What is SEO? A quick guide to Search Engine Optimisation

What is SEO? A Quick Guide to Search Engine Optimisation

Have you been told that you need to improve your website’s SEO and have no idea how to do it or what SEO even is? Here is our quick and simple guide to explain what SEO is to you and how your website benefits from it so your ideal client or customer can find you online. 

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation, which is the practice of optimising your website and its content so it can rank higher on search engines such as Google and Bing. In turn, you and your business will be found better online by your potential customers. 

It is a practice that improves your website’s organic search traffic which is traffic that is generated to your website for free, naturally and organically through search engines without the use of paid advertising.

An example of organic search is when a user types a query into a search engine, e.g. ‘pet shops near me’ or ‘pet shops in Aberdeen’, and your website appears to them on the search engine result page (SERP) naturally – well, only if you happen to run a pet shop in Aberdeen and have optimised your website for organic search!

How do you optimise a website for search engines?

SEO can seem like digital wizardry or a dark art at times, but there are many SEO practices you can do yourself to your own website without having to spend money outsourcing it. What will help you the most is learning about how to implement it effectively and understanding its benefits. Our online marketing programme – Navigator – helps business owners who want to learn how to do their own marketing in-house, including SEO, so keep an eye out for start dates for when this will be running again as well as any early bird rewards. 

There are three main types of SEO that you can utilise to improve your website’s ranking through search engines: on-page SEO, off-page SEO and technical SEO.

On-Page SEO

On-page SEO, which is also known as on-site SEO, is when you optimise the on-page elements of your web pages such as your content (copy and images). There are a number of on-page SEO methods you can use for the optimisation of your web pages such as:

  • URL optimisation – using keywords in your URL (A keyword is a word or phrase that describes the content on your page. It is the search term that someone types into a search engine to find more information on. The keyword or phrase is the term you want to rank for in a search engine so your webpage is shown as a result to the searcher on a search engine result page).
  • Making use of title tags and meta descriptions (the result text on a SERP after you have entered a search query on a search engine): 
The result you find on a SERP

Most website content management systems and e-commerce platforms will let you edit the title tag and meta description on the page. If you use WordPress, we highly recommend that you use the Yoast plugin to edit these tags with ease.

  • Using alt text for your images – this is the tag used first and most importantly foremost to describe what is in the image to those that are visually impaired through their screen reader. It is used secondly for describing an image to search engine crawlers that analyse (“crawl”) and index your webpages as they cannot ‘see’ an image. 
  • Using internal links – that’s linking to other web pages on your website.
  • SEO Copywriting – ensuring you are making use of specific keywords in the body of your content on the page.
  • Multimedia – using a range of different media on your web pages such as images and video along with text.  

Wouldn’t it be a lot easier and more cost effective if your potential customer found you through their own search because you used some of the methods above rather than having to spend money in order to appear in front of them through paid search?

This is why on-page SEO, particularly the use of relevant keywords in your copy, headings and meta tags, is important as Google itself states that, “The most basic signal that information is relevant is when content contains the same keywords as your search query.”

Search engine algorithms look for these keywords and signals from other on-page SEO practices to know that your content is relevant to the searcher and will therefore be presented to them on the search engine result page. 

Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO, which is also called off-site SEO, is the actions you take to improve your website’s rankings on SERPs outside of your website. The main and most effective way this is done is through the use of backlinks. Backlinks are links to your website from other high-ranking and authoritative websites, a process also known as link building. 

Gaining backlinks to your website from other websites can take some time but is highly useful as it tells search engine algorithms that these high ranking websites think your content is valuable, confirming its quality and relevancy. You can also obtain backlinks through guest blogging on a popular blog or through social media, having customers or influencers linking to your website. 

You may be thinking, ‘this is great and all but how do I know what the ranking of a website is?’ Don’t worry, we will have a guide on this very soon!

Technical SEO

The word ‘technical’ can make this SEO practice seem a little daunting but there are technical SEO elements you can enact yourself. If in doubt, it might be a good idea to ask your web developer for some help with this.

Technical SEO is the process of developing the technical elements of your website in order to rank higher on search engine result pages. Technical SEO is linked to on-page SEO as it is changes you make on your own website but not specifically to the web page. Ways you can improve your technical SEO are:

  • Making your website faster – which includes compressing images.
  • Guaranteeing your website is secure – this is what the HTTPS bit does on your URL and what the little lock on the left side of the search bar on your browser means. HTTPS ensures that the data that is sent between your website and the browser cannot be intercepted, keeping it secure. You will need an SSL certificate to implement this on your site.
  • Using structured data and XML sitemaps
  • Never duplicating content – if multiple pages of your website have the exact same content, this confuses search engines as they won’t know which page to rank highest, meaning they might rank all of them lower instead. 
  • Assuring there are no links to non-existing pages – this is when the all dreaded 404 error page appears and search engines do not like it.
A 404 error page not found message.
  • Crawlable website – making your website easy for search engine crawlers to index and understand. 
  • User-friendliness – ensuring your website is easy to use for users first above all else.

The latter point is the most significant as even though all these practices will help your website be found better through search, it is important to remember that search engines want to provide the user with the most relevant content to their search query. 

You should always improve your website for your users first, not search engines. Luckily, on-page and technical SEO can enhance a user’s experience of your website whilst also improving a search engine’s capability of crawling it.   

Want to learn more about SEO? 

Stay tuned for more SEO guides on our blog or keep an eye out for when our Navigator course will be starting.

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