What is search engine optimisation - SEO?


what is search engine optimisation (SEO)?

SEO stands for search engine optimisation and is the optimisation of your website’s content designed to increase your organic ranking in search engine results and subsequently, the amount of traffic to your website.

There are generally two types of search engine optimisation (SEO).  These are “onsite” and “offsite” which are also referred to as “on page” and “off page”.

What is onsite SEO?

Onsite SEO is the work you do directly on your own website including your content and the maintenance of the technical components of your site. It’s an extremely important component of your website and should be given high priority at all times.

Websites with no onsite SEO will not perform as well as those that paid attention to their onsite SEO.

What needs to be considered when applying onsite SEO to your site?

Quality - your content needs to be of a quality that satisfies search engines and your potential site visitors.

Make sure your written content is accurate, informative, relevant, thorough, regular and authoritative.

  • Accurate – should require no explanation
  • Informative – are you sharing something that searchers need or want to know?
  • Relevant – there’s no point sharing content about “furniture for sale” or linking to furniture sites if your site is a law firm. Make your content relevant to what you do.
  • Thorough – although many articles say your blog should be 1,000 or 1,500 words long, it’s more about your article being as long as it needs to be so long as it includes all the information the searcher is looking for OR includes links to all the information the searcher is looking for.
  • Regular – once you’ve built your website, you need to add to it regularly, in a substantive way. A blog page within your site is the perfect option to provide regular content. You cannot simply change a few words or paragraphs around here and there. Regular and substantive means, for example, an entirely new page (like a blog article) at least once a fortnight, if not more often.
  • Authoritative – don’t write about something you know nothing about. Provide relevant links to qualify your statements wherever possible.

Keyword research is imperative when considering the SEO of your site. You need to consider:

  • Who your audience is
  • What your audience is seeking answers to
  • How your audience is searching – what words and phrases are they using

Simple forms of keyword research revolve around listening to your current clients – how they speak, what questions they’re asking and what topics their questions are about.

More complex keyword research involves special keyword research software like SEMRush for example. You should also be regularly checking into your own site’s “webmaster tools”; a Google product which provides data on your own site and its visitors.

Rich Media – you should be sharing more than written content. Search engines love rich media. Your site visitors will also love a high level of rich media on your site.

Rich media refers to things like images, video, infographics, animations etc.

Google indexing components – Google has a lot of components to look at on your site to determine how it will display you in its search results. Aside from providing quality content together with your rich media components, there are a few more things you can do yourself like:

  • Title – the title of your page can appear in two places; the heading to the page or article and/or the tab at the top of the browser. Make sure your title is clear and concise and describes the intent of the searcher
  • HTML Title Tag – when you run a search in Google, the search engine will display a number of results. Each result will have a large heading (usually in blue). This is the HTML title tag which can be set by you (in your CMS) and provides Google with clear instructions on what your article is about. Your HTML title tag should be between 50-60 characters long to ensure Google displays the entire title.
  • META Description – this is the smaller text displayed under your HTML title tag. It provides a more extended description for searchers to make a final determination on whether to click through to your site. Here you can clarify the content on the page and provide more detail to the searcher. META descriptions should be between 200-300 characters in length (this was recently increased by Google, having previously been a maximum of about 160 characters).
  • Alt image text – when you use images on your site, ensure you give them a “written explanation”. This does not appear to the reader but is set in your CMS in a way that Google can read what the image is about. Often, it can be as simple as your page title.

Technical health of your site – there are hundreds of platforms you can host your site on and an innumerable number of service providers that can set your site up for you and maintain it.

Choosing the right service provider to build and maintain your website is tricky.

It’s not simply a matter of choosing “cheap and cheerful” simply to get your name onto the internet.

The technical health of your site (in the initial build and ongoing maintenance) is paramount to your online success so when choosing a website developer, consider the following:

  • Do they have a thorough understanding of SEO?
  • What platform do they build their sites on? (then research that platform’s pros and cons)
  • Ensure they have examples of their work to show you. Is it more about look and feel (bells and whistles) rather than user experience? User experience (speed, ease of navigation, use of engaging rich media, search options etc) can be the “make or break” of your success after visitors arrive on your site
  • Is the platform they use “open source”? For most small-medium businesses, you want an open source platform so, if you’re not satisfied with the provider, you can simply pick up your website and take it elsewhere
  • Use some of the free tools available to check the technical health of the websites they maintain. For example, you could use Screaming Frog to check some of the basics like 404 errors (page not found), crawl errors, SEO elements and the like.

What is offsite SEO?

Simple answer – inbound link building is the most prominent of offsite SEO techniques.

The more credible links you have coming into your site, the more Google applies authority to your site. If you think about it, if websites are willing to refer to your site, they’ve made a judgement that you’ve got content worth referring to.

When we refer to “credible” links, be sure that sites linking to you are linking for credible reasons. For example, you don’t want that furniture sales site we referred to earlier, linking to your law firm’s blog article, “If we separate, who gets the furniture?”

Most importantly, do NOT be tempted to buy links to your site. You may be tempted by “1,000 links for $20.00”. To be perfectly blunt, this can end your online presence.

Make no mistake though; link building requires a lot of effort and ongoing commitment.

You need to secure your site’s authority and trustworthiness and then go about getting other sites to recognise this. It’s neither an easy, nor quick process.

You can achieve backlinks through:

  • Guest bloggers linking to your site
  • Getting your clients to link to your site
  • Adding your details to relevant online directories
  • Getting traction in the media; articles referencing your firm or press releases

Other types of offsite SEO include use of social media channels (your own and other individuals or companies) and influencer marketing.

As you can see, there’s a lot more to SEO (onsite and offsite) than meets the eye.

But make no mistake, your online presence will not exist or thrive, without SEO. If you haven’t paid attention to the SEO of your site yet, there’s no time like the presence. The faster you bring it into the practice, the faster your digital footprint will grow.

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