What do you need to know about SEO?

FIRST OFF, SOMETHING you certainly should already know is that it’s a tough industry, easily one of the most competitive for search engine results page (SERP) space that exists. But don’t let that put you off; as long as you’re willing to put the work in there’s no reason why you can’t still succeed, and the reason it’s so competitive is because it pays so well, so it’s more than worth it.

Brand building

Branding has become of utmost importance with regards to organic search, from social presence to branded links. For a newcomer site this will be especially important; it’s all about trust and in the eyes of Google, branding means credibility.
You need to choose a domain that you can build a brand around then start getting your name out there with social and PR pushes.

Content - things are different now

Since the first Panda update back in early гоп, you now need to offer real value to the users. You can’t just have a website or web page doing the same as everybody else, providing text based information that says the same thing as all of your competitors say, just with different words.

You need to be original, you need to offer widgets and features, videos and images; you need to stand out from the crowd. The trick here is to look at your website as if you were a user searching for what it offers. Imagine that you land on it for the first time. What do you think? Be honest with yourself. Does it cut it? Is it any different from all the others? Aim your site at the people; if you do that well enough and they like it, then Google will too. Is it good for the user, or just full of banners for monetisation purposes?

Mini on-page/site SEO guide - the usual suspects

Right let’s go through the usual stuff. Anybody who knows anything about SEO will know that there are some basic things that need doing on any website so that Google will know the site is relevant to the search terms in question.

Site structure

This is obviously important. Where are your landing pages in relation to the rest of the site? How shallow is the file structure? In other words, how many sub-folders do you have?

There’s a fair amount of evidence that this doesn’t matter as much as it used to but it’s still a good idea to ensure that the site structure is as shallow as possible. If you have a landing page which is buried deep in the site, within several sub¬directories then you’ll want to consider removing some of those sub-directories so that Googlebot doesn’t need to crawl too deeply to reach the content of that page.


URLs should be SEF (Search Engine Friendly). This means that instead of having meaningless, non-descriptive characters in the URL you should have words relating to the content of the page. Keywords relevant to the sub-folder (so the category and possible sub-categories) and the page itself should be used where possible, without going over the top and keyword stuffing. As a final note in SEFs, if you’re separating words be sure to use hyphens instead of any other separators.

Link architecture

More important than the actual file structure is the internal link architecture. This is because Googlebot follows the links to reach the content on the landing pages, so the less ‘hops’ from the homepage to the landing page, the better. An internal landing page will absorb more equity and be considered as higher in importance (not to mention crawled more easily) if there is a link to that page on the homepage itself, or your most equitable page.

Now, depending on how many categories, sub-categories and pages exist on the site this may or may not be possible. You can’t link to every landing page from the homepage or it will simply have too many links on it, and will split the equity being passed to those pages too much to have the desired effect anyway. You should ensure that the landing pages of most importance to you are as closely linked from the homepage as possible.

Don’t forget though, there’s nothing to stop you adding a couple of homepage links to special landing pages that are of high importance to you, just as long as you don’t go too far with it and have too many.

Crawl errors

This is arguably the most important factor to consider. After all, if Googlebot can’t crawl your site, it won’t index it, and you’ll have no rankings at all.

You will want to check within Google Webmaster Tools for crawl errors and ensure you fix anything that’s showing as a potential problem. Of course, some crawl errors are more severe than others, but suffice to say that all should be resolved for optimum results.

Title tags

Title tags are a signal to the search engines of what the page is about. You will want to provide a unique, descriptive title to show what the page is about. (And remember, that doesn’t mean stuff as many keywords in as possible, that will backfire!) Consider it from a user’s perspective rather than from the search engine’s.

When the listing for the page appears in the search results, what will make the user think, “Hey yeah, that’s what I’m looking for!” and then click... and then once clicked see the page content and feel they made the right choice, and decide to stick around?

Of course, you do want to make sure you have the best chance of the listing showing in those results in the first place, so whatever that user is searching for, you want to make sure it’s present as a keyword in your title tag.

Meta descriptions

This won’t affect your rankings, but it will affect how many people click through to your site from seeing it as a listing in the SERPs.

This is similar to the title tag in some ways. It must give a good, unique description of the page. What is it about? Why is it what the user should click on? Once again, when the user comes through to the page they need to see that it’s what they were looking for and matches what the description said about it.

Body content

Body content should be unique, well written and contain ‘some’ keywords. Do not stuff keywords in everywhere you can, doing so will only hinder you. See the adding of keywords as just letting Google and the users know that the page might well be relevant to searches for pages with that subject matter. Don’t force them in where they shouldn’t be, don’t sacrifice readability to get more in, just allow for naturally written content which, if the page is about that subject anyway, will likely already have the keywords in question within it.

However, it’s not a great idea to be missing all the keywords you want to rank for. Different variations of the keywords and even semantics should show up in phrases, with exact and partial matches dispersed naturally.

Links - you still need ‘em

Links are, always have been, and always will be important (at least as far as any of us can see into the potential future). Links are votes from other websites that your website is good and if those sites are in the same/ similar industry, and ‘sometimes’ (not overdoing it, keep it natural) use keyworded anchor text, then those sites are saying your site is relevant too.

So, you must acquire links. You must acquire them from websites that are already trusted in the eyes of Google, and relevant to your site.

There are lots of different ways to acquire links but there is no way I can cover it all in one article. The best links are the ones that link to you naturally without prompting, due to how great your site is... easier said than done I know. Try a bit of outreach, experiment with content, get yourself about in the online community and do whatever you think might earn you links from people, without spamming and giving yourself a bad reputation for it.

It’s worth mentioning that due to Google’s link penalty process, individual pages are more likely to be penalised than whole sites if you happen to do something that goes against the Google guidelines.

For this reason, a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach should be taken by targeting internal landing pages with your efforts rather than the homepage... remember, if an internal page gets penalised you can replace it, but if your homepage gets penalised then you’re in trouble.

Social - don’t shy away

Whether or not social signals affect rankings is disputable, with new evidence for and against continuously cropping up. Some of the latest research points to social signals not directly affecting rankings through the algorithm. Either way, even if it does then it’s only slight at the moment. But, we know that social signals will count... once the algorithm can factor them in effectively (and filter out efforts to game the system).

But none of that means you shouldn’t ‘go for it’ with social... on the contrary.

More visibility in the SERPs, direct traffic - it just depends how it’s done and how much effort is put in. Even if you have great content, you still need to promote it. Tell people about your site and what it has to offer them via social media.

Conclusion - you get out what you put in (mostly)

As with anything else, it’s very much a matter of “You get out what you put in!”. The rewards can be great in this industry; it’s certainly one of the best payers if you can make it.

Whether you make it or not all just depends on your commitment and your attitude. Gone are the days of easy, quick wins. If you think you’ll get there with little effort then go do something else as you’re wasting your time here. However, if you’re prepared to put the work in consistently and over time, then just stick with it and you'll get there in the end.
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