What is SEO?
There are over 3.5 billion searches conducted on Google, every single day.
SEO, or otherwise Search Engine Optimisation, is a means of tapping into this incredible source of traffic. It is the art and science of driving organic, or unpaid, traffic to your website through search engines.
There are hundreds of known variables that Google relies on to award rankings.
A simple way to put it — you make changes to your website, add content and build your online profile. This makes it more attractive for searchers to reach your website and – so the search engines reward you with higher rankings.
This in turn, drives more traffic to your website. An increase in qualified traffic becomes a source of new customers.
That said, these ‘changes’ being made to your website aren’t just simple surface elements. You need a strategy.
A well-researched, high-yielding SEO strategy at the core, is one which has been built on the foundations of your industry and user search intent (what your customers are looking for).
What’s the point in publishing 20 articles a week if search engines determine them as irrelevant to users?
It’s only once you’ve harnessed this vital information, can you start to develop a strategy using the 3 fundamental pillars of SEO, which we will explain further on in this article.
In its simplest form, search engines will reward you for providing the best customer and user experience, giving them exactly what they are searching for and in the easiest way possible.
If your website is hard to navigate and read, takes ages to load and has irrelevant information, you will be demoted.
So what goes into SEO?
A simple take on how Google ranks your website
There are hundreds of factors Google uses to rank your website, with some overlapping aspects.
So, before we set you down a path of confusion, remember there are many different ways to explain how SEO works.
One way of looking at it — Google ranks websites based on Authority, Relevance and Trust.
Authority covers anything from the relevance of content, building links with high authority websites, to customer reviews.
A better way to understand authority is to think about how you decide to purchase a product.
These days, we find ourselves searching up at least three competitors, reading customer reviews, we even checked social media for overall customer satisfaction.
With this, comes the question, how relevant is your content? After all, if users can’t find what they are looking for on your site, they’ll simply close the browser.
Relevance is based on the quality of content and how relevant it is to user searched queries.
Through the use of keywords and phrases, Google will rank your website based on user searched terms, providing them with the most relevant content that answers their questions.
However, just because you have awesome relevant content it does not automatically mean you rank higher. If you have low authority, zero backlinks and no social trust, Google will not pick up (index) your website — how are people going to find you?
This is when you need to build trust.
Trust is a combination of building authority and producing high quality content. It relies on building trustworthy links to external sources who can vouch for your product or service and link back to your website.
It can involve getting a shoutout from an influencer on social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram.
Posting content on social media with a link to your site and responding to comments in your social media feed, or on posts which you publish online.
To sum it all up, SEO is a diverse ecosystem which uses a number of fundamental strategies to achieve a better ranking on search engine result pages (SERPs).
Now let’s get a little more technical.
Understanding the 3 fundamental pillars of SEO to rank better on Google
With a basic understanding of what SEO is and how it works, it’s time to whip out the magnifying glass and take a closer look at the 3 fundamental pillars of SEO Google uses to rank your website.
1. Content Marketing
In a world where information is consumed 24/7 from the palm of our hands, where your target audience can bring up 5 of your biggest competitors in a matter of seconds, quality of content matters.
Especially when you have to consider 53% of mobile site visitors are leaving a page that takes longer than three seconds to load (Google). But we’ll come back to PageSpeed in just a moment.
In a nutshell, the more quality and relevant pieces of content your site has, the more likely you’re going to appear and rank better on SERPs.
Similarly, the more engaging your content is, the more likely users are to spend more time on your page, and hopefully make a purchase.
But you’re probably wondering what is the relationship between SEO and content marketing?
SEO and Content Marketing share an unbreakable bond that continues to evolve even as Google’s algorithm changes (for now anyway, who knows what Google will change in the future).
In any high-yielding SEO strategy relevant high quality content can be found.
You can’t have one without the other.
To paint a picture, let’s say you have a genuine product or service and produced some of the best pieces of content on your subject matter, you also know for a fact there is a demand for it.
But how are people going to find the content you’ve spent hours crafting if you’re 20 pages deep on search engine result pages?
Similarly, a solid SEO strategy demands quality content in the form of articles, titles, words, copy, and keywords. But this alone, crammed and spammed all over your website will not do anything for you. In fact, you will most likely face penalties from Google.
In other words, SEO sets out the requirements and we need Content Marketing to fulfill them.
They work hand-in-hand to exponentially grow your business using high-quality content that’s relevant to its target audience.
Now, you may have noticed more recently, how high quality content has expanded beyond the scope of just words.
There are many other ways to improve your content offering, including:
- Videos and audio recordings (podcasts, audiobooks, reviews)
- Infographics or other visual content
- Downloadable How-To guides, tutorials and tips
- Social media content
- Technical whitepapers and ebooks
Now that you have an idea on the type of content you can produce, it’s time to introduce keywords.
What are keywords and why are they important for SEO?
Keywords is a self-fulfilling prophecy that will pave the way for your SEO and content marketing plan, driving hoards of qualified traffic to your website.
Keywords research is a fundamental SEO task that involves identifying words and phrases users are searching to understand what you’re going to need to rank for.
It provides invaluable information that gives insights into what your customers are searching for, and how you can craft relevant content to drive qualified traffic to your website, traffic that is more likely to convert.
Keyword Stuffing, an SEO NO-NO you must avoid.
Labelled as a ‘black-hat tactic’, keyword stuffing is a common mistake made by most trying to cram as many keywords as possible onto a page in a bid to get better rankings.
Results may be positive in the beginning, but this win is short-lived, with Google dishing out penalties to those who dabbled in the dark arts in the form of demotion in ranks, or even being removed all together.
So far, we’ve covered
- Content marketing and how it applies to SEO
- Content comes in many forms
- The purpose of keywords, and what to avoid
Let’s move onto what we like to refer to as the ‘architecture’ of your website.
2. On-Page SEO
On-page SEO is best described as optimising elements on an individual web page for a higher ranking on the search engine results page and to attract more qualified traffic.
Like any other form of SEO, there are hundreds of ways you can go about optimising your web page. There are no right or wrong answers, but there are however, more optimal strategies.
Traditional on-page SEO best practices, which are essential when optimising any page includes:
- Title tags
- Content of page
- Image alt text
- Internal links
- Meta descriptions
Most ‘OK’ digital strategies will contain the on-page SEO elements mentioned above, and this does not necessarily make it a “bad” strategy.
But it may not be a high-yielding strategy, and this is where most fall short.
You see, the digital world is constantly evolving, what might’ve been the hottest digital trend of the of 2019, is now standing in the shadow of 2020.
A great example is Google’s most recent algorithm update.
….“What is the latest Google Algorithm Update” you ask? Exactly.
You probably didn’t even know about it, and for those who found out too late, probably saw their rankings drop.
A high-yielding strategy requires absolute-vigilance. This means keeping up-to-date with Google’s ever-changing algorithm and SEO trends.
For the time being, we’re going to give you some of the best on-page SEO practices for ranking better in 2020:
- User Experience (UI & UX): How your customers navigate and engage your website is now more important than ever.
- PageSpeed: Yes, page speed was always a factor for desktop searches, but as of July 2018, Google announced page speed as ranking factor for mobile searches.
- Search Intent: Search Intent is the most overlooked on-page SEO factor. If optimised correctly, has the potential to boost your online presence significantly. Evaluating search intent provides insights into what a person is really looking for and allows you to optimise your web page content which satisfies their needs.
- Mobile-friendliness: Mobile searches for ‘best’ have grown over 80% in the last 2 years. (Google)
On-page SEO is crucial to the overall optimisation of any digital strategy as it helps search engines better understand the content of a website and its relevance to visitors.
But what about the factors you don’t have complete control over?
3. Off-Page SEO
Off-page SEO refers to the external work conducted outside of your own website to improve trustworthiness, relevance, popularity and authority, and has a major impact on where your page will rank.
This is accomplished when reputable websites, influencers or pages with a higher page authority link to or promote your website on their own page.
This is also known as outreach or link building, and is a powerful technique employed to build trust and authority.
Link building is essentially the heart and soul of off-site SEO and has the potential to be the most profitable optimisation strategy, it is the gift that keeps on giving — if you have the time.
As effective as off-page SEO can be, it’s also extremely time consuming and at the core, requires high quality content that is relevant to its users.
Business owners attempting off-page SEO without an ironclad link-building strategy or trustworthy contact list may find themselves burning countless hours for little to no reward.
And soon, you’ll be asking….
How long does it take for SEO to work?
Search Engine Optimisation is a medium to long term strategy that requires constant tweaking and attention.
Google rewards higher rankings to websites that have relevant, fresh, and up-to-date content that utilises search terms in an organic context.
It can take months for Google’s crawler to recognise and trust your website. This is why we recommend any business considering SEO, should plan to commit to the process for at least 6 to 12 months for it to be profitable.
That being said, with a well-designed SEO campaign created by a Digital Growth agency, it can truly be described as ‘the gift that keeps on giving’.
The rate at which you improve your rankings and volume of qualified traffic you generate, depends on a number of factors:
Does Google recognise and trust your website? Has your website been designed with a ‘search-friendly’ user experience? Are there any broken links? Is the content relevant? And the level of competition for target keywords and products in your industry — among other things.
This is where an SEO expert takes all this information and reviews up to 400 variables in an SEO audit to get a clear understanding of where your competition is currently placing, and how long it can be expected to improve these positions.
It can take months to generate traffic in competitive spaces, however we find many established businesses have often ignored ‘low-hanging fruit’, which can be highly profitable in a shorter period of time.
This could be low competition phrases that other businesses might have ignored, so it’s easier for you to rank for these.
Or a poorly designed website that can be holding you back from ranking for search terms that simply don’t appear on the website with the right content. A strategically capable web design agency can help identify in a matter of moments whether this is happening to you.
Taking advantage of these situations is where you can win qualified traffic above your competitors almost immediately and right from under their noses.
And… this brings us to cost.
How much should you pay for SEO?
Perhaps the better question is ‘How much are you willing to invest in SEO?’
The cost of SEO is based on competition in the industry, number of products or categories you want to target and how quickly you want to achieve results.
The average small business invests between $3,000 to $5,000 a month on effective SEO strategies. However, it can cost as little as a few hundred dollars and all the way up to several hundred thousand a year.
Obviously, the more you invest into SEO, the more techniques you can apply to accelerate your results.
For example, producing more regular content with up-to-date keywords and phrases will improve your ranking and in turn, lead to more revenue.
But that’s not to say you can’t create a revenue-generating SEO campaign with a smaller budget.
Success is dependent on the amount of trust and authority Google places on your website.
Based on this, your SEO agency creates a plan that considers technical updates (algorithm changes), content strategy, a PR strategy, on-going user experience, and of course keywords & phrases.
The costs of an SEO campaign will depend on which of these areas your online presence needs the most work in.
It’s important to remember that SEO requires constant tweaking and maintenance, the longer you work at it, the more fruitful it’ll be. Although it may take some time for results to show, once you’re ranking, SEO can deliver a great ROI.
As with any marketing channel, it’s a good idea to weigh up the potential benefits and rewards against the time and cost needed to achieve a result.
SEO can produce remarkable returns in the long run, but it’s not suited for every business’ objectives in the short term.
If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed right about now, we don’t blame you. But you should feel a little more relieved now than you did before reading this article.
If there was one key point to takeaway from all of this that would be to always remind yourself, “have I answered the user’s questions?”
Have you transitioned your ideal customer from point A to point B in the most seamless way possible?
The ultimate goal of any well-devised SEO strategy is to satisfy what users are searching for and providing them with all the answers in which they seek.
This is in the form of creating high-quality content that is relevant to user searches, structuring your page from a UX/UI perspective, and building strong backlinks with high authority domains.
Now, remember, SEO is not a quick-fix marketing approach which will bring you millions in a day. It’s a slow burn strategy that requires constant tweaking and attention.
However, that’s not a reason to be discouraged, especially with plenty of ‘low-hanging fruit’ to profit from. The work you put in today will pay off in the future and you’ll soon be reaping the benefits of a high ranking website and achieving business success.