A Simple Guide to The Basics of SEO

SEO Basics

No one can say for sure exactly how the Google Algorithm truly works. However, there is a consensus that the below play a significant part in search engine optimisation.

The below guidelines are what most SEO’s can determine to a degree are relative to search optimisation in 2021.  In saying that, the algorithm changes frequently, so it’s important to stay up to date with the latest developments.

Therefore it would be a good idea to check and monitor your traffic to see if changes to the algorithm are having an impact on your search rankings.


Here are the most important factors to consider when optimising your website

  • Mobile site experience
  • Backlinks
  • User engagement
  • Site security
  • Structured data
  • Site speed
  • Search intent
  • High-quality content
  • Keyword Optimisation



The Benefits of search engine optimisation

SEO is a critical consideration in your marketing efforts. Here is what it can do for your brand:

  • Increase organic traffic to your website
  • Improve the quality of your traffic
  • Improve user experience
  • Build trust with users and search engines alike
  • Reduce paid advertising costs


image of different devices to show mobile responsiveness

Mobile site experience

Google announced Mobile-first indexing on November 4, 2016. As a result, a website’s mobile responsiveness has a direct impact on its search ranking.  In terms of SEO, this means Google predominately indexes the mobile version of the website.

Thus, if your website is not mobile-friendly, Google will penalise it affecting your overall SEO and ranking. In today’s world of mobile browsing, website developers need to prioritise mobile design to ensure that visitors enjoy a seamless browsing experience.


image showing backlinks for website SEO


Backlinks assist your site in acquiring more visibility by boosting its domain authority, which validates it as a reputable source of information. Considered one of the most important ranking factors when trying to rank higher in the search results.  

However, the focus should be on creating and producing consistent, engaging relevant content which attracts links organically. This area of SEO is a hotly debated topic.  

There are several agencies out there using what is termed “black-hat” strategies. These link building strategies revolve around creating false links to websites in order to boost link building efforts.  Some less direct approaches focus on guest blogging, sponsorship and PR articles where a fee is exchanged in return for a content piece and a link from a high domain authority website.  

Google has been very specific about how it wants a website to gain its links. There should be no exchange of money. With the latest link spam update, they have specified how to label links in the HTML where there is “sponsorship”, “guest blogging” or “affiliation”.

How successful this will be in identifying link spam, only time will tell. However, Google takes link spamming seriously. Undoubltley it would be safe to err on the side of caution. Therefore focus on great content that users want to share and other websites want to link to.


image of three people showing connection for user engagement

User engagement

User experience a significant update to Google’s algorithm in recent years. Earlier, Google was hesitant to give priority to an on-site factor that site owners could control and manipulate. To combat this, Google integrated technology from the click-fraud detection algorithm used in its advertising platform. As a result, it is able to measure authentic user engagement and has become a large part of the ranking algorithm.

The number one aspect that influences user engagement is the consistent posting of enticing, relevant and current content. Bounce rate, page time, and page views are all factors that can be used to gauge the quality of the content and determine user engagement.

Also, see how Google is taking this even further with the Page Experience Update. 


image of a web page use https to show site security

Site security / SSL certificate

Hackers have become more adept as the internet has become much more important in our lives. The worst nightmare Google might have is serving dangerous websites to its users.

If your site does not have an SSL certificate (marked by the “s” at the end of “HTTP-HTTPS”)—it will lose its ability to rank in the search results without a doubt.

For this reason, your site has to have an SSL certificate. SSL certificates are often free and easy to obtain from your registrar.


image of a desktop to show code for structured data

Structured data / Schema mark up

Schema markup is a much more advanced type of Meta tag which can be used to enhance the pages of your website. This is so that Google can provide a more detailed result to its user.

If you have ever seen lengthy search results that list the key pages of a website, highlight significant data, or describe events, ingredients to a recipe, and so on, then you might be familiar with schema markup.

Google is more likely to favour pages that utilise schema markup since the information on those pages is easier to retrieve for users performing a search. They also make search results stand out from the rest of the page, which is beneficial.


image of a website to show site speed

Site speed

The next thing to consider among ranking variables is the speed of your website pages. This is because Google has added the website page loading speed to its Core Web Vitals update. This is a list of elements that Google considers crucial for your site’s user engagement and experience. 

It will assess the speed, responsiveness, and loading times of various factors such as fonts and graphics. Discussed further in this article on the Core Web Vitals and Page Experience blog posts.

You should keep track of how quickly a page loads for your visitors, in addition to how quickly they can interact with it. Google wants your website to load quickly and give your visitors a pleasant experience.


image of a man with a target around his head to show search intent

Search intent

Matching the search intent (user intent) of your content is another important ranking criterion for Google. What a person is looking for when performing their search is referred to as search intent. It is imperative to understand the why behind any Google search query because every keyphrase is distinct.

For instance, if someone looks for the “best WordPress themes” for their business, they will discover in the top 10 results articles consisting of the – 10 Best WordPress themes and so on. Therefore, when you’re creating content for any of your products or services, it’s necessary to keep in mind the search intent and develop the content piece accordingly.

Now, search intent may differ depending on the type of media requested. For example, in some circumstances, Google’s top result would only show videos and graphics. This suggests that if you want to rank for certain keywords, you should consider making a video or an infographic in addition to your written content. Furthermore search intent may reveal where your users are in the buying process.

What type of information are they seeking? Are they in search of an overview, an instructional article, or an all-out purchase?

You can answer these questions by providing the information in your content and in so doing match the search intent.


image of a page with two cogs to show content optimisation for SEO

High-quality content

‘Content is King.’

This is such a common phrase because it is such a big part of the ranking factor. Google ranking factors are undoubtedly dependent on this. Google will give preference to new, distinctive, and beneficial information to readers on its search engine results page (SERPs).

Google places great emphasis on the quality of your content. You can’t anticipate higher ranks if your content isn’t valuable, no matter how good your page SEO is. So, what does good content quality mean for Google?

  • Updated and latest content

The first content strategy is to improve the quality by adding updated information. Updating your posts and adding new information gives search engines a positive message about your site. Content “freshness” is important if you cover news or developments. Google favours pages that provide the most up-to-date information on such topics.

Google Trends is a simple approach to discovering the most up-to-date information to keep your content new and exciting.

  • Original and unique content

Google gives content that is new and distinctive priority. To deliver a good customer experience, it’s important to develop blogs that address your customers’ questions, provide value, and are original. If your material is duplicated or similar to that of other websites, it may harm your SEO. For instance, your page may not be indexed or ranked by Google.

When developing content, you should ensure that it is better and different from the other websites which are ranking for the same search phrase.

  • Content structure

Your blogs and articles should be planned and organised. This will allow your readers to read your posts and find solutions to their issues more quickly.

The use of headers and subheadings, such as H1, H2, H3, H4, and so on, can help with the structuring of your articles. If you want to structure your content further, you can use HTML elements for bullets and number lists.

  • Length of the content

Content length affects where you rank in search engine results. Articles and blogs with 1,500 plus are more likely to rank higher. However, there is no hard and fast rule about sticking to a word limit when writing.


image of a computer screen with a big key to show keyword optimisation

Keyword optimisation

Keywords are the search words that people use to look up information on Google. So make sure your website includes the keywords and phrases your visitors use. It will make it easier for Google to match the user query to your content in its search results.

Here are a few tips to make sure that your website is keyword optimised:

  • Image Alt Text – You can add keywords in the image alt text tab. Since Google cannot interpret images, the text is essential.
  • Title Tags – Start your SEO title tags with your target keyword.
  • Meta Description – Create enticing Meta descriptions that include your focus keyword so that readers understand what your web page is about.
  • Add more LSI Keywords — In addition to your primary keyword, consumers look for related terms, referred to as LSI (latent semantic indexing) keywords. By adding them to your page, you help Google understand the content.
  • Incorporate your keyword in the URL – Adding your keyword to the URL of your post is another optimisation technique.
  • Use Keyword Variants or LSI Keywords in H2 and H3 of Your Post – You can optimise your content by implementing keyword variations or LSI keywords in H2 and H3 of your post.



The latest Google algorithm ranking factor updates are making it easier for sites with valuable content to be seen by people. Google is also improving its ability to track how users interact with your content. These ranking factors can make or break your online marketing approach.

How Hardcraft Digital can help

Work with an expert SEO to help you navigate the often complex world of search engine optimisation.

A Custom SEO strategy to help:

  • Develop a keyword-targeted content strategy;
  • Ensure your content is optimised for SEO;
  • Use best practices to increase your rankings;
  • Develop a keyword strategy;
  • Optimise your webpages through technical SEO

Feel free to reach out and see how Hardcraft Digital can help you today.


As we turn to the digital age, marketers need to stay up-to-date with best marketing practices. Hardcraft Digital provides cutting edge advice and tips for success in an ever-changing world of digital marketing.

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