You may have come across the term SEO as you browse through the internet and wondered what it meant. Well, you are not alone.
The term SEO refers to Search Engine Optimization. SEO is the practice of optimizing your site to generate traffic to your website through the use of organic search engine results (not advertising).
Simply put, how easy is it for Google (and other search engines) to find your website?
By using SEO, you make it easy for search engines to rank and display your site. This allows you to pull traffic from millions of users into your website.
Most people find the use of SEO rather frustrating, especially when they are starting. The great news is that you can run a website successfully with basic SEO knowledge.
The aim of this guide is to help you understand SEO and use it successfully.
A BRIEF HISTORY
SEO began when the first website was published in 1991. At the time, there were no search engines, so websites crowded the internet.
The first search engine, Excite, was created in 1993 to bring some order and improve accessibility and was quickly followed by Alta Vista, Yahoo, and many others in 1994.
In 1996 Sergey Brin and Larry Page began building BackRub, which eventually came to be known as Google after it was registered as a domain in 1997. Google propelled SEO into a new age.
In the beginning, there were no specific rules so anything remotely SEO, including bad practices such as keyword stuffing, was allowed. However, Google soon came up with an algorithm that would reward relevant and high-quality content.
This algorithm has been the cornerstone of SEO as we know it today.
WHY IS SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION IMPORTANT?
On any given day over 2.2 million searches are conducted on Google, not to mention other search engines. Websites that show up on Google’s first page of results account for 71% of clicks, with the first five organic results receiving slightly over 67% of all the clicks. The number of clicks only degenerates from there with page two accounting for only 5.6 % of clicks.
Why the huge difference?
Whenever people fail to get what they are looking for on the first page they simply change their research parameters.
When a user keys in their search parameters, they are looking for information that is relevant to their query. If your website provides this information all you need to do is make sure they have access to it. This is where the use of SEO comes in.
Good SEO practice makes you visible. Your website ranks higher in the unpaid section of online search results.
But good SEO practice also:
- Makes your site seem more credible resulting in more clicks than paid advertising
- Improves user experience
- Acts as an online marketing tool.
Many websites, blogs, business owners, and organizations use SEO to dominate search engine results and drive traffic into their sites. With our help, you can too.
MUST KNOW SEO TERMS
We’ve gone ahead and listed the terms you will encounter upon campaign creation. It’s important to know and understand these terms to avoid mistakes and set it up effectively.
The term keyword refers to a word or phrase that allows search engines and users to identify what your web page is about. Using keywords on your title, headlines, and throughout your content gives the search engines an idea of what your page is about.
However, keywords should be used sparingly. Keyword stuffing (the use of too many keywords) is more likely to hurt your ranking than improve it.
This term refers to the search engines’ process for collecting and storing data across the web. Search engines are in constant search of new or updated pages for their databases. When they come across a new or updated page, they index it. Meaning they store a copy in their database for retrieval during searches.
301 Redirect allows you to redirect users from one web page to another. If you change your web address, make sure to apply the 301 Redirect to send visitors to your new web address through the old one.
Anyone who has linked to or bookmarked your old address is automatically redirected to the new one, and search engines can update their index.
This is the actual text on a link to a web page. It describes what you will see when you click on the link and allows search engines to understand what the destination page is about. The text usually appears dark blue and underlined, or purple if you’ve already clicked on the link.
This is the title of a page on your website. It is usually enclosed in a <title> HTML tag. It is visible on your browser tab or the headline of the page. It tells search engines and users what your page is about and increases your click-through rate. Make sure to use a title that is unique and relevant to your content.
A meta description also holds a .html tag. It contains less than 160 characters and offers a brief description of the page.
It appears below the title tag and prompts people to visit the web page. They do not affect rankings but can increase click-through rates.
There are two types of links: internal and external links. Link building is the process of getting more inbound links to your web page to improve search engine rankings.
Internal links are links to different web pages within your website. External links are links that are either coming into or going out of your website. Someone could link to your website and you could link to theirs.
Alt Attribute Text (or Alt Text)
Alt Text refers to the text describing what an image contains. If you have ever searched for a product and had an ad with a picture of the product appear then you have interacted with Alt Text. It is a great way to boost your search results ranking as it allows images from your website to be found during a search.
Bots are known as spiders, crawlers, and web bots are programs designed to index, collect, and analyze website information. They allow updated content to be shared online. You can use bots to gather and analyze information, of our website and others. But you should be careful as there are good bots and bad bots.
Canonical URLs are used when a page’s content is indexed multiple times on their website. Say you are selling a product that comes in different colors. You may create different pages for each color making it difficult for a search engine to determine which page to display. The canonical URL specifies which page should take precedence over the rest.
HOW TO CREATE YOUR SEO STRATEGY
Getting higher rankings on Google and other search engines are all about SEO strategy. Also known as the SEO approach, it is the process of planning, outlining, and implementing steps designed to improve search engine rankings.
1. TECHNICAL SEO
Technical SEO focuses on how your website is set up.
- Is it easy for a search engine to read and explore your website?
- Are there underlying technical issues?
If you use website builders such as WordPress, Squarespace, Weebly, Wix, etc. then you don’t need to word about this. However, if you have a large website, you may consider using tools such as Screaming Frog and Deep Crawl.
Technical SEO focuses on issues such as:
- Crawl- Is it possible for a search engine to explore your site?
- Index- Is it clear what pages a search engine should index?
- Mobile- Is your website mobile friendly?
- Speed. Does your site page load quickly?
- Tech. Are you using search-engine-friendly tech or CMS for your website?
- Hierarchy. Is your content structured on your website?
2. ON-SITE AND OFF-SITE SEO
On-site SEO is done by making sure your website pages, titles, tags, content are optimized for your target keywords. You need to determine the keywords used when searching for a business such as yours, then create your content around those keywords.
Try to include these keywords in your website’s copy and incorporate them naturally into your headlines and titles. Additionally, you can use a target keyword on your meta tags, meta descriptions, and image tags for maximum optimization.
If you are having trouble figuring out what keywords to use as part of your SEO strategy, consider using Google’s keyword planner.
Off-site SEO refers to the links that lead back to your page from a different site. Having quality backlinks to your page helps build trust and establishes your site as an authority, resulting in a higher ranking. However, you should be careful and only link to reputable websites to add to your credibility.
Ever heard the phrase “Content is king”? Nothing is more important than the content you provide for your viewers. That is why it pays to have an SEO content strategy.
This helps you determine what content is appropriate, how to optimize it, and how to package and deliver it. After all, you need to keep your viewers interested while providing them with answers.
To create a good SEO content strategy, you need to:
- Create a list of topics
- Define your target audience
- Make a list of Keywords and long-tail keywords that fit your topic area and target audience.
- Create pages for each topic.
- Blog consistently to develop page authority
- Create a link-building plan for both on-site and off-site links
- Compress all media before putting it on your website.
A good SEO content strategy is an asset. It influences your users, creates loyalty, and makes you visible. This often increases leads, sales, donations, and business opportunities.
4. WHITE HAT VS BLACK HAT
While working on your SEO strategy you are bound to find varying points of view when it comes to increasing your web page ranking. There are many tactics that work, but some constitute bad SEO practice and have consequences.
The most important distinction is white hat vs black hat SEO.
White hat SEO refers to the right and ethical way of optimizing your site. Websites that use white hat SEO:
- Adhere to Webmaster Guidelines
- Provide quality content for viewers
- Provide quality references and links
- Takes a long-term approach.
Black hat SEO refers to the use of strategies that attempt to fool search engines in an attempt to get your web page ranked higher. While these tactics may work, they are often short term and put your website at risk of being banned and penalized. Web pages that use black hat SEO practices:
- Duplicate content
- Offer irrelevant links and references
- Redirect users to irrelevant sites
- Stuff keywords
If you decide to hire an SEO company ensure that SEO services are trustworthy.
WEBMASTER GUIDELINES FOR SEO
Webmaster guidelines are SEO best practices that improve the chances of your web page appearing after a search. Websites that fail to comply with these guidelines are omitted during searches.
Different search engines have different webmaster guidelines. However, the underlying principles are the same. Let’s have a look at Google’s webmaster guidelines.
- Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.
- Don’t deceive your users.
- Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you, or to a Google employee.
- Make your website stand out from others in your field. Think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging.
- Monitor your site for hacking and removing hacked content as soon as it appears
- Prevent and remove user-generated spam on your site
- Automatically generated content
- Participating in link schemes
- Creating pages with little or no original content
- Sneaky redirects
- Hidden text or links
- Doorway pages
- Scraped content
- Participating in affiliate programs without adding sufficient value
- Loading pages with irrelevant keywords
- Creating pages with malicious behavior, such as phishing or installing viruses, trojans, or other malware
- Abusing structured data markup
- Sending automated queries to Google
MEASURING SEO RESULTS
Using SEO for your business should yield measurable results. It’s not just about putting your website on the internet. You should be able to gain something from this exposure. After all, you have invested a considerable amount of time and money in this venture.
Sadly, most companies and individuals do not track their SEO success. This is unfortunate, especially for individuals and companies that pay SEO companies to run their SEO campaigns.
Others use google analytics. If you are new to this, you can have a look at their get started with analytics guide.
But why is measuring SEO success important?
- It allows you to measure your ROI (return on investment). Ask yourself these questions:
- Has all the energy, time, and money put in given you anything in return?
- Are the returns worth it?
- Is there more traffic on your site?
- Do you have more leads?
- Is your business making more money now?
- It helps you determine whether you need to make changes to your approach. These may be big changes such as remodeling your website or simple tweaks such as changing keywords.
So how do you measure SEO?
1. Keyword Ranking
This is the easiest metric to keep track of. It shows how well, or how poorly your website ranks on SERPs (Search engine results pages).
If your keywords are spot on, you will notice your website appearing higher and higher on the google results page (great for bragging rights).
As your ranking goes higher so does the number of keywords you are being ranked for. If your web page doesn’t rank well off keywords you used, consider using less competitive keywords.
Unfortunately, keyword ranking is not the best way to measure your success. It can be influenced by factors such as:
- A searchers location
- Whether they use a computer or mobile device
- If they visit your site frequently
- Previous internet behavior.
In most cases results for a single keyword may differ between users, making it unreliable.
2. Organic Traffic
This is a much better indicator of how well your site is doing. Organic traffic refers to the number of visitors your website got as a result of web searches not advertising.
If you are just beginning your Search Engine Optimization journey, your traffic is likely to be from branded queries (searches based on your brand name). The goal is to attract more people through organic results related to your products and not just your brand name.
You can use Google Analytics to measure organic traffic and determine how well your website is doing.
Organic traffic is usually affected by sudden changes in search engine algorithms. This may affect your SEO efforts and result in a setback. Luckily you can notice these changes on your analytics page and make relevant alterations
3. Conversion Rate from your Organic Traffic
Conversions are the reason you got into SEO in the first place, right? A conversion is achieved when a website visit results in a lead or a sale.
Conversion rate refers to the number of website visitors who have completed an action or a goal intended. Your website goals can vary from purchasing to simply subscribing to your newsletter.
4. Backlink Volume
Google considers your link volume to determine how important your site is and determine how to rank it. Backlinks can originate from other websites or other pages within your website.
Why is backlink volume important?
Think of it this way. If other websites constantly refer to your site it means that your content is useful and important If your site is useful to searchers, Google will give it high priority over your competitors.
You can build your backlinks by nurturing online relationships, blogging, inviting guest bloggers, and listing your site in directories.
5. Click-through Rate
If searchers like what they see they click.
This metric helps you determine how effective your search engine listings are at attracting clicks. Your SERPs ranking is practically useless if you don’t have visitors clicking on it.
Unfortunately, organic CTRs are not an indicator of the quality of the clicks your listings receive. Are the clicks from customers who intend to make a purchase? Were all the clicks for your local business from within the city or were some from other states?
Should you hire an SEO agency?
The very nature of SEO prompts us to feel overwhelmed. There is so much to embrace and understand. We are required to keep up with an ever-changing landscape. Add in some stiff competition and you are in over your head.
Implementing your SEO strategy can take a toll on you, especially if you have a lot more going on in your day to day life.
If you run a blog or a small business or organization, knowledge of basic SEO practices can help you run your website successfully. This doesn’t mean you can’t hire an SEO company to take care of your website. Most companies offer SEO packages tailored to different needs.
Numerous companies offer SEO services. The trick is picking a company with the best SEO packages for your needs.
Remember that some SEO techniques can cause more harm than good (black hat SEO) so find a reputable SEO agency to partner with
Additional SEO information
Not all businesses are the same. Some businesses have simpler SEO needs than others. For example, local businesses do well with local Keywords such as [service]+[city].
On the other hand, some businesses seek wider recognition. They require a national or international audience. This means that their site needs to be ranked in different countries and possibly in a different language.
International SEO is far more complex than Local SEO. The great thing is that Google has your back. They have established several guidelines to help you maneuver.
Search Engine Optimization has been around for a couple of years now and will be for a long time to come. It carries numerous benefits but also presents its fair share of frustrations. Even though SEO is a broad subject, there are numerous guides, such as this one to help you understand.
SEO mastery grants you the ability to propel your businesses, and organizations forward. Allowing you to share information and generate sales through the use of content. It’s a truly amazing space. So next time you want to improve your website ranking remember your SEO basics. Good luck!
We hope this provided enough insight for you to get it going with your SEO strategy. If you are keen to have your SEO strategy up or interested in getting it done but don’t know how to start, feel free to book a discovery call with us.