What is SEO? A guide on everything you need to know

What is SEO? A guide on everything you need to know

If you’re new to digital marketing, it can feel like a minefield of options with many types of businesses advising that they have the solution that will work for you. You may have heard of how particular formulas have helped businesses to scale, that they have the perfect email templates to guarantee sales or bookings, or even that the only thing you should be concentrating on is your return over ad spending (ROAS). With all of these solutions in mind, there is only one tried and tested solution that has been guaranteeing results for the last 25 years, SEO. So what is it? Why choose SEO over other solutions? What is the process? What does all of the jargon mean? Below you will find the guide to end all guides when it comes to SEO. 

So what is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimisation. SEO can positively grow your business in a number of ways, including increasing traffic to your website. It does so by optimising your website so that it is highly visible within search engines. You may wish to think of when you have made a search for something you do not know much surrounding – how many times could you honestly say that you’ve gone beyond page 1 of results unless you really could not find what you were looking for? Frequently confused with paid advertising, SEO takes an organic approach, but with many acronyms in the digital marketing world this is understandable. SEO as a whole refers to the techniques, approaches and projects that can be implemented, and are broken down into four major categories which you can see below. You can normally tell what is paid advertising, as a website will have ‘Ad’ listed next to it. 

Organic marketing – you are not paying for ads to get you there, but you pay for SEO services to do the same thing. This usually lasts for years into the future, but as with servicing your car, servicing your SEO is important to maintain your position rankings.

Can I do SEO myself?

Yes absolutely. This is known as DIY SEO. There have been cases where individuals have been able to rank on page one for their chosen keywords, but this is usually achieved with lower keyword competition percentages. Whilst SEO software companies are advertising beyond their usual target markets of SEO companies and businesses, navigating SEO can be time consuming and tricky. DIY SEO can be more tempting if you have a low budget, but SEO software companies will give you a limited amount of tools for free, or to a set amount per month which may help or hinder you depending on the type of project you would need.

For context, a website that has minimal text can be bolstered by ensuring attributes such as alt tags, meta tags, meta descriptions, anchor text and description are optimised. A content rich strategy would be less applicable here. However, a website in an industry that can benefit from large amounts of text should strongly consider a content marketing strategy containing a strong use of blogs. If your industry is retail, optimising each area of a number of products can be beneficial, as can the use of videos for performers and artists. 

Why is SEO important?

It levels the playing field for businesses and search results. A small business can compete against a high street retailer. It’s all about positioning yourself as an industry leader by being a credible source of information. Whilst customer trends were moving towards being online before the pandemic, 60% of people now research brands online prior to making a purchase according to a study by Statista in 2021. Whereas companies such as Google Ads or those who offer ROAS (return over ad spending) take the approach that all you need to do is have a set budget for ads, SEO ensures the longevity and websites position in a world that is almost entirely digital. Since the launch of the first website in 1991 and its first real emergence as a industry in 1997, SEO is now an unshakeable industry in terms of that for as long as society uses the internet, businesses and individuals will vie with each other for dominance in wanting their business to be on the first page of results for keyword searches. With that being said, can your business survive without SEO in the long term?

What are the benefits to SEO?

-Increased website traffic 

-Increased retention time users spend on your site

-Higher visibility for searches 

-Increased chances for conversions or sales

-Seamless website functionality and increased site loading speeds

The 4 main types of SEO

On page SEO

Primarily keywords and techniques that improve your keyword search on an actual website page. On page SEO typically involves optimising your headers, text bodies, meta tags and description, anchor text and anchor links to include your keywords. 

Off page SEO 

These are techniques used off the page, which typically include backlinks which we will cover more later. Services within Off page SEO can include ensuring you have a sitemap which indicates to search engines how they need to crawl your website, or search it and which pages in what order. It can also look at strengthening your domain authority, and prospecting for new backlinks. 

Local SEO

Local SEO techniques include optimising your overall web presence to specifically appear more in localised searches. This can also involve the creation of business profiles in search engines. You may have noticed that when you search for a particular type of business in your area, that all local businesses will crop up. Google business profiles tend to take around 33% of organic traffic as compared to 40% who visit websites straight off the bat. 

Technical SEO

This mainly refers to the techniques used to ensure that your website is in optimal health, improving the website loading speed and functionality. Technical SEO also expands to areas you may not expect, such as reducing the weighting of images and videos, whilst still covering the areas of ensuring broken links are fixed, that your website is not displaying errors or that search engines believe you do not have the permissions to host the content that you hold. When your website is being indexed and crawled by Google, Google does not see what image you have on your page, but rather the name of the file is. You can help optimise this by ensuring at least one of your keywords is in the name of the file. The longer that you allow issues with your SEO to persist, the more negatively this will impact your position rankings within search engines.

So how do I know what type of SEO I need?

The type of SEO to best suit your business really depends on your aims and objectives for your business. If you would mainly like to increase footfall in your shop for a local area, Local SEO offers a quicker, more direct solution. If you are finding in Google analytics or other web traffic measuring tools such as Oribi that you are losing website viewers on a certain page, technical SEO can ensure that there are no issues navigating your website. Similarly, if your website’s loading time is too long, especially for mobile devices and tablets then your website can be optimised specifically for this. If you are looking to get to page one for desired keywords, then a mix of on and off page SEO would be more beneficial. Hopefully this article will answer all of the questions you may have, but if not you can reach out to our dedicated team who will strive to answer any questions surrounding SEO or our other services that you may have. 

Site audits

One of the best ways to capture the health of the SEO of your website is by conducting a website audit. This will inform you of any errors, warnings and notices that may be preventing better indexing of your website. A site audit will also, if on decent software, inform you of where exactly these issues are so you can more easily rectify them. Site audits specifically come under Technical SEO and on page SEO.

Backlink audits

Backlink audits come under the realm of off page SEO in that this is an evaluation of how many backlinks your website currently has. Using keywords you are trying to rank for, software can identify prospects that have strong domain authorities which would be healthy plausible options to refer to your website.

How can I measure how the SEO of my site is progressing?

Any decent freelancer or SEO agency should be able to provide you with reports. These can come in many forms depending what type of SEO is being implemented, and the scale and time of your project. Some common reports include position tracking reports which show how many pages and slots your website and its subsidiaries have progressed up through. For context, a standard google page contains 10 results. If you are indicated that you are in position 28, you would be on page 3, barring any technical SEO errors. 

Black Hat SEO

As with most industries, there are those within the SEO industry who promise lighting quick results such as Black hat backlinks. Companies may promise that you can quickly and tangibly see returns, but this can come at a cost. Some SEO businesses who offer this are able to do so because they use a PBN or private blog network. This is where a group of websites are connected via the use of hyperlinks, and such businesses offer to sell even more backlinks in order to sell them. What these ‘SEO’s’ often neglect to mention is that Google and the other major search engines do not tolerate PBN’s as they are seen as a cheat sheet to deceiving the algorithm. This is because backlinks from trustworthy websites who have a high ‘domain authority’ can really help boost a website’s credibility if they are recommended by other websites. This runs the risk of the group being dissolved by Google and other search engines in the best case scenario, and can result in your rankings being reduced as a punitive measure. Backlinks are a great way to develop your domain authority, website traffic and visibility, when they are ethically sourced. Our software allows us to prospect thousands of potential prospects at a customisable budget. You may also find it can be a great way to ignite mutual guest posting. If you are ever unsure about an SEO company’s reputation, you can always search for them in Google reviews. Another black hat marketing technique in SEO is to stuff keywords onto a webpage so that they appear in google indexing but are not visible to the reader. There are little to none cases of quick fixes in SEO.

White hat SEO

On the other hand, SEO practices that follow the guidelines of search engines are referred to as white hat SEO techniques. Not as popularly known, as these SEO techniques are often just referred to as SEO, white hat SEO agencies can ensure that your website ranks highly without using any dodgy or questionable practices that would otherwise see your website struck out of google and other search engines indexing.

Commonly used terms in SEO

SERPs – search engine results pages. Essentially a SERP are the results brought up by google and other search engines whenever you make a search. This can include organic pages, paid advertising, listed products, videos, images, places and all of the other results brought up by a search engine. 

Sitemaps or XML 

A sitemap is essentially a blueprint of how your site is laid out, which pages are more important, so that search engines can index and crawl your website pages more efficiently. Broken links to other pages or the inability to be able to crawl your website’s pages can lead to a reduced ranking or indicate that your website is not safe enough to visit. 

What can I do with SEO?

Aside from the four main types of SEO, you can also improve your website’s ranking by posting videos to Youtube and integrating your website with social media. You could also embed a link from one of your YouTube videos which will see your site views increase each time your video is viewed. You can optimise your Youtube channel and social media platforms to include keywords you wish to be ranked for which creates something we like to refer to as ‘bloc theory’. 

Get one up on the competition

You can also use SEO to evaluate and compare your website against your rivals. We usually recommend that this be the top 4 organically ranking websites for the keywords you wish to rank for, but this can essentially be anyone. This enables us to see how previous websites have made it to page one of SERP’s which can help inform how we approach your own SEO project or needs. 

Content marketing and SEO 

Do you struggle to think of ideas that can help you rank as well as portray your website in a positive light? We can search around your desired keywords to look for frequently asked questions using our cutting edge software. This allows us to develop ideas for blogs by answering questions your potential visitors may have. 

How long does SEO take to develop?

You may have heard that to start yielding results it can take 4-6 months. Like many others in the industry, we attribute this to the time it takes for organic keywords to be embedded within your website and blogs. To start seeing an increase in traffic, it can at times be the same day! 

What does SEO cost?

Of course if you choose to pursue your own DIY SEO then this would be free minus the costs of software and tools it takes to run. Whilst there are certainly some great free tools out there to help you start with the basics such as keyword research, you can benefit from, to yield quicker results and be able to respond to any potential issues, you should trust the building of your SEO to a credible SEO agency or freelancer.

Typically SEO services are offered on hourly rates, monthly retainers or cost per project. Depending on what your aims are for your website can influence which may be the best option for you. 

Freelancers are normally in the stage of a career where they are developing the knowledge and expertise to launch their own business, but some because it affords them more freedom. One issue for freelancers is that their business solely depends upon them unless they subcontract, whereas an established business such as ourselves have more manoeuvrability to respond to SEO issues sooner. 

Per hour – £10-100 depending on the level of experience.

Monthly retainers – Typically start around £450 in the industry.

Projects – Can range into the thousands depending on the project and the agency you use.

At Ascendant Content we offer all three, but typically find that monthly retainers or cost per project to be more affordable.

SEO content writing

Pertains more to on page SEO and local SEO. SEO content writing is providing articles such as these which have a high level of keywords, also referred to as keyword density. The number of keywords articles contain alone can be enough to propel you to page one of a result, but you would need to conduct a competitor overview in order to ascertain how many times you would need to need to use your keywords in order to rank on page one of a search engine. SEO content writing can take long periods of time to develop, to ensure that the article reads well, directly answers a relevant question for your customers, and in itself is optimised well.

As with website pages, this needs to include keywords in your Meta tags, headers, and bodies of text. This can also be a great opportunity to develop your branding, by elaborating on your product and service if it matches questions posed by search volumes. 

Because there is so much more than just content writing with SEO in mind, like many other SEO agencies Ascendant Content also offers the following services which can be included as bolt ons:

Social Media Marketing – including segmentation targeting and positioning. 

Website Design

Brand development

Logo design

What do I need to include in SEO content?

As a general rule of thumb, your H-tags, or titles should contain at least one of your keywords once. Each body of text should also contain one of your chosen SEO keywords also. However, knowing what keyword density you will need to effectively compete against your page one rivals can be illuminated by what’s called a keyword gap analysis campaign. You could additionally use a keyword manager tool which indicates which frequently asked questions or related searches are associated with your keywords. 

Keywords

These are the words that you use to search for a particular product, service or place of information. Choosing which keywords are the most suitable for your business can be tricky if you are new to SEO, and we can help research how competitively placed your keywords are. The lower the competition rate, the easier it is to rank within your industry. As SEO as a keyword has a competitive rate of 100% – you know we are specialists in our field because we would not be able to rank on page one without being conscientious of our rivals in the SEO field. 

Keywords however can be used in many different ways, so some of the two most frequent associations you may have heard of are short tail keywords and long tail keywords. 

Short tail keywords

These are usually a phrase, between 1-3 words. Example, ‘What is SEO?’ It is harder to compete organically for these keywords, but the rewards are much more prominent as search engine data analytics informs us that most people use shorter phrases and keywords.

Long tail keywords

It would be understandable to assume that phrases containing more keywords would be beneficial, but it is debatable and highly depends on what you are offering. By including more keywords, you are actually generating other sources of information or websites that become mixed up in your searches. For example, if you can answer a question such as What do I need to know about SEO? Then this may more uniquely place your position in rankings. As such, it is not for everyone but can be used to great effect if your product or service directly answers a common question in search engines. The amount of traffic is lowered because of the nicheness of the question.  

We hope that this has answered any questions that you have about SEO, if you would prefer to speak to us regarding a free consultation we can advise on what may be the best SEO solutions for you. 

Some Free SEO resources

Test your Website speed through Google

Although this is specifically for Google Ads, you can see how keywords you are considering rank here.

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