Search engines are crawling with content–it’s estimated that there are 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created each day! (That’s 18 zeroes, in case you’re wondering)
So, if you’re a content creator yourself, how do you compete with other sites to reach the users you need to reach?
The answer is search engine optimisation, or SEO. Digital marketers need to read up on SEO 101 tips to understand Google’s ranking factors, and how you can make sure your website shows up at the right place, to the right people.
SEO is a powerful tool that, when used properly, can make the organic search a viable and lucrative part of your digital strategy. From keyword research and meta descriptions to assessing competitors and Google Analytics, here are Tecmark’s top SEO tips for beginners to kickstart their SEO efforts.
1. Define your clear objectives
Before diving into your SEO strategy, it’s important to understand your website’s business goals. Every site is different, so targeting the right audience is essential not only for SEO but for how to track conversions, successes and benchmarks.
Are you looking to increase brand awareness? To get a set number of leads? To increase revenue? Define your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) based on these goals. These could be:
- Email Subscribers
- Contact Form Submissions
- Phone Calls
No, rankings and traffic are not on this list. SEO should be used to support your business goals, not vanity metrics! For example, would you rather have:
- 5,000 website visits and 2 downloads, or
- 300 websites visits and 25 downloads
This is where understanding your business goals can help direct your strategy from the beginning.
2. Assess your competitors.
Who are your competitors and what are they doing well? Take a deep dive into your competitors’ online activity and evaluate who’s ranking at the top, and what they’re ranking for.
This will give you a panoramic view of what you’re up against, what you should focus on, and what your opportunities are to do better, achieving the following:
- Identify your competitor’s weaknesses and how to take advantage of them.
- Identify your competitor’s strengths and replicate this on your site.
- Discover gaps in the market
- Have a clearer vision of the steps you need to achieve to take the number one spot in SERPs.
Note: Your traditional competitors may not be who you compete with online, so start by searching for your product offering or “service-in-location” keywords to find them.
3. Do your keyword research.
SEO optimisation relies heavily on keywords that are relevant to your website, popular with users but have a low competition rate with other brands.
A good way to start with this is to find a keyword research tool online, such as on Google AdWords’ Keyword Planner, SEMrush, or Google Trends. Use these to find data about keywords that are relevant to your brand, and then employ them in your on-page SEO strategy.
Incorporate keywords into your content by creating blog posts or landing pages on the topic, and including them in meta tags, such as title tags and meta descriptions.
4. Understand user intent.
Keyword research isn’t just about finding the ones with high search volumes. You should consider the searchers intent to define the right keywords. The three search intents are:
Transactional: A user who wants to buy a product or service
Informational: A user who wants information on a product or service
Navigational: A user who wants to go to a specific website
Understanding these intents will help you know which keywords to target. For example, a blog post would require an informational keyword such as “How to make the perfect cup of coffee”, while a service or product page would target a transactional keyword, like “coffee makers”.
If you use SEMrush as your keyword research tool, you will also come across ‘Keyword Difficulty’. ‘Keyword difficulty’ is a metric that tells you how much SEO effort it will take to rank in the top 10 results on Google for a certain keyword.
By seeking out low keyword difficulty scores and high search volume, you can find keywords that are easier to rank for. These words likely haven’t had a lot of attention from other bloggers yet, meaning it’s easier for you to win that traffic for yourself.
5. Target short-tail and long-tail keywords
Once you know how to find target keywords and understand user intent, it’s important to understand the difference between long-tail and short-tail keywords.
Short-tail keywords, sometimes called “head terms”, are 1-3 words with usually high search volumes and competition. These drive high traffic and are harder to rank for, however with the right approach and some patience, they can be great for your website. Think “coffee makers”.
Long-tail keywords are keywords that are longer and more specific. These are phrases that have lower search volume and competition. Visitors are more likely to use them when they’re closer to the point of purchase. Think “bean to cup coffee machines”.
Targeting these keywords likely results in less traffic, but a higher ROI, by attracting exactly the audience that you’re looking for.
6. Write naturally.
While keywords are important, search engines have become increasingly more sophisticated about how they rank pages on the results page; they reward websites with valuable, engaging content. Google’s recent updates are heavily focused on user experience. So, it’s quality over quantity.
If you check the first page of your search results, I guarantee you won’t find thin content.
Spamming your keyword throughout is not going to do you any favours if Google suspects that you’re keyword stuffing, you will be penalised for it.
So write for humans first, as search engines follower users, not the other way around. All the SEO tricks under the sun won’t help you if you’re just recycling generic content!
7. SEO-friendly page title and meta description.
Title tags are displayed on search engine results pages (SERPs) as the clickable headline for a given result.
A good title tag should accurately describe your webpage/service and be unique enough to help you stand out from other sites. You can achieve this by using target keywords.
Don’t make your titles too short or too long (between 50 and 60 characters is ideal), as this can negatively impact rankings.
This tag is often the first point of interaction a user has with your website, so make it count!
Meta descriptions are snippets of text that describe the content of a page. They’re used to help search engine crawlers better understand what a web page is about and, ultimately, to give search users more information about the pages that show up in their results.
Typically, meta descriptions can be any length, but search engines generally truncate snippets longer than 160 characters. It is best to keep meta descriptions between 150 and 160 characters max.
When writing a meta description, be sure to use the target keywords often enough to achieve a high search ranking, but not so much that the meta description appears spammy to Google.
8. Develop long-form content.
Longer content consistently ranks better than short-form content, and they also receive more shares on social. This isn’t a coincidence–in February 2012, Google released Google Panda, an algorithm update that affected about 12% of all results and negatively affected sites with “thin content”. That’s why your content strategy should focus on long-form content.
Long-form content is content that is around 1200 words or more, with most short-form content ranging from 500-800 words.
While some may argue that audience’s attention spans are getting shorter so the news-type range of 500-800 is better to keep their attention, producing longer articles is a great way to increase visitor engagement and offer them an informational, genuine experience.
This is where understanding user intent comes in. If your visitor is looking for an informational guide, long-form content is your key. However, some topics may not require a lot of text, such as news items or product pages.
Think about the intent behind your keywords, and make sure you’re offering content that delivers the full value expected.
9. Make content suitable for mobile.
Mobile searchers continue to increase all the time. In the second quarter of 2020, 51.53% of searches came from mobile devices (not including tablets). This means that not only does your website need to be responsive to mobile, but your content needs to be appropriate for it as well.
Images and graphics are key, but make sure they’re not too cluttered. & Don’t sleep on your site loading speed!
You can use also Mobile Friendly Test to discover if your site is mobile friendly.
10. Optimise images on the site.
Images and graphics are key to improving SEO. If an image or graphic is too large, it can instantly affect the page speed. Compress your images to 100MB max and 1200 x 800px before uploading them to your site. There are handy tools to make this a quick and easy process, such as TinyPNG or Easy-Resize.
Plus, search engines read your file names when crawling your visual content. Adding a file name and alt tags to the images can help your website achieve better rankings in search engines as it helps Google to understand what the image is by associating keywords with images.
11. Use Google Analytics from the start.
Analytics and SEO strategy should be intertwined. Using Analytics tools, including Google Search Console, from the beginning can give you a unique insight into your current users, and help you define success for your next campaign.
A vital part of any SEO strategy is knowing what’s working and what isn’t, which allows you to adjust your approach as you go.
Take a look at how your users are finding you on search engines. What keywords are leading them to your site the most? What landing pages are they coming across? Make note of these and write your content to suit these.
12. Get link building.
Link building may seem like a confusing tactic–why would you want to lead people AWAY from your content. But in fact, it’s an invaluable tool to improve your domain authority, a very important ranking factor for Google and other search engines.
If you link quality sites to your page, and even better, if they link back to you, Google will perceive your site as an authoritative presence on that topic. Trusted sites tend to link to other trusted sites, while bad quality sites rarely get linked.
To discover how your competitors are gaining links, conduct a competitor backlink audit. A competitor backlink audit is a way to understand and learn from your competitors’ backlink strategies, so you can either build more links like them, “steal” their links or find other ways to gain similar results.
This can be done through internal linking, guest blogging, and other tactics.
13. Include keywords in URLs but keep them short
URLs/slugs are important both for search engines and for users. They help users to see what your page is about and navigate your website easily. It’s best to keep them short, targeted, and organised.
Follow these tips:
- Include your target keyword
- Keep your URL to five words or less
- Use hyphens to separate words
- Avoid hashtags and apostrophes
- Use lowercase text
Here is an example of an ideal URL/Slug:
14. Know the difference between White Hat SEO v Black Hat SEO.
“White-hat SEO” refers to website optimisation tactics that are Google-approved. These techniques focus on the user experience and give them the best search engine results.
White Hat SEO includes:
- Following Google’s Quality guidelines
- Creating shareable quality content
- Optimising for humans, not search engines
“Black-hat SEO” refers to SEO strategies that don’t necessarily follow the rules. They usually attempt to spam or fool the search engines. While black-hat SEO techniques can get results, it puts your website at an enormous risk of being penalised and worse, even de-indexed from Google (removed from search results entirely).
Black-hat SEO may include:
- Bending the webmaster guidelines
- Focusing on ranking for search engines rather than the user
- Deceiving users and search engines with doorway pages or link schemes
Black-hat SEO techniques require a level of technical knowledge, and might help you get results, but are very risky. With that in mind, we would never recommend the use of them.
15. Employ Local SEO
Local SEO, or optimising for local search intent, is crucial for businesses that serve a customer base in a specific area. Your business should be listed on Google My Business, with the profile filled out as thoroughly as possible.
Gain Google reviews from customers, and you’ll be rewarded with strong signals that your site is trustworthy and authoritative.
Local SEO also incorporates location signals from your website, so ensure your NAP citation (or name, address and phone) are listed clearly and are the same everywhere that it’s listed. You should also include location-related keywords, or service-in-location keywords, such as “florists in Manchester” if this applies to your business.
16. Keep up-to-date with the latest SEO tips and industry news.
Google usually changes its algorithm 500-600 times per year. While most of these changes are minor, Google occasionally rolls out a “major” algorithmic update such as Google Panda and Google Penguin, which affects search results in significant ways.
While it’s unlikely that a dramatic shake-up to Google’s search algorithms will happen overnight, it is possible that a gradual shift in Google’s approach could eventually have an impact on your site.
By using SEO best practices and staying current with the latest news on Google’s algorithm updates, you’ll be able to compensate for any major changes that will improve the quality of your site and increase your ability to drive traffic.
The Manchester SEO team at Tecmark is well-trained in the art of SEO. If you think your website could use a search engine boost, we can help you create highly-engaging, user-friendly content that suits your unique needs and increases your organic traffic.