Search engine what? Demystifying the big SEO monster

Every time I think about the SEO monster, I can’t help but think about my dad saying “Don’t make a salad of shit!” (Pardon my French). 

SEO, as we know, stands for Search Engine Optimisation. This means: “How can we make Google love us?” or “What can we do, so Google and other search engines can find our website, and rank it at the top of people’s searches?”.

It is a simple concept, but not-so-easy in practice. This brings me to the salad. We see a big problem because we tend to bundle all the s**t together. However, when we break it down, it becomes less of a problem. 

So, let’s have a look at the SEO basics to start understanding and benefitting from them.

Why even learn about SEO?

Well, not taking care of our SEO is a bit like having a shop and not sharing the address in directories or maps. That’s it, I have this beautiful shop that offers so many amazing products, but no one knows where it is.

Imagine that Alice is thinking of buying a gift for a friend and wants a beautiful, unique candle that burns for a long time, plus some other cute little things. She needs these products and would love your shop (since you sell the best candles, and lots and lots of gorgeous items that women love). 

She would spend hours browsing in your online shop, finding mementos for all her friends, and super cute little treasures for herself. It could even become her happy place. 

Alice always asks “George” for help, because he is the best at giving recommendations. “George” gets out and about so much and knows every hidden gem. He never fails. 

Unfortunately, “George” doesn’t know your beautiful shop exists. So, he will recommend other “close matches” to Alice, and just like that, she will miss the opportunity to fall in love with your shop. Sad, right?

SEO is vital to increase the quality and quantity of traffic that visits your website. Therefore, it also helps increase brand awareness, attract local customers and build credibility and trust. Win, Win, Win, for sure.

On top of that, amongst other benefits, we’d like to point out that SEO is a very solid marketing tool. When you invest in it, whether time, money or both, the results tend to last for a long period of time. Once George knows your shop is there, he will be able to tell more and more people about it (although it is good to remind him that you are there from time to time).

Let’s break it down to the SEO basics.

There are 2 parts of SEO: On-page SEO and Off-page SEO.

On-page SEO

Let’s start with On-page SEO, because it’s the one you have more control over. On-page SEO involves optimising your website for search engines to find you.

You can find “how search engines find you” with a simple Google search, so we won’t get into that, but think WORDS, more specifically KEYWORDS. Hold the thought for a moment.

In order to optimise your website you will need to tackle both your content and the technical aspects that run in the background (big words like html source code, meta tags, schema, etc.). Don’t panic, we will only look at the SEO basics, and will give you some tips to get started.

So, coming back to the keywords. Alice will search for words related to the gorgeous candles you sell, such as: beautiful candles, candles Sunshine Coast, most unique candles, etc.

When she searches for those terms, Google sends its battalion of spiders to crawl the web and find those keywords, and other key terms that are relevant to the words she would use to find your shop. 

As you may imagine, if you don’t display those words on your website, “George” (ahem, Google) won’t be able to find you.

So, you need to identify those popular words that your “Alice” (A.K.A. ideal client)  would use to find your products, a set of words closely related to them and another set of words that are close but don’t mention candles. 

(Think of the game, Taboo. The player can’t mention the word, or the forbidden words, e.g. wax, to their team and the others have to guess what it is). Therefore, as an overall rule, use not only keywords but also their synonyms and related words. This helps Google see your content as relevant and comprehensive.

The key with keywords, no pun intended, is to find the sweet spot. If it is too popular the big players will definitely beat you. If it is too niche your audience won’t probably think of them. Take your time doing this research, because it is what will set you up for success. 

Then, you need to make sure that these words populate your website, as much as possible, without sounding like a machine of course.

Tip: Before making any changes, you may want to have a look at your Google Analytics to have a baseline and see how the changes you make affect the traffic that goes to your website.

Every time you write a blogpost, the copy on your pages, product descriptions, etc., remember that that’s the content your audience actually sees, so these are the perfect sports to add the keywords to.

On-page SEO basics - On the outside:
  • Create engaging titles and introductions to hook your audience straight away.
  • Introduce those shiny new keywords often, but without being annoying or sounding like a robot.
  • Show your personality. Keep it witty, interesting, soothing, fun… remember we are people talking to people and, let’s be honest, it's much more interesting to read texts with a ray of personality, than a bunch of big words that only people in your industry will understand. Copywriting is the backbone of your brand personality.
  • Show your audience additional resources by pointing to other relevant pages on your website. Internal links are huge for search engine optimisation.
  • Hook them before they leave. Whether it is by giving them a hint of what’s coming or asking for their opinion, look for engagement.

Then turn to the back-end of your site and check how its guts look like. Those keywords can live in many places, so let’s give them many homes.

Photos, graphics, videos and other visual content are very important. They can have a name, Alt-text, title, caption, description, etc. Fill in the relevant fields (including keywords) to lure Google and other search engines to show it to more people.

In terms of the blog post and other pages with text, a plugin like YOAST SEO will guide you through the process of where these keywords could be added. 

On-page SEO basics - On the inside:
  • Craft your SEO title or title tag (the title that appears in the search engine results). Keep it short preferably and to the point. Include your keyword at the beginning of your title tag.
  • Write a good META description (the description that the search engine result shows under that title). By default this is usually the beginning of your text. 

Change it to a brief and clear description of what the page is about, including your main keyword if possible.

Modify the Slug (the part of the url specific to that page that follows the main domain page, i.e. Keep it relevant to the text and include the keywords if possible.

Alt-text and description in images and other graphics should include your keywords or synonym keywords in them.

Add relevant tags and categories to your pages. This will help Google (and other search engines) to find you.

  • Don’t forget to optimise your media to load as fast as possible. Charge speed plays a big part in your SEO. Neither your audience nor Google like slow pages.

By paying attention to these fundamental items, you will see a great improvement on the performance of your website. Keep polishing your SEO by regularly adding and optimising content relevant to your products or services.

Off-page SEO

To improve your Off-page SEO you will have to get out of your site and build the roads that lead to it.

It’s funny how “George” knows everyone, but very few people have been able to actually talk to him directly (he is so busy). So, to build your reputation and be known by him, you have to make your site popular with his friends.

Search engines, like Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc… look all around the world for sites their users will love. With the immeasurable amount of content created every minute, there has to be a hierarchy. 

What we mean by that is they will search first amongst the sites that have higher authority, trustworthiness and relevance on the whole wide web and see who they know. 

When one of these websites mentions yours is like a golden star ticket that says “go to see my friend’s shop, they have the most unique, beautiful and aromatic candles on the Sunshine Coast”.

These “mentions” are called backlinks and they are actually a link to your website on a different page. Other types of “mentions” come from local search citations (directories and listings), social media marketing, guest bloggings, brand mentions, influence marketing and other “shout outs”.

Think of off-page SEO as networking. You will need to build relationships with other businesses to have a genuine recommendation from them. 

Maybe you meet a florist that knows that every time a group of girl friends buy flowers for another friend they like to add a few cute items to the gift. If the florist loves what you do, she will take her customers to you in a blink, because it means she will be giving value to them and helping you at the same time.

Off-page SEO basics:
  • Make alliances with sites that are relevant to your industry and can naturally drive their clients to you.
  • Make it personal. When you reach out to another site to ask them whether they could link to your content, don’t copy and paste the email you sent to someone else. Learn something about them, why they are a great alliance and how your content can benefit them. Then write your email accordingly.
  • Invest in visual content. As we showed you in our blog about repurposing content, visual content is such an amazing asset because not only it can be optimised and tagged, but also it will be an attractive piece that can lead traffic to your website and be repurposed in many ways to make your communication stronger.
  • Therefore, promote your content on social media. Websites are somehow static, in the sense of not changing so often. Social media is so much more dynamic, and it will give you many opportunities to link back to your page, therefore attracting new audiences. Plus, search engines already know and highly trust YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc., so these backlinks are “golden star ticket” votes for your website.
  • Share your valuable content, both written and visual, on niche platforms, i.e. relevant groups, associations, specific blogs and publications.
  • Develop or improve your Local Search Citations. These are mentions of your business’ name, phone and address in a website that is not your own. Create listings in sites like Google My Business, Bing Maps, Apple Places, Yellow Pages, Yelp and other directories. It is paramount that you keep your name, address and phone (NAP) consistent. Geotagging your images is a bonus to help with local searches.
  • Crafting a short and a long bio of your business will help you with consistency, too. Use them for those citations to solidify what your business is about and build that trust.
The never ending story

As you can see, these are a few SEO basics to get you started, there is so much more to learn. However, these already provide a very solid foundation, and a big chunk of work that you can implement straight away to increase traffic to your website.

Think of it as a never ending story, but in a good way. This is a marathon, not a sprint, so learn to love the journey and cruise through it. Keep in your mind “I’m giving extra value to my Alices and showing George how many people I can help too”

If you want to learn more, we found a very comprehensive beginner course. Remember, if you feel overwhelmed don’t get trapped in the “salad of sh*t”, break it down to make it easier.

We hope we helped make this big SEO monster a bit less scary with our SEO basics. We would be happy to give you a hand with any of that, if you need it, just leave us a comment below.

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