Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to all actions aimed at driving quality traffic to a website through organic search engine listings. To perform well and good, your website needs to:
- be search engine friendly
- have valuable content
- bear specific authority and trust through links from other websites
Got that all sorted? Then your site's SEO performance will go through the roof!
In this beginner guide to SEO, we will walk you step by step through the process of SEO-optimizing your sites. After reading this manual, you'll be able to begin optimizing sites for more organic traffic by yourself.
Let us take the query”buy a t-shirt online.” The section is marked in green comprises the unpaid result.
These listings are what we are aiming for with SEO. The section marked in red contains advertisements. Advertising in Google is done through Google Ad.
Throughout our search engine optimization beginners' guide, we'll be using”Google” and”search engines” interchangeably for the sake of convenience.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. SEO comprises all actions aimed at driving quality traffic to a website through organic search engine listings.
Quality traffic means visitors who are highly related to your business.
How SEO works in a nutshell
To understand how SEO works, let us first have a look at how searching in Google works.
You ask and Google answers. When you type in a search query, Google answers it by returning the pages that it deems relevant.
Let us stop for a moment and think about that: how can Google know what pages to return and in what order?
To be able to return these web pages, Google needs to know they exist, what they're about, and how popular they are.
What does it need to perform well in SEO?
For your website to perform well in SEO, it needs to
- Being search engine-friendly contains valuable content about topics that
- you would like to rank for in search engines
- to keep trust and authority through links from other websites.
Where do these Search Engine Optimize requirements come from?
Search engines value what website visitors find essential and try to catch that in their calculations.
Give SEO time. Put in the work.
SEO success doesn't just happen overnight. Search Engine Optimize requires patience, persistence, and a lot of hard work.
Search Engine Optimize is also never done; search engines are constantly tweaking their algorithms, and your competitors are continually attempting to outmaneuver you.
“Is there no shortcuts?” you may ask yourself.
Search Engine Optimize tactics to cut corners (often called black hat SEO) and get results fast.
Still, we'd never recommend them since they won't make for a sustainable search engine optimization strategy. What works today may hurt you by tomorrow when search engines catch up.
Search engine friendly website
The first step towards Search Engine Optimize success is ensuring your website is search engine friendly.
But what does this mean? It means search engines need to have the ability to find and access your web pages easily.
Help search engines find your pages
Search engines have so-called “crawlers” that are continuously searching the internet for pages. They find website pages by following links and parsing XML sitemaps.
Make sure all pages within your site are linked to. Otherwise, search engines have a hard time finding your website pages and assigning popularity.
Connect to your top pages the most, and bear in mind that links from topically related pages contribute more to external relevance than links from irrelevant pages.
Is your site search engine friendly?Can search engines find your page?
An XML sitemap is an XML-based specially formatted file containing all the pages that you need search engines such as Google to index.
Search engines use XML sitemaps. To prevent manually updating your XML sitemap following changes, make sure it is automatically updated after each shift.
Help search engines access your pages
Search engine crawlers don't see the pages the way humans do. They appear in a page's source code to ascertain what it's about.
A clear URL structure
Choose one arrangement for your URLs and stick to that structure. Keep URLs as brief as possible and make sure that they are meant for users.
Doing so enhances the user experience and makes it possible to prevent duplicate content problems.
Here is an example of a good URL:
And here is an example of a bad URL:
Which one would you instead click on?
User experience plays a growing role in Search Engine Optimize. It just makes sense: if visitors do not have a good experience on your site, then [why should Google grant you top positions?
We all love fast loading sites, so make sure your website loads fast also. Ideally, your site should load in under 1 minute, but under 2 seconds remains acceptable.
The quicker the site loads, the better your conversion rate is. In actuality, Amazon found their revenue increased by 1% for every 100ms of reduction in load time.
Peoples hate websites that are hard to use on mobile devices, ensuring that your site is mobile-friendly. If you are unsure about your site's mobile usability, look at Google’s mobile-friendly testing tool(opens in a new tab).
When visitors come to a website, they visit with a purpose. They won't love distracting popups and advertisements. This will cause a bad user experience and may very well result in lower rankings in Google.
The second thing that you need to rank for keywords for specified topics is content about these topics in the first place.
The range also has to be valuable for the visitors and optimized for search engines.
Valuable and good quality content will let you meet business goals, such as visitors contacting you for additional information, in addition to more SEO-focused goals like gaining links and societal shares.
When we talk of content optimized for search engines, we mean that it's clear to search engines what your content is about and what keywords you need to be found for.
But – what keywords are those?
Keyword Research: find keywords of interest
Every search engine optimization strategy starts with figuring out what keywords you want to rank for.
Without understanding these keywords, you have no way to optimize your website for search engines. The practice of researching what keywords are of interest for a business is called Keyword Research.
Where does the Keyword Research process start? Your company has specific goals it wants to achieve, and your search engine optimization strategy needs to support these.
Also, you have a target market. Let's focus on them:
- What keyword does your target audience use?
- What intentions do they have when searching for a given keyword; are they looking to buy or just looking for information?
- Do people search for those keywords?
- Is it realistic you will rank for those keywords, considering the competition?
All the questions are answered during the time of the Keyword Research phase. Its outcome is that the list of keywords that you are going to incorporate into your website.
Keyword Strategy: incorporate the keywords into pages
First, you map keyword to page based on relevance. If you target a set of keywords with a similar meaning, then map them to the same page.
Also, consider the fact that keywords with a lot of competition have to be mapped to powerful pages within your website. Your homepage is an excellent example of a page that is strong.
After you’ve mapped the keywords to certain pages, you define where to incorporate the keywords within those pages.
As a rule of thumb, pages with little content can only be optimized for one or two keywords. Pages with a lot of content, say more than 500 words, can often be optimized for 5 to 10 keywords.
So, where do you integrate the keywords?
The most significant places are in the meta information, headings, body content, and links.
When we're talking about meta info for SEO, we suggest that the title tag and meta description. The title tag is marked by an orange rectangle and the meta description with a blue one in the screenshot below.
The title tag has long been among the most critical factors in search engines' algorithms. The title describes a page's key topic in one short phrase. The title tag looks like this:
<title>ContentKing - Real-time SEO Auditing and Content Change Tracking</title>
It is revealed in browser tabs, but more importantly in search engine result pages, or SERPs for short. These outcomes each show quick page info: the”snippet.”
To make sure that search engines reveal the title you have defined for a page, make sure it's relevant for the page, unique within your site, and between 30 characters (285 pixels) and 60 characters (575 pixels) long.
The meta description describes a webpage in a couple of sentences. It should explain what people can expect on a page.
All though the meta descriptions isn't a factor in search engine algorithms, it plays a vital role in getting visitors to click on your snippet in the SERPs. Therefore you must craft your meta description carefully.
<meta name="description" content="ContentKing keeps track of your website 24/7 so that you can catch unexpected changes and issues before search engines and visitors do. Try it today!"/>
To ensure search engines reveal the meta description you've defined for a page, it should be: relevant for the webpage, unique within the website, and between 70 characters (430 pixels) and 150 characters (920 pixels) long.
Headings play a part in search engines' algorithms. Including keywords in your titles contributes to the rank for these keywords.
<h1>No more SEO surprises</h1>
If you haven't defined a page name or search engines haven't found your name to be applicable, they may show the H1 heading for a page as the name in the snippet.
H1 headings should be relevant and free from any grammatical mistake and for a page and unique to your website.
As you should not use more than 1 H1 heading per page, it is acceptable to use multiple H2-H6 titles, as long as they support the page's visual hierarchy. The H1 heading should be the most prominent heading on a page, then the H2 heading, then the H3 heading, etc.
By body content, we mean the main visible content on a webpage. As a result, you start with the essential information first and then continue with the rest. As a guideline, make sure a page contains at least 200 words of the body content.
Moreover, a keyword shouldn't be driving your choice of words. Focus first on the excellent readability of your text.
Remember, don't over-optimize your content by stuffing keywords; it does not work if it doesn't fit. Over-optimizing may damage your rankings, and it causes people to leave.
Links pass authority and topical relevance from 1 page to another. This goes for internal links from within the same site — internal — and links from outside an area — external links.
If you want to rank a page, you need to make sure that the page is getting as much authority and trusted value as possible from the other pages.
Your homepage is an excellent example of a page that carries a lot of control. A page acquires topical relevance when linked to topically related pages are using anchor texts describing the topics.
Structured markup: help search engines understand your content
While search engines attempt to ascertain what sort of content is on a page, you can help them with this by incorporating structured markup.
Some content types are articles, videos, podcasts, courses, events, vacancies, and recipes.
Authority and trust
The third and final pillar of Search Engine Optimize is authority and trust. However, it's not the third insignificance. Trust and authority have the most significant impact on your search engine optimization success.
Authority is basically”SEO power.” The more power, the better. Authority is gained through backlinks from as many sites as possible and good authoritative websites.
Trust is gathered by sticking to search engines' guidelines and by obtaining links from trusted sites.
It should be clear by now: backlinks play a vital role in Search Engine Optimize success. That's not just because they pass on trust and authority.
They also give on topical relevance. A relevant link is a link on the page that's about precisely the same topic. Not all backlinks are created equal.
For example, a backlink in an article from a news website will typically pass authority and trust, but no sign.
Link building tactics
Activities centered on gaining backlinks are called link building. Link building is all about knowing what makes people tick. If you figure that out, you will have the ability to gain links that pack a punch.
Your site won't get many backlinks naturally. You can't just publish your content, and sit back, and wait for people to connect to it.
It doesn't work that way. You need to help them find it first.
Reaching your audience with your content is quite hard. As a guideline, you should spend as much time promoting your content as you do create it.
How does content promotion work?
You will need to give people an incentive to share and link to your content. If your content is fantastic, the only thing you need to do is make people aware of it.
The incentive for them to share it or link to it's because they want to be associated with it.
We can not all be #1, so your article is most likely good but not excellent. Thus getting links will demand plenty of hard work.
To be successful at SEO, your site has to be search engine friendly, provide valuable content to your visitors, and have authority and trust.
You need to work on all three elements, and such as having good content but no links pointing to it won't cut it. If you do not fire on all cylinders, the return on investment to your search engine optimization efforts will be pretty disappointing.
Put in the works, and don't lose focus on what matters most in SEO: your traffic.