What is SEO (Search engine optimistation)? - Part 1
What was once the big elephant in the room is now the first go-to when going online.
Okay, I don’t want to contradict myself but here’s the thing, even if everyone knows Search Engine Optimisation, or simply SEO, is important, its definition is often limited to “inserting keywords in text”.
It’s obviously much more than this…
In short, SEO is a combination of both on-site and off-site strategies to help Google’s crawlers understand web pages clearly. These strategies may include content optimisation, keywords research and link building, amongst others.
Now that we have a global view of what SEO is about, let’s dive deep into the essentials.
In this blog post, I’ll cover 3 main aspects of search marketing with examples from Mauritius.
Here’s your menu du jour:
- Understanding SERPs (ads, knowledge graphs, meta descriptions, news panels, similar queries)
- 3 things to optimise your website (keyword research, internal and external linking, mobile & voice)
- Structuring your page (headings, pictures)
Dissecting Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP)When you Google “hotels in Mauritius”, your search results page, aka the SERP, will most likely show something like the video below:
This is the first thing Google would show when you make a query, a page you have probably seen time and time again. But the information on there does not just land there at random.
These results are actually retrieved from the search index which stores the structure of your website, and this includes your content, links, pictures, and even PDFs.
While Google continuously alters its algorithms to provide results matching the search intent and queries, the SERP structure has some elements which remain consistent.
- Sponsored or Ads content
Most of the time, the top part of your SERPs will have sponsored websites using Pay-per-Click to feature as first results.
It’s proven that links above the fold generate more clicks and hence more leads.
- Organic results
These are results shown which are not sponsored but have a substantial high amount of traffic, low bounce rates, optimised meta-descriptions, are mobile friendly, and a lot others key metrics that tells Google “Hey there, saw how good looking and performing I am? Rank me higher”.
- Meta Description
These are text snippets depicting what the page content is all about. To get it right, try to include keywords, a clear call to action and keep it short enough for mobile search.
- Knowledge graph
These provide short answers to queries, right in the SERP. If your page content is well structured, contains few lines of codes saying this is a short answer, you might as well feature there. While there are debates on the fact that it reduces traffic to websites, it adds to the credibility of your domain and helps position your brand as a thought leader.
- Sponsored or Ads content
This section is populated by Google’s algorithm when its crawlers detect fresh content published on trending news items. Content freshness is yet another must for news websites.
There are several tools to stay on the lookout for exclusive, trending and recent news updates. Google Trends is the most used while there are several industry specific websites such as TechCrunch for technology news.
Getting featured in Google news also requires some technical SEO approaches. For instance, news pages should be static, therefore no 301 redirection.
How to optimise your website: 3 ways to rank higher
Now that we’ve covered where your website will be shown to internet users, let’s have a look at how to optimise it so it actually ranks high on the SERP, aka how to make it appealing to Google.
Or at least more appealing than others (yes, these others being your competitors).
As a whole, Search engine optimisation means making it easy for Google to scan (or crawl if you want to get technical), index and rank your website on the SERP. And this is where the majority of your SEO efforts should go.
Afterall, making it sexy for Google means making it clickable by your target audience. So, where do we start?
- Keyword research
One of the basics of SEO is having relevant and quality content on your website through targeting the right keywords.
Once you have determined who your audience is, what their possible needs are and how you can respond to those needs, you can draw up a list of words and brainstorm around these.
Establish primary and secondary keywords by looking up synonyms.Then import these keywords into the Google Keyword Planner to get an idea of the average monthly search volume.
This will help you decide which keywords to focus on when writing your title tags, meta description, alt texts, headlines and copy. See Quicksprout’s guide to modern keyword research methods.
- Internal and external linking
This is important to gain and develop website authority to show Google that you are trustworthy. Why should you care about being trustworthy, you ask?
Basically, it helps Google figure out what your content is about, and thus contribute to your website ranking higher.
Internal linking are hyperlinks that direct a user to different parts of your website, helping them interact longer with your content. This gives Google an overview of the structure of your website.
External linking, on the other hand, is when you link to other websites in your content. And backlinking is where other websites link to yours. These inbound and outbound links act as a vote of credibility and relevancy when it comes to your SERP ranking.
- Mobile & voice
Go ahead and analyse your traffic. You’ll notice that a high percentage of your visitors come from mobile devices.
This means your website should be fully optimised to prevent them from going back to SERP. Because if the user leaves your website quickly, your bounce rate will increase.
When that happens, Google assumes that your content failed to meet the user’s needs. and by now, we should know that Google is all about serving the user!
On top of that, according to Google themselves, mobile friendly websites rank higher.
So, to make your website mobile friendly, ensure that the layout and design (this also includes text and images) are adaptive across different mobile devices, and that the load time is fast.
You could (and you should) implement Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) on your website to make it both mobile-friendly and optimised for voice searches.
With Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa being used frequently for queries, the content on your website should should easily provide concise and reliable answers for it to rank high on the search results page.
Want to find SEO specialists in Mauritius ? Look here
How to structure your website
Content, loads of it, sounds appealing. This could tempt you towards just shoving as much written materials as you can throughout your website.
But the thing is, content without structure can actually be dangerous. Okay, maybe dangerous is too strong of a word. Let’s go for ‘bad’ instead.
Check this helpful guide on content marketing if you’re unsure about it.
A well-structured website does two things for you: (i) facilitate the user experience and (ii) get Google to like you. Here’s what you should start with before focusing on the optimisation areas mentioned above:
Well-written headings allow readers to quickly scan through your content to see if it answers their queries. Or to get an idea of what your content is about.
Headings also serve the purpose of making text visually appealing by breaking it down into sections.
Besides facilitating navigation, headings also allow Google to detect the hierarchy in your topics. You could also add keywords into your headings to improve relevance which will in turn help with SEO. But be careful not to overdo it (keyword stuffing is a no-no).
Having too much text on a website can make it look too empty or even too dense, and thus unappealing.
Pictures, when correctly inserted, can visually help make your website look more polished, which in turn favours a pleasant user experience and contributes to low bounce rates.
But that’s not the only way images help with ranking and SEO. The secret lies in the title and the alt text. They both provide some context by telling the search engine what the image is about and thus what your content is related to.
Suffice to say that SEO should be at the core of any digital marketing strategies. In this blog post, I shared some important high level elements of good SEO practices. Do you have any more? Leave it in a comment box below.
If you fancy learning more about SEO ranking factors, Backlinko has put together an exhaustive list of over 200 Google ranking factors.