As I started my career in SEO, I knew what I was getting into… Sort of. I knew about SEO and PPC and what they meant, Search Engine Optimisation and Pay Per Click respectively (duh). I had done some research beforehand and thought I knew the basics of it, but it seems I didn’t.
I was still somewhat unaware of what was it was all about until I was taught all the basics to start off with and then got into more detail as time went on. This article can also be used as a little guide if you’re starting off with SEO, but as this is based on my personal experience, it can still be used as a reference of the basics but is more of a ‘What I learned and how I found it’ article. So, let’s get started. The main things I was taught initially were the 3 main pillars of SEO; On-Page, the Technical and Off-Page.
On-Page SEO – Boils down to how a page is understood, in terms of its content and the relevance of it.
I learned that the Page Title, which is what’s usually shown in the Search Engine’s results, should be no longer than around 60 characters. However, the page title is based on pixel width meaning that you could probably have let’s say… 128 I’s in comparison to 39 W’s due to the amount of pixels they occupy. It’s important for the brand name to be in the page title (obviously!) and sometimes its terms will have to be shortened, depending on how many pixels you’ve used up. Another thing I learned, which took me some time get right was the Meta Description, which is also shown in the results pages. There are some important things to take into account when it comes to Meta Descriptions:
- They should be around 155 characters max.
- Including the target term is a must to make sure your result snippet looks as relevant as possible.
- Brand name can be used, but it’s not 100% necessary.
- It’s good to have a Call-To-Action (CTA), which is basically an instruction such as “Call Now!” or “Check This Out!”. Especially useful when selling products.
- It has to be easily readable and understandable to avoid any confusion with the reader.
- It should to be unique to the product name or page it was written for.
While I have written quite a few, I still haven’t mastered it. Unlike my boss who can up with Meta Descriptions like it’s nothing now, after having written thousands upon thousands of descriptions. I have to say, I’m a bit jealous but I’ll get there even though it’s not the hardest thing in the world.
Technical SEO – Boils down to how the site and pages are structured and crawled. This includes the code behind the site, CSS, loading times and crawl efficiencies.
I found out that every website should have a robots.txt file saved at the root of he domain i.e. www.mysite.com/robots.txt. In the robots.txt file you should add the XML sitemaps. It makes things easier for Google’s Spider/Crawler when it comes to looking through your website in search of finding out where to find your website’s content. You should also add pages that the Crawler should avoid crawling, either because there’s not enough content or they just aren’t wanted in the search pages at all such as the comments, tags and privacy pages.
Redirects – Now, there are 2 main types of redirects used in SEO that I learned about and those are 301 and 302 redirects.
- 301 Redirects – Being a permanent solution for pages that are basically out of service. This redirects the user to the brand new page, bypassing the old page location as it doesn’t exist anymore. 301 redirects also affect the value going through the link (around 10%), thus reducing the value being passed to the final page.
- 302 Redirects – On the other hand, are meant as a temporary solution. There aren’t many times in which temporary redirects need to be implemented, but it’s still useful to have it separately. 302 redirects are easy to implement and a lot of people use the wrong redirect when they’re working on a website. This type of redirect also passes no link value through to the temporary page.
Duplicate Content – Be careful of duplicated pages on your site, even if they are accidental. One thing I learned that will stick in my head is that Google hates duplicated content. If a website can be accessed with and without “www.”, it could be a cause of duplication for example. It’s best to canonicalise the URL you want people to go to when going to a website.
Off-Page SEO – Boils down to a site’s popularity. References, backlinks from relevant sources of authority. Another thing to associate with Off-Page SEO are Social Signals such as those from; Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, etc.
Link Building is a big thing although as search develops, it is becoming less prominent. It can help you gain authority and trustworthiness. I learned about the memorable Penguin update that was released by Google back in 2012 to penalise sites with links from spammy directories and articles that were basically just irrelevant and large scale in attempt for websites to unnaturally increase their authority and rankings. There are two types of links; Follow and No Follow links.
- Follow – Links that pass value, helping the page being linked to gain authority.
- No Follow – These links pass no link equity and are mostly for the user. For example, in the comments section, someone posts a link back to their own website thinking it may give him a bit of authority when in fact, it won’t, no link equity will pass through.
Even early on I’ve had experience where a website had been spammed with hundreds of backlinks that were all generated through spammy duplicated content. When something of that sort happens and you see that your pages are being linked on a website of no relevance at all, it’s best to contact the owner of that site to try and remove the links. If that method doesn’t work, disavowing the domains to let Google know they’re spammy is the next best choice. When Google releases the next update that deals with spam, you’ve mitigated the risk of penalty as best you can.
In general, I found that some of the basics of SEO were having good, unique and relevant Meta Data and content. Having duplicated content is a big no-no, yet many people still do it either because they don’t realise it or because well… They don’t care, I guess. I also think that writing articles for websites other than your own can really help bring in traffic and potential, loyal users, as long as you keep giving them relevant and engaging content.
Considering I haven’t really written an article before, I really enjoyed writing this one specifically. I had typed over a thousand words before I knew it! I feel proud. Moving forward, I’d probably like to learn more about the Technical Side of SEO as I find it the most interesting and practical for me. I’m intrigued by code and hopefully I will be able to learn some coding languages in the future, starting with HTML! What are some of the important things you learnt when you started your career in SEO? Let us know in the comment section below!