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The Most Important SEO Basics

If you want your website to be found as well as possible in search engines, you need to know the essential SEO basics. This involves much more than just suitable keywords. We will show you what is important.

For most business activities it is nowadays immensely important that your own website is found in search engines such as Google, and preferably on the first page of the search results. The Google search engine was the first in the world to introduce the so-called PageRank method. Websites are not only evaluated according to their content, but also according to a whole range of factors, including responsiveness, timeliness and content focus.

SEO: This is what lies behind the term

If you don’t want to rely on online advertising measures such as search engine advertising and banner advertising alone, you should ensure an optimal “organic” search engine ranking of your web content. Successful Search Engine Optimization (SEO) ensures that your website appears as high as possible in the search results for certain keywords without you paying for these rankings.

Pages that are not among the first results are usually not even clicked on. So if your website appears further back in the search results, it receives considerably less attention via search engines – and thus generates less sales. The term “search engine optimization” refers to all the measures you can take to make your content optimally searchable in search engines. It is not exclusively about Google, but the search engine operator sets as a market leader the benchmarks, which other providers also orient themselves by.

So how does a good organic ranking work in practice?

Technical requirements for a good ranking in the search index.

In order for your website to function optimally, load quickly and be available at all times, the underlying technology must of course be right. A high-performance connection of the website via a cloud or a powerful and scalable server architecture is therefore mandatory.

Furthermore, your entire website should comply with the modern, encrypted HTTPS standard. Without HTTPS, it may be classified as “not secure” by search engines and also performs worse in the ranking.

In addition, modern content management systems not only support you in generating the necessary HTML code for your website, but also ensure the appropriate information architecture in the background.

This should be designed in such a way that both search engines and users can optimally find the information presented via the navigation elements and the search function.

Mobile First: The Importance of Responsiveness for Search Engines
In 2017, more than 40 percent of all users in Europe were already surfing via smartphones or tablets and not stationary on laptops or PCs (source: Statista). Search engines take this factor into account and rate a good presentation on mobile devices positively. Therefore, the basic principle for modern web design is “Mobile First”: The design is based on the smallest screen and the design for larger screen formats is only developed in the second step.

Not only do you exclude important user groups if your site doesn’t work well on certain devices, you also score worse in search engine results. For a responsive website you need a modern page structure based on CSS3 and possibly JavaScript, which adjusts the view of the website and ensures error-free functionality on all devices. Alternatively, you can offer several versions of the same page for different devices (adaptive design), but you have to keep them up to date separately.

To select optimal keywords

A so-called focus keyword reflects the search query that is to lead a user to your site. It often consists of several words. The more specific the keyword is, the more accurately you hit the search intention of a user. It is important to note that search engines also recognize synonyms and related search terms. These should also be used for optimization. In practice, this makes it easier to write entertaining, easy-to-read texts, since, for example, not only “cars” can be spoken of, but also “motor vehicles”, “automobiles” or “cars”.

Before you create contents for your website, you should be clear about the goal – do you want to describe an article in the online shop or should an information offer be provided? For which question of an Internet user do you offer the suitable answer? The free Google Keyword Planner, for example, will help you here. Alternatively, third-party tools such as UberSuggest, or SEMRush can also be used, but some of them are quite complex and also subject to a fee.

With the help of such tools, you not only get an estimate of how many search queries your desired keyword could receive in a certain period of time, but also how much competition you can expect from other websites.

If the competition for a keyword combination such as “buy washing machine” is too high, it can be useful to choose more specific keywords that match your offer even better. The search volume for “buy used washing machine with warranty” may be small, but if this is exactly what your offer reflects, your site will be found by the right interested parties.

Another important note: A website should always have only one specific focus. So if you run a flower shop, don’t write about travel on your website just because it might be a popular search term.

Subjective factors play an important role in ranking

For some time now, subjective factors have been playing an increasingly important role in website optimization. This means, Google and Co. evaluate, which opinion users have to the contents of your side. This makes it all the more important that the content you offer is considered useful and valuable by the reader. Make it easier for search engines to assess this by, for example, offering to have an article rated. Factors such as readability, usefulness and the context in which a (sub)page is placed also play a role.

Make sure that the information presented is always up to date. Your website should also have the lowest possible bounce rate and the longest possible retention time. These factors can also be captured by search engines and used to evaluate your site.

You can find out which KPIs you should optimize for your website and how to do this in a separate guide.

OnPage Optimization: Placing Relevant Content Correctly

A clear structure and unique naming of all elements helps not only the visitors of your website, but also the search engines. Clarity of content is also required – the topic is complex, so here you will find a short summary of important aspects of OnPage optimization.

A product presentation page in an online shop, for example, should list all essential product features in a clear form. Correctly named, meaningful images or product videos, interactive evaluation elements and experience reports improve the ranking, especially on shop pages.

If, on the other hand, you want to support your brand communication with an information page (content marketing), it should contain useful and relevant information that underlines your competence. The contributions should also be unique: If, for example, you run an architectural practice, do not simply use texts on the Energy Saving Ordinance, but publish your own thoughts on the subject and useful additional information on related areas.

The content should also be accessible within finite time (maximum three to five minutes reading time) and offer added value to your customers. Make sure you use meaningful subheadings that lead the reader through the text as if in a kind of table of contents.

All image and video material, but also your page itself, should now be provided with the appropriate so-called meta tags. At least the title tag, the description and an alternative text are mandatory for images:

Title tag: The title or H1 in HTML source code

Description: The description is displayed when search hits are made and should briefly summarize the content of the page.

Alternative text: This is displayed if the image cannot be loaded.

Correctly displayed and meaningful meta-descriptions of your content are also indispensable for your website. As a guideline, the title tag of each individual subpage should not be longer than about 70 characters. If the title tag is too long, it will not be displayed completely in the Google view and thus loses its information value.

For the same reason, the core statement of the meta-description for a text should not contain more than about 150 to 155 characters. If, after publishing the content, you notice that the title tag or meta-description is truncated by “…”, you should adjust the length.

At the end, check that all links inside and outside the page work to avoid broken links (links that lead to an error page).