Search engine optimisation. In today’s digital landscape, it’s the most important aspect to business growth. In fact, more than 40 percent of revenue is captured by organic traffic, but businesses are still failing to reap the rewards.
Why? That’s a great question.
In 2016, £48 billion ($65 billion USD) was spent by businesses on SEO. To say we’re not spending enough, then, would be a lie. Instead, we must look at what we’re spending it on and adjust to take full advantage.
But understanding where to take advantage of SEO is difficult, especially when the industry never stands still. It’s like a fast-flowing river, and it’s your job to paddle with the rapids, not against them.
DISCLAIMER: As of May 2018, Google owned 72.47 percent of total search engine market share. Don’t focus on Bing and Yahoo. You don’t learn how to swim by swimming in the shallow end of the pool. 15 percent of the daily search queries on Google have never been searched for previously. If you think about Google as land, that’s 15 percent more land that’s created and unexplored each day. Sure, you might look at this and wipe a bead of sweat from upon your head and stand paralysed. But put it this way, that 15 percent represents new opportunities for your business to rank, and rank well.
In short, SEO is a marketing discipline that helps grow your business visibility in organic search results.
Google is a digital high street. The more ‘footfall’ you have walking past your shop, the more likely you’ll have people browse and make a purchase. But your business needs to stand out on the high street so people can notice you. And standing out can be a tough thing to do.
Without further ado, here’s a beginner’s step-by-step guide to SEO in 2018.
1. Understand search intent
Google works by understanding search intent. To do this, it looks at short and long-tail keywords.
When a user types something into the Google search bar, they’re typing in a ‘search query’. Google then pulls the most relevant words from a query (keywords) and works to match them with relevant information for the user. Here’s an example:
The keyword is ‘SEO’. When I search this, Google gives me relevant information based on my search intent:
The aim of the game is to be the first or second result in the list of results. Given that 75 percent of searchers never click beyond page one, it’s critical to brand awareness to be the first thing people see when they search.
Good SEO is about answering your target persona’s questions by providing them with valuable, informative and authoritative information.
This means conducting keyword research…
2. Perform keyword research
You can’t just choose a keyword, place it in your blog post and expect to see your piece up in bright lights on the wall. Inbound marketing doesn’t work like that. SEO is calculated. The more research you can do, the greater the visibility.
Here’s a mini-guide on how to conduct keyword research.
- Start searching on Google
Start searching for relevant keywords around your topic on Google. For SEO, it might be words like ‘technical SEO’, ‘backlinks’ and ‘on-page SEO’. Notice what is ranking well and why. How are blog posts formatted? What does the meta description say?
- Turn short-tail keywords into long-tail keywords
Build a list of short-tail keywords and go to Answer the Public. Search your keywords in their search bar and begin to build a picture of the long-tail keywords people are searching for. Here, you can understand search intent.
- Use Moz or Ahrefs
Now you have a list of long-tail keywords, run them through Moz or Ahrefs to understand the SERP (search engine results page) analysis of each keyword.
By understanding SERP analysis, you can determine what keywords are a worth ranking for. For example, here’s the SERP analysis for the short-tail keyword ‘SEO’:
Let’s face it. With up to 70,800 people searching for the term ‘SEO’ around the world each month, and with only three spots to compete for (anything below the third search result shouldn’t be worth your time), it’s unlikely that as a new business, you’ll rank for the term SEO.
However, all is not lost. The idea is to find keywords worth ranking for that attract enough attention but that have a low difficulty score. For example:
The keyword ‘SEO consultant’ may not have as many searchers, but the chances of an SEO consultant (like me!) ranking for this keyword is very high.
To determine whether a keyword should be a priority or not, aim for a difficulty score below 40 and as high an organic CTR (click-through rate) as possible.
- Build a list and start writing
Now you have a prioritised list of keywords that are worth ranking for, you can begin to build out content that targets these keywords.
But, make sure this content is optimised.
3. Conduct on-page SEO
On-page SEO is becoming less and less vital to good SEO, but, it is still necessary. First and foremost, you must consider keyword placement. You can’t just ‘keyword dump’ lots of well searched keywords into your blog post. You must ensure there is strategy behind your intent.
Be sure to place your keyword in the H1, the first paragraph of your copy and very occasionally throughout your blog post. It should also exist in your meta description, image alt text and URL slug.
But here’s the thing. Google won’t care about your content if it’s not high in quality. Good SEO is about writing well-structured, informative and educational pieces of content that provide value to the reader and answer their question. On-page SEO is nothing more than a technical checkpoint you should be aware of. Bear this in mind.
4. Seek backlinks
Google looks for authority in content, and authority is determined by backlinks. A business’s backlink profile is arguably the most important factor to SEO in 2018. Google will not rank content produced by low ranking domain authorities. But building a backlink profile is no easy feat.
Your backlink profile is built by looking at the number of other sites on the internet that are linking back to your website.
For instance, in this blog post, I’ve linked to authoritative pieces of content and when this blog post goes live, there’s a chance that other people will link to this piece of content as a useful resource to explore.
Quite simply, if more people decide to link to this piece of content as a useful resource, the more authoritative this content becomes.
It becomes trusted, and Google recognises this trust and rewards the content by placing high up in its SERPs.
To understand your backlink profile, run your website’s URL through ahrefs.
Here, you can view your current backlink ranking, your domain authority, your organic keywords and how many backlinks you have.
The more backlinks, the higher your domain authority and consequently, the more authoritative you’ll become.
Good SEO is about quality, nothing more
It may sound obvious, but nothing is as critical to SEO as content that is well sourced, well versed and organised. Content must be easy to understand and digestible to read. It must give the reader something of value, and it must do so in a concise way.
Of course, this guide is very much the tip of the iceberg. There’s much more to SEO that we’re yet to explore, like website site structure and speed, technical SEO and the importance of guest blogging.
But still, the landscape of SEO will always continue to change. Yesterday’s hot topic will become today’s old news, and we’ll forever push forward into unknown territory.
Your biggest strength in conducting good SEO, then, is staying ahead of the curve.