Do you see SEO as a daunting task? Do you find yourself getting lost in its technical aspects, its seemingly ever-expanding workload and what appears to be an always evolving landscape?
Here at Paramount Digital, we work with 100’s of clients from large international groups to small local businesses and all of them have the same worries and concerns, which has led to their SEO often being buried away in a dark corner, hoping that no one ever asks about it. And instead marketing efforts have been invested in dying print media, fancy looking (and expensive video marketing) or simply, and we’ve seen it, not bothering to do any digital marketing at all!
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Now you may consider those three options to be easier or less time consuming than building a successful SEO strategy and I’m not going to argue that doing nothing isn’t less time consuming than creating a comprehensive SEO strategy, but only one of those decisions is going to see your business grow and succeed. And with SEO being a completely measurable and results-driven strategy, there really isn’t a reason why you shouldn’t be doing it, to increase your brand awareness, the website traffic and most importantly new business!
Plus, I’ll bet by the end of this blog you’ll agree it’s nowhere near as difficult as you might expect.
But to show you just how simple SEO is we first have to strip it back to its fundamentals and separate out the theory of search engine optimisation from the diverse range of tactics we use as marketers and business owners.
And it’s those tactics that are more often than not the evolving force of SEO (and usually the tactics which involve trying to trick Google). But stand in a room of SEO experts and ask them what is the best tactic, and you’d be witness to a never ending battle, as there is no right answer.
But if we take a step back and look at the theory of SEO we can see that nothing has changed since the very incarnation of the search engine.
Search engines, especially Google are built to accomplish one thing:
And they do that by following the academic structure of categories and citations. Using keywords to categories a page in terms of topics, and links from other sites to determine its relative authority.
And although the intelligence, technology and algorithms of search engines continue to improve their four basic principles remain the same and underpin everything!
But what are those four founding principles?
- Can a search engine find your pages?
- How should a search engine organise and prioritise your pages?
- What is your page about?
- Does your page provide trustworthy information to their users?
And if your website is optimised to provide search engines with the answers to all those questions then you will have all the fundamentals of SEO covered, and you’ll reap the rewards of a strong SEO structure, such as:
- Increased traffic
- Increased brand awareness
- Increased leads
- Increased business
(Those last two rely on a couple other factors but great SEO will massively help!)
And all you’ll need to do to keep receiving those benefits is ensure, no matter what you do with your website, that you continue to answer those four questions!
See SEO is actually pretty simple right!
Now let’s take a closer look at those four principles and why they are so important.
Can your content be found?
This principle comes down to a bit of technical work on your website, as it’s all well good creating the world’s greatest content and pages, but if it can’t be found what’s the point!
This means that the crawlability of your site is a key factor to the success of your SEO.
And in order to find and rank your web pages a search engine and its robots need to be able to do two things:
Access & Read
To access and read your website, you need to ensure that there are no barriers in the way, such as robot disavow directives or nofollow rules applied to links, you also need to ensure your content is readable. So though fancy looking graphics, videos and java is amazing for aesthetics, it’s not so great for crawlability and search engines unless you complete a bit of technical work look adding alt-tags and transcripts.
Why not check out this great blog by HubSpot which lists a number of free tools you can use to analyse your website just look Google.
Organise and Prioritise
So, having ensured your website’s pages are accessible, you’ll need to tell the search engines how to look at them and which ones to prioritise.
Search engines understand the hierarchy and though you may be tempted to say that all your pages are of equal worth, let’s face it there not. And failing to provide a clear hierarchy and site structure can lead to you diluting the power and ranking of those most critical pages.
As search engines crawl your site, they will follow the navigation laid out by your sitemap and internal linking structure, and the more times a page is linked to, will suggest just how important it is, and help them prioritise your pages.
So, the big question you need to ask yourself as a marketer or business owner is can a search engine identify the most important pages of your site, just by looking at its structure?
If not, fix this by building a strong internal link structure to those pages and highlight their importance.
Remember Google’s main goal is to provide their users with a great experience, so if they can send a user directly to the pages that will answer their query, then that’s going to user keeps coming back to Google for a great user-friendly experience, which in turn will help bolster your rankings.
Check out this blog from Kissmetrics on how to create a site structure that will enhance your SEO.
What is your content about?
Once the pages you create are accessible to crawlers and you’ve told them how to prioritise them, it’s time you tell them just what those pages are actually about.
This is where keywords come in to play.
We use keywords to tell search engines what each page is about so that they can identify and rank our pages for queries that match them. In the past, people use to stuff pages with all the keywords they wanted to show up for, but Google and other search engines cottoned onto this pretty quick and remembering that Google’s goal is to provide a great user experience to its customers they began to penalise websites that used these spammy tactics.
Instead what search engines are looking for in terms of keywords is that you:
- Answer the questions that people actually have about that topic.
- Use the terminology that real searchers actually use (especially your target audience).
- Use the keyword in the way that Google perceives real people will use it (often referred to as user intent).
With that in mind, you should only ever try to target one keyword per page, you can, of course, target secondary keywords but these should be thought of as in the same way as category and subcategory.
A good example of this is the Dewey decimal system often used by libraries (before many moved to the Netflix system). You can have book categorised as Horror and then it’s subcategories such as slasher or psychological horror, but you couldn’t categorise it as Horror and Romance.
Backlinko has an awesome guide to Keyword Research that you can check out here.
Can we trust your page content?
Trusting your website’s content is the final principle a search engine will look at, and it hinges on the age-old SEO tactic of building links to your website.
In the past ‘Black Hat’ tactics, like buying links and link networks were commonplace, but as the intelligence of search engines has evolved those tactics, though still used, are quickly spotted and the perpetrators penalised.
But link building is still a core ranking factor and is essential to building trust in your website.
By developing links from more authoritative websites within your industry and creating citations on relevant directories you can establish trust with not only the search engine but users.
After all, a backlink is basically a recommendation, and traffic from any backlinks will show up as referral traffic in your search engine analytic reports.
The easiest way to understand the way Google views backlinks is to think of them as, the same way a human sees a review.
If we’re looking for a good film to see at the cinemas we’ll tend to look at a number of reviews and often form a decision using a hierarchy of trust, from a film critic’s review, Rotten Tomatoes, a friend’s recommendation and general social media discussion. And search engines will act very much in the same way.
- Personalised or contextual backlinks from local business or niche blog sites are seen like a friend’s recommendation, providing a personal review and recommendations that your page could be useful to someone with a similar interest or need.
- Expert recommendations from well-known sites with lots of trust such as the BBC are like established movie critics, providing broadly speaking the most trustworthy recommendation, but perhaps missing some of the contexts for a specific person or business’ need.
- The popular recommendation: Here backlinks from a wide range of websites suggest that your pages must have some relevance and the content be useful, regarding your desired topic.
- Negative association: This is where links created using spammy tactics or coming from untrustworthy sources fall, and is similar to hearing a film is rubbish or seeing praise for it on social media from someone you know to be a horrible person.
Neil Patel has a fantastic blog here that tells you how to run a backlink audit in just 45 minutes, helping you identify where your trustworthy links come from and if you have any poor-quality links coming into your website.
So, there you have it SEO really is that simple.
No one tactic is going to work for everyone and you can only trial and test what works best for your business, to help increase traffic and bring in new business.
But as long as you ensure that your website and its content answer those four questions:
- Can it be found?
- How should it be organised and prioritised?
- What are your pages about?
- Is your page trustworthy?