Foundations of SEO

Posted on 10/01/2019 by Team Hallam

Ranking organically is a long process: it takes time, effort and commitment. However, if you want to get beyond the basics of SEO up your search engine game, then you’ve come to the right place.

We’ll go through five aspects of SEO that can help to increase your organic visibility. Before we begin, it’s important to note that these aren’t predictions. These are trends that have emerged in the last year, that have proven they can make a real difference to your rankings and organic traffic if implemented correctly.

So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to find out the foundations of your SEO strategy for the year ahead…

Optimise for Google’s mobile-first index

Back in March 2018, Google announced they would start the shift over to a mobile-first index; having encouraged companies to focus their efforts on mobile websites for years prior to this.

This essentially means that Google will crawl your mobile pages first, only resorting to desktop pages if you don’t have an equivalent mobile page available.

In 2018, 52.2% of worldwide traffic was through mobile phones (up from 50.3% in 2017). Mobile searches overtook desktop searches long ago; so it’s crucial in 2019 that your mobile website is fully optimised.

The first step? If you haven’t already, you need to switch to a responsive website ASAP. Use Google’s Mobile Friendly Testing Tool to see how your website shapes up, and get tips on how you can make it friendlier for mobile.

Mobile page speed is a hugely important aspect to tackle in 2019. In July 2018, Google confirmed that page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches, and if your website is slow, you’re losing out on lots of potential sales – 53% of all visitors leave a mobile site if a page takes more than three seconds to load.

You can check your site speed on Google PageSpeed Insights, and compare your speed with competitors on Google’s Mobile Speed Scorecard.

Both of these handy tools will advise you on ways to increase your speed, but the most common resolutions we’ve come across are:

  • Reducing your number of redirects
  • Optimising your images
  • Minifying your code
  • Using browser caching

You should also consider implementing Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) onto your most important pages – such as your homepage and product pages – as it will enable them to load almost instantaneously.

Amazon alexa voice search

Optimise for voice search (but don’t get too wrapped up in it!)

We’ve all heard the prediction from ComScore that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be via voice… but how true is that really?

That’s not to say the use of personal assistants aren’t increasing: 2 out of 5 adults conduct at least one voice search a day, 46% of voice search users look for businesses daily, and 53% perform daily local searches.

So, in 2019, you can’t really afford not to optimise for voice search, but don’t forget that it’s only one aspect of SEO.

However, the great thing about optimising your site for voice search, is that you’re automatically strengthening your position for mobile and desktop searches too, so it’s a win/win situation. Here are just a couple of ways in which you can increase your chances of appearing on voice searches:

Aim for featured snippets

Voice assistants typically read out featured snippets (also referred to as position 0), so you’ll want to aim for that elusive position.

The question is, how do you become a featured snippet? Well, the best way is to answer specific questions that searchers are asking. Conduct keyword research to discover the types of questions surrounding your products/services – Answer the Public is a great source of inspiration too.

The layout of your copy is equally as important. Include the question in your H2, and then answer it concisely below. If it makes sense, you can lay your answer out as a bullet point list – popular amongst featured snippets.

Google My Business listings

Make your local SEO game strong

We know that 53% of all voice search users perform local searches on a daily basis, so you need to make sure your business is at the top of the list.

This is basic local SEO, and should be something you’re doing anyway, but make sure your Google My Business Page (GMB) is up to date! Check that it includes the correct address, contact details and opening hours – there’s nothing more frustrating for a searcher if they searched for your opening hours, and turned up to your store to find that you’re shut.

On a slight side note – but something to bear in mind for 2019 – is the recent addition of the “Product” and “Offer” posts that businesses can now utilise (in addition to the “What’s New and “Event” post categories that were added back in June 2017).

  • Product: This enables you to emphasise a specific product or service. You’ll need to include a title, and either a photo or video, along with some key information. You can also include a CTA button through to the relevant page on your site.
  • Offer: This allows you to highlight discounts and offers on specific products or services – e.g. a hairdresser may decide to offer 15% off cut and blow dries for a week. In addition to a title and “View Offer” CTA button, you’ll need to post the start and end date of your offer.

Find out more about the different types of Google Posts, including how to set them up, and measuring their success. Alternatively, discover in-depth how to optimise your brand for voice search.

Build quality links from authoritative sources

In 2019, don’t underestimate the importance of good quality backlinks. It’s great for SEO as each external link acts as a “thumbs up” that your content and website is of good quality. The more links from websites with high domain ratings (DRs) you get, the more authoritative you are seen by Google, which will help to increase your rankings on the search engine results page (SERPs).

There are several ways you can build links, and we’d definitely recommend creating a comprehensive backlink strategy in 2019.

Guest blogging is a great way to gain links – you just need to ensure your content is engaging, informative, and relevant to the audience you’re targeting.

For quick wins, monitor brand mentions and broken backlinks in a tool like Ahrefs. Once you’ve gained a list, you can get in touch with each website to politely ask if they will either add or update the link to your site. Sure, you won’t get a reply (or result) every single time, but you should soon start to see your backlink profile expand.

You should also take the time to conduct some good, old-fashioned citation building: BrightLocal is a great tool, as it will identify all the directories in the area(s) you operate in, and will show you which directories you’re already mentioned in and whether your information needs updating.

It’s important that when you build links to your site, they’re from good quality websites; because lots of spammy links can actually be detrimental to your SEO. Sure, one or two won’t do any harm, but if you have several, then it’s worth getting rid of them. The most effective way is to collate a list of links and use Google’s disavow tool.

Airbnb sweden content marketing

Create great quality content

The term “content is king” is most definitely overused, and the problem is, that the internet is overflowing with content that’s uninteresting, unengaging, and irrelevant. In the past – and even now – people are creating content for the sake of it.

Saying that, it’s never been more important to recognise the fact that quality content is a fundamental part of SEO, and will continue to be so in 2019. You just need to make sure that the content you produce is something your audience wants to consume.

Content can come in many forms; from blog posts targeting specific keywords you’ve identified, to larger projects including interactive maps, videos, quizzes and influencer campaigns.

Larger content marketing pieces are a great way to build backlinks (as mentioned above!), which is why it’s so important to ensure it’s relevant to your audience. Creating content that people want to share and talk about on social media, and link back to, will help to increase your position on the SERPs, as well as building brand awareness and positioning you as an authority in your field.

Video is one form of content that you should really be focusing on in 2019. According to Cisco, videos will account for 80% of all online traffic by 2021, and YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine. With 55% of all Google search results containing at least one video, you have a real opportunity to be seen – find out how to rank your YouTube videos here.

Content can work for all types of industries – from fashion to life sciences and everything in between; you just need to make sure it’s unique and serves a purpose. If you want to incorporate content into your SEO strategy for 2019, take a look at our five tips for improving your content marketing.

Remember: SEO and UX go hand-in-hand

You may think you have a website with all the content you need, and beautiful, inspiring imagery, but that won’t count for anything if you offer a bad user experience.

Your website needs to make considerations for both SEO and your users. You need to take visitors through a seamless process of entering your website, consuming your content, and ultimately purchasing or making an enquiry (depending on your end intent).

If your website is difficult to navigate, slow to load, or showing irrelevant content, then you can’t blame users for getting frustrated and abandoning your website. If you’re constantly suffering from high bounce rates, then Google will start to take note, and you’ll likely see your rankings suffer.

Make 2019 the year you tackle UX – find out how you can get the perfect balance of UX and SEO.

There are several things to think about in 2019 when it comes to improving your SEO – and these five tips should keep you busy for the rest of the year! If you need help with creating and implementing an SEO strategy, or simply need some advice, then just get in touch as we’d be happy to help.

If you need help with your SEO. don't hesitate to contact us.

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Foundations of SEO

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