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What is SEO? The beginner’s guide to ranking on Google

Here at Loud Mouth Media, PPC is our thing. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have a few more tricks up our sleeve. One of those is Search Engine Optimisation. But what is SEO? And why should your business care?

These questions might seem like they should have straightforward answers, but this isn’t exactly the case, and many SEO experts even disagree about what best practices are when it comes to ranking on Google.

We are getting more questions than ever about SEO as businesses are increasingly seeing the value of organic traffic and how it can lead to increased conversion rates. By the end of this beginner’s guide to SEO, you should have a better understanding of how Google ranks its search results, and what your business can do to improve its organic performance.

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) refers to the practice of achieving increased visibility for your website on the organic search engine results page i.e. not the paid ads that appear at the top of the page.

What is SEO serp example

Including elements both from a technical perspective (Technical SEO) and a content perspective (On Page SEO), SEO improvements are used with the end goals of increasing traffic and awareness, improving rankings and ultimately driving more enquiries, sales or conversions for your site.

Google uses A LOT of methods to decide which pages are worthy of the top positions in its Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), and it is constantly amending and updating its algorithms for improved user experience, keeping SEO experts on their toes.

Google primarily bases its rankings on two core principles – trust and authority.  Search engines evaluate authority based on page content, as well as the quality and quantity of links pointing to that page. While Google has said that it does not have a specific measure for how trustworthy a site is, if it contains low-quality content and no outbound links to or from trustworthy sources, chances are it is not going to perform well in an SERP.

While the algorithms themselves are highly complex, Google has always maintained that it likes what users like: highly relevant and quality information that satisfies the query of the searcher. In the past, it was possible to use certain black hat tactics to boost performance, but nowadays the best way to rank higher involves a combination of technical SEO, quality link building and on-page SEO to provide the most informative and useful content.

Technical SEO

Technical SEO refers to everything that goes on ‘under the hood’ of your site that affects its search engine performance. Google uses bots sometimes referred to as ‘spiders’ which crawl websites and the content on them, so ensuring your website is easy for these spiders to find and read is an important part of SEO.

Key to this is ensuring your site architecture is structured appropriately from its origins. Many SEO problems emerge from poorly designed websites that make it difficult for spiders to crawl them, and some of these structural errors can be time consuming and complex to fix.

Other elements which come into play with regard to technical SEO include correct pagination, the use of sitemaps and ‘canonicalisation’ of pages.

With Google’s move towards a ‘mobile-first’ index, ensuring your site is optimised for mobile devices is also crucial, as is the speed of your pages. A page that is slow to load or doesn’t work properly on mobile is likely to frustrate users. Frustrated users = Frustrated Google.

On Page SEO

As Bill Gates famously put it in 1996, content is king. If your site provides a wealth of informative and useful content on a specified subject that is relevant to your business and its audience, chances are its pages will rank better for related search queries.

Content marketing is big business, but you don’t have to be a so-called influencer to generate revenue for your business. While there are so many other factors that search engines take into account, content should still be the starting point for any successful SEO campaigns.

Thorough keyword research using tools like Google’s Keyword Planner will give you an idea of common search terms in your field, and creating content around the keywords you want to rank for and using plenty of relevant internal and external links are the basics of SEO content marketing.

Optimising your on-page elements with extra detail like title tags, Meta descriptions and images with alt attributes may be time consuming, but it’s also an essential part of SEO strategy and should lead to a visible improvement in rankings if done correctly.

Links

Building inbound links to your site is crucial for increasing your importance to Google with regard to trust, authority and relevance. Google’s spiders will crawl and analyse links between sites as a way of determining how relevant a result is to the search query.

Therefore, the more high quality links that point to your site, the higher you should appear in search results. For example, if you have a link to your site from a highly authoritative source such as The New York Times or the BBC, it is worth considerably more than a link from a spammy source. Using Google’s Disavow Tool, you can disassociate your site from these links.

Through linking, Google can analyse the popularity of websites and pages based on the number and popularity of pages linking to them. As a result, they can track metrics like trust, spam, and authority. Trustworthy sites normally link to other trustworthy sites, while spammy sites rarely receive links from trusted sources.

Track and measure

Measurability is as important as your SEO efforts, so what can you do to keep track? While measuring the direct effects of SEO is notoriously difficult (and the results are often seen in the long-term rather than the short-term), there are several tools which can aid this process.

Some all-in-one programmes such as SemRush can provide a comprehensive overview of where your site stands on all the major SEO benchmarks and provide accurate data on your ranking positions, while Google Analytics and Search Console will provide the insights into how that translates into SERPs and organic traffic figures.

How your SEO strategies are performing in terms of the levels of organic traffic and the conversion rates associated with it will ultimately determine whether the ROI is worth it for your site, so setting up conversion goals on your analytics dashboard is always helpful.

Why should your business care?

So, is it worth putting time and effort into SEO for your business? While this will depend on what type of business you have, implementing SEO is a versatile marketing strategy that can reap a wide variety of benefits for businesses in many sectors.

From raising awareness of your brand to helping to connect potential customers to your product or service, the potential ROI can be substantial. Whilst SEO is a long-term investment, it can represent a sustainable means of bringing traffic compared to some other channels.

This guide only really scratches the surface when it comes to SEO practices. With search engines constantly tweaking and improving in the quest for more accurate search results, keeping up to date is half the battle.

Loud Mouth Media has an expert SEO team in place to carry out a detailed audit of your website and provide strategic and long-term improvements to your organic traffic, tailored to your business goals so you can see a real ROI for your marketing efforts. Contact us now for more information!

 

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