Guides in this series
Welcome to our DIY guide to SEO. In this guide you will learn some basic techniques to do your own SEO, and – with some luck and skill – beat your competitors in search results.
This guide assumes you have a WordPress website with a plugin such as Rank Math or Yoast installed. It also assumes you are tracking your organic search traffic with Google Search Console. This guide was designed to work alongside our SEO analysis which contains a keyword strategy. Please contact us for a quote on a full SEO analysis.
Disclaimer: SEO is a vast, complex topic and we can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to consistently stay ahead with these simple techniques. They are best suited to low-competition, niche-topic businesses. While we love sharing this simplified guide, we don’t want to raise expectations unrealistically. We will perform a quick audit to determine whether we think using this guide is advisable for your business.
What is SEO
SEO stands for search engine optimisation. It is the practice of optimising your website for best placement in the results pages of search engines such as Google.
What SEO is not
SEO is not for placement in the paid Ads at the top of search results. The results you can achieve with SEO occur just below the ads, called organic search results.
The Benefits of SEO
Whereas paid ads appear above organic search results, they only account for 10% to 20% of clicks. Organic search results get far more clicks: 80% to 90%.
Furthermore, seeing as people know that organic search results have been earned, rather than paid-for, organic results carry more trust resulting in better conversion.
The Drawbacks of SEO
SEO takes time. Whereas paid ads can get you to the top in 24 hours, SEO can take 3 to 6 months to show full benefits.
Remember the trust factor, though. Once you’ve achieved a better rank you’ll be getting 80% to 90% of clicks vs paid ads.
It’s worth mentioning cost here. Time is money, so all this work should be weighed up against the cost of rather using Google Ads. Google Ads are expensive in a direct way. You are competing in an auction with your competitors on a daily basis. Organic SEO is more about building something over time.
In some cases the benefits of SEO can be long-lasting. After you’ve achieved a better rank then you can slow down in your SEO efforts, so savings can occur after a while.
Even you achieve a high Google rank, it may be subject to fluctuations due to the fact that Google changes its algorithms from time to time (in fact up to 4 times per day).
Google’s algorithms – the exact way Google ranks pages in search results – is a secret known only to Google. SEO is based largely on guesswork, in most cases very well-educated guesswork – but nonetheless, there is an element of unpredictability.
Also, your competitors may notice that you have beaten their rank, and start their own SEO efforts to regain their losses.
The Benefits of a Good Rank
So now that we’ve briefly covered the benefits and drawbacks of SEO in general, let’s look at the benefits of getting a good Google rank. Getting to the top of Google search results – preferably at #1 position – is a highly desirable place to be.
The graph below is from the article: WE ANALYZED 5 MILLION GOOGLE SEARCH RESULTS Here’s What We Learned About Organic Click Through Rate
Some key finding from this research are:
- It really pays to get onto the first page (first 10 results) of a Google search.
- The #1 Result In Google Gets 31.7% of All Clicks
- Moving Up One Position Increases CTR By 30.8%
The Drawbacks of a Good Rank
While there are no drawbacks per-se of having a good Google rank, your competitors are likely to fight a bit harder for those higher positions. Expect more work to stay ahead the higher you go.
The only other drawback of being at the top of Google may be too much business! Is your call center ready for the influx?
How does Google rank websites?
Google uses a huge number of factors to rank pages. Around 200 of these have been identified. In this guide we will only focus on the main ones. These factors work together to affect your rank, so some attention should be paid to each.
Keywords are the words and phrases people type into Google’s search bar to find what they are looking for. Each keyword will bring up a different set of results. Therefore it is important to find out which keywords your target audience is using, and focus on those keywords when creating content for your website.
Onsite SEO: Your Content
The number of pages and blog posts, the length of those pages, the quality of writing, where and how you use your keywords in your content are all taken into account when Google decides how to rank your website or web page.
Backlinks are links from other websites which point to your website. The more popular and authoritative a website is, the more it will pass that authority on to your website via a link.
Google ranks pages according to your region. We will show you how to see how you rank in regions other than your current region.
Let’s get started!
Ok, so we’ve covered the theory in a nutshell. Let’s start optimising our website for SEO!
How this works
For the most part you will be writing articles or pages based on our recommendations. Each article will focus on a particular keyword or topic.
We will use the example of a t-shirt printing business which does nationwide delivery in South Africa.
This guide assumes you have done your keyword research, and know which keywords to focus on, or else you’ll be using our keyword research guide. Please contact us for a full keyword analysis and SEO strategy.
Know Your Business and Marketing Goals
It is imperative that you have a clear focus on your business and marketing goals. In the case of a t-shirt printing business, your business goal is to print t-shirts for customers. Your marketing goal is to find customers who want t-shirts printed.
Know Your Audience
It is very important that you know who your audience is, and what they are searching for, which means knowing what keywords they might be using, and what they are hoping to find when they see the results that come up in their Google searches.
This also means knowing which customers you don’t want, so you don’t waste valuable time targeting customers who find you for services you don’t provide.
Example Keyword Research
Here is a quick sample analysis of the topic of [t shirt printing]. A more complete analysis is here.
Understanding the keyword scores
This is the estimated number of monthly searches for the keyword. In the example above this is the number of searches in South Africa. The search volume can be considered as the number of opportunities to gain new customers.
This is an estimate on how difficult it will be to compete for this keyword. A score above 50 can be considered to be in a competitive area.
This is a score based on how relevant a keyword or the searcher’s intent is to your particular business.
[machine for t shirt printing] is not relevant to your business seeing as you don’t offer t-shirt printing machines.
Maybe you are thinking “but maybe I can still target those people who want printing machines?”. But it is unlikely that people searching printing machines are wanting to have a t-shirt printed, so it would be wasteful to target those people.
Similarly, maybe you are thinking that [printed t-shirts] is a good keyword. The search volume is high: 14800 searches per month, and the difficulty is medium-high: 41.
The answer here might be more complicated. Maybe some people who want printed t-shirts are looking to have their designs printed. You’ll have to guess what percentage they are.
As a general rule it is better to focus on high relevance keywords first, then if you have the capacity, target other keywords later.
Lastly, the priority score is a summary of all the other scores. If a keyword is high in volume, easy to rank for, and very relevant, then it should get a high priority. Focus on that one first.
Conversely if a keyword has low volume, is hard to rank for, and not very relevant, then its priority will be low. You can avoid targeting for these keywords, or leave them to last.
And somewhere in between would be keywords like [how to t shirt printing]. It has a fairly ok volume, has a low-average difficulty, and might be slightly relevant to your business. Perhaps some of these people might read your guide on “How to Print a T-shirt”, and decide to use your services rather than try it themselves. Keywords like these are of secondary priority.
In our case study, the keyword [t shirt printing] seems like an obvious win, however many people searching for that keyword might be looking for advice on how to print t-shirts themselves. It’s almost impossible to know what proportion of these people are actually looking for t-shirt printing services, so we have to make a guess. Let’s say it is 75%. That’s still quite a high number. 75% of 12100 monthly searches is 9075 potential customers.
The cornerstone pages of our website are pages like Home, About Us, How it Works etc.
These are pages which describe our services, and should include some kind call-to-action, such as a “Contact Us” button. These pages should make generous use of our core keywords, in this case “t-shirt printing”.
What to write about
In the example, clearly the best keyword to start with is [t shirt printing]. This is quite a broad topic, however, and seeing as our business is printing t-shirts, this keyword is likely to crop up in our articles a lot. In fact it will be hard to avoid mentioning “t-shirt printing”, so we could perhaps choose a secondary topic and kill two keywords with one article.
So perhaps we could choose a topic such as “t shirt printing in cape town” or “t shirt printing for couples”.
Once we’ve chosen a general topic, then you’ll need to write between 600 to 1200 words on the topic. But quantity isn’t everything. Google favours well-written topics that engage your readers. Try searching for your topic on Google to see what others have written, then improve on those articles. Make them 10x better!
Best SEO Practices for Writing
We are assuming you have an SEO plugin like Rank Math or Yoast installed. These plugins provide SEO advice on a per-article (or per-page) basis.
See Score 100/100 With Rank Math Post Tests for more information.
Checking up on your website’s performance
You can check the performance of your website using Google Search Console. Read the full guide here.
You will see the performance of each keyword you are being found for.