Whether you are the owner of a small business, a blogger looking to monetise their content, or a marketing specialist wanting to learn more about SEO, the beginner’s guide below can help you start off on the right foot with Google.
For something that has been around for around three decades, SEO is surprisingly misunderstood or underrated by many online business owners. Not knowing how to do SEO is not a tragedy, but we guarantee that the feeling you get when it starts unravelling and getting you the first results is “I can’t believe I haven’t done this earlier!”.
One of the main SEO tasks to invest your time in is to get a high ranking on Google. While we certainly appreciate other search engines that have kept the domain competitive and diverse, the fact is that Google still remains a leader in its field. Let’s see what SEO is and how it puts us at the top of Google’s search results.
What Is SEO?
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process in which a website is modified to have the best chance of being found and prioritised by search engines in organic search results. Google and other search engines have the main job of helping users find the information they are looking for and respond to their needs and behaviours.
SEO is composed of various on-page and off-page SEO practices that best meet the requirements of search engines for acknowledging them and showing them first. But let’s get into more detail, and see what elements are most often targeted by Google.
How Does Google Crawl, Index, and Rank Websites?
To make SEO fun, you first have to understand how search engines work. Over the years, Google has become a sophisticated engine that answers to search queries using its intuition, incredibly complex ranking algorithms, and performant software.
The three main things Google does are:
Crawling is the process done automatically by Google software called crawlers, bots, or spiders that roam the web, scanning every link and web page they can find. For new websites, it can take a while until crawlers find you. Fortunately, as a webmaster, you can submit your page to Google for indexing, but we will get back to that later.
Indexing is when Google includes a web page in its vast list of content it can include in search results. If you are not present in Google’s index, you will not appear in search results either.
The ranking is the process in which Google orders web pages according to a list of circa 200 ranking factors. The most relevant content will make it at the top of the first result page – and that’s SEO’s ultimate goal.
What Are the SEO Best Practices, According to Google?
Since Google is an automated engine, a website owner could, theoretically, just mind their own business, without looking into SEO and, sooner or later, their website will get indexed by Google. But ignoring SEO completely can lead to lost opportunities and major mistakes that could be easily avoided with basic SEO knowledge.
When learning about SEO best practices, you will notice that you were already complying with many of them. But, as Google is a complex engine, ranking factors are interconnected and success can only be achieved by ticking several boxes.
Here are some of the fundamental good practices for SEO on Google:
● Make sure Google finds your page by submitting a sitemap: for big websites or new websites, this is the best way to help Google know how your site is structured and what pages it should not overlook.
● Keyword research, to find out what search queries you want to rank for and include them in your content
● Carefully create relevant titles and snippets that will be shown in search engine results pages. Meta descriptions and other meta tags are the first things a Google user sees on SERPs, so do your best to appeal to them, while still inserting SEO good practices.
● Optimise your pictures and videos: Google crawlers can’t see images and videos, they just read the text. But search engines will prioritise web pages with high-quality media that complements the text content. To optimise your visuals, add alt text, captions, title tags, and other descriptive elements.
● Optimise for rich results by adding structured data code: telling Google what your content actually represents will help you get more traffic and even be shown amongst the rich results on Google: these contain reviews, price, visual or interactive elements that will make you pop out on SERPs.
● Have your website structured logically: the pages on your site should be organised logically, in order to help the visitors navigate intuitively and to improve their user experience. As Google’s goal is to please its users, their experience is a ranking factor.
● Create valuable, fresh content on a regular basis: add blog posts, social media updates, send newsletters, and encourage your peers and audience to link back to you.
● Optimise for local SEO, even if you don’t own a brick-and-mortar business. We added more details about local SEO below, as it should be given particular attention. Statistics show that mobile users perform Google searches very often when looking for a product or service nearby, and these searches usually lead to a high conversion rate.
● Always be in the know when it comes to changes in Google’s algorithm. Being one step ahead of Google, or like a camarad by its side, is the best way of avoiding outdated and even harmful SEO practices.
● Focus on link building based on quality and authoritative external links. Having other websites linking back to you will help Google index your pages, and it serves as a ranking factor. The more valuable those referring websites are, the higher your ranking score is. To get quality links, try guest posts, directory platforms, and cold emailing relevant website owners.
● Don’t ignore internal links and relevant anchor texts. Connecting your content and creating a network of articles and posts that are under the same roof is a great way of building your authoritativeness and letting Google know that you are consistent.
There are many things to remember, right? Fortunately, SEO does become embedded in your internal practices and you have plenty of tools to help you organise and monitor all your SEO efforts.
One of the most useful SEO tools is the Google Search Console, which we will shortly present below.
What Is Google Search Console?
Formerly known as the Google Webmasters Tool, Google Search Console is a free tool that allows you to closely monitor the traffic of the websites you own. But isn’t that what Google Analytics already does? Well, Google Search Console is targeted towards your internal information, how your website performs, which makes it a fantastic tool when learning about SEO. The GSC can warn you about possible issues, it gives you keyword suggestions based on what brings you more traffic, etc.
Remember when we mentioned submitting a sitemap to Google, to make sure you are being indexed? You can easily do that on GSC, and many other operations that will add to your legitimacy in Google’s eyes.
To conclude this section, it’s more than clear that Google promotes websites that are following best practices. While Google’s suite of tools doesn’t give you any direct advantage when it comes to website ranking, it leads you there and shows you how to boost your performance.
Local SEO on Google
When it comes to SEO on Google, a great example of interconnected SEO practices is doing local SEO. For small businesses, local SEO is vital, because it gives them visibility for that large part of their public that uses mobile devices to look for products or services near them.
On Google, local SEO is done through Google’s search engine, and Google Maps.
Businesses that operate locally should have a pristine, up-to-date Google MyBusiness profile, and should start creating content for this specific type of search result.
Building a strong online presence locally is done with the help of SEO, by giving Google and the other search engines information about what you do, where you operate, when you are available, and how you decide to greet your potential customers.
Do You Need an SEO Expert?
As you can see, SEO is nothing but a simple, straight-forward journey, and legitimate results will not be seen overnight. To add to this, being a beginner at this can expose you to costly mistakes that are much easier to prevent than to fix.
If you need an SEO expert, your own evaluation will tell. Having basic SEO knowledge is a great starting point, and it can help tremendously to have a mentor, a hired professional, or a lot of time to experiment with what works and what fails.
We at Australian Internet Advertising have learned SEO from our years of experience, the feedback of our clients, and the numbers that we see in analysis tools. While we love reading and publishing content that helps business owners learn SEO on their own, we do believe that consulting an SEO expert can prevent a lot of headaches.
Do you have any questions about how to do SEO for Google? Contact us and you will be in contact with a digital marketer in a matter of hours. We also have tons of articles on SEO where you can find great SEO tips and tricks.