‘SEO Optimised’ Explained
Agencies typically throw around the phrase ‘we do SEO’ or ‘we do SEO optimisation’.
Firstly, SEO stands for ‘search engine optimisation’.
And here’s what that means….
It means to organise your content in such a way that search engines can clearly understand what it is & therefore rank it accordingly.
Still not clear?
Let’s work through an example…
Say we have a blog post and we want it to rank on Google for a certain phrase.
Now Google isn’t a human. I mean it’s run by humans (I think).
However, it would take too long for a human (or even a stupendously large group of humans) to read & organize every single web page that gets uploaded to the internet.
So the Google boffins built an algorithm, a code, or whatever you want to call it.
Nobody knows how it works, I don’t know. And considering the sheer volume of web pages it crawls, it might be powered by witchcraft. Don’t quote me on that.
SIDE NOTE: Google isn’t the only search engine but we’re using them as the main example here. YouTube for instance is also a search engine, but for video content. There’s also Bing, Yahoo! and DuckDuckGo. Heck, even Instagram can be used as a search engine even though it’s not made to function like one.
Anyway, Google crawls loads of pages. ‘Crawl’ means a bit of code (often referred to as a spider) is reading & analysing your web page.
What needs optimising?
Imagine one of Google’s tentacles reaches out & starts getting touchy feely with your website.
During this stage, it analyzes a TON of things (which we’ll discuss in a second), and these things help Google decide where your page should be in the rankings.
Let’s go through some of the things it analyzes. Bear in mind though, I haven’t listed them in any particular order.
1. Page Loading Speed
Slow loading pages piss people off.
Google wants users to have the best possible experience, and if people on the internet are having to wait a long time for a page to load, then Google will pick up on that.
There are many free sites that’ll analyze web loading speed.
Google even has their own thing called Page Speed Insights.
I’ll try it out with wordsforyourfunnel.com….
Almost in the green.
That’s not terrible, but there’s definitely room for improvement.
A number of things can slow down a web page, such as plugins (if you’re using WordPress) or even the quality of your hosting provider.
At the time of writing this, I’m using Dreamhost’s shared hosting plan.
It’s not lightning fast, but that’s not a major issue right now because the site doesn’t get a huge amount of traffic.
However, if the web traffic increases, this might strain the server, so I’ll need to think about upgrading.
2. Using Correct Header Tags
Header tags tell Google how things are ordered on your web page.
There’s H1, H2, H3, H4, H5 and H6.
It’s recommended that you only use one H1 tag.
This should be for the title of the blog or web page.
Everything else comes underneath and this is how Google structures it…
I’ve used a picture because it’s quicker and easier to create it – if I was to use the actual header tags, it might be confusing for Google.
You should avoid using header tags for decorative reasons. And also avoid going from things like H2 to H4 and then to H3.
To Google, that would make your web page look all mumbo-jumbo.
If you’ve got decently organised header tags, Google can use these to show your page on the ‘featured snippets’ section.
Here’s an example:
If I type in ‘how to organize a blog post’, this article by Meylssa Griffin comes up in the featured snippet section.
This is like Google letting visitors taste the wine first before having a full glass.
I bet Melyssa’s website gets a good amount of traffic simply from being in the featured snippets section for that post.
3. The Bounce Rate
What does bounce rate mean?
It’s the percentage of visitors that leave your website after only viewing one page.
For example, if the bounce rate is 50%, that means for every 100 people that visit, 50 leave without clicking on anything. They go back to Google.
Google takes this as a sign that the visitors didn’t get what they wanted, so they feel like they need to keep looking.
Whereas the other 50 feel compelled enough to click around because they might’ve found something interesting.
If the bounce rate is too high, that tells Google a website isn’t offering enough value. It means that people aren’t clicking on anything, they’re not browsing around, they don’t feel like they got what they wanted.
Google doesn’t want people lingering on the search engine. The whole point of a search engine is to help people search for things and get moving as quickly as possible – that’s what creates the best user experience.
That’s why you literally need to click a button if you want to go to the second page, or third, etc. instead of scrolling infinitely. Google doesn’t want you hanging around – they want you to click on a few pages and be on your merry way.
Now there are things you can do to improve the bounce rate (in other words, to decrease it).
- Ensure there are plenty of links
- Have a call to action,
- or…(my favourite one) create such damn good content, visitors feel compelled to learn more
At the end of the day, yes – installing a few links here & there will improve the bounce rate.
Having a call to action will also improve it.
There are many other things an SEO nerd will say, like to change hosting provider so your site loads faster, to lower image resolution, etc.
But they all miss one thing:
The content needs to be good!
Great content compels people to carry on reading. Poor quality content doesn’t – no matter how much it’s optimised.
Think of it this way: A perfectly optimised website with terrible quality content is like a turd in a tutu.
4. Mobile Optimisation
Google will check how quickly your page loads on mobile & whether it’s clear to read and navigate through.
According to Statista, 54.8% of web traffic came from mobile devices (phones & tablets).
By the way, that number may have changed by the time you click on that link – but that’s what it said as I was typing this.
Most SEO audit tools give you reports for free on how your website is doing on mobile as well as desktop.
Google’s Page Speed Insights does it.
Another good one I like to use is SEO Optimer.
It offers free SEO audit reporting.
Here’s a screenshot from Words For Your Funnel’s results.
5. Relevancy of Keywords
This means whether the keywords you want to rank for are showing up enough times in your content.
For instance, I’m trying to rank this web page for the search term – ‘what does SEO optimised mean’.
That means I need to use that phrase enough times (& sparingly) so Google understands what the article’s about.
Google is getting smarter at figuring out what a piece of content is about – to the point where you don’t need to worry about placing keywords in headers…or even optimising your metadata – because now Google chooses what to display based on the user’s intent.
Some are even ditching popular SEO optimisation tools like Yoast. This video by Passive Income Geek goes into that in more detail.
Remember, Google & all other search engines want to offer the best user experience possible.
This blog post might rank for the search phrase ‘what is readability score’ if Google thinks something within that section of this article is relevant.
I don’t know if it will though. I can only do my best and the rest is up to Google.
6. Length of Content
Various studies have been done to find out how long a blog article or web page should be – and all the answers vary.
Longer posts, on average, do better in search engine rankings.
This article from Hubspot will give you some good stats on that.
I have a different philosophy though:
–Write however much is damn necessary.
–Don’t blabber too much & don’t write too little.
–Avoid arbitrary numbers like ‘1000 words’ or ‘2,000’ words.
Visitors aren’t going to think ah man this blog post is 1,000 words long, that’s not enough information, I must go elsewhere.
They’re also not going to think ah wow this blog article is 5,000 words long, that’s amazing, I must carry on reading.
They’ll judge the content by its quality – on whether it’s giving them the information they’re after based on their situation.
A landing page of an emergency plumber for instance doesn’t need to be 5,000 words long.
If someone wants an emergency plumber, they don’t want to read essays – they just want to know – is this guy in my local area? How quick can he get to me? How much is it going to cost? How can I contact him?
With other services, such as kitchen design & remodeling, a customer knows they’re going to spend thousands but they can take their time, so they’re going to do a bit more research.
Something that might impress them would be a detailed article on How To Avoid Delays & Save Up to $7,329 When Installing a New Kitchen.
That article could be 5,000+ words and if it’s detailed & good enough, the reader might feel compelled to contact the kitchen supplier.
7. Number & Quality of Backlinks
What are backlinks? Well, to put it simply – a backlink is when another website links back to yours.
Every site has this thing called ‘domain authority’.
Domain authority (or DA) is a score that’s used to figure out how relevant a website is within a particular industry or subject area. The higher the score, the more relevant the page.
If your website has backlinks from high authority sites, search engines will recognize your site as ‘one of the cool kids’ and you’re more likely to get a spot in the top rankings.
Alternatively, if your website has loads of backlinks from low authority, irrelevant or spammy sites, this can hurt your website.
There are all sorts of free tools you can use to check backlinks:
You can also see where your competitors or similar pages are getting their backlinks from.
For example, the number 1 spot for ‘What does Seo Optimisation mean’ is this article by Search Engine Land.
One day, I might knock it off the number 1 spot but I’m not expecting that to happen anytime soon.
Using the Moz backlink checking tool, I can see that this specific URL has a ridiculously high number of backlinks.
It’s linked on loads of high Domain Authority sites (See ‘DA’ column) like Wikipedia, Github, Forbes & Medium.
It would take an astronomically high effort for me to replicate the number of backlinks Search Engine Land has on that one specific page – so I won’t even bother.
Instead, I’ll work to drive traffic to this page using different methods.
There’s a dark side to backlinks though:
Some SEO ‘professionals’ stoop so low that they’ll generate tonnes of spammy backlinks for their competitors.
I shouldn’t call these professionals though – I think degenerates is a better term.
But there are things that can be done to fight this – although it takes a bit of effort.
It involves having to submit a ‘disavow’ file to Google so that it knows to ignore these links.
This article on Social Media Today explains it in more depth if you want more details on that.
8. A Table of Contents
I’ve added a table of contents (TOC) here. Why? Because it’s a bit of a long post (over 3,000 words long).
A TOC only makes sense for long blog articles.
It allows readers to scan topics before they invest time into reading.
Most TOC plugins & softwares will take the information from the header tags.
That’s what’s been done in this blog article. I’ve used the Elementor TOC.
But WordPress has a few other options:
Sites like Wix, or Squarespace will usually have their own in-built versions, but I’ve figured there’s less customizability on those sites compared to WordPress.
9. Readability Score
Believe it or not, if your content is hard to read, that’ll make it harder to rank for certain keywords.
Most people don’t like reading complex jargon that sounds like some PhD assignment.
There are some brilliant apps that can help improve your readability score.
One of my favourites is the Hemmingway Editor.
I’m going to use it on this blog post – here’s a screenshot:
As you can see, my readability score is ‘Grade 3’.
That means a kid in third grade should understand what I’m writing (which is good).
Even though this website isn’t for kids, I want the reading experience to be as easy as possible for adults.
Anywhere around 3 to 6, I think is good.
Donald Trump for instance (love him or hate him) spoke at 4th grade level during his speeches. Obama spoke at 9.7, Bush at 7.4, Herbert Hoover (if you’re old enough to remember) spoke at 11.3. This article by Newsweek will summarise it in a graph format.
Anyways, good readability is important.
There’s also the Flesch reading score. This app by Readable will help you calculate it.
Here’s a screenshot of this article up until the first subheading.
On this one I got a 5.7 grade with the Flesch score, & 7.2 in the Gunning Fog Index test. That means overall, it should be quite easy to read.
Believe it or not, when I started writing, my readability score was over 12.
But it takes some practise to write in layman terms. In school, most kids are taught to write complicated & difficult-to-read essays, right up to university.
That style of writing is no good for the internet.
One last thing to remember…grammar & punctuation.
You might be penalised if your page is full of bad grammar & punctuation. One off typos here & there won’t do much harm, but constant errors will.
I prefer using Grammarly to catch errors – there’s a free version that checks grammatical & spelling errors.
It’s helpful because I type my first drafts pretty quickly, so I miss out a few things.
Like here, it’s flagged up some inconsistencies.
Be careful though:
Apps like Grammarly can sometimes overcorrect. It’s really hard to code a computer to understand colloquial language, slang, or to understand how people structure sentences in your dialect, because things like that are always changing. So apps like Grammarly will often take a ‘one size fits all’ approach.
Also, avoid using spellcheck/ grammar apps while writing your first draft. You’ll lose your train of thought while having to go back & correct errors.
Errors aren’t important in the beginning – what’s important is that all the information gets written first.
Mini Case Study Analysis
Now imagine right – a search engine needs to somehow mash the data from all the above (and more) to figure out where your web page should rank amongst everything else.
This’ll decide whether your content deserves a place on the first page or not.
This is why it’s really really hard to compete for difficult keywords.
Not impossible, just really hard.
Difficult keywords are valuable because they drive traffic.
Any company that manages to rank for a sought-after keyword is usually in for some juicy revenue gains.
And companies try & knock each other off the top rankings all the time.
The rule of thumb is the harder the keyword, the more effort it’ll take to rank for it.
Let’s look at an example:
If I type in ‘photographer in London’ – the page in the number 1 spot is Perfocal – a website that lets people book photographers.
Because of their business model, they’ll have more money to invest in web development & SEO optimisation so they can comfortably outrank any solo photographer for the search term ‘photographer in London’.
If I click on the link (screenshot above) then it takes me to this page (screenshot below).
Notice how they’ve created a specific page that’s solely made to rank for the search term ‘photographer in London’.
I’ve circled & underlined the keywords in red.
Scrolling down the web page, notice how they keep using the keyphrase ‘photographer in London’ throughout the web page.
At the time of taking these screenshots, the phrase was used 6 times across the web page – but it’s evenly distributed – so it doesn’t look like it’s being spammed all over.
The keyword phrase never looks out of place either – in fact, we don’t even notice how many times it’s used because it’s blended into the sentences.
Side note: Some businesses try and spam their web pages with keywords (known as keyword stuffing) but the search engine boffins know all about these tricks and will punish these pages.
Even the URL has the two main relevant keywords in it: ‘London’ and ‘photographer’.
This tells Google they’re serious about wanting to rank for that particular keyword phrase, so much so that they’ve got it in their URL.
Knocking Perfocal off that number one spot would take some considerable effort.
A web page would need to be better optimised, faster, have more backlinks & generally outperform it in all the points we listed above.
Also, the new page would need to provide a good user experience, and if Perfocal has cemented itself in that number 1 spot and is already providing a good experience, it’s going to be really hard to knock them off.
To decide whether it’s worth the effort to knock them off, you’d need to calculate the lifetime value of the customers that would come through as a result of having that search term.
Plus, there’s a chance someone in Perfocal’s marketing department would notice & say hey this guy’s tryna take our number 1 spot, we can’t let that happen or we’ll lose X amount of revenue. Let’s allocate funds into beefing up this web page so it performs eeeeeven better.
The thing is, you wouldn’t even know how much effort (or funding) Perfocal will put into protecting their number 1 position.
So in some cases, it’s not even worth the hassle – especially if (in this case) you’re a small-time photographer.
Instead of going for difficult keywords, many will instead go for easier-to-rank keywords.
These keywords tend to be longer.
So for example: ‘photographer in london’ turns into ‘automotive photographer in london’
Notice what kind of sites are ranking now – they’re small, individually owned personal brand businesses.
These guys are unlikely to have enough firepower, funds, time or energy to compete with companies like Perfocal that go for more generic but high-traffic search phrases.
And if they did, it wouldn’t make sense because they wouldn’t be able to cope with the huge influx of leads (especially if they’re one-man-band service who do one job at a time).
It’s all about finding the right balance.
Ahrefs has a keyword difficulty checker.
If I type in ‘photographer in london’ Ahrefs says I need backlinks from around 13 websites to rank in the top 10 for this keyword.
But the problem is when we get really specific, Ahrefs doesn’t have enough data.
Look what happens if I type in ‘automotive photographer London’…
This doesn’t just happen with Ahrefs, but loads of other SEO tools because they can only generate reliable data if there’s a lot of information on a particular topic.
Does that mean you shouldn’t bother trying to rank for specific key phrases?
A phrase like ‘automotive photographer london’ might generate very little traffic every month.
But the quality of that traffic will (most likely) be extremely high.
One customer could have a lifetime value in the $10s of thousands – especially for high-value services such as automotive photography.
And this is where a lot of businesses go wrong.
They neglect phrases that don’t show up on these SEO tools.
So the top tip here is to not be afraid of going after these more specific phrases.
I’m going to finish this article here but I’ll be back to update it with mistakes businesses make when it comes to SEO.
Hope you found it useful.
In the meantime, if you need any help creating content, check out our flexible writing package (notice how I’m inserting a subtle call to action here).
We can help you create quality blog articles & other types of content to grow your online presence.