The Basics Of SEO – Essential Advice

featured image for assured marketing blog on the basics of seo

As a digital marketing agency – especially one which specialises in SEO – we are often asked about some of the more basic elements of SEO that business owners and marketing executives can carry out on a daily basis.

From the basics of metadata, alt text and page titles of every page on a website, to the linking between pages and H1/H2 tags – we will go through some of the areas we deem as essential elements of SEO that will compliment the work you’re doing with keyword rich content and backlink generation efforts.

So in this handy and helpful blog, we’re going to do our best to explain these sometimes forgotten elements in SEO and how marketers can follow best practice in implementing these on the website(s) they’re responsible for.

Page Titles

Starting from the top, literally! Page Titles are the information you are providing to search engines such as Google in order to tell them how you want the page result to display on their list of results. They are the bold blue text you see and click on from Google when you choose to visit a certain page, and if you’ve visited before it’s the part of the result that will show as purple to indicate you’ve already been there in the past.

So why are they important? Well, not only are they there as a way to entice users to click-through onto your website above your competitors, but they’re also there to help you rank for the keywords which they contain.

There are, however, a few rules to follow when it comes to inputting the correct page titles for individual pages. For example, duplication of page titles is going to do more harm than good for your SEO rankings. This is because it takes search engines longer to understand the value of each separate page and will not choose to display them particularly high if it feels they are close to being the same page.

Secondly, page titles need to be within a certain character limit. 60 to be precise. Though search engines such as Google will actually work off the number of pixels a page title takes up (therefore all caps is a bad idea), around 60 characters is the cut off point for a page title to ensure it isn’t cut off when displayed on search engine results pages (SERPs). 

image of google search results page

Meta Descriptions

Now, for the next part – meta descriptions. These are the additional descriptive text underneath the page title which will display under your listing on SERPs. They will often highlight in bold any keywords contained in these descriptions that a user has used when typing in that specific search term.

They’re again supporting information to what the page is all about, and should for that matter contain keyword search terms that you are aiming to rank for with that page. Albeit, this needs to be done organically and without simply listing keywords – as search engines are more than capable of seeing this and punishing sites which employ such tactics.

Again, as with Page Titles, there is a limit on characters/pixels. In the case of meta descriptions it is a limit of 155 characters, and strictly speaking they do not want to be too short either. Otherwise you’ll be missing out on keyword density and the result will probably look less attractive than that of your competitors on SERPs.

Alt Text

Alternative Text (Alt-Text for short) is a simple way of providing the search engines with greater information on specific imagery used on the different pages your website has. Although initially devised as a way to have screen reader software describe images to those with visual impairments, alt text has become a useful essential of SEO

These descriptions of images should be short and sweet. Think of them as captions for the images were they to appear in a newspaper. A simple description of what the image is and any supporting information you think would be useful will help to provide a better understanding to search engines on what the image (and page) is all about!

H1 & H2 Tags

Okay, so whilst this may sound technical, it’s essentially a fancy way of saying Title and Subheadings however they do need to be defined with a tag i.e <h1> or <h2> and not just be set as a paragraph (<p>), though this is easy to do with platforms such as wordpress who have predefined tags ready for you. H1 Tags are the on-page title (usually displayed right at the top of the page). Not to be confused with the earlier ‘Page Titles’ as that is something you’re using for off-page SEO. H1 tags should only be present once per page and should (where possible) contain the key phrase that this page is specifically trying to rank on search engines for.

H2 Tags on the other hand are more akin to subheadings in an essay. They are the larger title based text that outlines the different sections of texts, images or features throughout the rest of the page. These too should include some keywords where possible and you can also use within reason, as many H2’s on a page as you’d like (so long as they’re relevant and not duplicated). 

Useful Tools

There are two useful tools that we would recommend to an SEO beginner when it comes to optimising the different essential elements that we have listed above. The first will help guide you through the page titles and meta descriptions on each page, whilst the second is a way for you to look at the alt-text and H1/H2 tags across the site as a whole

Yoast SEO

image of yoast seo homepage

Yoast is a basic tool that can help when it comes to implementing effective page titles and meta descriptions on a site. Many WordPress users will be familiar with the tool and may well have used it previously. It will give scores (based on a traffic light system) of the above two parts graded against the keyphrase you’re looking to rank for.

However, it should not always be taken as gospel. Often it will grade a page as ‘Ok’ (amber) when in fact the density of keywords, size of page title, and size of meta description are all fine. It is after all, an AI, and therefore what would seem well optimised to it, would probably not look incredibly attractive to a user. 

Screaming Frog SEO Spider

image of screaming frog homepage

A slightly more complex tool, though still incredibly useful for any beginner to SEO. This is essentially a software that will crawl a website and then feedback important information surrounding a whole host of metrics. 

However, keeping with the essentials theme, it would be most beneficial to users as it will identify any missing or duplicate page titles, meta descriptions, alt text or H1/H2 tags. Meaning areas in need of optimisation can be quickly identified, and fixes swiftly put in place on the website.

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