Search Engine Optimisation

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What is SEO and why do you need it?

Search Engine Optimisation graphic - SEO

SEO

If you are new to SEO or have just heard the term bandied around, it is no surprise that it may be a bit confusing. But before we dive into the ins and outs of SEO, it’s search engine optimisation if you were wondering what it stands for, it is important first to understand a little about how search engines work and how we, people interact with them. 

What is a search engine? 

Search engines, like Google, Bing or Yahoo are sophisticated programs that essentially give answers to questions. A person (user) enters their question (query) into Google for example as text to find an answer to a question and the search engine will display the answers (results). These answers or search results as they are known are displayed on the search engine results page, SERP for short.  

 According to Google, a search engine is “A program that searches for and identifies items  in a database that corresponds to keywords or characters specified by the user used especially for finding particular sites on the world wide web.” 

If it’s easier you can think of a search engine like a library. You walk up to the librarian and ask them for a book, digital marketing for example. The librarian knows what books are most relevant to what you asked for and brings back a selection for you to browse. You look through the books and pick out which one you believe is most suitable for your needs, if none are suitable you may change your original query and ask the librarian to bring you books on something more specific, search engine marketing for beginners for example and the librarian repeats the process. 

Search engines work similarly but on a vastly bigger scale. There are 5.6 billion searches every day or questions asked on Google alone and these searches can be returned in many ways such as text, images, videos, graphics, and so on.  

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Search engine logos - bing, Google and Yahoo
Image of Google search for SEO

People and search engines

Google, we will focus on its search engine as it’s the most widely used in Europe, is smart enough to understand what someone is searching for and wants to give the searcher the most relevant and appropriate result it can find. Generally, people search in three different ways: 

  1. They want to know what the lead singer’s name in Guns N Roses was, or the best Italian restaurant in Dublin, for example. These types of queries are known as informational queries. 
  2. They want to go somewhere, not physically but on the internet. They want to go to a place like Facebook or the Volvo or Toyota homepage. These types of searches are navigational searches. 
  3.  The searcher wants to do something. They want to buy a pair of shoes, a concert ticket or download a song. These are known as transactional searches. 

 Depending on what the user searches Google will give a direct answer or show a list of websites that have the answer. It can also consider your location, the history of your searches, what you have been browsing, and what social networks you use, like Facebook or Instagram for example. When combined, this gives a more personalised result for the searcher. 

Searching for something online is the same principle as searching for something in the shops, it’s just done over the internet instead. Let’s say for example your TV breaks, you need a new one. You go to the store and ask the salesperson to show you their range of widescreen TVs. They take you over, show you the selection, and explain a bit about their features, price, etc. You take a closer look at what is most appealing and if you are satisfied you make a purchase, if not you continue to the next store and repeat the process. 

 Everyone, for the most part, goes through the same process, they experience a need or a want, the TV was broken so needed a new one. In the example above you physically asked a salesperson about TVs, using Google that same question would have been typed into the search bar and the query entered. A list of results would be returned, with paid advertising at the top and organic results below that (we will go into this in more detail later). You would select the most appealing one and browse through the pages to see if your need is satisfied. If your needs are not met then you will return to the results again and pick another site or create a new search with some refinements, maybe cheap widescreen TVs. 

 So where does SEO come into all of this? I hear you say. 

Search Engine Optimisation 

A quick Google search for what SEO is will return about 232,000,000 results. Out of all these results, only the ones on the first page will be viewed; 75% of people will only browse the first page. 

So, how do you get your website or one of the pages of your site to show in these top search results? There is no one simple answer but the content on your site is the key ingredient. The purpose of SEO is to help you reach your desired goals for your company by making your content more visible organically on SERPs (search engine results pages, in case you forgot) 

There are various technical elements to consider as well like content structure, site speed, XML sitemaps and so on that influence your website’s crawlability and indexability and we can take a closer look at these later.  

SEO - Search Engine Optimisation Garphic
SEO content

Content Is King 

When writing content for your site you want to think about its relevance, how informative it is and whether it answers the searchers’ questions or solves their needs or wants. 

Your content should read naturally and contain keywords (words or phrases that people use to search) related to the topic you are writing about. Quality content is your goal here. You might be writing a blog about ice cream or brownies so your keywords could be chocolate brownies or homemade ice cream for example. 

Getting started with your content can be one of the hardest parts. Spend some time brainstorming ideas and maybe free write or dictate if you have that option. Try not to focus on the keyword but instead on the topic and then work your keyword or key phrases into your content. Don’t force it, keywords should read naturally within your content. Google is looking for content that has people in mind, not search engines. If we use our chocolate brownie example, we can examine the following sentences to see which sounds more natural. 

 “We make the best chocolate brownies in NYC. Our chocolate brownies are the most delicious chocolate brownies, and our chocolate brownies are available for delivery” 

 “We make the best, most delicious chocolate brownies available for delivery in NYC” 

 The second sentence is the best choice. It reads naturally and still contains the desired keywords. The first sentence is exaggerated but highlights the temptation and danger of adding too many of the same keywords to your content. This is known as keyword stuffing and is considered Irrelevant Keywords by Google. 

 “Keyword stuffing” refers to the practice of loading a webpage with keywords or numbers in an attempt to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results. Often these keywords appear in a list or group, or out of context (not as natural prose). Filling pages with keywords or numbers results in a negative user experience and can harm your site’s ranking. Focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and in context. 

Structuring and Optimising Your Page 

You need to structure your content in a particular way to make it easier for Google to crawl. This process is known as page optimisation and there are seven key areas to consider. 

  • Page Title or Title Tag 
  • Meta Description 
  • H1 Headline <h1> 
  • Main body content (500 plus words is a good starting point. Include sub headers <h2> – <h6> 
  • Image(s) and image alt tag 
  • Links 
  • Call To Action 
SEO page structure graphic
SEO keywords graphic

 Page Titles - Use Your Primary Keyword 

Your page title, ‘title tag’ or ‘SEO title’ as it may sometimes be called describes what your page is about, it describes the topic of your page and should contain your primary keyword.  

They are an important element of your on-page SEO but do not display on the page content itself. They are instead added to the HTML of your site and displayed as blue text in search results. 

f you are using WordPress, you can view or add title tags by navigating to your dashboard, and pages and then selecting the page you want to edit. You can also edit them if you have the Yoast SEO plugin installed. 

To optimise your title, it should be within 65 characters in length, otherwise, it can be cut off or truncated in search results which will make it less legible. 

Meta Descriptions – Make Them Engage!

Meta descriptions should be engaging and entice users to click through to your content. They are also added to the HTML of your website. Although not a ranking factor you should include your primary keyword and optimise the length between 70 and 160 characters. Primary keywords will be bolded in search results if they are part of the user search.  

Meta Description Graphic

Headline Align It with Your Page Title 

Your headline lets users know the overall purpose of your landing page. It should be engaging, align with your title tag, and contain the keyword you want to rank for.   

Headlines and subheadings are important because they give your page structure and allow search engines to make sense of your page’s layout.  

The main heading or <h1> is the most important it is a must! Your heading tells Google what your page is about and more importantly, it is a ranking factor. Don’t however think by adding lots of H1s throughout your page will get it to rank higher, it will just be considered spam and give a bad user experience.  

For more information on H1 tags as a ranking factor check out this article by Miranda Miller from Search Engine Journal Are H1 Tags A Google Ranking Factor? 

Main Content – The Nitty Gritty 

The main content of your page or body content is where you write about your chosen topic in detail. Your main body content should be well written, contain subheadings, h2 – h6, and have images to break up the text and should be at least 500 words. 

When writing your content, you should think about how it will look to users and search engines. Your on-page content needs to meet the needs of the searcher, it needs to satisfy the searcher’s intent. 

On-page content is important for search engines and for users. It is important for search engines because it directly relates to how the page will rank in organic search results. With that in mind, if your topic was “chocolate brownies, ” you would want to include detailed content, images, recipes and maybe videos about that chosen topic.  

It is important for users also. When someone lands on your page you want them to stay and be engaged by your content, the more engaged they are the longer they will spend on your site. It’s all about creating a good user experience that matches the user’s intent. 

Tip: Always write your content from the point of view of a human reading it, don’t try and write it solely to please search engines. 

SEO Main Content Graphic
Image alt attributes graphic

Alt Tags - Alternative Text 

What are alt tags or image alt attributes? To sum them up alt tags are text descriptions of your image. Why are they important or why do I need them? As mentioned previously it is important to add images to your main content. Images are a great way to improve the user experience and break up a large body of text to make it more appealing to the reader. 

Search engines however are unable to view images and rely on descriptions to tell them what they are. This is beneficial for SEO and aids in accessibility for visually impaired users. 

Any image that directly relates to your content should have an appropriate description; it helps with page relevance. If for example, your image is, we’ll stick with chocolate brownies, then your image description should be exactly that. Check out Yoast’s blog post on Image SEO: How to optimise your alt text and title text.  

 Internal and external links

An internal link is a hyperlink, usually the blue highlighted text you frequently see on websites. It is a clickable link that points to another page on the same website. 

Adding links within your site creates an internal map, a hierarchical structure of your site that makes it easier for users to navigate it, thus giving them a better user experience. Internal links also make your site easier to crawl by search engines and help with ranking. Without an internal linking structure, your content may not be discovered by Google or by users.  

An external link as you might have guessed is a hyperlink that points from your site to another website. It can also be a link that points from another site to yours. So why would you link to another site?  Google is all about creating the best user experience and matching the searchers’ intent with the most relevant search results. Adding external links within your content will enhance the user experience and therefore add more value to your website from the users’ point of view, it will also get you some kudos from Google! 

Internal and external website links graphic

Call To ActionDon’t Miss Out 

Finally, add a good call to action on your page. A strong CTA is essential if you want your visitors to do something like download a PDF, Add to Cart, or Buy Now for example. Your call to action should be easy to read, visible, and have a clear goal in mind. 

If you want to boost the visibility of your website then our SEO Services For Small Businesses is for you. Contact Breaking Ads today and see how we can help with your online journey.

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