Basic SEO – How Can I Optimise Easily & Effectively? [2020 Edit]

When Did Basic SEO Begin?

Once upon a time, back when Brave Agency was an infant full of hopes and dreams, SEO practices were basic and unrefined. It didn’t matter if a website was brochureware or e-commerce, which made SEO much simpler. Most people didn’t actually understand what it was, or it’s potential. Even the simplest of explanations would be met with glazed eyes and indifference. Then, it was pretty much just ensuring that keywords were included in as many places as possible and as often as possible. While this wasn’t “best practice”, there were no real repercussions from it, since Google had no idea how to stop people from breaking the rules.

Bear in mind, this was a time where tools that gave sites their SEO scores were only based on how many times such targeted terms were included in each area. Link building was basically just about submitting to directories. The biggest problem behind link-building was the sheer time investment. The User Experience was nonexistent; how the site looked, whether it was readable and helpful, or if it was even an improvement from the sites that were ranked lower were not considerations in the early days of search engine ranking. 

But, Google grew. Google became ever-more intelligent and became aware of what the user wanted. Good practises were defined and penalties were dished out. The influence of SEO would be changed forever. Google has come such a long way since it was founded in 1998. The questionable tactics became lost in the past, now punishable by a dreaded Google penalty (which could see the demise of a website). However, the fundamentals of basic SEO have stayed the same.

In this post, we will cover how basic SEO has changed since it was first used, how Google has evolved and some top tips on how to improve your own strategy.

Basic SEO In 2020

Google is always one step of the game. It forms the strong foundations of the digital world. In fact, Google currently holds over 90% of the total search engine market share, followed by YouTube, which, coincidentally, is owned by Google! It’s also said that 93% of experiences begin with a search engine which just shows how important SEO really is! 

There is a skill that’s required in order to succeed at basic SEO. This is due to users’ automatic expectations to come across sites that are helpful and well written. The former practise of keyword stuffing is now seen as black hat SEO and will result in penalisation from Google. 

This is because it can cause users to land on websites that offer no value to them. In order to understand the value of a website, one metric that Google uses is Bounce Rate.

A high bounce rate is a metric used to show evidence of users who have not interacted well with your site, as such, have immediately clicked away from your pages, back to SERPs to view your competitors’ websites instead. The lesson to be learned; if you don’t prioritise user experience, your site will never flourish.  

How Has Basic SEO Evolved?

You may have asked yourself “how do I undertake my own SEO strategy?”. While it is fair to say that SEO has developed massively, it can be widely argued that basic SEO has remained relatively unchanged. The truth is that it is the SEO essentials that shape results. SEO strategists still work with Meta Descriptions, H1s, H2s, Title Tags, Alt Tags (etc), as these form the basic building blocks of the process. Such basic elements of a website must come as the first point of call when fulfilling SEO. Creating an extensive and intuitive blog section is great in a variety of ways, but if your website doesn’t abide by Google’s best practices as a whole, you won’t be seen as ‘best in class’.  

Many people forget the basics as they look for new ways to improve the ranking of a site which means they forget about how basic SEO actually works. The overall picture may be different (such as certain SEO practices that help influence an overall ranking), but the basic on-page tactics are still the same. Practices which were valid 15 years ago are still often relevant today (with a few exceptions). Search engine optimisation is about improving the visibility of websites within search engines organically which is actually still the same after all these years. 

Meta Keyword Tags

One original tactic that has become, not only obsolete from current SEO practises, but punishable by a Panda penalty, is meta keyword tags. Search engines now see meta keyword tags as a type of black hat SEO practice. In the early days of SEO, when Google was more rudimentary, webmasters would add any high-ranking keywords to their meta tag (keyword stuffing) to draw more attention to themselves. 

The original point of the tag was to add relevant keywords to your URL, however, black-hat marketers saw this as an opportunity for backhanded SEO practices. And thus, it evolved into a popular black-hat technique.  

Meta Descriptions

While meta descriptions may not be a ranking factor, they’re still a major selling point in basic SEO. Your meta description is the first insight a user has into your website. Google produces your meta description on the SERPs when certain search terms are typed in. You want it to be catchy and enticing; it’s free advertising, take advantage! A meta description should be considered a call to action for your site, alluring users to click through. 

H Headings

H headings (H1, H2, H3s etc) used to be one of the best ranking signals available. Guess what? They still are. By ensuring that a keyword is in the H heading helps crawlers to understand your content – they have a unique identifier into the message behind the content. 

In addition, you should also be using them to structure your page to make it crawl-friendly. They should be both meaningful and natural, and used as heading tags to split the page up and make it easier for your readers to scan the page.

Title Tags

When basic SEO was first used, you could optimise your title tag, however, that presented yet another opportunity for keyword stuffing. Back in 2004, title tags were usually just filled with as many keywords as you could fit in the space that Google would display. Google has since retorted and now displays whichever title tag it thinks is most relevant automatically. 

Internal Links

10 years ago, we could link to everything, with footer links, image links, and plenty of terms in our copy that could be turned into internal links. Sites were basically just stuffed full of links. 

Things have changed. Now, links should only be on a page if they add value to content. Adding anchor text rich links everywhere is seen as counterintuitive, and takes value away from your content. However, the internal link structure is still important, especially when it comes to 1) users on your site and, 2) your trust authority. Internal links provide structure to your site, assisting users through your content in a natural direction. Meanwhile, external backlinks show that other site owners will vouch for you, which accentuates trust. Ultimately, your site should be easily navigated, pointing users to related content and adding value to their experience.

Alt Tags

In 2004, an image Alt Tag comprised simply of a keyword; no real descriptions, or meaningful information. The more times the keyword was mentioned on a page, the higher you ranked (wow, this keyword stuffing malarkey was popular wasn’t it?). These days, alt tags shouldn’t be ignored, but they definitely shouldn’t be spammed as much as they used to be.

Content Is King, Always

Keywords used to make up around 4% of the content on a webpage. Again, keyword stuffing was rife. Flash forward and nowadays, we should all be writing for our audience. Spamming your own content is a surefire way of raising Google Bot alarm bells – if you are not careful the search engine giant will swiftly notice, deem your site as black-hat, and in return, slap you with one of its famous penalties. Keywords are of course important, just make sure that your content includes them organically and naturally; you won’t come across any problems.  

SEO In 2020

Though it is imperative to remember the basics, it is also crucial that you remain involved in the times – the digital landscape is continuously growing, and new updates emerge. Content marketing, social and PPC campaigns are just a few of the ways SEO plays a role in the success of your website. Ultimately, all of your practices should be carried out as part of your evolving strategy and site performance monitored. The most important thing to remember is that you should be addressing each element individually, but never in isolation – considering the user experience along with the ranking of your site. 

Where Do I Get More Advice On Basic SEO?

At Brave, we can offer you advice on basic SEO and how to optimise your website with long-term results. If you want some more guidance on where to go next with your business, take a look at Brave’s website to find the services we offer or give us a call on 01733 602020.

Written byTony Conte

Founder and Owner of Brave Agency, an Integrated Agency transforming businesses through design, digital and marketing, helping you, our clients to get results by applying the right strategy.

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