What does SEO mean?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. SEO is about making changes to your website to help search engines understand the subject of the content on your web pages. By understanding what your pages are about, search engines can help the right people find your content.
If you’re new to the concept of SEO, it can appear daunting and confusing, so let’s start with some basics covering why we optimise, some key principles (the basic do’s and don’ts) and then some key terminology you’ll see used when learning more about SEO.
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So, why should you optimise for search engines?
Search engine optimisation (SEO) drives organic search traffic for your site. According to Moz.com, SEO provides approximately 20 times more traffic opportunity than Pay-Per-Click (PPC). Appearing highly in organic search results makes you appear credible to search engine users; this can lead to increased click through to your site and is one reason why organic search traffic has a longer life than social or paid traffic.
If you can provide search engines with a quality piece of content worthy of ranking highly for the right keywords, your traffic to that content can snowball over time. In contrast, with advertising such as PPC, you need continuously pay to send traffic to your site, and when you stop paying, the traffic stops too.
By optimising your site, you are helping provide search engines with a better understanding of your content so that it can be indexed correctly and displayed in search results.
SEO for Beginners: The Key Principles
Both Google and Bing provide some best practices and things to avoid, they are summarised below; these lists are a great place to start if you’re an SEO beginner just starting your search engine optimisation:
SEO Best Practices
- Create high-quality content. It should be unique, clear, informative and engaging content that provides value to the reader/viewer/listener.
- Use clear and relevant page titles.
- Share your content on social networks; social shares are positive signals of good content.
- Page speed is important; use a tool such as Google’s PageSpeed Insights to check that your site is speedy enough and doesn’t leave your visitors to endure long page loading times.
- Use clear, concise URLs that include relevant keywords.
Things to avoid
- Automatically generated content.
- Keyword stuffing.
- Duplicate content.
- Cloaking — the practice of showing search engine crawlers different content than visitors.
- Link schemes such as buying links to inflate your number of inbound links.
For more SEO best practices, see SEO Starter Guide: The Basics by Google
Using WordPress? Looking for a SEO plugin?
There are some fantastic SEO plugins for WordPress; I use Rank Math and highly recommend it to any WordPress users, especially if you’re a complete beginner venturing into the world of SEO. Check out my 13 reasons to give Rank Math a try.
Glossary of Key SEO Terms
SEO: Search Engine Optimisation: the process of making your site better for search engines. Sometimes the job title of a professional who optimises websites for a living (Search Engine Optimiser).
Indexing: Search Engines such as Google store all the web pages it knows about in an index. Indexing is the process of Google fetching a page, reading it and adding it to the index.
Crawl: This is the process search engines use to discover URLs. It does this in several ways, but most commonly by following links on pages and reading sitemaps. When a search engine crawler finds new pages, it indexes them.
Googlebot: The generic name for Google’s crawler that crawls pages to add them to its index.
Ranking: When a user performs a search, the search engine checks its index for relevant content and then provides the user’s results in the order it feels is most relevant to least relevant. This ordering of the search results is known as ranking. If you are at the top of the results, then the search engine believes you have the most relevant content for the user’s search query.
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