Getting started with SEO
20th Oct, 2023
Looking at Getting Started with SEO? Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is often considered the ‘dark arts’ of the digital marketing world. With so many contributing factors and intricacies, we know it can seem daunting when you’re just starting out. Perhaps you’re a business owner or responsible for the online presence of the organisation you work for – either way, we want to help you get the ball rolling with your SEO and start taking the steps towards appearing in the much sought after search engine rankings.
The first thing you should know about SEO is that it is not an ‘overnight’ fix. The previously mentioned intricacies make this a slow burning method and something to be nurtured and managed as an ongoing project. Quite often, some of the changes required will rely on other people such as web developers, or third party site owners, or your own employees (if, for example, someone else is tasked with producing content). Beyond that, the search engines themselves do not update on a “live” basis for smaller sites, so it could take time for new content to be found, let alone start to deliver results. However, if done correctly, the results will come and they will be rewarding but if it’s a quick turnaround you’re in need of (and budget allows) then it might be worth running simultaneous paid search activity as well.
The following tips will help with getting you started on your SEO journey then, if you’re hungry for more, watch this space for a deeper dive at a later date!
Titles/H1 tags indicate the main topic of a page for users and search engines
Titles and H1 tags are number one on our list for a very good reason – they play such a significant role in SEO, for a variety of reasons. They are the most prominent single parts of HTML that can indicate to the search engine what the main focus of the page in question is. Including relevant keywords in titles and headings, provides the search engine with a clear indication on what the subject matter is which will help your ranking for those keywords. For clarity: the title tag appears on the search engine results page. The H1 tag is commonly the biggest most prominent on-site heading.
More importantly than simplifying things for search engine crawlers, clear titles and H1 tags enhance the user experience too. They serve as headings for your content and create a clear structure for the page. In turn, this makes it easier for site visitors to consume and understand the content, which should reduce bounce rates and improve overall user satisfaction which will indirectly affect the SEO.
In addition, title tags (which look likein the code) are particularly important for how your content is displayed in search engine results pages (SERPs). The title of your page appears as the clickable link in search results (assuming the search engines don’t think they have found a better one, which is usually an indication that your content isn’t aligned with the title you have chosen). When you have a clear and well-optimised title, it should attract more clicks, increasing your click-through rate (CTR) which is another factor considered by search engines in their algorithms.
As an aside, deciding what the main subject of a page is in general is a good idea. It can help you to focus your creative efforts. In choosing the subject matter and thereby title/H1 you should consider:
- Is this something somebody would actually search for? If not, what purpose does it serve? Consider whether someone is going to look for your “Services” page, or whether you should break that services page down into its constituent parts, that people might actually search for (e.g. “SEO”, “PPC”)
- Does the H1 version of this subject look natural on the page? Does it do your brand justice? Consider “Cheapest SEO Company” compared to “Expert SEO Services For All Budgets” — you don’t have to be so aligned around a specific target keyword that you look bad. The search engines are smart enough to understand what you mean without ruining the experience for your visitors. TLDR; you don’t need H1/title to match, in fact some SEOs would advise against it because it looks like over-engineering.
- Front-load your title tags with the key information you want to convey on the SERP. Many sites will automatically append your site name so you end up with something like “Waste Paper Removal | Shredzilla Inc.” for this reason. Because of this you may not want to go over about 50-70 characters total for the title in case the end of your title is abridged by the search engines.
Don’t be afraid to review your titles/H1s periodically. Check out Google Search Console to see what queries your page is appearing for (more on this in a later piece) — it might be that with a minor tweak you can push up a few places for long-tail queries, or get over the line for a higher volume one you hadn’t considered.
- Bonus tip: use related H2 tags to break up your content further on the same page. If the page is about (say) bananas, use H2s to talk about their history, varieties, uses, what the future holds.
Site speed is becoming more important for SEO
- optimising images to reduce file sizes
- utilise browser caching to store frequently accessed resources
- reduce dependence on 3rd party resources such as fonts hosted elsewhere on the web
- leverage Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) to distribute content globally
- enable compression techniques like GZIP
- minimising unnecessary code and scripts, reducing server response times
- choosing a reliable UK based (if you’re in the UK) hosting provider
High quality content should rank higher (all other things being equal)
With the introduction of AI generated content and the rest of the internet at your fingertips, it can be tempting to lean on and regurgitate content that’s already out there, however this does come with consequences when it comes to your SEO. Remember that whatever you can see on the internet, the search engines can, and they can scan it a million times faster than you. If your content is copied then it will be picked up and considered as lower quality, which you could be penalised for.
On the flipside, if your content is original, relevant, useful and interesting to users then you will be rewarded for providing a better experience. Search engines aim to deliver the best possible results so unique and fresh material is highly valued (assuming you follow some of the other best practices listed here too).
This could and should also lead to another key SEO element; backlinks. Valuable backlinks are when authoritative (long standing and/or highly linked to themselves) websites link to your content which signals to search engines that it’s trustworthy and has value, which will in turn lead to improved rankings.
As with most things in life, the approach to writing content should always be ‘quality over quantity’. It’s far better to take the time to provide well thought out content, with the user experience in mind, rather than a high volume of ‘clickbait’, duplicated material. Not much of a writer? Consider seeking out a good copywriter who you could outsource this task to – if it improves your SEO then it will be a great investment of money (and will also save you some valuable time!).
As we’ve said above, the frustration with creating quality content up front can be that it doesn’t immediately take off. If your site is new or coming from a point of relative obscurity, you may need to be thinking about how you will help people find that content in addition to it being good quality. This is where outreach/linkbuilding can help. To be clear, this does not mean going out and buying links from 1000 obscure blogs — this is most definitely a bad idea. It means spotting a need in your target audience (whether that’s end users, decision makers, or even journalists) and putting together content they will value — no different to any sensible writer. All you do then is draw their attention to it, and if it’s good you might get the link/feature that you deserve.
One main keyword per page (again)
We’ve sort of touched on this in the first point around a focused H1/title tag, but it’s so important that it’s worth stressing. If each of the pages on your website has a specific keyword running through it, search engines are more likely to recognise and understand the subject matter on there and determine that the content and page is relevant to particular topics and queries. For this very same reason, the user experience is also enhanced, making it easier to navigate the site and find the content that is interesting to them. Using specific keywords for each page also provides a competitive advantage, as it enables you to compete with other websites in your niche area. By optimising your content for targeted keywords, you can stand out in search results. Not to mention, this is also likely to help other marketing efforts such as ready-made landing pages for PPC that are focused, or pages that are shareable on social because they already speak to a specific audience or intent without further work.
Just to be clear, this doesn’t mean that you need a page for every possible variation of a keyword. You don’t need to have a different page for each of “cambridge street food”, “street food cambridge”, “street food vendor cambridge” etc. These sit logically together — but later down the line you could do a different one for each type of cuisine you offer.
Conclusion: SEO is easy to start and hard to win
These tips merely scratch the surface of SEO, but we hope that they prove useful in getting you started and show that it’s not all smoke and mirrors. These first steps are logical and practical and will build a strong foundation for improving your organic search results as well as creating a positive user journey for your customers and other visitors. Our parting advice is to really take pride in your businesses online presence; consider how the site looks and feels to your target audience. If your main priority is providing a quality website experience for users then you won’t go far wrong – after all, this is the priority for the search engines too!
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