A Wondernauts Guide to SEO Basics
From research & planning, to the basics of on-site and off-site optimisation, get to know the basics of SEO.
Hello everyone, I’m Gokhan, the latest addition to the Wondernaut program. This will be the first of many blog posts about the world of SEO. I hope you will enjoy it and more importantly find it useful.
Firstly it’s crucial to identify your goals, niche and your content. You should ask yourself the question, if you were a customer/reader why would you approach your site and what would you do to find it on the internet.
This is really important because your readers/clients may not know your services as well as you do, and you cannot expect people to search for every single product unless they are really knowledgeable and keen to buy your product or services.
After discovering your niche and planning your content you should follow these basic steps…
1. Keyword & Competitor Research:
Once you decide on your niche and have carried out feasibility studies you are ready to start your keyword research. To do that first of all start thinking, if you were an ordinary internet user, what would you enter into the search engine to find your site? Then make a list of some keywords. These are the foundations of your SEO campaign. Then use a tool like Google Adwords Keyword Planner to find out how these keywords perform in terms of search volume (the amount of people searching that term, usually on a monthly basis). Be careful when you are looking for keywords. **Do not focus on monthly search volume only. Also consider the relevance and volume of competition. If you just consider search volume, you will be wasting your time to get ranked in a very competitive area. (Probably you will end up returning to square one). ** First determine your audience. Is your audience local or international? If your audience is more local then select that specific country and language whilst doing your keyword research on Google Adwords Keyword Planner (GAKP). (I assume that you already know how to use GAKP!) **If you havnt used it before, you can have a look at this great explanation with possible alternative tools from the moz blog written by Ruth Burr.**
After finding new keyword ideas, you can select your keywords by considering their relativity to your niche. During this selection process you should consider average monthly searches and competition volume. If you have just started with a brand new website you shouldn’t go for anything with high competition levels, simply because they have a huge volume of searches. This will definitely be a time waster for you as other big competitors are already getting ranked for those keywords.
For you, the best option is to go for low competition and good search volume keywords. You can start ranking those keywords and then become one of your competitors in the near future.
You should also consider long tail keywords. Long tail keywords are generally entered by keen users and buyers on the internet. They often contain ‘action words’ such as “how much” “cheap” or “buy”. Let’s say that you are selling mobile phone accessories and trying to rank for your headphones page. While generic users are entering headphones or bluetooth headphones, more knowledgeable users would be entering “headphones for mobile phones”, “samsung headphones” or “dr Dre headphones”because their decision to buy is almost made. If they are intent on buying the product they will likely be entering keywords such as “hds 10 bluetooth headset” or “sony smart bluetooth sbh52″ etc…
So you can define your long tail keywords by considering your products or services or content.
Lastly to get new ideas you should also look at your competitors’ keywords and rankings. We call it “competitive keyword research” here in the depths of Wonderlabs . To do that there are lots of useful SEO tools out there. I can personally suggest Open Site Explorer from the guys at MOZ. You simply enter your competitor’s URL and after seeing your results you can go to the anchor text tab to see what keywords are being used for in their anchor text when building links. This method will give you the chance to see what keywords your competitors give importance to.
2. On-site Optimisation
You have already done your keyword research and now you should locate the keywords on your pages. You need different meta tags and title tags for each different page on your site, but you need to be smart when creating them. **Great titles and meta tags should define that specific page to the users and search engines. You will use your keywords within both of them but at the same time you should be descriptive as much as possible. Do not stuff your keywords within meta and title tags to get ranked, if you do so google will punish you. Lastly consider maximum character length of meta tags and title tags. You can take advantage of this 3rd party tool to see the length of your sentences. **
- Make beautiful URLS (ugly ones suck!) – When you are creating your URLs always think that users should clearly understand where they are looking when they see the URL of that page. Instead of giving them a URL that consists of mixed characters and numbers, looking like a code from outer space (as much as we love space), you should nicely define the structure with letters and each word separated by hyphens (-).
- Ensure content is readable – Whilst creating your content and using those keywords that you have spent so much time researching, don’t waste them by keyword stuffing your content. Those lovely people at Google don’t like this very much, and sees it as a reason to penalise. Users like clean and nicely written content. They prefer to read content about they subject they are looking for and it must be readable. If you try to put your keywords everywhere your content starts moving away from making much sense they are likely to quickly leave your site. *whisper* Google hates this too *whisper*
- Don’t create ugly pages – For headings, it’s imperative to use H1 and H2s to separate your content for the sake of readability. This is a factor that some would argue Google doesn’t actually take too much notice of, but for the sake of a user, reading a blog or a page that is well laid out and not just a block of text is always going to result in user retention.
- Another important on-site factor is Web Speed – Your web site should be fast and also responsive as well. When I say responsive I mean that your website should be able to transform itself into different gadget screen sizes. These days people are generally using tablets and mobile phones to surf on the internet. You wouldn’t want them to see a complex of text and images instead of your meticulously prepared contents, would you?
So besides these basic on-site SEO tips another area you must focus on in 2014 is the standard of your content. You need to create useful, unique and shareable content that also includes your important keywords. That way your content will grab the users’ attention and most importantly (some would say) make them share the content on social netoworks, creating its own organic link for you as well (who said SEO had to be difficult).
When I say content I don’t just mean articles. Everything from graphics or infographics, to videos or slideshows, rich content can make your site come to life. You should use your relevant keywords for this content as well. For infographics and images make use of the ALT tag with your keywords, and importantly explain the images content. That way search engine will be able to define the content like text and reward you by ranking your website for those keywords.
Apart from these various on-site tips you can check this super useful On-Page Optimisation article with Visual Guide from Rand Fishkin to fill missing parts or clear away your possible question marks about the topic.
3. Off-site Optimisation
When we are talking about off-site optimisation, there is no doubt that link building and social media marketing constitute a large part of it. After the last Penguin 2.1 update old link building tactics become less effective and even useless in some areas (as discussed in Joe’s post about SEO in 2013). In 2014 and onwards natural, unique and shareable content will became more and more important.
A unique and useful piece of content that is embedded in a perfectly optimised page can be found easily by users and search engines alike. Users will find it quickly because it has been optimised well for them and search engines, they will love it because it is what exactly they are searching for and finally search engines will love it too because users are happy. Then users will start sharing that content. Once your content starts its social media journey, it will build link backs for you organically.
Article submission, paid back links without any relevancy, link exchanges without any relevancy and spamming with irrelevant blog comments are now detected more and more easily by Google and penalised. So you should spend your effort and time to:
- create unique content
- create your own blog linked to your website and update it regularly
- advertise your website on social media platforms
Go forth and SEO…
All covered topics so far are not a one time action, don’t forget, you should start your online journey with a well optimised website and always keep it well optimised as long as it is online.
There is one last important guideline for you to always keep in mind: Google Webmaster Guidelines themselves. Stick to their rules for your website’s online presence and things shouldn’t be too difficult.
I have tried to give you an overview about SEO Basics. If you keep these in mind and also keep yourself updated by following the latest seo news, search engine updates and also updates from SEO gurus like the moz team, there is no reason for you not to succeed in your SEO effort.
Apart from these SEO Basics, the advanced part of SEO and always keeping it under control is the decent search engine marketing agencies’ job. It is really important to find transparent seo agencies that provide innovative digital marketing campaigns. But it’s not that difficult. A smart search, happy client testimonials… and… there you are! Welcome to Wonderlabs