Let’s start by explaining the difference between SEO and SEA:
- SEO (Search engine optimalisation): Is the process of making sure your (business) website is found organically when potential clients search the internet (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.)
- SEA (Search engine advertising): Is the paid service a lot of search engines like Google provide to make sure when potential clients search the internet that your website is the result they see. More money means higher ranking, and that your ad shows up more often when people search the internet. Such ads can be recognized (on Google) by the word “Ad” before the website’s URL and are always shown before any organic results.
Now you probably think, can’t we just pay and be done with it?
The answer is a firm no. For SEA, we also need good SEO, both use the same tools to make sure your website shows up when people type in their keywords. Having bad SEO means your ads via SEA won’t show up as much as they could for the money you invest in them. If you want to squeeze everything out of it, we better get your website optimized for search engines.
The basics of SEO
To understand SEO, we need to learn a bit more about how a website works behind the scenes. Every website out there is built with HTML and CSS code to make sure a browser (Chrome, Edge, Safari, Opera, Mozilla, etc.) can read it and show you beautiful websites. HTML is the structure and backbone, while CSS is used to make it pretty. For SEO, our HTML is really important. Having a good, structured website helps Google to index your website. Using the correct HTML code for the correlated blocks on your website help tremendously. For example, A Large and important title is best places in a h1 tag like this:
Every search engine out there will be able to understand that this title is really important. We have 6 levels in our “header tags” from H1 to H6. HTML has a lot of those “tags” that help to structure your website; that’s why it’s quite useful to have a professional build your website. These people know perfectly how to structure your website and optimize them for search engines.
Today however we have a lot of easy tools to help us for building our websites ourselves such as Webflow, Wix, Squarespace, Shopify, Wordpress, etc. Unfortunately, they don’t take away the need to know the basics if we want an optimized website for search engines. After all, we want potential clients to find our business website, right?
“Meta tags…” what tags?
Now that we know that HTML exists out of tags to structure our website; we can move on to the tags that will help us to structure our search engine results and for sharing our websites URL. When we look at the image here, we see a typical Google search result here. I used Pixel Brand as an example since I optimized my website myself. If you look at the structure it has 3 parts, the URL at the top, our “meta title” in blue and our “meta description” in gray text. We also see 2 words are bold, those words are the words I used in my search in this case I searched for pixel Brand. Our URL is not something we can’t really change unless we would pay for a new domain name. As an example I could also use www.pixelbrand.be instead, because I pay for both, but redirect it to www.pixel-brand.com to not confuse any visitors.
Our Meta Title in blue, we can however change in our HTML code with the tag:
<title>This is your meta tag title</title>
They are always placed before the “body” tag inside the “head” tag to maintain a good structure. Note that every page on your website can have a different Meta Title and it’s best to use them. They also show up on the tabs in most browsers. A good title that fits with the content of the page will help to rank higher on every search engine. Those engines are really smart… and are supported by an AI algorithm that filter the “good from the bad.”
The Meta Description in gray is also changeable in our HTML code with the tag:
<meta name=”description” content=”this is where you place your description>
The meta tag has multiple uses and requires a bit more code to tell the browser and search engine what kind of content is inside. We can for example also use name=”keywords” however they aren’t relevant anymore in 2022 and search engines no longer use the keyword code to improve your websites ranking. The description however is still used but might not always show up if the content on your page is more relevant according to a search engine’s AI. They also are placed inside the “head” tag and can be used for the description for our “open graph” sharing on social media and other platforms as well.
I know this sounds daunting and it’s a lot to take in. Luckily, we have some help from our website builder like Webflow, Wix or Squarspace. Most of those platforms have provided a dedicated location where we can add our meta title and description without the need to worry about the code and tags. It’s still useful to understand where they are located on your website if we for example would want to check ours via inspect in any browser.
Does our website’s content influences our SEO?
Short answer, yes it does. To be more specific though, every text and image we place on our website has an impact on our website’s SEO. Let’s dive into how you can make that impact worthwhile. Good content starts with good copywriting. It’s not enough to only filter out spelling and grammar mistakes, we also have to look at context and relevance. If your content isn’t relevant to the bigger subject of your website, then it won’t have a high ranking in the search result.
You probably wonder how search engines detect this?
Well, this is thanks to web crawlers. These are “bots” (a program) that scan your webpages and compares the text on them to whatever people typed in the search bar. In the old days we could influence this with the keywords in a meta tag, today though search engines crawl your webpages and find those keywords themselves in the content of your website. With the help of an AI your webpages get a score for the keywords used in your content. Things like location, language, devices used and cookies left by previous website also play a big part in what search engines show first. That’s why when we search from Belgium, we won’t get American results. There also exists a counter measure for an over usage of keywords in your content. This is to prevent “cheating” your way to the top by adding a trillion keywords to your content to rank first. It’s all about finding a balance and to talk about your niche to stay relevant. Researching what potential customers search for on the internet to find you is therefore crucial to curate our content to it and show up at the top.
How does branding help SEO?
With branding and brand strategy we define who your potential customers are and help you research what they search for. All that information is gathered into your ideal customer persona. Next, we can build a content strategy to make sure your website shows up at the top. We also look at where you best place your content, so it is seen/found by your target audience.
The best kept SEO secrets!
Your website will rank higher the more it’s referenced on other high ranked websites relevant to yours. That’s why social media has become so important in the business world and ad space is so popular. Because social media has become so diverse and big it has relevance to everything and is ranked at the top; it’s the perfect place for sharing your content and reference your website. However, it’s not the only place that’s useful. Blogs, forums, wiki’s, etc. are all useful places to link to your website. Especially if they have that high relevance or similar content. Like many things, this also has a fine balance between too much and not enough. The reverse is also true, if your website links to other high ranked relevant websites, it will improve the ranking of both websites.
Now that we’ve gone over the structure and content it’s to time to talk about design. More specific about UI (user interface) and UX (user experience). These days people visit your website using a lot of different devices like their mobile phone, a tablet, a laptop, a desktop, etc. All of them have a different screen size, your website must be user friendly on all of them, especially for your SEO. This means we have to design for small screens, medium screens and big screens and make sure nothing breaks; even though they are called breakpoints. Sometimes this means that we have to divide our content into groups and decide what to show where and change content between screen sizes. Luckily most platforms like Wix, Squarespace, Webflow, etc. have build in tools to help us make our website responsive.
We also have the more human aspect of design, which isn’t easy to influence. People that visit your website either like it or they don’t. People make that decision in less than 2 seconds. If your website isn’t loaded in those 2 seconds or your website doesn’t show the correct content for them… your visitor is gone. Professionals call this the bounce rate of a website. A high bounce rate will lower your website ranking on search engines. Why?
Because it means people don’t like your website or isn’t loaded quick enough for those visitors. An average bounce rate is between 41 and 55%, from 56 to 70% it’s higher than average, anything higher than 70% is pretty much a problem. For an excellent rate we aim between 26 and 40%. If you can keep your bounce rate between those numbers, you have an amazing website for sure. Improving your bounce rate comes down to loading speed, good design and structure. Things like having alt text on images, images that scale in file size vs screen size and the right use of tags go a long way to improve your rankings.
Last but not least, having a “sitemap.xml” and “robot.txt” file(s) is really important. You can add these documents to your website to help search engines make sense of your website. The sitemap keeps a lot data about your website in one place such as when a page was last updated, which pages it links to, and info about different languages of the same page, etc.
A robot.txt file on the other hand, will tell search engines not to index certain pages, which you define in that file. Quite handy if you ask me.
Thank you for reading and we’ll see you in our next blog!