An In-Depth, Simple and Easy Guide To SEO

An In-Depth, Simple and Easy Guide To SEO
What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation which basically means tailoring and tweaking your website content and design to suit a Search Engine’s (Google) criteria and guidelines of what makes a good site. SEO also means working on things like your Social Media Accounts and building Back Links amongst other things. The ultimate goal is to come up on the first page of Google so that your site is visible to more people and ultimately more people click on your link, driving more traffic to your website.

Onsite SEO:

Onsite SEO means procedures you carry out on your website. This is pretty straightforward and refers to your use of Keywords. What is a keyword? Well a keyword is a word or phrase that you want to be found by. For example if you are writing an article about say Makeup Revolution Lipstick in Adorn, you’d want people searching on Google for that particular product to click on your link and read your content so your keyword might be “Makeup Revolution Lipstick in Adorn” You then want to put that keyword in certain areas of your page but do be careful when it comes to using and placing your keyword. Repeating your keyword over and over is not a good idea as it is against Google’s guidelines and can make you appear as a spammer. Ideally here is where you want to write your keyword:

  • Headline/Title
  • URL
  • Content (Once or twice is fine, try not to be too repetitive)
  • Meta Tags
  • Meta Descriptions
  • Image Tags

Once you’ve carried out your onsite SEO it is complete. Having said that there is always room for improvement and you should NEVER consider your onsite SEO done and dusted so do be sure to adjust your keywords over time to ensure that you perform the best in Google. Basically after you’ve completed your keywords you can sit back and wait for the Search Engines to index your site.

Other Onsite SEO methods include:

  • Creating and submitting a Site Map to Google – This is basically a layout of your website and gives Google an idea of the structure. In a nutshell it helps them to slightly speed up the process of you appearing on Google.
  • Making sure your coding isn’t all over the place – If your coding is messy then Google might find your website difficult to read. For those of you using Blogger or a decent WordPress theme, this isn’t something you should worry too much about as your coding is almost always fine. However, if you are someone who had coded your website yourself, make sure it is well laid out.
  • Ensuring that your design not only looks good, but is responsive too – A pretty design is fabulous but if it doesn’t work, then it is no good. If your menu buttons don’t work and your links are incorrect, the reader can become frustrated and may leave your site. Also, one thing to be really aware of is that nowadays your website needs to be Mobile friendly. Mobile internet use is majorly on the rise and very soon there will be more people using their mobiles to access the internet than people using desktops. Because of this you really should ensure that your website can be accessed easily via Mobile devices as not only will this frustrate users if you don’t take action, but as of April 2015 Google announced that having a mobile accessible site is now part of their guidelines and failure to embrace the change can result in you dropping in the search engines and lets face it, no one wants that. If you are a user of blogger, your theme will likely to already be mobile friendly so there’s no need to worry.
  • Making sure that your website is as fast as it can possibly be – Another thing that Google likes to see in websites is fast loading page times. The faster your pages load, the better. So how can you improve this? Well you can compress your images to ensure they aren’t huge, if your blog is self hosted you can compress your databases and if you are using WordPress (self hosted) I highly recommend installing a caching plugin to speed things up further. There are also a few other techniques you can use so if you are finding that your site is super slow, I highly recommend researching the topic.
  • Make sure you clearly state your Cookies and Privacy Policies – It is now a mandatory requirement that you obtain EU users consent when it comes to storing and accessing cookies and information. For Blogger users you’ll probably have noticed that big ugly grey bar across the top of your site, well this is basically what it is all about. It is essential that you do not remove this (making it look pretty is absolutely fine) if you are on WordPress (self hosted) there are quite a few plugins that will do this for you although I do highly recommend also creating a stand alone Cookies Policy page to link it to which lists your policies. If you aren’t 100% sure of what to include, there are plenty of templates on Google to help you. Another thing I recommend adding is a Privacy Policy, again if you blog is on Blogger this isn’t something you should worry about but for self hosted sites, I recommend adding this.
Offsite SEO:

Offsite SEO refers to the things you do away from your site to help improve your website. These things are actions that you continuously carry out over time. Personally I’d say Offsite SEO is more difficult than Onsite SEO as you can’t just add in a bunch of keywords. It is about building relationships and trust with both people in your industry and potential readers. It basically means the steps you carry out to promote your website, build brand awareness and to grow interest in what you have to offer.

Offsite SEO methods include:

  • Link building – Link building is getting other people in your industry to link to your site. When it comes to link building many people think that the more websites that link to you, the better it is however, sites linking to you should be of high quality and relevant to your site. For example, if I had lots of spammy dog walking websites linking to Raspberrykiss, in terms of SEO it isn’t going to help me nor is it going to direct people who are interested in beauty and lifestyle to my blog.  However, if someone such as Makeup Revolution popped a single link to one of my reviews on a product page of theirs it would help me in terms of SEO as the Makeup Revolution website is a strong performer in Google, it is trusted, in term of both Onsite and Offsite SEO it is great plus it is relevant to my product review. Basically Back Links are a way for websites to give you link juice and vouch for you. It really is not good if the website that links to you is poor so do keep in mind that it isn’t about the number of back links, but the QUALITY and RELEVANCE.
  • Social Media – Most people are on Social Media nowadays, I certainly am. For Raspberrykiss I have a dedicated Twitter Account and a Facebook Page. I have these two because A. I like to keep you all up to date and have a place of engagement and B. To promote my posts and content. Now Social Media is a big part of Offsite SEO. Facebook Likes, Shares, Retweets and Favourites all help in terms of SEO. Why is this? Well every time a real life human retweets or shares a link of yours, to Google that means that someone is essentially vouching for your content (much like the case with Back Links) So next time you get a retweet off someone remember that this is helping you in terms of your SEO.
Wait, so my website isn’t automatically on Google?

That is correct. Not every website in the world is on Google however, Google is trying to index (add) as much of the internet as possible, it is just taking a lot longer than they originally thought due to an unexpected explosion of the internet. Google uses what they call Spiders. These spiders crawl the web and in doing so they discover new pages which they add to Google so they show up on the Search Engine. For example, if you are a new website and a big company links to you, when Google crawls their website, they will discover your website and crawl all of your pages and the websites that you link to. Google will basically do this until nothing else can be crawled. Google however, will only index links that it deems good enough. So if your website is full of pages than contain useless information or “thin content” then chances are, they’re not going to add you to their index. There are also things called nofollow links which prevent Google from following and crawling content.

What is thin content?

Thin content is something you definitely do not want on your website. If you do have thin content on your website I’d really suggest removing it, especially before Google hits you with a penalty.

Thin Content can mean a few things including:

  • Content that has very little value to the reader e.g. a post title “How To Blow Your Nose” – It isn’t something that someone would necessarily benefit from reading or even search for in the first place
  • Content that has been automatically generated
  • Content that is purely made up of affiliate pages
  • Doorway Pages (Pages of duplicate content designed purely to try and rank for certain keywords – This is known as Spamdexing)
  • Content that is from low quality websites
  • Content that doesn’t really consist of anything e.g. A page with 20 typed words.
What are nofollow links and how and when do I use them?

Nofollow links are basically a way of saying to Google, “Hey Google, don’t follow this link, crawl it or add it to your index, I don’t want to give this link any juice” Nofollow links are something you definitely need to read up on and start implementing. You can simply set a link to nofollow by using this piece of coding when it comes to adding links: <a href =”LINK HERE”  rel=”nofollow”>YOUR TEXT HERE </a>

What you should set to nofollow:

  • When you link to a website that you do not trust or when you don’t want to vouch for the quality of the site
  • Paid links – These include links in Sponsored posts and Affiliate links. This also applies to adverts and banners. Basically anything you receive money for needs to be set to nofollow
  • Duplicate content – For example here on Raspberrykiss I have my blog posts. My blog posts also have categories and tags, these are also stand alone pages and show my blog posts on those pages too. They are therefore duplicated so I set my Categories and Tags pages to nofollow. Why do I do this? Well simply because it is bad practice and against search engine guidelines to submit duplicate content as in their eyes by having these pages set to follow I’m trying to rank for the same keyword but on multiple pages.
Hold on, I have no clue about SEO & haven’t been implementing it but my website is on Google. How is that?

Chances are you’ve been carrying SEO without even knowing it. Many people think that SEO is this big scary complicated thing but in reality you carry out a lot of methods daily without realising. Been sharing your link on Social Media? Recently been mentioned and linked to in a post by an established blogger? Have you wrote a product review for a company and they’ve put a link to said review on their website? It’s all SEO. SEO is something that you understand by researching, learning and reading about. If you understand it and partake in Good Practice (White Hat SEO) then you’ll more than likely see an increase in things like engagement and traffic.

What Is White Hat SEO?

White Hat SEO is good. It is what every website user SHOULD be doing to ensure their site is complying with Search Engine guidelines and making experience for the user (reader) as best as it can possibly be.

White Hat Techniques:

  • Comply with Search Engine guidelines
  • Carrying out research and analysis to improve content, keywords, meta tags and web design to make user experience better
  • Building genuine back links and relationships with people naturally
What Is Black Hat SEO?

Black Hat SEO is basically a bad thing and I do not recommend it to anyone. It is bad practice where web owners use methods that aren’t approved by the Search Engines. It is essentially a way of cheating at SEO and making your website appear better than it actually is. Many web owners carry out Black Hat Techniques as they believe it is a quick and easy fix however, the consequences are really not worth it.

Black Hat Techniques include:

  • Using the same keyword over and over again – This is known as keyword stuffing
  • Using hidden text and links
  • Using blog comment spam as a way of getting back links
  • Paying for back links – Google does not approve of this and suggests that all paid for links e.g sponsored post links should be set to nofollow
  • Having lots of pages with very little content on (Known as thin content)
What are the consequences of Black Hat SEO?

Google Penalties. These two words are a webmasters worst nightmare. Now Google don’t just give those Black Hat SEOs penalties, White Hat SEOs can too have a penalty slapped on their site. Why? Well a Google Penalty can be the result of an update to Google’s search algorithm. If you’re hit with a penalty you’ll be punished with a drop in your search rankings. For example, you could be on page 1 for your product review and when hit with a penalty you could end up on page 6. Normally you’re just punished for specific pages but if you have a significant amount of pages which breach the guidelines sometimes your whole site can be penalised, even those pages that aren’t breaking any rules. In extreme circumstances your whole website can be entirely removed from Google but this isn’t too common. Basically Google Penalties are serious and can really harm a site as you can suffer from a real dramatic drop in traffic, this is particularly bad if your website is a source of revenue.

Panda Penalty

A Panda Penalty is to do with usability of your site and the quality of your content. If you’re given a Panda Penalty sadly Google won’t let you know however if your organic Google search traffic has dropped significantly then chances are, you’ve been hit. Google give out Panda Penalties on a monthly basis.

Causes:

  • Thin Content
  • Automated Content
  • Duplicate Content
  • Irrelevant Content
  • High Bounce Rate (You can find your bounce rate in Google Analytics)
  • Low Time On Site
  • Low Click Through Rates
  • Low Returning Visitors
  • Slow Site Speed
  • Lots of 404 Errors
  • Use Of Flash
  • Over Optimisation

How to fix:

  • Remove thin content OR improve it/combine with other similar posts
  • Remove duplicate and irrelevant content
  • Try to reduce your bounce rate by improving your site design navigation so visitors can clearly find what they are looking for, ensure content is easy to read e.g. font size and colour can be viewed effortlessly on all devices and screens, ensure that your content really is engaging and make sure you aren’t using things like misleading titles and images – Really make visitors want to return
  • Reduce things like image size and remove any irrelevant widgets that might be slowing your site down
  • Make sure you remove any broken links (If you’re using WordPress I highly recommend using a Plugin for this, it saves so much time)
  • Remove any Flash – Not all devices can play Flash, think of all those iPhone and Apple users missing out!
  • Make sure you’ve optimized your site well, but not over done it

 

Penguin Penalty

A Penguin Penalty is to do with over optimization. Google give these penalties out only at certain times of the year. If you are hit with a Panda Penalty you’ll be greeted with a message telling you so in your Search Console Area (formerly Webmaster Tools)

Causes:

  • Low Quality Links
  • Unnatural Links
  • Over Optimized Anchor Text Links
  • Keyword Stuffing

How to fix:

  • Refrain from carrying out any Black Hat SEO strategies such as buying links and using link farms
  • Download your back link report from the Google Search Console, this is a list of all the domains that are linking to your site. Next you want to analyse these and get rid of all the low quality links that could be causing the damage. To do this you can either use a paid for tool which analyses the links for you or you can do the free option and individually analyse the links and use a tool called Majestic which helps you to identify the good and the bad links. You then want to pop all the bad links into a document and find contact details for each webmaster. You can then contact them and ask for outright removal of your link. If that fails, you then want to look at using the Google Disavow tool. For more information on how to use the tool, check out Google’s Disavow Help Page. One thing I will say is that you should be very, very careful when using this tool as you can easily accidentally get rid of those good links if you don’t do you research properly. I recommend only using the Disavow Tool as an absolute last option.
  • Remove any keyword stuffing that you might have carried out.
So what actually is the perfect formula in terms of SEO?

Well to be honest, Google’s guidelines aren’t always that clear. They are also always actively changing and updating their algorithm with each update so what might work right now isn’t guaranteed to work in 5 years time. My advice would be to keep up to date with all Google’s updates and most importantly never give in to Black Hat SEO techniques as they can do more damage than good to your site. Having said that, I have done a lot of research and below is a list of things I’ve found and recommend carrying out:

Current SEO Techniques I recommend implementing:

  • Ensure that you know what keyword you want to rank for (Also be sure to research how much traffic it gets)
  • Make sure your keyword appears in your title, content, ALT image tags and URL
  • Don’t be spammy when it comes to your keyword
  • Create and submit a site map in your Google Search Console area (Formally known as Webmaster Tools) – You can create your sitemap on XML Sitemaps.
  • Ensure that your design is clear, easy to navigate, responsive and mobile friendly
  • Make your website as fast as possible – Don’t ignore your slow loading pages, improve them as best as you possibly can
  • Engage with people in your industry on Social Media and build relationships
  • When it comes to link building make sure links are of high quality relevant sources and remember QUALITY not QUANTITY
  • Follow White Hat SEO Techniques – Don’t be a spammer, do not keyword stuff, don’t use hidden text and links, don’t pay for back links and never use blog comment spam
  • Have an absolute minimum of 300 words per page or blog post – aim for 500+ words
  • Update your content regularly. You don’t have to post everyday. Once a week is fine but don’t leave your site unchanged for months and then wonder why you’re not performing well in Search
  • And above all, remember CONTENT really is king. Ensure that your content is unique, interesting and is something that is going to be of use to the reader. You can tick all the boxes in terms of Keywords and Social Media strategy but if your content is poor, you aren’t going to perform well in the search engines
Summary

SEO is an AMAZING thing. It can really make your website however, you must always remember that it is something that takes time and effort. To get good results you must do it properly. It isn’t a quick fix solution and it is full of competition. There are millions of websites out there, all competing for certain keywords and trying to get people to click on their sites. If you are serious about SEO with in depth research and planning, you can greatly increase your web traffic and unique visitors.

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