SEO can be a tricky thing to get your head around, especially if you're new to the digital marketing world, it can be a confusing place. Whether you're just getting started creating your website or whether you've already got your website and want to do your own optimising instead of hiring a company to do so for you, we've got your back.
It's taken us years to get to where we are today, and we're wholly invested in helping others to achieve the results they want for their site, which is why we have comprised the following information and essential expert tips to get you started. So, without further ado, here is everything a beginner needs to know about search engine optimisation.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation, which involves several techniques and practices which are primarily focused on improving and optimising your website to increase both the quantity and quality of the traffic that lands on your website from search engines such as Bing, Yahoo and most importantly, Google.
Unlike paid advertisements and PPC campaigns, SEO focuses on gaining high positions in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) organically, meaning that you don’t have to pay to increase your visibility.
Why Is SEO Important for my website?
SEO is essential for your website as when carried out correctly; it will help you to find new and better users and customers for your website and/or business, by improving your search engine ranking. More traffic to your site will ultimately help to increase your brand awareness and further your position in the SERPs, as well as rising conversion rates and profits.
12 SEO Tips for Beginners
1. Always Research Your Competitors
One of the most important pieces of research you can carry out when it comes to search engine optimisation is competitor research and analysis.
If you aren’t already aware of who your competitors are, your competitors are other websites and businesses within your industry that provide either similar content or similar products and services that you do, who ultimately you are competing within the SERPs for those all-important high-ranking positions.
When it comes to competitor research, here are some of the main things you should be looking at:
- Content length
- Backlink profile
- Keywords they are targeting
- Keywords they are ranking for
- Keyword density
- How they’ve understood the search intent
- Features on the page
Once you have identified these factors in addition to any other factors which you feel would be beneficial for your research, you’re ready to head on over to our next step.
2. Carry Out Extensive Keyword Research
Although there is becoming less of an emphasis on keywords in SEO, that doesn't mean that they aren't still a very crucial part of an effective SEO strategy. Keywords and keyword optimisation are vital parts of effective SEO, so don't neglect them.
Instead, ensure that you take the appropriate steps to carry out extensive keyword research before you create any content, whether that be blogs, website copy, infographics, videos and audio.
When it comes to keyword research, the types of keywords you want to be looking for are those keywords which are deemed to be ‘low-hanging fruit'. What this means is that the best keywords for you to target are ones which have low competitiveness or keyword difficulty but also have a substantial number of monthly searches.
Generally, these keywords are more often than not ‘long-tail’ keywords, meaning that they contain 3 or more words and are focused on more niche topics, but are easy for websites with little to no authority, to rank for.
3. Ensure That You Optimise Your Titles and Meta Descriptions
After deciding on what keyword, you wish to target, your next step is to optimise the content that will appear in the SERPs when someone types in a keyword or search query which is related to your page.
Both your page title and meta description, along with your URL, will appear in the search engine results, so here's how to ensure that they are their best and fully optimised for better SEO.
Your page title should provide the user with an eye-catching title depicting precisely what your page is about to entice users to click through to your result over your competitors.
However, you should also ensure that your page title is also optimised for the keyword you are targeting. To do this, you should ensure that your keyword is as close to the beginning of your title as possible without sounding forced or unnatural.
Your meta description will further describe what your page contains; however you should ensure that your description is relevant otherwise, the chances are that search engines will choose a piece of text which adequately provides a summary of your page instead.
Unlike page titles, your meta description isn't a direct ranking factor for Google, so you might be thinking, ‘why should I invest my time optimising them then?' and the reason is, is that they are an indirect ranking factor.
What that means is that although Google doesn’t take meta descriptions into account when deciding where your page should rank, it does take into account bounce rates which are a ranking factor for Google and are influenced by meta descriptions.
Therefore, to increase your bounce rates from the SERP, you should ensure that your meta description is as informative and persuasive as possible, all while staying within the 155-character limit.
4. Don’t Neglect Optimising Your Page Content
After you have managed to optimise your page titles and meta descriptions, your next step is to ensure that your page content is optimised. On-page optimisation is essential for great SEO, so don't neglect this one.
Headings on a page range all the one from H1 tags to H6 tags, with H1’s being of the most importance and H6’s being of the least.
Headings can not only help you to structure the content on your page, but can also help you to optimise your content for keywords and provide a better user experience of your page, as generally, most users will scroll down on a page to how your page is structured and what information it contains before going ahead and reading your content to ensure that they aren't going to waste their time.
For best SEO practices you should only use one H1 tag, the other heading tags you can use as much or as little as you want, but you should ensure that your headings structure your content and tell users what information they will find in each section of your page.
When it comes to optimising your content for keywords, you should ensure that you include your keyword and variants of your keywords in your heading tags and are to the front of the tag as is possible without sounding forced or like you are repeating yourself.
You may be wondering how you'd optimise an image for SEO; however, it's a lot simpler than it sounds.
You see search engine crawlers can't perceive images like humans can to understand what the images contain. Instead, these crawlers rely on the alt text or the alt tag on images to understand what the images contain.
In order for you to optimise your alt tags and therefore your images, you should ensure that you provide an adequate explanation of the image for visually impaired users who may be using a screen reader in order to browse the internet, but you should also ensure that you include your keyword or a variant of your keyword in the tag.
Not only will this prove to the search engine crawlers the relevance of the image on the page but will also give you a better chance of your image and the page appearing in image searches.
5. Get to Grips with Search Intent
The last essential piece of research that is imperative for you to do is for you to get to grips with the search intent behind the keywords you wish to target and therefore, rank for.
Search intent can be a tricky thing for you to get your head around, but it is vital for ranking in those high positions in Google.
Search for the keyword you wish to rank for in an incognito tab on your browser and take a look at the top 3 to 5 results that appear and categorise them into one of the following:
- Purchasing Intent - Users looking to purchase an item or service.
- Information Intent - Users looking for information on a specific topic or product.
- Navigational Intent - Users looking for a particular brand website.
- Investigation Intent - Users looking for information with the intent to purchase in the future.
Once you have identified what the search intent is behind your keyword, you'll have a better understanding of the type of page you'll have to satisfy the user's search query.
Body of text
Optimising your content for keywords in the body of text can be rather tricky, as the most common problems that people suffer with are under-optimisation, over-optimisation and keywords that have disrupted the flow of content.
Instead, you should ensure the following when optimising your articles, blogs and website copy for keywords:
- Include your keyword in the first paragraph of text
- Compare your keyword density against your competitors to ensure against over and under-optimisation
- Use variants and long-tail keywords of your seed or target keywords
- Bold and italicise keywords for further emphasis
- Include your keywords and variants of your keywords in your anchor text to relevant pages
By sticking to these tips, you’ll help to protect yourself against the perils of both under and over optimisation.
6. Create High-Quality Content Over Quantity
Although websites that have more pages of content do consistently well in the search engine results pages over those websites that have a limited amount of pages, this doesn’t mean that you should start creating a bunch of sub-standard pages in an effort to generate more content for your website, as this won't help you to rank faster.
Instead, focus on creating high-quality pages over the quantity of page you're creating, even if it means spending more time on creating those pages. Ultimately this will help to benefit the overall health of your site as quality content performs better in the SERP than content that was created slapdash for the sake of ranking.
7. Make Sure Your Optimise Your URLs
You may think that the URL of your page isn't as important as the other on-page optimisation factors of your site, but your URLs are just as relevant as any other.
When it comes to creating your URLs for each of your pages, you should make sure that they adhere to these guidelines:
- Contain no capital letters
- Contain no special characters or underscores
- Contain no stop words
- Descriptive of the page
- Indicate site hierarchy
- Within 115 characters
8. Have a Strong Internal Linking Structure
Search engine crawlers use the links on your website to find, crawl and index your pages better, which is why you must have a strong internal linking structure to ensure crawlers can see your pages and index them if you wish for them to rank.
All you have to do is to sit down and create an internal link spreadsheet for your site and divide your pages into Tier 1, 2 and 3 pages depending on how relevant the pages are. Once you've divided them into different categories, you can write down which pages will link to which, but remember that your tier 1 pages (i.e. your most important pages) should have more links directed to them than your tier 3 pages.
9. Link Out to Authoritative Sources
In addition to linking to your pages, it also helps to link out to authoritative sites that contain valuable information which may be of interest or benefit to the user. This is beneficial not only because it can help users find the information they need, but also because it can help to boost your own authority.
However, for best practice, you should allow yourself around 2 -3 external links per 1,200 words.
10. Check Your Site Speed
When visiting a slow website, the majority of users will click back to the SERP and visit another website if your website doesn't load quickly enough, so site speed is another significant factor of effective SEO.
You can use such tools as Google's Page Speed Insights and GTMetrix to check both the speed of your site and help to identify any areas for improvement, which would significantly boost the speed of your website.
Although we covered this in our site speed optimisation page, some of the most common factors which can affect the speed of your site are:
- Size and quality of the images
- The web hosting service you use
- Number of widgets and plugins
- Number of adverts on your page
11. Check How Mobile Friendly Your Site is
Almost half of all Google searches take place on mobile devices, which means that if your website isn't mobile-friendly, then you've got some serious optimisation to do.
If your website isn't mobile-friendly, then you're not taking advantage of the massive mobile market of customers and users who could be visiting your site and purchasing your services.
Instead, if your website isn't mobile-friendly, then you'll find that users are likely to bounce back to the SERPs and visit one of your competitor's pages instead. This will, in turn, affect your bounce rate and, in all probability, make your ranking drop, so mobile optimisation is essential for not only good user experience but also high rankings.
You can test your website to see how mobile-friendly your site is by using Google's Mobile-Friendly Test Tool, which will tell you whether your site is optimised for mobile and provide you with recommendations if your website isn't up to scratch.
Some small changes you can make to your website to ensure that your website is mobile-friendly are:
- Make sure your website is responsive
- Don’t use flash elements
- Ensure your buttons are big enough and spaced out evenly enough for ease of clicking
12. Use Analytics to Track Your Progress
Your final step is to keep track of your SEO efforts by using an analytics programme such as Google Analytics or Google Search Console to track the visibility and your online performance.
Initially it can be tricky to get to grips with using these tools, however, once you’re used to using them, there’s no limit to what you can do and there’s no turning back.
There are plenty of videos, articles and online tutorials which allow you to understand how to use these analytics and performance tracking programmes. For more information on how to use Google Search Console, then you can take a look at our Comprehensive Guide for all the information you need to know.
Now that you understand the basics of the essential parts of Search Engine Optimisation, you've got all the SEO tips you know to get started on putting your campaign into practice. Once you get started and get used to the technical terms and techniques which are used, you'll soon find that you're ready to get learning more critical and better things, but these are the basics to SEO which will help get you started and get your website off the ground.