Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Basics

Note: this an excerpt from our Web Site Management Instruction Manual

Search engine optimisation is all about improving how a website performs in the results returned by the search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing/MSN, etc.) for related keywords and phrases. There are 2 main aspects to it – 1) On-site SEO and 2) Off-site SEO.

On-site SEO

On-site SEO covers things you can change on your website that will improve where you appear in search results for certain keywords and phrases. Primarily this is about making sure important keywords and phrases appear in the right places on your web pages. Firstly you need to put yourself in the mind of your potential visitors/customers and think about what words or phrases they might be searching for and make a shortlist of the most important ones. For the search engine to return your web page in a search with one of these phrases, the words need to be somewhere within your web pages. There are different places on a web page that the words may appear and some carry more weight than others. Generally speaking, the main places in order of how they are weighted are: a) the title, b) main page heading, c) other headings on the page, d) the description, e) the body text.

Stellar Web Works has installed an SEO plugin on your website which will allow you to tweak the title and description for each page. You can find the settings for each page under the title WordPress SEO by Yoast when you edit the page. The main fields of interest in this section are SEO Title and Meta description.

What is the title?
The title appears at the very top of the browser window. It also appears in the search results. By default the page heading is used as the title. Keep it short and meaningful because if you stuff in a heap of keywords it will look like spam and many people won’t click on it. Also if you make it very long you are essentially ‘watering down’ the effect of any keywords you have used – so be very selective and restrict it to the very most important keywords/phrases.

What is the description?
The description usually appears as the descriptive text in the search results. If none is provided, the search engines will use some text from the body of the page, usually but not always, from first paragraph. Anything more than 160 characters is ignored by most search engines. Keep in mind that this should read well as someone may read it in their search results before they click on your page, i.e. this text could influence whether or not they visit your website.

What about keywords?
The keywords meta tag is a hidden tag in a web page where you can put a list of keywords. These keywords used to be considered by search engines in the early days of the web but these days they totally are ignored so they do not make any difference as far as search engine optimisation is concerned. Therefore there is no point in entering keywords into this field apart from using it for your own records.

How do I alter title and description in WordPress?
Title and description can be altered on any page. When you edit the page, scroll down towards the bottom and you will see a section called WordPress SEO by Yoast – there you can enter a title and description. If you don’t enter any it will use the defaults (page heading for title and search engine will extract text from body for description).

I’ve changed my title and description but it did not change in Google?
Google indexes your site periodically. Give it at least a week, for new sites it can take longer.

Keyword Research

Google Adwords provides a useful tool for keyword research which can help you determine the volume of searches for specific keywords/phrases as well as uncover related search terms. This can help you tweak your content by adding in important keywords that you may not have thought of and establish which keywords should be placed in the high priority positions such as page titles and headings. You can access this tool at:

Off-site SEO

Off-site SEO is mainly about getting other websites and directories to link to your site. The more links in to your website, the more ‘important’ the search engines will consider your site to be.

Links from other websites

Links from websites closely related to your subject matter have more weight as far as the search engines are concerned. For starters, we suggest that you contact any website owners that you know and ask them to add a link to your website. Ask for links from businesses with whom you have existing relationships—e.g., suppliers, stockists, etc.

Note that reciprocal links (I link to you and you link to me) are not very powerful – a one way link (someone links to your website but your website does not link back to them) has much more weight so try to get one way links where possible.

Web profiles and Directories

You can also submit your website/business information to some of the free online directories. The main one that almost every business should be on is Google My Business. Google My Business is highly integrated with Google Search – the map results that you see in local searches are Google My Business listings. Once you have a business listing on Google, it is well worth enhancing it by:

A few other web directories relevant to the New Zealand market are:

Other places to promote your website

Also if you are active in various online web forums and social networks, it can often be beneficial to include a link to your website in your forum signature or network home page. Some people create social networking pages (on sites such as,,, etc.) specifically to promote their website. This can be a good avenue for promoting your website if you are committed to developing your profile, building up your network and being active within the communities.

Pay Per Click (PPC) and Online Advertising
PPC, advertising is not SEO per-se but closely related. If you want to get your website noticed above the competition and have a budget for advertising, you can advertise in search engines (Google Ads is the main one). You can set this up and manage it yourself or hire a professional to set it up for you. Stellar Web Works does not usually offer this service but we may be able to put you in touch with specialists. There are other avenues for online advertising, Facebook is a popular one.

Further Resources We’ve only scratched the surface on SEO here. If SEO is important to the success of your website it pays to educate yourself. Even if you hire SEO professionals (actually especially if you hire SEO professionals) it is important to understand what they are doing and what they are charging you for and to be able to determine if they are worth the investment.

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