Autor: Val Roman
You will learn what SEO is, how it works and what you must do to position your site in search engine results. But before we start, I want to assure you of something. So many resources make SEO difficult. They scare readers with technical jargon, focus on complex elements, and rarely explain anything beyond theory. I promise this guide is different. In the following pages, I'm going to break down SEO into its most basic parts and show you how to use all of its elements to build a successful SEO strategy. (And to stay on top of SEO strategies and trends.) Keep reading to understand SEO, or skip to the section that interests you the most.
What is SEO?
- At its core, SEO focuses on nothing more than increasing the company's visibility in regular search results. This helps companies to rank more pages in the SERP (search engine result pages). And, in turn, attract more visitors to the site, increasing the chances of more conversions.
When asked to explain what SEO is, I often refer to it as a strategy to ensure that when someone searches on Google for a category of your product or service, they find your site. But this simplifies the discipline a little. It does not take into account elements such as different customer information needs. However, it reveals its essence. In short, SEO manages two things - ranking and visibility.
This is the process that search engines use to determine where to place a particular web page in search results.
Rankings in SEO refers to a website’s position in the search engine results page. There are various ranking factors that influence whether a website appears higher on the SERP based on the content relevance to the search term, or the quality of backlinks pointing to the page.
This term describes how prominent a particular domain is in search results. High visibility makes your domain appear prominent in search results. A drop in search visibility occurs when a domain does not appear for many relevant search queries.
Both are responsible for achieving the main SEO goals of traffic and conversions. There is another reason why you should use SEO.
Discipline helps you position your brand throughout most of the buying journey. In turn, this can ensure that your marketing strategies are in line with new buying behavior. Because, as Google has admitted itself, customer behavior has changed forever.
More people today use search engines to find products or services than any other marketing channel. 18% more shoppers choose Google over Amazon. Another 136% prefer the search engine to other retail sites. And B2B buyers conduct an average of 12 searches before reaching out to a brand. Moreover, they prefer to go through most of the buying process on their own. For example, newbie According to a survey by HubSpot Research, 77% of people research a brand before joining it.
Forrester showed that 60% of customers are reluctant to interact with salespeople. In addition, 68% prefer to research on their own. 62% have developed their own criteria for selecting a suitable supplier.
Moreover, the process has never been so difficult.
Finally, DemandGen's 2017 B2B Shopper Survey found that 61% of B2B shoppers start their buying process with a broad Internet search. In comparison, only 56% go directly to the supplier's website.
But how do they use search engines in the process? At the beginning of the process, they use Google to find information about their problem. Some are also interested in potential solutions.
They then evaluate the available alternatives based on reviews or social media hype before contacting the company. But this happens after all sources of information have been exhausted. So, the only chance for customers to notice and consider you is to appear in search results.
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How does Google know how to rank a page?
Search engines have only one purpose. They strive to provide users with the most relevant answers or information. Each time you use them, their algorithms select the pages that are most relevant to your query. And then rank them by showing the most authoritative or popular first.
To provide users with the information they need, search engines analyze two factors: Relevance between the search term and the content on the page. Search engines rank it on various factors like topic or keywords.
Authority, measured by the popularity of a website on the Internet. Google assumes that the more popular a page or resource is, the more valuable its content is to readers. And to analyze all this information, they use complex equations called search algorithms.
Search engines keep their algorithms secret. But over time, SEOs have identified some of the factors they take into account when ranking a page. We call them ranking factors and they are the focus of the SEO strategy.
As you'll soon see, adding more content, optimizing image filenames, or improving internal links can all affect your ranking and visibility in search. And that's because each of these actions improves the ranking factor.
Three main components of a strong SEO strategy
To optimize your site, you need to improve your ranking factors in three areas: site technical setup, content, and links. So, let's go through them in turn.
1. Technical installation
For your site to rank, three things must happen:
First, the search engine needs to find your pages on the Internet. He then has to scan them to understand their topics and identify their keywords.
Finally, he needs to add them to his index, a database of all the content he has found on the Internet. Thus, its algorithm can take into account the display of your website for relevant queries. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Of course, there is nothing to worry about. After all, since you can visit your site without a problem, then Google should, right?
Unfortunately, there is a catch here. A web page looks different to you and to a search engine. You see it as a collection of graphics, colors, text with its formatting, and links.
For a search engine, this is nothing more than text. As a result, any elements that it cannot display in this way remain invisible to the search engine. And so, even though you like your website, Google may find its content unavailable. Let me show you an example. This is how a typical search engine sees one of our articles. This is this one, by the way, if you want to compare it with the original. an example of a technical setup search engine point of view
Pay attention to some things:
A page is just text. Although we have carefully designed it, the only elements a search engine sees are text and links.
As a result, he cannot see the image on the page (note the element marked with the arrow). He only recognizes his own name. If this image contained an important keyword for which we would like the page to rank, it would be invisible to the search engine.
This is where technical tuning, also called in-place optimization comes in. It ensures that your website and pages are easy for Google to crawl and index.
The most important factors affecting it include:
Site navigation and links
Search engines crawl sites just like you. They follow the links. Search engine crawlers visit a page and use links to find other content for analysis. But as you saw above, they cannot see the images. So, set the navigation and links as text.
Simple URL structure
Search engines don't like to read long, complex phrases. So use short URLs whenever possible. Configure them to include as little as possible beyond the primary keyword for which you want to optimize the page.
Page Speed measures how quickly a web page loads when a visitor first clicks on the link. Customers expect their pages to load quickly. Search engines use load time - the time it takes a user to read a page - as a measure of quality. Many elements of the website can affect this. Image size, for example. Use the Google Page Speed Insights Tool to learn how to improve your pages.
Dead links or broken redirects A dead link sends the visitor to a non-existent page. A bad redirect points to a resource that may no longer be there. Both degrade the user experience, but also prevent search engines from indexing your content.
Sitemaps and Robots.txt
The Sitemaps protocol allows a webmaster to inform search engines about URLs on a website that are available for crawling. A Sitemap is an XML file that lists the URLs for a site. A sitemap is a simple file that lists all URLs on your site. Search engines use it to identify what pages to crawl and index. A robots.txt file, on the other hand, tells search engines what content not to index (for example, specific policy pages you don’t want to appear in search.) Create both to speed up crawling and indexing of your content.
Duplicate content is content that appears on the Internet in more than one place. That “one place” is defined as a location with a unique website address (URL). Pages containing identical or quite similar content confuse search engines. They often find it near impossible to determine what content they should display in search results. For that reason, search engines consider duplicate content as a negative factor. And upon finding it, can penalize a website by not displaying any of those pages at all.
One important element of on-page SEO is content SEO. In short, content SEO is about creating and optimizing your content so that can it potentially rank high. Every time you use a search engine, you’re looking for content— information on a particular issue or problem, for example.
True, this content might come in different formats. It could be text, like a blog post or a web page. But it could also be a video, product recommendation, and even a business listing.
It’s all content.
And for SEO, it’s what helps gain greater search visibility.
Here are two reasons why:
- For one, content is what customers want when searching. Regardless of what they’re looking for, it’s content that provides it. And the more of it you publish, the higher your chance for greater search visibility.
- Also, search engines use content to determine how to rank a page. It’s the idea of relevance between a page and a person’s search query that we talked about earlier.
While crawling a page, they determine its topic. Analyzing elements like page length or its structure helps them assess its quality. Based on this information, search algorithms can match a person’s query with pages they consider the most relevant to it.
The process of optimizing content begins with keyword research.
SEO is not about getting any visitors to the site. You want to attract people who need what you sell and can become leads, and later, customers.
However, that’s possible only if it ranks for the keywords those people would use when searching. Otherwise, there’s no chance they’d ever find you. And that’s even if your website appeared at the top of the search results.
That’s why SEO work starts with discovering what phrases potential buyers enter into search engines.
The process typically involves identifying terms and topics relevant to your business. Then, converting them into initial keywords. And finally, conducting extensive research to uncover related terms your audience would use.
We’ve published a thorough guide to keyword research for beginners. It lays out the keyword research process in detail. Use it to identify search terms you should be targeting.
With a list of keywords at hand, the next step is to optimize your content. SEOs refer to this process as on-page optimization.
On-page optimization, also called on-page SEO, ensures that search engines a.) understand a page’s topic and keywords, and b.) can match it to relevant searches.
Note, I said “page” not content. That’s because, although the bulk of on-page SEO work focuses on the words you use, it extends to optimizing some elements in the code.
You may have heard about some of them — meta-tags like title or description are two most popular ones. But there are more. So, here’s a list of the most crucial on-page optimization actions to take.
Note: Since blog content prevails on mostwebsites,when speaking of those factors, I’ll focus on blog SEO — optimizing blog posts for relevant keywords. However, all this advice is equally valid for other page types too.
- Guide to On-Page SEO Strategy
a) Keyword Optimization
First, ensure that Google understands what keywords you want this page to rank. To achieve that, make sure you include at least the main keyword in the following:
- Post’s title: Ideally, place it as close to the start of the title. Google is known to put more value on words at the start of the headline.
- URL: Your page’s web address should also include the keyword. Ideally, including nothing else. Also, remove any stop words.
- H1 Tag: In most content management systems, this tag displays the title of the page by default. However, make sure that your platform doesn’t use a different setting.
- The first 100 words (or the first paragraph) of content: Finding the keyword at the start of your blog post will reassure Google that this is, in fact, the page’s topic.
- Meta-title and meta-description tags: Search engines use these two code elements to display their listings. They display meta-title as the search listing’s title. Meta-description provides content for the little blurb below it. But above that, they use both to understand the page’s topic further.
- Image file names and ALT tags: Remember how search engines see graphics on a page? They can only see their file names. So, make sure that at least one of the images contains the keyword in the file name.
The alt tag, on the other hand, is text browsers display instead of an image (for visually impaired visitors.) However, since ALT tag resides in the image code, search engines use it as a relevancy signal as well.
Also, add semantic keywords — variations or synonyms of your keyword. Google and other search engines use them to determine a page’s relevancy better.
Let me illustrate this with a quick example. Let’s pretend that your main keyword is “Apple.” But do you mean the fruit or the tech giant behind the iPhone?
Now, imagine what happens when Google finds terms like sugar, orchard, or cider in the copy? The choice what queries to rank it for would immediately become obvious, right?
That’s what semantic keywords do. Add them to ensure that your page doesn’t start showing up for irrelevant searches.
b) Non-Keyword-Related On-Page Optimization Factors
On-page SEO is not just about sprinkling keywords across the page. The factors below help confirm a page’s credibility and authority too:
- External links: Linking out to other, relevant pages on the topic helps Google determine its topic further. Plus, it provides a good user experience. How? By positioning your content as a valuable resource.
- Internal links: Those links help you boost rankings in two ways. One, they allow search engines to find and crawl other pages on the site. And two, they show semantic relations between various pages, helping to determine its relevance to the search query better. As a rule, you should include at least 2-4 internal links per blog post.
- Content’s length: Long content typically ranks better. That’s because, if done well, a longer blog post will always contain more exhaustive information on the topic.
- Multimedia: Although not a requirement, multimedia elements like videos, diagrams, audio players can signal a page’s quality. It keeps readers on a page for longer. And in turn, it signals that they find the content valuable and worth perusing.
From what you’ve read in this guide so far, you know that no page will rank without two factors — relevance and authority.
In their quest to provide users with the most accurate answers, Google and other search engines prioritize pages they consider the most relevant to their queries but also, popular.
The first two areas — technical setup and content — focused on increasing relevancy (though I admit, some of their elements can also help highlight the authority.)
Links, however, are responsible for popularity.
But before we talk more about how they work, here’s what SEOs mean when talking about links.
What is a backlink?
Links, also called backlinks, are references to your content on other websites. Every time another website mentions and points their readers to your content, you gain a backlink to your site.
For example, this article in Entrepreneur.com mentions our marketing statistics page. It also links to it allowing their readers to see other stats than the one quoted.
Google uses quantity and quality of links like this as a signal of a website’s authority. Its logic behind it is that webmasters would reference a popular and high-quality website more often than a mediocre one.
But note that I mentioned links quality as well. That’s because not all links are the same. Some — low-quality ones — can impact your rankings negatively.
Links Quality Factors
Low quality or suspicious links — for example, ones that Google would consider as built deliberately to make it consider a site as more authoritative — might reduce your rankings.
That’s why, when building links, SEOs focus not on buildinganylinks. They aim to generate the highest quality references possible.
Naturally, just like with the search algorithm, we don’t know what factors determine a link’s quality, specifically. However, over time, SEOs discovered some of them:
- The popularity of a linking site: Any link from a domain that search engines consider an authority will naturally have high quality. In other words, links from websites that have good quality links pointing to them, work better.
- Topic relevance: Links from domains on a topic similar to yours will carry more authority than those from random websites.
- Trust in a domain: Just like with popularity, search engines also assess a website’s trust. Links from more trustworthy sites will always impact rankings better.
Link building, simply put, is the process of getting other websites to link back to your website. ... Building links is one of the many tactics used in search engine optimization (SEO) because links are a signal to Google that your site is a quality resource worthy of citation. In SEO, we refer to the process of acquiring new backlinks as link building. And as many practitioners admit, it can be a challenging activity.
Link building, if you want to do it well, requires creativity, strategic thinking, and patience. To generate quality links, you need to come up with a link building strategy. And that’s no small feat.
Remember, your links must pass various quality criteria. Plus, it can’t be obvious to search engines that you’ve built them deliberately.
Here are some strategies to do it:
- Editorial, organic links: These backlinks come from websites that reference your content on their own.
- Outreach: In this strategy, you contact other websites for links. This can happen in many ways. You could create an amazing piece of content, and email them to tell them about it. In turn, if they find it valuable, they’ll reference it. You can also suggest where they could link to it.
- Guest posting: Guest posts are blog articles that you publish on third-party websites. In turn, those companies often allow including one or two links to your site in the content and author bio.
- Profile links: Finally, many websites offer an opportunity to create a link. Online profiles are a good example. Often, when setting up such profile, you can also list your website there as well. Not all such links carry strong authority, but some might. And given the ease of creating them, they’re worth pursuing.
- Competitive analysis: Finally, many SEOs regularly analyze their competitors’ backlinks to identify those they could recreate for their sites too.
Now, if you’re still here with me, then you’ve just discovered what’s responsible for your site’s success in search.
The next step, then, is figuring out whether your efforts are working.
How to Monitor & Track SEO Results
Technical setup, content, and links are critical to getting a website into the search results. Monitoring your efforts helps improve your strategy further.
Measuring SEO success means tracking data about traffic, engagement, and links. And though, most companies develop their own sets of SEO KPIs (key performance indicators), here are the most common ones:
- Organic traffic growth
- Keyword rankings (split into branded and non-branded terms)
- Conversions from organic traffic
- Average time on page and the bounce rate
- Top landing pages attracting organic traffic
- Number of indexed pages
- Links growth (including new and lost links)
Local SEO is the practice of increasing the search visibility of brick-and-mortar businesses — those with physical locations. Up until now, we focused on getting a site rank in search results in general. If you run a local business, however, Google also lets you position it in front of potential customers in your area, specifically. But for that, you use local SEO.
And it’s well worth it.
97% of customers use search engines to find local information. They look for vendor suggestions, and even specific business addresses. In fact, 12% of customers look for local business information every day.
What’s more, they act on this information: 75% of searchers visit a local store or company’s premises within 24 hours of the search.
But hold on, is local SEO different from what we’ve been talking all along?
Yes and no.
Search engines follow similar principles for both local and global rankings. But given that they position a site for specific, location-based results, they need to analyze some other ranking factors too.
Local search results look different too:
- They appear only for searches with a local intent (for example, “restaurant near me” or when a person clearly defined the location.)
- They contain results specific to a relevant location.
- They concentrate on delivering specific information to users that they don’t need to go anywhere else to find.
- They target smartphone users primarily as local searches occur more often on mobile devices.
For example, a localpack, the most prominent element of local results, includes almost all information a person would need to choose a business. For example, here are local results Google displays for the phrase “best restaurant in Boston.”
Note that these results contain no links to any content. Instead, they include a list of restaurants in the area, a map to show their locations, and additional information about each:
- Business name
- Opening hours
- Star Reviews
Often, they also include a company’s phone number or website address.
All this information combined helps customers choose which business to engage. But it also allows Google to determine how to rank it.
Local Search Ranking Factors
When analyzing local websites, Google looks at the proximity to a searcher’s location. With the rise of local searches containing the phrase, “near me,” it’s only fair that Google will try to present the closest businesses first.
Keywords are essential for local SEO too. However, one additional element of on-page optimization is the presence of a company’s name, address, and phone number of a page. In local SEO, we refer to it as the NAP.
Again, it makes sense, as the search engine needs a way to assess the company’s location.
Google assesses authority in local search not just by links. Reviews and citations (references of a business’s address or a phone number online) highlight its authority too.
Finally, the information a business includes in Google My Business — the search engine’s platform for managing local business listings — plays a huge part in its rankings.
The above is just the tip of the iceberg. But they are the ones to get right first if you want your business to rank well in local search.
What is black hat SEO?
The final aspect of SEO I want to highlight to you is something I also hope you’ll never get tempted to use. I mean it.
Because, although it might have its lure, using black hat SEO typically ends in a penalty from search listings.
Black hat practices aim at manipulating search engine algorithms using strategies against search engine guidelines. The most common black hat techniques include keyword stuffing, cloaking (hiding keywords in code so that users don’t see them, but search engines do,) and buying links.
So, why would someone use black hat SEO? For one, because, often, ranking a site following Google’s guidelines takes time. Long time, in fact.
Black hat strategies let you cut down the complexity of link building, for example. Keyword stuffing allows to rank one page for many keywords, without having to create more content assets.
But as said, getting caught often results in a site being completely wiped out from search listings.
And the reason I mention it here is that I want you to realize that there are no shortcuts in SEO. And be aware of anyone suggesting strategies that might seem too good to be true.
SEO Resources & Training
This guide is just a starting point for discovering SEO. But there’s much more to learn.
Here are online training resources to try next:
You can also pick SEO knowledge from industry experts and their blogs. Here are some worth reading:
Over To You
Without actively positioning its content in search results, no business can survive long.
By increasing your search visibility, you can bring more visitors, and in turn, conversions and sales. And that's well worth the time spent becoming an expert in SEO.