Rashida Tayabali is the kind of writer that digital marketers dream about - the kind of person who actually understands SEO.
Here she shares her beginner's guide to understanding the wizardry and witchcraft of Google, and how to make the most of its powerful algorithms.
What is SEO and how does it work?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and it's about attracting and increasing the right type of traffic or people to your website via organic search results.
Google uses a number of factors to decide how relevant your website is to the person who's searching for a specific word or phrase. Search engines use a crawler to find all the information on the web regarding a specific word and then build an index of results that passes through an algorithm to pull out relevant information.
Why do you need to pay attention to it on your website?
Over two trillion Google searches were done in 2018 with 63000 search queries per second. Being visible online means you get found by new people who may not have heard of you, translating into sales.
Do you have to do it on all pages or just the home page?
SEO needs to be done for all the pages, not just the home page, as each page can be optimised for a keyword and related phrases.
What do you need to include?
You need to include your chosen keyword in the URL, header, subheadings with similar phrases and words throughout the content. Page titles and meta descriptions also need to include your keyword.
What are some common mistakes?
1. Ignoring page titles and meta descriptions
2. Keyword stuffing - repeating the same keyword throughout the content that is penalised by Google
3. Not choosing the right keywords - either those with no traffic or those with too much traffic can both prevent you from ranking.
If you get a green light on Yoast, you're doing it right - right?
Yoast is definitely getting more sophisticated but there are other factors to consider, including technical aspects of your website like speed and image sizes. Yoast tracks 'on page'factors only, which is one part of SEO.
What are the most important pieces of information you need to include on your website?
To help get your website found by Google you need to include a site map so Google can crawl your website, tell customers who you are and what you do, contact information (that is easy to find) and a call to action.
URLs need to have the keyword you're targeting, not numbers which is a common mistake. All pages must have one keyword with similar words or phrases your customer is searching for, clickable page titles and meta descriptions.
And what about images? Do you need to tag/title them in a certain way? Does the file size have any impact on SEO?
Images must be uploaded and named using keywords. Avoid using file names like IMG543.jpg. If you're a florist for example, use a name like floralbouquetbrides.jpg to name a photo.
Large images will slow your website down by affecting load speed. Research shows that people will leave a website if it takes longer than three seconds to load. All image file sizes must be reduced before upload. A good plugin to use is Smush.it that reduces images sizes in Wordpress. Shopify websites have their own image size reduction plugin.
SEO is necessary for every business website. It can drive the right traffic to your business, improve the quality of leads you have and expose you to markets, opportunities or niches you may not have thought of. It's also important for the overall user experience.