The term ‘SEO’ carries with it much weight. On one hand, we all anecdotally know that the right keywords and good content can help our website rank high on Google’s searches. On the other hand, the rampant misunderstanding of SEO basics often makes budding entrepreneurs look at it as a weird internet Godzilla no one can tame; except for an expert SEO handler.
The truth is that SEO is easy to grasp, and you should be well acquainted with this facet of your business. So, here are some important SEO basics that every new businessperson should know; and no, they won’t make your head burst!
Really naive questions first; what is SEO?
Let’s say your long-lost aunt has come down to visit you in the big city and she wants to go shopping. Her first instinct would be to ask you, as a long-time resident of said big city, which places she ought to go to. You, therefore, become her de facto search engine and she expects a list of recommendations from you relating to her whims.
Juxtaposing this example against your business, your target audience is that whimsical aunt looking to shop online. A search engine’s job (Google, Yahoo, Bing etc.) would be to take her incoherent requests and present her with a list of matching recommendations; in this case, online businesses. Now, the higher your business ranks on Google ‘s recommendations…err, search result ranking page (SERP) the better your chances of getting a lead. Typically, an online customer clicks on the first five results on the SERP and if your business does not rank among these, then the traffic to your site would be significantly lower than your competitors.
SEO Basics 1: SEO or search engine optimisation refers to the tools, techniques, and tactics that get your site ranked high in search engine results.
So, all this ranking mathematics can be handled by keywords alone, right?
Absolutely wrong! There was a time when Google (and other search engines) only looked at keywords as the determining factor for site ranking, and one could rank high by producing content chock full of keywords. Search engines have gotten much smarter today, so just producing keyword-heavy content will not help. Google’s ‘spiders’ (the software used to crawl online content) can recognise if the keywords are used in context, and how relevant they are to your target audience. SEO basics include figuring out which keywords to use is Google Adwords which gives you a list of important and related keywords to use in your pages.
Another way to utilise keywords is to use them in the ‘metadata’ of your pages. For a blog page, the tags ‘author’, ‘date created’, ‘published’, ‘file size’ etc. contribute to the metadata of the page. There is also a ‘metadescription’ tag where keywords can be utilised.
SEO Basics 2: Avoid cramming your content with keywords though, as Google’s algorithms have been known to penalise sites for indiscriminate use of SEO techniques.
Keywords, metadata, spiders…phew! Now, what are these SEO-friendly URLs?
The address of a site or page is known as its URL. It’s SEO Basics 101! URLs help your site ranking by telling the search engine exactly what content is on the page and how it matches with the keyword that the customer is searching for.
Example 1: https://instataskers.com/freelancers/bloggers-in-bangalore
Example 2: https://instataskers.com/products?/78854/bloggers
Let’s say a customer was looking for a list of freelance bloggers in Bangalore. The first URL (example 1) is an exact match to the customer’s search request, while the second URL serves absolutely no purpose. Even if the content is better on the second match, it will not rank higher on the SERP as the URL makes no sense whatsoever to the layman, and the search engine will push it down on its list while giving preference to sites with relevant URLs.
SEO Basics 3: Sometimes, your product may have multiple URLs due to several reasons. This can hurt your site’s rankings. It’s better to use canonical URLs in such cases.
Okay, what next?
The next thing you need to know about is ‘Linking’. Google ranks pages out of 10 and gives each a Page Rank based on its algorithm.
Simplifying this for laymen, here’s what it basically translates to – if you have a blog page with good traction and a high rank, then linking your subsequent blog pages to it would ensure higher visibility of your content. It’s like having a friend who knows the best party places in town so, you tag along to experience the best gigs and events!
The caveat here is that the linkbacks should be contextual, and both outbound and inbound links are important. You can link to your own content (blogs, product pages, YouTube channel, social media links), or to other high-rank pages (such as an interview in a newspaper, guest bloggers who write about your product etc.).
SEO Basics 4: Link a higher ranked page to another to carry forward the ‘link juice’. Think of it as ‘dominance by association’ (pun intended!).
Linking to social media sites – what if I don’t have one?
Well, in that case, go get one right now! You might have heard or read that social media does not impact SEO directly, which is correct, but it does have long lasting and important consequences for your content.
Sharing your content on social media increases views, and we all know that search engines love a site with good traffic. Instagram hashtags, for example, live forever. Social media sites are a great way of creating internal links to carry over the link juice from your pages and vice versa. A presence on Google+ increases your site’s rankings in local searches, and even SERP rankings can show social media profiles for branded businesses. Google ‘Amazon India’ for example and the second result on the page is Amazon’s Facebook page. Now, if your business website and your social media profiles take up the first two or three rankings on Google search, it would boost the traffic to your site exponentially, thus increasing your site’s rankings.
And while you are at it do these two things, too:
- Get a mobile-friendly site. Google ranks sites which are mobile friendly higher than others. This has to do with the fact that mobile traffic is increasing day by day, and Google does not want users to have a bad experience on their searches by recommending them a site that does not work on their smartphones. If you are an e-com store, get yourself an app.
- Make sure your site is secure and has an HTTPS address. Https sites rank better when compared to HTTP sites since the latter are considered unsecured. Google will add a warning next to your site in its search results, which can drive away potential traffic. This is even more necessary for sites that have an integrated payment gateway.
SEO Basics 5: Apart from increasing visibility, social media shares and likes heighten the shelf life of your content and make it easily accessible. Mobile sites and an HTTPS address make Google love you more.
Hmm…. What about images and videos? Do they help in any way?
Glad you asked! Images and videos help SEO rankings immensely. A 2009 study showed that pages with videos can rank 53x better than similar content without videos. Images used in blogs or websites can rank in Google Images rankings which is also a great way to direct traffic to your website. A user can type in the search terms ‘red scarf’ in the search bar and use Google Images to look for scarves that they like. Clicking on an image directs the user to the respective website.
While uploading pictures, remember to fill in the ‘alt text’ field and use keywords to describe the image. Search engines cannot really read images, so they depend on this metadata to understand what the image refers to and then rank it.
SEO Basics 6: Include images and videos in your content to increase your SERP rankings, better your CTR, lower bounce rates, and create important backlinks that will help Google’s lovely spiders rank your site higher than your peers’.
And how often should I renew these images and videos?
Well, search engines love fresh content. But that does not mean that you ought to revamp your entire website every three months (nor is it feasible to do so!). Instead, you can create a blog for your site. Frequent blog updates will mean fresh content for your business. You can add new products to your catalogue, add images to lookbooks, do video tutorials, create ads, and use other marketing ideas to keep producing new content for your site.
SEO Basics 7: A blog is a great way to increase traffic and keep adding fresh content to your site.
Ah! So, is this all?
As far as SEO basics go, yes. With all this information in hand you should now be able to understand key terms like ‘pager ranking’ and SERP better, and debate over the pros and cons of having a corporate blog. This is not the end of SEO however. It is important to keep up with the new changes in SEO and tweak your site accordingly if needed. Google pushes out 500-1000 updates each year, all of which aim to better the user’s experience online. It is necessary to be in touch with these updates as they can affect your site’s rankings. But for that you have pros! So, worry not and Post your Task so we can help you with any SEO-related query you may have!
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