SEO Basics: The 3-Step Beginner's Guide

Many people think that SEO is a black art which puts some websites to the top of Google’s search results while leaving the competition trailing behind. A lot has changed in the last 15 years but that is no reason to get left behind. The basics are very simple to digest.

It used to be about creating an unfair advantage through manipulating the metrics which got you ranked higher but that just isn’t possible anymore, quite the opposite in fact. Google now rewards your website for being the best that it can be by using a complex algorithm which also punishes deceptive or broken websites which might have ranked quite well in Google’s infancy.

The fact that both building links and using keywords gets your site higher on Google is common knowledge. What most don’t know is just how poorly a site that did these two things would rank without following Google’s other best practice guidelines.

See, Google used to just be a list, a huge index of everything on the internet sorted by keyword. Pages were then ranked by the number of links pointing to it and the number of clicks it got. It was very easy to abuse. This calculated abuse became called ‘Black Hat SEO’.

Nowadays Google has such an advanced algorithm that nobody understands it 100%. This is why nobody worth their salt guarantees that they can get you to page 1 for a popular search. If they do - get it in writing!

Just be mindful of what ‘best practice’ is because - as with most things in life - there are no shortcuts to doing something properly. Let’s strip down the technical until it’s as simple as can be.

SEO basically comes down 3 things:

  1. does your website meet the expectations of 2016?
  2. will people find your website? [know your customer]
  3. is your content useful?

Knowing how your customers search is half the battle - by learning about their searching habits you can produce tailored content for them.

Let’s start with a quick win:

1. Does your website meet 2016 expectations?

The bar just keeps on getting higher for all websites. If your site fails any of the following then you are probably waving goodbye to your potential paying customers!

  • Do all pages on your website fit any screen?
  • Do all links on your website go to the page they should? 
  • Are buttons and links placed far enough apart so that misclicks are minimised?
  • Do all your mobile pages load quickly over cellular networks?
  • Do all your desktop pages load quickly over broadband?
  • Is your website encrypting data using HTTPS?
  • Can those searching on your site find what they are looking for within a few clicks? 
  • Are the top-menu and side-menu navigation unobstructive and logical?
  • Can someone find where they were (without using the back button) if they get lost?

There are cheap DIY Tools for checking this on-the-fly though it may be worth getting our professional opinion if you know your website isn’t ticking all these boxes. We have in-house developers with a history of repairing broken websites and a search marketing team to get your business back on it’s feet.

In a sentence - Fast and safe websites with logical working links and screen-responsive designs will meet reader expectations and therefore rank well in search. 

Next, and more excitingly...

2. Will people find your website? [know your customer]

Your content should speak the language of whoever is searching for you. Somebody is looking for your content and expertise right now so you must include relevant keywords when writing. If you want to be found for particular keywords then you have to use them often and naturally throughout your website.

Articles completely stuffed with keywords will cause readers to lose interest though, so always remember that you are writing for people, not search engines.

Some keywords are more popular and therefore more competitive than others so it is a good idea to use a wide range of relevant keywords, including your niche industry vocabulary.

Specialist keywords do not bring in millions of page views yet those attracted by niche content are likely to be of the most value to your business. These readers are more knowledgeable about your business sector and will therefore more likely to make that leap to paying customer than a casual browser would be.

Another reason to start niche is so that when you do write more generalised content you can point readers to specialist articles for further information. The longer they spend reading your content, the more they’ll trust you, and and the greater the chance that Google thinks they found what they were searching for. This is a good thing because it gets you ranked higher!

In summary - do your keyword research and use those keywords naturally in anything you publish. Start niche and link between your articles to invite further reading.

It is impossible to know which topics will bring in your best customers until you start putting articles out there. So put some articles out there and remember that ‘done is better than perfect’.

3. Writing Useful Content.

You are building a relationship with your readers, not tricking them into subscribing or clicking an ad, even if you can make a little cash like that. The money won’t last long, you’ll have serious customer churn rates, and you’ve arguably made the internet a worse place to be.

If you do build customer rapport over time then you’ll get repeat visits and pageviews from your loyal readers. If you are especially interesting then visitors might even share your thoughts and opinions with others. You have to give considerable value to a reader before you get a favour in the bank so keep publishing useful content regularly and one day your visitors might say hello.

Your content must make sense and add value to human beings. A reader who shares your content is effectively endorsing you personally so they need to both trust you and agree with what you have to say. The more useful your writing, the more likely that someone agrees with it, and the more shares you’ll get.

Don’t try to ‘go viral’ either unless you want to be the next buzzfeed. Viral is a term that has become digital-metaphor for ‘word of mouth’, but that is all it is. Viral marketing firms have cropped up recently with research, algorithms and step-by-step methods to ‘go viral’. Stop and think about that. It’s simple. If something is worth sharing it must add value in some way. Concentrate on adding value with your content and you’ll find that the sharing comes naturally.

It is also much easier to deal with consistent flows of web traffic than a viral rush once every blue moon.

Once you have found a voice of value you can make your quality content go further by giving it out in various formats. For example, reports could be downloadable in a reader-friendly Infographic and a PDF for detailed offline reading. Industry interviews could be published as web copy, podcasts and videos. All of your articles could also have a link to ‘email this to me later’ - so that time-rushed readers can digest your content more conveniently to them.

Also note that you need to hook back your content to the purpose of your writing. In our case we’d like growing businesses without their in-house tech team to read this, understand more about the world of search marketing, and trust that we would be an effective agency for them to work with.

That’s why we sign off each article with a link for contact or further reading. There’s no hard sell. We know what we know and we are happy to share that with others interested in learning about it. If you hit a wall in your learning - let us know what you are looking for next and we’ll tell you what we know.

If you are a business owner looking to improve your online presence or are an employee tasked with finding local web agencies to enquire to then say hi - let’s discuss what we can do to help you!