If you’re a business with a web presence you may have already heard of search engine optimisation (SEO) and other related topics such as getting links as well as getting higher up on Google. It’s especially important to consider the subject of SEO if you want to have a better chance of your business succeeding and making sales, so we thought we’d do a quick guide that covers the basics, for people who are just getting started.

SEO is all about getting a page to the top of Google’s search results for certain topics – so target those keywords in your content. It’s about adding more links, using better quality links, having a good grasp of keywords, making content and appropriately categorising it. The Google algorithm crawls through web pages, sniffing out the keywords you’ve added, and indexes your pages accordingly. Make sure a page has plenty of links to other pages, as well as several appropriate keywords, so Google can ‘flow’ through your site efficiently.

How Google Works

For a long time, people have struggled to work out the exact ways Google’s famous artificial intelligence, or algorithm, works. Web pages at the top of Google displayed on the first page are arguably the most clicked on, and Google itself still commands the highest share of the search engine market, and the bulk of SEO and advertising is focused on it. The ranking software itself is known as PageRank and has been evolving along with industry trends as well as trends in SEO, therefore the rules are subject to change.

In modern times with the advent of learning software which only really requires raw data, Google’s algorithm is even more unpredictable than before, and grows on an almost daily basis – but still, the old ways are some of the most reliable – linking to and from your page and maintaining a trustworthy site which has a lot of pages linked to and from each page and also has been around for a good deal of time. The algorithm is quite advanced in the respect that new websites which have just popped up with lots of links on them can be viewed as ‘suspicious’ in terms of the page quality.

Good Practices

So for the newbie SEO aficionado there are some very important things to remember. First of all, do your research and try to at least get a basic understanding of Google, PageRank and generally how the ‘organic’ search results are generated. What this means is look at why some pages are at the top and why some are not. It’s all to do with page popularity, whether the site is up to date, the amount of inbound and outgoing links, and the general trustworthiness of the website in question. These lessons are what you need to apply to your own site.

The best way to put these ideas into practice is to build both your on-site SEO as well as your off-site SEO, and we will talk about the difference between the two in a moment. But needless to say there are two very distinct angles you can take towards promoting your site to achieve better organic SEO, or to put it simply, to have better search results without paying any money.

The on-site SEO is as simple as it sounds. Keep your website up to date, add new pages, blog articles – content. Make sure your content is well linked, internally and externally, to relevant pages that are on the same topic. The Google algorithm likes to have a ‘series of tubes’ through which to flow. Every link is another way the algorithm and Google’s bots can better index your website. Without these links your site is isolated from the wider internet, and the more links you make will have Google sniffing out your pages in no time. Make sure to organise pages in categories with internal tags which can help link your content back to libraries of other content, especially if keeping a blog.

On-site SEO is also really concerned with making a crisp, clean, nice to look at page which features interesting content which people will stay engaged with. Even if your site has many relevant links and good content, bad formatting can make it more difficult to read. This can affect how long people stay on the page, as well as potential customer engagements. That just won’t do, so try to keep things simple, keep grammar, spelling and word use nice and informal, but informative, and generally create pages that people would link to their friends and say ‘here is a useful page on the topic’.

The off-site SEO is more tricky and in fact we’re going to create an entire article about this later – because it all comes down to being great at PR, self-promotion and making a lot of friends. Anyone who is good at Twitter or Facebook pages in their personal time will tell you that getting a good share, or retweet, or link to a decent blog can supercharge your organic reach and engagement. Social media pages are actually a really great example of how to promote yourself off-site, and you should definitely try them out, even if it’s just an experiment.

One thing to remember is that off-site SEO is all about getting links for free, from people you can trust to show off your content. It’s about being a little bold, but also being extremely open to mutual gain for you and whoever is linking to you, as long as the main goal is to provide a better service. If your content is good enough, people will come and look at it, but great off-site SEO means giving the content a little push into the spotlight.

Things To Avoid

It’s a bit of a downbeat ending but we really need to briefly speak on the things to avoid with SEO before the article is over. First off, you can easily accomplish organic SEO without EVER paying for any links or page views from dodgy strangers on the internet. This is something that can get you into a lot of trouble with Google and hurt your ranking immensely. We would never recommend buying any links from any sites which offer such services because it’s likely that Google has already marked them as a scam and a sudden influx of links from them will hurt your page instantly, while they run off with your money.

Another thing to avoid with SEO is actively ignoring the successes of others. It’s really easy to fall into the trap of thinking you are and come up with your own unique way of doing things, but the core of your strategy should always be to emulate what is working. With nearly 80,000 searches on Google per second, SEO is always changing and evolving, so it’s really important to not ignore new strategies if you want to get the best results you possibly can. On the other hand, if someone has published details of how SEO worked for them online, you don’t even need to hesitate before using that technique yourself. There’s not really such a thing as ‘copyrighted SEO tricks’ so don’t hesitate to absorb as much info from everywhere you can.

Another great piece of advice for what not to do with SEO is to never isolate yourself from what the current trending market is doing. There’s not going to ever be a breakthrough for your company or site’s reach if you stay off the internet or away from blogs, or generally just stay out of the way of pop culture and other things of this nature. Trends will ultimately get you clicks and usually the deeper into a niche you get, the less clicks you’ll receive. People have often come to the conclusion that their content is ‘bad’ when it’s not getting clicks, when really it’s just a bit too esoteric and marketed in the wrong places. Don’t forget to segway your content and pages into modern up to date trends, by following what’s trendy.

How Will You Start Using SEO?

So, now we’ve had a pretty long talk about SEO, it’s now up to you on what you’ll do with it. Does your site need a tweak or an update? Could you find somewhere to better showcase your content? Here is a quick checklist for a beginner to look at, which summarises our article that you can take away and try to act upon.

  • Link out your content to the most trustworthy places you can
  • Check social media and see if you can make an inroad with Facebook
  • Create content that’s helpful, useful, well formatted and fun to read
  • Organise your website so that pages link to other pages
  • Avoid dodgy vendors hoping to sell you broken links for inflated prices
  • Promote your website using the most official ways possible
  • Research as much as possible and stay tuned in to helpful sites
  • Keep up to date with relevant feeds, blogs and social media

Whatever you’re doing with SEO, there’s always room for improvement, or so they say. If you’d like to improve your SEO, or just want to brush up on digital marketing, head to Amazon and check out our companion guide to these articles, Digital Marketing For Professionals by our own Nick Bagga.