SEO in a Nutshell


SEO in a nutshell is a brief overview of SEO for beginners. A simple definition of search engine optimisation: it is a technical and creative process to improve the visibility of a website in search engines, with the aim of driving more potential customers to it.  Google rank websites according to their own secret formula.

There are many things that we can all do ourselves to improve our Google rankings. Those basics form the building blocks for a well ranked website.

Visitors turn to search engines because they have a question, you just need to make sure you are there to give the answer!  The more relevant that your website pages are to the question asked, the higher the search engine ranking.

There are two main parts to SEO:

Nobody knows the secret mathematical formula that Google uses to return search results but we do know that it’s based on:

1.  Quality content and the optimisation of that content – what happens within your site
2.  The popularity of that content (more on that later) – what happens outside your site

Part 1:  Quality Content & Search Engine Optimisation

Write for readers not search engines!  Think about what your readers want to hear from you and write with humans in mind. Very often, website owners are writing only for the purpose of getting higher rankings, and they end up over-optimising their website.

Google knows if your site is badly written.  It is on the lookout for spelling mistakes and general writing errors.  High quality content is what you need, a good honest site not trying to hide anything or fool anyone.

Delivering good quality content to readers is the best way to keep them visiting your website.  This also gives good reason for them to stay and navigate further into your site.

Think a little about keywords when you are writing but don’t over-stuff content with them.  Keep the content true and the keywords should follow on naturally.  In other words if you are writing about ‘seo in a nutshell’ then ‘seo in a nutshell’ is your main keyword and will appear in the title and the content naturally.

Keep it alive

The “live nature” of content has become more important to Google than links coming into your site. The message here is to add new content as often as you can. Don’t forget your old content, if you write a new blog post link back to an old one.  Equally, update old posts and republish them as new from time to time.

Unique content Only – don’t copy

If you copy text from another website, Google will know and will penalise you accordingly.  It will know which is the original content because it will have crawled it already. If you are in the habit of copying blocks of content from other sites to your blog, don’t do it, you will lose ranking. This is great in many ways because at least you know that the original content that you write will remain your own.  You can use the odd quote from other sites as long as you attribute it with a link back to the original content.

SEO in a nutshell

Optimisation of your quality content

So once you have written your quality content, you will probably find that you have already optimised your pages naturally!

Your visitors will use keywords to find what they are looking for on Google, so when deciding what you are going to write give a little thought to how people might find your content.  What do you expect people will type into Google to find your content?

If you are writing a post about reasons to hire a freelance WordPress designer, then the chances are that your title will be “Reasons to hire a freelance WordPress designer” and that phrase will then appear quite early on in your text.  That’s it!  Your keywords are optimised for Google!  When someone types the keywords ‘freelance WordPress designer’ into Google search, there is a good chance that your content will appear in the Google search results.

All done naturally.

Keywords – The long tail Story

Giving some thought to the right keywords to give you a better chance of getting found is important if there are lots of other people writing about the same subjects as you.

The chances are that there might be a great deal of competition for your chosen keywords. The more competition you have the less chance you have of getting a high search ranking on Google.

As an example, using the keywords ‘web designers’ and ‘London’ are going to make my life very difficult, as there are thousands of web designers in London.  In these cases you need to think about categorising and localising; e.g. ‘freelance web designers London SW6′ will give you a much better chance of being found.  The category being web designers and the locality being SW6.

So here we have a long tail keyword phrase, a keyword of 3 or more words.  This increases the possibility of a Google page 1 search result.  Whilst this long tail keyword phrase might not be number one in terms of volume of searches, it does mean that the people who find you are actually looking for your product or service.  They have been specific in what they want and have found you.  This means better quality traffic that will stay and enjoy your website.

Giant Panda
Image Credit: NBC

‘Web design for giant pandas’ is a long tail keyword but you might need to get even more specific than that.  For example ‘web design for giant pandas who like green shoots’  is likely to get you more high quality hits because visitors who find you are specifically looking for those keywords.

Again, lots of this should happen naturally.  You are writing about what you do, everything is relevant and helps Google to put your site into context.  There is not much point in being a web designer and writing about meerkats.  Unless you design websites for meerkats but that makes no sense because as you already know, I only work for pandas!

Do Keyword Research

Google provides a keyword tool to enable you to find out what people are searching for and what problems they are trying to answer.  Find out what keywords they use to search in Google and maybe try to incorporate those in your posts.

Google Keyword Search Planner

Get information and advice on your chosen keywords via the Google AdWords keyword planner:

Don’t get too worried about this, if your content is interesting, people will find it.

Optimising your posts & pages

So just to recap, you will want to make sure that your subject keywords appear in your content as follows:

The title of your page

This is the main page title – e.g. ‘The benefits of hiring a freelance web designer’

The page content

You will want to use keywords throughout your content.  Try to use them near to the beginning of your content.  e.g. we all know there are lots of benefits when hiring a freelance web designer but do we really know what they are?

It is likely that the keyword phrase cannot be mirrored exactly when you use it in the content but this is all natural and Google will see that.

Don’t overuse keywords because Google will see this as keyword stuffing and potentially penalise you.  Google penalises websites that don’t look natural.


Add alt tags and title tags to your images.  Google cannot see an image, so it relies on the Alternative Tag (Alt Tag) content to know what the image is about.  Screen readers for partially sited people cannot see the image either, so again adding tags to exactly describe the image are really important.

Keep the sizes of images as small as you can to ensure speedy page loading, search engines are starting to penalise slow loading pages.

If you use WordPress it will give you options for your images when you insert them into your page.  Use large and medium sizes, these have been resized by WordPress to give optimum performance.


Complete the page title metatag with your long tail keyword phrase ‘the benefits of hiring a freelance web designer’ for your post.  The title metatag is a maximum length of 70 characters.

Complete the page description metatag (usually a maximum of 160 characters).  This needs to be as attractive and descriptive as possible, this text will be what pushes the searcher to click on your link rather than one belonging to a competitor.

Below you can see how Google uses the metatags in their search results.  The title metatag is shown in purple and the description metatag is shown in black.

Google search results display

Metatags are something that might have to be done by your developer.  However, if you have a WordPress website, you can install WordPress SEO by Yoast.  This enables you to update your Metatags yourself.  You can read more about that here …. Manage Your Metatags & More SEO for WordPress»

The page URL

If you are creating pages in WordPress, the page URL will be automatically created based on the title of the page.  So for example this page is entitled ‘SEO in a Nutshell”  the URL is  (it this does not happen, check your permalinks under settings. If you are not using WordPress, make sure the URL contains the keywords.

That’s it for page (or post) optimisation, simple!

Internet marketing written on chalkboard

SEO in a Nutshell Part 2:
The Popularity of your Content – Content Marketing

The popularity of content used to be measured simply by the number of incoming links to your website.  The more incoming links that your website had, the more popular you were in Google’s eyes and the higher you ranked.  This brought about unethical SEO tactics including link building and ‘directory’ listing.  This no longer works and listing your website on some of these directory sites can in fact have a negative impact.

Google recognised some time ago that it needed to redefine how it saw quality content and so content marketing comes into play.

Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

Get Social

In the case of Google search engine optimisation, a content marketing strategy will leverage online and social channels.  Social media is not a choice any more.

So an example of this would be to create a blog post on your website that is optimised with the right long tail keywords.  Then create a Facebook post, tweet and other content to fuel marketing channels and to drive traffic back to your website.  Make sure that when you post on social platforms it includes the title of the content that you are sharing and a link back to that content on your website. The title of the content is of course your long tail keyword.

Google includes your social media in your website ranking.  The more exposure you have on these sites the better. Make sure you have sharing buttons on your website.  Share your blog posts and other content yourself (or install an auto-poster). If you have linked your website to your Facebook, Twitter and other accounts be careful what you do, keep it clean and legal –  that should of course go without saying.  Write good content for your media channels and link it back to your site, it all counts.  With so many millions of users, social media is an amazing opportunity for everyone.

These days you need to think of your website as your central hub for all online marketing.  You need to create compelling content on your websites including blog posts, videos and infographics that you can share through your social media channels.


Image Source:

To develop ongoing social media content requires consistent creation of quality images, copy and videos to ensure you stay active on a regular basis.  It is essential to create social media content that relates to your business and the interests of your audience.  You shouldn’t need to invest a great deal of time creating social media messages, especially if you are sharing what you are posting on your website.  You can also follow others to find interesting content to share with your audience.

Publish fresh content regularly

Regular posting makes sure you stay in the memory of your target audience and equally will place you as an expert in your field.  You will position yourself over time as a reliable source of information.  If you publish new articles on a daily or weekly basis, Google will crawl your website more often and will give you more authority and better page rankings in Google search.

90% of marketers today use content marketing to reach their audience, now is not the time to get left behind.

Other Factors


Genuine links into your website from other websites will still influence your search engine ranking.  Basically this is an indication of the popularity of your website. I cannot emphasise enough the importance that these are genuine links and not an attempt to fool Google into thinking you are more popular than you are.

Internal Links

These are really important because not only do they help your visitors to navigate through your site, they help Google to do it too. Your website must be intuitive and easy to use.

Make sure you link to other relevant content within your site, this ensures that your content is seen regularly.  Google is taking more notice of internal linking now, so take the opportunity to link to other pages and posts in your site when you can but only if it is valid.  The question to ask when adding an internal link is ‘would my visitor find it useful if I link to this other content?’ if the anser is yes, then do it but keep it natural and as the old adage goes … everything in moderation is good.

Also if you blog regularly, link back to relevant content in older posts, this keeps them on Google’s radar.  Good navigation helps visitors find what they need quickly and increases the time that they will spend on your site.  Place links to your best articles in sidebars.

Choosing a Developer – Technical excellence

A good developer will make sure that your site is structured properly with current and valid code.  For example, correct use of header tags (H1, H2) is really important. You should not use old technology and your code should be standards compliant with valid styling and metadata.

Structured data is really important now, Google looks for this when a site is crawled.  Structured data is quite technical to implement so you just need to make sure you get the right developer.

Remember that not all templates and themes are Internet marketing/SEO friendly.  Read all of the details carefully before if you are deploying a theme yourself, check when it was last updated.  Above all make sure your site looks professionally done, this is important to keep visitors interested.

Page load times – speed

This goes hand in hand with technical excellence.  Your website should be well coded and your images optimised for speed. Caching is a great way to increase site speed and with WordPress you can use plugins such as WP Super Cache.

Speed matters to Google a lot!

Use Google PageSpeed Insights to get speed optimization suggestions »

Google Page Speed Insights

Make sure your website is mobile friendly

Google has serious plans for forcing websites move to a mobile-friendly platform. Google has released a mobile search algorithm that will focus on the usability factors of your website on mobile devices.

Visit the Google Mobile-Friendly Test to check your website »

Google Mobile Friendly Test

Websites that have a mobile version will be labeled as such, and be rewarded with higher rankings for mobile search queries.

Mobile friendly sites rank higher on Google »

Blogging for Business

Blogging is a great way to populate your website with good content for sharing on social media channels, which will drive traffic to your website. Blogging keeps your website alive with fresh content and continues to promote you as an expert in your field. Equally it is a great way to obtain links from other sites as they reference your content and share it with their audiences.

Be the best business blogger »

Top Tip

Give it time, search engine rankings do not happen overnight.  They can take months and even years and you need plenty of patience.

So that’s SEO in a nutshell … here’s to going viral!

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