Search engine optimisation (SEO) is one of the most important steps you need to take to make your business thrive online.  By working on your SEO, you are boosting organic search results for your website and increasing its findability.  SEO allows you to improve your ranking position in Google and you can either do this alone or with the help of SEO specialists.

For both website and business owners, search engine optimisation has become increasingly valuable since the Covid-19 pandemic.  Nowadays, people prefer to buy products and services online, increasing the demand for online services.

And as demand increases, so does competition.

A website optimised for search engines can help you stand out in the growing sea of competitors and even make you an authority in your niche.

In this article, you will learn:

  • What exactly SEO is
  • Why it is so important
  • How it works
  • How you can implement it into your website
  • What you should do if you are overwhelmed with SEO-related tasks

Let’s begin!  But just before we start, this process can be a little tricky and time-consuming.  If you are looking for a quick solution, take a look at our SEO agencies here at Sortlist.

Table of contents

What is Search Engine Optimisation?

Search engine optimisation is the process of improving the overall appearance, structure, content, and performance of your website in order to rank higher in search engines, such as Google and Bing.  It is a comprehensive method, and most website owners find it quite tiring and daunting.  However, it includes the nitty-gritty tasks that can make or break your website.

An optimised website is more likely to make money while you sleep than one that does not.  So, we can confirm that search engine optimisation is definitely worthwhile.  And since it is quite an extensive process, let us break down the definition into four main methods:

On-page SEO

On-page optimisation refers to all search engine efforts made within your website, specifically on each of your web pages.  This includes optimising the content of the pages based on the title tag, meta description, headings, images, internal links, and the overall performance as a website.

Off-page SEO

Off-page optimisation refers to all SEO efforts done outside of your website.  In particular, link building – the process of acquiring “votes” from other relevant websites by linking to your site as a reference.  It also includes guest blogs, PR, social media marketing, e-mail marketing, and other forms of content marketing.

Technical SEO

Technical search engine optimisation refers to the technical efforts made to ensure that your website works properly and provides an excellent user experience to your website visitors and search engines “spiders” or “crawlers”.  This usually involves fixing problems on the back end, developing and speeding up your website, and maintaining an attractive and functional web design.

Local SEO

Local SEO refers to the efforts that enable you to appear on top of local search results, especially in map searches.  This includes setting up a Google My Business account, submitting information to local directories, and collaborating with local and relevant websites.

This is what a local search looks like in Google:

Local directories seo

Why is search engine optimisation important?

Besides the fact that SEO helps you outrank your competitors in search results, it has many other benefits.  It plays a vital role in helping you take your online business to the next level, especially when it comes to getting a steady stream of leads and cash flow.

Here are the four important advantages of search engine optimisation for your business:

Increasing the visibility of the search

As your ranking improves in the search engine results pages (SERPs), your online visibility increases.  Your target audience sees your brand, becomes familiar with your website, reads and shares your content more often.

Increased web traffic

As your search engine visibility increases, so will your web traffic, especially when you create relevant, useful, and user-generated content.

Let’s define the traffic characteristics you would like to acquire when doing SEO:

Organic traffic (traffic that you do not have to pay for, as opposed to advertising)

If you do not want to pay for hefty advertising costs in search engines, SEO is the way to go.

It may not be as quick and easy as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, but SEO pays more dividends than paid advertising in the long run.

This is because promoted pieces of content can only last as long as you pay for them.  On the other hand, highly optimised web pages will last for years without you spending a single cent.

Volume of traffic

This is basically an increase in website traffic – the higher you rank in the search engines the more people will be interested in clicking on your web pages to see what you have to offer.  This is could be for either a product or service or a mere piece of information.

Quality of traffic

This refers to the type of leads or visitors you receive on your website.  Having a lot of organic traffic does not always mean a higher chance of sales.  Don’t forget that you don’t have to target everyone.  Your audience has to be genuinely interested in the products or services you offer.

For example, let’s say you have an e-commerce shop for smart cameras.  Trying to rank for the broad keyword “camera” may bring you a lot of traffic, but fewer conversions. This is because most people will come to your website looking for smart action cameras when you are really selling security cameras.

Here is an example when users type the broad search term “cameras” into Google:

cameras SEO

A broad search term like the example above may be interesting to target if you have an online photo camera shop, but it can be a very challenging keyword to rank for.

Now here is how it looks when a user types in a more specific keyword such as “smart security cameras”.

smart security cameras SEO

This shows that data-driven keyword research – excellent SEO – is crucial when creating content for your website.

Increased conversions or sales

When setting up your website, getting higher search engine rankings and more organic traffic should not be your only main priority.  At the end of the day, what keeps your business going is the cash flow.

So, when you do SEO for your website, you will know you have succeeded when you see a gradual increase in your website rankings, traffic, or leads, as well as in conversions or sales.

Increased ROI

Although SEO is focused on organic “free” traffic, you may want to hire SEO agencies along the way because, as previously mentioned, it is an extensive process.  Having an A-team may be more effective and profitable than doing it on your own.

The last thing you want is an inexperienced in-house team doing more harm than good to your website’s rankings.  By the way, how do you calculate your SEO ROI? I’m glad you asked.

There is a formula for knowing your return on investment when you decide to hire an agency with SEO services.

Here is the simple formula:

(Profit – Investment) / Investment x 100 = ROI

Let’s say you have benefited from your quarterly SEO investment of $10,000.  Here’s how to calculate your ROI:

($50,000 – $10,000) / $10,000 x 100 = 400%

Now we are talking.

With a great SEO team, a 400% ROI from SEO is possible.

How does SEO work?

SEO works in relatively the same way Google, Bing, and other search engines work: they use “spiders” or “crawlers” that roam the internet and collect tons of information from the web.

These crawlers bring the information back to search engines to build an index, which is submitted to an algorithm that matches all data to users’ searches.  This is why when you type your question or ask your voice assistant, you get the right answers 99% of the time.

Now Google alones receives 5 billion queries a day worldwide for the 1.8 billion websites online in March 2021.

How many websites
Taken from Statista

These numbers keep growing every second (this is not an exaggeration; you can look it up).  So this means that in every online business niche, the competition continues to grow.  And the number one method that can help you stand out is search engine optimisation.  Let’s see how the leading search engine worldwide, Google, ranks websites in general.

Common Ranking Factors in Google as a search engine:

Take note that Google has over 200 ranking factors, but we’ll only list the most common ones you can work on, especially if you are just starting to optimise your website.

  • Site security (HTTP vs. HTTPS)
  • Mobile-friendly
  • Structured data
  • Content quality
  • Content length
  • Loading speed
  • Social signals
  • Quality backlinks
  • Domain authority
  • User experience

Now let’s move on to each of these ranking factors by leaning more about search engine optimisation.

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How do you do SEO for a website?

To start off, SEO usually begins with optimising the homepage and other essential webpages.  These may include service pages (for service companies) and category pages to product pages (for product companies).

This is how it goes:

Start with data-drive keyword research.

Data-driven keyword research is the basis of every excellent optimisation.  After all, without targeting keywords, there is no point creating your webpage.

You can start by using free research tools such as the Surfer SEO Chrome extension and Google Keyword Planner.  There is also Ahrefs, a more competitive paid tool.

Pro-tip: When researching keywords to target, it is highly recommended to choose the less competitive search terms (those with a low to medium search difficulty), but with a relatively high search volume.  This way you can rank faster and better for high search volume keywords without too much friction.

Here is an example:

seo

Then you can use that primary keyword to choose the secondary or relevant keywords you want to use throughout your content.

seo

Remember that you need to produce content based on keywords, but be careful with keyword stuffing, as it does more harm than good to your website.

Planning or improving the architecture of your site

Your site structure is one of the crucial elements of your SEO strategy for success-search engines “crawlers” will start indexing your home page down to the bottom of your website.

This is why having a simple and straightforward site architecture is highly recommended on all websites, regardless of niche.  It is also why consulting SEO experts before setting up or publishing your website can be invaluable.

An excellent site structure usually takes a website visitor 3-4 clicks from the homepage or landing page to get where he or she wants to go.  Here is an example of good site architecture for an online shop:

Well done website

And here is a look at a poorly structure site:

Poorly done site

Now, if your website has been around for a long time and you think that restructuring your website architecture will cost you valuable time and backlinks, ask your SEO team of experts about 301 redirects – a permanent redirect process that can pass on up to 99% of backlink power.

Get SSL certificate or TLS

The user experience is central to Google’s service and a secure website helps users protect their sensitive information from the creeping eyes of hackers on the www.  S0, in 2014, Google announced that they would rank secure websites better than those that are not.  A secure website is characterised by a Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS).

It looks like this in the address bar or URL of a website:

Sortlist

When you click on the lock icon, it will show you this:

Sortlist lock

On the other hand, if a website is not secured, it looks like this:

Not secure

Obtaining an SSL certificate, also known as Secure Sockets Layer, can be done in two ways:

  1. Through a Certificate Authority
  2. Via a web host that can incorporate it

Don’t forget that if your website processes online payments, an SSL certificate can be invaluable, especially when convincing your customers that their financial data is safe.

Create high-quality content on a regular basis

Another factor that Google has always had an eye for is high-quality content.  Google always wants to give the best to its users – a good user experience is its core target.

What does high-quality content mean, you ask?

Here are the common features of excellent web content:

Keyword-driven

A keyword-driven content is created in such a way that the target keyword and the relevant search terms are used naturally and spread evenly throughout the content.

Useful, helpful, highly relevant, convincing

Useful, relevant and persuasive content catches users’ attention from the title tag onwards.  It gives them what they need or want (whether it is a quick answer to a question, an in-depth explanation of a topic, or a review of a product or service).

User-intent driven

User-intent-driven content is strategically created based on what the majority of the target market is looking for – this can be determined by researching the questions your target audience is asking.

You can use tools like Answer the Public:

Answer the Public

Or use Google’s People Also Ask section:

People Also Ask

Or use the SEO search results of the world’s leading search engine – by studying the top organic search results on the search engines, you will know the general user intent of your target audience.

Typically, a user’s search intent is divided into four categories:

  • Informative (when a user wants to know more about the subject)
  • Transactional (when a user intends to search for a product or service)
  • Navigational (when a user wants to search for a specific brand, location or website)
  • Research (when a user intends to compare services, brand or products)

Using Schedule Layout

This refers to the format used to mark up the information on a web page, also known as Schema.  This helps search engines, such as Google and Bing, to better understand your page.

Therefore, if you have structured data on your page, Google can index and rank your web page better.  Thus, you have a better chance of ranking with that coveted rich snippet.

A rich snippet looks like this:

Rich Snippet SEO

Backlinks serve as “voices” on the web – when a website links to your site, it is like telling the search engines that your web pages offer value and that your site is a reliable source of information.  However, not all backlinks are good.  Some links you may have to reject or deny, but that’s a story for another article.

Now, quality backlinks come from websites that are relevant to your site, that have a good reputation, and a higher domain authority.  Often, when a site that has a higher domain authority than your website, links to your website, the quality of the backlink is even more valuable.  So how do I get such high-quality backlinks?  I’m glad you asked.

Getting multiple websites to link back to you may seem like a gamble, but it is doable.  No matter how long it takes.  The first thing you can do is create optimised, ultra-useful, highly relevant and evergreen pieces of content that talk about popular or expert issues in your niche.

Once those pieces of content start to rank, more and more people will read and share them; similar bloggers and website owners will then link to your site as a source.  In addition to regularly publishing quality content, you can increase your reach by spending time on guest posts, producing articles for press release partners, and continuously promoting your pieces of content via content marketing on email, social media, and online forums.

Strive for an attractive and intuitive web design

A beautiful, but functional web design promotes a good user experience.  So don’t just make sure your site is built with strategic website architecture, but almost make sure it looks nice and easy to use.

Make sure your website is mobile responsive

Mobile-friendliness refers to the performance of your website when used on mobile devices instead of a desktop computer.  Mobile devices include tablets and smartphones.

This means that your site should have different web designs when accessed from different devices, without losing its attractive look and intuitive features.  You can check the mobile responsiveness of your site by using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.  Take note that the reason Google made mobile responsiveness one of the ranking factors is that it significantly affects the user experience.  Moreover, more than half of Google’s global searches come from mobile devices.

Make sure your site loads quickly

Did you know that 47% of your regular website customers expect your site to load in 2 seconds or less?

And 53% of them will leave your site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load!

This shows that site speed is incredibly important for the user experience and especially for the conversion rate of your website.

Even Amazon, perhaps the largest e-commerce site in the world, found that they lose more than $1.6 billion a year for 1 second of slow speed.  Indeed, these are largely and painfully disproportionate numbers.

Anyway, you can check and improve the speed of your site by using Google’s free tool PageSpeed Insights.

The best thing about this tool is that it also shows SEO recommendations on how to improve your site’s load speed using the leading search engine and SEO master itself, Google.

Pagespeed insights

Perform a regular audit on your website

Any excellent SEO strategy should come with tracking KPIs and other performance measures to see how far you have come and how much you have to go.

SEO requires regular monitoring of ranking, organic search traffic, website engagement, conversions, and sales.  You can do all of this using Google’s advanced tools, such as the following:

In addition, these tools also provide SEO advice or recommendations on how to improve your search engine optimisation strategy and efforts to achieve more desirable search results from Google.

What to do if you have no time for SEO, or if you find search engine optimisation overwhelming.

If you do not have time to learn SEO from scratch to become a search engine optimiser yourself, do not hesitate to learn from the SEO experts – they have invaluable SEO advice.

Now, if you simply do not have the time and energy to do the tough tasks that search engine optimisation requires, you can always find an SEO agency or a Digital Marketing agency to do the hard work for you.

At Sortlist, you can find the best agency for your business from a verified list of agencies that meet your business needs and requirements.  The platform is 100% free!