You’re planning to launch your business on the internet. Congratulations!
What’s your plan on making yourself visible online? If you’re not sure, here’s a hint. How do you find anything on the internet?
You Google it, of course!
Almost 75% of the world’s search traffic in 2017 passes through Google. That means if you want to be visible, you play by their rules. You need to be visible on Google, otherwise get ready to close the shops.
Here’s how we can help you. We’ll teach you search engine optimisation or SEO. We’ll even build it to help small businesses in Australia like you gain an advantage.
One primer before anything else.
SEO is scary because it takes time. It is complex and requires time and resources to do. Every tiny adjustment can make or break your site.
The thing is, this SEO is for absolute beginners. It’s not designed to teach you any deep strategy in SEO. That’s for another day.
We’re here to introduce you to the new, updated version of SEO. There’s been much change in the SEO landscape since its early years. What we cover here is a reflection of current techniques accepted by Google.
If there’s anything we can promise you, it’s that this guide won’t be hard to follow. You can keep on reading or find what you need and go on. It’s all up to you.
What is SEO?
We’ve put a definition on SEO countless times, but it seems all it resulted to was confusion.
At its core, the goal of search engine optimisation is visibility and rankings. The primary means to reach that goal is to perform adjustments to your site. You want it to be relevant and related to a searcher’s intent.
To understand better, let’s dive into the essential terms that you’d be seeing throughout this guide.
What are Search Rankings?
Search rankings are the entry positions of search results on Google. If you search on Google, you will see the ten most relevant entries for your search keyword.
The second page has the sites ranked 11-20 and so on, but that’s irrelevant. What’s important is the first page. The lion’s share of site traffic comes from being on the top 5, with up to a minimum of 75% of clicks going to the first page.
A domain receives its rankings by how relevant a search engine thinks you are to the search query done by its customer.
What is Visibility?
Visibility pertains to how a site or domain gets found out by a search engine. Once it finds you within its index, you get put on the search engines results pages (SERP). If you have strong search visibility, this means you’re easy to find through different search queries.
The Elements of a Search
A search happens through the use of keywords. By inputting a string of words or a question, a search engine will then find the best-related domains that can supply a proper response to the query.
A response may be in the form of information or a product listed on the webpage. The goal of Google is to make sure you find what information you’re looking for in context with your intent.
The more your business relates to the context and intent of the search, the more relevant your business is.
For small businesses in Australia, your goal is to divert traffic to your site. More traffic means leads, more conversions and more sales.
In the current search landscape, that can be hard. The problem is that there’s too much competition. Customers are also smarter.
Most online shoppers search in Google first before they buy, so they will do comparisons first and foremost. The silver lining to that is 90% of online shoppers don’t have a brand in mind when they search.
This means, with proper SEO and marketing, you can convince them you’re the right choice. This also means that you have to make sure you have enough insight to keep your knowledge fluid. It should adapt to current SEO trends and match current buyer behaviour.
How Does Google Work?
As stated, the goal of search engines is to provide the most contextually relevant webpage to the customer’s response. The more relevant the webpage is, the higher it ranks.
How does Google decide on this? There are multiple components and various factors that affect how Google ranks a webpage. Google has up to 200 ranking factors known within the industry.
The gist of all of it boils down to two questions.
- How relevant is the webpage to the search query?
- How authoritative is the webpage?
To explain the first question, a webpage becomes relevant through the keywords and content that is on it. Google crawls the page and looks for topics and keywords that relate to the query. If the search engine believes that there is enough context for the page, it adds it to an index of results for that keyword.
This goes hand-in-hand with the idea of authority. For Google to know how authoritative a webpage is, they measure the number of people who read the page, how long they stay on it and if other websites link back to it as a reference.
The more popular the page is on the internet, the higher its rank goes.
Does that mean we add as many keywords as possible and it will rank? It was like that when search engines weren’t as smart as they are today.
There are core ideas that you need to make a successful SEO strategy for your small business.
Three Core Ideas of a Successful SEO Strategy
The three core ideas of a successful SEO strategy is:
- Technical SEO
- Off-Page and Backlinking
If you’re a small business in Australia, using these three core ideas as a quick way to track your SEO efforts can help you stay on topic.
We need to remember that when it comes to the internet, content is king. We want to make sure that what we provide is top quality content that provide value to the lives of anyone who reads it.
Content may come in different forms. You may have written blogs, video content or copy in your web pages. Content is there to give you better visibility on the internet.
Your aim as a business is for the reader to say: “oh, I learned something.” If the customer believes that what you provide has value, they’ll keep coming back. Publish more content that people like gives you a better chance at search visibility. That’s why almost everyone and their grandmother has a blog.
Search engines also tend to look at page content to help rank the pages.
During a search, Google will send crawlers and check for hints on what’s the topic the webpage has. They will use context information to catalogue every page. It will start checking through a laundry list of factors that tell Google if the page has quality or not.
Structure, keywords, keyword density, meta tags, header tags, image file names and alt tags. The list goes on and on.
Google’s algorithm will then match the page with someone’s query.
Even if your content is king, however, it’s not everything. A king still needs to have its court’s full support to run the country. Here’s a few elements of content that you need to help your site rank on Google Australia.
Providing Content Value
To remind everyone reading this article, search engine optimisation and ranking on Google is not the end result of what we’re doing.
We still want to make money, and small businesses in Australia don’t make money from traffic. We’ve seen sites with 200,000 unique visitors a month who come to us because they barely have any leads or sales. That’s because of two things:
One, they didn’t leverage their content to gear towards the products they’re selling. They had the best and most useful content, but they don’t have the right visitors. The people who visit them are looking for off-roading vehicles, whilst their products are adventure merch.
Two, they got the wrong products for the right visitors. They were not leveraging their content towards the eventual sales of their product. Their visitors love the information, but since they thought it was all an info site, that’s all they did.
This is why the most important element of content is keyword strategy.
Understanding Keyword Strategy
Keyword strategy is the use of proper keywords in your content. Also known as keyword research, it is the process of adding keywords that are within your topics and niche.
These keywords tend to reflect what people are asking Google about your industry. We’ve written an introductory guide to keyword research for beginners here.
Keyword strategy is not all about finding the keywords related to your topic.
Depending on the intent, you would want long tail keywords that are informational and have very low competition. You can then use those long-tailed keywords with short keyword phrases. These keyword phrases are 1 to 4 words long, have much traffic but also high competition.
If you’re educating, you need to use informational intent keywords. They guide your readers into the concepts of your niche or topic. This is to show your expertise on the industry and the level of authority you command.
When selling, you want commercial intent keywords. These can help your pages show up when the leads are ready to buy and become customers.
There’s also a deeper discussion about this that you can find here.
On-Page SEO pertains to everything that is in your webpage. Why is it called on-page SEO and not content SEO? Here’s the low-down.
When Google or search engines crawl your pages, they don’t only look at what you have to say on the article. No, no! Search engines also look at the code in the page itself to determine the relevancy of your page.
You see, under the hood, there are codes called meta-tags that help description the content of a page.
Imagine if you have a book. Each book will have a chapter, and each chapter has a sub-topic. Meta tags make sure that Google knows the sub-topic of your page.
There’s some elements that make up On-Page SEO. Let’s explore some of them.
The title of a post should have the primary keywords near the start of the title. Google provides extra value to the words at the start of the title.
Title modifiers are a good way to help your article rank for long tail keywords. These include year, “best of”, “guide”, “benefits of”, “review”, buying list” and so on.
H1 Title Tag
The H1 tag should only be present in the post title and nowhere else.
Use images, videos, infographics and anything to break the monotony of text. It can help reduce bounce rates and improve visitor time on site, which are two valuable ranking factors.
Image File Names and Alt Text
Search engines don’t know what is on the images that you upload. To help them, the image name and alt tags should contain keywords that are related to the topics of the page. These are called LSI keywords or semantic keywords.
They’re not only keyword synonyms but rather they’re words that add context to the topic. It’s recommended to make them short and sweet but as descriptive as possible.
For example, if I’m an Italian restaurant small business in Australia, my article might be about the “10 best Authentic Italian Recipes”.
For the image names, I would be adding not simple keywords like “Italian restaurant” and “Italian food”. Rather, I would add words like “Fettuccini Alfredo”, “Pizza de Margherita” and “Pasta Al Limone” to the image titles and alt text.
This creates the context that the topic is “italian recipes” and the images are about “pizza recipes” and “pasta recipes” because they’re related.
H2 subheadings are a great way to divide the sub-topics within your content. H2 tags should have the most valuable keywords for your content and must relate to the content below it.
Your target keyword should be in an H2 subheading at least once or twice. The amount of times will depend on the length of the keyword.
Meta titles and meta descriptions display the search listing title. Meta descriptions are 160-character blurbs below the meta title. If you are on Google, the meta title is the blue title whilst the meta description is the long blurb in black.
Long Form Content
Google likes long content. A long content can rank better because the long content can signify a more exhaustive write-up. For optimal SEO, some sources suggest 600 to 700 words minimum, with an absolute minimum of 300 words for product pages or product pages. For informational articles, 1000 to 1500 words are standard. Skyscraper articles tend to go from 2000 words and above, which are multiple buying guides and reviews.
What’s more important than length, however, is density. A 750-word information-dense article that is well-written and well-sourced is better than a 2000-word article made of fluff.
Internal links refer to the other pages within the site. Limit internal links to around 3 to 5 links every 1000 words, with a minimum of two. This can boost your SEO through some ways.
One, internal links should only refer to contextually similar pages within the same topic and category. This means if you want to boost the relevance of your, for example, “Pasta recipes”, then only link your pasta recipes to each other.
Much like how you categorise goods in a supermarket, you only interlink the ones in the same category. They need to have at least a single relationship for it to work.
The other reason why you should internal link is that it allows the search engine to crawl your other pages through the external links. Combining both, you’re telling Google that all the interlinked articles are relevant to each other.
Here’s a few tips:
- Where you can, we suggest linking to your contact us or about us page once near the end. Use a call to action to ask your readers to give you a call or consider your services.
- Never link back to your home page. This creates a loop, which dilutes your relevancy.
By itself, internal links don’t have much value as a ranking factor. They’re there to establish semantic relationships between pages and even lead readers to other content within the site.
External links help develop the relevancy of topics between you and other web pages. It is a two-way relationship that we encourage. There’s no proper way to do external linking, but here are a few tips if you’re a small business in Australia:
- Add external links to high authority sites within your niche. This positions you as a resource that links to other helpful topics – a plus in Google’s book.
- Except for a few times in some articles, we discourage linking to your competitors, especially if you’re providing the same services. Some see such as a best practice, considering that you are connecting to relevant services. This gives you minimal reward, however, and can funnel your potential customers to them. Unless you have specific guest posting agreements, it’s best to link to competitors at a sparing rate.
- If you need to link to competitors, use only their brand names in anchor texts. Limit this within the content, rather than add them in site-wide links in your navigation or footers.
Keep in mind that Google aims to return results that are satisfactory to a search query. External linking is recommended up to the volume of your internal links. That means around 2 – 4 links minimum per post.
The second core element of search engine optimisation is what we call technical SEO or on-site optimisation. To sum it up, a website is made up of two parts: the content and the code. Technical SEO pertains to everything under the hood – the details in the code that make the browsing experience for the users much better.
Why is this important to Google? Here’s the thing.
When Google and other search engines send crawlers to your site, they don’t see it the way that we do. A crawl is devoid of graphics, colour and multimedia. All the spiders see is the code and the text content on the webpage.
To give the crawler a way to understand what you did, it reads the technical setup you have on the site. Google wants to scan and index your site, so it will find factors that make it easier to read.
Here’s some of the basic details you need to take care of.
URLs are valuable to Google. Google tends to prefer short and sweet titles, with the first 3 to 5 words of the URL giving better weight. Make sure that your target keyword is in your URL, but be careful to prevent it from repeating keywords twice on the url.
As an example, a bad URL is:
www.conqueryourmarket.online/digital/top-23-ways-to-get-the-most-of-digital-marketing or www.conqueryourmarket.online/p?=3232341
A good URL should be:
It’s short, has no duplicate keywords and has the primary keywords on the first 3 – 5 words of the page.
Page Load Speed
Page load times are one of the biggest ranking factors in Google now. A fast page load speed lets people visit your pages quicker and indicates site quality.
How does page load times correlate to page quality? That’s because a website with the right, code with no bloating and good image compression means someone took time to take care of the site.
The absolute minimum page load speed Google requires is 3 seconds, which is the time most people will abandon the page. The faster your site can load, the better.
If you need insights on how to improve your site, you can use this page load insights tool by Google.
Sitemaps and Robots.txt
Sitemaps and robots.txt files are more useful for search engines than users.
The sitemap is a .xml file that contains the link to all the pages on your site. Webmasters can submit this to Google to get their sites indexed. Crawlers can use this sitemap to find and index your pages with better accuracy.
Robots.txt, on the other hand, tells search engines what not to crawl, so it does not show up on the SERPs.
Add both sitemaps and robots.txt to streamline and speed up page crawls.
Broken Links and Bad Redirects
Broken links, bad redirects and dead links to external sites are something that requires monitoring. Make sure to take care of broken links as soon as possible and redirect old URLs to new pages if need be.
Broken links can pull down your ranking and result to a bad user experience.
Duplicate Content and Plagiarism
Google is sensitive to plagiarism and duplicate content. It will make content comparisons and penalise the site it determines has duplicate content. This can result in your pages not showing up on search engines.
If you’re an e-commerce business where duplicate pages are unavoidable, you would want to add canonical tags to your pages.
Off-page SEO and backlinking are optimisation techniques that you don’t do on the site itself. Whilst the first two core components make your site useful, it’s backlinking and off-page SEO that makes it accessible.
Backlinks are, in normal situations, out of your control since it’s the links other sites use to refer to your page. The general assumption is that websites are supposed to refer to your pages if your content is relevant. This creates a specific ranking value in receiving relevant backlinks.
Even then, there are still elements that further comprise off-page SEO.
Understanding Link Quality
Link quality is essential to a backlink. When building backlinks, Googles does not care if low-trust sites link to your pages. On the contrary, this can even be detrimental to your SEO if shady sites are linking back to you.
Google has the most significant range of ranking factors about link quality. Their search algorithm understands what backlinks have value and what are suspicious.
We don’t know most of the ranking factors Google’s algorithm uses. We have, however, understanding of the three most basic ones:
- The site’s popularity is important. Popularity is authority to Google. If a popular website relevant to your niche links to you, that can give you a boost in optimisation.
- The linking page’s topic should be relevant to the subject of the page where they link to you.
- Trusted sites who have good track records during their history can also provide better page rank to your site.
Social media, in its heyday, were powerful links. Now that they have their populations, social media backlinks do not have any power at all.
Even then, social media backlinks can bring traffic to your site, and traffic can make your site grow in both ranking and visibility.
It can also help with the site’s branding. Whilst we won’t discuss it here since it’s an advanced SEO move, brand mentions or linkless link building can help build your reputation and authority.
Brand mentions in social media can be valuable when done right, which becomes one of the core tenets of viral marketing.
Link Building Strategies
If you need some strategies to link building, here’s a few of them:
- Organic backlinks are the links done by websites to refer to you. These are valued, especially if they come from trusted sites.
- Guest postings are blogs that you publish on other sites. Most third-party guest posting sites allow you to add a few links back to your web pages, together with a link to your site in the bio. Most sites who have middling visibility on the internet tend to trade guest posts between each other as a guest posting agreement.
- Outreach is going to sites, reading their content and emailing them to reference it on one of their posts. If they think it’s valuable enough, then they will oblige and refer. Outreach tends to be hit and miss. It’s a dirty job that needs to be done. Otherwise, the site won’t work.
There’s More SEO to Do
There are other elements to search engine optimisation that we will discuss. For one, Local SEO is an entire topic on its own that requires a more dedicated deep dive. We have discussed Local SEO before, which you can find here.
You would also need to learn to use the tools of the trade if you plan on surviving the competitive market for small businesses in Australia. We’ve had some discussions of the best SEO tools on the market before as well.
All in all, search engine optimisation’s goal is to leverage your content. By leveraging your content, you gain more visibility on the internet. More visibility can result in better traffic and, in the end, better sales.
Is SEO worth doing? Yes.
If, in any case, you instead focus on the business side of things, some homegrown SEO agencies can help you do SEO the right way. From SEO to digital marketing, all you need is the right team to make it work.
We’re talking about Sparta Digital Australia. Sparta Digital comprises a team of mavericks who continually study the industry’s top strategies. Digital marketing, SEO, advertising… they’re here to make sure you get the best results every time.
Sparta Digital is there to take care of the technical SEO and digital marketing so you can focus on the business side of things.