Not quite an art nor exactly a science, but both at the same time, SEO is an enigmatic thing to grasp. A search engine is a machine, a computer—so a lot of what is needed is technical. However, search engines are used and results interpreted by people. And the technology is incredibly advanced to the point where engines like Google can serve up content almost intuitively, ascertaining what users want through finely-tuned algorithms that seem to know what is needed more than the searchers do themselves.
For the uninitiated, SEO seems like a very complicated concept. And while the practice of optimisation can be one with many moving parts and possibilities, the actual concept is simple: give the search engines what they want. And what they want is quality content that answers the questions behind any search enquiry. It should be accurate, well-structured, and backed up by trusted sources where relevant. The website should be easy to read, for humans and machines alike.
The following are the basic foundation stones of SEO to understand and implement for a holistic approach.
You want to make sure that your site can be crawled and indexed by Google. This includes actions such as:
- Specifying your preferred domain (with www in front or not) when setting up your site. This avoids confusing search engines that may read your site as two different domains.
- Using robots.txt to give instructions to search engines as to which pages should be indexed.
- Optimising your URL structure (how the URLs for each page should be formatted).
- Submitting a sitemap.
There are other aspects of technical SEO which are also important: mobile friendliness, breadcrumb menus, 404 pages, and more. You may be getting the idea that technical SEO should be left to the experts, and this is largely true. Google Search Console, however, is a great tool which can help any website owner to discover and fix issues by showing them how their site will appear to searchers. This is a free service—you will just have to follow some simple steps to verify ownership of the site.
Once you start to dip your toes in the world of SEO, there’s no avoiding keyword research. The words on your site need to match the words people are using to search. While the search algorithms are smart enough to recognise topics without strings of awkwardly-placed keywords, it is still necessary to hit some of the most relevant key words and phrases.
Keyword research is another task that is best done by experts, but with so many free tools it’s possible to do the basics yourself. Use a tool to find search volumes of basic words and phrases related to your product or service, and create groups of related words that could be used for a focused page or blog post. This is a rabbit hole of epic proportions, but a basic search will give you somewhere to start.
Content that works for you
Writing content for SEO might seem complicated, but it gets simpler when you consider the underlying principle: search engines aim to give searchers content that answers their questions. Any text, from home page headlines to personal stories in the “About Us” page should be relevant, well-written, and accurate in spelling and grammar.
To get more content on your page, provide the answers people are searching for, and hit more keyword groups, start writing blog posts. If, for example, you sell dog treats, you might put up a post called “which sweet treats are safe for dogs?” and offer valuable information to pet owners.
Search engines like to display content that they believe can be trusted. And this is determined in part by how sites are connected with other sites. It’s like street cred: being connected to a lot of people will improve yours, but only if they have decent cred themselves.
Basically, you want links: links to trusted websites to show that your sources are good and, more importantly, links from reliable websites to your site. This is a huge chunk of SEO, and it is often the trickiest for beginners to do themselves. There are many methods for gaining backlinks—website owners can read up on how to DIY this and hope for results, or use an SEO expert to do the work for them.
We hope that this breakdown of SEO and its main facets is helpful to anyone looking to understand the basics of this digital discipline. With search engines now serving up information, recommendations, products, services, and more to the tune of over 3.5 billion searches per day, it’s foundational to ecommerce and any online activity.
Like any such field, without a lot of research and learning one can only scratch the surface. For most business owners, the time required to become an SEO expert is better spent elsewhere, focusing on what they do best. Media Giant can help companies around New Zealand be seen online, with a range of SEO services that have been proven to get traffic and conversions for your online storefront.