SEO – Back to Basics I

SEO - Back to Basics I
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SEO – Back to Basics I

SEO Basics

What is SEO?

If you are old enough you will remember this was not a pleasant process and required patience, time, and tenacity to find anything on the web. In came the Search Engines such as Yahoo, Google and Ask. Their Raison d’être was to find the “most relevant website for your search term”. To this day, this is the fundamental objective of any search engine and hence each Search Engine has written their own algorithms that decides which website is the most relevant to any given search term.

Why bother with SEO?

Unless you are made of money or/and have 7-figure marketing budget that enables you to build your brand via mass media advertising, sports sponsorship, and PR to draw people to your website, then you are relying on people to search for a product or service you offer (Keywords/Keyphrases).

Everyday we come across beautifully crafted website that their once proud owners are despairing as they are not generating any traffic or leads. The reason is simple. The website was designed by talented creative individual or team but without any understanding of Search Engines and Relevance.

You can have the most creative website on earth but if you do not come up in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) for the keywords that your potential customers search for, then you are dead in the water because you are in the abyss of the Internet. Yes you are in the Central Square in Tumbleweed Town with the most beautiful shopfront but no customers.

How do I optimise my website?

Remember your school days and the teacher standing in front of the class asking questions and you jumped up and down excitedly with your hand up because you knew the answer. “Miss Miss Miss” or “Sir Sir Sir” “pick me”running through your head? This is SEO! You are trying to catch the attention of the teacher or in this case Search Engines because you have the answer. Except you can’t put your hand up, jump up-and-down, and calling “Miss Miss, I know this”.

What are SEO Signals?

What are On-Page Signals?

These are specific messages that your website and the content are directly responsible for which means they are present within your website content and coding so that you can directly control them. These include:

  • Domain Name

  • URL

    Your page URL should include your target keywords and specifically keywords that are targeted by the specific keyword that each page addresses. This means if your page is about Chocolate Ice-cream, then your URL should include “Chocolate Ice-cream”. You should also take note of the next point namely “Content Structure”.

  • Content Structure

    The way you group your content provides a big clue to Search Engines. Using sub-directories to separate information in a logical format is not only a good practice for your administration of the website, but is also a signal to Google, Yahoo, etc, about the content of your website. This is one of the reasons you should think about SEO before designing your website. Taking the example of above, if your website is all about food, then you should divide your content into sub-directories such as Ice-cream or Deserts or other main headings. Then your URL would look like You can see precise signal to Search Engines is not just about the page but also the structure of your website content.

  • Navigation Keys

  • Page Content Structure

    This is taking you back to school again. Remember basic rules of written text where you sign-post the content for the reader with heading, sub-headings, paragraphs, etc.? These rules still apply on the Internet and Websites, as Google and other Search Engines use these signals in order to map the structure of your content on a page. Headings and sub-headings are coded in “H1”-”Hx” to show the hierarchy of the content. You can also use colour and font to further emphasis this structure visually for the readers as well as Search Engines.

  • Title Meta Tag

    SERPThis is the declaration of your broad content for a given page. Each page must have a unique Title that includes the target Keywords or Keyphrase of that page and not your broad website keywords. Remember this is about the specific page and not the website, so you must explain the content in less than 60 characters which is the limitation of SERP page display (see Blue text in the SERP image)

  • Description Meta Tag

    This is the 160 character long version of your content which must once again include your target keywords of this page (not necessarily your website) but must also appeal to humans as this is visible within the SERP (see black text in the SERP image). Description is your “Elevator Pitch” but must attract both humans and Search Engines.

  • Keyword Meta Tag

    There is a lot of debate whether Google takes account of this as it was abused in the past. Regardless of Google, other Search Engines do take note. Also this is a good reminder for you as it keeps you focused. In 6 months time you will not remember what your target keywords were for this page! However, this is not an invitation for stuffing every keyword or keyphrase you can think of. Maximum should be 5 per page with the most important at the start and least important at the end.

  • Language Code

    This code within your page header tells both Search Engines and browsers the language in use for a given page. This enables the browser to display the correct characters as well as Search Engines understanding your target language for the page. Remember in a multi-Language website each page will have a different language code.

  • Alt-Text (Alternative Text)

  • Page-Load Speed

    This has become more important as Google in particular is focusing more on “Customer Experience”. Pages that take a long time to load are marked down and penalised, so you should avoid uncompressed and large images, gimmicky graphics with high payload, and do not bloat the page with code.

  • Responsive Design

    This has only become important since the rise of smartphone and tablet use. This means your website adapts to the width of the visitor’s screen and displays the website accordingly. Again, this is about Customer Experience as well as basic common sense.

  • SSL (Secure Socket Layer)

    This is security and authentication certification that can be added to your website. This is not normally needed unless you are an e-commerce site and handle financial transactions on your site. There are some rumours within the SEO circles that Google may start to insist on this in the future no matter what you do on your website, but for now there is no evidence this to be the case currently.

  • Sitemap

    There are 2 types of sitemaps. One is for Search Engines that lists your pages, last time it was updated, priority, etc. This is important as it underpins the structure of your websites as well as gives the date when each page was last updated. Fresh content is exciting to Search Engines! The second Sitemap is for humans which includes the URLs as well as a quick description of the page in case they get lost around the website. This is of less importance these days but still is a good practice.

  • Robots File

    This is a text file that tells Search Engines which directories they can scan and index,  which they can read only (but not index), and also which directories they are barred from access. It is also a good idea to emphasis this on each page using Robot Meta Tag per page.

What are Off-Page Signals?

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