Why It’s Important and How to Get to the Top
What is SEO?
SEO stands for ‘search engine optimisation’ and is the practice of increasing both the quantity and quality of traffic driven to your website, as well as brand exposure, through non-paid (also known as ‘organic’) search engine results. Ultimately, SEO is about understanding what people are searching for, the answers they’re looking for, the words that they use and the type of content they want to read. Knowing and understanding the answers to these questions allows you to connect with the people who are searching for the services you offer.
Why is it important?
Search engines scour the internet (billions of pieces of content) and evaluate thousands of factors to find out which content is most likely to answer the searcher’s query. Search engines do this by discovering and cataloguing all of the available content (web pages, PDFs, images, videos) via a process known as ‘crawling and indexing’ and then ordering it by how well it matches the query, in a process referred to as ‘ranking’.
While paid advertising, social media and other online platforms can generate traffic, the majority of traffic is actually driven by search engines. Organic search results cover more digital real estate, appear more credible to searchers, and receive more clicks than paid advertisements. When set up correctly, SEO can continue to pay dividends over time. If you provide a solid piece of content that deserves to rank for the right keywords, your traffic can snowball over time, whereas advertising needs continuous funding to send traffic to your site.
Writing for SEO
Think about your audience carefully; who is searching for your website and what do they want to read? The ultimate goal of a blog post is to answer a searcher’s query, and content that’s highly ranked is always user focused. Think about questions a reader could have about the subject you’re covering, and whether or not you answer them within the text.
Find the keywords that relate to your expertise and map these keywords to search intent – that means to create content that is highly relevant to your keywords. Optimising your blog posts is not necessarily about cramming as many keywords into your posts as possible (this can actually damage SEO) but using keywords throughout your content in a way that doesn’t feel forced. Focus on one or two keywords – or key phrases – that keep your post focused on the intent, or goals, of your audience.
Long-tail keywords rank higher than short keywords (i.e. ‘luxury travel PR’ would rank higher than ‘PR’) as there is less competition but a higher search volume. Most of your keywords should be three words or over i.e. ‘How to write for SEO’, ‘a guide to luxury travel PR’, ‘what is crisis communications’ or ‘hotel PR company’. To rank higher in search results, include your keyword(s) in the title of your article, headers, tags and within the body copy, URL and meta description.
While it’s important to come up with content topics based on the targeted keywords you discovered and what your audience wants to know, be sure to ride the wave of trending topics, and make sure your article is searchable. What’s trending in your industry, and how are other brands responding to it? Are there other blogs you can link to? If you’re an expert in your field – or at least show it through your writing – and your post remains relevant to the topic, it’ll rank higher in search engines.
SEO content that shoots to the top of SERPs (search engine results page) is incredibly readable. A clear structure helps the reader to easily read your post and grasp the core message – and it helps Google rank your article. Start by outlining the structure of your post; it should have some sort of introduction, in which you introduce your topic using the keywords, a body in which the main message is written and a conclusion – a summary of the most important ideas. It also pays to use paragraphs – don’t start each sentence on a new line, but make sure sentences are easy to read and digestible as it’ll help SEO ranking.
Your article should be at least 300 words long in order to rank in search engines. Google likes long articles (750 – 2,000 words) and they rank more easily than short, but if your article is too long, strays from the point and ‘waffles’ – and therefore not so easy to read – there’s a chance the huge volume of text will make readers click away. The optimum length of a blog post is around 1,500 – 2,000 words but it must be well-written, with easy-to-digest sentences, effective use of images and clearly labelled headers.
This relates back to both the length, structure and readability of your content. Ensuring that the text is broken into digestible paragraphs that are clearly labelled with headers (h1, h2, h3, h4) will mean content ranks higher. Every page should only have one h1-tag to make the title of the article clear to Google.
Anchor Text: anchor text is the clickable text in a hyperlink (often blue and underlined). SEO-friendly anchor text is succinct and relevant to the page it’s linking to. A highly relevant link can improve the likelihood of your webpage (and the page you’re linking to) ranking for queries related to the topic, as the words used within the anchor text help a search engine bot to better understand your webpage.
External Links: linking to trustworthy and informative material appears more authorative and can help search engines figure out what your content is about. With that, an external link is more valuable if it links to popular and highly ranked pages that are relevant to your content.
Backlinks: A backlink is created when one website links to another (also known as ‘inbound links’) and are important to SEO because they represent a ‘vote of confidence’ – signalling to search engines that others value your content. Backlinks from trustworthy websites are more valuable, so make sure the sites you link to in your articles have authority. Internal Links: internal links are hyperlinks that direct readers to a target page on your own website. Internal links help readers stay on your site for longer and ensure that, if your article is picked up by another source, it’ll contain a link back to your website. The easiest way to insert internal links is to use them as a call-to-action i.e. click here to see our other travel clients.
The meta description is the short paragraph of text placed in the HTML of a webpage that describes its content – it’s what shows up as an excerpt when Google displays your page as a result to searchers. Optimised meta descriptions also often mention the content’s keyword(s) up-front. The more descriptive and relevant the description is to the content, the more likely someone will click onto your website. Make sure your most important keywords for the webpage are in the description (but don’t overuse keywords) treat it like an advert for your content and make sure it’s no more than 160 characters long.
Visuals are just as important as compelling text. Make sure the images you choose are relevant to your text, and label them as such – making sure captions are succinct but accurately describe the content. Using a few high-quality images, over random, distorted ones, ranks higher in SEO.
Images can be optimised so that they appear crisp and clear, but don’t take forever to load (and therefore lessen dwell time) – images you upload should be a maximum of 1920px wide to display in high resolution for both mobile and desktop. You can use a simple online recourse such as picresize.com to edit the size of high-resolution images.
It’s not just great images that helps with SEO. Websites with video content are becoming more prevelant to Google’s algorithms. Video can lower bounce rate, meaning people stay on your website for longer, and tell Google that a website is of a higher quality. Where possible, use Vimeo to upload videos onto the internet, then embed them into your website copy using the easy-to-find link Vimeo provides.
Spread the Word
This is the easiest point to action – make sure the content you’ve written is cross promoted on relevant social media channels – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn – using the keyword(s) and a succinct description. Being present across channels in this way is a great way to reach a wider audience and generate buzz for your brand.
Social media channels also rank in search engines, so it’s important to ensure that keywords and content are consistent across platforms.
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