Among the general public, there’s probably not many people that can tell you what SEO is, or perhaps even how Google actually works. Whenever I get asked what I do, the answer ‘SEO’ usually results in confused faces — I have learnt to just answer ‘online marketing’ and leave it at that.

For anyone wanting to learn about SEO, there are countless resources online — the only hard part is finding one to get started with. SEO can be quite confusing and difficult to understand for anyone new to it — which is why we put together a beginner’s guide to SEO, covering all the basics any website owner should be aware of.

On-page Optimization

Content

A phrase tossed around on pretty much every single marketing blog on the web is ‘content is king’. And indeed the content you provide can make or break your website. Here’s a few things to keep in mind:

  • Target your content towards keywords

Think about it — a heading like “What I had for breakfast today” will not satisfy as many searches as if you would name it “The best mango smoothie recipe for breakfast”. In the first instance, people don’t know what the article is about until they read it; in the second instance you set a precise expectation, which will help users as well as Google to categorize your content.

  • Update your content regularly

Google loves fresh content and tends to rank new content higher, e.g. current news. This doesn’t mean you should publish 100 words a day just to fill the page. Make sure you provide unique value and satisfy users as well as search engines, because Google looks at user signals more and more. Get into a routine and publish quality content regularly.

  • Make sure your content is engaging

As mentioned above, Google looks at user signals. If users engage with your page this sends positive signals, so aim to create content that speaks to your audience and gives them something they want to read and share.

Page Speed

Google has a very handy little tool that can help you determine if your website is fast enough to appear in Google or not. It’s called PageSpeed Insights. Simply copy and paste your websites URL and Google will give it a score out of 100 in terms of speed and give you red, yellow or green light. It also tells you what needs to be fixed. Common fixes include:

  • Enabling browser caching
  • Optimizing images
  • Enabling file compression
  • Minifying HTML, CSS and Javascript

If all this doesn’t tell you anything, simply send the link to your developers and they should know what to do — or click on the links provided by Google to learn more about their recommendations.

Off-page Optimization

Links

The number and quality of links pointing to your website is one of the strongest indicators to Google that your page is popular and relevant, but they have also been heavily abused in the past to manipulate search engine rankings. Though you should proceed with caution when building links, there are still a few possible sources for good backlinks. A few of the most popular linkbuilding strategies are:

  • Internal links

Make sure you interlink existing content on your website. These should be helpful for users first of all, but also help Google understand relevancy of your different pages.

  • Forums, Communities and Directories

Participate in forums and communities related to your product/service and give helpful advice. Be careful not to be too intrusive — people don’t like being sold to 24/7 so you’ll soon be labelled as spam and kicked out if you can’t provide any other value than links to your own site. You can also submit your website to local directories where applicable.

  • Outreach

If you know anyone who could be interested in linking to your website, contact them and ask if they are willing to give you a link. This could be business partners, customers, friends, family, anyone really that has a website you think is worth getting a link from. BUT make sure to always ask yourself “would this link be helpful to users?” — If a pet store links to your breakfast smoothie recipe it probably isn’t the most relevant link.

There’s a ton more but these are just the basics to get started with. In general, you should aim to earn links, through outstanding content relevant to your audience’s queries.

Social

Don’t count solemnly on Google as a source of traffic to your website. Make sure to share your content on social networks and make it share-able by adding ‘like’ and ‘tweet’ buttons. Social media can send valuable traffic, result in more links from other websites and send more positive signals to Google if users engage with your page.

If you keep all the above mentioned in mind when looking at your website, you’re off to a good start. Good luck setting your website up for SEO success!