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We thought it would be a good time to go back to the basics of SEO for a multi-part-series which we’ll do over the course of the next few weeks. Often, what we write about relating to optimising websites for search on the Agency51 blog relates to quite specific or niche subjects and it does sometimes pay to revisit fundamentals!

What Is SEO?

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of optimising a website to achieve more traffic from search engines. This is usually split into two main parts – onsite SEO and offsite SEO.

How it works

The overall Search Engine Optimisation process can, broadly speaking, be divided into 4 main areas which are listed below. We’ll visit each of these in turn over the course of this series. Let’s get started!

Technical SEO

Technical SEO relates to actions taken to improve a website’s positioning in the search engines through more technical and less content-based elements (it often ties into site structuring and user experience as well). This might include:

  • Improving the loading speed of a page or website
  • Improving Google’s ability to crawl (find and read) and index (store) all of your site’s content
  • Fixing problems with the page to page redirects on your site
  • Adjusting product page templates to be more SEO-friendly

As a general rule, technical SEO requires SEO practitioners and web developers to collaborate with each other and, although advanced technical practices can scale very well for larger websites, smaller content-driven domains usually only need to worry about getting the basics right. Speaking of content….

Keyword targeting, onsite SEO and content

Optimising individual pages for search  usually involves the following:

  • Keyword research – to determine appropriate search terms to target
  • Writing high-quality content  – targeted to the term(s) in a way that matches the user’s search intent (which might differ from being informational for research purposes or transactional with the intent to buy, for example)
  • Optimising onsite SEO signals – to help search engines understand the topic of the page and categorise it appropriately.

High-quality content on a website is a critical ranking factor and is important no matter the website. It is worth saying that ‘quality’ is a very relative term and what would be high quality on one site may not be suitable for another. For example, lead generation pages will typically look quite different to ecommerce product pages and may require different optimisation strategies.

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Offsite SEO 

Long regarded as the other main component of search visibility alongside content, offsite SEO usually refers to the generation of links between one website and another. Links are essentially ‘votes’ from one domain to another one and, in theory, the larger number of (quality) ‘votes’ a site has, it will tend to perform better within search results.

It’s important to stay away from spammy practices when developing links, as editorially-placed links on respected publications are generally much more effective (and less likely to get you penalised) than paying for links en masse or generating them in an automated manner. This is something Google’s systems are fairly good at detecting.

Search Appearance

With search results being so crowded now with the addition of ads and advanced search features (e.g. the calculator that appears when you type in an equation or the ‘knowledge graph’ panels on the right hand side that typically appear when famous actors or companies are searched for), it’s more important than ever to stand out in search. The main ways to do this are:

  • Improving meta titles  – the titles in the search results
  • Improving meta descriptions – the short paragraphs under the above
  • Using structured data – additional code which can be added to a website to help search engines understand it better and use advanced display techniques.For example, you can mark up your ecommerce store’s product prices in such a way that they actually appear in search results.

Hopefully this has given you a good overview of the four main areas of SEO. Revisit our blog next week where we will explore technical SEO in more detail (or like our Facebook page to get notified when it has been published). The first of this 4-part series. See you soon!

Ben Henderson

Ben Henderson

Ben Henderson is a SEO specialist at Agency51, and enjoys working on and writing about all aspects of technical SEO for a wide variety of websites and industries.

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