SEO is a marketing discipline focused on growing visibility in organic (non-paid) search engine results.


Managing a website can be time consuming, and at times, complex. As the market gets more saturated and competition gets more intense, companies must constantly devise strategies to improve or maintain their rankings on the first page of Google. And while it’s easier to run paid advertisements, it is equally important to focus on organic rankings as well, as Internet users tend to trust organic results more. This is where SEO, or search engine optimisation, comes in handy.


What is SEO? Simply put, SEO is a marketing discipline focused on growing visibility in organic (non-paid) search engine results. However, the world of SEO is not that simple. Many companies buy into the offer of search engine optimisation services that promise you the top spot on Google search rankings; but how much of it is true? Truth be told, nobody really knows 100% how Google algorithm works except for the Googlers, of course, as there are too many aspects taken into consideration when formulating the algorithms.


And to make things more complicated, Google introduces changes to its algorithms almost every day. Some are tiny tweaks, and others completely shake up the SERPs (search engine ranking page). This makes it difficult for us to keep up-to-date with the latest changes, let alone guarantee a number 1 spot!


But don’t give up just yet. Though there’s no way of guaranteeing a number 1 spot, understanding the SEO fundamentals can help you optimise your website and make it work in your favour. This alone is enough to significantly improve your rankings and boost visibility. Here’s how you do it:


1. XML Sitemap

Submitting your XML sitemap to search engines for indexing is usually the first step to website promotion. An XML sitemap is a file listing each individual page of your website to tell Google and other search engines about the organisation of your site content. By doing so, it enables Googlebots and other web crawlers to crawl your site more intelligently, retrieve the content and index them into the engines database. When users enter a query using certain keywords, these search engines will analyse the information in their database, and display a list of websites that match those keywords.


How to implement: Build your XML sitemap using the Sitemap Writer Pro, and upload the file to your website. Once uploaded, login to your Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools accounts to crawl your sitemap. Click here for a step-by-step guide.


2. Keywords

Since the Hummingbird update that was launched on 22 August 2013, Google has made it possible for pages to rank for a query even if it doesn’t contain the exact words the user entered. This is because the Hummingbird update helps to interpret queries and provide results that match the users intent as opposed to the individual terms within the query. This is achieved through latent semantic indexing, co-occurring terms and synonyms.


How to implement: Focus on concept rather than keywords. Expand your keyword research and carefully look for related searches and synonyms. Then, use these insights to better understand your audiences language and diversify your content. By doing so, you’re fulfilling your audiences intent and win both SEO and user engagement.


Once you’ve discovered the right set of keywords to use, populate them across your webpage, such as: heading, body content, images, meta description, and URL. This makes it easier for Google’s search engine bots to crawl your content and determine if it’s relevant to the search query.


Tip: Google Keyword Planner is a free tool where you can get keyword ideas, discover new keywords most relevant to your business, and compare keyword trends. You can even look at your competitor’s site (if they rank better) to see what keywords they are using, by simply inputting their URL.


3. Topic Clusters

Similar to Google’s Hummingbird update, topic cluster focuses on topics as opposed to keywords. It is an SEO strategy that helps improve the sites architecture by acting as an umbrella for all related pages to live under; making it easier for search engines to discover related content, and ultimately, boosting visibility. This method is especially useful if you have a blog feature on your website where useful information is shared with target audience.


How does it work? Each grouping covers a single topic. The larger piece of content, known as the pillar, broadly outlines the topic; while a defined group of cluster content focuses on specific long-tail keywords. The pillar links to the cluster page and vice versa, using the same hyperlinked keyword. Search engines will then use those links as signals to determine the authority of the pillar page. The more pages linking to the pillar page and the related cluster pages, the greater the chances of ranking in SERPs. And when one page performs well, the entire topic gets a boost.


How to implement: First, choose a core topic to create your pillar page – ideally using your primary service or solution – and brainstorm a list of subtopics. Usually, these subtopics tend to be long-tail keywords related to your core topic. After you’ve come up with a list of subtopics, connect them to your pillar via the same hyperlinked keywords. Heres an example:


SEO Topic Clusters


Tip: Choose topics that your target audience is looking for and develop content around those topics. If you’re unsure of what they need help with, conduct a quick research on Google Keyword Planner to find out. Simply enter a generic keyword related to your product or service and select Get Ideas. From there, look out for more specific keywords on related topics suggested by Google. Once you have a good gauge on the search volume and a better understanding of your audience’s intent, you can develop your content based on the most-popular searches.


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