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Beginner's Guide To Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Charlotte Fish, SEO Manager at Seventy7.
Charlotte FishSEO Manager

As a seasoned SEO, I know all too well that many people don't really know what my profession entails. To help combat this, here’s my ultimate beginners guide to SEO. We’ll go into what SEO is, highlight some of the key elements I address for every site I work with and why they are important.

SEO is the practice of optimising a website to improve its visibility and ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs). 

Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo use complex algorithms to determine the relevance and quality of websites when users search for specific keywords or phrases to assess which pages are best to deliver in results.

There are various techniques to help align a website's content, structure, and design with these algorithms. The easier it is for search engine crawlers to understand your website, the more likely they are to rank it highly as an option for their users.

Once a website is delivered in the results pages, it has to be the most desirable option for users to click on in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page). When a user has clicked on your site, how much they engage with your pages and navigate through your site will offer a further indication as to whether your site is useful regarding the original query searched for. The more useful the website is, the higher it will appear in the results page for that query in the future.

Where do I start with SEO? 

A cycle wheel depiction the different stages of SEO.

There isn’t a hard and fast startline with SEO. In my experience, the best place to start will be determined by the current status of your website:

  • Is it not yet built? > Start with keyword research

  • Is it already live? > Start with technical SEO

Keyword Research

Keyword research is finding the terminology that your intended audience is most likely to use and incorporating it into the content on your site.

You can’t just pick one word, use it throughout the site, and expect to rank for it. Overuse will be penalised, as will attempts to use keywords in a dishonest manner i.e. white text on a white background.

Two Types of Keywords:

Primary Keywords:

Primary keywords are supported by secondary keywords. The two should be semantically related and relevant in context to the wider purpose of your site.

When choosing primary keywords it can be a balance of choosing words with high search volume but low ranking difficulty. However, if you are a specialist in your area with lots of content to support it, then you can, and should, target those high-difficulty words. 

Secondary Keywords:

Secondary keywords are any keywords that are closely related to and offer support to the primary search term being targeted by your page.

When choosing secondary keywords it’s still important to balance search volume with ranking difficulty. However, it’s more important that they make sense and support the context of your primary keyword.

Remember: When using keywords on your site it’s better to have one URL targeting multiple keywords than it is to have multiple URLs targeting a single keyword.

On-Page SEO Optimisation 

Optimising each of the elements in the website's HTML code is the most efficient way to improve on-page SEO. 

Key elements include meta tags, headings (Htags), image titles, alt tags and copy. These should be written clearly and for the purpose they serve to show search engines exactly what your website is offering. This should involve using relevant keywords tailored to each page.

Other key aspects of on-page SEO include optimising image sizes, and ensuring effective mobile responsiveness and accessibility for all users on all devices.

Technical SEO Optimisation

Here is a list of technical elements you should be addressing to improve the SEO of your website:

  • Site Structure: Create a logical hierarchy of pages using clear and descriptive URLs, and organising large volumes of content (i.e. a product catalogue) into categories and subcategories. 
  • XML Sitemaps: XML sitemaps are a list of all the key URLs with additional information such as when the pages were last updated and they can help crawlers be more efficient. 
  • Crawlability: To facilitate crawling, it's important to manage what should and shouldn’t be crawled with robots.txt files, fix broken links, and provide a clear internal linking structure.
  • Website Speed: Minimising server response time, compressing images, using browser caching, and minimising the use of unnecessary scripts and plugins. (Core Web Vitals - This often requires dev work.)
  • Schema Markup: Structured data that can be added to HTML to provide more detailed information about the content on a webpage. It helps search engines understand pages better resulting in rich snippets or enhanced search results. 
  • Other Issues: Fix broken links, duplicate content, server errors, or improper redirects. Regularly monitoring and addressing these issues is crucial to maintain a healthy website.

Off-Page SEO Optimisation 

Off-page SEO optimisation includes any activity done outside of your own website to encourage engagement with your site, branded searches and promotions on social media.

Established search engines have evolved in intelligence over the years. When another website links back to your site with a ‘follow’ link it is considered a peer vote from that site to search engines saying yes, you can trust them. However, the quality of the site the backlink is from and the context in which it is provided will determine how effective it is.

You can work towards building these relationships through content marketing. Guest blogging, social media presence, influencer outreach and good old-fashioned in-person marketing are all tactics that lead to online relationships and encourage branded searches.

It’s Never Finished

SEO is an ongoing process as search engine algorithms, markets and languages are constantly evolving.

It requires staying up to date with industry trends, keeping track of algorithm updates, monitoring website analytics, and making continuous adjustments to maintain and improve search engine visibility.

While you can be in a good position for SEO, it’s never truly finished.

To keep up with all of the latest trends and updates, subscribe to our newsletter, keep up with our blog or follow us on LinkedIn for regular updates.

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