A Newbie’s Guide To SEO
Whether you are striving to become a successful marketer or you are a business owner looking to expand online, chances are you came across the term SEO? Search engine optimization, or SEO for short, is a skill that anyone looking to make a buck online should at least understand, if not master. While the subject is so vast and ever-changing, if you are a beginner looking to learn the basics, you must read this guide.
What is SEO and why you should care
SEO is short for Search engine optimization, but what does that tell you? As you are already aware, the internet can be likened to a web where every page links to another page. It’s impossible to navigate the billions of pages created, so search engines have been developed to provide users with results relevant to their query.
Search engines are the starting point of any browsing sessions, so appearing on top of Google’s results will guarantee you a huge chunk of traffic.
By learning SEO, you are ensuring the improvement of site position on organic (non-paid) searches.
The basics of Search Engine Optimization
In total honesty, learning SEO is hard and time-consuming. But is it worth it? Absolutely. There is probably not a single factor more important when it comes to long term traffic that will ensure the success of your business.
If you’re online and you want to stand out from the rest, appearing high on search results is essential.
For anyone starting their SEO learning journey though, it’s important not to feel overwhelmed as can be often the case when browsing various SEO learning guides.
Here are the basics that you should learn, which will serve as a foundation block for future expansion.
How do search engines work?
Search engines, like Google, Bing, etc. are basically machines that run certain algorithms that dictate how to scour through billions of webpages. Based on certain factors they evaluate the content and thus determine which website is most relevant to the search query.
They do this by going through all available webpages on the Internet as well as the entire content posted on them (that includes videos, images, etc.) by a process called “crawling and indexing”. Based on certain factors than they order the content and present it to the user.
What does organic search results mean?
There are 2 types of results:
When content appears on the top of search results by the virtue of its content and quality SEO, that represents the organic results. On the other hand, it’s now harder to distinguish organic results from paid ones, thanks to the continual evolvement of search engine result pages- or SERP for short.
You should keep in mind that search engines make most of their money through advertisement and that is why it’s in their interest to keep people on the SERP as long as possible. Some SERP features are organic such as :
- Featured snippets
- Related questions
- Image carousels, etc.
While some results such as those which have acquired data from sources such as Wikipedia, IMDb and others can’t really be influenced.
How can I influence a webpage position on SERP?
Depending upon your previous knowledge of digital marketing, ability, and willingness to learn as well as the complexity of your website that your trying to rank you can do the SEO for yourself. After all, learning by doing is the best way to increase your mastery of a specific subject.
Or, you can decide to pay a consultant or an agency to do the hard work for you.
Either way, you should know to be familiar with the basics so that you can evaluate the quality of work if you choose to outsource it.
The thing you should keep in mind is that there are 2 ways or boosting your site’s ranking on SERPs. They are:
- White hat SEO
- Black hat SEO
The difference between white hat and black hat SEO
As we have previously mentioned search engine is basically an algorithm (albeit a complex one ) that crawls through the pages on the internet, indexes them and based on certain factors ranks them. So, if it’s a machine you can game the system, right?
Well, yes, and that is the basis of black hat SEO. People who decide to go that route continuously try to find ways to game the system in a way that will boost ranking os their webpages.
That is generally not recommended. Search engines have come a long way since their inception and they are continuously updated. If you decide to go the black hat route you may even get short-term results, but chances are that you will raise some flags down the road. And if you are found to have been breaking the guidelines of search engines such as Google or Bing, well, your site is gonna get penalized and end up in the black void where no one may found it.
White hat SEO is the alternative, meaning, doing the SEO in a way that is intended by abiding by best practices and approved strategies that will provide more value to the people.
What are the factors that help me rank higher?
First of all, you should know there are 2 different aspects of SEO:
On-page SEO means doing everything in your power to optimize your webpage. It covers all the technical aspects such as:
- Image optimization (alt tags)
- Optimizing your content through keywords
- Content structure
- Meta tags
- And much more…
Off-page SEO includes all the activities that you can do to improve your webpage and content authority, which means includes getting backlinks from other, relevant websites.
Main ways of acquiring backlinks are:
- Blog posting
- Organic backlinks (that’s why the value of your content matters!)
- E-mail outreach (harder these days)
- Getting backlinks through social media
- And others
So, what are the most important factors when it comes to SEO?
If you have sleepwalked through the rest of this article content pay particular attention now. If you master these factors you are guaranteed to improve your website’s rankings. Mastering each facet of any of these factors is not easy though, it will require practice and much testing.
So, the main factors that you should strive to improve are:
- Relevant content (keyword optimization, content relevancy, itd..)
- Crawlable website
- Quality backlinks
- Content uniqueness
- Webpage and domain authority
- The freshness of the content
- Your content’s CTR and bounce rate (the number of people who click off your page after visiting it)
- Speed of your website
- The webpage is easily accessible on all devices
The basics of On-page SEO
The most important part of SEO to master is the technical side. When you truly get a grasp of all the things you can improve on your page, only then should you worry about getting backlinks.
First, master the basics of On-page SEO optimization. It’s been a long time since the time it was enough just to stuff enough keywords and look at how your website increases in rankings. Google’s algorithms have become much more powerful and sensitive, with the focus of providing users with the most relevant content based on their search query. Now it is possible for Google to deduce semantics of your content and based on that alone serve it if it complies with the user’s search query.
So, one of the most important aspects of mastering on-page SEO is mastering the quality and relevancy of the content. There are some other, equally important aspects of technical SEO which we will now cover.
- Relevancy of your content
If you want to rank for a certain keyword or a query, you have to know beforehand what the people are searching for. Try to deduce the intent behind each query. Ten years ago people used to type in a couple of words and based on that search engines have served content, but now people are typing in whole questions and algorithms are smart enough to provide them with the most valuable pieces of content for their query.
But, keyword research is a part of the equation still. If not the most important and key aspect of SEO. Mastering the keyword research is a skill itself and would require an entire article to cover it in-depth
- Meta title and meta descriptions
The title tags will appear in the SERP and are one of the most important psychological aspects when it comes to CTR (click-through rate). If based on the meta title people deduce that your webpage is not relevant to their query, they will click away. That is why it’s very important that you know your users and what they are searching for. It is your opportunity to capture their interest and get them to click on your website.
The meta description is a description that appears below your website’s title tag under SERP and will provide users with additional content about your website and the content that is being ranked. While algorithms have improved in such a way that they can provide users with their own generated description, you should use this opportunity to give additional reason to users to click on your link.
- Title tags and headings
Use the main keywords in your content’s title as well as meta tags and description tags. Make it easy for users to click on your link.
The title should not be longer than 70 characters or Google will cut out the rest, while descriptions can be up to 155 characters long.
When writing content make sure to divide it properly, that means use h1 tag for the title, h2 tags for headings, h3 for the rest etc….
Make sure that the structure of your content makes sense.
- Optimize your URL
Help search engines help you. If you use very long URLs for your content which doesn’t have any sense, it will be hard for engines to deduce what the heck is that page all about. But, if you include keywords in the URL it will be much easier to improve your content’s rankings.
- Include photos, videos, infographics…
You will gain that much more relevancy if you use different multimedia on your page. If you only have a bland page of text, forget about user interaction and search engines know it. You have to capture and retain user’s interest from the moment they click on your website to the end of your content.
So make sure to include photos that represent your content, include relevant videos if applicable, include infographics, funny GIFs, whatever you can.
- Include outbound and internal links
Outbound links are links that point to other websites on the internet. It is an important factor when calculating the relevancy of your content.
Internal linking is also extremely important, ti will help search engines deduce which content on your webpage is of extreme importance and thus they will rank it higher.
For example, let’s say you spend a week writing a very extensive and well-researched guide of 7 000 words. To give that content some more “link juice” make sure that other content on your page which references it, includes links that point to it.
Basic aspects of technical SEO
Technical SEO is a part of on-page SEO that covers the more technical side of website performance. While not very complex, you should still know some basics of web development to truly get a grasp of it.
- Get valuable insight with Google Search Console
Google’s search console is a tool that will give you a plethora of information about the performance of your website such as :
- Number of click on your site
- Amount of traffic and their sources
- Click-through rate of your content
- Much, much more
- Increase your website’s speed
- Mobile and tablet optimization
Your website needs to be improved for mobile as well as for other platforms, but mobile is the most important one. People are using their phones to browse the internet now and if you are lagging behind you will be heavily penalized.
- Use HTTPS instead of HTTP
If your website doesn’t’ use the HTTPS protocol it will be shown as “not secure” which is a very important psychological factor when it comes to the website’s trust.
- Make robots.txt file
Chances are, if your website sis mall, you won’t even need it. Robots.txt is a file that is used by search engines to know which webpages you don’t want to be indexed. It’s handy if you have some pages that are restricted to logged-in users or such.