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a beginner's guide to SEO

Updated: Dec 7, 2022

When it comes to working with the digital space and creating brand awareness in any kind of market, anywhere in the world, SEO is the ultimate key to long-term, organic business growth. SEO ensures your company reaches your desired audience when the searcher uses keywords relevant to your company and your services or products in their search query.

So what is SEO and how can I use it? The female factor partnered with allWomen to host a workshop presented by Miriam Gómez i Vallès to answer these exact questions. By the end of this article you’ll know how to optimise your website and content for search engines, like google, and rank higher in the result pages.

Disclaimer: since Google’s search engine is the most popular, this guide will focus on their features and algorithms.

SE… who?

"So what is SEO?" we hear you ask. Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the art and science of persuading search engines to recommend your content to their users as the best solution to their problem. It is essentially what gets your company on the search engine results page (henceforth referred to as SERP) when a user asks a question or inputs keywords that relate to your company in the search engine.

understanding search engines

A web crawler or spider as it is otherwise known, is a type of bot that is typically operated by search engines. It will crawl the web pages reading the content and metatags in order to analyse the page content and other things from your CMS. This includes whether it’s fast, the resolution of your images and whether they’re optimised for digital environments and if your content is optimised for different formats e.g. desktop, mobile and tablet.

❗️Insider tip❗️The web crawler is ‘blind’ and therefore cannot see pictures or read information presented in them. This is why it is important to describe what the picture is in the alt-text or alternatively add captions.

The web crawler then stores this information in the index. Then, when a user asks a question, it will match the search engine queries with corresponding knowledge that is stored in the index. If your content fits the query, then it’s a match. The store index then sends the data to the ranking algorithms and shows your content in the search engine result page, basically indicating to the user that your content is relevant for them.

❗️Insider tip❗️How relevant your content is as an answer to a searcher’s query will determine your position in the SERP. However, the user’s choice from the list of results will feed into learnings, which affects future search engine rankings. It will also rank results based on what has been the most successful for previous users.

SEO vs SEM- which one to use?

SEM (search engine marketing) is paid advertisement, which will ensure you appear at the top of the results page. For example it will be marked as an ‘ad’ on google. Your company will be charged for every click or impression you receive as a result of them prioritising you.. However, because it delivers immediate results it is easier to test and refine than SEO.

SEO is organic and free. But you have to work for good results by generating relevant content and it can take time to be able to rival your competitors. SEO will deliver cumulative results and bring higher quality traffic (more relevant users) to your website.

Both SEO and SEM will improve the visibility of your website in the search engines and drive a higher amount of relevant and quality traffic to your site. They both enable you to gain a deeper understanding of your audience, by using keyword research to discover and target relevant keywords. Both however, will require ongoing testing and optimisation to produce good results.

Which one to use will ultimately depend on what your specific goal is, your existing performance and your margins. Important to consider here, is the lifetime value of your customer (whether repeat business is possible or if it’s just a one off visit to your site), what your competitors are doing and the deadline of your goals (SEM has immediate results, SEO is a medium-long time strategy).

❗️Insider tip❗️If you are an established company with all of the relevant content already displayed on your website and you’re trying to branch out into a new market, your existing performance in that market is probably quite low so you should opt for SEM to break into it.

SEO is important so you can position yourself well in the digital space and be relevant and visible to your audience. Additionally, be sure to create relevant and interesting content for your audience so that when you have a combination of both you can reap the benefits from the SEM that you are paying for. If your content is not actually relevant or appealing to the user, they will click off and SEM will bring no substantial gain via conversions other than increasing the number of clicks on your site.

❗️Insider tip❗️If you are a new brand, initially SEM will be better for you whilst you build up relevant content as you do not have a lot of things stored about you in the index yet. It’s recommended to have a good campaign strategy on SEM so that your audience can get to know you.

Ultimately, a combination of both is the recipe for success.

so what about meta tags?

Meta tags are invisible tags that provide data about your page to search engines. They are not displayed on the page itself but instead provide information in the HTML of the document, which can be read by search engines and web crawlers.

Search engines use metadata from meta tags to understand additional information about the webpage that is not displayed on the page to the viewer. They can use this information for ranking purposes, to display snippets in search results, and sometimes they can even ignore meta tags.

There are a lot of different kinds of meta tags, but here are some basic tags that must be on every page;

meta content type: it declares your character set for the page and should be present on every page. Leaving this out could impact how your page renders in

the browser and the content may appear with special characters instead of normal text like ‘aa&&%$$’ for example. You have to declare in google analytics what your company is doing- e.g. you are an e-commerce beauty- you set it as beauty.

meta title: it's the title that appears on the SERPs and also at the navigation taps. It provides information that's very important to SEO. You should always have a unique title tag on every page of your website that describes the page. It’s recommended to also add your brand name.

meta description: it describes the page to searchers as they read through the SERPs. This tag doesn't influence ranking, but it's very important regardless. It's the copy that will determine if users click on your result.

viewport: in this mobile world, you should be specifying the viewport. If you don’t, you run the risk of having a poor mobile experience where it may display the desktop version of your website on a mobile browser.

checklist to optimise your metatags:

✅ Do all of your pages have title tags and meta descriptions?

✅ Have you included headings and structured your content well?

✅ Have you added alt text to all of your images? - i.e. you have written what is in the picture?

✅ Are you using meta tags to guide search engines on how they should access your content? (This is important if you have pages that you don’t want to be indexed like a promotion that is only available for one month, then you should include: nofollow noindex)

✅ Are you sure you don’t have any duplicate pages? E.g. content displayed in multiple languages?

✅ Do you use canonical tags* to avoid cannibalising your own content with duplicate or similar content?

❗️Insider tip❗️ use to improve the way search engines read and represent your page in the SERP by adding a semantic vocabulary of tags (or microdata) to your HTML.

*Canonical tags are a way of telling the search engines that a specified URL is the master copy of a page. A canonical link allows webmasters to prevent duplicate content issues by specifying the "canonical" or "preferred" version of a web page.

and what about key words?

The key to the door of your audience is using the correct keywords.

In order to find these keys, you should start with some keyword research. This will allow you to discover the specific terms people are using to look for your content or company.

keyword research - a step by step guide

01. analyse current keywords

Analyse the current content you have created by creating a list of your keywords and then run an analysis to see how they’ve been performing as well as the search volume for these keywords.

❗️Insider tip❗️use SemRush (limited features are free) to analyse how your keywords are performing. Use KW planner from Google ads (free to use, you just need a Google account) to analyse the search volume that these words have and Google Trends will show you what words are popular, plus you can specify a country and type of audience. Use Answer the Public to discover what people are asking about your keywords.

02. formulate your goals

Why do you want to gain organic traffic? Is your product or business new in the digital world? Are you launching a new product, but your brand has a good organic position? Or, do you want to position your company within a new market, or with a new language? Keep these goals in mind and make sure all your efforts on keyword research align with this.

03. build your keyword 'wish' list

Consider what your users search for when they are trying to educate themselves about the products you sell. Bear in mind all the possible different words for your product: "course, class, workshop” etc. Consider what they search for when they are trying to make an informed decision about who to buy from. For example, don't forget your main KW and use it in each landing page, in that case it could be "course online".

04. assess the competitive landscape

Conduct a google search to identify who your top online competitors are. Consider who appears in the top 3 of search results when you enter your main KWs. Use SemRush to input a competitor’s domain to discover the keywords they rank highest for.

❗️Insider tip❗️This is relevant to know because keywords used by your competitors could be counterproductive for your business as you will have to compete against them. You may want to position yourself slightly differently from them or add more information or data. Being concrete is always good for your users, so it is good for Google as well.

05. expand your keyword horizons

Research the search terms and questions users search most frequently for a given topic or keyword in your area e.g. ‘seo courses’ → ‘seo courses in Vienna’.

Maybe you are only thinking of "SEO online courses", but your users are also searching for 'how to study SEO', 'what is SEO', 'how to position my website', 'why organic traffic is important', the list goes on. Consider creating more content linked with your product to access more users and gain more organic traffic.

long tail strategy

The long tail of search is the limitless space of low-volume (and often low-competition) keywords. Tactically, long-tail SEO centres on competing for a large number of low-volume keywords instead of focusing on a small set of high-volume keywords. Long-tail SEO encourages new venturers to be realistic, because high-volume, so-called “vanity” keywords are often out of reach or, at best, will empty your marketing department’s budget. Low-volume keywords may be less appealing on the surface, but as you begin to compete on hundreds or thousands of them, they represent more traffic and ultimately more sales than a few vanity keywords.

For example: 'SEO online course' is the vanity KW. 'How to study SEO', 'what is SEO', 'how to position my website', 'why organic traffic is important' are the long tail. Long tail is where the magic happens for business.

This guide is a shortened version of the presentation given by Míriam Gómez i Vallès in the female factor x allWomen workshop. If you want to access the full details and attend future workshops like these for free, then join the inner circle here.

The inner circle is the members-only community by the female factor. Members get access to a tailor-made opportunity journey including mentoring sessions, hands-on career knowledge, accountability partners, confidence training and a great network of peers.

Míriam Gómez i Vallès is head of Digital and Communications at the MartiDem Group and has over 13 years of experience in digital marketing departments. She has extensive experience working in digital and creative teams in a number of areas including in web management, Content creation and management E-commerce, E-mail marketing, social media, branded content and paid media. She comes from a background in fashion and is also google certified, with an extensive expertise in the areas of Google Analytics, Google Ads, Social Media Ads (Meta Business Manager for FB and IG) SEO and SEM.

about allWomen

allWomen is the first academy of Data Science, UX/UI Design, Product Management and Web Development courses created for women, by women. Their mission is centred around encouraging women to enter and thrive in the tech industry at all levels. They are the space where women and tech go well together and they are ready to bring change to create a stronger representation of women in the tech sector. They have partnered with the female factor to train female talent to shift and boost their careers, and get one step closer to ending the gender gap in tech.


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