Search engine optimisation (SEO) encompasses a few different ideas and methods that, when done together, makes your site more accessible to search engines and optimises results in organic search results. It's the combined practice of keyword research and targeting, website optimisation, and content creation with the goal to improve your site's ranking in organic search results.
In this guide, we'll take a look at these cornerstones of SEO, and cover the broad strokes of driving more traffic to your site organically.
The basics of SEO
At its core, SEO is about improving how much traffic you get, and the quality of said traffic. The object of SEO is to do this organically, or in other words, through practices and methods, rather than a paid advertising campaign.
While good SEO does aim to optimise for search engines, it's also about understanding what people are searching for, and creating excellent, relevant content for those people. You have to understand exactly what people are searching for, not in only the context of keywords, but in the sense of what sort of questions they're asking, and what kind of information they're looking for. Giving people the answers and content they're looking for will allow you to offer solutions to what they're seeking.
With that said, the technical side of SEO is just as important. You need to know how search engines crawl websites for information, and how to best present it so that the search engines can access and parse your content. We'll go over both of these practices in this guide.
How search engines search
Search engines have what's called spiders that scour the internet for resources, including websites, images, videos, and even PDF files. These spiders are actually bots that "crawls" the internet, indexes all of the content into a massive database, and then uses algorithms to determine the quality and relevance of said content. When a user searches for for something using a search engine, these algorithms determine what content to serve, and how to rank it in the results, based on the quality of the content and its relevance to the user's search string, otherwise known as the keyword.
Site optimisation is the more technical side of SEO. It's knowing how to structure your site and content so that the search engine spiders can crawl and index it successfully. A few things to consider:
Your site's markup
The code your site is built with is just as important as the content that sits between it. HTML comes with many "tags" that help indicate the sort of content the search engines are accessing. For example, a search engine gives more weight to a
<h1> tag over a
<h2> tag, as the former is the primary header. And that's only one small example. When creating your content, pay special attention to these tags to best organise your content for search engines.
Meta tags and descriptions
Another thing to consider when crafting your content are things like meta tags and descriptions. While meta tags aren't nearly as important as they once were, it's still important to use this functionality to describe the content on your site. For example, search engines can't actually "see" videos or images, so it's important that you include descriptions and captions for these so that they know what the content is.
Keyword research is the user side of SEO. It's figuring out what users are searching for via keywords, and then crafting content that offers solutions and relevant information to their queries.
Quality keyword research seeks to answer the following questions:
- What exactly are people searching for?
- How many people are searching for it?
- What form of content are they looking for it in?
To answer these questions, you need to utilise various tools and methodoligies. There are keyword research tools out there that can give you a detailed look at keywords people are searching for, along with their search volume, and many other details. We've put together some in-depth guides that go over many of the facets of keyword research. You can check them out here.
When working on your site's SEO, it's important that you're measuring your results so that you can improve your strategies.
When working on your site's SEO, it's important that you're measuring your results so that you can improve your strategies. And it's not only how successful your keywords are–it's also about determing what your users are doing once they've been driven to your site. You want to be asking certain questions regarding your user's activity:
- How are they engaging with your content?
- How much time are they spending on your site?
- How many visitors are converting to customers?
- How many visitors are leaving without converting?
- How many pages are users looking at on your site?
- And so on
And this certainly isn't an exhaustive list by any means.
There are plenty of tools out there to help you measure these statistics. One of the most reliable and fully-featured is Google Analytics. Google's tools can help you measure all of the above and much more, and it gives you way of measuring these statistics over time and by cusstom campaigns, so you can really drill down and see what's working and what's not.
This guide really only scrapes the surface of SEO. From keyword research and analysis to making sure your website's code is up to spec to website analytics, there's a lot to consider when attempting to tackle the world of SEO. If you haven't already done so, check out our guide on digital marketing as well as our guide on keyword research for more in-depth information regarding different areas of marketing your website and polishing your SEO abilities. Good luck out there and happy search engine optimising!