The Basics of SEO – What Beginners Need to Know

24.02.2022 | Category: eCommerce |


Search Optimisation is an always-on web discipline that is predominantly maintained within the marketing function. I say always-on, because unless you specifically block search engine crawlers from your website, your website is almost always searchable and your site’s optimization is taken into consideration whether you practice SEO or not.

To begin with, employing SEO is to have an understanding of where these search engines are placing your website when people search for words that are associated with your products, services or brand. We’ll assume we’re referencing Google when we talk about search engines from here on in.

This is simply a kickstarter overview of basic SEO principles, Google suggests they have over 200 signals ranking web pages within their algorithm. Use this information as a guide if you’re new to SEO, but do consult an expert if you need a professional SEO marketing strategy for a business – Google can and will penalise sites that participate in bad SEO practices.

There are 3 core buckets to consider for basic SEO: Onsite, Offsite and Technical. So as we’ve already suggested one aspect of SEO is “to have an understanding of where these search engines are placing your website when people search for words” – this means you really ought to start with a collection of desirable words (keywords) that you feel like you should be ranking for – your keyword universe is useful wrapper for this collection. These are non-brand generic phrases that relate to your products or your services. We’ll assume you should already rank well for your brand name – if you don’t, you’ll likely require advanced SEO support.

Once you have that collection of keywords, you can start to plan how to rank for these phrases. Here are some simple tips on getting going.

Measure your keyword rankings

● Put your keywords into a rank tracker like SEMRush so they can be measured as a single metric called visibility
● In SEMrush for example, you can measure that against 5 competitors to see how visible you are on your chosen keywords. SEMrush also gives you a list of around 1000 competitors in your search space
● Think of keywords as a collection of highway billboards – how much real estate could you own on that highway (5%? 10%? 50%? etc).
● Once set, the full keyword universe becomes the ongoing basis for your visibility strategy, so it’s best not to change it, unless you’re adding new products that requires new keyword targeting.

Map keywords to your pages

● Pick out your key services or products and identify 10-20 phrases (keywords) for each one.
● Each product or service should have its own unique landing page, so keywords don’t then overlap
● Google really only wants to present its search users with 1 page from your website per keyword
● Don’t try and rank multiple pages for single keywords, you could be penalised. Map pages to phrases, so you can separate the keywords into groups that belong to pages.
● In a tool like SEMrush you can add tags to keywords that will group them together, it’s useful to map these tags to pages that represent clusters of phrases.

Your desire to be present for the search queries you have selected, helps you define the content that you need to optimise onsite in order to rank. If you have the best content for the query, but you’re still not ranking, it is then likely that you have a deficit in your technical optimisation or your offsite optimisation.

Onsite SEO


Creating and maintaining onsite web content that delivers optimum organic search traffic using plan, do, review, refresh, remove.


When you plan content it’s primarily for 2 reasons.
1. You have a content gap for a desirable keyword set and you need to create a new page or
2. You have tried to create content for a keyword set and it’s not performing.

● Refer back to your keyword list and the phrase to page map. If you have keywords with no pages, you need to plan those into a content schedule.
● If all the keywords have pages in the map and by that logic they should be performing, you need to check their rank in SEMrush or Google Search Console for some hints on how far off they are
● The core of the page should reflect the topic that your visitors are searching for without any distractions. If the content does not represent the search topic, it’s likely that Google won’t rank it too well and you need to plan
some further analysis with some advanced SEO help
● Look at the keywords that should be ranking, assess how well they are satisfied on the page, how soon are the queries answered and how fulfilling is your content to the reader’s needs?
● Identify the edits you need to make and put those into your content plan for attention.
● You can use SEMrush to gather a forecast of estimated search volumes for your keywords. Potion 1 can have a click through rate of anything from 5%-20% it varies quite a bit. But for your own purposes, it’s useful to forecast what you think you might achieve if you earned a top ranking position for your keywords


Inline with the content calendar and page planning, create search focused content and publish to the web on a single URL for each chosen piece of content.

● Write the content structured to satisfy the core searchable elements: meta title & description, opening title, opening paragraph and URL
● Include HTML elements or Coded Markup within the piece that will highlight key themes within the content. i.e title tags, bold text, lists, images, FAQs, links in and out and any additional microdata (mark up) suggested from recipe schema if you’ve written a recipe, FAQ schema if you answer questions, product schema for a shop.
● Publish to the web and record the date for future review, considering 3 months as suggested window for Google to frequently crawl, measure and rank the new or updated page


Arrange content grooming sessions, to review your content after you’ve allowed search engines a reasonable amount of time to crawl and rank the page. 90 days is the suggested minimum for pages to bed-in to the search results and establish themselves within their own search space.

● Create a tracker to schedule audit/grooming sessions, suggested minimum 90 days from go-live dates of your content
● Prior to each session review the forecasted metrics that you set out during the planning phase. Its recommended to use google analytics and google search console for these
● Measure data points like average session duration for a visitors who land via your content – GA, bounce rate – GA, impressions amassed for the page – GSC, Clicks to the page – GSC, CTR – GSC & Average Rank – GSC
● Review the numbers against your forecasts and hypothesis the cause of any discrepancies.
● Make a task list of edits that will help further advance the content to achieve it goals


Upon completion of each content grooming session, you will likely amass a list of suggestions that will further improve the content. Once it’s been live for at least 90 days, you will have an understanding of what’s needed to make it grow even more. Content should not site still and you need to refresh each piece so it remains competitive and attractive to both visitor and crawlers.

● Carry out the edits suggested in the review phase
● Consider increasing the forecasted metrics if you’ve hit targets early
● Repost and set a further touch point to audit it again further down the line. You can stick with the 90 day reminder or archive for a longer (180 day) window for a 3rd audit


Content can often negatively impact a website and if the audit session doesn’t look good, you need to consider removing that content and either repurposing the copy into a new page with a different approach or simply removing the content all together

● Delete the page and archive the copy for potential alternative use
● It is likely that the page had no use or generated no inbound activity and will therefore have no negative impact if removed. Serve a 410 to tell search engines the content is fully gone, as a 404 is an error page and suggests that the content might come back. Crawlers will continue to crawl 404 URLs from their own archives, wasting crawls on pages that don’t exist is inefficient.
● Serve a 301 redirect if the content earned backlinks but had no business use to your site. BAcklinks do not always mean usefulness, but you can redirect that PageRank if it’s suitable to a page that’s appropriate to the inbound user journey.


Tech SEO Strategy

Maintain a website that is optimised inline with best practice for earning organic search traffic

HTML & Inline Scripts

Presenting the basic, expected technical elements to crawlers that identify everything that the page is about in a relevant and accessible way:

● Appropriate meta tags to match searcher intent, targeting traffic that benefits brand
● Accessible HTML, coded so that crawlers find and index content easily, Htags, Ptags etc
● The use of accessibility tags where necessary like image alt attributes, link titles
● Microdata to help bots identify context within the content, FAQ schema, Reviews etc and for search engines to present attractive clickable snippets in the serps

Site Health

Ensure all areas of the website are accessible to bots/crawlers (Googlebot & Bingbot mainly) that should be accessible, without errors:

● A crawler can navigate a website, as a human would without landing on error pages
● Searchable pages are not blocked from crawls (robots.txt rules)
● User flow doesn’t navigate through unnecessary redirect chains
● Redirects when required, navigate to correct website properties & pages www/https etc

Site Hierarchy

Organising the website in a way that benefits both user experience and crawler experience, by ordering the relevancy of the site into levels that map out the importance of pages through its navigation, accessibility & categorisation:

● Ensuring sitemaps are healthy and optimised to encourage bot flow through the website
● Unused pages/urls are removed from any navigation touch points and sitemaps
● Inaccessible orphaned pages are either excluded from organic search flow or linked to
● Category clusters and archive pages have good internal navigation & pagination
● Canonical URLs clearly identify which versions of pages should be indexed
● Topic clusters share SEO page rank through to pillar pages via internal link flow

Alternative Territories and Foreign Markets

Alternative territories and geo targeted sections of the website must be tagged properly with HREFlang identifiers, they should be fully translated and organised into localised domains or single websites that are displayed in a way that reflects the language and buying habits of that local market

● HREFlang tags communicate to crawlers where alternative territory URLs are
● URL or Domain structure is organised so that territories are easily partitioned
● Content is localised and translated to avoid duplicate content penalties

Site speed

General efforts should be made by the development & technical teams to ensure websites are fast, accessible and efficient. You can however use tools like Lighthouse in Google Chrome to target efficiencies within delivery of a website, so that SEO algorithms are satisfied and optimised towards ranking factors.

● Aiming for a good to high score above 65% as a basic for all elements within the lighthouse scoring matrix is recommended.


Offsite SEO

Increase the value that search engines place on your website (your authority) by attracting digital referrals to your site in the form of links from other authority websites. The greater your authority, the better chance you have of ranking in searches related to your business.




● Ascertain the non-brand topics to focus on for each campaign where you want to grow or improve rank.
● The links provide context to learning machines that are trying to identify your place in the online ether, so if they relate to your products or services, then you’re highly likely to improve your rankings.
● One way to look at this, is to target link campaigns from a product specific angle or a topic specific angle.

Product Focus

Target digital media coverage for PR related to the nature of your products. Rank by association is something that has been proven on many occasions. If your PR is product specific, the sites that share your PR, will tend to wrap the referral in their own story related to the product theme.

Topic Focus

Similar to a product approach, media coverage is earned by telling stories for chosen themes. If you are a web hosting brand and your site is shared within topical posts about digital technology, computers, the internet etc. in theory you create signals that help search engines see that you are also a valid tech brand.




● Define the need by either assessing where we need to grow or what you might need to cover for a more strategic purpose.
● When you target offsite SEO or digital PR, you could strip it down to the following two needs.
1) A need to grow rank because of underperformance
2)A business need that determines that you should be present for a topic.

Ranking need

Link campaigns can be rank focussed, to help your business grow its visibility and is therefore useful in your optimisation strategy. If you need to improve your visibility and you’ve maxed on what you feel you can achieve in your onsite content strategy, a link project could enhance your website’s overall strength in search.

Business need

Links are also a product of traditional PR and they generate traffic. So it’s also worth focusing on digital PR from a generic growth perspective. The links can help your authority, but the traffic can deliver new customers. If you already rank well, rank doesn’t have to be the sole objective for the campaign. PR noise like a holiday period, a public event or a big occasion can be the catalyst that inspires you to produce a digital PR campaign that earns links

At this point it’s our recommendation that you consult an expert in digital PR and content marketing if you want to pursue offset SEO. That would be either in-house with a hired specialist or through an agency.

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