is “a file where you can list the web pages of your site to tell Google and other search engines about the organisation of your site content.” Simply put, this is a file that holds a map of your site’s content. These site maps are often used as part of SEO because they collectively inform the search engines about your pages, and the search engine crawlers notice all the images – photos, infographics, memes, video thumbnails, and so on – and include them in your map.
For image map entries, you should include the title, description, caption, URL location, and license information. For video entries, you should include the title, description, URL location, thumbnail URL, as well as URL of the video file.
Try to maintain a stable and reliable page speed
Now since we just mentioned how images can impact page speed, you should know that there are a few other things you can do, other than image compression, to improve your SEO in this regard.
These things include but are not limited to:
Stop using needless apps
Invest in a CDN (Content Delivery Network)
The majority of people who visit your website will spend only a few seconds on it. Before deciding whether to stay and explore or just leave. So a speedy website provides a smooth user experience and they’re more likely to stick around.
However, if they are being asked to sit around waiting for a page to load, this will produce poor results for you – people barely have long attention spans to read an entire article these days (most people just skim the headings), so there is a high chance that people will bounce from your site if it’s too slow.
Enhance the mobile experience of your website
As of 2020, the global breakdown of internet traffic shows 50.88% mobile. 46.39% desktop. If your website is not properly formatted for smartphones, then you could be cutting your potential user base by more than 50%. That is staggering! So make sure that your pages are mobile-friendly, load well, that all buttons work as they’re supposed to, and that the page is not flooded with intrusive popups.
It should be mentioned that Google recently expressed a focus on assisting site owners with their mobile sites. Core Web Vitals provides metrics on how humans and machines perceive your site’s performance. This is a great way to figure out what you should focus on while working to improve your mobile site.
Remember, your website is a single operation. Your website must be adaptable enough to function properly on whatever device it’s being viewed, but the contents of these different views should always be the same.
There are more ways to optimise your mobile site, such as the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) framework. This is an attempt by Google to make web pages load much faster on mobile devices. This is accomplished by enclosing your content in special HTML code, which then allows you to optimise the pages in such a manner that Google can use to enhance performance.
AMP has some cons, however, and should be used selectively. But there are also alternative services that offer similar solutions, such as Cloudflare’s various delivery technologies.
Now more than ever, mobile is the new default and you cannot afford to not have a website that is not optimised with mobile in mind. Mobile SEO is about much more than just great content and smooth presentation, it is about curating the perfect user experience. That is what you are aiming for.
I’m sure you have started to notice a trend: if you want to drive more traffic to your website, you must provide a positive user experience. That is what will make people want to stay and explore, which will then signal to the algorithms that your page is relevant for the keywords you chose.
Keep your pages and content updated
SEO is a long-term commitment and a necessary part of maintaining a profitable and growing platform. As such, you should conduct regular SEO audits to improve functionality. Keeping it up to date with the rapidly changing SEO trends of the day, as well as the constantly evolving algorithms. These would penalise you in terms of search ranking due to outdated information.
You can begin the process by going over older pages and evaluating how well it’s all optimised. If you find content that serves no purpose, nor is it optimised properly it could be hindering your SEO potential.
Technical side of SEO
If all of the above sounds overly complicated, then here’s where we blow your top off. Technical SEO goes beyond just permalinks and keywords. SEO wizards focus on designing a website that is responsive in a multitude of ways, from crawling and indexing to migrations and page speed, but this goes far beyond what an SEO beginners guide would describe.
However, it still seemed important to mention it here. As with anything, some people are dedicated to this occupation and understand the ins and outs of SEO. You can take care of your SEO, but if you want to see substantial growth it is helpful to, at least occasionally, hire an expert to perform an audit or manage necessary updates. Consult your team and your SEO expert to better understand how the ideal website structure and design should look for your target audience.
Promote your posts and content
The bar for entry into the world of SEO is pretty steep and requires a fair bit of digging and work, but with continuous practice, you are sure to improve and grow from a beginner to a wizard. Meanwhile, keep in mind that the best thing you can do now to improve your ranking on search engines is to publish relevant and high-quality content on your platform.
When you have awesome articles published there, be sure to promote them using social media to reach an even wider audience. The most organic way to do this, is by sharing your posts on multiple social media channels and through a newsletter. Or you can use paid advertising (PPC). Both of these are fruitful facets of your marketing strategy and should be applied sooner or later. The organic approach grants you greater long-term communication potential with your target audience. Paid ads, on the other hand, help to display your content to the right audience. Increasing traffic to your website faster, benefitting your overall SEO performance.
© 2022 Joe York