When someone says to me “Do you know SEO??” I just laugh and roll my eyes now. It’s like hearing someone say “Do you have PPI?” (I worked in a PPI call centre for a while a few years back too, but I think I’ve heard SEO more than I have PPI)..

Let me explain very simply, and in my own terms what I believe people mean when they say “SEO”, and how that differs from “PPC” – because they are both the ONLY TWO WAYS to get LISTED ON GOOGLE. But they’re very different, and you’ll see why I think 0% of the general population know what the hell they’re talking about when they tell me about “SEO.”

The Basics: “What is SEO?”

Search Engine Optimization, to my knowledge (and it’s limited because NOBODY can master this stuff, it changes forever and there are so many dynamics), it is the process of organically ranking your page on Google. “Organically” meaning that when people search for a certain term, you will rank in their listings that are not advertisements. The first few clearly state “Ad” next to them. These are clicked by 30% of people.

That must mean that 70% of people click on the organic results. Of those, 94% of people click on a website from the first page. That means that statistically under 5% of people are going past the first page of Google. To me, that would imply that the first page of Google is where you need to be.

There are three elements to SEO. Let’s explore them (simply):

Technical Optimization

Technical optimization includes how your website is structured, if it’s optimized for mobiles, and the website speed.

Using titles and meta-tags appropriately in your website help become technically compliant for SEO. Is your website hosted correctly, is there any duplicate URLs? Are you using user-friendly URLs for your content? What about your images, do that have alt-tags, do they have the correct headings and descriptions? It all helps..

There are some very specific technical elements to optimizing your site; from the XML sitemap, the .robots file (which pages should be crawled and indexed on the web), and by taking control of your technical SEO you can further optimize how you appear on Google.

In five simple concepts; Structure of website, xml sitemap, robots file, structure of your code, technical duplication. Those are the things you primarily need to look up if you’re looking to make your website technically compliant with your SEO.

My personal tips include:

  • Ensure URLs are user friendly
  • Ensure that your website is optimized for mobiles and friendly to all browsers
  • Make sure there is no website duplicate upon site set up
  • Ensure that images are optimized for site speed

Use tools such as Google Seach Console, Bing Webmaster, Moz, Screaming Frog, SEM Rush to help you getting technically compliant with the web.

On-Page Optimization

On-page optimization is working with the content ON YOUR WEBSITE to make sure it is relevant to your target market. I would say the first step to this is keyword research, but it’s not it’s defining your target audience, but I’ll get to that in another article. Assuming you have decided on the target audience and who you want to target with your online marketing, the first thing on my mind is keyword research.

Keyword Research

For on-page optimization, the first step would be to identify the keywords and phrases that we use within the content on our website to ensure that it is relevant to our user. The aim is to make the content on your website high quality, relevant for your target audience and related to the search terms and phrases that you know your target audience are searching for online.

In regards to your research, you can do this at a number of places. I’d suggest getting started with Google Keyword Planner and Google trends, but there are plenty of online tools such as Ubersuggest, Bing Keyword Research and Answer the Public that I used regularly.

There are two primary things to consider with your keywords, too:

Types of Keywords

  • Short-tail: “Car to Rent Wakefield” – these generally have high competition, and a high search volume.
  • Long-tail: “2 Doors Car To Rent in Wakefield” – these generally are better quality leads, since they are more relevant and specific to your audience
  • Questions “Which Is Best Place To Hire Cars, Wakefield?” – there has been a shift in how we use Google, according to many studies.

*A lot of people are now asking questions, so that is good to consider in your keywords and your content, as this is a new trend and many people may not have implemented that into their content strategy in the past.

As well as this, with recent updates, Google has been reading your content in context to your target audience. It reads synonyms, it is forever getting more human-like as to how it recognises the content. It’s no longer about the <h2> headers (that’s the technical stuff about), but more about HOW YOUR AUDIENCE ARE REACTING TO YOUR POSTS. The time people spend there, if it’s quality. You should be looking to GET PEOPLE TO YOUR SITE by writing about THINGS THEY ARE MOST IMPORTANT TO THEM, which you can get an INDICATION OF FROM WHAT THEY SEARCH MOST FOR.

Researching keywords should be thought about in human terms. What does it say about your target audience? What do they read the most? What are they interested in? What should you should your competency in? Remember, the customer ALWAYS has the option in this digital age. Within your content, you are wanting to promote yourself as the person they WANT TO DEAL WITH OVER OTHERS. That’s what it’s all about, getting recognised, getting ranked on search…. SEO….

Two things:

  • Synonyms.
  • Types of Keywords
  • Bonus third point: Context….
Content Marketing

I’m a massive fan of content marketing as a way to sell online, and I believe it is certainly a place where small businesses are missing out. You should read my article, which demonstrates why content marketing could be a great way for you to attract new customers.

In regards to content marketing within your SEO strategy, it is vital for your organic outreach (reaching people without paying for ads, basically). Having a technically compliant website will only go so far within Google, afterwards you need to be actively creating new blogs, based on keyword research and the search terms your target audience are currently using.

As I mentioned in another article on what you need to know to get noticed online, HubSpot did a study that found 16 blogs per month increased leads generated only by 450% compared to other companies who did 0 – 4 pieces of content a month. The fact is, whether it is video, blogs, e-books or other forms of content, it must be fresh, relevant and unique to your viewers.

Although it can take longer than PPC to get started and listed on Google, SEO is a better strategy for long-term growth online when it comes to attracting new clients, promoting yourself as an industry specialist and leader, as well as providing you content to promote your digital marketing strategy, ultimately driving more customers to your website.

A lot of my clients that I’ve been talking to are looking to reduce their reliance on Pay-Per-Click Ads slowly as they grow their content. They have taken a percentage of money they spend on Google Adwords, and have started with our content marketing services that allow them to grow their online presence over time, reducing the reliance on paying for ads every month. Explore more about how the difference of PPC and SEO here, and how you can use both in conjunction to create the ideal web presence.

Some tips for your content marketing:

  • Written content should be written for humans, not robots.
  • It should also contain the keywords relevant for your target audience
  • The page headings, paragraph headers and bold and well-structured text will improve on-page optimization
  • Internal links to other relevant pages on your website will help

 Off-Site Optimization

Off-site optimization refers to the means in which you reduce the authority of your website, and improve the website ranking. There are five ways to do this, primarily: Link building, social linking, Google+ optimization and content marketing.

Let’s go through them, and break them down simply with some tips to help.

Link Building

A fundamental indicator of how trustworthy your website is, link building has changed in recent years. If you’ve been in the digital game long, you’ll have seen these “in-bound link” services promising to enhance your website by linking it from lots of different site in the web.

Unfortunately, Google are smart, and now rank your website on how many websites that are of high quality link back to your website. Generally, you want high-quality websites linking back to you, and ones that are relevant to your industry. Here is a breakdown of where you should be looking for inbound links, in order of importance:

  • Authoriative websites (like Forbes, for example)
  • Influential blogs (a relevant high-profile blog in your industry)
  • Network Partnerships/companies (when people link back to you as a partner through their website)
  • Specialist sites (such as Moz or HubSpot providing a link to my site, for example) linking back to you, for example)
  • Discussion forums (forums online)
  • Online directory websites

Generally, you should be looking to ideally get your website on the websites in any of those top three areas, but link-building is again something that is long-term and you should look to do with your content as much as possible, where appropriate.

Content Marketing

In regards to off-site optimization, content comes here as well. If you didn’t already see my other posts regarding content, there are reasons why I believe content marketing is so important. It helps with your social strategy, and helps you engage with your audience, directing traffic to your website and promoting yourself as an industry leader.

Content in this context (off-site optimization) is posting your content outside of your website; on other blog sites (Tumblr, LinkedIn) and authoritative sites (you can eventually write for publications if you are known in your industry, content does that for you). It is also about getting your message spread through social, as I mentioned earlier in the article.

Social Linking

I don’t need to tell you how huge an article can become online. By linking your content from social and incorporating a social media strategy with your content marketing, you can engage with your audience whilst providing you with a higher authority over time. As your content gets shared (some articles can be shared 100s of times, and viewed millions – right?), Google takes this into consideration, and of course will accommodate you on their search engine appropriately.

To make the most of social linking, you should:

  • Incorporate a social media strategy with your content marketing
  • Encourage likes and shares of your content to all social profiles on your website
  • Engage with your audience on social media so they are reactive to your material
Google+ Optimization

You should take control of your Google+ optimization. I am in the middle of creating a full-scale “how to” with a step by step guide on how to set up your Google+ account and control your web presence on Google, so stay tuned.

The reason Google+ is so important is because it is linked directly to Google. It provides you with authority on Google, and allows you to take control of the information that appears when someone searches for your company.

It also allows you to optimize your website to appear for your industry, and in relevant searches; mixed with your content, social linking and link building, being on Google+ is the ice on the cake.

Apologies for this blog (it might have a few grammatically errors or whatever!), I will go in further detail on each and have some more tips on how you can rank higher in Google soon. I’m extremely busy with my free trial and trying to complete ten websites this month, my blogs may be suffering! I hope this information helps when you are looking to get to grips on “SEO” and how it can help you. In summary, it’s the WAY IN WHICH YOU GET RANKED ON GOOGLE.

That’s it. 🙂