An introduction to SEO - The most important things a beginner needs to know

There are website operators who know what is happening.
There are website operators who watch what is happening.
And there are website operators who ask “What happened ?”.

This criticone article will put you in the first category, armed with the information you need about what’s happening right now with SEO. It gives a clear picture of what good SEO is, how to make it work for you and how to achieve it. In other words it will help you get the jump on your competitors.

Knowledge is information and information is power. It follows that most informed website owners have the most power. Their websites are more effective. Search engines approve of them and send them more targeted traffic – people who are looking for what they have to offer.

Google Australia online searches

What powers an effective website?

Top of the list is the power of attraction - to get search engines like Google, Yahoo or Bing to notice you and rank you highly in search results.

In our lives and businesses, we are constantly seeking out information to our questions or needs. Search engines are ‘answer machines’. The internet and search engines like Google that help sort information have caused a dramatic shift in the way we ask questions and consume the ‘answers’ - the information. On the web it’s often possible to find what we seek within seconds. In most cases the need to visit a library or go to a bookstore has become optional. Asking a friend a question has also shifted to posting your question to your network via social media. Search Engines and social networks are at the centre of this world changing shift.

australians going online used more than 3 devices

Search Engines are the ‘new librarians’ we use to seek fresh and fast information – they are specialists who put their time and energy into learning which information is most relevant when we, the consumers, do a search or ask a question.

Given the absolute importance of Search Engines, businesses use marketing techniques (labelled by the term SEO) designed to create more relevance and importance for their website pages. This drives traffic to their website and ultimately, business.

With Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), there are many layers that impact how your website is perceived. There’s more to it than building a website, creating several links or adding a few keywords to your pages. It’s about understanding how to demonstrate relevance to Google while providing true value to the end user.

When I was an SEO beginner wanting to step forward and take my first dips in the ocean I wanted to find clear and succinct information, but it wasn’t easy to find. I’m writing this article to share the knowledge I’ve gained. If you have a website and want to lift it’s performance this article will be very useful.

What is SEO?

There are multiple definitions of what exactly defines the parameters of SEO, but we do have a clear idea on what it’s used for and the challenges involved.

For a start here’s how I define it: SEO is the activity undertaken to ensure your website is found in the organic search results shown by search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing and so on.
It helps in driving more relevant traffic to your webpage, by making sure it ranks higher than competing webpages do for certain search phrases – and keywords.

what is SEO

How does SEO work?

To understand how it works, one must first learn how a search engine query is executed.

“Humans are content driven and Search Engines are text driven”.

This means when a User performs a search, a search engine like Google’s filters its index and provides a list of content that matches the User’s query. E.g.: You are reading this article, because it has the content you were looking for and the Search Engine subsequently located the article and presented it in the search results, due to the textual match and relevance.

Google uses over 200 signals to dictate the relevance and a web pages subsequent exposure. These are interlined and range from basics to advanced. In most cases you should be able to undertake basic through to intermediate level tasks in order to better your online organic branding and exposure.

google has over 200 ranking signals

How do Search Engines give information that you want?

Search Engines use complex and rapidly evolving algorithms (a step-by-step calculation procedure) to match a query to the content in its index of the web. To be more precise, Google searches the web with a program called a Spider (also referred to as robots, or crawler). These spiders start by fetching a few webpages, indexing all links on those few pages and then following the links, indexing them along the way. Pages, themes, quality and relevance to given topics, and keywords, are allocated to each and stored in the search engines databases for future searches.

search engines and what you want

It’s information gathering on a vast scale and involves indexing millions and millions of pages. When you perform a search, Google scans their indexed pages (with the help of the algorithm) and quickly retrieves information deemed relevant to the enquiry you entered. As great information sources grow and update daily, search engines keep themselves updated by following webpages that have more popularity, links and activity. This is generally a sign that the information provided on the page is more current and valuable.

What major search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing expect to see in your web pages:

  • User friendly URL’s and unique page titles
  • Easy to follow navigation
  • Easy to access pages – too many clicks deep isn’t friendly for anyone
  • Effective use of robots.txt
  • Correct use of heading tags and rich content, and more importantly promotion of the webpage in the right manner (i.e. using ‘White Hat’ techniques)
  • Frequently added or updated content
  • New and relevant (same industry or theme) links from third party websites linking to your pages
  • Avoid excessive use of keyword stuffing on your pages
  • Not exceeding the limit of 150KB file size for the page
  • Use of keywords in the page body text that are relevant to what a user enters in the Search Engine
  • Information may not be indexed properly if key material is hidden inside rich media such as images or un-optimised videos
on page SEO quality

Aspects of SEO

Why Keyword Research is so important

Keyword research plays a critical role in driving traffic to your website. There’s no use creating website pages or blog articles around phrases or variations your audience is not using.

Understanding the User language when they perform a search to review or buy products or services will get you greater exposure, engagement and conversion.

Keywords form the basis of all searches and content, so you need to nail it by researching, analysing and refining.

keyword research process importance

Why Unique Information is good for your website

Another key success factor for your website is the uniqueness of your content. When your webpages are being crawled and indexed, if the content is found to be whole or partial copies of other websites, (including other pages on your own website!) they will be devalued and likely discarded from quality search results. Search engines hate duplication and punish it. Search engines generalise and judge it as a sign of a lazy website. If you’re posting your own blogs on your website plus other blogs you have spotted and copied because you think they are interesting, then you need to put in place a measure to tell Google where the original article came from - using methods such as rel=”canonical”. This will save you from being relegated to their ‘shame’ (really low in search results) file.

Unique content is a natural flow on effect from understanding your audience and what language they use in relation to your products/services.
This ranges from broad questions through to more descriptive and targeted phrases.
Descriptive phrases are referred to as Long tail keywords and their use is heavily reflected by the fact that Google receives 500,000,000 million never-before-searched queries per day.

long tail keyword importance

What is Link Building?

The number of internal and external links a page has pointing to it shows the popularity of your site and its pages on the web. More popularity signals more useful content from a search engine perspective. Links show trust towards your website from other sources, giving you superior rank over your competitors in search results.

Keep in mind however that not all links are equal and that there is such a thing as bad links! Links can be manipulated (Black Hat style – see section that follows) but it’s easier to spot this now and it’s a punishable offence. If it’s obvious to Google that links to your website are manipulated (unnatural) it will very likely have a negative effect on your ranking and take lots of time and pain to correct.

What is On Page SEO?

‘On-Page’ SEO was the original ‘SEO’. Where the same verbatim keyword phrases were repeated throughout a given webpage.

Google turned this on its head when they introduced the necessary changes to their algorithms that now penalises that tactic in order to reward content that has more quality rather than just ‘repeat, repeat, repeat’. While a no-brainer for some, this has actually resulted in easier to read pages and greater engagement.

elements optimised page

There are many tips for On-Page SEO. Here are a few;
  • Pick a topic-theme for each page. This will include a group of keywords, variations and synonyms. Ensure every element on that page conforms to the plan.
  • Page elements include address, title, description, headings, content, link text, and image alt tags.
  • Page titles and descriptions must be unique and relevant to each page.
  • Don’t forget it’s about relevance and readability


SEO isn’t a set and forget or a one size fits all solution. Like any business your online marketing also needs to evolve, keeping it focused, sharp and relevant.

To be more accurate you need to review activities and changes and understand where any gains and benefits have come from.

It’s not always black and white, but you will notice trends and start to better understand the impact of specific techniques you apply. This helps you to identify your potential target audience.

E.g. imagine you are running an online store across the world. By doing regular analysis you will be able to track where your majority audience is from and make the necessary changes where the work is needed. In essence creating more exposure in the right areas, creating more engagement and driving stronger results be it sales, sign ups or leads.

SEO analytics process

What are the obstacles for SEO?

When undertaking SEO for your business, keeping a balanced approach between what is User friendly and Search Engine friendly is vital. In some cases interactive webpages including rich content such as flash and images might be engaging from a User’s perspective but a Search Engine will struggle to read, interpret and classify that information.

But with the right approach such SEO obstacles can be avoided resulting in a win/win situation. As a reader I personally prefer a combination of text and video, as opposed to big, heavy text only pages.

Video and images can create greater engagement in less time. To make it easy for Search Engine spiders to index these pages properly and send you the right visitors it’s crucial that videos are optimised to be Google friendly and your images use “alt” text to describe what they’re about plus including a relevant file name.

Be sure not to hide important text in big banner images, or use large file size images that take ages to load on desktop or mobile devices.

Types of SEO techniques

The web’s a complicated place and given many SEO techniques are hidden, the industry is full of smoke and mirrors. In addition, there’s no regulating authority holding suppliers accountable for using questionable techniques.

As search engines refine how they grade and show websites, some websites have seen great successes while others have been heavily penalised and lost their exposure and traffic - impacting their business heavily.

black hat vs white hat SEO

Using long term techniques in-line with search engine guidelines is classified as ‘White Hat’, whereas applying questionable techniques that seek out quick gains (but ultimately long term pains) is referred to as ‘Black Hat’.

Why White Hat is good

White Hat SEO is about following the rules and policies set by the Search Engines. Such techniques are usually associated with a long term performance strategy and mindset. Manipulative keyword and content placement on your website or backlinking websites is not a good idea as the spiders may mark your related pages as spam.

White Hat is an approach that is accepted by Search Engines and when used well will result in more relevant and improved exposure in Search Engine results.

Where it can be a little confusing is that the same technique, but applied differently can be ‘Black Hat’. As a rule of thumb, if it doesn’t look natural or show any benefit to a website visitor, then you should question either the technique or the way it’s being applied.

Why Black Hat is bad

‘Black Hat’ is the alternative to White Hat SEO. Both aim to improve the position of webpages in Search Engine results but Black Hat usually employs the questionable application of similar techniques. It can come from a novice or unqualified provider and is often associated with ‘too good to be true’ SEO service prices and as such is not encouraged.

Some examples of Black Hat are: Keyword stuffing/hiding (too many keywords), Meta keyword stuffing (heavy use of keywords), non-descriptive, cloned pages (using similar content on multiple pages tweaked to target variations of a keyword) and Link farming (which involves buying fabricated links from purpose built third party blogs, article submission and other websites designed to manipulate Google’s algorithm and improve your page ranking).

Link Farming is hitting website owners heavily as Google devaluates such sites and techniques on a daily basis. If a linking website has no human appeal or relevance, then you don’t want it linking to you.

Black Hat techniques are for those chasing quick gains but now it’s more likely to backfire. The consequences of being caught using Black Hat techniques involve losing valuable traffic, exposure, and losing ranking positions which can be difficult to get back.

Why you need to be responsive to Mobile and Tablet devices

The trend of accessing websites while on the go or on the couch has become the norm. The importance of having a mobile-friendly website is ever increasing. Left out, you're giving up traffic, conversions and sales. Even if you offer a fantastic product/service and have a great looking site, mobile users are likely to go to competitors if they have a frustrating or slow experience on your website due to lack of mobile friendliness and easy usage.

responsive web design

Luckily, there are a few ways to meet the demand for mobile:
  • Apply responsive web design. This refines your page layout to suit different screen sizes like tablet, mobile and desktop and delivers one seamless solution across all platforms and devices.
  • Create a mobile version of your website. Sometimes an option if your website can’t become responsive for various reasons.
  • If using WordPress and don’t have the budget or time for a responsive website, you might consider a plugin like which converts your website into an app with additional bells and whistles in a claimed “less than 2 minutes!”.
If you would like some more information about getting the best from your SEO, or advice on revising content that could be harming your website’s search exposure, then call us now!

Feel free to trial our system, join our Tips and Trends newsletter or get in-touch.

Quick stats;

Estimated Australian online search market share

  • June 2013, 7.5 million Australians accessed the internet via their mobile phones, an increase of 33% from June 2012.
  • 42% of adults accessed the internet via a mobile phone during June 2013, compared to 32% during June 2012.
  • 62 per cent of Australians going online used three or more devices to access the internet in the six months to May 2013—most commonly a smartphone, laptop and a desktop computer.
  • 61% of daily Australian searches seek out product information
  • Google Average searches per day 5,922,000,000 billion
  • Google Search receives 500,000,000 million never-before-seen queries per day.
  • Google crawls 20 billion Web sites per day in search of new data that it can turn into results.
  • ABS shows Australian businesses earned $237 billion in revenue from the sales of goods and services online during the 2011–12 financial year.
  • As of Jan 2014, ABS estimated year on year retail growth increased 4.6%

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dominique    |    April 14, 2014
Thanks for a very informative article about SEO, this is something that is worth reading. I have had trainings on SEO from clickminded and I learned more with this article.
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What's your website hiding from you that Google doesn't like?

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