Why SEO Basics Are More Important Than You Think

Table of Contents

10 min read

The first thing to understand is that SEO at its core, is not just about optimising for search engines, but rather about ensuring that your website has a strong technical foundation, a clear UX and UI (user experience and user interface), and clear messaging for your audience. All this help search engines understand your site, value you bring to your audience and therefore rank your website higher to provide users with information there were looking for.

What are the SEO basics?

We believe that SEO isn’t a singular entity and without tying in other elements, a successful SEO campaign will not be possible (or much, much harder). Therefore, our list of what the basics of SEO are, will include areas that you may not typically see in a list when asking “Is my website SEO friendly?”.

  • Content
  • Technical
  • User Experience (emotional & attitude)
  • User Interface (design)
  • Off-site SEO

Basics of SEO vs Other Channels

We’ll start by going over why appearing in the top 10 of the search results is beneficial over some other marketing efforts. There are several other marketing techniques that you can, and should pursue, however, SEO has the advantage that it is the most sustainable source of traffic you can acquire, without outlying spend in order for the users to roll in.

With Google Ads you have to spend money in order to appear in the results, and when you stop paying Google, that source of traffic instantly dries up. If you are social on Facebook and engage with your audience (and you should), you can expect to see referral traffic to your site.

However, social activity is very time consuming, and in most cases, you are interacting with users who are already aware of, or are existing customers. Additionally, with social, in order to “hook” the user, they still have to visit your website. So why not skip that part, and have your users come to you directly from the search results page.

Now, in no way am I saying that you shouldn’t do PPC or be active on social media, but there are different strategies and reasons for each channel.

There are several search intents that you must understand before embarking on creating your strategies for building and optimising your business.

We can help you optimise your website!

What are the basics of SEO search intent?

Search intent is the reason behind the search query. You may be asking yourself, why do I care about search intent? Well, for a start, it is Google’s aim and mission statement to provide users with the most relevant results for their query.

Why SEO Basics Are More Important Than You Think 1
Wrong search intent is one of the most common SEO mistakes non-SEO experts make.  There are 4 primary “types” of searches that we’ll cover which will help us understand they type of searches, what we need to consider once we understand them, and how we can structure this information on our websites.

The user is looking for information. They are not looking to purchase anything at this stage and this is the most common type of search users conduct. What you need to understand is that users all search in different ways. They can type in full sentences or in short phrases. Some examples of informational searches are; Who is Donald Trump?, Premier League standings, and Who is the Queen of England?

The user is looking for a specific website or information they already know about and are looking to get the the page on this site they are looking for, as they may not know, or want to type in the full URL. Some examples of navigational searches are; Gmail Login, Facebook, and BBC Sport.

These users are looking to purchase a product or service and are in “buying mode”. At this stage, they probably know what they want to purchase and are looking for a site or place to buy it from.
This type of search is where the user knows the type of product or service they want to buy, but are yet to make a decision to what is the right one for them. The user could be looking for comparisons, reviews, or more detailed specific information.

What do we do now that we know what Search Intent is?

Information searches hold the most value in terms of the number of users that we can funnel users to the site with. There are 3 levels of informational searches that we can create content for:

  1. Top of the funnel
    This content is to attract users in the awareness stage of their journey and are performing informational type searches. They don’t necessarily know about your brand or are uneducated about the products and/or services that you provide. These terms will have the highest search volumes and will generally be the most broad. The content created around these topics will enable you to have a lot more visibility on the search results, attracting users at the early stages of their journey, thereby increasing the chances that when the user comes across your brand again, that they use your information and convert.

  2. Middle of the funnel
    Users at this stage of their journey are at the commercial investigation stage, where they are looking for more specific information regarding certain aspects of the product or service they are looking to purchase. Therefore, it is crucial to attract users at this stage to help them make the decision that your offer is the best for them. If you manage to convince the users at this point, you have a good chance of making a sale here, and even if they were to leave (when the decision making process is longer), they are more likely to use your offer when they are ready.

  3. Bottom of the funnel
    Also known as the purchase stage, this is the critical point in the users journey where you need to keep the users engaged and to buy your product or service. The product/service pages will be the main targets for this type of content, however, additional supporting content can be created to further encourage the sale.

Importance of SEO basics

The key takeaway from the search intent section is that with the proper SEO strategy, which would include how to structure, or tweak the structure of the website, as well as the research into the topics that should be covered at each stage and putting a plan into place to executing the strategy, will allow you to target users at each state of their journey, up until they decide to make the purchase. Aside from the obvious benefits of doing that, once you do have content that covers all of the search intents, users, and Google will see you as an authority in the niche, helping your overall ability to rank for the terms that are being targeted.

Content as a basic part of SEO

Now that we have enough information about the types of content that we need to create, there are several elements that should be in place in order to ensure that your content is optimised.

  1. On-page title
    Also known as the header, or h1 tag (in html), each page on your website should only have one, unique h1 on the page that directly describes the content on the page. The h1 should include the most important terms that you are targeting to the content.

  2. Meta title & description
    The meta title is the blue heading that you see when performing a search on Google and the meta description is the black text under the title and URL.Meta Title - A SEO Basic Component
    This title should also describe the content that they user will find on the page, once clicking through to the website. When optimising the meta title, ensure that your most important keyword(s) are included, and that they are as close to the start as possible. A couple of very important points to note here is that:

    • The meta title should be written thinking about the intent of the user match that to how the title is written. In other words, don’t just stuff the title with words, but make it descriptive, enticing and to the point.

    • There is a limit to the number of characters you can put in the meta title, which is calculated in pixels by Google. Google currently shows up to 580 pixels on desktop. This can change from SERP (search engine results page) to SERP, depending on the industry and search query type. If you go over the limit, Google will truncate or ignore the title you wrote which can be confusing to users.

    The description should, as the name suggests, describe the content that the user can expect to find on the page in more detail than the meta title. This is where you can further entice the user to choose your website over the other options on the SERP. You should include a CTA (call to action) in the description where possible and make sure that you are concise and to the point. Google’s meta description length is currently up to 920 pixels, which might allow for up to 158 characters depending on the letters used. On mobile devices, the max limit is about 680 pixels (120 characters).

  3. Content
    The cornerstone of what the web is based on, this is obviously a very important element to ensure you have everything in place. Your SEO content should be of high quality and target the type of searches we discussed earlier. Your content should be created by using your knowledge of your business, as well as competitor analysis and keyword research to ensure that you are as optimised as you can be, without overdoing it of course.

    Any content that you write should be easy to digest, and split up into multiple paragraphs and sections, using appropriate markup such as sub-headings (h2s), lists, images, and other markup where appropriate.

Basic technical elements for SEO

We’ll only cover the most important critical elements that you must look into to ensure a strong technical SEO foundation for your website.

Site speed

Site speed, apart from being one of Google’s confirmed ranking factors, which started in July 2018, it is imperative that your website loads fast for your users as well. Studies show that you have up to a maximum of 8 seconds to grab users’ attention before they decide to go someplace else. We (and not just us) believe that you have up to 5 seconds. Therefore, every page on your site should load in no more than 3 seconds!

Secure Web

Another important factor that is also one of Google’s ranking signals is secure search, also known as SSL, or HTTPS. If you want to learn more about SSL certificate options, visit our post on how to secure your website. There are many hosting companies that now provide free SSL certificates with every hosting account purchase. Be sure that you read the fine print so that you don’t end up paying for an SSL certificate if you do not need to. In some cases you may want to look into purchasing an advanced SSL certificate, depending on your business type. If you need to buy a SSL certificate for your site, you can head over to Comodo to find one that suits your business needs.

https is a basic seo factor

Mobile Friendly

It is absolutely imperative that your website is optimised for mobile use. Mobile first indexing started in July 2019 and it means that Google predominantly uses the mobile version of your content for indexing and rankings.

Duplicate Content

It is important that you do not have any duplicate content on your website. When we are talking about duplicate content we mean having pages that are extremely similar. Google’s definition of duplicate content is:

Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar. Mostly, this is not deceptive in origin.

There are many reasons why your site may have duplicate content and it’ll take too long to cover them all here. From blogs to e-commerce stores and international websites, every type of website can be subject to duplicate content, without you even realising that it would be considered so,

XML Sitemaps

The purpose of having (a) XML sitemap(s) is to give search engine spiders the ability to find and crawl all the pages on your website that you want to be indexed and ranked on Google. ONLY pages that you want Google to index should be present on your XML sitemaps, so your shopping cart, login, thank you pages, and any other pages that you don’t want to appear in Google, should not be present.

Structured Data

There are some basic structured data elements that you should implement on your website so that you can aim to stand out from the crowd and obtain more SERP “real estate”. An example of structured data markup is review stars, which can be seen below:

basic structured data for SEO

Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a free option of many website analytics tools out there. It is pretty basic, easy to use, and provides you with the essential insights to measure and improve your SEO performance. Verifying your website with Google’s Search Console will allow you to keep track of any issues Google has with your website, what terms your site is ranking for, which terms are bringing traffic to your site, and a whole lot more! The issues that Google will highlight are there to help you find and fix them, so that Google can better understand your hierarchy/content and it’ll allow you to monitor your progress when taking care of each area that needs improvement.

UX & UI Basics – What you need to consider?

The design and usability of your website is of paramount importance for the success of converting users once they are on your site. However, before users convert, and even thinking about the conversion funnel you must ensure that your website is easy to navigate and has a clear structure that makes sense to users and search engines alike. The main points to consider here are:

  • Does the top navigation (menu) provide a clear insight into how your website is structured?

  • Do my URLs mirror my top navigation and if not, is there a clear way for users to understand where they are within your site hierarchy?

  • Can my users navigate easily between different sections of my website and specifically, if they’ve navigated to a specific page, can they get back to the previous section / page of your website via internal navigation (not pressing the back button in the browser)?

What is off-site SEO and how will it help my website?

To put it simply, off-site SEO is basically “votes” from other website, where they link to your site. Google uses these signals to attribute the authority of any given site. Therefore, the more high quality links that you have to your website, the more authority you will have which gives you the ability to rank within more difficult search landscapes.
Good luck with your website and setting up your SEO basics, we hope that this article helps you on your journey to success! Ensuring the smooth process of SEO and creating the correct strategy for moving your business forward can be daunting to do alone. Consider professional SEO consultancy if you have any questions or need advice on how to proceed, or move onto the next steps.


Gideon has over a decade of experience in internet marketing, working with globally recognised brands as well as small local business. With his knowledge of both worlds, it brings a competitive edge to the table, ensuring even the smallest business is taken care of like it was his own. Gideon's technical background ensures that each and every campaign has a strong foundation and key elements are in place for the success of whatever the goals are.
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