The Complete SEO Guide

What is SEO?

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of improving the ranking of a website or web page in search engine results pages (SERPs). The higher the ranking, the more likely it is that the website or web page will be seen by users.

Why is SEO Important?

Did you know that Google handles more than 90% of global mobile searches and around 70% of global desktop searches? In addition, 90% of all website traffic is directed through search engines. Therefore we can confidently state that the Google search engine acts as a crucial medium for businesses to advertise their products and services to potential customers. So what’s SEO got to do with it?

For a google search, the higher the SEO ranking of a website, the higher it appears in search results, increasing the likelihood it’s seen by users. According to a study by Backlinko, the top 3 searches in organic search receive 75% of all clicks. As a result, it’s important to maximise your SEO score, as this directly relates to how many potential customers see and click on your site.

It is widely known that for businesses in general, SEO is positively correlated with business revenue, and so pushing SEO to the max really does result in massive, positive benefits to your business.

So the next question we need to ask is, how do you optimise your website's SEO?

On-Page vs Off-Page vs Technical SEO

SEO tactics fall into three different buckets: on-page SEO, off-page SEO and technical SEO.

On-page SEO refers to things you can directly control on your website such as optimising your site's content, internal links and URLs.

Off-page SEO refers to actions taken off your website, such as backlinks and mentions on other sites.

Technical SEO refers to activities that either directly impact how search engines index and crawl your site, or do not directly fall into the on-page or off-page SEO categories, e.g. site speed and canonicalisation.

On-Page SEO Considerations

High Quality Content

There is no substitute for great content. It needs to be clear, original, properly sourced, well written, accessible and honest. Search engines (generally) want to connect searchers to high quality content.

What Is Great Content? The 6 Standards of Content Greatness

Meta Titles and Descriptions

Every page should have a meta title and meta description. They tell google searchers what the page is about before they decide whether to navigate to that website (or not)!

Meta Title and Meta Description

Header Tag Optimisation

Header tags, also known as heading tags, are used to separate headings and subheadings on a webpage. They rank in order of importance, from H1 to H6, with H1s usually being the title. Header tags improve the readability and SEO of a webpage. Well-structured header tags are important for web crawlers to understand the hierarchy of your webpage's content.

Image Alt Text

This is an easy one to get right, yet so many people fall over here. Every image on your website should have an alt attribute that describes the image. It enables visually impaired users to understand what the image is showing, but it’s also used by web crawlers to interpret your visual content.

Internal Links

Internal links are links that take users to different parts of your website. They make your overall site much easier to browse and provide crucial context for search engine crawlers, such as the relative importance of pages on your site.

External Links

External links can be a contentious topic amongst the SEO community because there is a balance to be struck. The general rule of thumb is to include links to external sources where necessary, because it tells both the reader and web crawlers what type of site you are, but just be careful to:

  • Limit the number of external links you use because they direct people away from your site. 
  • Only include links to sites that are reputable and high quality. You don’t want Google to penalise you for associating with poor quality websites!

URL Structure

Use clear, succinct URL structures. E.g. www.wheatleydigital.com/web-design-services is significantly better than www.wheatleydigital.com/yt678yt, with the latter being a random sequence of alpha-numeric characters.

Multimedia Content

Search engines like to see variety, as long as page speed remains fast. Multimedia content like images, videos and audio files may improve the user experience and make your content more engaging. Emphasis on the "may" because you do not want to add multimedia just for the sake of it. Your additions must add value to your overall messaging!

Asset Optimisation

No matter what media assets you have, it is strongly recommended that you optimise them. For images, it means reducing their file size as much as possible whilst still meeting your minimum quality standards for mobile and desktop. Otherwise, you will significantly sabotage your page loading speed which tells Google your site has not been performance optimised, in turn harming your SEO. That being said, if you are a professional photographer, you may need to sacrifice some speed for quality. Finding the right balance for your business is crucial.

Off-Page SEO Considerations

Off-page SEO is important to help build your site's reputation. Highly reputable sites tend to rank better with search engines if they are considered to have more E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness). Now you know that your site's E-A-T affects your SEO, here are the areas to focus on.

Link Building

This is a very important one, and refers to other websites linking to pages on your site. In the SEO world, these links are called backlinks. The more backlinks present on high-authority sites, the more authoritative your site will appear to Google, which in turn improves your SEO. 

Dofollow vs Nofollow Links: Understanding the Distinction

Backlinks can be categorised into two primary types: dofollow and nofollow. Dofollow links (the default type) pass on link equity, also known as PageRank, from the linking website to your own. This translates into a boost in your website's authority and search engine rankings. 

Nofollow links, on the other hand, do not pass on link equity. Search engines treat them as instructions to not follow the link and not consider it when evaluating the linking website's authority. While nofollow links don't directly impact rankings, they still hold value in terms of driving traffic and diversifying your backlink profile.

Backlink Strategies

Content Marketing

This involves distributing your website's content via various marketing channels such as:

  • Social media
  • Influencer marketing
  • Podcasts
  • Forums
  • Email

Reviews

Google reviews are a great way to build trust with new customers, and it is one of the most important factors affecting your website's E-A-T. Google also recommends that you respond to customer reviews, both good and bad, as this demonstrates that you value customer feedback.

Technical SEO Considerations

HTTPS

It is an absolute must that your website has an SSL certificate. This means that instead of having an unsecure HTTP connection, your website has a layer of TLS encryption which means you are operating with a HTTPS connection. Google will absolutely punish you if you don't have it. Note: most website providers throw it in for free, but you’ll want to check this.

Site Speed

You can't really test your website's speed until it is live, but once it is, you can run your site through a speed testing tool like PageSpeed Insights. Search engines like fast websites and punish slow ones, but so do people - they won't stick around if it's slow. Remember to monitor site speed over time, and if your website is slowing down, you may need to start thinking about asset optimisation, upgrading your hosting plan or in some cases, changing provider.

Minifying Files

Your website consists of Javascript, CSS and HTML files that should be minified to reduce their file size and improve SEO. This means removing:

  • Comments
  • Extra spaces
  • Unnecessary code
  • Formatting

Fortunately, there are many ways of doing this without editing these code files directly.

Schema Markup

Schema markup enables web crawlers to more easily understand the content on your site in a language that makes sense to them.

How to Add Schema Markup to Your Site

Sitemaps

Every website should have a sitemap because it tells web crawlers how your pages are organised and where to find your content. You can generate a sitemap using the tool below.

Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool

Canonicalisation

A canonical tag (or rel=canonical) is a small piece of HTML code that helps search engines determine the “main” version of the page from the rest of the pages that are identical or very similar to it.

What is Canonicalisation

Other Useful Links

If you want to take an even deeper dive into the world of SEO, check out the links below:

Google SEO Cheat Sheet

Schema.org

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Whether you already have a website or are in need of one, if you're looking to enhance your SEO and increase your search engine visibility for customer searches, then contact us today for a free quote!