For the last decade, search engine optimisation (SEO) has been very much a buzzword used by anyone even loosely connected to websites. Most people have some understanding about what it entails and although they don’t always fully appreciate, or often care, about the complexities and the details. It is something which is continuously evolving, and in this series, we will give you the lowdown about everything you need to know about SEO in 2020.
As a digital marketing agency, we want to give you all the tools and knowledge to drive your business forward. We will start with the basics, and by the end; you will feel like an expert!
What is search engine optimisation (SEO)?
Everyone is familiar with search engines, whether they realise it or not. Think about Google, Bing or Yahoo. SEO Marketing is a complex process designed to get your website a higher ranking, thus appearing further up on the search engine’s search non-paid results, known as organic search results. The theory and science prove that the higher you come in the ranking, the more people see it, and the more people click on your site.
The creation of ‘SEO’
The search engines first emerged in the 1990s and with it came SEO and entrepreneurs appreciating the importance of higher rankings. Back then, SEO was used by the privileged few; nowadays it is a necessity for any business regardless of their size. Not surprisingly, it is an industry that is continually expanding. Over the years, the rules have changed, so what worked at the turn of the century, almost certainly won’t work today. However, the objective remains the same, having a great website that targets the right audience.
How do I begin?
To be successful at SEO, you need to be reasonably technically minded, creative, think outside the box and enjoy analytical work. The end objective is always the same, to rank as highly as possible, but there are several different strategies that you can adopt, and different companies will employ different techniques.
Work will need to be done to ensure that the site is structured correctly and that the coding and programming are technically sound. Of course, this won’t keep your readers captivated, but quality content will and will mean that others refer to your website and link to it. Nonetheless, this is still not enough for search engines as the content also needs to be well optimised with relevant keywords and appropriate external reference links.
SEO is complex with all major search engines using algorithms to determine their rankings. While some of these algorithms are tightly kept secrets, most you can understand to a certain degree and they aren’t designed to trip you up. They want the best results for the end-user, the person searching, not the owner of the website.
Google is known to use in excess of 200 ranking factors, and most of them are widely known such as backlinks, the quality of the content as well as more technical aspects which affect the users’ experience such as page loading speeds. If you follow the basic rules, there is no need to understand or even know about all of the factors.
Imagine a cup of coffee
To understand the basics of SEO, think about a cup of coffee. You have the cup, the coffee and for our example, milk and sugar. We will class these as the three essential parts to your drink.
Standing out from the crowd
Whatever product or service you are offering, you want your website to rank highly. So, when someone searches for whatever you offer, your site shows first or at least on the first page. Unless you operate in an extremely niche market with very little competition, you MUST optimise your site. Firstly, you need your site to be indexed so that Google or the other search engines know it exists.
After being indexed, and by employing white hat SEO techniques, you will rank higher on the search engine results page (SERPS). In turn, this will direct more traffic to your website. The relevant content then needs to capture the imagination of the reader, which will almost inevitably lead to more conversions.
To achieve all of this requires meticulous planning, but if you are prepared to work hard, play by the rules and adopt best practices, you can stand out from the crowd.
Should I do the SEO myself or employ an SEO Company?
In this, our step by step guide to SEO for beginners, you will be able to complete a lot of the SEO optimisation on your own. From experience, we know that is what appear to be relatively small changes can have a considerable impact on your rankings. The real question is, do you have the time to do it, or would it be better spent focusing on other aspects of running your business?
Knowing and understanding SEO in 2020 will require a lot of reading, practice and trial and error. There are lots of excellent free SEO guides available on the internet. However, you need to find one written by experts who actually know what they are talking about, rather than just think they do! To top up your learning, there are lots of courses available, including ones organised by Google along with webinars.
If you do call in the experts, they won’t be cheap and as with any service you will end up getting what you paid for, but they will almost certainly achieve results quicker than you could by going it alone. There are lots of factors to take into account, we’ve previously discussed the pros and cons of outsourcing in this article.
Common SEO terms;
Many of the terms that will appear in this guide you will have heard before, but you may not know what they mean. In this section, we will briefly touch upon many of them without expanding further as they will be explained in more detail later in our series.
On-page SEO refers to work on your site intending to improve organic (non-paid for) search results. It is essentially everything that is done on your website with particular focus on the content, ensuring that it is optimised for keywords, length and appropriate references. It also includes the more technical points which we focus on in chapter three but will consist of amongst many other things:
Following on from the on-page is the off-site SEO which is equally as crucial to your website success (think about the milk and sugar!). It involves building the authority of the website via quality backlinks from reputable websites. Getting backlinks is easy, getting quality ones are far harder and more time-consuming, but the benefits are fantastic. We will look at this in more depth in chapter 6, but ways to get these quality links include:
White hat SEO
We briefly touched upon white hat SEO earlier in this chapter, but it is essentially some rules and techniques that ensure that the work you do is ethical and is in the best interests of those who visit your website. It is common sense, but it is worth reminding yourself now and again to ensure that you don’t take shortcuts which could ultimately damage your website. The constituent parts are:
White hat SEO is a long term process and offers no quick fixes. You are providing quality, viewed as a good guy and are following correct procedures. Just like in the movies, you will be rewarded for it in the end.
Black hat SEO
To put it simply, black hat SEO practices are at attempt to cheat the system. They are often viewed as unethical as they don’t provide the best results for the end-user. Often, as with most cheating, you will get faster results and the price will be cheap. However, you will almost certainly be penalised equally as quickly, which can even result in your website getting banned from websites such as Google – effectively ending your organic SEO. Unethical practices are listed on Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
Grey hat SEO
Grey hat SEO is often unethical practices but ones that can be done unintentionally. There is no clear definition offered by Google, Bing or Yahoo regarding this practice, but you should avoid it. To put things simply, you need Google far more than Google needs you, so keeping them on your side is vital.
As you would imagine with SEO, knowledge of how search engines are used, the types of queries that users submit and how their algorithms work is essential. It is at this point in our guide where we start to introduce some of the more technical aspects, in this case relating most specifically to Google.
As SEO experts in Bangkok, we know what ranking factors matter the most. In this chapter, we will look closely at these factors so that you can gain a better understanding and start to know how you can incorporate them into your SEO.
A basic introduction to how search engines work
All search engines work in the same manner and follow a relatively straightforward process. Like with most automated processes, it moves from point to point using almost a binary system. Search engines have, essentially, three components and the process works through the elements in order. The process is Crawling > Indexing > Selecting relevant results. We will delve deeper into each of these processes below.
Bots (or spiders) will scan or crawl your website, meticulously going through it section by section, examining the quality of the content, your use of keywords, H1 and H2 headings, any hyperlinks, as well as any images that you have included. The bots are capable of gleaning an incredible amount of data in a matter of seconds, and it is a process which is continually updated. Hyperlinks will be checked for their relevance and that they are still actionable so, as a webmaster, you need to be confident that everything on your website is shipshape all the time.
The next stage, using the information collated during the crawl is to index the data into the search engine’s library. Not surprisingly, this is a far more time-consuming process and can take anything from one day to one month. It is worth remembering that after any change you make, it will be detected by the bots, that they will send it for indexing. Until your changes have been indexed, they won’t impact on the search engine results. Patience is required at this stage and any decisions that you make based on the changes, should not be made until after indexing has been completed.
Google Search Console will tell you if a particular page is indexed
Selecting relevant results
The prime reason for any user’s search is to obtain relevant results. The search engine’s role is to select the most relevant results relating to the query and will do this by delving through their indexes. Although billions of websites worldwide are checked, the process takes a matter of milliseconds thanks to a variety of algorithms.
The selecting of the results is equally relevant to website developers as it is their goal to rank highly for queries connected to their website. While ranking factors are well-known and indeed the search engines often release this information along with any major updates, the formulas and calculations which are used are confidential.
What are the main ranking factors?
As we touched upon before, many factors are made known by the search engines, some are proven, some are theories. Naturally, it is best to work on facts and use white hat tactics which are known to work rather than potentially entering grey hat areas.
As we said in chapter one, there is no requirement to know everything about SEO to be successful at it and have a positive impact on your site. One of the most essential factors which you must understand is the backlink profile. It is essentially a summary of the backlinks to a site and their quality, or more accurately, their authority and could be viewed in simplistic terms as an academic citation. While backlinks are vital, other areas should not be overlooked. Here are some critical factors, each holding a similar amount of weight.
As we discussed in chapter one, these factors can be divided into two groups, on-page SEO (which will also include all technical aspects) and off-page SEO, which includes link building.
How are search engines used?
The primary point to understand with SEO is that the search engines are designed to benefit the user, so satisfying their needs is the main objective of the search engine. Therefore, your SEO has to meet the needs of users first closely followed by the demands of the search engines. You can have a website that looks fantastic, is technically brilliant and is several years old. However, if no one finds it relevant or useful and interaction is low, your rankings will plummet.
The use of search engines has evolved since the 1990s, but the principle behind users’ interactions remains the same:
The leading search engines and their market share
There are around 25 search engines which are used on a regular basis around the world, but it is only the top five that have more than 1% of the market share, with Google not surprisingly, holding the lion’s share as you can see below (correct as of July 2020). It is for this reason why most people base their SEO around Google and their algorithms.
* source: Newmarketshare.com
What are the different types of search query?
As we discussed above, the role of search engines has remained the same, and that is also the case with the types of queries typed in. Very broadly, they will fit into one or sometimes more than one, of these types of query.
Navigational search queries
Navigational queries are still perhaps surprisingly the most popular and are when people search for a specific website or brand such as Google, Facebook or Nike. Although the user knows the website domain, they still type “google” or “facebook” into a search engine, and indeed the top websites and brands receive the highest amount of search queries.
Informational search queries
Quite simply, these are queries whereby the user is searching for information. Often these are “How to…”, “Why does…” or “Should I…” queries and ones that many of us submit almost every day.
Transactional search queries
One of the areas that has witnessed rapid growth in the last decade has been internet sales. Transactional queries are queries where the user is looking to purchase something. The search usually conducted using the specific product name such as “Louis Vuitton” or more generically, “designer handbags”. Often the query will be “Where can I buy…” or “… price” but it will specifically relate to a category or individual item.
It is common for informational search queries to become transactional ones with the use of a “Call to Action” (CTA) or by opening the query in an app if it is performed on a mobile device.
How often are SERP updates?
The objective of SEO is to get on the first page of Google’s organic search for popular queries that relate to your website. Ideally, you want or need to be in the top three, with the top being the pinnacle. While it may, on the face of it, appear that there can only be one winner, that isn’t necessarily the case.
SERPs are updated on a daily, even hourly basis as new websites and content is indexed, which affect the organic results. Don’t forget previous searches, location and cache can also influence SERP results. SERPs can also be affected by even minor tweaks to Google’s algorithm with major algorithm updates causing massive changes and panic in the SEO world!
Being top of the rankings one day doesn’t necessarily mean you will be in the top three the next. It is why organic SEO needs to be an ongoing process as will never be completed.
The features of the SERP
SERPs have many features that may be the layman isn’t aware of. Take the “zero position”, for example. A query can be straightforward such as “How to peel an onion” which will almost inevitably show a Google featured snippet that gives you all the answers that you need for this menial task. Other features include “Rich snippets” that influence users’ behaviour, and it has been proven that very generic search have far lower click-through rates (CTR).
Rich snippets have a broader visual appeal as well as providing all the information that you require. There are numerous rich snippets in the SERP, but here are some of the most common, which you will have seen but maybe not realised:
The impact that these rich snippets have shouldn’t be underestimated, so they are well worth considering and including in your SEO. The results for your endeavours may be far greater than you would imagine!
If you have any questions on your positions in the SERP, or just want to start seeing some improvements, speak to one of the team today on 02 038 5400.
The one area of SEO that has seen considerable change in recent years is on-site SEO, and if you really want to learn about SEO in 2020, this is something you need to be completely familiar with. Five years ago it was mainly concerned with meta tags, headlines and content which was often so over-optimised, it was unreadable. The checklist and the changes to it are quite significant, but it is one of the most exciting aspects of SEO.
Google and the other search engines’ algorithms have become much more sophisticated, as digital marketing agency, we ensure that we always provide quality content. It is something that we relish and fully appreciate the human aspect, along with the fact that our work is all about user engagement. The results of our on-site endeavours are more visible, something our clients like to see, but it is also something that we can stand up and shout about.
What are Meta tags?
Meta tags are an essential part of HTML coding and describe the content that you have on a web page or your website overall. The most important forms of meta tags are meta titles and meta descriptions. It is fair to say that their importance has diminished over the years, certainly from the technical side, but they still have a role to play. Keyword cramming in the description will not influence your ranking, contrary to popular belief. However, they have a significant psychological impact on your CTR and user engagement.
Meeting the needs of Google’s algorithms is essential, but a more critical factor is the human element. Google’s latest algorithm changes titles and descriptions and ranks them due to relevance. Plugins such as Yoast offer some excellent suggestions regarding your technical content, but they can’t take into account the human element. When you do your SEO, you need to give equal weighting to both aspects.
On-site SEO Checklist
As the majority of sites are now in WordPress, we will focus mainly on this, but the same is applicable for any content management system.
What are people searching for?
Before you start writing, you must know what people are searching for. You could write awesome content, but if no one is searching for that topic; your efforts will be in vain. Once you know what queries people are submitting, think about how you can write something that offers a unique spin or offers different information. It needs to be factually accurate, but can you add value, or offer something that will capture readers’ attention. Of course, timing is crucial in making your content more relevant.
Landing pages and blogs both require some degree of keyword research, and this is a topic that we will look at in greater depth in chapter five.
Headlines have been used long before the digital era to capture the attention of readers, and that is still the case. Making your title tag, headline, and, of course, the meta description appealing is vital and include your main focus keyword wherever possible. It will help readers know what the webpage is about. Call-to-actions (CTA) are essential when it comes into increasing conversion rates, and the meta description gives you the perfect opportunity to drop one in.
The goal is to be persuasive without being pushy. You want to search engines and users to feel compelled to click on your website. Reaching the end-user is the priority, so make sure and titles, description or headlines match the image you want to convey. Always take note of what your competitors are doing and find out what is working. There is no shame in including this in your SEO strategy.
Key points about title tags and headlines:
· Use WordPress plugins and SEO Site Checkup to get an indication of SERPs
All URLs are automatically generated and will contain a series of figures and characters that will mean nothing to a user, for example: www.abctrading.com/2019/post256e7a357g8.
For SEO purposes, the URL should relate to the content on the page as well as its title, for example, www.abctrading.com/how-to-peel-an-onion. In WordPress, permalinks can be set in common settings.
Although opinion is split on the length of URLs, SEO in 2020 is focused more on user experience, so relevance is more important than size. That being said, a URL that is 20 words is far from ideal for many reasons.
Videos have been proven to be an excellent way of engaging with browsers with higher levels of engagement recorded along with lower bounce rates. Of course, written content is still essential, but videos are other forms of multimedia, including images, infographics and charts are also extremely valuable. They also make it far easier to read large blocks of text.
Live streaming and video streaming has become incredibly popular and is arguably the hottest trend when it comes to SEO and overall digital marketing. Videos are shared, liked or commented more frequently than other posts which will also indirectly benefit your SEO.
Key points for multimedia
Using links in your blogs and your landing pages is a critical part of your SEO. Outbound links to relevant as well as authoritative sources will send a relevancy signal to Google. Meanwhile, internal links promote user higher engagement as you can link to other pages or articles within your website. The links play a role in helping Google’s bots to recognise and understand the structure of your website. As one of our main target keywords is SEO Company, we link this back to the relevant target page for this keyword.
Key points for internal and outbound links
· Use the “topic cluster model” for internal linking
Although excellent content still gets shared, according to BuzzSumo, the amount has fallen by around 50% since 2015. Always include a share button on any content to make sharing easier. The main social media sites are still Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, but topic related social media networks, including Reddit and Pinterest, should not be overlooked.
On-page (technical) SEO checklist
On-page SEO is the more technical aspect of SEO with a lot of the work happening “behind the scenes” or in the back-end of your website. Most of the technical stuff does require some knowledge of web development and coding. However, WordPress can do a lot for you and is perfect for those who are perhaps a little less technically minded.
The technical side can be never ending, if you want to be, but these are the critical parts of the technical on-page SEO that you should be concentrating on:
Setting up and connecting Google Search Console should be top of the list of priorities. It is a simple yet highly effective tool that will help you to monitor and maintain your presence on Google. You can analyse keyword rankings, any Google penalties, CTRs as well as including lots of other useful technical data that can be used as part of your overall SEO strategy.
Google Search Console gives you information about mobile usability, deciding what you want to be indexed, errors on your site along with structured data errors and broken links. Essentially, it automates several very time-consuming tasks.
Key points about Google Search Console
As humans, we are becoming increasingly impatient, and that is certainly applicable to websites. It is estimated that 50% of website users expect pages to load in less than two seconds, longer than three, and they will look at another site. Of course, Google are aware of this, so it one of their well-known ranking factors.
Key points regarding website speed
· Make sure that you use a quality and trustworthy web hosting provider as this will impact on website speed.
With more searches conducted on mobile devices rather than on desktop computers, your website must be optimised for mobiles, if not it will harm your rankings. Mobile-first indexing was first launched by Google in March 2018 and will use the mobile version of your website for indexing purposes, so if your website doesn’t have a mobile version, you will be penalised.
Key points to consider for mobile optimisation
Although only a minority of users will ever use your sitemap, it is one of the few areas of your website that will be focused more on the search engines needs rather than the needs of the user. It will help bots to crawl your site and is particularly useless if you have a large site that is rich in media content. It won’t improve your rankings, nor will you be penalised for not having one, but it is always beneficial to assist Google wherever possible!
Key points with sitemaps
Robots.txt is something that most people may be unfamiliar with but something that is critical when it comes to telling the crawlers which parts of your website you don’t want to be indexed. It is useful as some scripts, files or images may be supplementary information and for your benefit rather than the end user’s or Google’s.
User-agent: * (e.g. Googlebot)
Disallow: / (e.g. /images/onion.png)
Useful technical SEO hacks
The first part is to conduct a thorough analysis of the current state of your website. There are numerous sites that you use, Ahrefs is one of our favourites, along with Screaming frog, check out our Top 5 SEO Tools here.
If you set up Google Tag Manager, you can do your own advanced tag management without needing to call upon the assistance of an expensive web developer.
Always use HTTPS rather than HTTP as security of websites is a huge psychological factor with users and Google Chrome labels any site without an SSL as “not secure”.
URL/IP canonicalisation: The website should be indexed under both the domain name and IP address and should mean:
abctrading.com and abctrading.com/ should resolve to the same URL.
If you’re confused with the technical aspect of Onsite SEO, or what Content you should be producing, speak to one of the team on 02 038 5400.
Often when people think of content, they immediately think of SEO. While they are separate entities in their own right, there is an incredible amount of synergy between the two. For years, many marketers have argued that for SEO purposes, the content didn’t need to be high quality. While that may have been the case a decade ago, things have changed significantly in 2020.
As a digital marketing agency in Bangkok, we recognise the value of quality content. It seems ludicrous to have a high-quality article that hasn’t been optimised or include backlinks. Likewise, why would you take the time to optimise a website and then include unreadable content? Content creation should be a central part of your SEO, and you should never fall into the trap of believing that content should be written for humans or search engines, it should be written for both.
What content should I be looking to create?
Your content should be relevant, unique and engaging with experts often using the term “thought-provoking”. Content takes on many different forms, and what is suitable or appropriate in one aspect won’t be to another. However, they are all equally as important when it comes to the role that they play in SEO. The various types of content include:
Blogs serve a multitude of different purposes, so it is not surprising that they have grown in popularity in recent years. Gone are the days when they were used solely by bloggers discussing lifestyle topics. In the modern era, they are used by e-commerce websites, SaaS businesses, along with other companies offering a comprehensive range of services.
While travel bloggers and marketing bloggers still earn a considerable amount of money writing unique and in-depth articles and guides while becoming respected influencers on the way, they are now more frequently used by businesses.
Key points about blogs
· Being willing to cooperate with companies and other influencers
How to find suitable topics to write about?
There is an abundance of information available on the internet that helps to give ideas about what to include in your blog and some topics you could write about. Here’s a quick list of some techniques we use to give us some inspiration!
Use tools like Ahrefs to provide you with popular questions (these can be worked into the blog headings)
Use reddit to find trending topics and what sort of questions are generating the most amount of engagement.
Best by links
Using tools like Ahrefs you can see what pages and articles attract links (referring domains) and in turm how much traffic they bring.
Google’s Search suggestions will be made up of the most popular variations of the search query being entered, this can help identify common questions being asked and also additional Keywords to target.
If you’re running a Google Ad campaign the likelihood is you’ll be using some kind of Broad or Broad Modified keyword targeting, this should open up your campaign to show for some longer tail keywords. By downloading your weekly search term report, it should show some longer variations of what people are searching for, and also the quality of the traffic.
Pages listing your products and services
If you own or run an online business, your product pages must be of the highest quality. The content and optimisation should be first-class on these pages as they are likely to be used as landing pages for PPC, Google AdWords Remarketing as well as any paid social media campaigns.
Key points about your product listings
If you want to become an influencer and earn a living from it, you must become good at writing reviews. While it is certainly nothing new, they now hold more relevance in the age of the internet. If you prove to be a trustworthy influencer, you will help to forge people’s opinion and get paid to write sponsored reviews.
Key points when writing reviews
Conducting research and case studies
Conducting your original research and sharing your findings with the rest of the world can be both academically and financially rewarding. You could try different experiments, test out common myths or conduct customer satisfaction surveys. The choices are endless, but if you prefer telling stories, write an article on a successful, or otherwise, business venture detailing precisely what you did and what you would change in the future. It is crucial that what you write is unique and brings something new and exciting to your readers.
Key points about research and case studies
On the whole, infographics are easy to understand, which means that they a commonly shared. They can act as a superb substitute for text, but if care isn’t taken, it can make them hard to understand, and their impact is reduced. The whole point of infographics is to make information easier to digest and understand.
Key points about infographics
Guides, hints and tips, instructional content
We have also seen endless “How to…” or “Guide to…” blogs, and there is a good reason for this, they are what users want to read, and they generate traffic. They are well suited for including keywords, but as there is such an abundance of these guides, you may need to be creative to come up with something new and unique.
Key points about guides
Just as like “How to…” guides are popular, so too are “Top X…” guides when it comes to written content. Once again, this is an area which has become quite saturated, so it is worth taking your time when you are choosing a topic. These types of list often get shared on social media, so they are an excellent way of generating more traffic.
Key points about “top X…” lists
· Encourage readers to suggest things that you may have missed off your list as well as asking for feedback
There is no better way of building credibility than speaking to an industry renowned expert or guru. Getting a unique interview and getting their take or opinion on a subject that others find fascinating will quickly build traffic; get natural backlinks as well as social shares. In addition to your own readers, if the interviewee has a large following and shares the interview, it will generate more traffic. Interviews can be written, audio, videos or even podcasts.
Key points with interviews
Videos are becoming increasingly popular as they generate higher levels of user engagement. As a consequence, you will get more likes, social shares and backlinks. According to HubSpot, videos create more leads and can increase conversions by as much as 80%.
Key points when creating videos
You mustn’t always feel compelled to create your own video. Share and embed video that exists and includes the opinions and advice of an industry guru – try to use different ones to add balance and avoid repetition. Videos can enrich content and reduce reader bounce.
Although eBooks are not as popular as they were a few years ago, they are still an excellent way of generating leads. For both B2B and B2C, email addresses are usually required to download the material, and this can be used later for marketing purposes, with their consent, of course. The quality of the book needs to be high, and they usually come in a PDF format containing several pages. Remember, your objective is to generate leads, so you need to give readers a reason to hand over their contact details!
Key points connected to eBooks
How long should a blog be?
The length of the article is nowhere near as important as it used to be when keyword-stuffed, wordy articles topped the rankings. However, many of these articles were almost identical, and this needed to be addressed. Thankfully, from a reader’s point of view at least, creating content just for the sake of it tends not the bear fruit.
Rather than focusing on the length of your article, concentrate on the structure and use the correct <title>, <H1, H2 and H3> headings when you upload it to your website. Make sure it also includes all the right HTML tags too!
If you must give a guide on the numbers of words, 7-minutes is deemed to be ideal, although numerous SEO studies argue longer articles rank higher. At Phoenix Media, we believe in quality over quantity, but would always aim for a minimum of 1,000 words.
What to include in your content
It is impossible to write quality content without doing adequate research. Think of topics, discuss them with friends, family and colleagues and then start planning. Look at the top ranking websites connected to your topic to get ideas. Make sure that what you write is unique and optimise it. Once you are happy, post it on your website and set about promoting it wherever you can!
If you are writing new content all the time, it is inevitable that there will be some duplication and that some words will be repeated elsewhere. If this is something that you are concerned about, you can use 301 redirects or a rel=“canonical” link element.
Google’s algorithms are complex and can now detect if something is blatant plagiarism or whether the same words appear naturally within your text. However, you will be penalised for plagiarism, so avoid it, regardless of how tempted you may be! If you are unsure if your content is unique, use a plagiarism tool such as Copyscape to make doubly certain.
One of the fundamental parts of SEO is doing keyword research and doing it correctly. It is perhaps an area that is more complex than many people think and doesn’t just involve selecting the most popular keywords but choosing the right keywords. It is about finding your niche, keywords that suit that niche and ones that can rank highly for your given your budget.
As SEO experts in Bangkok, we know that if you are creating content without conducting keyword research is futile. You may write excellent content, but if it hasn’t been properly optimised, it is unlikely to yield results and traffic will be low. Keywords are what will ultimately drive traffic to your website.
How to find keywords
There are no hard and fast rules regarding how you should find keywords as there are many effective ways. The most common method of starting your search is to identify some “seed keywords”. From here you will then be able to get some other related phrases which you can use in your content. So, if you were running a bridal shop, terms such as “wedding dresses”, bridesmaid dresses” or “dress fitting” would all be appropriate.
As discussed in the previous section, It may seem obvious, but typing a couple of words into Google’s search box and seeing what autocomplete suggests or using “People Also Ask” or “Related Searches” will give you a good indication of what users are searching for. It is a quick process and can provide you with several ideas for keywords as well as titles for blogs.
There are numerous free keyword tools available that can all give you hundreds of keywords based on the seed keyword. Although primarily designed for PPC, Google Keyword Planner is an excellent tool as is AnswerThePublic, although you are limited to the number of daily searches that you can submit. Free keyword tools for most people are sufficient, but if you have hundreds of potential keywords, you may need something more substantial.
Keyword tools that you need to subscribe to offer far more information and give you greater insights into the keywords, helping you to decide which ones you wish to use. Although they can be quite costly, they will save you literally hours and, if used correctly, can give you a significant competitive advantage.
What are your competitors doing?
Whatever industry you operate in, knowing what your competitors are doing is essential. When it comes to SEO, you must recognise the keywords that are performing for them. In order to achieve this, you may have to invest in a high-quality keyword tool, but over the forthcoming weeks and months, it will prove to be a worthwhile expense.
Other popular search platforms
Most of you will be aware that YouTube is regarded as the second most popular search tool, even if technically, it isn’t a search engine. It is a fantastic way to find out what questions people are asking about your niche and will give you ideas regarding content as well as keywords. Other useful platforms for keyword research include:
Gone are the days when those writing content focused solely on the keywords that had the highest search volumes. It would be best if you concentrated on the keywords that you want to rank highly for as they will be more relevant to your products, services or niche. You may rank highly for a commonly searched term, but if in reality, it has little relevance to what you offer, it will serve little purpose and Google may recognise this and ultimately penalise you.
What is Google RankBrain?
RankBrain has been one of the main features of Google’s algorithm since mid-2015 and is a component-based on artificial intelligence and as such, helps the search engine to understand the intent behind the query. It means that Google’s SERP should be more relevant, and this is all down to a machine-learning system.
Long-tail keywords will inevitably have lower search volumes, but this represents an opportunity rather than a challenge. These long and even middle tail keywords are likely to have more relevance, and those visitors that do visit your site are more likely to engage with you. As a result, conversion rates will be higher, and, of course, this is what you are looking to achieve. Ranking top in relevant results is far more important from a conversion point of view than ranking highly for frequently searched keywords.
Finding the balance between the number of searches per month, and relevance can be a challenge, and this is where the metric keyword difficulty comes into play.
When choosing keywords, you need to be realistic about how easy it will be to rank highly for them. Of course, for very generic terms it is incredibly tricky to firstly rank highly and secondly, continually rank high. Using the metric keyword difficulty will help you to evaluate the likelihood of achieving first page rankings. Each tool will give its own score of Keyword Difficulty, Ahrefs will give a ranking from between 0 to 100 and the higher the score, the harder it is to rank number one on the SERP for that keyword.
Unfortunately, one of the downsides with tools that give you this type of information is consistency. You could use three different tools and the same keyword, and you would be given different scores in each case (sometimes with differences as much as 50%). The reason for this is because the tools themselves use different algorithms and will almost certainly work to a different set of calculations. So, when you are doing your SEO, we strongly advise that you stick with one tool so that you are comparing “apples with apples”.
Search intent is playing a more prominent role
One of the most critical parts of any keyword research is doing SERPs analysis. It will help you to establish two crucial bits of information:
Establishing the search intent is vital so that you don’t optimise the wrong words. For instance, if you were to search for “chocolate cake recipe”, it is unlikely that you intend to buy a cake from a shop – you want to bake one yourself.
As we identified in chapter two, there are different search intent variations. In these circumstances, we would consider these four types of search variation:
For your website’s SEO, you must keep a sense of perspective on things. For example, if you had a blog about gourmet burgers, there would be little point investing all your time and money in ranking number one for “burgers”. You would be competing directly with the likes of McDonald’s and Burger King, while actually offering something very different. Very few people search for the phrase “burgers” alone, it usually forms part of long-tail phrases such as “where can I get a great burger in Bangkok?” which would probably be more relevant.
What NOT to do when doing keyword research!
Novices or those who are desperate for quick results often choose keywords with high search volumes without taking any of the metrics into account. As we have repeatedly stressed above, being successful at keyword research means not focusing on search volumes.
Another common problem is that information is misinterpreted. For instance, as we mentioned earlier in this chapter, Google’s Keyword Planner is designed for Google AdWords, so when it says “competition” it is referring to competition for that AdWord. It does not relate to how difficult it is to rank for that keyword organically.
Keyword stuffing is another trap that many inexperienced content writers fall into. This is repeatedly using the same keyword in your article to the extent to which it is very evident to the reader what the keyword is. Ideally, you will select one focus keyword and where possible, use it in:
Google focuses on the quality of the content, and this means that it is user-friendly, well-written and insightful. It has even been suggested that you may rank for keywords that haven’t been included in your text! Rather than repeatedly using the same keyword, we recommend using Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords.
As the name would suggest, these are keywords that are semantically connected to the seed keyword. They usually alter depending on current trends but add substance to your text. One of the best free tools available for this is LSI Graph.
Keyword Mapping is the process of identifying which keywords should be targeted to which page. This is a crucial step in any SEO campaign as you want to ensure the keywords are not conflicting causing ‘Keyword Cannibalisation”. This where there is more then one page that is relevant for the same keyword, which can confuse Google and ultimately result in poor rankings. We discuss Keyword Mapping in more detail here.
For more information about keyword research or anything else connected to SEO or digital marketing, contact us on 02 038 5400.
Possibly the most important part of SEO is effective link building. You want to build a quality link profile, whilst trying to avoid any black hat practices. Link building involves creating a link to and from other websites as well as using internal links within your own website. Backlinks are a form of hypertext links that provide navigational information for the search engines’ crawlers, making it easier for them to index content and see what external sources they are referring to.
Why is so much emphasis placed on link building?
Links are used to help the search engines discover and explore new websites and new web pages. From the information that they garner, they will then set an overall SERP ranking. Incoming links are what makes up a domains ‘authority’. If you link to sites that are regarded as being authoritative, then you will be rewarded and vice versa.
Google first started using PageRank in the mid-1990s, and the number of backlinks rather than their authority was the priority. Effectively, the more links you had, the higher you ranked, regardless of if they were relevant or not. Of course, this was open to abuse so through several algorithm updates; Google penalised black hat link building techniques opting to rank quality links higher. These days, to a certain degree at least, the number of links you have is irrelevant, it is about their quality and relevance.
Types of backlink in SEO
To keep things relatively straightforward, we will work on the premise that there are two sorts of backlink (you can drill down on these but it is not a requirement for general SEO). These are:
What is Anchor text (in Links)?
Whenever you see a hyperlink on a website, the visible part that you click on is known as the anchor text. It gives search engine crawlers some indication about what the link relates to as well as helping it to understand the relevance of the link to the content.
If pages on your own website or other websites use specific keywords in their anchor text that links to your webpage, it can help to reinforce that page’s relevancy and in turn your keywords to rank higher in SERPs.
Will lots of backlinks, including my keyword as anchor text guarantee that I will rank highly?
At the start of the 21st century, this was undoubtedly the case, but with modern complex search engine algorithms, it is not as easy. In fact, over-optimised anchor texts can lead to your site being penalised by Google, so anchor texts should be as natural as possible. It is essential that you find the right balance when it comes to your anchors. It would be best if you varied them between:
· Call to Actions (CTAs) “click here”
The importance of quality backlinks
It is impossible to overstate how vital quality backlinks are, but Google takes several different factors into account when determining their “quality” including:
iii. Majestic Trust Flow (TF)
iv. Majestic Citation Flow (CF)
Each of these metrics is given a score, and the higher the score, the higher the perceived value of the backlink. The TF also suggests that websites closely linked with a trusted site can again score higher values, but sites that refer to less reputable sources may score poorly. The CF is a prediction relating to how influential a specific URL might be, and the score is based predominantly on how many sites are referenced and linked within the content.
Of course, it should go without saying that references and links need to relate to the content. In the past, websites used to link to anything to build up the number of links that they had. It was common for a bakery to link to an equestrian shop or a garage, but the links were irrelevant to the reader.
Where should links be placed?
As a general rule, links that appear naturally in the body of the article score far higher than those that are included in footers or sidebars. Single links are also more valuable than sitewide links. However, sitewide links are very useful if used correctly when it comes to internal or external link building. They generally appear in the sidebar, footer or in the scrolling blogrolls that many sites feature. They are capable of generating significant amounts of traffic, but they should appear naturally, and you do need to be aware that they carry less weighting.
Any link that you use should be fresh, and the popularity of the source and the social signals that it generates will have an impact on how Google judges it in terms of quality.
What are the different link building strategies?
Acquiring quality backlinks is not easy, and the older methods of reciprocal links submissions to various directories don’t tend to work. More modern and effective ways of building quality backlinks include:
Guest posting, or Blogger Outreach, is probably the most effective and commonly used for building quality backlinks. It does involve quite a lot of work. You need to write a blog or an article and publish it on an authoritative website. Of course, the content needs to be of a good quality for it to be accepted, but assuming that it is, you will be able to include a backlink in your article and they will get some valuable content. The benefit for both parties is obvious.
Google is clamping down this technique, especially on inferior websites which would accept poor quality postings, as it has been open to abuse. However, quality content will always be rewarded, so focus on quality rather than quantity. If you do plan to use guest postings as part of your outreach campaign, you should consider the following points:
Find out where your competitors are backlinking to
There are no short-cuts when it comes to building quality backlinks but finding out what is working for your competitors, is a very effective, but time-consuming approach. Once you know what they are doing, it is your job to create something better and involve more industry gurus. There are several tools that you could use to do this, and a simple search on Google will give you plenty of options.
After you establish where your competitors are linking, you need to produce something for yourself. Remember, it must be unique, and you will be penalised for plagiarism, but opportunities and ideas will undoubtedly present themselves. We would suggest that you study various articles that they have posted and evaluate:
Other link building techniques
Adopt black hat techniques at your peril!
Although not as prevalent as they used to be, paid backlinks and PBNs (Private Blog Network) still exist and are a fast way of building links. However, these links are viewed as being of low quality and that the buyer is looking to “cheat” Google. At best, these techniques would be regarded as grey hat, but most would argue that they are black hat. Google will almost certainly detect the pattern and penalise you accordingly.
Ever since the Google Penguin algorithm update back in April 2012, Google could detect what it regards as spammy and low-quality links. However, as Google has advanced, it can recognise if these poor links were created intentionally or whether it was just a poor link choice. If you did create them intentionally, you could expect to see your rankings plummet quickly. If you are concerned that you have some suspect links, we would suggest that you disavow them via the Search Console.
Key points regarding link building
Want to know more about backlinks?
If you would like more information on backlinks, or a free review of your current link profile, speak to one of the team today on 02 038 5400.
Although often regarded separately, SEO and UX are perfect partners, and by using their natural synergy, you can dramatically improve your website’s rankings. As we mentioned in the two previous chapters, a decade or more ago, the focus of SEO Services was on building vast numbers of backlinks and creating low-quality, keyword-stuffed content for literally dozens of keywords. Fortunately, from a user’s point of view at least, these practices are more likely to see you penalised rather than gain higher rankings.
As a digital marketing company in Bangkok, we understand that user experience (UX) is the key metric when it comes to SEO and your rankings. SERPs prove that content which has been created by someone looking from a human’s perspective, rank far higher than content designed to trick Google’s complex algorithms. Using UX to improve your ranking means considering the whole process long before you even start thinking about your website.
What is user experience?
When any internet browser visits your website, they will immediately form an impression of your brand, website and your products or services. The objective is to make this first an excellent impression to increase the chances of greater engagement either now or in the future. It will involve product development, the design of your website, including page speed and readability, how you market yourself and your levels of customer support.
In this chapter, we will focus on the “online” aspect of the user’s experience. As customers become increasingly demanding and with an abundance of options available, the UX should exceed customer requirements and surpass their expectations. To achieve this, you need to put yourself in the customer’s shoes, see things from their perspective and to coin a phrase, “think outside the box”. You should eclipse the customer’s needs and do this without causing them any inconvenience – a challenge, but one you need to meet.
UX Vs UI
User interface (UI), is about how easy your online store, for example, is to use. In this example, your products may be easy to locate, and navigation between pages is straightforward with useful links. However, when your customer comes to pay, they encounter problems. It is possible that they don’t know if they have ordered or not. This would mean that their UX is poor even though, for the most part, the UI was positive.
UX in the modern world
UX is something that is never complete and is an ongoing process that continually evolves. So, long as you appreciate this, you can incorporate it into your whole SEO strategy. To achieve UX, you must take several different factors into consideration, including technical components as well as those relating to the content. You must look at UX from almost a psychologist’s point of view so that you appreciate the complexity and the impact which it can have on everyone. Some of the factors that you need to think about include:
The challenges you will experience with SEO and UX
It is perhaps noteworthy that we recognise that some of the points that we have outlined above are not directly related to SEO. Still, they must be taken into account because of the close affinity between SEO and UX. In this section, we focus on the points connected to SEO and illustrate the conflict between UX and SEO.
The structure of your website and navigation
For enhanced UX, ideally, all the information would be available on a single page, and for websites with less content, this makes sense. However, from an SEO point of view, sites which contain only a single page only receive around half of the organic traffic. The objective of SEO is for most of your visitors to arrive on your site via organic searches or directly accessing your site. However, you will also encourage other visitors via social media, blogs or Pay per Click (PPC) campaigns.
Of course, this could be, and you hope it will be, a lot of traffic, so could a single page really satisfy all the different search queries and different intentions? The vast majority of users use Google to find something that they want, whether it is answers or products. Your objective is for your website to provide all those answers. In reality, it is impossible on a single page due to the number of possible search queries and the intent behind them.
As mentioned, it isn’t possible to fit hundreds, possibly even thousands of answers to searches on one page. You, therefore, need a series of different landing page as this is more practical, but this presents the challenge of users wanting other pieces of information which may be on separate pages. Internal links are fantastic, but there is a limit to how many you can include before it harms UX.
Page Speed and Responsiveness
As we mentioned in chapter three, page loading speeds have a significant impact on UX, so, therefore, it makes sense that it is one of Google’s primary ranking factors. In this instance, the correlation between UX and SEO is much clearer, and the goal is almost exactly the same in both cases – to make page loading speeds as fast as possible.
Ensuring that the content is optimised
It is crucial that you think in the same way as a “typical” searcher. You need to consider the words which they would include in a search, including long-tail keywords and use them in your content accordingly. If your website has a product or service that someone is searching for, or it can provide answers to the questions that the user wants answering, you should make your content as accessible as possible. This is where the search intent that we covered in chapter four comes into play – don’t optimise the wrong keywords!
Meta descriptions and title tags
As we have stressed throughout this guide, the higher your website appears in the SERPs, the greater the probability that it will get clicked on. However, if you get the meta descriptions and title tags wrong, you may divert the user’s attention elsewhere as they don’t feel your site is relevant. When you are creating title tags and meta descriptions, there are three things that you need to take into account.
Is it possible to measure SEO and UX?
Fortunately, Google has provided us with several tools in their Google Analytics (GA) which includes reports and internal data. However, it is interpreting this information that is the key.Once you have understood it, you can use it to make your website even better from both a UX and an SEO perspective. Here are some of the main features:
Engagement and behaviour metrics
“Bounce rate”, “Pages per session” and “Avg. session duration” provide us with valuable albeit relatively simplistic information regarding user interaction. Within GA and the numerous reports that are generated, you will see these metrics appear time and again, even showing different sources of traffic.
The “Behaviour” category provides far more information regarding user activity but is quite complicated. “Behaviour flow” includes information regarding the visitors’ interactions with your site with the more advanced options detailing traffic sources, pages that the browser landed on, campaigns that they clicked and so forth. Knowing how many users continued through your website or “dropped-off” when they visited certain areas of your website will give you an indication of whether the content is effective.
Conversions are the critical factor almost all websites. How many visitors continued through to the checkout page? If so, did the majority complete their orders and if not, why not? Does your checkout process have several steps, again if so, where did they back out of completing the purchase? Make sure that you set goal tracking in the admin menu so that you get as much information as possible. It will give you a good idea is the checkout process provides a good UX.
Heatmaps and recordings
Infographics and visualisations are frequently used to help people understand large amounts of data, and this is precisely what heatmaps are. Heatmaps show website visitor behaviour, and they can range in their levels of sophistication and cost. Hotjar and Ptengine offer free plans which provide detailed analytical data while large organisations may prefer Hotjar’s paid-for packages.
Heatmaps are useful when it comes to accessing UX as well as SEO because they can see which areas of your website site are getting the greatest interaction. You can even see how they scroll, complete forms and where they click. Knowing this type of behaviour can help with the presentation and layout of the website.
Use your own internal data
While comprehensive heatmap packages can prove to be costly, collating your own internal data is free. Many of these things you probably already do, but if not, it would be worth giving a try so that you glean more information about your customers or potential customers. Here are some things to consider:
Finally – testing
It is surprising how often website developers and those doing the SEO overlook testing new things that they have added to the site. While we appreciate your eagerness, beta testers can provide you with valuable insights. If you don’t wish to go down this route, conduct tests on the usability yourself, with friends and colleagues or trusted clients. The most important thing is that the feedback is honest.
As we discussed in chapter three, part of your testing should include checking page loading speeds, mobile optimisation and the other elements of on-page SEO. Testing should never be rushed and delaying launching your website would be preferable to launching one with poor UX.
We hope that you have found our guide useful and hope that it has given you some indication about what you need to do when it comes to SEO in 2020. Of course, this is just a starting point, and on the internet, you will find numerous other resources you can use. Naturally, we can’t mention all of them so we would suggest searching on Google and thinking about your own search intent behind the queries. You could consider looking at:
If you would like any more information about anything related to SEO or digital marketing, then we will do all we can to help! You can call us on 02 038 5400, email on firstname.lastname@example.org or alternatively, you can contact us directly via our website. We look forward to hearing from you and helping you to achieve your business goals.