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SEO Principles & Basic Set Up
  -    -  SEO Principles & Basic Set Up

Lesson: SEO principles

How to ensure you’re adhering to best practice on your own

In this edition of the SPT Agency Academy, we take a look at how you can implement SEO best practice principles on your own, without the need to take on an SEO agency. You can find a full transcript of the lesson below.

At the end of this Free Academy Lesson, you will learn:

  • What makes the search engines tick and the “must-know” SEO impacts
  • How to avoid the most common SEO mistakes that could leave you languishing on page 10 – or even worse, penalised!
  • How to implement them on your WordPress site, through our favourite SEO plugin, Yoast SEO

Happy learning 🤓

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You can view a full transcript of the lesson below.

A guide to implementing SEO on your own!

An interesting thought…

“The best place to hide a dead body is on the second page of Google.” – Anonymous

What is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)?

SEO is the process of increasing the quantity and improving the quality of your organic website traffic on search engine websites by creating and optimising your website (amongst other tactics).

That’s not all though. It’s about understanding the ever-evolving digital landscape, being able to pivot to changing algorithms and understanding and acting upon changing consumer behaviour trends.

How do search engines decide the rankings?

Google utilises several data points to conclude whether a website is the most reputable source of information for a particular topic. It identifies the topic itself through crawling keywords and their synonyms and subsequently concludes:

(1) the relevancy of the website (and brand) to the topic 

(2) the quality of the content and insights within the subject; and 

(3) the number of external sources that validate the content as being reputable

What is a search engines primary functions?

Crawl: Search the internet for content, checking over code and content for each unique URL. Crawling is done by bots from search engines who continually check URLs for content. 

Index: Arrange the content that has been crawled by the search engine bots. Once the page is indexed, the page is available to be displayed for relevant queries, resulting in the creation of a “database”.

Rank: Serve the content to the user that best answers their query, ordered by relevance.

Always remember!

Before we get started, remember the following and always consider this when undertaking your SEO activity. 

  1. Google is smart. It knows when you are deceiving the system. Don’t risk getting penalties with “Black Hat” SEO tactics. 
  2. Google cares about the user experience. If you do everything in your power to provide optimal user experience, it will reward you with higher rankings.
Why would I want to begin investing in SEO?

✅ Reduced paid spend: Improved organic results in search engines reduce the reliance on paying to be the at the top for relevant keywords. 

✅ Credibility: Organic search engine results appear more credible than paid results. The vast majority of search engine users are far more likely to click an organic link when compared to a paid link. 

✅ Increased conversions: A study concluded that SEO leads provide a 14.6% conversion rate when compared to cold leads from outbound activity (1.7%).

✅ Improved user experience: Search engines favour websites that invest in enhanced user experience. If you offer an improved user experience, your customers/visitors are more likely to associate your brand to a higher quality product/service. 

Guiding principles
  1. Prioritise users over search engines: Don’t create your content for search engines. If the keyword you want to rank high for is “gym membership Melbourne”, don’t use those words in your page content 100 times for the sake of it. Make your content readable and engaging. 
  2. Don’t post “thin” content: A small paragraph of minimal, low-quality information won’t rank well. Share detailed (where required), high-quality content. 
  3. Copying: Don’t copy content and put it on your website. The search engine bots will know and will penalise your site. 
  4. Secure: Make your website secure with an SSL certificate (https). Google is on the record saying this will improve rankings.
  5. Mobile friendly: It’s 2020, make your website mobile-friendly as Google has made it known sites that aren’t mobile-friendly will see poor rankings. 
  6. Research keywords: We recommend using a tool such as Buzz Sumo. Look at search volumes and discover emerging trends. Where possible focus on longer form (3 words plus) when compared to shorter, generic search terms as part of your overall strategy. 
  7. Page speed: The faster your website loads, the higher it will rank. Simple. Ways to improve site speed include image optimisation, reducing redirects and leveraging browser caching. You can use Google’s own site speed tool to test site speed and provide optimisation suggestions. 
  8. Auto-generated content: Google is very savvy at picking up material that is made by bots. Ensure all of your content has that human touch a Your rankings will suffer if your content is auto-generated. 
  9. Optimise your images for SEO: More in-depth discussion is found later on in this presentation regarding this topic. Don’t upload pictures that will bloat your website speed and add in keywords when saving the image related to the topic. 
Search Engine Crawling

You can discover what pages on your website Google is currently crawling by searching “site:yoururl.com”. This methodology doesn’t provide an exact figure but can provide you with a guide. For precise results and to learn more about how your website shows on search, we recommend opening a Google Search Console account.  


Example site link checking via google




To disallow Google Bots from crawling pages, you can add “robots.txt” files. To view what files you currently have set up as robot.txt files type into the URL bar “www.yoururl.com/robotstxt. Some examples of pages to remove from indexing could include cart/checkout pages. 

You can see what it will look like from the below example. Adding these files can be a complicated process for those who are just starting. Please contact us if you need help setting this up.


sdc robots txt file


Choosing your keywords

Here are some basic principles to follow when choosing your keywords:

  1. Focus on what your audience wants, not what keywords you want to rank for. Think about what questions your customers want to be answered and edit your websites content to answer them.
  2. Get search term volumes by checking out the keyword planner. You might be surprised by the results.
  3. The higher the volume, the higher the competition. It can take years to beat the big brands for generic terms such as “shoes”. Try aiming for longer tail keywords (three words or more), e.g. buy runners online Australia. Long-tail keywords usually rank better and shorter keywords may get searches that aren’t relevant to your business.
Ensuring your content/website is visible

There are two ways to ensure your content is easily visible on search engine sites.

Usable navigation: This includes ensuring the same nav is used across mobile and desktop and ensuring that the navigation of the website follows a logical flow to all primary pages of the website.

Submitting your sitemap to Google Search Console: Your sitemap is at is says, a map to your website. Submitting your site map to Google shouldn’t replace an excellent navigation experience. Undertaking this practice can be utilised to show the crawling bots how to access pages. 

What role does linking play in SEO?

Linking (also known as backlinking) follows the same principles of word of mouth and is an essential part of your SEO efforts. They are links to your website content from external sites or your own. 

Good backlink: A well known, established website links to your content from their website. Good backlinks are a reputable form of word of mouth and an essential factor in improving rankings.

Internal link: A link to a piece of content/page within your website. Internal linking is a biased form of “word of mouth”, but still an important SEO tactic. 

Weak backlink: A low-quality backlink from a spammy website. Poor backlinks are a commonly used “black hat” SEO tactic. 

No backlinks: No word of mouth (no backlinks) means we are unsure of the website quality. If you have no backlinks, it’s essential to build a strategy to begin this process. 

Image optimisation

Images are an easy way to provide readers of your content with a visual cue to help them further understand the content. 

Unique imagery – Try to use your imagery where possible, as original photography/graphics are always more unique and relevant to your brand than stock imagery.

Filename – If the image introducing a new topic (e.g. how dogs use ramps for couches) and the image is of a dog going up a ramp next to the couch, save the file name and upload it as dog-ramp-couch-demo.png. 

Don’t overdo it – Similarly, if you are trying to sell dog ramps and have 10 images on the page, don’t name them all dog-ramp-1.png, dog-ramp-2 and so on, especially if the photos are not of a dog using a ramp. Google’s bots will recognise this as “image keyword stuffing”, and your rankings may worsen. Introduce each image and ensure you describe what’s in the actual image, don’t overdo it!

Image size – Compress your images before uploading them and utilise a tool such as an image compressor. Reducing the size of the image once it’s loaded on the site won’t reduce page speed. If you upload an image sized 2000 x 1000 and resize it to 200 x 100 the larger image size still needs to load.

Alt tags

Alt tags are written pieces of copy in case an image can’t load and can help those who are vision-impaired understand the image that is there and helps search engines find relevant content. Most CMS’s with an SEO plugin will have an option to add alt tags when uploading an image. Describe the image in a manner that is suitable for someone with a disability. If not, you may need to code it in. Contact us if you need help.

Small, black and tan dachshund going down a dog ramp

❌Poor practice – alt= “Image of small dog up down ramp for dog.”

✅ Good practice – alt= “Small, black and tan dachshund going down a dog ramp.”

Other on-page SEO techniques

Header tags are used within HTML language to categorise headings on-page and are coded as per the below example:

<h1>Page Title</h1>

You can also utilise header tags in h2 size through to h6 size to introduce topics related to the on-page content. Google will recognise these tags, wherever possible, introduce your search terms/topics in headers with the above coding.

Keyword – Dog Ramp

H1 – Main topic heading – e.g. Dog Ramp

H2 – Subheading – e.g. Why your dog needs a ramp

H3 – Dog ramps can prevent back injuries

Anchor text – This is the practice of linking your internal pages (or from other sites) with the content rather than pasting the direct URL.

❌Poor practice – You can buy one of our dog ramps here: www.sausagedogcentral.com/dog-ramps

✅ Good practice – Don’t forget to check out our exclusively made dog ramps.

Utilising anchor text indicates to the search engine what the topic is most likely to be about on the linked page. 

More useful on-page SEO strategies

Link scarcity – Only link when you need to.  If you link to 100 pages on a single content page, the search engine will believe it’s not that valuable of a link. If you only link to one or a few pages, the search engine will assume that link is of higher value. 

Font size – Google recommends 16 point font size for general on-page content. 

URL Structure

The structure of your URL is vital to ensure the search engine can easily distinguish what the content on the corresponding page will discuss. It’s also useful for the user to understand what the topic on the page will be.

✅ Good example – https://www.sausagedogcentral.com/products/dachramp

❌ Bad example – https://www.sausagedogcentral.com/productid=45828/colourstyle=42

Try and minimise the length of your URL too. 

✅ Good example – https://www.sausagedogcentral.com/products/dachramp

❌ Bad example – https://www.sausagedogcentral.com/products/ramps/dachramp/dachramplite

Some basic stats to help improve SEO over time

Some of the most critical statistics to report on in SEO are:

Clicks (from search engines results) – If the copy in your search engine result (META description) generates higher clicks, you will continue to improve/maintain your ranking.

Time on page – If someone is on your website only visits for 5 seconds, it will signal to Google that the site provides a poor user experience or has low quality, non-engaging content.

Bounce rate – Percentage of users who visit your website then leave straight away. 

Pogo sticking – This term is related to users who have a search query, visit the site, can’t find the answer then return to the search engine. If this is frequently occurring, it will signal to Google that there is low-quality content on the page that doesn’t answer the search query. 

The Meta Description

The Meta Description is the description that shows in the search engine when a user enters their search query.

Development of the META descriptions, in conjunction with the implementation of previously discussed principles, are all critical factors in achieving strong search engine ranking results. 

Example meta description for seo

Use the below META description brief and example below to test out writing your META description copy.

META Description (160 characters): 

(note: include SEO Keyword(s) and synonyms but write the description to entice the user to click)




The example below is for a Pakenham based gym. The targeted keywords are “gyms Pakenham” and “gym membership Pakenham”.

“Frank’s gym in Pakenham has all the gym equipment you need to smash your fitness goals! Buy a gym membership with us before January and get two weeks free. Located 2 km from the Pakenham CBD!”

META Description writing tips
  1. User searched keywords are “bolded” so be sure to include them.
  2. Write the description to be enticing, helpful/useful and concise.
  3. Consider including statistics and quotes if appropriate.
Getting started

Copy and paste the below brief into a word document to get you started in considering how to optimise your website. 

SEO keywords: 


SEO keyword synonyms:


Page URL:


Proposed new page URL with keyword:


Page title:


Proposed new page title with keywords:

Using SEO tools (Yoast)

Most reputable CMS have an SEO tool that can be utilised in the back end of the website to assist with the implementation of SEO strategies. 

To demonstrate how to set up some basic settings within these tools, we will provide a brief guide, using the popular WordPress tool “Yoast”.

The following screenshots relate to functionality that appears on pages and posts within WordPress (sitting below the text editor). 

  1. Choose the most appropriate “Focus Keyword” for SEO (this allows Yoast to review keyword density within the page post and META descriptions)
  2. Insert the SEO Title and Meta Description as per those written in the above brief/template
Yoast continued

Advanced Keep “default” (index) pages unless optimising a back-page. De-indexing pages tell Google not to crawl them or include them in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS)

Meta Robots Advanced – Default

Include in SiteMap – Auto-detect unless you do not wish for a page to be searchable or identifiable (i.e. a back-page of the website designed only for a specific set of eyes the link)

Instructions on using advanced seo tools in yoast


Yoast continued

Sitemap Priority – Set prioritisation based on “page-level” (i.e. core landing pages should be prioritised over content pages.

Canonical URL – Leave as default and edit the main permalink if required to change the URL (ensure that if edited once already published, a 301 redirect must be placed).

301 Redirect – If the content has moved to a new location (URL) on the site, put the new destination URL here.

Instructions for seo tools for yoast


Yoast continued – Social (Open Graph Protocol) 

These boxes allow specific text to for instances where for links shared across social media. They will appear as follows on social media channels (post “featured image” as set in the bottom right-hand corner of the WordPress editor will be pulled as the featured social media image) unless set specifically within the social media section of Yoast.

If you’re developing custom social media images (recommended if the text appears on the image to ensure it renders correctly when cropped for the platform) consider the below dimensions: Facebook: 1200 x 627 Twitter: 1024 x 512

Instructions on using seo social tool in yoast


Instructions on using seo social tool in yoast


In Conclusion
  1. The user experience (UX) should always come first, then consider SEO when building out your content and page structure. If you prioritise an optimal UX first, your rankings will improve.
  2. If you try and cheat the system, your rankings will suffer. Don’t try any “black hat” SEO techniques. You may even get banned.
  3. There are many more technical considerations required when building out your SEO strategy/structure. The guide provided is an overview of the principles to follow with some technical guidance. Contact us if you need further assistance.