A Beginner’s Guide to SEO in 2023
SEO has become such an increasingly hot topic over the last couple of years. Even though the first recorded moment the term was used was sometime in 1997, SEO gained more popularity over the years when businesses and marketing professionals learned that it’s one of the best ways to market online.
Being such a broad concept, SEO can be really intimidating at first. Its many layers of topics can make newbies and even seasoned specialists feel overwhelmed. If you’re still wondering about what SEO is and why it is important, here’s something that we hope will help you understand it better.
What is SEO?
SEO, which stands for Search Engine Optimisation, is the practice of employing techniques for a website to gain higher rankings on search engines. This involves “organic” rankings, meaning you didn’t use paid ads. To explain further, SEO is when you create content that Google identifies as something that’s good and valuable, ranking it higher on search results. When done right and consistently, the content may even end up on the first page.
Types of SEO
On-page SEO, which is also called On-site SEO, is the task of optimising the parts of your website (such as web pages) so search engines can pick them up and rank them higher. It’s quite complex (but it’s nothing a good reading and understanding can’t solve!), with its many essential parts which includes:
- Site content
- Title tags
- Meta Descriptions
- Internal linking
- External linking
- Images with accessibility text
- Page Speed
On-page SEO is important because it’s what search engines look into when matching the user’s search intent. And when your web pages cater to the searcher’s needs, it’ll appear on search pages. Getting a good On-page SEO strategy in place sets the tone for an overall SEO strategy.
This is where the importance of creating good-quality, valuable content that puts people first, comes in place.
Off-page SEO, on the other hand, are the series of actions you take outside of the website to help improve its rankings. Done within Search Engines Results Pages (SERPs), these involve improving the site’s popularity among search engines and user perceptions. Not only is Off-page SEO touching on the popularity factor, it also aims to improve authority, reliability and relevance.
To put it briefly, off-page SEO is done through creating links. One of Google’s important ranking factors is links. Links signify the three pillars of SEO, which is EAT - expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness.
What are links?
Links are HTML hyperlinks pointing a website to another. They’re like votes of confidence that help build up a guarantee that a website delivers value and is worth a click into.
To explore further, links can come in forms of either inbound links or internal links. Inbound links are your backlinks or external links. Say you’re a food blogger that loves a certain produce brand. Since you have so much confidence in this brand, you mention them in your blogs and include a link leading to the product brand’s homepage, enabling your readers to find out more about the website. Linking that homepage to the act of creating an inbound link.
Internal links on the other hand, are the links that you create to connect the contents within your website. For example, you’re writing a piece for your blog on making the perfect barbecue. In that blog post, you link your very own recipe for a homemade barbecue sauce as part of the ingredients. You then proceed to link your other blog posts of dishes that you believe will go well as side dishes to this barbecue.
Other ways to do Off-site SEO
Although link building is the concept that comes to mind the most when it comes to off-site SEO, there are other ways that are considered as off-site SEO practices. These activities serve the same purpose: to improve your website’s rankings outside the website.
Here are other practices that can help in off-site SEO:
- Guest blogging
- Social media marketing
- Influencer marketing
Technical SEO is related to not only optimising your website for humans, but also for the search engine spiders that are crawling into your website to index it effectively.
It will need inputs from web developers working hand in hand with you in building your website. It’s important to atleast have a grasp of the technical assets so you and your team can be on the same page as you all work through optimising the website for search engines.
These are some of the things you need to keep in mind in technical SEO:
- Site speed
- Canonical URLs
- Schema Markup
- UX (User Experience)
Now that we’ve talked about the different types of SEO, it’s time to learn about hats and their colours! You may wonder what we mean, hats are the symbolic term used in describing SEO Methods. These terms are pretty much adapted in different industries to describe what is a good practice versus the bad ones.
By learning what these are, you learn what are the best practices that you should employ, what you shouldn’t and what are acceptable but must be done carefully.
White hat SEO are the “good and clean” practices that specialists employ to improve the website’s rankings. It’s when you follow the guidelines to a T and avoid anything that can make your website get flagged for the wrong reasons. These are acceptable tactics that will help your website become more noticeable by Google and other search engines.
Common white hat practices are:
- Creating relevant content
- Images that are well-labelled and accessible
- Well-constructed sentences in copies and blogs
- High-quality HTMLs
- Relevant page titles
We’re a fun loving bunch, but when it comes to SEO, we like to play by the rules. When we design and optimise websites, we ensure best practices are observed and that we’ll only wear this hat.
Black hat SEO on the other hand, is when you employ techniques that could potentially harm your website. These practices are frowned upon by search engines, and doing them will potentially ban a website from search engines for good.
Here are some black hat practices that you need to be mindful of:
- Duplicate content
- Link farming
- Invisible text
- Comment spamming
- Redirection to irrelevant links
As its name implies, grey hat SEO are practices that are within the blurred lines of white and black hat tactics. These are practices that fall in the middle, with the goal of getting the website ahead in rankings. But. they could be potentially destructive in the future because it doesn’t disclose the flaws in the practice.
Some grey hat tactics include:
- Low-quality content
- Link buying
- Domain grabbing
- SEO squatting
The point of knowing the differences between these methods is for SEO practitioners to know what are the things they need to be careful with especially as they are working on client’s websites.
Why is SEO Important?
So we’ve already talked about what SEO is, its concepts and methods. But you’re still wondering as to what is the entire point of learning about this. To put it simply, optimising your website for search engines brings it up to higher rankings. In SEO, higher rankings mean more visibility. And when you have more visibility, it opens the doors to growth in your biz.
There’s an inside joke within the industry that says some of the best hiding places ever are page two and beyond on search engines. With all the hard work and strategising you’ve put into building your business’ website, it’s imperative that you endeavour to increase its rankings among the many websites within the same industry as yours that you’re up against.
A proper SEO strategy brings forth these other benefits:
Increase in sales and following. A great SEO strategy will ultimately help you see a boost in your performance metrics. When potential customers see your website easily, it makes your offerings more accessible to them thereby leading to more sales. If your goal is to increase your following, you can also see more people seeing you as someone who they can trust for credible sources of information.
More reach towards the people. While your goal in performing SEO is to reach your target audience, it also helps your website reach people in general as long as they have the intent. Say they may not be needing what you have to offer yet, but if in the future, the need arises, they will circle back to your website because they previously found something valuable in what you have to offer.
It makes you credible. Search engines feature websites at the top when they determine that they provide value, are well-made and follow the search engine guidelines. When Google or Bing brings you to the top of search pages, it’s a reflection of your website’s dedication to providing a solution and value to anyone who needs it.
You can rank better in local searches. With 97% of consumers going online to find local businesses to cater to their needs, your website can gain a boost through local SEO. People searching for local businesses are often ready to make a purchase, so if your website appears as a top recommendation from the search engines, this can highly translate to a sale or following.
It helps in user experience. As you design your website to be easily crawled into and indexed by search engines, you also make the experience of visiting your website more enjoyable to the visitors. Imagine having visual impairments and using a website that thoughtfully caters to your needs. Doesn’t it just feel more inclusive when a website provides the right queues so you can drive to the ultimate point of your visit on the website?
SEO is a multifaceted discipline that’s becoming increasingly important in marketing. While the practice seems very complex from a beginner’s standpoint, making investments in terms of time will definitely let you reap the rewards of ranking higher on search engines. It’s important to note that search engines are fallible too, so experts and aspiring practitioners need to remember to supply these robots with the right things in order to be found.
Another thing we need to remember is it’s a practice that requires patience, because you won’t see the results overnight. Successful strategies take months to even years before they bear fruit. But nevertheless, good knowledge on SEO’s best practices will really give your website an edge among your competitors. That’s why investing in SEO Management is worth every hard-earned penny.
Has this piqued your curiosity on how SEO can benefit your biz? Talk to us, we'd love to tell you more about it!