Basics of SEO
The 4 key Principles of Search Engine Optimisation
Search Engine Optimisation – Essentially SEO is the practice of trying to get your site to rank well in the search engines so that people will visit it. There are millions of websites on most subjects so Google has to have a system of making sure the most relevant sites appear at the top of people’s searches (the Google algorithm).
So what do Google (or other search engines) consider when ranking a site?
There are many sites out there which promise you quick ways to get to the top of Google. Many of them are exploiting current loopholes in Google’s algorithm. Yes they may get you to the top of Google for now, but once Google spots those loopholes they will close them, and often punish the sites who took advantage. So you could soon find yourself plummeting back down again. Plus every time Google introduces a new update you’ll be worrying about how badly it will affect your site.
There are 4 basic principles of SEO which although they make take time to implement should allow you to steadily climb in the search results and should leave you relatively unaffected by Google’s updates. These are what I have laid out below:
Quality content – This is the foundation of good SEO, search engines are constantly changing their algorithms to try and pick out good quality content to go at the top of the search results. Quality means not something rammed with keywords which isn’t actually very useful or easy to read. Good quality content is something useful, or interesting to the readers. You want it to be well written, broken up with subheadings and images to make it easier to read. Also make it unique and don’t use content from elsewhere on the web as Google penalise duplicate content.
The more people like your content the more likely they are to link back to it, or to share it on social media. The content doesn’t have to be written by you, you can invite people to guest post on your site. Base it around your keywords so you are attracting the right kind of traffic with your content.
See my beginners SEO guide for help with determining your keywords.
‘Try and make a site so that is so fantastic that you become an authority in your niche’ Matt Cutts Head of Google web spam team.
Backlinks – If your site is linked to from other well ranking sites they consider your site to be important too. Don’t pay for links from other sites or do link exchanges as Google is wise to this and can penalise you for it. Instead give people a reason to write about you (competitions, great content people will want to share, brilliant offers, interesting news etc). You want it to be as organic as possible, and also to build your backlinks over time as Google can tell if you suddenly get loads of new backlinks and it looks suspicious to them.
Social share buttons
Social shares – Google places importance on the amount your content is shared socially, they see this as a sign that you site has quality content. By sharing it on their social media people are effectively endorsing your content. Try to make it easy for people to share your content by adding share buttons to your site, using good quality images for people to pin to Pinterest and having your own social media accounts so followers can share your updates direct from your own social media pages. Again the key to this is good quality content, the better quality your content the more people are likely to share it.
Regular updating – If your site is regularly updated it shows Google the site is still active, kept up to date and worth them directing people to. Having a news section or blog on your site is an easy way to do this. Alternatively a projects section, articles section or any section that you can regularly add new content into will help. Don’t forget to go over your existing content from time to time and update that too. Re-promote older content as well as new content to keep driving traffic to it as well. This may lead to more social shares and also shows Google the content is still relevant.
SEO is not just one technique, if you focus on just one thing you will not get the full benefits of SEO and you risk losing everything if Google change their algorithm again. For instance if you decide you will focus on guest blogging and Google decide in a future update to ignore all links from the headers or footers of guest blog posts you then lose all those links back to your site and the SEO benefit. Ideally you want to have a strategy which combines all 4 of the above, with the main focus on content.
Written by Fiona Pullen