How to make sure you get the online exposure that you deserve

Whether you’re just starting a new business, or if you’re already established, and well up to speed on internet marketing, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), can be overwhelming. Everyone seems to be giving new advice every week, and there are more and more factors to take into account all the time.

It makes sense to ask, with all that white noise, which SEO techniques can you rely on to stay effective? If you are asking that (and we hope you are), then read on, because this list of the 10 Essential SEO tips is exactly what you need.

1. Write for the audience, not for the algorithm

This one probably sounds like a strange one to start off with, immediately after introducing the importance of knowing how to write for Google – but it’s important to go into this with the right mindset.

While SEO is all about getting the algorithm to take notice of you, the end goal is to connect with the humans who are eventually going to be reading your content. That means, if you write a blog post that reads:

‘Hello Google, I am a Keyword using human being who loves to Keyword Keyword Keyword all my Keyword days because I love to Keyword Keyword Keyword more than anyone else who has ever Keyworded.

…then people are likely to be turned off by your content and go looking elsewhere (to your competitor!) instead. This is bad news for you, not only because you’ve just turned off a potential customer, but also because the Google algorithm takes notice when readers are pogo-sticking your content and is likely to knock you down their SERPs as a result!

This kind of bad-faith thinking also risks you getting caught out by new algorithm updates, which are trained to be smarter and smarter, and catch attempts to gain the system.

Keyword stuffing is just one form of black-hat SEO that we tell our readers to stay well away from! Not only will your content sound extremely ridiculous, but it’s actually harmful to your overall SEO!

2. Publish new and unique content

Consistently producing original content can be a big ask, especially if you’re a small company without the manpower to have someone regularly writing new articles and copy. However, new and unique content for SEO is so important that Google basically recommends it twice in their SEO guidelines, warning website owners to Keep your site up to date and to Be topical.

New pages and new posts let Google know that you’re still active, and when people are searching, they’re more likely to go for the recently posted results than the older ones. But remember, it’s all about quality, not quantity! If you start churning out tons of poor content, just to look active, users are most likely going to jump off your page and this will increase your bounce rate!

If you want to benefit from the extremely hard work it takes to consistently keep your content up to date, you need to make sure you’re staying in touch with what’s happening in your industry, and produce content which effectively covers it so that your readers will be drawn in.

3. Use your images and videos carefully

Images have been an important part of SEO for a few years now, but with the new Multitask Unified Model (MUM) search algorithm, Google is doubling down.

They’re expanding the power of the search tool to decipher the content of your media, so if you’re able to integrate relevant pictures and videos, Google will send more traffic your way. It’s also useful for keeping your pages visually interesting – we’re always thinking of designing our posts in such a way that people want to read them, after all.

Remember to also include an alt description with each of your images. Not only is this a requirement with the W3C, but if you include keywords in your images too, this is another way to help improve your SEO!

4. Link to trustworthy sites

Backlinking has been around since the very start of Google, and it’s not going away anytime soon. There are two halves to this process, and the first one is consistently linking from your site to other relevant, and useful posts on the web.

To be honest, this is just good writing practice in general. It lets readers know that you’ve done your research and provides them with the direction that they need to look into individual points in more detail.

But, only link to relevant and trustworthy sources that will help your reader’s experience when reading your content. Otherwise, you just look a bit silly to them too… consistently trying to get them to leave your website!

5. …and do what you can to get them to link back (Backlink!) to you!

This is the second part of backlinking – and it’s also the difficult bit.

Those outbound links that you’ve added to your page will help your SEO in invisible ways, by letting Google know more about where your business sits in relation to other companies, but the real benefit is in the connections they buy you.

When you’ve linked out to a website or blog, you can notify them, and if they like your content, then they may start linking back to your posts in future. Google takes a lot of notice of this, and as you get more people referring back to you, you’ll see your SEO rankings going up and up.

However, doing this properly is extremely time-consuming and actually quite difficult. You want quality backlinks to your website and when you reach out to companies with those kinds of websites, you often don’t get a reply!

This is why another classic black-hat SEO technique is to just spam your site with backlinks to completely irrelevant websites.

Remember, Google is smart – and getting smarter all the time!

6. Meta titles and Meta descriptions

Meta titles and meta descriptions should be your bread and butter as an SEO conscious business owner. They’re what come up on Google’s results page when someone makes a search that brings up your website – so nine times out of ten, they’re what will determine whether a potential customer chooses you, or a competitor.

The meta title is the blue link that describes what’s on the page, that people will then click on to enter. This doesn’t need to be exactly the same title that you actually use for the post, but if there’s too much of a difference, people might feel cheated.

There isn’t a hard and fast rule for how long these have to be, but if you write one that’s longer than 50-60 characters, it’s likely to be cut off when it’s displayed on SERPs, which isn’t a good look. That can be difficult, though, when you also want to be careful to get in the best keywords – without looking like you’re keyword stuffing.

Meta descriptions help with this a bit. These are the short lines of text that you’ll see underneath the meta title, and which add a little more detail to what you get from the main link. These can be up to about four lines, or around 400 characters, in length, which gives you a lot more space to organically introduce the kind of carefully targeted language that will bring in your readers.

You probably don’t want to be using the entirety of this space, though. It’s better to keep the summary short and to the point, so anyone quickly scrolling through will be able to easily skim the details. Remember, you also don’t want to give them so much information that they don’t need to open your page!

7. Use Data Analytics to monitor your site

It’s a useful step to invest in web analytics tools to keep track of your progress, and to help you understand what you’re doing wrong. If you’d rather not spend the money, though, Google Analytics is a free option, and can give you a window into how you can improve.

If you’re not familiar with SEO, the data that these tools provide can often be daunting – which is why companies are happy to hire specialists. If that’s not an option for you, though, be prepared to learn by trial and error.

Keep an eye on the traffic to your pages, and try to keep track of any fluctuations, so you can identify what’s working and what isn’t. If any pages are underperforming, then try tweaking them, and from the results, you can begin building your own theories of what the winning strategies are.

There’s a lot more to it than that – but that just shows how powerful these tools are, and how much information they can give you about the strengths and weaknesses of your site. As you learn more about how to use them, you’ll get better and better at identifying good SEO practices – which will make it easier to put out the best content that you can to start with!

8. Structure your Permalinks

Permalinks are the savvy name for a website URL – that string of words, slashes, and dashes that you’ll see in the search bar at the top of the Google window. They’re called permalinks because they’re permanent links, and can’t be tweaked later, which makes them very important for your SEO.

Though you may not think about it, finding the ideal permalink structure is a crucial part of enticing in readers. It’s listed on the SERP, right between the meta title and meta description, so how your permalink looks is something most viewers will consider before deciding whether or not your site looks trustworthy.

That means if you go with a permalink that’s cluttered, or just an autogenerated string of numbers, readers are likely to judge your site poorly no matter what else you offer. To avoid this, you’ll need to craft yet another taster for your content, which is both accurate and succinct.

There’s more to this, though, than just writing another short title. Every page on your website needs its own, unique permalink, so even before your site goes up, you should be thinking about what system you can use to structure these.

Essentially, you want to find a system that you can use consistently, that allows each permalink to include the domain, the slug, and then your article title. How exactly you do this is up to you, but it has to make sense to casual readers trying to navigate their way around your site.

9. Keeping your site speedy

Keeping your site slick and speedy is essential. You might have the best-written content out there, but if your website is hostile, or even just a little inconvenient, to your visitors, then you’ll find nobody wants to stick around.

Surprisingly, the big consideration for this is making sure that your website is fast loading. Even just waiting an extra second can be a big turn-off for many readers, so ensuring that you’re doing whatever you can to keep those loading times down is essential.

If this is something you’re having trouble with, you should consider taking steps to remove clutter from your site, or simplifying its design. This might be a hard step to take, if you’ve just finished getting the look just right, but it is a necessary one.

10. Stay up to date on how search engines are changing

This is what makes SEO so darn tricky. What Google’s algorithm is looking for is constantly changing – sometimes with big, dramatic shifts in the whole functionality of the search engine, or new SERP features, but also, often, with small tweaks which the company is frustratingly silent about.

It’s a lot to deal with if you’re also trying to run a successful business. Constantly checking up for new and upcoming changes can be a big stress – particularly since effectively adapting to these can then be a matter of trial and error.

It’s tricky, and time consuming, and if you don’t see results, then it can also be very frustrating. Good thing there are experts out there, who specialise in consistently staying ahead of the game!

Finishing Up

SEO is a fearsome beast – and while there’s never going to be a single, silver bullet answer, there are ways to manage it. If you’re running a small business, the prospect of gradually moving up through the rankings is not an impossible one, so long as you’re willing and able to put in all the work demanded.

If that is the approach you’re intending, then be prepared to do plenty of research to make sure that you hit the ground running. We’ve linked to plenty of other blogs here, many of whom have a lot more useful information that you can rely on to get yourself oriented. We’ll also be uploading plenty of help ourselves over the next few weeks, so keep coming back to stay updated with all the best tips and advice!