Search Engine Optimization for Beginners: SEO 101 | Tips + Tools
Let's Start with PASSION!
Websites are merely a reflection of what we stand for and what we actually do… If people cannot see that we are passionate about and what we do, then why should they follow and support us?
And if we are not passionate, then how can we expect to compete with our competitors, who are?
Those who truly love what they do – breath, eat and sleep their passion and will always outperform those that do not demonstrate these attributes.
Our passion needs to drive our self-discipline, which in turn inspires action to find the best methods to help us achieve our meaning, satisfaction and success.
As discussed in Simon Sinek’s book (Find Your Why), we really need to ask ourselves WHY we want to do what we are planning on doing… And why we think this is of value to publish online?
There are currently close on 1.9 billion websites on the world wide web – With thousands, if not millions, for our particular industry and likely hundreds, if not thousands, for our market sector within our region of business.
With this in mind, why does our website deserve to be on page #1 of Google?
A: Value – Products, services and content that are of true value
Unfortunately, if we in our personal capacity or our business is not providing true value through our online content, we will unlikely be at the top of a Google Search for keywords or phrases relevant to our industry – Based on organic search engine optimization (SEO).
The primary purpose of SEO, as far as a business is concerned, is to get more traffic to our website – So what are the two broad categories for SEO:
Organic search engine optimization (Organic SEO) refers to the methods used to obtain a high placement (or page ranking) on a search engine results page in unpaid, algorithm-driven results on a given search engine.
Inorganic search engine optimization (Inorganic SEO or Paid SEO) is the opposite and obtains high placement (or page ranking) on a search engine results page through paid mechanisms, such as Google advertising (e.g. Google Adwords).
Often small to medium enterprises (SEMs) pay to have a website designed and developed on their behalf. The business owners with little or no technical knowledge often seem to have a misperception that their new website should automatically appear within the first few pages of a Google search – In reality, it is not that simple.
Even if one has a very well designed and developed website, business owners cannot just sit back thereafter and expect business to start rolling in.
A website is simply a marketing tool and if it is not put to work, then it will not deliver on one’s expectations. It’s like someone buying a brand new car at a large investment, not bothering to put fuel in it, then expecting the car to drive 500km’s on an empty tank… It just does not make sense!
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can be a complex business and often requires some hard work or a decent investment for real results. Without these, one cannot expect to get results. No one outside of search engine organisations, such as Google, knows the actual blueprint for that particular company’s SEO strategy. Yes, there are some guidelines and industry experts provide best practices to help improve on SEO, but there are no guarantees. It takes planning, commitment and usually some trial and error over a period of time to generate some decent results.
What we do know, for sure, is Google makes their money off advertising. With regards to their search engine facility, their primary goal is to get a prospective browser to find their required information within as few searches or clicks, as possible. This is how Google adds value to its users, through accurate internet searches from which it can build trust around the Google brand.
So how can we best ensure our website is performing to meet Google’s best practices? As stipulated before, there is no official blueprint – A search engine’s algorithm-ranking requirements (page rankings) may change now and then to meet what they believe are important factors for quick and accurate search criteria. Algorithm page rankings are based on search criteria that are weighted accordingly for best results.
When designing and developing a website, certain aspects can be implemented to help improve a website’s organic SEO – OVER TIME. However, this is not a silver bullet that guarantees top page rankings. Afterall, if everyone knew and effectively applied Google’s SEO blueprint, there would be no competition and everyone would be on the first page of google for certain keywords or phrases. This would ultimately make SEO null invoid, with websites unfiltered and amassed on one page.
Organic SEO is derived from recommended best practises and can be implemented in the design and development phase, but will likely take some time to gain real traction – At least 6 months to a year, if done properly. Even if a website is designed with optimum SEO in mind, once the website goes live, SEO aspects need to be analysed, reviewed and improved on a continuous basis. Failing this, business owners cannot realistically expect results if they are not doing the work. Sitting back has never derived a positive result, so why would it be the case for a website with over 1.9 billion websites on the web?
Business owners either need to proactively educate themselves and exercise SEO best practices or hire someone to help improve on their website’s performance over time. In saying this, there are online bloggers that know very little about the technical aspects of SEO, but gain some serious traffic to their blog (website) – This is largely due to the quality, quantity and frequency of the content they are providing. Quality content provided on a regular basis is arguably one of the fastest ways to boost organic SEO.
Search engines use keywords and phrases found in website content or within favourable metadata sections to help rank and drive traffic to a website over time. Below are just a few considerations to help improve on organic SEO ~
Good Domain Name: A good website URL should contain a keyword or keywords for the industry concerned to help search engine’s index the website more accurately. This will also help prospective customers remember the website address going forward – A memorable URL makes everyone’s lives a lot easier, so keep it simple!
Website History: The longer a website URL has been ‘live’, the longer it seems to have been in business, as far as a search engine is concerned – And the more trustworthy the website will tend to be. Especially if there has been a healthy flow of traffic to the website over its history. For a new website (>1 year), how can one realistically expect it to top another on a search, if the other site has been around for over ten years – And if both are implementing best SEO practices.
Traffic: The more traffic a website gets, the more trustworthy it appears. This is a bit of a catch-22 for new websites. New websites need to attract greater attention to get more traffic, which in turn will help them to get a better page ranking over time based on the traffic volumes.
Inbound Links: Links that are pointing to your website from other websites. Also known as Back-links. Search engines can measure how many inbound links a website has. The more inbound links a site has, the more trustworthy and the greater the value it appears to provide.
Content: Google strives to provide users with search results to content rich information. If a website is lacking content, then why should it receive a positive Google Ranking – What value does it actually have to offer as far as Google is concerned? The greater the volume, the more recent the information and the richer the content (keywords/ text, images, video etc.) over time, the better the chances of topping page #1 on a Google search. This is why news websites regularly hit the top of a Google Search, because they have recent, content-rich information on various subjects. A good way for SME’s to improve on content-rich information pertaining to their industry is to write blogs (news articles) on a regular basis – The more, the better. Content-rich articles also help build trust with our audience and create the perception that we are an authority within our industry.
Articles should be content-rich, containing keywords and phrases that are relevant to our market. Content should be written with the objective of adding value and creating interest for consumers within our particular market sector. If we are perceived not to be passionate and inspired in finding topics of interest for our target market, then why should anyone bother reading our blogs? Articles should not just be published to sell, but to also offer further resources of value over and above our products or services. It needs to be interesting, passionate, inspiring, it needs to create some insight or excitement, otherwise where is its true value? Well written articles can also ‘go viral’ through the sharing of information with family, colleagues and friends from groups on inspired individuals.
Keywords & Phrases: Keywords and phrases relevant to our industry help a search engine index website content by category. Using keywords and phrases in website content and metadata sections helps improve SEO. There are limits however – Trying to manipulate data with a surplus of keywords and phrases may also negatively affect SEO performance. If search engines consider these practices ‘malicious’, the site may even be penalized and downgraded on page rankings. As with the entire website experience, the key is to provide value to our readers and customers. Only use keywords and phrases that are relevant to the topic and contextual to the subject matter. Ideally, industry related keywords or phrases should have a ratio of 30% (or less) of the total number of words for a given web page. For use of a specific keyword or phrase, try to keep the use of that particular term down to around a 16% ratio.
Metadata: On most CMS (Content Management Systems), metadata sections have been incorporated for web page SEO, including: ‘Meta Title’, ‘Meta Keywords’ and ‘Meta Description’ – For CMS solutions such as WordPress, extensions (add-ons) like ‘Yoast SEO’ can be installed for easy SEO on each web page (Find the ‘Yoast SEO’ section towards the bottom of a web page when editing for recommendations on improved SEO).
Image File Names: Search engines see website content in text only (As per the image below). Images are demarcated by HTML, along with the file/ fold location and the file name. Therefore, giving our image files (and other ‘download’ files, such as a .pdf) a ‘meaningful’ name will further help SEO performance. Especially with indexing image files in Google’s ‘Image section’ on search results. We should create a simple naming convention for all image files with keywords relevant to our business and/or industry. Separate all keywords the way we expect an online user to do a search – Do not leave spaces in between the words, but rather separate them out with dashes (-), as below:
- Example for File Naming Convention: [Business/Industry]-[Location]-[Unique-Keyword-Description].jpg
- Example of Image File Name: Mountain-Biking-South-Africa-MTB-SA-Cape-Town-Western-Cape-Group-Tour-Packages.jpg
Alt Tags: ‘Alt’ stands for ‘alternate’ tags and are normally used as a description tag in case an image is not available to be displayed on a web page. Descriptive keywords or phrases used in ‘alt’ tag fields helps to improve website SEO – Since search engines view website content in HTML and text format.
Title Tags: ‘Title’ tags are tag fields that allow for an image to have a descriptive text title – Once again, these can be utilized with descriptive keywords or phrases to improve a website’s SEO.
SEO Tools: There is a large pool of information and a vast number SEO analysis tools available online. If you are not getting the desired results, do an online search for further information or make contact with an SEO Expert to assist you on an ongoing basis. Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools a very good (FREE) tools to monitor website performance and provides detailed information with various filters and viewing options.
Organic SEO strategies are ‘free’ methods to help drive traffic to a website. There are also other ‘free’ practices that can help obtain the same objective. Here are a just a few ~
Social Media: Social media has had a massive influence over the years and effectively utilizing social media can help drive traffic to your website. Once again, information shared on social media needs to have some value to a prospective client. Although sharing on social media may help build brand awareness over time, information shared with little or no value will be quickly forgotten.
People are being bombarded with information on a regular basis with the explosion of the digital era – If we want to make an impression over the medium to long term, we need to look to add significant value through our content and sharing of information. Once a blog has been published, it should be shared on our social media platforms. There are also extensions (add-ons) that can be installed and configured to automatically share posts to our preferred social media pages. There is also third-party software that can be purchased to schedule social media posts over a period of time.
Thus, we can schedule all our social media posts over a period of a month, for example, to automatically publish shared information for greater consistency and visibility. A YouTube channel is also a great opportunity and a very powerful way to publish video content. Information can be portrayed in a more compressed and comprehensive manner, and also takes advantage of other human senses. YouTube videos further extends its value with easy sharing through various social channels and can be embedded into web pages to enrich static or blog (Vlog) pages.
Partnerships: Look to partner with like minded people and organisations. Those that are willing to share our website information through word of mouth, digital and cross-marketing efforts.
Nothing is for free, really... Sacrifices need to be made for our success!
Paid Advertising: There are various options for paid advertising, including digital solutions such as Search Engine Marketing (SEM/ Advertising) and Social Media Marketing (SMM), to name a few. Google Adwords is very popular for SEM and the bigger social media platforms offer advertising solutions through their online systems. These online advertising solutions may require some research, but are generally intuitive and offer steps to guide us through the process. Ensure you do some homework before signing up and paying your money over in order to obtain best results!
Traditional Marketing: Good old traditional marketing may be effectively utilized to further boost traffic to our website. This may include things like (i) advertising banners or flyers (pamphlets) at an event or trade show; (ii) Magazine, newspaper, radio or TV advertising; (iii) branded (sponsored) products and merchandise; (iv) Or something as simple as professionally made business cards
Find your passion, and get motivated… Become disciplined, and stop procrastinating… Be resourceful, and implement methods for best results!
Feel free to contact us if you require our services.
Wishing you the best of luck!