This is the only beginner’s guide you will need to get a proper introduction to SEO. In this article, we will explain why SEO is important to the website’s organic traffic, as well as we will cover both Off-page and On-Page SEO best practices.
Currently, online success is highly dependant on a webmaster’s ability to reach his audience effectively.
And this is for a good reason. Advanced internet search technology has made a simple Google search more effective than it has ever been before.
From your end, serving quality information in “digestible” content pieces is only the beginning. The key between quality content and reaching your audience effectively is the ability to make Google understand what you are writing about.
And this is where Search Engine Optimization comes in. SEO is the mediator between your page and their placement on search engines.
In this introduction to SEO, I will walk you through the most important SEO fundamentals that will help your audience easily discover your website.
Introduction to SEO – What is it (and why do you need it)?
Look at SEO as the principal ingredient of increasing the quantity and quality of your website’s organic traffic.
The environment it all unfolds in – Google – has changed the way ranking works over the last few years.
In older days, you could rank your articles very easily. You simply had to add your keyword of choice many times within the text and the metadata and boom – you were ranking!
Today, however, things are different. Right now, Google’s goal is to provide top-level user experiences.
The relevancy of your content and your backlinks are more important than their size. In other words, quality is, now, more important than quantity.
So how does Google currently rank your content?
How Google ranks your content
According to the NetMarketShare web statistics tracker, about 75% of the past few years’ global search engine users chose Google as their primary search engine. These figures include desktop, laptop, and mobile use.
That is a pretty impressive statistic.
The key to Google’s continuous success is its ability to connect the right piece fo content with the reader who needs it most.
And over the years, Google’s continuous algorithm updates have been focused on that exact point.
So how does Google decypher a flawless user experience?
It starts by discovering, interpreting, and organizing all the information on the internet in an order of relevancy.
There are a few major functions that help with this task:
- Crawl: This term stands for when Google visits your website for tracking purposes. This process is performed by Google’s Spider crawler.
- Index: The gathered information gets stored in an index. Indexing is a way of gathering and processing crawled information from the web.
- Rank: Once the gathered data is processed, it gets ranked according to Google’s algorithm.
The order with which search results are displayed is known as ranking.
A higher ranking is achieved with more relevancy. In other words, to be able to rank higher, you need to deliver information in a way that allows users to get lots of value in an easy to understand manner.
Google measures how well you have achieved that by filtering your content through multiple metrics such as a website’s authority, length, and relevance to the keyword it is trying to rank for.
While there are ongoing debates about how exactly a page’s authority is determined, there are a few bulletproof methods that are known to help. These are:
- Links from authoritative sites
- Writing high-quality content
- Pleasant reading experience (proper headers, digestible content)
- Links to credible sites
Essentially, you want to write your content in a way that Google’s crawlers will be able to identify as authoritative.
The best way to start is by doing in-depth keyword research on the topic you are looking to write about.
Proper keyword research will provide you with answers to these questions:
- What are people looking for?
- How many search results does Google provide for this topic?
- In what format do they want to see that information?
The answers to the above questions will act as a foundation for your content strategy.
Where to Start
For every new web marketer, it is important to realize one important thing.
What you want and what your audience wants are often two different things.
So how do you find a middle way that works?
Simply start with acknowledging what kind of value it is you are looking to offer.
Are you creating a long guide with information on a specific topic? Or are you trying to present your services in hopes of making a sale? By understanding the type of reader that you want to attract to your content, you will get a direction on the type of keywords you’ll be using.
Begin by looking where the potential readers are in the sales funnel. For example, if you are trying to target readers that are ready to buy a motorcycle, you can start looking at bottom funnel keywords such as “buy Kawasaki Z750” or “buy left tail light for Yamaha GSXR”.
Enter the potential keywords into a keyword research tool like KWFinder to kickstart your keyword research.
What you will find is the average monthly search volume for each keyword and their keyword difficulty to your seed keyword.
The monthly volume stands for the number of people that search for a given keyword on a monthly basis. On the example above, 10 people want to “buy Kawasaki z750”.
The keyword difficulty is a combination of metrics that indicate how easy or difficult it is to rank an article on the first page of Google. In this case, the article is relatively easy to rank since the keyword difficulty is low.
Here are the ranges that they use to show you keyword SEO difficulty.
Now that we have a better understanding of the monthly volume and the keyword difficulty, let’s take a look at other information that is available to us. Under your focus keyword, you will also find similar keywords.
This is where you can find loads of new topic ideas and information on ranking difficulty.
And finally, on the right page side, you will see information on the current top pages that are ranking for your keyword in Google. There, you will get information on their Domain Authority, their number of backlinks as well as other useful metrics.
Now you just have to look through the options and find one topic that is underserved and easy to rank. To do this, look for a low keyword difficulty (>29) and medium to high monthly volume (1000+).
Understanding Short tail VS Long tail keywords
A keyword’s length affects both the Keyword Difficulty and Monthly Volume. As explained above, a more generic term will have different Keyword Difficulty and Search Results than a more specific term.
In SEO, one can differentiate these types of keywords:
Short tail keywords are keywords that are shorted in size and have a relatively high monthly search volume. This, of course, is paired with a higher keyword difficulty and much more work to rank in the top 10. For example, a short tail keyword could be “plane tickets”
Long tail keywords, on the other side, are keywords that are longer in size, serve a more specific audience and, as such, are easier to rank for. An example here could be “Plane tickets vienna to luxembourg”.
Expert SEO marketers try to find the perfect balance between both long tail and short tail keywords, depending on the audience they are looking to reach.
As such, and while this requires a whole article on its own, a good rule of thumb is to write articles with long tail keywords when you are targeting readers that are in the lower part of the funnel.
We will continue this introduction to SEO with another important practice – On-page SEO.
On-page SEO is the practice of adjusting and optimizing individual pages of your website in order to rank higher on Search Engines.
Historically, on-page optimization largely relied upon keyword placement. Placing those keywords within your content’s body and metadata would easily rank your page. But in 2019, this is not the case anymore.
Let’s take a look at some current factors that have the biggest impact on your page ranking ability.
An important thing to remember is that quality trumps quantity.
Try not to overstuff it with keywords as it will seem out of place and unnatural to your readers.
Instead, aim to write content that provides lots of value and offers actionable advice.
A high-quality website:
- Demonstrates world-class expertise in its content (backed with sources where necessary)
- Empowers your audience with the knowledge that they need
- Tells a story through an experience
Be consistent and update your website with new and relevant information to keep up with your readers’ expectations. One good article isn’t enough to keep them on your site.
Previously we went over the basics of keyword research. Use this knowledge to power ideas behind your content.
While there is no definite guide on the recommended keyword density, the SEO community says that one keyword per every 200 words is optimal.
But know that focusing only on the quality of your content won’t be enough to rank on the first page of Google’s search results. How often do you consider your visitor’s perspective?
Since Google cares about the best user experience, providing that will help you rank higher.
User experience (UX) is dependant on many elements that all work together. Primarily, user experience is optimized by:
1) Adding multiple headings
Creating many headings is a powerful tool when it comes to your site’s navigation. Not only do they help search engines to understand the contents of your site, but they also assist your site’s readers. Use tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.) to show the logical hierarchy of the contents of your website.
2) Making a page easy to navigate
Create easy navigation with an intuitive menu, categories, accurate titles, and clickable links. Nobody wants to waste time trying to understand your website.
3) Including accurate meta title and description
Another important feature for your site’s UX is the meta title and meta description.
Both of these parts of HTML code provide readers and search engines with an insight into the contents of a page.
The meta title summarizes your content by including relevant keywords and phrases. Think about an attractive meta title that will describe the contents of your page accurately. After all, that will be the clickable headline for a given result.
Below the meta title, a meta description will be displayed. Include a brief summary (up to 160 characters) of your pages’ content to give people a good idea about the value you’re about to give them.
Your meta description has a great impact on your click-through rates since it gives readers the first impression of your page’s content.
4) Optimizing the site’s speed
Once people have decided to click on your site, it is important that your loading speed is optimized. Google’s algorithms “reward” websites that load slowly with Google penalties. And, trust me, you don’t want those anywhere near you.
5) Making sure users have a positive mobile experience
Mobile readers will also appreciate your site’s look, feel, navigation, text and images. Make sure that your site is easily accessible and enjoyable for them as well.
Another important part of on-site SEO is ensuring that your permalink contains your focus keyword.
Google considers permalinks to be a ranking factor. Matt Cutts (the former head of search quality at Google) revealed that permalinks that contain more than five words might get you less credit in rankings.
So what exactly is a permalink and how can you optimize it?
A Permalink is a permanent URL that leads to a specific page on your site. It consists of parts that tell web browsers which page to navigate to.
There are several permalink structures available for creating your URL.
The best way to approach permalink selection is by thinking about user experience. Regardless of its structure, your permalink should never change, because it is used to link to your page both from external and internal sources.
And that’s about it for On-page SEO.
I will continue this introduction to SEO with helpful hints that help you rank by manipulating factors outside your website.
Off-page SEO refers to techniques that are used outside of your site to improve rankings.
Optimization efforts in this area work towards the perceived popularity, relevancy, trustworthiness and authority of your site in the eyes of both visitors and search engines.
In other words, they can help help you rank and bring in more qualified traffic.
And what could be a better way of gaining trust than building quality referrals to your site?
Backlinks from Authoritative Sites
Building your backlink portfolio is the backbone of off-page SEO. To understand why that is, imagine that backlinks represent word-of-mouth referrals.
More referrals from high-quality, relevant sites will increase your authority in the niche you operate in.
These referrals, which in the world of SEO are known as backlinks, are inbound links that link to your page from other sites.
Moreover, not all backlinks hold the same value. Imagine the referral value from an untrustworthy person. It certainly has a smaller impact than a referral from somebody who holds authority.
So be careful: even if you get a backlink from an authoritative site, you need to make sure that it is a “do-follow” backlink.
You can use Linkody to help you monitor those links and keep a good overview of the distribution between “do-follow” and “no-follow” links.
Additional Factors of Off-site SEO
There are additional practices that will help you improve your rankings and grow your backlink portfolio.
Guest blogging is an excellent opportunity to gain quality backlinks from authoritative sites. Performing an outreach is simple enough, and can be automated with tools like Ninja Outreach.
To find these opportunities I recommend:
- Checking where your competitors’ backlinks are placed by using Linkody
- Send personalized outreach messages to those websites
- Write quality content for the ones that accept your guest post
Compiling expert roundups is another effective way to increase your authority in the niche. It will drive traffic and boost your social media activity.
Roundup posts are posts that combine content or opinions from experts in your field. For example, you can send experts in your niche one question: “What is the most common off-page SEO mistake?”
Experts are usually keen to participate in such roundups since (1)this offers them exposure through backlinks within their bio and (2)their opinions get published.
Expert roundup posts are known to bring in high amounts of traffic. And, to make things even better, such posts will increase your authority in the niche as well.
Being featured in reviews is another great way to not only get backlinks but also qualified traffic.
The better your review, the higher your chances of being picked over your competitors.
Use every bit of knowledge you have been exposed to in this Introduction to SEO and you are guaranteed to start ranking very soon.
Here’s your checklist of the things we discussed in this article:
- How Google ranks your content
- Keyword research
- On-page SEO
- Quality content
- User experience
- Off-page SEO
- Guest blogging
- Expert roundups
Now is the time to get out there and bring your A-game to the competitive world of SEO and implement the best SEO principles.
Let us know if you have any questions that we can help you with.