Beginners Guide to SEO - How to rank on Google
By Guy Hudson
Basic SEO Knowledge Guide: Lesson One – Understanding SEO
Welcome to lesson one of the basic SEO knowledge guide ‘Understanding SEO. In this guide you will learn the basics of SEO and how SEO can help your business. Each lesson will cover a topic of SEO and explain the basics of what you should do to implement & improve the SEO of your website.
Lesson one is designed to help you understand the basics of what SEO is and how it helps your business. This is the only lesson where you won’t have to do any work, so grab a drink, relax and learn the basic understanding of what SEO is.
What is SEO?
To start off it is important to explain what SEO stands for, Search Engine Optimisation is the answer. Moz one of the leading SEO software companies describes SEO as “”the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.” in layman’s terms SEO is how you get more potential customers & more visitors onto your website from Google or another search engine.
Often when people talk about ‘doing SEO’ to help their website they are referring to attempting to move higher up the search engine results pages, often referred to as ‘SERPs’ in the digital marketing industry.
The results of a Google search page for a product will often show shopping/ads then the organic search results, the organic search results are decided upon how good the SEO for a website alongside how searchers interact with that site once they click on it.
Below is an example search of Red Mens Trainers, at the top you will see the Google Shopping results & below you will see the first two organic results. ‘Zalando’ & ‘Amazon’.
Why is SEO important?
SEO is important for several reasons, the main reason being is that it is a way to get free traffic to your website. This is crucial for all businesses but especially for small businesses and start-ups who may not have the budgets for ad campaigns.
Good SEO practices will not only make your site more likely to appear higher on the search ranking it will also give your visitors a better experience when they are on your website which should lead to higher conversions.
SEO is the best way to get organic traffic to your website, organic traffic is users that landed onto your website via unpaid search results. If used correctly SEO is a fantastic way to generate leads and conversions for your business for free.
Basic SEO 101
There are multiple factors that go into SEO both on-site and off site, throughout the guide we will go through many of these. To keep things simple for lesson one we will look at basic on-site SEO best practices. This would be the Title Tag, Meta Description & URL that appear in the Google search results.
Below shows the top organic search result for “Blue dresses for weddings” . The text in blue is the title tag which targets “blue wedding guest dresses” the text below is the meta description which mentions the 3 keywords in the search and the URL once clicked on goes to https://www.debenhams.com/women/dresses/wedding-guest/blue this is a perfect example of how a webpage has been setup to directly met a searches intent & Google has rewarded debenhams by giving them 1st position in the search results.
One simple way to think of SEO is that you & Google want the same goal and that is for users to find exactly what they are searching for. If your website supplies users with what they are searching for, Google will reward you by improving where your website appears in the organic rankings.
Lesson one has given you a basic overview of SEO and how it is helpful for your business and website. We are going to go into more detail and touch upon a range of SEO ranking factors and how you can implement them onto your website to improve your ranking results.
In the next lesson we will look at the basics of keyword research.
Basic SEO Knowledge Guide: Lesson Two – Keyword Research
In lesson one we looked over what SEO is and why it is important for your business, you should now have a basic understanding of why you need SEO to grow your business.
In lesson two we are going to cover one of the most important aspects of SEO which is keyword research. In this lesson you are going to learn; what keyword research is, why it is important for your business, examples of how keyword research and then you will be given an actionable task of what you should do to find the best keywords for your business.
What is keyword research?
Keyword research is the process of finding keywords & phrases that you want searches to find your business for. This lesson will help you understand more about keyword research.
Why is Keyword Research important for SEO?
Keyword research has an impact on every SEO task you perform, keyword research is the foundation of your SEO as it determines what keywords your website will be found for. It is important you pick the right keywords in order to find the customers who are most likely to use your business.
Keyword research is normally the first step in any SEO campaign, not only this but doing keyword research will give you extra information such as what are the popular services/products in your industry.
How to find the correct keywords?
Finding the correct keywords is the most important part of keyword research and arguably SEO in whole. If you choose the incorrect keywords it is unlikely that your site will rank and you for sure won’t attract the right types of traffic to your site.
Below you will find a basic step-by-step beginners guide of how to find the correct keywords
Step 1 – Make a list of all the relevant topics & services based on your business.
Step 2 – Install or use a keyword research tool so you can see how many searches a month there are for your potential keywords. Ubersuggest & Keyword suffer are two free chrome plugins I use to do this.
Step 3 – Now you’ve added your chrome extension, start to search some of your relevant topics the search will return with a number next to the search, this is the monthly search volume.
Step 4 – Begin to long tail (add extra phrases to your keyword topics) this will niche down the potential keywords, this bit is very important so I have added an example below.
Example you are a fashion brand that specialises in vintage clothing with a store based in Nottingham. The first topic you would have from step 1 is “Vintage clothing”
First search topic – Vintage Clothing – 40,5000 searches a month, very hard to rank for as it is a very competitive keyword.
Niche down step one – Vintage Clothing Nottingham – 210 searches a month, a lot easier to rank for and more relevant for your business.
Niche down step two – If you are a new business or website it will be hard to compete with established websites online so this is where you should longtail the keyword further in order to get your site in one of the top ranking positions.
Using this example of Vintage Clothing Nottingham, you can add either a buyer intent keyword at the site or end of the search term to give your website a better chance to rank. If your store is on the lower end of the price bracket “Cheap vintage clothing Nottingham” is a good example.
You now have a good chance of ranking for this exact phrase. It may not have a large search volume, however with the right SEO set-up and strategy throughout your site, this sets-up for the future potential of ranking for “Cheap clothing Nottingham” “Vintage clothing Nottingham” & “Cheap vintage Clothing”. The potential search volume from this one key phrase can be very rewarding for your business.
This is known as long tail keywords. This is a professional technique used in the digital marketing industry as it is good for both getting your site to rank quickly for niche keywords and allowing you to plan your long term SEO plan.
Following the above you should be able to find the keyword for your sites homepage or most important product/service. The next step is to do this for every product/service your business offers. Once you have done that you will have a full list of keywords you should be aiming to rank for.
Task: Follow the step by step keyword research guide and compile a list of all the keywords you would realistically want your website to rank for.
The next lesson will be on-site SEO this will teach you how to get your site ranking for your chosen keywords.
Lesson Three – On Site SEO
Now you understand the basics of SEO & keyword research from lesson one and two it is now important you understand how to apply your keyword research to your web pages. This is what on-site SEO is.
On-site SEO refers to all optimisation that takes place on your website pages and blog.
Why should you do on-site SEO?
On-site SEO is the way you will get your site to be found for the keywords you have chosen, mastering on-site SEO will require more knowledge and will take some time; however doing the basics rights can get your site beginning to rank and will improve your organic traffic. On-page SEO is one of the aspects of digital marketing that is fully under your control, you can decide exactly how your site targets its chosen keywords.
On-page ranking factors
There are several on-page ranking factors that impact the chances of how your website will rank below. If you ensure all your webpages meet these requirements this will give you a better chance at starting to rank for your chosen keywords. I have listed 12 with a brief explanation of which each one is:
Keyword optimisation – The page is targeting a relevant keyword
Site architecture – The structure of the website is clear and is easy to navigate for both the user and Google crawlers.
Crawlable website – The website is crawlable and can be indexed by search engine robots so it can appear in the search results.
Use of HTTPS – The website is secured, no warning message will be sent to potential users.
Mobile Friendliness – The majority of traffic comes from mobile for most industries. It is important your web page renders on every device & browser.
User-friendly URLS – Keep URL’s simple and friendly for both users and crawlers
Targeted content – The page targets a specific search intent which matches the keyword it is targeting.
Image optimisation – Images are optimised for search engines
Readability – The text is optimised, readable and friendly for the user
Click-through rate – The page has optimised title tags & metas that makes potential users click onto the page.
Website speed – The page loads fast on all browsers & devices.
Quality use of outbound links – The page has links to external resources that are useful to the user.
What should you do next for on-site SEO?
Take the keywords you have chosen from the previous lesson and match each keyword for a relevant page on your website or create a new page for keywords you want to rank for.
I have bullet points below what steps you should take to ensure that you set up on-site SEO correctly & improve your chances of ranking. I have used used an example of setting up a page to rank for “vintage clothes Nottingham”
Create a title tag which includes your chosen keyword – “Vintage Clothes Nottingham | Buy Second Hand Clothes” – Targets main keyword ‘Vintage Clothes Nottingham & covers related keywords ‘Second Hand Clothes’ giving the page a good chance at ranking for relevant keywords.
Create a meta description which outlines what the page is about and why people should click on your page. “We specialise in vintage clothing and are experienced sellers of second hand clothes. View our collection of vintage clothes on our website or visit our Nottingham store.” – This covers all keywords that are being targeted & has a call-to-action for the user to follow.
Add relevant content to the site. To do this I would search the keyword I was aiming to rank for to look at the top 5 sites currently ranking and take common factors from these pages & use this to create my new page. I would then edit this to fit my brand & business, including adding related keywords to the page. A page about “Vintage Clothes Nottingham” would include terms such as “80s clothing” “retro clothing etc” – A good tip to find related keywords is to search your target keyword and scroll to the bottom of the Google page, you will see “Searches related to….”. This will show you what Google related to your target keyword.
Create a friendly URL for the page that fits your site’s architecture. This always sounds more technical than it really is. A simple SEO friendly architecture will always ensure the user is no more than 3 clicks away from the homepage. So, Homepage, Category, Product. In this example “Vintage Clothes Nottingham” could be the homepage keyword or a category keyword. If it is a category set the URL up as www.yourwebsite.co.uk/vintageclothes – This allows Google’s crawler to easily understand what your URL is about.
Add any relevant images to the page’s content, not only will these make the page more appealing to the user but also gives you a chance to add a Alt tag to the image which tells Google what the image is about. This is how you can get your site images to also appear in the Google image results.
To boost the site’s on-site SEO it is beneficial to link to a relevant site for the content you are trying to promote. In this example that could be to a high authority fashion blog, linking to an article from Vogue that discusses vintage fashion will show to Google that you are providing good content for potential users.
You should now be in a good position to put your site live, either linking from your menu navigation or your homepage, after a few days/weeks you can check if it has been indexed by searching your website url after site: in Google example site:www.yourwebsite.co.uk this will show all the webpages Google has currently indexed.
It is important to check the technical elements such as site speed. This can be done for free on Google via this link https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/ This analyses your site across all devices and will flag any issues.
If you follow the above you should be able to set up the basics of on-site SEO for one of your keywords. Now you can repeat that process across all of your keywords and your site should begin to start rankings. It will be a good time to start looking into your Google Analytics so you can see any improvements in organic traffic, if you have not set up your Google analytics it is important you do this as soon as possible. View Googles guide here on how to do so https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1008015?hl=en
Now we are three lessons in you should have a basic understanding of SEO and why it is important, generated a list of keywords that you want to rank for and know how to implement these keywords onto your web pages.
In the next lesson we are going to look at the basics off-site SEO.
Off site SEO part 1 Lesson 5 link building
If you have completed the first three lessons you will have a basic understanding of SEO, found the keywords that suit your business & know how to implement your on-site SEO.
Now, it is important to learn another important factor of SEO, Off-Site SEO. This will be split into two lessons with both looking at the two main factors of off-site SEO, link building one of the most important SEO ranking factors & local SEO which will be very useful for small businesses owners to gain some understanding of.
This lesson will focus on link building & lesson 5 will look at local SEO.
What is link building?
Link building is the process of getting links from other websites that direct traffic to your website. From a technical standpoint the links that point to your website are indexed by the search engine crawlers & this gives your website more ‘trust’ from the search engines thus improving your rankings.
Why is link building important?
Search engines uses links are a way to explore new websites and to calculate what websites are important in each industry, if you run a beauty salon and lots of beauty blogs/websites are linking to your website it tells Google that your salon is a industry leader and this will improve your chances of ranking for the keywords you have chosen.
It is important you focus on quality of backlinks rather than quantity, if you are a local business let’s say you only operate in Nottingham. It would be more beneficial for you to have 5 backlinks from Nottingham based websites than it would be to have 10 from random blog sites in Australia. The same goes for industries, getting links from industry related sites will be more powerful than generic links.
Types of backlinks
To keep things simple, there are two main types of backlinks.
Do-follow backlinks: These pass on the authority of the linking page to the link page and will help your rankings. This is commonly known as “link juice”, the more authority the page has that links to your site, the more ‘juice’ you have.
No-follow backlinks: These links don’t pass on any link juice to your site. Technically there is a rel=”nofollow” HTML tag that tells the search engines crawlers not to count it as a link. These links can still gain you traffic so are worthwhile in some cases.
The anchor text is the clickable hyperlink that directs the user to your website. If a lot of pages all have the same anchor text that points to your website it can help the ranking around these keywords.
However it is important you don’t force this as this can lead to a penalty by Google, which can destroy your sites SEO. It is best to leave anchor text’s to be natural.
What makes a good backlink?
Google considers a few quality aspects when it looks at the referring website;
The higher the value of these 3 factors the higher the quality the backlink will be.
How do you get more backlinks?
This is most likely the bit you are most intrigued by, how do you get more backlinks to your website.
It is not an easy or quick process to generate more backlinks, most sites with a good backlink profile have created this over years.
If you are a new site I recommend starting with business directories there are many sites where you can list your business for free. If you are a local business focus on local business directories.
Guest posting is a method that was popular a few years ago and has died down a little but still has value, that is where as an expert in your industry you feature on the blogs of other websites to give your views on a topic.
The last tactic i will mention is one you should 100% be doing right now, that is looking at your competitors’ backlinks and finding sites that can also link for you. This will be especially useful if you do have a newish site, as your competitors may have years worth of backlinks you can go through and find ones that may also link to your business. I personally use ubersuggest for this just type in a competitors URL into their site and all their backlinks will appear.
This is just a basic overview for backlinks. There are 100’s of methods on how you can get more backlinks. The ones mentioned here should get you off to a good start and have a positive impact on your SEO.
The next lesson is crucial for small businesses as it focuses on local SEO and will give you actionable tips on how you can get more visibility in your local area.
Now you have a basic understanding of SEO, keyword research & link building, it is important we look at another area of SEO that is crucial for local and small businesses. It fits in with the previous lessons theme of off-site SEO as Google My Business allows your business to appear with key information directly onto a Google search. This means people local to your business will be able to contact you without even having to click on your website.
One of the often forgotten parts of local SEO is Google My Business. Google dominates the search engine world so it is crucial you use the free Google tools to your advantage to promote your business, one of the best ways to benefit from local searches is the Google My Business listing.
Before we start if you have not set-up a Google My Business listing. Please click here and follow Google’s simple set-up on how to do so. https://www.google.com/business/
Now you have set up your Google My Business listing it is crucial you get the most out of it. This lesson will be a simple breakdown on how you can optimise your listing to get maximum exposure for your business.
Step one: Make sure everything is correct and up-to-date
There is a good number of businesses that have the wrong contact information such as a contact number & address. If this contact information is wrong it will be costing you potential new customers for your business. Users do contact businesses from their listings. If a user types in “Plumbers near me” and 5 appear in the GMB listings and your phone number is not correct, they will just ring the next one down and your business has lost a potential customer.
Name, address and phone number is the foundation of local SEO, this is known as the NAP. This information should be consistent with what is currently on your website. It is proven sites do have better rankings when their NAP is consistent across the web.
Step two: Choose the correct business category & company attributes
This allows you to categorise your business into what is the most relevant industry for you. There are 100’s to choose from and it is important you pick the correct one. This allows your GMB listing to appear when people search for key phrases when they are near to your business.
Attributes allow you to showcase to potential customers some unique things your business may offer. If you run a pub for example you can say that your pub is ‘dog friendly’. This will help you appear in searches if someone searches “dog friendly pub (your area)’ aim to include a few but don’t be over spammy with this. Google does punish businesses that try to cheat the system. It is also important you don’t lie, Google relies heavily on user feedback & people will request to Google that something is removed from your listing or it can lead to negative reviews.
Step three: Reviews – Get some, reply to all of them, use them as a way to get repeat customers
Reviews are one of the most important factors of search. If a company has 1 star reviews it can appear first for a range of keywords it simply won’t be getting many conversions.
Good reviews = more business, it is that simple.
Bad reviews will happen as your business grows, every company in the world will eventually get one. It is important you deal with it correctly. Don’t get into an online argument no one wins and your business looks unprofessional. It is important you reply to any negative review explaining the situation to why something may have gone wrong and you offer to correct this. Future customers will see this and be secure in the knowledge that if they are not happy with the service you will be willing to correct it.
Step four: Add posts and updates
GMB allows you to post an array of different things to your listing, this is something your potential customers will see as your listing appears on their search results.
It is important to use this to your advantage, if you are running an offer or promotion it is the perfect opportunity to showcase it. Users can see an offer before they even click on your website.
This can also be used to post something fun that shows off the personality of your business, it can be a recent company highlight or even a simple text update about a new service you are offering.
Step five: Measure how users are engaging with your Google My Business Listing
As you get more familiar with digital marketing you will realise all the long term wins rely on data and being analytic when making judgements on what is working for your business.
Google My Business is no different, it offers a very simple insight tool which allows you to see how your customers are finding you and what they are doing once they find you.
This includes the number of searches, calls and directions your business users have clicked. This is a great way to monitor how your marketing efforts are impacting your overall business brand. If you are running multiple campaigns in other areas of marketing and suddenly your GMB listing searches & calls improve it will show that the brand awareness of your business is improving.
It is important to always use this to be aware if your business is getting less popular than before, if all of a sudden you are appearing in less searches it may be competitors have begun their own marketing campaigns and it may be time for you to up your marketing efforts to ensure you don’t fall behind.
Overall Google My Business is one of the most underutilized free marketing channels for a number of small businesses.
I’d recommended setting up and optimsing a Google My Business listing as soon as you can. It helps your local SEO and gives you an extra chance to appear at the top of the search engine results completely for free.
Make sure you set up and optimise your Google My Business listing before you do anything else.
The next lesson will look at the user experience on your website and how this impacts SEO.
After the first 5 lessons you should have a good understanding of the basics of SEO and how it can help your business. Lesson 6 looks at one of the most important aspects of business & marketing UX (User Experience), it does not matter if you rank 1st for every keyword, if your business does not offer your customers a great experience you will not stay ranked 1st for long & your revenue will go down. In this lesson you will get an understanding of what UX is and how it synergises with SEO.
UX (User Experience) and SEO are two parts of digital marketing that perfectly fit together, it is important you focus on their synergy and understand how improving the user experience on your website can help improve your rankings.
What is User Experience?
Firstly, it is important to understand what User Experience is. It can be described as the overall experience a user has when dealing with your company, this includes where users look on your website, what pages then enter on, where they exit and how you interact with them.
User Experience is basically every user’s interaction with your website & in fact company, whether this be with your product/service or website. It will be influential on how your product/services develop, what marketing channels you focus on, how your design looks and your customer support. It is crucial you focus on your users experience as it will help your SEO and rankings.
UX is crucial for your rankings and your conversions
Firstly, it is important for you to understand that UX is not just a one and done process, it is never ending and should be changed as your business evolves and decisions should be made from your analytic data.
There are many aspects to UX I have listed some below but this is not a limited list:
Title tags & Meta descriptions
The challenges of UX and SEO
It is important you have the mindset of ‘UX and SEO’ rather than “UX vs SEO”, although it is common that trying to pair the two together will bring challenges. The old days of cramming in SEO keywords is long gone, it is important your users find you for the correct keywords and then have a positive experience using your business.
Below I have listed some of the aspects of UX that do work hand in hand with SEO and how they will work to help each other.
Website & page speed
Quite simple, the fast your website is, the better the user experience will be. Page speed is a SEO ranking factor, if users leave your website because it takes too long to load your rankings will drop. This is the most simple way SEO & UX work together.
Website structure and navigation
It is important to have separate pages to target more keywords for your website however from a user experience point of view it is also crucial visitors can easily navigate through the different pages to find exactly what they are looking for.
It is important to find the correct balance between creating enough pages to rank for your SEO keywords and ensuring that your website is smooth to navigate. This is why it is important to create parent category pages which will help you as your business grows and you add more products & services.
Title tags and meta descriptions
Simply, the higher you rank the more likely you are to get clicks. However; if you don’t have good title tags and metas, searchers won’t click on your website and you will fall down the rankings.
To make this easier I have broken down the three areas to consider when writing title tags and meta description:
UX – Give searchers a clear understanding of what the page is going to show, if your title tag & meta promises one thing and the web page loads something different, users will click away and visit a competitor.
SEO – Use the keywords you want to rank for and add some relevant keywords into the meta, this will help the crawlers understand what your web page is about.
Marketing – Getting the user to click is crucial. Write copy that is irresistible with a clear call to action that will lead to higher click-through rates.
How to measure UX
Like every aspect of SEO and in fact digital marketing it is crucial you understand some methods on how you can measure the results. Below are some tips on what you can do to measure User Experience and how you can use data to make informed decisions on any changes you make in the future.
Engagement and behavior metrics in Google Analytics
“Pages per session” “Average session duration” & “bounce rate” will give you a basic understanding of how users are interacting with your site or pages. There are some of the key metrics that you should use to monitor if there are any major issues, if a page has a high bounce rate and very low average session duration there is an issue with that page.
The behaviour section of Google Analytics will give you the best insight to user insights. There are more advanced methods you can use and set up such as conversion funnels where you can see the journey users go on before purchasing from your site.
Studying the user’s journey can allow you to see what aspects of your marketing are the most successful and what needs changing.
If you have not yet set up Google Analytics yet it is important you do so, please go here to get started – https://analytics.google.com/analytics/web/
Heatmaps give you a visual of how users are interacting with your website, they show the most popular areas of your web pages & where people are clicking. Hotjar offer a free version which allows 2,000 page views a day, which should be enough for most small businesses.
Heatmaps will help you a lot in terms of SEO & UX. Heatmaps allow you to have the ability to see exactly where people click, what elements of your site they think are clickable, where they scroll to on a site & how they interact with your site’s content, such as forms.
Some heatmaps are expensive to set up however there is no need to spend £100’s on software at the start of your business, use Hotjar’s free plan this will give you a good understanding of how heat maps can help your digital marketing.
Internal Feedback and Data
One of the forgotten aspects of digital marketing is often good old fashioned internal feedback. Basically, what are your customers asking, what does their feedback look like, what is the most common complaint. These are just 3 aspects you could look at.
Focus on what your customers are saying, store it all in one easy to use system and this can be used to help you make changes. If loads of customers are complaining about your checkout process it is crucial it changes, if they have to contact you about updates it will be a good idea to set up automated emails that keep them informed.
You have to be adaptive for your customers, making their experience as enjoyable as possible to help the longevity of your business.
Simply, a slow site has a high drop-off, a high drop-off equals lower rankings. It is crucial you make sure your site is fast to load. Use analytics to see what users are most commonly using to go on your site phone,tablet,desktop etc, and ensure the most common device loads fast.
Google offer a free page speed checker you can use here, https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/
Test your website
Lastly, it is important you test all the aspects of your website, this especially true for new businesses. People are so excited to put their new site or web pages live it can get rushed. Get beta testers to use your website, their feedback will find things you have missed.
You should now have a basic understanding of SEO, congratulations you should be able to start implementing your new skills on your website and start to build your organic traffic.
It is important you remember it is a marathon not a sprint. Successful SEO is built from marginal gains each month to improve your rankings slightly by using the SEO techniques from this guide and it will give your site a solid foundation to continue to grow.
SEO is an investment the work you do will be rewarded with better rankings which will get your more organic traffic, remember organic traffic is free. SEO gets free potential customers onto your site and engages with your content, that is why it is crucial for small businesses to have a long term SEO plan in place.
If you have any questions about SEO or any other aspects of digital marketing please feel free to contact me at Guy@bespokemarketingplans.co.uk