Search Engine Optimisation Archives - Harper Digital

The Fundamentals of Search Engine Optimisation: Practical Tips to Improve Your SEO Rankings

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Imagine you’re a tailor. You depend heavily on local business, and your area’s home to several competitors. When a potential customer searches for ‘North Shore tailor,’ say, how high on the page do you come up? Are you above your competitors or below them?

Strong search engine optimisation, better known by its abbreviation SEO, can be the difference between a thriving business and one that’s just scraping by. In this post, we’ll define SEO and outline the fundamentals of the concept in order to give you a solid foundation on which to build your own SEO practice. Read on to learn more!

What is SEO?

We like to visualise SEO as an iceberg, with the above-water tip representing the visible ‘on-the-page factors’ and the unseen, below-the-surface chunk representing the ‘off-the-page’ factors (more on both those terms later).

As the name suggests, SEO involves optimising each aspect of your website to make it more attractive to search engines, in turn encouraging them to rank you higher when a user performs a relevant search. It’s sort of like free publicity in that there’s a difference between SEO rankings (organic traffic) and paid advertising — so if you’re not doing whatever you can to improve your SEO, you’re actively passing up unpaid traffic that’s likely going to your competitors.

How does SEO work?

SEO begins with search engines crawling every webpage, collecting information, and using their own unique algorithms to spit out search results they feel will be most useful to the searcher.

For the likes of Google and Safari, this last piece — providing users with the most accurate search results possible — is the goal of SEO, which means your goal as a business must be to help the engine do just that.

Each browser’s SEO algorithm differs slightly, but in general, the key to higher rankings lies in ensuring that your website has all the pieces necessary to appeal to search engines. So what exactly are these pieces?

Let’s explore.

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What factors influence your SEO rank?

For robust SEO, lead with content. The more frequently you publish fresh, relevant content (blogs, ebooks, downloadable resources, infographics, etc.), the more weight search engines will ascribe to your website. Remember: search engines want to provide their users with value, so they’re looking for organisations that can help them do that.

Within that content, emphasise your keywords. Put yourself in the shoes of your ideal customer; using our tailor example from the beginning, what’s your audience searching for? Is it ‘North Shore tailor’? ‘Best tailors in the Auckland area’? Do some research — and once you’ve identified the keywords and phrases you want to rank for, build them into your content.

Content and keywords represent two components otherwise known as on-page factors. The parts of SEO that are within the control of the page owner, on-page factors also include website structure and logistics (Do your pages load quickly? Does the flow of your site make sense in the context of user experience?) and behind-the-scenes workings such as title tags, meta descriptions, and hyperlinks to your products and other content.

Off-page factors are largely outside your control and are driven by a search engine’s desire to provide users with reputable, trustworthy search results. They include things such as link building (carefully curated links to your site from credible publishers) and social engagement (shares from quality accounts and influencers, number of likes and comments on your posts) — and though you can’t directly manage them, you can improve your off-page factors by fostering relationships with worthy partners and building a loyal customer base.

What practical steps can you take to win at SEO?

SEO can seem intimidating, but if you break it down into its simplest form — making your website as helpful and relevant to your audience as possible — it’s much easier to implement actionable changes. Here are a few quick, practical tips to help you win at SEO:

  1. Research the most relevant keywords for your specific industry, and build them into your site and your content. Publish fresh content designed around your keywords on a regular basis.
  2. Overhaul your website’s metadata to optimise it for search terms.
  3. Within your own content, hyperlink pertinent words and phrases to other content pieces you’ve published. Expand on this internal link network by establishing an external network, done by building relationships with trustworthy partners and having them link back to you.
  4. Keep an eye on where your competitors rank for your industry’s keywords, and note what they do well in terms of SEO. Use these benchmarks to improve upon your own SEO factors.
  5. Plan a robust content schedule to ensure you’re regularly putting out valuable information.

A quick wrap-up

It’s critical that you view your SEO strategy as an interconnected web in which each part strengthens the others. If any one component is weak (i.e. if you have a sub-par content game or haven’t put work into improving your page titles), the entire strategy will weaken as a result — so your best chance at success is to optimise each piece of the puzzle to the best of your ability.

Want to see how your SEO stacks up? Talk to us about a free SEO benchmarking audit, or head here to request one.

Alexa, How is Voice Search Shaping the Future of SEO?

Voice search is no longer the work of science fiction. It’s real, it’s here and it stands poised to transform the search game as we know it. What’s driving this trend? What does the future have in store for voice search? And how can businesses and marketers prepare themselves for the revolution?

The Rise of Voice

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Voice recognition technology might seem like a modern innovation, but it’s actually been around in one form or another for more than 60 years. Back in 1952, Bell Laboratories designed a system known as Audrey, which could recognise spoken numbers. A decade later, IBM introduced Shoebox, a computer that could understand 16 basic words. And in 2008, the technology finally went mobile, when Google released the Voice Search app for iPhone.

Fast forward to today, and consumer adoption of voice search is skyrocketing. Between 2008 and 2016, the volume of voice searches increased 35-fold, according to Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report. In 2016, about 20 percent of Google app searches were voice searches. And in 2018, 91 million people in the U.S used voice technology at least once a month, according to figures from eMarketer.

Looking at the timeline, it’s clear that voice search didn’t arrive overnight. So why are consumers only now starting to get interested in voice search? There are two main reasons:

1. It’s Everywhere

The explosive growth of voice search mostly comes down to the fact that the technology is now supremely accessible. Voice search has been successfully integrated into a huge range of mainstream consumer products, with smart speakers (such as Google Home and Amazon Echo) leading the charge. In fact, smart speakers sales grew 300 percent between 2016 and 2017, according to figures from Strategy Analytics.

Of course, it’s not only smart speaker manufacturers who are getting in on the action. Just about every major tech company is leveraging the power of digital personal assistants and voice search. You can ask Siri to send a text message for you while you’re driving, tell Google Assistant to read you the news, use Cortana to update your calendar and command your Xbox to start streaming Netflix. Voice search is no longer about the novelty factor; it’s a useful, efficient and convenient feature that is quickly becoming a normal part of everyday life.

2. It’s Getting Better at Understanding Us

The way we communicate verbally is very different from the way we write and type. We’re less formal, less specific and more verbose, which stands in stark contrast to the keyword-laden,  ultra-concise queries we’d usually type into a search engine. This has been a bit of a sticking point for voice search, as the technology has traditionally struggled to separate meaningless human chit chat from user intent (i.e. what we’re actually searching for).

Thankfully, this is (mostly) a thing of the past. The AI that powers voice search has become exponentially smarter in recent years and is constantly getting better at understanding context and user intent. In 2017, Microsoft’s voice recognition software achieved an error rate of just 5.1 percent, which put it on par with human error rate. Consumers are feeling more inclined to use voice search because they can use natural, conversational language and still get accurate results.

How Can Businesses Prepare for the Revolution?

    1. Use schema markup: Schema is a type of on-page data markup that helps search engines better understand your website and content, and therefore the services your company offers. This type of structured data can be used to increase the chances of your business being found for local voice search queries.
    1. Focus on long-tail keywords: Short-tail keywords fell out of favour a long time ago, and voice search may well be the final nail in the coffin. As we’ve learned, users are more likely to ask long, complex search strings when using voice search. With this in mind, focus on using long-tail keywords that are very specific to your business.
    1. Incorporate FAQS into your content: Voice search is conversational. An easy way to naturally replicate this style is to use FAQs to answer common questions that your audience might have about your business, services or industry.
  1. Rethink your SEO strategy: The world of SEO is constantly changing. This might be the perfect time to audit your current strategy and rethink your current digital marketing spend.

Curious about what you need to do to optimise your business for voice search? Book your free strategy session to get a better understanding of how the voice search revolution is going to affect you.

Integrating SEO and PPC to maximise results

An age-old question in the world of digital marketing is “Which is better: PPC or SEO?” And our response is almost always “It depends, but usually both.” While this may sound like a bit of a cop out, there really is no one-size-fits-all answer – it all comes down to what will work best given the unique factors that make up your industry, company and product or service.

What we can say is that a two-pronged approach will offer the best results most of the time for most businesses.


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Well, SEO and PPC are complementary marketing models, each with their own pros and cons. When used in conjunction, they can effectively bolster the other’s weak points, maximising your chances of hitting all your business goals in the short as well as the long term. Read on for a quick primer on the basics principles of SEO and PPC and find out how you integrate them into your marketing strategy.


What are the benefits of SEO?

SEO is the practice of raising the visibility of your website via organic (unpaid) search engine results. About 67 percent of all clicks on search engine result pages go to the top five listings, while the first page receives around 95 percent of web traffic. To get in on this action, you need your brand to appear as high up the results page as possible when a prospect types a business-related query into a search engine.

  1. Long-term visibility

Perhaps the great advantage of SEO is its longevity. Unlike PPC, there’s no expiry date on SEO content, making is sustainable and – if executed correctly – very profitable over the long term.

  1. Strengthen brand

Smart SEO content not only helps clients find your company on search engines but can also play a key role in positioning your brand as an authority in your space. Blog posts, FAQs, and how-to guides all lend credibility to your brand, which can increase your chances of conversion.

  1. Cost effective

It does take a while to start seeing results with SEO, but after the initial groundwork has been laid the clicks are more or less free. SEO traffic is organic, meaning there’s no direct cost per click or lead as there is with PPC, which makes SEO more financially sustainable over the long term.


What are the benefits of PPC?

Whereas SEO is more of a long-term investment, PPC is geared toward getting results in the here and now. PPC allows you to immediately get eyeballs on your product or service, and highly customisable targeting options ensure your efforts are focused in all the right places.

  1. Instant visibility

Launching a new product? Need instant feedback? Running a flash sale? Sometimes you simply don’t have the time to build up a marketing campaign. PPC excels in these situations, giving your brand an instantly visible platform.

  1. Better analytics

Search engines do a pretty good job of concealing organic search metrics in the name of user privacy. However, the same rules don’t apply when it comes to PPC, giving analytically savvy marketers deep insight into which keywords are converting, ROI and more.

  1. Budgeting consistency

While the leads generated by PPC do come at a cost, the ability to cap daily spend ensures the marketing budget doesn’t get out of hand. Combined with smart, localised keywords, PPC really can deliver fantastic ROI.


A case for using both SEO and PPC

As you can see, SEO and PPC have their own strengths and weaknesses and work best when used in synergy. PPC offers instant results and the information you gain from PPC campaigns (whether it’s A/B testing, analytics information or keyword data) can be used to fuel deeper SEO strategy. Using a combination of SEO and PPC also strengthens your contact points, allowing you to more effectively guide prospects through the funnel from initial awareness all the way to conversion.

So, SEO and PPC should be used in tandem. But how can you start applying them to your business?

While SEO is a pretty deep field, the good news is that there are many things you can do yourself to start optimising your website. Applying the fundamentals of on-page SEO (keywords, meta tags, SEO-friendly headlines and more) are critical for helping search engines understand what your website is about, which in turn can help you climb the results ladder.

In addition, creating a Google My Business listing, maintaining a Facebook business page and establishing your company in local online directories can add more authenticity to your brand, which can further boost visibility. Finally, working toward developing a backlink strategy (that is, links on other websites that point to your website) can also do wonders for your search engine rankings.


Curious about how SEO-friendly your website currently is and how you could improve? Register for a free SEO site audit and we’ll give you a comprehensive report revealing how you can better optimise your website, as well as a free 30 minute strategy session.