A complete guide to SEO
This is your ultimate guide to search engine optimisation (SEO.) And let's be clear about something:
This isn't your standard SEO guide; it's definitely not average.
We're going deep with this one, outlining all the best SEO strategies and how to implement them.
So take a deep breath! And let's dive in.
What is SEO?
We promised you a complete guide to SEO. So let's start at the beginning.
Search engine optimisation is exactly what it sounds like.
SEO is optimising the quality and quantity of your website to make it rank as high as possible on Google and other search engines.
And you know what comes next: more views, more leads, more conversions, and more growth.
Why does SEO matter?
SEO is about making your brand more visible online and attracting the eyeballs of customers looking to buy your products and services.
Good SEO practice ensures your company is one of the first options potential customers see after typing in a search query.
And that is super (super) important. It's a top priority for any business that depends on an online presence. And who doesn't nowadays?
There are no silver medals or participation awards for coming second in the race for Google's top page. This is one of those competitions where second place means you're just the first (big) loser.
It's harsh but true. Here's why.
You can't afford to come second.
75% of people (your potential customers) will never (ever) scroll past the first page of search engine results.
And can you blame them? As the other 25% of brave explorers will tell you, the results get pretty messy (and very irrelevant) after the first few pages.
If you get trapped in those murky digital depths, the high-quality leads and customers you want will never find you.
It will be like your business doesn't even exist. And that's a sad thought.
Be the best of the best.
Getting to that all-important first page is just the start. Once you land, you need to pull yourself up to the top of the top.
We'll let some facts tell this story.
The average click-through rate for the number one search result on Google is a whopping 43.32%. Imagine that? Nearly half of all your potential clients and customers clicking on your site. Awesome. Just awesome.
But that click-through rate drops to 37.36% for the second search result.
There's a significant drop-off for the third link.
Then that click-through rate just keeps falling lower...
And even lower...
Until it bottoms out at just 3.11% for the last link...
So SEO is, like, critical, right?
Well done. You've been paying close attention! SEO should be at the top of your to-do list if you're a smaller company or start-up that wants to grow fast.
A well-planned and well-executed SEO campaign will help you grow without destroying your annual marketing budget.
Alan Davies, Director of AXD, explains why:
"If you're not ranking on Google's first page, you're missing out on a tonne of traffic. And it gets even worse, because that traffic is going straight to your competitors. An SEO campaign can change that. SEO marketing is the best sustainable long-term growth strategy for a growth-hungry company."
Let's do some SEO
OK. That's enough SEO theory (or at least for now.) Let's roll up our sleeves and look at how you can do some SEO.
If you want to do a job right, you need the tools. Planning your SEO campaign is no different.
The right tools will save you hours of research and planning time. They'll help you implement a more targeted and effective SEO strategy. And they'll carry on helping you after your new SEO plan goes live.
A good SEO workperson needs to familiarise themselves with the following tools:
The Google Search Console
Google Search Console is excellent, and it's 100% free. With the Google Search Console, you can:
- Track your site's performance in Google search.
- See which words and phrases are attracting the most traffic.
- Submit a sitemap.
- Fix website errors.
- See how individual pages are performing and improve their user experience.
- Assess and improve your site's performance on mobile and smart devices; a significant factor in Google's new search engine algorithm.
Think of the Google Search Console as the command centre of your SEO campaign. An essential tool, and never start a job without it.
Bing Webmaster Tools
This is Bing's version of Google's Search Console.
And we know exactly what you're thinking. It's something similar to this, isn't it?
"Bing? Are you serious? People don't use Bing!"
Yes, we are being serious. And people do use Bing. Lots of people use Bing. Billions, in fact. The search engine attracts over 1 billion visitors every month. And they're bound to include more than a few of your target customers.
Plus, interest in Google alternatives is growing all the time. Don't sleep on them.
But Google is still the undisputed boss of the online search space, and its Google Analytics tool is regarded as one of the best ways to see how people use your site.
It has loads of cool features that even the 'newest of the SEO newbies' can get their heads around quickly, including,
- Seeing how much traffic comes to your site through Google.
- Identifying the site pages that bring the most (and least) traffic.
- Checking if your traffic rate is increasing, including by how much.
- Seeing what other sites and search engines send visitors to your site.
- Checking your average page views and the amount of time users spend on your site.
- Analysing your bounce rate - how many users look at only one page before clicking off. A low bounce rate is not good for your SEO score. Not good at all.
TOP TIP: Remember to connect Google Analytics with the Google Search Console. This lets you see helpful SEO information while logged into your Google Analytics account.
Yoast SEO (WordPress Users Only)
Yoast is an SEO plugin. SEO plugins are powerful tools for polishing up individual web pages.
They help you write better titles, meta descriptions, and SEO blogs. And they come with some pretty cool extras, like a readability checker.
You don't have to use Yoast, but it's a popular and user-friendly option. And it makes optimising pages on a WordPress website super, super easy.
Finding the right keywords
It's time for a (little) bit more theory. We need to talk about keywords.
Keywords are the words, strings of words, phrases, or queries that the people you want to sell to 'google' when looking for information. And they're what these same people search for when looking to buy stuff.
The content that pops up from these search queries significantly influences consumer and B2B purchasing decisions.
The right keywords are - excuse the cheap pun - the keys to unlocking your business's growth potential.
Keywords put your content and website in the right place at the right time. By right place, we mean at the top of Google. By the right time, we mean appearing every time one of your potential customers hits that search tab.
If Google Search Console and plugins are the tools of an SEO job, then keywords are its bricks and foundations.
They need to be solid and sturdy. But, crucially, they need to be in the right place.
"Keywords are central to good SEO content marketing,"
says AXD Director Alan Davies.
"They are what you build your content around. They're also a direct bridge to your customer, a way to bring your target audience to you. Keywords make your business easy to find, easy to trust, and easy to buy from."
Finding keywords: just google it.
Let's go hunting for some keywords. We'll start in a really obvious place: Google.
This is one of the quickest, easiest, and cheapest ways to find keywords. And anyone can do it. Literally anyone. No tech skills or digital wizardry required.
Simply open a Google search tab, then type in words and phrases relating to your business.
Just don't click search. (That was the 'hard' part!)
Instead, list all the tail words that come up after your query.
For example, you might type in 'edtech company UK.' That would bring up a list of tail words under the search bar, which will look something like this:
- Educational technology companies UK
- Top edtech companies UK
- Best edtech companies UK
- Biggest edtech companies UK
- Top ten edtech companies
- Types of edtech companies
If these phrases come up on Google, you know that customers are searching for them.
Hey, presto: You now have your first keywords.
Keyword research tools
For more detailed and in-depth keyword research, start with something like Keywordtool.io.
Keywordtool.io is a free online keyword assistant that trawls Google Autocomplete to generate hundreds of relevant long-tail keywords for any topic you choose. But that's not the best part. It also has a tab showing how competitors use these keywords. You can find the common phrases that work best and identify the highest-ranking SEO keywords that your rivals are NOT using.
Then there's Google's official keyword planner, which, unsurprisingly, is called The Google Keyword Planner. It looks like the Google geniuses took the day off when naming this feature. But it does exactly what it says (maybe that was the point? Sorry, Google geniuses). And it does it very well.
The Google Keyword Planner was specifically designed for Google Ads. Don't let that put you off. It's still a handy tool to have at your disposal when crafting an SEO copywriting campaign.
All the data comes directly from the source, i.e. Google. So it's always highly reliable and highly accurate.
Go straight to the source
If you want to know what your customers are talking about, then talk to them. Crazy, right? Or at least hang out in places where you can listen to them.
Hanging out in online communities like Reddit, Quora, and other forums is a proper cheat code for discovering your customers' phrases and words. And it's an excellent way to gain insight into their wants, needs, pain points, and expectations without forking out for an expensive market research report,
Plus, you'll start to pick up on how your customer base talks, including any in-jokes, references, and lingo. Weaving your customer's particular vernacular into your keyword copy is Jedi-mind-level SEO marketing.
Increase your view count and lead rate by much you will, young one.
That was our Yoda impression, by the way, For those of you who didn't get it. Not everyone can be this cool.
At this point, you'll have a long list of keywords and phrases that you know will generate clicks. But now we need to get them onto your website and into your SEO copywriting content blogs and articles.
So let's map out a plan.
A keyword map is a massive part of formulating and organising your content strategy. Keyword mapping assigns keywords to specific pages and highlights any areas on your site that require a little bit of an SEO refresh.
If you've got a 'thing' for spreadsheets, then you'll LOVE keyword mapping. If spreadsheets hurt your brain, just pull out the trusty old whiteboard instead.
Let's get mapping those keywords.
Step one: Set up your spreadsheet (or whiteboard):
Your map should have a row of horizontal columns with the following headings:
- Page ID: For what each page is about.
- URL: The page address once published.
- Page Title: For keyword page title.
- H1 Tag: For the first title tags
- Primary Keyword: For the primary keyword for the page
- Secondary or supporting Keywords: A list of supporting keywords for the page
- Page Summary: A summary of the page's goal or objective
Step two: Analyse your keywords (You'll need another spreadsheet or whiteboard for this one!)
Take another close look at your keywords and phrases. Then decide which ones you will use and build your content around.
Group them in terms of how they would fit into your site's different types of content.
What are the highest-ranking and stand-out keywords? Which ones would leap off the page and grab your readers' attention? These are great for page titles and H1 headings.
Make a list of the more complicated and technical phrases, then earmark these for your blogs, how-to guides, and whitepapers.
What phrases capture the essence of what you do? These belong in your landing pages, call to action, and sign-up pages. Which keywords are the most emotive and value-driven?
Step three: The mapping part
Start filling in all the data points of your map with the primary and secondary keywords you've selected. Put in that work now, and you'll reap the rewards later. Big time.
Because you're going to have to write all this content soon.
Writing without a plan is like driving through the desert without a map. You will get lost and frustrated. And it will take you a long time to reach your final destination.
Writing with a plan feels like flying down on an empty motorway in cruise control.
TOP TIP: Be as specific as possible with those page summaries. It will help you keep all your keywords and content on point.
The correct keyword map will lead you to treasure and riches. Or more leads and clicks, Which is pretty much the same thing.
Keywords maps are fantastic because:
- They help you optimise every page on your site.
- They organise tonnes of random data into a strategy you can implement.
- They speed up the writing and content creation process.
- They define a vision for your content and website.
- They're data-led.
- They translate complex data and jargon into an accessible format that you and the rest of your team can follow.
- They identify gaps in content strategy and areas for improvement.
- They're actually pretty easy to create. And super effective.
- You can use them to assess your new content once it goes live.
The technical side of SEO
Technical SEO refers to the technical elements of your website. But you probably already guessed that.
Those technical elements include:
- Site structure and architecture.
- Duplicate content.
- Broken links.
- Page loading times.
- Mobile usability.
- Loads more tech stuff that you don't need to hear right now.
But why is technical SEO so important?
Google has its reputation to protect. And billions of users to keep happy.
Its search engine algorithms work 24/7, constantly assessing the technical SEO specs on billions of websites. Those with solid technical fundamentals rank highest.
Pages with snail-pace loading times and broken links get pushed down into the search engine results pages that nobody EVER visits. And rightly so. It's exactly where they belong.
How to improve your technical SEO
Site structure: Organising your pages
Reorganising site structure is job number one of any technical SEO campaign.
It's a significant ranking factor, and site structure influences several other important technical SEO considerations, including URLs, sitemaps, and broken links.
It comes down to this: a strong site structure makes all those other technical SEO tasks MUCH easier.
Site structure refers to how your pages link to each other. The best site structures are flat and easy to navigate, following a logical sequence that guides users through the site effortlessly.
They start from the home page, which links to the next layer of relevant pages, and so on, and so on...
The traditional management structure map is a helpful comparison: the CEO sits at the top (your home page.) They are a direct line to the senior management team (these are the about pages, etc.) And these link to two or three middle managers (these are your blog, content, or sub-menu pages.)
Increase your indexing game
Crawl errors are when a search engine is indexing your site but can't reach specific pages. And if it can't reach them, it can't rank them.
But eliminating your crawl errors is easy.
Start by reading your coverage report. You'll find it in your Google Search Console. The coverage report lists your site pages that Google is struggling to index. SEMRush also has a few cool technical SEO reporting features, including 'crawlability' scores for each page.
Next up, add more internal links to your deep pages - the ones that are 3 or 4 clicks away from your home page. They're lonely out there. Show them some love with a link to a primary page!
Delete duplicate and unoriginal content
Most sites, and probably yours too, will have some duplicate content. That's cool. There's nothing wrong with reinforcing your core messages and benefits.
That's what good content is all about.
But too much duplicate content will drag you down Google rankings. And, let's face it, having pages full of the same content looks lazy and unprofessional. Plus, it will annoy or bore potential customers who land on your site.
The Raven Tools Site Auditor scans your site for duplicate content. It also highlights any 'thin' content areas - pages that require some fleshing out.
You'll also need to know if you're duplicating content from pages on other websites. Copyscape's "Batch Search" feature is perfect for this.
Don't stress over any websites copying your content. Just shrug your shoulders and take it as a compliment. They think you're clever enough to copy from. Duplicate content on their site is their problem. Google will punish them for it. The focus should always be on making your content original and unique.
All done. So what happens now?
You've planned your SEO strategy and put it into action. So when can you expect to see some results?
Well, they won't happen right away.
The real magic will start to happen after around six months... And it will be worth the wait.
An SEO campaign can double your traffic and lead generation within 12 months. That's right; we did say double—twice as many potential customers in just one year.
Sounds awesome. But I haven't got time for this!
You have to be an SEO convert by now. You just have to be. It's the growth strategy you've been praying for. But what if you haven't got the time, resources, or skills to do this big job yourself?
We will do it for you. And we'll do it very, very well.
AXD is a Manchester-based SEO marketing and blog writing services agency that helps small companies grow fast.
On average, our clients see a 200% increase in lead generation within the first year.
Our clients rank higher, attract more traffic, and drive more sales. And they do it all while reducing their customer acquisition costs.
Andy Morgan, Group CEO of Affinity Group shared:
"We couldn't be happier with the work AXD has delivered for our business, they raised our company profile to where it needed to be, ensuring we stood out from the competition and brought in quality leads with a high conversion rate."
Book your free SEO discovery call with AXD today