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The Basics of SEO


Everyone with an online presence has heard of SEO but many don’t truly understand what it means or how to achieve it. In this post, we’re going to cover the basics of SEO – what it is, and why it’s so important to your business. We’ll also offer easy tips to get you started in kicking off your SEO strategy.    

What is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimization. It’s the process of optimizing your site to drive organic (i.e. unpaid) traffic from a search engine results page (SERP) to your site. It’s about providing search engines with the right information so that they can index and display your site within their search results.   

In a nutshell, it all boils down to one thing: rankinga website’s position in the search engine result’s page. SEO is how search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, Badu, Yandex et al rank your site so that you can increase the quality and quantity of free traffic to your site. 

Ultimately, a site that has been properly optimized for SEO, whether it be a website, a blog or an online store, will appear higher up on the search page when someone types in a search term relating to that business.  

Why SEO is so important

Think about how you search online for the information you need. Do you type in a search term into a search engine (organic traffic) or do you type in the exact web address into a browser (direct traffic, or also known as branded search traffic)?

The majority of web traffic is generated organically, deriving from users searching for their information by typing in a keyword or sentence into a search engine. Users tend to trust search engines and so, if your page manages to achieve a high ranking on a search engine, it increases its credibility, brand awareness, and exposure, all of which throws more “free” traffic your way. Companies with poor SEO techniques miss out on crucial organic traffic to their sites. It also stands to reason that the lower down the search results you appear, the less likely users are to even come across your site. How often do you scroll down the search results and look at page 2 or 3?  

What about paid-for ads/sponsored posts?

Most of us gloss over the sponsored ads and view them with skepticism. Internet users are bombarded with adverts on almost every page they visit and every time they log onto their social media accounts. As a result, it is thought that around ¾ of web users completely ignore paid advertisements as they tend to have far less credibility than non-paid for posts.

Almost any online business would benefit from a well-executed SEO strategy to increase their online visibility and drive high-quality traffic to their site. Investing in SEO needn’t cost a fortune, but any investment made, will help towards the growth of the business.

Tips on easy SEO strategies to implement

Optimized Content

You don’t need to be a web developer to implement good SEO strategies. It isn’t about code. It’s about content. SEO is ultimately about making sure your website ranks high for relevant keywords relating to your business by publishing regular, high quality, relevant content on your site (and including your keywords or phrases regularly).

Video and image media content are also looked upon favorably by Google and other search engines. The added benefit of Video content is the ability to transcribe the dialog and add that as additional content that can be indexed and picked up for keywords.

Choosing keywords

Think about the last thing you Googled. What search terms did you use and what results did you get? Did your search get you to the sort of pages you were looking for?

When it comes to your on-page SEO, the keywords you choose can make or break your SEO strategy. There’s little point ranking high for keywords that don’t relate to your business. So, you should take the time to really research what keywords or phrases people are using to search for your type of business i.e. your competitors, and what keywords you want your site to be ranked for.

As an example, if you’re a company specializing in rental party games, you’ll want to appear when people search for anything related to renting games for parties. As there’s no way of knowing exactly what people will search for, it’s important to think of the different variants people might use in their search terms. So, you might want to get ranked for “rental party games’; “party game rental”; “party rentals”; “party games for hire”; “indoor party game rentals”, etc. You’ll also want to be ranked for individual products and/or location for example “arcade basketball rental San Francisco”, “arcade rental”, “inflatable rental”, etc.

Types of keywords

There are three main types of keywords to consider:

1. Short-tail i.e. party games
Short Tail Keywords Format Agency

Short-tail keywords consist of 3 words or less and are broader terms. They’re also known as “head terms” as they’re generally the first thing that comes into your head when thinking about what you want to search for. Short tail keywords are very wide-ranging in nature and can throw out pretty varied results. They have the potential to generate the most traffic to your site but also will be the most competitive. If “party “games” is the keyword you want to rank for, what page of the search engine do you think you’ll appear on? With over 4billion results found, you’ll be in for some tough competition.

2. Middle tail i.e. party games for hire.
Middle Tail Keywords Format Agency SEO

These are 3 or more words that are more specific by nature, as the search term is starting to get narrowed down. The number of results has dropped dramatically to 144m as it has started to filter out more generic sites.

3. Long-tail i.e. party games for hire San Francisco.
Longtail Keywords Format Agency SEO

Long-tail keywords refer to very specific terms that are much more targeted. We’ve gone from over 4bn results to under 6 million, which means less competition. If you have a nationwide party rental service, then ranking for a short-tail keyword like “party rentals” will maximize the volume of searches you appear in, but you’ll be competing against all other party rental services. If, however, you only operate in San Francisco, then it serves little purpose to attract users from the rest of the country. So, while ranking for “party rental San Francisco” will decrease the volume of searches, it will minimize your competition and drive a more targeted audience to your site with a higher conversion rate. Think quality vs quantity.

You’ve selected your keywords, now what?

Search engines will crawl through your website to find out what it’s about and how to rank it. So now that you have your keywords in mind, you will need to communicate them. That brings us to on-page SEO.

On-page SEO

On-page SEO or “on-site” SEO pertains to the things you have direct control over. It’s the elements you can change on your website to optimize your site for SEO. Start by taking a look at the backend of your website.

Title Tag
Title Tag SERP Format Agency SEO
Title Tag Web Browser Format Agency SEO

The title tag appears in two main areas:

  1. The search engine results page as a clickable headline that can be clicked on to get to your site, or shared. Make sure the title tag on each page includes your business name and your keywords and try to keep it to under 50-60 characters – see the example above.
  2. At the top of your web browser as a placeholder so that users can easily identify what each open tab is.
Meta Description

This is a short summary of around 155 characters describing what that specific page is about. Make sure to include your keywords as it’s considered crucial for on-page SEO. To avoid duplicate content, add variations to your meta descriptions on each page. This is best done dynamically (as within a blog using the first portion of a post as the meta description). This is a reason why it is best to have your key terms placed in the title tag or the first paragraph of your content.

Internal Links

It’s important to link to other content on your site (by building internal links, or hyperlinks) so that search engines can learn more about your site. This is where blog content can be very useful. If writing a blog post about, for example, “5 most popular games to rent for a wedding”, you should link back to the product pages for each of those games.

Page content

In this instance, it’s less about quality vs quantity and more about quality AND quantity. A great piece of content can continue to pay out over time as it gets viewed over and over again. So, making sure your content ranks high for the right keywords, will ensure it continues to appear in the search results, long after you’ve published it. This is why SEO will likely pay dividends and huge ROI over the longterm, as opposed to paid ads.

Make sure the content you’re creating is useful. It should add value and be of interest to your readers, and most importantly, it should deliver what it says it’ll deliver. Your content needs to be well-written, and in a tone and style that suit your audience. Use images to break up the text (see Image Name and ALT Tags below for extra tips on that) and include your keywords. *

*Think about what keyword/phrase you want that specific piece of content to rank for, and then include it in your blog post. There are many online research tools you can use to analyze potential keywords to gather data on most searched terms, keyword volume, and competition, etc. Remember, Google’s algorithm loves keywords (to an extent) more than readers do. So, while it’s important from a SEO perspective to include your keywords, you don’t want to put off your reader by overusing it or spoiling the flow of a sentence. The rule of thumb is to use it in the H1 header, in the first paragraph, and then in the body as and when it’s needed. 

If you need help finding ideas for keywords, you can look up your competitors by using keyword analysis tools like SEM Rush, Ahrefs, or others.

Image Name and ALT Tags

It’s really important to break up the copy on your website and blog posts with images – this makes your content more aesthetically pleasing and easier on the eye. Don’t forget to include your keywords in the image name and alt tag to increase your chances of appearing in searches when users perform an image search using your keywords.

Off-page SEO

Whereas on-page SEO impacts what you rank for, off-page SEO is about how high you rank in the search results. The major thing that affects your off-page SEO is how authoritative your site appears to search engines. Do other sites link to your pages? That’s known as link building – the practice of getting other sites to link back to yours via hyperlinks/backlinks. Backlinks are how search engines determine which sites rank for certain keywords.

The more your site is linked to from other sites, the more authoritative sites like Google think your site is which tends to earn you higher rankings. Backlinks are also a great way of expanding your audience reach and driving direct referral traffic

Check out our chart below for some simple, low-cost strategies you can implement to increase the number of sites linking to yours. A simple strategy that can work for you now is to find content that is ranking well in your niche, improve upon those articles (by either updating the content to be more relevant or adding additional information) and reach out to the periodicals or aggregators that host that content. Most of these bloggers and content-runners are content starved and will jump at the chance to post a truly high quality piece of content.

Backlink Link Building Format Agency SEO

This post has covered tips to get you started on the basics of SEO. These are easy to implement and low cost and should help you get started.

If you want to be more comprehensive and detailed about your strategy, including digging into 100+ ranking factors and delivering sustainable and scalable growth, reach out to our team at Format Agency. For a fraction of the cost of hiring an in-house team, we’ll deliver outsized results and huge ROI.

By Michael S

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