What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization is about gaining organic traffic to your website with quality content.  Understanding what content your audiences are searching for and providing answers to the questions being searched is good SEO practice.  It is about knowing what the intention is of the user and finding ways to match that intent with accurate and relevant information.  Presenting this information in a way that Google prefers. Which includes careful placement of keywords and structure. Once published the content is recognized by search engines (indexed), the site is crawled by little bots, to see what the content is about, is it authoritative and where should it rank in a returned search. 


What Do Search Engines Do?

There is an art to matching the needs of the end user and meeting the requirements of search engines.  As the name would suggest, Search Engines such as Google and Bing, play a big role in SEO.  They decide whether and where the content should appear in the ranking order on a returned search.

How do Search Engines Work?

MOZ  provides a great example of how search engines operate

Search engines have three primary functions:

Crawl: Scour the Internet for content, looking over the code/content for each URL they find.

Index: Store and organize the content found during the crawling process. Once a page is in the index, it’s in the running to be displayed as a result to relevant queries.

Rank: Provide the pieces of content that will best answer a searcher’s query, which means that results are ordered by most relevant to least relevant.

SEO - the Technical Part

Crawlers! What are those? Literally bot creepy crawlies that run through all the content looking for links and relationships to determine when this content should be displayed in a returned search. 

What are SEO Crawlers

Therefore, it is super important to make sure the content is structured with good use of sentences and short paragraphs. Well-defined headings, keyword placement and internal and external links.  If the content meets the SEO standards the better the ranking in a returned search. 

This is where it gets a little techie. Google needs to index the content. What does indexed mean? It basically means the search engine has recognized the content and understands what it is about. The search engine will determine when the content will be displayed in relation to a relevant online search. Where it ranks on the page depends on how well you have mastered the art of SEO and kept within the readability guidelines.

The more relevant the search engine believes the content will answer the user’s question or serve the users intention the higher the content will rank in a search.

SEO and Content Creation

First and foremost, content delivered must be in line with your business goals and company message.  The language and message delivered must speak in a way that is a true resemblance of what you are trying to achieve as a business.  Setting smart and measurable goals, is important when planning SEO because it sets a target which gives the content a desired outcome.  Why is this important?  Part of good SEO is being able to produce content that shows authority, expert, relevant information.  All in line with the intention of the user.  This is known as ‘10x Content’. 

10x content will perform well organically in SERPs.  Search Engine Results Pages will appear in a box.  Google has deemed these the most relevant to answer the user questions.   

These featured snippets have more click through rates than other returned searches.

SEO Example

For example, the searched term – ‘does my dog have worms‘ will be used by someone who is not sure about their dogs health and maybe looking for information on signs and symptoms.

A returned search would be expected of a pet store that sells pet worming products. However, the phrase searched indicates the users is looking for information rather than to purchase. If they were confident with their pets’ symptoms, the term ‘buy dog wormers’ or a search by the brand name of the product may be used.

SEO Goals

Here is where SEO comes into play. The goal is to display a piece of content that goes above and beyond the user’s intention. By addressing their concerns with content that lets the user know and the search engines know, the company are the worming experts. Through offering advice and solve their problem.

Depending on the objective, the content should make the user follow the Call to Action. Which for example, could be either e-mail sign up or increase sales of a product. 

SEO - Where to Start?

The above explains what SEO is and how it works. Hopefully it is a bit clearer now why it is an important component to all online campaigns. For a successful online campaign SEO should be considered in the planning stages.

Registering your page with GoogleMyBusiness – your business profile page will appear on searches and in Google Maps.  It also letting Google know you are there. 

Performing an SEO audit on your site would be a good place to start. This will show how well a site is performing regarding Search Engine Optimization.

There are free tools available online to help with this. Tools such as Site Checker or for an in depth analysis with helpful tips on SEO Analyzer by Neil Patel.

Here’s a video of results from an audit I performed on my own website.  I used SEO Analyzer.   This tool provides a full in-depth result which includes speed test analysis and a list of possible keywords. 

SEO Planning and Structure

Image taken from

How to do SEO?

At the planning stages of a campaign, SEO needs to be a key feature. Once the aims and objectives of the campaign is set, the SEO can add structure and framework to the content to help meet those goals.

1. Mobile Optimization. If you are using a CMS (Content Management System), make sure the theme/template being used are optimized for mobile. Mobile web visits account for 58% of all web traffic.  The site needs to display on all screen sizes.  User experience is  tested by Google, along with site loading speed.  This leads to the second point. 

2. Speed Checking. This will be carried out last, but it is an extremely important factor in SEO. If a page takes too long to load, it will affect SEO and ranking. Users will leave a site that does not load fast enough. To combat this, make sure all images are compressed to a 72dpi. This can be done using photoshop or by using WordPress plugins such as Smush or Squoosh. 

3. Keywords. Keywords are vital and there is no escaping this fact. Keywords will inform the search engine and the end user what the content is about.  Keywords need to be relevant to what users are searching for to have a better chance of your content being found.  Ranking in searches is the end goal and keywords are the bridge between your content and the user. 

Keyword research – tools such as Google Keyword Planner or  Keyword Discovery can help plan your keyword structure. 

Long tail and short tail keywords will need to be planned out.  For example, long tail ‘worm treatments for dogs’ short tail keywords ‘dog worms’.  Long tail keywords may have less competition than short tail keywords.  Many users type a question into a search engine and long tail keywords can help match the questions searched. 

The structure of the page needs to be considered.  Where the placement of each long or short keyword is going to be used.  Title pages, h1 headings, meta descriptions, and alt tags on images are crucially important places to use the chosen keywords. 

This is basics to good SEO.  The crawlers will read these to get a good indication what the site is about.  They will then move down through the content.

4. Content. Ideally before you start writing the content you will have list of short and long tail keyword phrases. These will need to be placed sporadically throughout. The tip here is to not over do it!  You are writing to please both the search engines and the end user – but write for the end user in mind. The readability factor is a big part of SEO. Content must flow naturally with the placements of headings, subheadings, short paragraphs and sentences.  

In the body of the text, keywords should be placed in the opening and closing paragraph.  Avoid over placing and over using keywords.  Longer blogs appear to be more authoritative and hold more weight with search engines. 

The inclusion of images and videos is good practice.  These add to the user experience which is looked for by SEO crawlers. 

Remember the search engines are looking for, relevance, informative, authoritative content. The crawlers will also look for external and internal links. Linking at least two reputable sources within the content adds an element of authority and relatability to the text. The crawlers will use these links to help better understand the content. Internal links are now a big part of SEO. Being able to link the content to other content within your company is proving more important. 

5. On-site and off-site SEO. On site SEO is all within the control of the creator. That is everything mentioned above. Mobile optimization, site speed, image compression, keyword planning and implementation through headings, title tags and meta descriptions. And the inclusion of internal links.

However off site is not within the creator’s control.  It is anything that happens external.  Yet is it another step towards good SEO practices.  This is when another site links to yours.  To search engines this is an indication that it is good content.  This practice is also known as ‘Inbound Links’.  To generate Offsite SEO, guest blogging and regular press releases have been noted by Square2Marketing as ways to generate links form respectable sites. 

The above has provided an understanding into SEO and the basic practices.  However, as Google changes its algorithms an average 12 times per year it is important to keep on top of new trends and best practices. 

What’s new in SEO?

86% of users expect companies to make informative and engaging content. Google now has a goal to rank sites that users love the most at the top. This comes back to proving content that solves the user problem – for example ‘Where should I go for dinner’
To beat googles new updates for raking, Niel Platel recommended stop understanding what google wants and focus on understanding the users.

Repurposing old blogs! This does not mean duplicating old content. That is a big taboo in the world of ranking. Google will rank fresh content that isn’t seen as duplication. As internal links are deemed important, updating old content can be time well spent. Time spent repurposing can be used to sort content by topics. Internal links can the be added to meet the new trend of cluster pages.

Voice Searches – With Alexa and Google Home. Websites are not being viewed a much. Users are asking the device a question and the search engine determines what response to give. This is why it is more important to start creating content with the users intention in mind.  

Good keyword practice is still very important.  New trends such a focusing on topics rather than fighting a good ranking position is thought to be the next SEO trend. 

For example the circle in the center is pillar page or main topic page.  The smaller circles are all posted content relating to the topic and are all connected with internal links.  

Image from Hubspot

SEO 101 - Basic Top Tips

That was a lot of information, even for basic SEO practices.  During my time in college studying – B.Sc Hons Digital Media & Society we discussd SEO practices alot.   We attended SEO events led by Alastair – Website Doctor which gave us good practical advice. 

 I am quite happy to share my SEO Top Tips with you!

Top Tip 1: User Experience.  Spend time thinking about the content.  Research what your audience is looking for and how how they want it presented.  Making sure images are fast to load and videos are included if appropriate.   If it doesn’t look appealing or interesting – you will see a high bounce rate. 

Top Tip 2: Keywords.  Research keywords.  Also use this time to look at what your competitors are doing and saying.  Are they doing it well or is there a sneaky gap for you to jump in.  Once the keywords are identified the hardest part is figuring out how to place and build the body of text around them.  Write for the end user. 

Top Tip 3: Alt tags – Never forget to label images in the back end of the site. With the help of AI, search engines are getting better at reading images. However, the alt tag descriptions should always be filled out with good keyword placement. Not only is this good for SEO but for users that are visually impaired it provides an audio description for better user experience.

Top Tip 4: Language and Tone.  This one is my favourite tip.  Writing with the company goals, visions and values in mind, lets you stand out from the crowd.  It brings the uniqueness of the company into your content.  Let the values of the company shine. If the reader likes whet they read they are more likely to become a customer.  

Top Tip 5: Analysis – Check if its working. During each campaign check Google Analytics to see if the SEO is working and you are on track to meet your goals.  After each campaign, part of the analysis should include the SEO summary.  Only then can you see the impact good SEO had on the campaign and maybe see what can be improved on for the next one.

SEO Tool Recommendations

  1. Yoast SEO – This is a plugin for WordPress.  It is extremely easy to use and guides you through SEO.  The traffic lights are good indicators to how well you are doing.
  2. Smush – This is a plugin which allows you to compress and resize images in WordPress. Fast loading images are essential.  When choosing a plugin a top tip is to check for ones that have been updated recently, have many users and a good star rating.
  3. Page Speed Tests  – Once your page/posts are published, always check the loading time.  This is good SEO practice as it effects the user experience.
  4. Keyword Tool – it is free to use and a good alternative to Google Keyword planner.
  5. SEO Analyzer – Neil Platel is an SEO expert and one to follow.  His analyzer is free and gives an excellent SEO Check
  6. Google Analytics – Its Free!  This tool provides massive amounts of information about your site and the users.  This is one tool I will be focusing one this year, to help buildup a profile and an understanding of the types of content the audience likes.

SEO takes time.  It can be done in house and fitted in as an element to all campaigns.  Be sure to use the same keywords on social media. 

Time to get re-purposing and linking those old blogs! 

Hope my guide provides a little more understanding into what is SEO and best practices for Search Engine Optimization. 

Image of Louise McDonnell in GMIT

Thanks for reading!

My name is Louise McDonnell.  A 4th year Digital Media & Society student.  I will be graduating June 2019. 


#Trending: Get your Hashtag Noticed in 3 Simple Steps

#Trending: Get your Hashtag Noticed in 3 Simple Steps!

Planning and hosting a successful event can be very rewarding, but to get the event trending on Twitter would be the cherry on the cake!  As a Digital Media student, enthusiast and active tweeter, I understand too well the effort and drama involved with getting noticed online. 

As reported in Forbes “most attempts to get a hashtag trending fail miserably.”  Offering solutions such as teaming with evangelists and influencers to give your #hashtag a shout out to ensure the “best chance to have a hashtag that trends successfully.” 

In a blog post by Socialalert, their views on how to trend in less than 48 hours discusses the idea of coming up with a “favourable situation to let Twitter know about your hashtag.”  Attempting to get 100-200 impressions within the first hour should set you on the right track to trending. Keeping the conversation alive with 500 tweets in the initial 60-90 minutes of the event “then the chances of getting your hashtag trending on Twitter increases exponentially.”

image from DigitalWest
Source: Digital West

In January 2018 in GMIT Mayo, an event called DigitalWest was hosted by lecturers from the college with help from BSc. Digital Media & Society students.  The event ran for four hours.  Within that time frame the hashtag #DigitalWest managed to gain 343,676 impressions and trended in 4th place on Twitter.  Impressive, right?

Digital West focused on emerging trends in Digital Media and how they will affect companies and individuals in 2018 and beyond. The event was extremely popular with local business owners, digital professionals, influencers and students.  What made this event extra special was the live stream, and was watched live by people all over the country including secondary schools in rural areas and colleges in other counties

image of trending insights
Digital West Insights

Let’s keep it simple.  As discussed early one of the important things to do, after choosing an appropriate hashtag, is to let twitter know you are here and you mean business. 

Step 1: Get the conversation started.  #DigitalWest was chosen and used at the very start of the planning process, it had been used on the website and in blogs posted about the event.  Tweets were trickled out and all tweets about us were actively engaged with –  likes, retweets and replies.  The evening before, tweets went out to build up some excitement – including “Hands up – Who is joining in with #DigitalWest tomorrow.”  This tweet included the twitter handles of the guest speakers – who as you would expect have a big twitter following. This tweet sparked plenty of engagement as people were excited about attending which kept the conversation running all evening.

DigitalWest - Tweets to get trending
Image from DigitalWest Twitter feed

Step 2: Make it easy for the tweeters!
The day of the event we made it super easy for the audience to tweet and use the hashtag.  In the room where the event was held, #DigitalWest signs were placed around the room and the audience were encouraged to tweet and join in the conversation.  Let’s go back to the point made by FORBES – use influencers to give you hashtag a good push.  The event was full of Digital Media Influencers, including the guest speakers.  These guys were tweeting about the event and also engaging with tweets coming from other attendees and not to mention the any tweets from people tuning in live outside the college. 

Step 3: Tweet Tweet Tweet
A twitter corner was set up in the room of the event, myself and my lecturer were fixed to our laptops and mobiles, engaging and tweeting the live action, telling people who were following the conversation on twitter what was happening.  Between each speaker, pre-made images with the guest speakers twitter handle and again the hashtags were pushed out which visibly showed the hashtag again and encouraged them to join the conversation.

The conversation was constant and built up momentum very quickly.   The event started at 9.15am and by 12.30pm I was delighted to report live from the Twitter Corner that #DigitalWest was trending at 4th place.

My top tips to get trending:

  • Remember to keep it simple and get prepared.  Choose a suitable hashtag and get the conversation started.
  • Shout about it!  Use an influencer and active tweeters to give your hashtag a shout out.
    Use the hashtag on all other social media platforms and include it in blogs and websites.
  • Be visual!  Make it easy for attendees and followers to use the hashtag, place it visually in front of them.
  • Finally, be active, let no tweet fly by – retweet, like and reply…constantly! So, go on give it a try!  Get #Trending

If you enjoyed this article, give it a share!

Image of Louise McDonnell

Louise McDonnell is a 4th year BSc. (Hons) Digital Media and Society Student who has built up an extensive work portfolio, working alongside many digital influencers, including Facebook guru and author Louise McDonnell.
She has been an active member of the Digital Marketing in Mayo committee promoting events with Google, Amazon and the RTE Concert Orchestra.  You will find Louise bringing you live action from many local events and is currently the Digital Marketing Executive for the Horkans Group. 

Twitter: @loopierlou

BSc. (Hons) Digital Media & Society

I am having a great time studying Digital Media & Society at GMIT Mayo Campus.  Currently in my 4th year as a mature student and my world has been opened up to so many fantastic experiences and opportunities.

The course has given me the chance to delve into all areas of digital media/marketing including photography, videography and software development.  After 1st year I knew that software development was not for me.  So in second year I was able to focus on the modules I wanted to develop my skills in.  The society aspect of the degree course has opened my eyes massively to society and the way our surroundings can influence and shape our life choices, both on and offline.


Due to the range of choice subjects the course offers I am getting a full experience of Digital media and marketing practices which I am able to bring into my work placement.  Thankfully I have been able to secure employment working in the digital marketing sector in a very busy company.  I’m also building my confidence, skills and knowledge by volunteering for a local group who support small businesses get online and make sure they get noticed online.

The best things about the Mayo campus are the location and size.  I am able to commute every day to college which is more economic for me.   The size of campus is perfect.  It allows for group class discussions, but also the lecturers are able to give more time and attention to one student.  I never feel lost or unable to seek more help when needed.   

Returning to education in my mid 30’s was a very daunting experience – but I was always determined to get a third level qualification.  The support services on the campus have been a great help pointing me in the right direction and make the right choices for me and my family.  My future now looks a lot better and I know I have an exciting career ahead doing something I enjoy. 

My Work Experience with Horkans


I have been lucky to experience Digital Media through my role in the Horkans Group.  

When I am not in college studying, you will find me at my desk in the Horkans Group Head Office.  My role is to develop content for their social media pages.  This involves using PhotoShop, Premier Pro and Illustrator. 

During my time at Horkans, I have won ‘Achievements of the Week’ three times and nominated three times for ‘Visons and Values’ award.

I enjoy every area of my duties with the Horkans Group.  It is a great place for learning and developing skills.  I am very lucky that I get to put into practice what I learn in college every day.  

To create the social media content I must use Photoshop.  I never thought these words would from me but … I am loving Photoshop right now!  This is a massive development for me because during first year it was my nemesis!  It’s true the best way to learn something is practice and when you have to do something you will learn it. 

Being surrounded by a great bunch who are always happy to help is fantastic. They encourage my enthusiastic over excited ideas. 

I have created some new videos for the Horkans Garden Centre.  The biggest one was used to promote the Summer Farm.  

I used skills learned in media class -from planning my story board, filming the shots, adding a voice and editing with Premiere Pro. 

This next little video is one of the new content pieces I created.  It is a  stop-motion video.  This is still one of my favourites. 

I have been exposed to so many brilliant digital media situations since starting with Horkans.  I have hung out in the RTÉ media tent Bloom in the Park 2017.  Filmed live with Paraic Horkans from the Mid West Radio studio as he spoke on air.  

I will post more of my work created on Photoshop and Premiere soon in new blog.   

Premiere Pro Creations

Digital Marketing in Mayo

Digital Marketing in Mayo

I first joined DMiMayo in 2016.  It has been a huge part of the learning process for me.  We are Digital Marketing experts who join together to organise events for local businesses.  

In the beginning I welcomed guests to the events, showed them to their seats.  Now my role is to create content. Monitor the social media content for upcoming events and spread the word about what is happening.  

I tweet live from the events and engage with others tweeting in the room at the same time.  I find this part so exciting – to see the event unfold live in the digital media and in real time.

For our latest event, I created a short video to explain to explain what was happening.  This worked really well and generated good traffic to the website so people could book their tickets.  

I have teamed up with many Mayo organisations and met some extremely interesting people from Google and Amazon. 

Here’s some lovely feedback from a fellow committee member: 

“It has been a joy working with Louise while on the committee of DMiMayo throughout 2017.  She showcased many of her skills including coordinating tasks & digital marketing. 

Louise is a very reliable committee member and always shows enthusiasm in all her assigned tasks and also great at generating new ways of reaching our audience and bringing more value to our members” Sophia Mchugh Oodlique