5 key things everyone should know about SEO that makes a difference

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SEO can be a fluctuating conversation. Sometimes you think you have got it all under control; other times it can feel like the complete opposite. However, one thing is for sure, that it takes considerable time and graft and see your desired results and your company name on the first page of Google.

Why? Trust. You must know and remember that Google does not particularly like ‘manufactured’ SEO all that much and it does not trust new websites straight away. You must earn its trust and show it you are in the game of supplying searches with good, quality content that answers the queries of its users. (Imagine Google as the father who does not trust the new boyfriend his daughter just brought home for dinner straight away).

We have compressed a list to 5 key things everyone should know about SEO that makes a difference when you are just starting out. So, if you are struggling to find the time to make a serious local SEO campaign, you can at least understand these 5 points to have your web-pages up to speed with the current trends and not penalized in any way.

To start your understanding of these points, a loose outline of the process of an SEO campaign will always be:

  1. Keyword research.
  2. On-page optimisation.
  3. Off-page optimisation.
  4. Progress monitoring.
  5. Evidence-based refining.

Let us begin.

 

“My rule of thumb is build a site for a user, not a spider.”

Dave Naylor

 

#1 Understand your most basic keywords

 

No SEO campaign could even begin without knowing your keywords. A keyword simply refers to any word or multi-word phrase that a search engine user types into a search bar. So, what you need to do is:

  • go through the web pages of your site that you want to rank for
  • decide what relevant keywords a user might key in to be directed to that page by Google.

 

Primary Keywords

Most importantly, you want to try and rank for your most common-sense keywords first. You need 1 primary keyword per service page. For example, if you run a local dog-training business, your primary keyword for a particular page might be:

dog training classes Exeter” or “dog behaviour specialist Exeter”.

If you are targeting a homepage you might use your branded keyword, which is just a fancy name for your company name. For example, “Joe’s Friendly Dogs”.

 

Ancillary Keywords

What is important to understand however is that Google is getting smarter as time goes on and can recognize different keywords with the same intent. For example, Google could treat “best dog training” and “best dog obedience classes” as almost the exact same keyword, as the search intent is identical.

In this case creating separate pages for each same intent keyword would confuse Google and our SEO efforts would be average at best. The implication for us then is to create pages by topic and include those same intent keywords under one page, rather than separate ones. You can then give focus to a primary keyword (likely the one with the most traffic) and spread out the other topic keywords across the page naturally. These are your ancillary keywords. They are keywords which relate to your service and have high commercial intent and reasonably good traffic. You can use online tools here to auto suggest keywords or phrases (like Google Keyword Planner or UberSuggest).

Google keyword planner in action
Using Google Keyword Planner to find new keywords

For example, your primary keyword might be “dog obedience classes” and your ancillary keywords might be, “best obedience classes”, “dog obedience training tips”, “how much do dog obedience classes cost”, “dog obedience training and boarding”, so on and so forth. Try not to keyword stuff the content as it will look unnatural. Use no more than 20 ancillary keywords.

 

#2 On-Page Optimisation (one off actions that make a big difference)

 

Now you have got your basic keywords, what are you meant to do with them? Well, this is where on-page optimisation comes in. On-page refers to anything we optimise about the site itself (not only pages of the site). This can include many different things about the website that are either seen or not seen by the casual reader. We want to include our keywords in these locations. The good thing about on-page SEO is that, if you get it right, it is usually a one-time activity. The main thing to be aware of however is over-optimisation. Google is only looking for hints for what your web pages are about. Too many hints and it will begin to suspect foul play, so use your keywords with caution.

Generally, you must think of on-page SEO in 3 distinct categories:

  • Page relevance.
  • Page crawlability.
  • Page engagement.

 

Page relevance

To make your page relevant to your target keywords, try including the primary keyword in the URL, title tag or H1 tag, image filenames, image alt tags and sub-headings.

The keyword density of the page is another factor to consider (how often you use the keyword in your content). What percentage should you go for? There is no one size fits all. Your best approach here maybe to a free online keyword density tool and analysis your best ranking competitors’ web pages and try and hit the same mark.

Another factor in page relevance is using outbound links to credible, external websites. A good aim is to include 1 or 2 highly authoritative links in your content to help expand or elaborate the points being made. These are just some of the many things you can do to make your page more relevant.

 

Page crawlability

Google has a monstrous job of continuously looking over every web page on the internet to update its databases and search results page. So, based on each site’s popularity and how often each updates its content, Google effectively assigns everyone a “crawl-budget”. This means, if it is limited how often Google will crawl your website, you want to make it as easy and attractive as possible. Google rewards you for a site that’s easy to scan. The most important factors to page crawlability include mobile friendliness, producing fresh content, removing redundant or duplicate content, going to an https protocol, “noindexing” irrelevant pages, and submitting regular sitemaps among other things.

 

Page engagement

The last thing to know here is that Google monitors how users interact with the search engine results and this feedback then loops back to tailor the results for the next person with the same search query. So how can we increase user engagement and please Google? Some options include strong meta descriptions, fast site speed, good media (images and videos for example), keeping people reading and on the page for as long as possible (aim for over 1000 words) and eliminating pop-ups and annoying or distracting advertising.

 

#3 Off-page Optimisation (gaining links from reputable sources)

 

Off-page optimisation refers to actions taken outside of your website. Unlike on-page, this is the ongoing side of SEO. It predominantly involves attracting as many links coming to your website pages from as many reputable websites as possible. The important word here is “reputable”, as Google will assign a weight to each link. So the more authoritative websites linking to your page are considered greater than sites that are badly designed, over-optimised or brand new. These ‘lesser’ sites will be treated with a lot more caution by Google.

There are numerous other factors Google will also look at, such as the popularity and topic relevance of these sites. Topic relevance is important here. If you are Joe the dog trainer then there is no relevance in having a car manufacturer link to your site. You need topic consistency here from relevant, authoritative sites.

How do you know what websites are authoritative? A quick tip is to plug in the URL of the site into the free version of majestic.com and look at the trust flow score and the number of referring domains. There are numerous tutorials on Majestic’s website to understand their software. You also want your links to look natural and from a variety of sources that build up over time, i.e., blogs, social media, comments and forums. If you have only links from industry forums this is going to look suspicious in Google’s eyes, increasingly so if they were all built up in short space of time. Ranking young or newly formed websites must be done delicately (and remember that Google does not particularly like SEO all that much and it does not trust new websites straight away).

So how do you acquire these high-quality links? Two words: value exchange. How are you going to help the site you want a link from? Maybe you find some errors on the website and you say you can fix them in exchange for a link in return. Or perhaps you call in favours from your online or local community. These are perhaps short-term strategies. What really makes a difference is your content. Anything of real value on the internet is content and Google concluded that if a website’s content is genuinely useful, people will start to talk about it socially. We must have a clear grasp of who our audience is before we make our content.

Content Marketing (Google values useful content)

Your biggest stumbling block maybe working out what to write or what content to produce. Try thinking and researching what is currently being talked about in your industry or niche. Can you put your own unique spin on the debate or present the information in a different way? Try the tool BuzzSumo.com to find more ideas on what is hot in your industry. You could also look at what your customers consistently ask or if there is something no one in your industry wants to tackle or if there is some contradicting viewpoint you hold. What would you enjoy reading about?

So, you have your content, how do you have people link to it? A simple method is to outreach to people in your industry and ask them for a link. Of course, the content would have to been highly relevant to their audience and worth their time. Another popular method is using online services for journalists to obtain feedback from the public, such as Help A Reporter. As a knowledge expert, you can submit responses to queries to be featured in journalist publications. This is like another method called guest posting, where you post your knowledge on other people’s blogs and include your links where appropriate.

The difference between on-page and off-page SEO
The difference between on-page and off-page SEO (Credit: Wordstream)

 

#4 Local SEO (understanding Google’s local algorithm)

 

If your business is very much locally based, we need to make sure we cater for this. When you place a location next to a commercial keyword in Google, for example ‘dog training classes Exeter’, Google will work in a slightly different way than a regular query. It will return a local search engine result page. As well as your website content needing to reflect that it is highly relevant to the search location, Google also considers these 3 factors:

  1. Quality citations.
  2. Consistency of your NAP – name, address and phone number.
  3. Number of 5-star reviews (self-explanatory).

(Note: You must first have a Google My Business listing before you can be added to the local search results).

 

Quality citations

These are like the yellow pages of the internet. They must be location specific and industry specific, focusing on quality not quantity. To accumulate a list of directories to submit to simply search online by typing “{insert industry} directories” and “{insert industry} directories {insert location}”. As with most things, doing a lot at once seems unnatural to Google, so aim to do no more than 5 per week.

Consistency of your NAP

NAP stands for Name, Address and Phone Number. Not much to explain here; think of every place on the web these three things get to be crawled by Google and make sure they are exactly the same. Word for word, letter for letter, number for number. A good tool for checking your citations over is over at Whitespark.

A local SEO listing
A local SEO listing

 

#5 Be aware of the Google penalties.

 

Half of SEO is just not doing anything stupid and using your common sense. Google penalties are quite easy to pick up and seemingly simple mistakes can hurt your SEO efforts in a big way. Think to yourself, what it if you were the Google Engineer, would you reward, punish or be indifferent towards this behaviour?

Inside your Google Search Console there’s information about how Google is crawling your site and whether there have been any issues. This is a way to see if you have picked up any manual penalties. Here you have a chance to submit a reconsideration request that you have cleaned up your act.

Google also has what are known as the algorithmic penalties, ‘Panda’, ‘Penguin’, ‘Mobilegeddon’, ‘Top Heavy’, ‘Payday’ and ‘Pirate’. These are loosely summarised as followed:

  • Panda – A penalty for low quality content.
  • Penguin – A penalty for unnatural or spammy links pointing to your website.
  • Mobilegeddon – A penalty for a mobile unfriendly website.
  • Top Heavy – A penalty for large amounts of adverts at the top of the website.
  • Payday – A penalty for websites targeting morally questionable or highly profitable industries.
  • Pirate – A penalty for content that violates privacy laws.

If you are sticking to the previous points and not trying anything shifty or something that looks to negate the process, then you should not have to be too concerned with these. However, recognising and avoiding them can save you a lot of time in the long haul.

 

Finally, if you think this is all a bit much to take on, then we are here to help. We can build an SEO strategy, do the research, implement it and monitor outcomes. Just get in touch.