Search engine optimisation

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How can you leverage the power of SEO to help you rank better in Google?

To know how your business can benefit from SEO, let’s first establish what SEO is.

What is SEO?

Wikipedia does a great job of summarising SEO:

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of increasing the quality and quantity of website traffic by increasing the visibility of a website or a web page to users of a web search engine.
En.wikipedia.org. (2020). Search engine optimization. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Search_engine_optimization [Accessed 1 Feb. 2020].

Google puts it more succinctly and is probably more trustworthy in this regard. As we say in Afrikaans: “uit die perd se bek”:

Search engine optimization: the process of making your site better for search engines.
“Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide – Search Console Help.” Google, Google, support.google.com/webmasters/answer/7451184?hl=en.

SEO is focused on your website.

So the first thing you need, if you want SEO success, is your own website.

If you don’t have a website, there’s no place for SEO in your business.

First things first: order a website if you’d like SEO to help your business grow online.

Where is SEO used?

There are some differences on opinion here, but if we go strictly on what Google says, SEO is used on your website only.

There are a number of elements on each of your web pages that must be optimised for peak performance. Here they are:

  • Site-wide
    • Navigation menus
    • Breadcrumbs
    • Static pages
    • Blog posts
    • Content categories
    • Content tags
  • On-page elements
    • Meta information (not visible on the page, but read by search engines and other crawlers and used when your content is shared).
      • Page title
      • Meta description
      • Open graph tags
    • Headings (aka headlines or titles)
    • Main content
      • Paragraph text
      • Lists
      • Quotes
      • Images

That covers about every area you can apply SEO to.

A word on meta keywords

Google stopped paying attention to meta keywords a long time ago. There’s no point in using them on your website. It’s often used shockingly incorrectly in any case, so it’s best ignored.

This is not SEO

Some would say the act of building links to your website and sharing your website posts to social media form part of SEO.

I don’t agree with that. That falls under the umbrella of SEM (search engine marketing).

SEO is only used to make your website as attractive as possible for when you start doing SEM.

User interface optimisation also doesn’t fall under SEO, because a search engine crawler doesn’t care about what your website looks like. It can’t see fancy images and layouts.

Besides, if users came into the equation it would be called UO, or user optimisation. Or something like that.

Will SEO help me rank better?

SEO is one part of the solution, yes, but it’s not the main part.

If you want to dominate in search engines there are two right ways to do it: paid advertising and natural rankings.

Paid advertising is a guaranteed way to drive immediate traffic. This is done through Google Ads or Facebook ads. Paid advertising doesn’t care if your SEO is sorted or not. In fact, your website’s SEO could be as appalling as an Ed Wood movie, paid advertising will still send tons of traffic if you have the money and you set it up correctly.

Facebook’s free advertising also doesn’t care about your SEO, and where it does, it actually starts crossing over into SEM.

SEO really only matters for search engine rankings. If your website’s SEO is horrid you’re making it harder for your website to perform well in search engines. Your paid ad campaigns won’t care one bit if your SEO is terrible but search engines will be offended by your lack of proper SEO.

XML sitemaps

I once asked someone in a popular online forum for some advice on how to get more traffic to my website. This was back when I didn’t want to accept the real answer and was hoping for a magic potion I could sprinkle on my laptop while my website was open in a browser.

Their advice?

Create an XML sitemap and submit it to Google’s Search Console.

My reply?

Dumbstruck silence.

It’s like saying I should stop when I see a directional signboard and expect the signboard to carry me to my destination.

Thinking a sitemap will boost your rankings is as absurd as that picture I just created.

Are XML sitemaps important?

Absolutely.

I include them in all my websites and I add all my clients to Google Search Console and submit their sitemaps too.

But the name of the type of page should give you a clue: sitemap.

It only points Google in the right direction. Google can choose whether they want to follow the route you point out to them. If they don’t, that’s their choice. They’re not compelled to subject themselves to your XML sitemap’s direction. They’re also not compelled to rank your site higher because you have an XML sitemap.

SEO myths

These are some of the enduring SEO myths that won’t retire.

SEO will boost your rankings

This is not necessarily wrong, but it’s certainly not a given either.

There are too many questions surrounding your ranking requirements to make a blanket statement like that.

What do you want to rank for?

If you own a website about fizzy drinks and you want to outrank Coca-Cola for the search phrase, “buy coca-cola”, no amount of SEO will help you outrank that behemoth of a company for one of their main products.

More keywords = better SEO

Adding correct keywords to your content is of utmost importance.

But the moment you user experience takes a dive because you stuffed your articles with keywords, no SEO magic will help you rank better.

You’ll say, “but search engine bots can’t see my content, therefore they can’t decide what my users experience on my site.”

But Google uses signals you’re not even aware of to help them rank your content. If people don’t like your site because your content looks like it was written by a greedy keyword crammer, what do you think Google’s going to do, rank you higher?

There’s a correct way to use more keywords without looking like a six-year-old slobbering after someone else’s ice cream.

Add longer articles to your website.

If you add longer articles you can use more keywords and more keyword variations.

You’ll also look much smarter if your content is lengthy.

And if the thought of writing makes your head spin and your feet feel like jelly, get me to do it for you.

Part of my game is long form copy written to help people like you rank better.

You must have back links

Although links to your website are a great way to indicate authority, Google is in a place where they can discover your content without back links.

Don’t ask me how it works, but it does.

And by the way, these aren’t my own findings only. Michael Martinez, one of the only voices I trust in the SEO game, made this claim years go.

On some of my own websites I’ve outranked major brands because I’ve created quality content. There were no back links added whatsoever.

What’s important is that your content is discoverable and crawlable. That’s where the XML sitemap comes in. If you submit a map of your content to Google you’re giving them something they can revisit at their leisure to see if anything new has been added.

Conclusion

SEO certainly plays a role in helping Google and friends understand your website better.

And if done correctly it could help boost your rankings too, but you shouldn’t obsess over it.

If you think your SEO is sorely lacking or you need a new website the SEO of which is top quality, I can help.

I’ll create you an SEOd website that’ll form a solid basis for your search engine marketing endeavours.

Get my web design package and start making your way to the top of Google!

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