Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
You’ve been told you need it, but you don’t really know what it is or where to start?
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the art of creating websites that allow people to find you online.
Or more specifically, the art of creating websites that encourage search engines, such as Google, to put your content in one of the coveted top positions in the search engine results.
So how exactly do you encourage Google to rank you in one of the top spots?
What does Google want?
Since Google is ultimately a search engine, it really just wants one thing: to provide the best answers possible to the questions people ask.
To do that, Google needs 3 things:
- awesome written answers on your site
- your site to function properly
- to know it can trust your site
To satisfy these requirements, there are 3 main pillars of website SEO. Exclude one, and you risk your site not ranking in the search engines.
The three pillars are:
- on page optimisation
- technical optimisation
- off page optimisation
It’s important to understand the different types of SEO because if you want to rank well in a search engine, you need to address all three.
In addition, if you engage an SEO professional, you need to be aware that some SEO professionals may only specialise in one type of optimisation, even though all three pillars are important and must be optimised if a site is to rank well.
If you engage an SEO professional, make sure you understand their area(s) of expertise, which aspect of SEO they are addressing, and where they might need assistance from another SEO professional with a complementary skill set.
On page optimisation
On page optimisation refers to things on your website.
- Does your content answer the types of questions people ask Google?
- Is each piece of content optimised for one keyword or phrase?
- Is this keyword used strategically throughout the page, eg: In the URL and meta tags?
- Does the content match user intent? Are synonyms of the keyword used?
- Does the content increase dwell-time or increase bounce rate?
- Is the site structured and linked in a way that it is easy for Google to crawl around your site?
On page optimisation can be taken care of by an SEO copywriter.
Technical optimisation refers to whether your site functions properly, and whether Google can easily read through the content on your site.
One of the biggest things that can affect your Google ranking is your site speed.
Enormous image sizes, and things like carousel sliders, can have a huge impact on loading time, and neither people nor Google respond well to that.
Another factor is whether Google can actually read through your pages, or whether there are blocks preventing it from accessing your site.
Broken links are also a huge mood killer, so ensuring people and Google are not met with dead ends, is a great way to improve your ranking.
And don’t forget duplicate content, as this just confuses Google.
For example, if you have two pieces of similar content, how does Google know which piece is better?
Which one should Google put forward? If Google gets confused, you risk it ranking neither piece, and nobody (but your competitors) wants that.
Depending on the type of website you have, and the types of technical issues that crop up, you may require someone with sound coding skills, such as a developer, to step in.
A good SEO copywriter can usually audit your site to identify these types of technical issues, and then work with an independent developer to have them fixed.
Technical issues are usually a once-off task providing you keep on top of your website maintenance.
Off page optimisation
Now one thing that is really important for Google, is whether it can trust your site.
One of the ways it does this, is by looking at the types of backlinks you have to your site. In other words, do other websites link to it.
It’s important to know, however, that not all backlinks are created equal.
Websites that are deemed high quality or high authority sites, will provide a much stronger signal to Google if they link to your site.
The best way to gain these types of back links, is to produce such high quality content, that these sites naturally want to provide a link to it because it is helpful to their audience.
Back links are like a personal referral as to the trustworthiness of your site.
Just like you wouldn’t pay for a referral when applying for a job, you shouldn’t pay for backlinks to your site.
Imagine how your new boss would respond if they found out you’d just paid for your glowing referral.
Google has a similar policy, and the repercussions can be severe.
This can include things like paying for links from Personal Blog Networks (PBNs).
If you engage an SEO professional to help you with backlinks, make sure you understand how they intend to acquire them.
As a general rule, backlinks should be earned through quality content, not through buying them, or through Personal Blog Networks.
Some sites are not considered reputable, and you definitely don’t want to be associated with these sites.
In other words, you don’t want links coming from these types of sites, and should actively disassociate yourself from them if you find them linking to your site.
Knowing the type of content to produce, and who to produce it for, can involve higher level, strategic content planning.
An SEO consultant, or content strategist, can usually assist with improving your backlink profile.
The main thing to remember when thinking about SEO, is that once you know your site is technically sound, aim to provide helpful content for your audience.
Think about who your audience is, and what they need to know.
Then go ahead and give it to them.