What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. Generally, it refers to the process of obtaining free traffic from natural or organic search results. Search engines have rules and algorithms which aim to connect online users with what’s relevant and most useful to them.
In other words, optimizing for search engines allows your site and web pages visible to them, and hence, rank you on the search engine result pages (SERPs). Search engines such as Google possess a page rank system that operates a lot like a point system, where you earn points or lose them depending on how well you’ve optimised your site.
How do Search Engines Work?
Search engines magically provide strings of web pages in response to our search queries, aiming to give us the most useful website that answers our questions. There’s more to search engines though; have you ever wondered how those links are generated? Here’s what goes on behind the scenes:
Google (or any other search engine for that matter) has web crawlers or spiders that go around the internet gleaning for content and information. That means, so long as your site is crawlable, search engine bots should be able to both find and crawl it.
Web crawlers are designed to learn and understand webpages. So, after going through a webpage and figuring out what it’s all about, the next thing they’ll do is download it and submit it to search engines where they’ll be indexed.
Search engine indexing can be compared to creating a library card catalogue. In other words, search engines have their own way of arranging information, so that they can know where to retrieve it whenever someone searches for something.
Search engines then have their algorithms, which factor in a multitude of variables, to determine the order of arrangement for these webpages.
Types of SEO
SEO can be broadly classified into three categories: Technical SEO, on-page SEO, and off-page SEO. To run an effective and well-rounded organic search campaign, the strategy you select should ideally incorporate all three types of SEO.
Every non-content element of your website falls under technical SEO. Technical SEO includes the strategies you employ to improve your website’s structure and performance. Search engines need to find your site crawlable and easy to understand. At the same time, you want to provide the best experience to the users that interact with it. The end goal is to improve your site’s readability for both users and search engines.
The site speed, indexing, security, crawlability, mobile-friendliness, structured data and so on some of the few facets that technical SEO considers.
To find out how your site is doing in terms of technical SEO, consider running it through Alexa’s Audit Tool, where you simply enter your site’s domain and the software automatically scans your entire website. A report detailing the technical elements of your site, alongside with suggestions on how to fix technical issues (in case of any) will be generated. Fixing these issues can then boost your search visibility, and hence allow your site higher on SERPs.
On-site or on-page SEO is basically your site’s content, and refers to the strategies you use to optimise your site’s content and HTML tags. On-page SEO strives to help search engines understand your content’s topic, as well as assess its value and degree of usefulness. With better on-page SEO habits, your site can be better understood by search engines and ranked higher. Of course, it’s necessary to keep updated on the latest on-page SEO tactics as these are ever-changing.
On-site, or on-page SEO covers:
- Keyword Research: The keywords that you survey and intend to target on a webpage should be categorised into similar themes, or search intent.
- Content Creation: Based on the keywords identified previously during the keyword research process, you focus on producing original high-quality content that is relevant to your visitors’ search intent and not merely stuffing keywords into your articles.
- Keyword optimisation: This section of on-page SEO ensures that you’re using your target keywords in the right places. It concerns the different tags on your website, outbounds and internal links, image optimization and so on.
To find out how well your site is doing in terms of on-page SEO, you can utilise SEO Site Checkup, Google’s Webmasters Tools, as well As Keyword Difficulty Tool to test your website and identify the relevant keywords for your brand and business.
Off-page SEO aims to strengthen the relationship and influence that you have with other websites. It’s about establishing your relevance, trustworthiness and authority. When a credible and high domain authority site sends a backlink to you, they essentially send link juice to your website. Accordingly, search engines view your website as valuable and well-established, and therefore award it with a higher SEO score.
With off-site SEO, your focus should be on amassing high-quality backlinks for your site from relevant and authoritative sites pointing back to your website. Outside your website, social media marketing, guest bloggers, and unlinked brand mentions are some ways that can improve your website’s ranking on the SERPs.
Use the following tools to help you find and evaluate link prospects for off-page SEO:
- Ubersuggest: A great tool for finding out how well your site is doing for off-site SEO. It’s a well-rounded tool that provides you with all the data you need to build your link profile.
- Ahref: A tool that generates reports to identify link opportunities as well as assess your competitive position in terms of your backlink profile.
- SEMRUSH: Not just a tool for researching on the keywords that your competitors are ranking high for. It’s also a great tool for identifying the link opportunities in your niche.
Why Do Businesses Need SEO?
It’s no hard sell that your business needs SEO for its digital properties. The most obvious reason is that you need SEO to improve your overall visibility and searchability. However, there are several other reasons that prove the real value of SEO.
To Target People that are Searching for your Products and Services
More than 2 million people are super-active online – with 93% of online purchases starting from a search query on a search engine. This means up to 40,000 searches occurring with every passing second, or up to 3.5 billion searches in a day. This spells millions of opportunities for your business to be found online. Hence, optimizing your website for search engines will allow you to stand a chance to be found by prospective customers, especially those with high search intent.
SEO Pulls quality Traffic
Your business needs SEO for quality traffic, and no traffic beats SEO traffic. Quality traffic arises from people with high commercial intent – they are actively seeking solutions to their problems, which makes it an opportunity for you to convince them of products and services as they are already likely to convert.
SEO for More Sales
Everything you’ve heard about SEO is true – from it being used to gather leads and boosting your sales. Of course, you’ll have to ensure that what you offer is of good quality, as well as your SEO strategy to improve your search engine visibility and hence driving quality traffic to your website. You shouldn’t rest on your laurels though; keep your SEO team on their toes as the SEO landscape is fast evolving, and you’ll have to keep up if you want to generate more leads and increase your sales.
It’s Less Costly Compared to Traditional Advertising
The cost of acquiring customers through SEO is less costly compared to any other form of advertising. If you’re operating on a shoestring budget, it’s entirely possible to run the campaign at absolutely no cost, so long as you’re willing to do the hard work yourself. However, if your industry is highly competitive and you lack the know-how on SEO, then you might want to consider investing in an SEO agency that will be able to handle your website’s optimization for search engines. Their experience and technical expertise should help you outrank your competition.
You don’t have to Advertise when Your Site has a Strong SEO Standing
SEO offers you a chance to increase your search engine traffic without necessarily paying for PPC. An effective SEO strategy will help you cut back on your advertising cost, besides holding you down for years.
You Need SEO for Trust and Credibility
People trust search engines to give them the answers to their problems – be it credible content, or products and services that can take away their worries. Of course, sites that rank high on Google tend to be more trusted compared to those at the bottom of result pages. As a matter of fact, the first organic listing enjoys about 37% of search engine clicks.
SEO is Long-term Strategy
SEO is a long-term marketing strategy that requires time to reap the efforts. It can take from as short as 3 months to over a year to climb up the search engine ladder, depending on the competitiveness of your selected keywords. However, once you get to the top position, you’re bound to stay there for awhile before one of your competitors optimises their site for search engines better than you. Hence, it’s always good practice to have a solid foundation for your SEO strategy.
SEO keep your customers informed
Your prospective customers use search engines to research. They use it to understand the nature of their problem, find out more about a product or service they’re interested in, and so on. Through SEO, your customers get to make informed decisions on the options they have. In your case, you can use this to educate your customers and cultivate trust.
The SEO Landscape in Hong Kong
The approach you take to improve the organic performance of any website differs from one geographical market to another. We’d like to highlight some of these differences pertaining to the Hong Kong search landscape, and figure out how to use them to make the necessary calibrations to our SEO strategy.
Google is the Dominant Search engine in Hong Kong
Google controls nearly 85% of the search engine market share. But that’s not to say the other search engines should be completely disregarded.
Search engine market share in Hong Kong
- Google: 87.89%
- Yahoo: 9.13%
- Bing: 1.51%
- Baidu: 0.86%
- Yandex Ru: 0.29%
- Others: 0.35%
As you can see, there are other search engines in Hong Kong that control a significant amount of traffic combined. Hene, you might want to also consider them in your SEO strategy.
Hong Kong is Multicultural
Hong Kong people are multilingual, with most of them speaking English and Cantonese and a significant number of them speaking Mandarin. Mandarin speakers in Hong Kong either learn the language from the Chinese residing in Hong Kong, or because they’re from Mainland China. This means that there are two types of the Chinese language: i) Simplified Chinese and ii) Traditional Chinese. Traditional Chinese is the language that is widely spoken in Hong Kong, whereas Simplified Chinese is the language that people speak in Mainland China.
The differences in Mandarin thus affects how people in Hong Kong search the web. As a matter of fact, there are three versions of the local search engine (Google). By default, the platform allows you to run your search query in English, with an option to change it to Traditional Chinese (marked by green) or Simplified Chinese (marked by blue).
The secret is clear here; while optimising your site for the search engine on Hong Kong, you want to start by translating everything in the three languages. In other words, you have to devise a solid multilingual SEO strategy for your site. The point is to ensure that you’re able to gain visible across all the local versions. Remember that each keyword you choose boasts a different search volume for the different language.
For instance, expect some of the Traditional Chinese keywords to be trendy compared to their English correspondences. For this, it’s crucial that you run translated web pages if you want to develop a highly optimized website for the search engines in Hong Kong.
China isn’t Far-off
China is Hong Kong’s immediate neighbour and 8,662 times the size of Hong Kong, which explains why companies in Hong Kong highly regard the Chinese market as one with huge growth opportunities. Here are a few things to note if you want to take advantage of the Chinese market too:
- Baidu is the dominant search engine in China, controlling up to 66% of the search engine market share in the country. Google’s place in China is a far cry from Baidu.
- Other search engines, such as Haosou 360, Shema, Sogou and Bing are also widely used in the country and control a significant amount of the online traffic combined.
Search engine market share in China
According to MarketMeChina, here are the search engine market shares categorized according to the device.
Desktop search engine market share in China Jan 2019:
- Baidu: 65.96%
- Haosou 360: 12.19%
- Google: 9.49%
- bing: 6.15%
- Sogou: 4.88%
- Shenma: 0.72%
Mobile search engine market share in China Jan 2019:
- Baidu: 71.30%
- Shema: 20.92%
- Sogou: 4.88%
- Haosou 360: 1.93%
- Bing: 0.59%
- Google: 0.30%
The Current State of SEO in Hong Kong
How does the SEO landscape compare to other markets? How hard is it for one to find a good SEO firm in Hong Kong? For a start, Hong Kong has a population of about 7.2 million. It’s an Asian gateway, and a major business hub in the region. Hong Kong is highly modernised and densely populated. It’s a global crossroad, with Cantonese as the local dialect. English is also very important in the region.
According to Global Digital report of 2018, the internet penetration rate of Hong Kong rests at 89%. That accounts for about 6.67 million people. From this number, 5.8 million are active on social media (about 78% of the population). On average, people in Hong Kong spend about 6 hours 23 minutes a day online, and a cool 1 hour 47 minutes browsing through social media. The most popular social media platform in Hong Kong is Facebook (at 85%), with YouTube and WhatsApp following closely (at 83% and 82% respectively).
Social Media Penetration in Hong Kong
- Facebook: 85%
- YouTube: 83%
- WhatsApp: 82%
- Instagram: 57%
- WeChat: 53%
- FB Messenger: 50%
- Line: 29%
- Twitter: 26%
Despite Hong Kong’s high internet penetration and well-developed infrastructure, its local digital landscape lags behind compared to its neighbouring cities – the primary reason being that businesses in the region are showing little to no regard for search engine optimization and the digital industry by extension. In fact, businesses in Hong Kong still consider SEO as a relatively new concept, with many hung up on traditional mindsets. Compared to Singapore – one of Hong Kong’s closest rivals – businesses in Hong Kong are 3 times less likely to adopt internet marketing. Hence, implementing SEO for your site will give you a first-mover’s advantage in the Hong Kong landscape. You can also seek the services of our digital agency in Hong Kong for SEO support.
To run an effective digital marketing campaign in Hong Kong, the first thing you’ll need to do is to adapt it to the market, notwithstanding whichever channel you choose to focus on.
- With SEO, your focus should be on the various search engines – not just one. Google may be the primary search engine in Hong Kong, but other search engines still control a significant amount of search engine traffic.
- For PPC, your budget should be dispatched across all the available platforms, especially Google, Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, and Yandex Ru.
- For social media, your focus should be on relevant social media channels.
- Run a multilingual website. In other words, you have to translate your content into the three languages that are spoken in Hong Kong to capture the largest audience.
- Consider using a local payment solution such as Ali Pay and WeChat Pay to facilitate transactions with customers.
- For ecommerce, have detailed product page dedicated to the Chinese market – like Taobao. Also consider selling your products in the available Chinese marketplaces.
Important SEO Ranking Factors in Hong Kong
Ranking factor 1: Backlinks
Backlinks still stand as one of the most important ranking elements to focus on. They’re what search engines use to determine the quality of your website as explained earlier. That explains why Google prioritizes the quality of backlinks over quantity. In other words, you’re better off with a few high-quality backlinks than a significant volume of low-quality ones.
Producing content that your audience are likely to read, as well as consistently promoting your content are some organic ways to gain high value backlinks quickly. The more authoritative sites link back to you, the more Google and other search engines perceive your site as one that’s worth ranking. Backlinks are one of the most crucial ranking factors because they make it hard to manipulate search engines through other bad practices, ensuring that your website will remain at the top of the SERP.
How Does Google Judge your Backlink?
Google judges your backlinks by looking at three key areas:
- The number of links a page has attracted
- The authority of the sites the links are from
- Backlink diversity
Two Things that Directly Impact Your Link-building Campaign
Google developed a great link scoring system that no longer look at backlinks on a surface level. Link score is arrived at based on the quality score of the link, and the quantity of the links.
A higher link score improves your place in the search engine ladder.
Google is also concerned about the diversity of the backlinks, which means that having multiple links from one site or the same domain name won’t increase your link score. You’ll have to work on generating these backlinks from a diverse range of domains or website to appeal to the good graces of Google.
Having someone on your team to focus on lead generation is a good start to finding the lead targets and approaching them to link back to your resources, thus creating the link juice flow that will improve your SERP rank.
Relevant Anchor Text
The anchor text of the incoming link to your website matters a great deal and you should prioritize this in your link building strategy if you haven’t already. An anchor text is also the link label – basically what your reader will see before they decide to click your hyperlink attached.
Google wants the anchor texts to feel natural and diverse. For this case, branded texts rank a lot better than naked URLs, with the latter being links that lack anchor texts completely. Generally, you should avoid texts that match exactly and steer clear of having too many anchor texts to not trigger Google’s spam filter.
Ranking Factor 2: Content Length
A casual look across the web shows that long-form posts tend to rank much better compared to their short form-match. There aren’t many long-form articles floating around because they take a much longer time to produce. Unless you have a dedicated content-creator or you’re working with a content creation agency, it’s almost impossible to generate long form content consistently. However, those that commit to doing it get to reap it big with Google and other search engines.
Google isn’t just interested in lengthy posts – they want in-depth content that’s relevant to what a user is interested in. Speaking of which, they’re interested in:
- Engaging content that delivers great value: They’re interested in content that gives more details instead of dabbling on information.
- Highly shareable content: When more people share your posts, it shows that they find it useful and worthy for those in their social networks to know of.
- Relevancy matters too: Google is interested in content that feeds directly into the needs of online users.
Bear in mind that Google isn’t just interested in bloated content; your content actually has to value-add instead of regurgitating information from another site, that makes readers want to engage and continue reading other articles on your website or blog. Of course, the next thing you’d want to do is promote your content heavily. Make sure you share it around on social media as well as your lead prospects to increase the number of backlinks to your website.
Ranking Factor 3: Website URL, Domain Aage, and Domain Authority
Google will penalise any site it suspects to be spammy. First, Google looks at sites whose domain names consist of their target keywords with suspicion. A site with thin content will quickly be marked down as spam and penalised.
Ahrefs provides some really interesting data on this. About 60% of websites appearing on the top 10 Google search results are at least 3 years old, and that only a few sites that are less than 1 year old have managed to claim a spot in the top 10 search results. We can thus conclude that a domain’s age influences the ranking on the SERP.
Lastly, domain authority is one of the ranking factors Google looks into. They have a way of calculating it by looking at the quality of your content and combining it with off-page SEO.
Ranking Factor 4: User Experience
To outrank your competitors, one of the things you should be concerned with is the experience that your website generates to users who interact with it on mobile. Google even created the infamous RankBrain algorithm with the intention to de-rank sites that failed to offer users great mobile experience. In 2016, Google started showing more importance to mobile-first indexing, with mobile versions of websites being highly preferred over their desktop counterparts.
To improve your visitors’ experience with your website and consequently your brand, you should consider working on the following factors:
It’s only great with users when they don’t have to wait for long as your site loads up. The faster your website loads, the better it is for you. For mobile, it’s recommended that your site loads in fewer than 2 seconds, and not more than 3 seconds for desktop users. Remember, Google has a crawl budget that it allocates to sites. So, if your site loads too slowly, then the odds are that Google won’t be able to crawl all pages. With fewer of your pages crawled, visitors won’t be able to know that your website exists based on the SERPs. Moreover, sites that load slow will only result in visitors leaving and subsequently higher bounce rates that will affect your quality score.
If you can’t get your site to load properly on mobile, then forget about securing it a top spot on Google. With so many users accessing the Internet via their mobile phones, serving website visitors a web link that doesn’t load up on mobile would be a hassle and inconvenience.
To improve the mobile responsiveness of your website, you can practise the following:
- Use Google Search Console’s Mobile Friendly Test Tool to understand your site and find out if it’s complying with Google’s standards for mobile.
- Use the same structural markup you used on desktop for mobile. Using anything different will only confuse search engine crawlers.
- Test your site using txt testing tool to find out if Googlebot can access it.
- Use PageSpeed Insight Tool to check your site speed and how to improve on it.
Ranking Factor 5: Click Through Rate
Google has been consistent with rolling new updates – always improving their algorithms and making sure that there are no loopholes for people to manipulate on its search engine. Hence, much of Google’s algorithm remains secretive. Recently, however, Google has opened up about the Click Through Rate (CTR), and even admitted that it does impact how they rank sites.
CTR is calculated by dividing the number of clicks your site is getting by the number of impressions or views, and the results multiplied by 100. A site with a high CTR can be interpreted to mean it’s captivating enough to capture the attention of online users.
5 Things that Every SEO Strategy Needs
You need a well thought-out and comprehensive SEO strategy to stay on top of search engines. In other words, a surface level SEO strategy isn’t enough to propel your site up the search engine ranks. A higher rank means your customers and prospects will have an easy time finding your site online.
However, in order to come up with a strategy that ensures your site is able to claim a top slot in the SERPs, there are 5 critical elements that you shouldn’t fail to include in your SEO strategy, and these elements include:
Before you even think about doing anything to your website, you need to perform an SEO audit. An SEO audit opens you up to the current state of your website, so you can know what needs to be improved and what direction to take. Here are a few things an SEO audit will help you understand:
- If your website is user-friendly, reliable, and easy to navigate.
- If there are issues that are making your site sluggish.
- Your current performance in the SERPs for a list of keywords you chose.
- If your site is optimised for conversion. It’s not just about driving traffic, but ensuring your website inspires your website visitors to take action.
An SEO audit also ensures that all the links on your website are functioning properly and directing users to the right pages.
Expectations can be compared to the goals you set for yourself or business, and simple logic dictates that these goals be realistic enough. Setting your expectations gives you a rough idea of the future that awaits you. That means you should choose metrics that reflect your journey. This could be organic search traffic, domain authority, links, and so on. The point is to agree on a metric that makes sense and for what reason. A better alternative would be to come up with task-oriented goals (instead of KPI-oriented goals).
A strategy is nothing more than a plan. This plan is based off the goals you have. You attach tasks to these goals, with some of the tasks coming before others. Some of the tasks are recurring, with lots of subtasks in between. With every strategy you come up with, you should be able to present it to both your team and the client in question.
It’s important that you present your strategy in a format that can easily be understood and edited (where necessary). You have the option of using Trello, Workzone, Google Sheets, Basecamp or any other visual presentation tool that floats your boat. Everything has to be clear and straightforward:
- You have to know the tasks you have and whom exactly have they been assigned to
- Which of the tasks come first?
- Which of the tasks are recurring, can be automated, in progress, or complete?
Measuring the performance of your SEO campaign would be dependent on the metrics that you’ve selected. Here are some of the metrics you may use:
- Moz domain authority
- Number of crawl errors
- Number of pages that have been indexed
- Organic conversions
- Engagement metrics
Having a plan to document the improvements on your website pre- and post- SEO implementation will not only help you see how far you’ve come, but identify areas that you can work on in the future as well.
Search engine optimization is just the tip of the iceberg to the digital marketing world. There’s more to learn and new discoveries to be made than we can afford to cover in a single article. However, this should be enough to set you on the right track. To receive valuable, strategic, and in-depth advice on SEO, talk to us at MediaOne or use our 24/7 live chat feature to get a free consultation.