In an effort to find out what makes search engines tick, some years ago, digital marketers developed the term SEO (search engine optimisation). Despite some time since the term was coined, ‘what is SEO?‘ remains a popular search term.
It seems many people still lack a basic understanding of the concept and its importance in increasing leads, online traffic and click-through rates for their businesses.
According to Ross Sergeant of Limelight Consulting, “online as a medium is the 4th highest consumed medium in South Africa” and it is growing. That is a HUGE potential audience. So, with over 20 million South Africans accessing online platforms every week, understanding SEO basics is essential to ensuring the success of your brand in the incredibly competitive space that is digital media.
can almost be described as an art – the art of optimising keywords and content in order to make it easier for crawlers to find the information that is most relevant to someone’s search or query and rank it in order of most relevant to least relevant.
Now, before you panic, wondering what crawlers are, it is simply marketing jargon for search engine indexing software that scans web content and organises it accordingly in a person’s search results.
So, what does one have to do in order to optimise content so that it ranks as high as possible?
The first thing you need to do is work out what people are searching for in the particular field you’re optimising for. This will help you determine your keywords, which will be the main focus or topic idea for your content.
There are two types of keywords that you will need to come up with. Long tail keywords – which are phrases consisting of the three and four words most specific to what you are selling/offering. And short tail keywords which are shorter, less specific phrases intended to reach a wider audience.
When determining your keywords, remember to take competition, search volume and relevance into consideration.
The more popular a keyword is, the harder you will have to work to get prime positioning on the search results pages – referred to as ranking. The popularity of a keyword is what determines its search volume as well as the size of your potential audience.
Relevance, however, is determined by crawlers (spider bots) measuring the connection between a web user’s search term and the content of your webpage. The popularity of a keyword does not enhance its relevance.
Additional things to consider when determining keywords include who your prospective clients are, what types of things they are interested in, what problems they may have, what they are likely to search for and what type of language they use in their searches, as well as who else they buy products and services from.
If you already have a website, Wordstream advises using the sites analytics (specifically using the traffic from search engines) to develop your own keyword data.
Once that is done, you then need to work out which keywords you can realistically rank for as well as which ones hold the most opportunity for click-throughs and then weigh the pros and cons of both options to decide which route to take.
You also need to evaluate your competition in order to come up with a strategy.
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Once all that has been determined, it is time to produce the content, which will usually be text based and produced for a webpage. The elements that make up the perfect search engine optimized page are:
- Body/content: This is pretty much the place where you will put the information that you hope people will find. It is, therefore, best to make it quick and easy for them to find said information. Google also has an algorithm that works in favour of sites and pages that display certain characteristics. So try to ensure that you try to avoid duplicate content at all costs, do not post too many pages with extremely short articles (less than 200 words) that are of little to no value. Your content should be unique, engaging and shareable.
- Meta title: The text that will appear in bolded blue text on the Google search results page is your meta-title. This is also the most useful place to try and include your keywords but try not to exceed the length of 50 – 60 characters.
- Meta descriptions: The grey text that appears underneath the green page link on the search results of your page is your meta-description. Consider it the additional ad copy as it will not appear anywhere on your web page but it will appear in the search result and help people decide if they want to open your link and find out more on the topic from you.
- Alt image information: Although this information will not always be shown to your readers, the way you tag, describe and caption your images affects your ranking. Not only does it help crawlers understand what your page/content is about, it also comes in handy if the image or image link is broken and does not display. Think of it as though you were describing the image to someone who is visually impaired.
- URL structure: It is best to have a short but descriptive URL. If you can, try and fit your keyword into the URL too. Most content management systems do this for you using your suggested headline or they offer you the option to come up with your own.
Lastly, there are a variety of free and paid SEO tools that you can use in order to ensure your content is up to standard.
Among the most popular are Google (which offers analytics, Pagespeed Insights, webmaster tools, keyword planner and trends, among others) as well as Moz, Keywordtool.io, Quicksprout website analyser, SEO site checker, Copyscape, GTmetrix, Hootsuite, Chrome developer tools, Bing webmaster tools and Yoast SEO to name a few.
The best digital agencies use the perfect combination of paid and free tools in order to ensure the most optimised content for their clients.
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