Beginners guide to SEO - 5 things you can do to boost your SEO.

A Beginners Guide to SEO by Johanne Jefferson, Digital Marketing Consultant at Ivyhill Digital

SEO can be overwhelming, especially with all the jargon! This beginner’s guide will give a bit of background and share 5 easy steps you can take to make a head start on your SEO and help get your website seen by more people.
 

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation.  It is the things you need to do to be more visible in search engine results.
 
There are many different elements of SEO. Some are easy to do yourself, some you might need a web developer to help with and sometimes you’ll need to work with a specialist agency, especially if you are in a highly competitive or niche your market.
 
This blog will focus on 5 easy things that you can do yourself.  All you need is editor access on your website.
 

1) Get set up on Google My Business

Have you claimed your Google my Business account?  This is basically free advertising on Google.  When someone searches for your business, your panel appears on the search results page.  This is your chance to show opening hours, contact details, special offers and more.
 
Just search for Google My Business and follow the steps.  Once you have that set up, you can also do the same for Bing Places for Business.  It will even copy everything over from Google My Business so you only have to enter the information once.
 
Doing this is an easy win and worth doing even if you don’t have a website yet.  Make sure to add posts regularly - you can share images and content that you have created for social media, so it won’t be much extra work.
 
A-screenshot-of-the-Google-Search-results-for-Women-in-Business,-highlighting-the-Google-My-Business-Panel.png
 

2) Meta Titles, Meta Descriptions and Header Tags

Now we are getting into some SEO jargon! Meta Titles, Descriptions and Header Tags help search engines to know what your webpage is about and the most important content on the page.
A-screenshot-of-a-search-listing-for-Our-Secret-Boutique,-showing-what-a-meta-title-and-description-is-along-with-the-recommended-character-length-of-each.png

Meta Titles and Descriptions

Your meta title and description need to have your keywords in them, the words that describe your product or service, and the words people are likely to be looking for.
 
If your website traffic mostly comes from Desktop (most likely in a B2B setting) then you want your meta description to be around 160 characters.  For mostly mobile web traffic, you can get slightly more in there with 180 – 200 characters.  For meta titles, around 60 characters is good.  It is common to use | separators in meta titles to help make the information more readable. Forget about the navigation names for your website like, home, about.  People don’t search for homepages.
 
A-screenshot-of-the-search-result-listing-for-A-Bigger-Life,-an-online-community-for-ostomates.png
 
Meta titles and descriptions need to be set up for each page on your website, including the product pages.  A quick search on YouTube should provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to do this for whatever website builder/CMS you use.
 

Header Tags

Header Tags are built into the website code and they tell search engines what the most important information is on each page.  Ranking from H1- H6, H1 is the most important and is generally only used once per page.  It is reserved for the main heading/title.  H2 is used for subtitles and so on.
 
As with the meta titles and descriptions, it is important to use your keywords in the headers on your page. If you are using quirky titles to catch attention rather than describe the content on the page, you need to really consider where is best to use your H1 and H2 tags. 
 
Here’s an example of how header tags are used on a homepage:
A-screenshot-taken-from-META-SEO-inspector-of-the-Ivyhill-Digital-website-showing-the-header-tags-used-on-the-homepage-of-the-site.png
 

3) Keywords and Blogs

If you don’t already have a list of keywords for your business, make that your next marketing task.  Once you have the list, take a look at your website and see if your content matches the list of keywords.  Are they used across the site, is there consistency, are they in the titles and paragraphs?
 
Word of warning: don’t stuff your content with keywords.  It might have worked as a tactic 15+ years ago but not anymore.  Keyword stuffing makes the content boring and difficult to read for humans, and the search engine robots see right through it. 
 
Pages with little text and lots of visuals look really good.  But unless you are an established brand, it will make your website much harder to list on page 1 of search results.
 
There is no magic number for how many words should be on a webpage.  The key thing is to make sure that the message you want to share comes across.  Every business and sector will be different, so put yourself in the shoes of your users and think about what they would want to know and make sure you cover that on the page using your keywords.
 
Can you be more prescriptive e.g.
‘We offer cleaning services for homes and businesses’ is good, it describes what you do.
 
But, even better would be:
‘We offer cleaning services for homes and businesses in the Greater Belfast area (BT1-20). Whether you need your hair salon, large office, corner shop or house cleaned, we can help.’
 
This is using what is called ‘longtail keywords.’  Longtail keywords are really good for catching those more specific searches like ‘cleaning company for my hair salon,’ which we all resort to when our initial search for ‘cleaning company’ gives too many results and we need to narrow it down.
 

Blogs

Blogs are an excellent way to use keywords without making your core content pages crammed with text.  Every website should have a blog- it is an under-utilised tool for SEO and can really help improve your search rankings by writing blogs on all kinds of related content.  Taking the cleaning example from before- you could have a blog about cleaning offices, one for cleaning hair and beauty salons, one for cleaning in Belfast etc.
 
Brucey Bonus: You can use snippets from your blogs for social media content, potentially providing months of content.
 

4) Images

This is a short one.  Two important things about images: always compress images before uploading them to your website.  This helps to keep the page load speed and site size low which are both important when it comes to SEO.
 
The second point is to add Alt Text or Alt Descriptions for your images. This is very helpful from an accessibility point for users who rely on a screen reader, but it also improves your SEO.
 
Imagine you are an artist and have an image on your website of you painting.  If you label that with Alt Text like Artist Jim Bleu standing at an easel holding a paintbrush and palette.  He is painting a boat from still life.
 
Look how many keywords you got in there!  Now that image could appear in image search results for Jim Bleu, painting at an easel, boat painting etc.
 
 

5) Links

Getting backlinks to your website from other websites with good authority is SEO gold dust. Any links are good, but to really improve your domain authority, getting a link from established newspapers, BBC, Government or academic sites to your site will need to be your aim and will tie in with your PR work.  If this is an area you want to focus on, take a look at this Definitive Guide to Linkbuilding in 2021.

Internal page linking is also good for SEO – including links to other pages within your site – for example linking to a blog article on a similar topic, linking to the contact page from your homepage, or the meet the team page from the about us page.
 
Always link out to your social media pages.
 
Top Tip: Links should be easy to read by humans and crawl bots.  Phrases like ‘click here’ don’t say much so try to use phrases like ‘Read this blog on how to improve your SEO.’
 

And finally

Changes to your SEO can take a while to take effect.  It’s not the kind of thing you do once and forget about, you do need to keep it on your radar and keep working on it.
 
If you would like to find out more steps you can take to improve your SEO, read this Introduction to SEO, which includes the opportunity to claim a free SEO check from Ivyhill Digital.