A (Very) Simple Guide to SEO
OK, let’s get this out of the way:
When it comes to SEO, there’s a lot of bullshit out there. We’ve all had emails promising to get us onto page 1 of Google in a nanosecond. Yeah, jog on.
So, in this blog there will only be:
- Practical, easy-to-understand advice on search engine optimisation
And absolutely no:
- Smoke and mirrors
- Confusing technical stuff
… not even the tiniest smidgeon.
SEO tip #1: Keywords and where to put them
By now, you’ve probably heard of keywords – the words that people use when they’re searching for something online.
Obviously, you want lots of lovely people to find your website when they look for the services you offer.
But here’s the thing:
How do you know which keywords to go for?
Which words and phrases do your potential customers use? If you don’t know this, your website will languish in the internet wasteland, also known as…
Google page 5.
The easiest (and completely free) way to find out is ask your existing customers. More often than not, they’ll surprise you with the answers.
|What you think:|
|Business solutions facilitator|
|What your customer thinks:|
|Coach for small business|
The next easiest way is to download a keyword research tool.
There are loads of them, some more expensive than others – but as this is a basic guide, I’ll recommend a basic tool: Keywords Everywhere. It costs $10 per year.
|Top SEO tip:
Don’t try and lump all your services together on one page.
Cast your keyword net wider by giving each service a separate page with its own keyword. That way, each page appears independently on search engine results pages (SERPs).
2. Where to put keywords
The correct placing of keywords is important for two reasons:
- Google’s search robots are very clever… and also very stupid
- When searching online, humans have the attention span of a gnat
Let me explain… starting with those Google robots.
Googlebots need clear signals as to what the website is `about’. Without these signals, they’re too stupid to work it out. Because they’re robots.
‘Which signals?‘, I hear you ask.
Well, I’ll tell you. First, take a look at the results page for `organic dog food’.
The first thing the robots notice is the domain name. If it contains a keyword, you’ll get points, but… (big `but’) if your domain name has been hanging around on the internet for a while, please don’t change it. The robots also reward domain longevity.
The second thing they notice is the SEO title. You don’t need eagle eyes to notice that the top results have organic dog food as the first words of the SEO title tag.
For the robots, the meta-description is irrelevant. However, humans always read it. Every single time. Those 154 characters `sell’ your website page to impatient internet users who are easily distracted by shiny things.
Do write a dedicated meta-description for each page. If you don’t, Google will pick content from the page and you’ll end up with… random words… and ellipses.
On-page ranking signals
After reading the domain name and SEO title, the ranking robots move into your website and take a long hard look for keywords in:
- Page name
- H1 headings (the first headings on each page). Put your keyword term as close to the beginning as possible
- H2 headings, H3 headings etc. (you can probably work this one out)
- Page content
Page names should be as specific as possible. If you run an IT company, for instance, rather than the vague page name `services’, call your page `IT services’. It helps the robots… and the humans.
|Top SEO tip:
The keywords in your SEO title, page name, headings and content must be consistent per page.
Google is brilliant at recognising synonyms, but if you go completely off piste you’ll confuse the (stupid) robots.
Why SEO is human
SEO satisfies a human need – because the truth is, when it comes to internet searching, pretty much every human on earth behaves in the same way.
When we look for something, we need instant confirmation that we’ve found it.
This is where the SEO title, page name and headings come in. They provide confirmation in an easily `skimmable’ way.
And, talking of skimming… Let’s look at page content.
Keywords in page content
Let’s imagine you’re searching for a graphic designer. When you land on a website page, how much content would you read before you saw the words `graphic designer’? Actually, Google has an answer:
Yep, it’s the patience thing again. To rank for a keyword, that term (and its synonyms) should appear within the first 100 words of page content – preferably in the first sentence. After that, sprinkle the keyword and synonyms sparingly throughout the page.
|Top SEO tip:
Google rewards high-quality content – at least 300 or 400 words per page.
Keep things simple, conversational and dead easy to read, with no spelling or grammatical errors. If people keep bouncing off your page because it’s boring, Google notices.
SEO tip #2: Links
Links (also called backlinks or inbound links) are when another website contains some form of content which, when clicked, opens the content on your website.
Why are links so important? Well, they prove that your website is worth visiting. If it sits alone on the internet like Billy No Mates, search engines have a nasty habit of ignoring it.
When a high-authority website points to your own, it sends a trust signal to Google. The link acts as a recommendation from an expert.
Now, here’s the problem:
Google is fussy. Links should be from trusted websites, ideally related to your own industry – and unless you’re a link-building expert, these gold standard links are pretty hard to come by.
Here are a few tips:
- Offer a testimonial
This one’s easy. Make a list of companies you’ve worked with over the past couple of years. Send an email thanking them for their services and offer to write a testimonial for their website.
Bingo! An instant backlink.
2. Write a guest blog
Yeah, I know. This one isn’t so simple. It’s hard enough writing blogs for your own website, let alone someone else’s. But bear with me.
If you do this right, you’re guaranteed to:
- Attract a whole new audience for your website
- Become a trusted source of information
- Get lots of lovely new customers
The trick is to reach out to the right people.
How to guest blog for the right people
Start by doing a quick Google search for an industry related to your niche. For instance, if you’re a tree surgeon, look for landscape gardeners who come up on page one.
Do they publish lots of blog content? Does it get positive comments? Are they active on social media? Yes?
They’re ideal. Their website already has Google authority and even better, they have a wide audience who will be interested in you.
Once you’ve chosen suitable candidates, start earning brownie points. Post appreciative comments on their posts and share their content. That way, you won’t be a complete weirdo stranger.
When contacting them, give a good reason for accepting your guest post. Include links to your gold star content – the stuff that attracts lots of engagement.
Now, I do realise that writing high-quality, shareable blogs is time-consuming. I’m here if you need help with this.
SEO tip #3: User experience
It’s all very well collecting links and writing great content with well-placed keywords. But…
All that amounts to nothing if your website’s user experience is a dirty pile of pants.
User experience (sometimes called UX because everything needs an X these days) does what it says on the tin. It describes how users interact with your website.
Is your page loading speed slower than the M25 at rush hour? Your UX is poor and Google will downrank you. The current Google page loading speed threshold on both desktop and mobile is under 3 seconds.
Is your website difficult to navigate? Users will be smashing their laptops in frustration, bouncing off the page and – yeah, you’ve guessed it – your website will end up at the back end of nowhere.
Want to know what people need from websites? Look at the results of this Hubspot survey:
Basically, we’re busy. We won’t hang around if you play hide-and-seek with your content.
Also, we’re not impressed by flashy technology. Those manic moving image sliders at the top of the page? They make people feel seasick.
Keep it clean, clear and simple.
- Improve site speed
Site speed, or page loading speed, is crucial for SEO. It’s a major ranking signal.
Now, I’m aware that site speed is moving away from my area of expertise – this is off-page SEO territory – so first off, I’ll advise you to get technical help.
Having said that, I’ve been in this business a long time. I’ve learned useful stuff along the way, so here are a few tips that don’t require tech skills – just the ability to access to the back end of your website:
- Crop and compress images using a tool such as Tiny JPG
- Delete unused plug-ins. They are notorious for slowing down websites.
- Avoid cheap website hosting deals (sorry). They often host multiple sites, overloading the server and putting a strain on loading speed.
|A depressing statistic:
According to Hubspot, if a page takes 5 seconds to load, the probability of a bounce increases by 90%.
Nowadays, most people search on mobile. It’s 58% at the moment, but that’s probably grown in the time I’ve been typing this sentence.
If your website isn’t up to scratch on a mobile phone, you’ll need to do something about it.
One way to check is via Google’s handy mobile-friendly test which analyses your site page by page. To analyse the whole website at once, copy and paste your URL into the Experte bulk mobile friendly test.
3. Mobile user experience
Ads and pop-ups are annoying at the best of times.
On a mobile, your website visitors will be smashing their phones against the nearest wall to get rid of them.
Limit ads and pop-ups to the bare minimum.
4. Keywords on mobile… and voice search
“Hey Siri, where do I get my mobile phone repaired?”
When thinking about keywords, remember that on a mobile phone, most people use voice search.
While you’re compiling a list of suitable keywords, don’t limit yourself to what’s typed into a search box. For example, you probably wouldn’t say `mobile phone repair’ in a voice search.
For mobile voice search – and indeed, for all website content – you need to think about the natural, conversational way in which people speak.
SEO isn’t rocket science. Once you understand the underlying principles, it’s surprisingly human.
When Google returns page 1 results, it’s generally because those websites meet the basic human need for instant answers.
Yeah, kind of.
There’s a lot of intricate detail to SEO, both on-page and off-page. At the last count, Google had more than 200 ranking signals. I’ve had to leave stuff out. Obviously.
If you’d like more information (or just want to forget about SEO and get someone to do it for you) feel free to get in touch.