The ultimate 14-step beginner’s guide to SEO

How good is your marketing team’s SEO knowledge? Test whether they are masters of search engine optimisation or could do with a tad more training with this 14-step guide.

First of all, what exactly is SEO?

In very simple terms, SEO (search engine optimisation) refers to the techniques you can use to get your website ranking as high as possible in organic search results on SERPs (search engine results pages). Organic results aren’t paid for and therefore appear naturally in search results.

From optimising separate, specific webpages (on-page SEO) to building links and using social media to market your site (off-page SEO), there are several ways you can improve your SERPs ranking.

Why is SEO important?

A site with a good structure and effective SEO strategy is easier to navigate, and can be indexed quickly by search engines. Google is placing more importance than ever on user experience, so it’s essential your site is optimised well.

Ultimately, good SEO will drive more traffic to your site, resulting in more custom for your business. Follow these steps and your site will be well on its way to appearing in the top five results of the SERP:

  1. 1. Create relevant content

Search results are prioritised according to how relevant they are to a particular search. A search engine will take various factors into account when generating these results, from someone’s search history to their location, so make sure your content is relevant.

Stay away from anything that interferes with the user’s experience and slows your site down. This means resisting any temptation to have a full-screen advert popping up that urges them to download your app, as Google will penalise your SERP ranking for this.

  1. 2. Post high-quality content with value to create a positive user experience

Producing content in line with what you think the search engine will favour over something insightful will actually work against you. Try publishing content with strong internal links that offers insight and advice to visitors, as this will not only drive more traffic to your site but can vastly improve your ranking in SERPs. Also, don’t duplicate content because Google will only index one of any two identical pages.

  1. 3. Include strong internal links and make your site an authority

Your aim is to make your site an authority, with content that users in your area of expertise will trust and link to.

Relevant internal links with clear anchor text will benefit your bounce rates, as they present visitors to your site with a wider choice of pages to visit. Adding them also makes it easier for Google to index your site, and can help you to rank higher in the SERPs for particular keywords and phrases. However, the links need to be relevant to the content they are added to.

Whatever you do, don’t buy links from link farms. Only links from authoritative sites within your field are valuable; others could have a negative effect on your site’s SEO.

  1. 4. Carefully craft your meta descriptions

Even though it doesn’t boost your SERP position, a carefully crafted meta description can encourage more people to click on your webpage. Just make sure it’s relevant to the page’s title and its content, and if you want to make the entire description visible on the SERP, ensure it’s no longer than 156 characters.

  1. 5. Check how fast your site loads

You need to make sure your website loads quickly, as users will click off it if they are kept waiting for too long. Remember that search engines will know your site’s loading speed.

  1. 6. Make sure your site is responsive

With people accessing websites on a number of different devices including smartphones and tablets, a site’s design needs to be responsive, ie, able to adapt to the device it’s being viewed on. Having a site with a responsive design will help to improve its SERP ranking, as Google prefers it.

  1. 7. Use succinct title tags

Title tags instantly tell your site’s visitors (and search engines) what your website is about. If someone searches for a particular term that is included in your title tags, it will appear highlighted in both the SERP and your browser tab if you share your site externally. Just make sure to use relevant keywords that accurately describe your webpage.

  1. 8. Add schema markup

Google’s preferred markup is schema markup, a type of code that when added to your pages’ HTML allows images, customer ratings and more to appear in search results for your site. If you’re looking to improve click-through rates, this can be highly effective.

  1. 9. Tag your images

As Google is unable to see any images you upload, remember to include a description of the image in the ‘alternative text’ box, which makes them more likely to feature in Google Image searches.

Furthermore, adding the description enables those using ‘screen reader’ software to be able to access your site easier.

  1. 10. Check your domain names

If you want to improve your site’s structure, you will need to use sub-directory root domains rather than sub-domains. Also, it’s best not to use hyphens and top-level domain names such as .biz, .info and .name, as people could confuse them for spam.

Furthermore, be careful when using domain names stuffed with keywords, because it’s thought that Google will not place priority on sites attached to them if they aren’t of a certain standard.

If your site doesn’t have the ‘www.’ prefix, you need to check whether any searchers who type this in will still be able to find it. If not, search engines could mistakenly think these are two separate sites, which could massively impact your ranking in search results.

  1. 11. Tackle headlines and permalinks

Making sure your article headlines are shorter than 55 characters will improve their ranking in SERPs. Although creating compelling titles when you have so few characters to work with can be a challenge, try to make them eye-catching and ensure they reflect what your content has to offer without resorting to clickbait.

Bear in mind that the URL, otherwise known as the permalink, doesn’t always have to be an exact match with the headline, and if you’re using keywords, always put the most important one at the start.

  1. 12. Moderate your comments

Having a comments section will encourage your readers to engage with your content and site, but moderating it on a regular basis is important. You need to remove spam that may slip through the net, and you could also add the nofollow value to ensure search engines don’t take any questionable links into account.

  1. 13. Market your site on social media

You will need a presence on all of the relevant social media channels that your audience will be using if you want to improve your site’s SERP ranking. Use them to interact with your customers and readers, which will build up their confidence in your company’s customer service capabilities.

  1. 14. Don’t forget the benefits of local SEO

As Google presents searchers with results according to their location, businesses need to take advantage of this if they want to reel in as many local customers as possible. Keep your business’s important information up to date easily by registering with Google My Business. This will allow customers to find out crucial information they need to know easily, such as your opening times.

Cheats that don’t work!

Some site operators believe that they can outsmart search engines and improve their SERP ranking in the process; however, Google could reduce your ranking considerably if it finds any of these on your site:

  • Text written in size 0 font
  • A white background with white text
  • Links that have been hidden using commas, full stops and other single characters
  • Text situated off screen

T&G Web Design’s expert marketing team is fully up to date with all the latest SEO trends and techniques. If your site isn’t ranking as high as it should be and you’re struggling to understand why, <a href=”https://www.tandgwebdesign.co.uk/contact/”>contact us</a> and we will be happy to help.