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1. How SEO works and why it's important

Search engine optimization, or SEO as commonly known, is the process of implementing changes and strategies in order to stay up at the top of the search engine results, and therefore gain organic traffic.

Organic traffic is traffic that comes to you without using advertising or paid tools. It is good healthy traffic.

So far so good you will say. But what was a straightforward task a decade ago has now become matter for analysis and long term strategies: Google checks not less than 200 ranking factors for any search query that anyone types in their search bar. In 2012 we had to target keywords, now we need key phrases because the keywords are saturated. And we need a lot more as you can see.

We, as SEO specialists, have the important task to take your website, analyze your business needs and keep you up there at the top of the search queries that we understand being the most important to you. That is why SEO is all about you (the business), your tool (the web site), your target (your audience), your challengers (your competition) and your medium (us).

How we do that is going to be explained below.

As for how important SEO is, let me tell you this: SEO is a long term commitment that builds trust and awareness within your audience, and has the great benefit of being very cost effective. It starts with little things but then once it picks up speed it is going to grow your business exponentially. And lastly, let's not forget that SEO has you work on your competition: it will force you to come into contact with data about your sales and competitors, and in many cases it is an eye opener for businesses.


Google traffic coming from paid searches in 2020


Of US small businesses do not have a website


Of websites out there get less 10 visitors per month

2. Technical SEO

You might ask: how are search engine companies deciding how to rank your website?
Well they deploy robots that crawl them day and night. Every day.

They are not actual robots of course, but rather kind of fake visitors that scan your content and match it against their matrix. And because they are not human they need all the help you can give to understand what is it that they are looking at.

Here comes technical SEO: which is all the things we put in place to make the bot crawling as smooth as possible, so that they can index it properly.

Good crawl == Good index == Good match with search queries.

In practice technical SEO involves all of the following steps:

And those are just the most important set of instructions a good SEO company should be looking for. There are other aspects that might apply to your business depending on the CMS you use: as these tasks deal with the technical part of SEO, technical knowledge is required to be able to optimize your website.

We at The Coding Lab are proud to have the experience in most management systems such as WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, Drupal and Hubspot.
We always welcome both enquiries or requests for estimates so do not hesitate to get in touch.

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Did You Know?

Mobile searches including "best" have grown by 80% in the past three years.

3. On Site SEO

On site SEO (also known as on page SEO) are all those patterns we put in place within your web page, to ensure that both humans and bots easily understand your content and navigate it smoothly.
It is about tags (where it may overlap a little with technical SEO) and content.

Meta tags are bits of information we code into your website aimed to give specific instructions to search engines, social media and messaging shares. They define how your website result snippet appears to the viewer.
They will render your title, description, icon and URL the way you want them to be.
They are a powerful tool and often the number one area we look to optimize.

Content is what you write in your web site, and how you present it. This is usually about blog posts, which is one of the best ways to gain SEO traction in 2021.
The subject is extensive, but here an overview of what you should do to ensure a good content SEO:

  1. Key Phrases: target words or phrases relevant to you
  2. Density: do not overstuff content with key words
  3. Media: optimize their dimensions and caption tags
  4. Quality: write to help the reader, not to rank
  5. Internal Links: link to other content in your website
  6. Readability: write syntax that is easy to understand
  7. Flow: the content must be easy to navigate and skim
  8. Repeat Business: retain readers and you will improve your authority

More specifically, we recommend using a Pillar and Clusters method for content creation.
It gives clear direction so that your writing efforts are all inter-twinned. It will also allow you to develop a tree-like structure where each page builds upon other pages, always giving the reader internal paths options. The bottom line is simple: you want returning clients, who are interested in staying on your pages as much as they can.

For the actual design structure, the advice is to keep the paragraphs short - 3-4 sentences maximum - and make use of subheadings, bullet points and photos, so that the article is easy to skim through.

Combine that with a conclusion summarizing your main points and a strong call to action, and you have the perfect recipe for success.
Oh, don't forget to have suggestions for other articles easily accessible throughout.

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4. Off Site SEO

Off site SEO (also known as off page SEO) is the umbrella of strategies we can implement to improve our SEO, targeting what's happening around us.
It should be carried alongside on site SEO to get the best out of both worlds.

What does off site SEO include?

First and foremost links, specifically backlinks.
They are links pointing at your webpage from other webpages. The more authoritative the other webpage, the better it is.
You want to have good quality, organic, links pointing at you, ideally from as many different relevant domains as possible.

A good linking strategy goes a long way and will make the difference between a laggy presence and that superstar performance you want. There are several ways to achieve that, but the important thing is to focus on your own PR, and peek on what your competitors are doing.
Yes, you can peek and why not, try and "steal" links from them (writing better content for example).

The second thing you want to do for your off page optimization is involve influencers and relevant guests. Guests posts are particularly efficient in building up reputation.
Since a while ago, reputation is what Google is increasingly taking into consideration when dealing with off site ranking factors.

The third factor to optimize is online reviews (which is, reputation management). You will be surprised how many businesses fail to acknowledge the importance of having a positive online review score. Some of them do not care at all, some undervalue the missed chance, others think that you can still get away with no presence at all.
Well, forget about it. If you don't have a profile on Google business, Yelp or TripAdvisor (or whatever niche applies to your sector), please create one now.
And take good care of it.

Another thing you want to deal with are citations: they are aggregators, directories that list businesses per categories. Yellow pages are one example, but there are hundreds scoping every possible profession. And you want to be in all the ones relevant to you.

Also, make sure that the data you are submitting to those directories are consistent and match your google or bing business profile. Type your address exactly the same everywhere, same goes for opening hours and every other detail pertaining your business.
Inconsistency will penalize you because bots do not like being uncertain.

Lastly, you want to be part of a few social media platforms and cultivate your audience in there. More of this in the section below.

6. Social Media and SEO

Social media is not a factor directly affecting your ranking on Google, but it certainly is in indirect factor. And it certainly is a factor for Bing.
So what do we mean when we say that it affects you indirectly?
First of all it builds up your brand: get a profile with your logo, a good bio and your web link, so that your posts will be like many complimentary business cards circulating all over the place. If you target the right (virtual) places you will increase your brand awareness in little time.

Secondly it gets you traffic.
The more posts and shares you get in there, the more likelihood to have people coming across your link, hence visiting. As long as you keep targeting an audience that is relevant to you, you will see an increase in healthy first time visitors. And, the more the visitors, the higher domain authority you get.

Thirdly, keep in mind that social media pages rank in search engines: your facebook business page is treated as any other website, so a page with a lot of followers and good presence can easily show up at the top of google searches.

A good social media strategy is dependant on regular posts and interactive content. And is based on research and continuous review. Business owners most of the times do not have the time to keep up with the social media commitment, being busy with their day to day job.

If you are interested in hiring The Coding Lab for your social media SEO, reach out and we will discuss the best way to do it.

7. Bad Practices

We talked a little about what is good SEO and what we recommend to do to get it right.
But what about bad SEO practices? What should I be wary of?

Be wary of paid links, likes, followers and basically any other fake strategy promising bulky results. You may get lucky for a while, but search engines will eventually catch up with the trick, and at that point you will be penalized.

Keep an eye on that word count. Google barely ranks pages with less than 400 words, and the most successful blog regularly post pieces of at least 1500 words.
It is OK to alternate long and shorter articles, but be sure to have the overall balance straight, or you risk writing for no return.

Do not cloak. This is the practice of deliberately showing different content to humans and web bots crawling your site. It is a refined trickery, unusual for small businesses, but if you come across someone trying to sell it to you, refuse.

Do not sensationalize. Do not write misleading headlines. It might be tempting, it might even get you extra traffic, but remember that the user experience accounts for a lot nowadays. If your readers feel misled, you will get burned in the long run.

8. Frequently Asked Questions

Which social media should I be on?

That depends on the business. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are usually the first choices. LinkedIn is also gaining traction, especially over the last few years. Pinterest is really versatile for showcasing "mute" media, whereas Youtube is great for all other media (although it requires a good deal of video preparation). Lastly, companies with good copyrighting options should consider Medium and Quora.

How often does Google crawl a site?

Not an exact science, but as a rule of thumb a web page should be crawled anytime between every few days to every couple of weeks. For Google, their Search Console will tell you if there are issues with crawling your website, so keep an eye in there whenever you make changes, or if you notice that bots are not indexing new content. And remember to add your sitemap in there too, it will make the crawling process way smoother.

What search engine am I using?

Most likely? Google. But not necessarily. It depends on your Country and tastes. Google accounts for over 92% of worldwide market share, followed by Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, Yandex and DuckDuckGo. But the ratio will be different for searches done in the USA, Russia or China for example. Another thing to consider is whether the search comes from desktop or mobile.

Can search engines read PDF files?

Yes, and since 2001. Not ideal and you should prefer HTML to PDF, but sometimes it makes sense (for ebooks or research papers for example). Make sure to optimize your files including keywords in their title and URL, and compressing their size before uploading.

What is bounce rate? And what bounce rate is good?

Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors that do nothing once landed on a web page. No further engagement, they just bounce off. It is an important analytical signal that can help understand a lot about your website flows. The average bounce rate is 61% but that is a generalist approach. Different sources will have higher or lower rates (for example organic vs referral).

What is HTTPS encoding?

It is the way your web browser connects to the pages hosted in the net. Originally they were all HTTP. Then they switched to HTTPS (for secure). The reason being that it was insecure to transfer sensitive data on HTTP: anybody with skills and bad intentions could intercept your data, and that is not good (think about your online banking). Secure servers adopt international standards that issue security certificates and encrypt data transfers. It goes deeper than that, but that was it in a nutshell.