Beginner’s Guide to SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an art form to enhance the visibility and availability of a webpage on Google, Bing or other search engines. This is achieved by organically (in a non-paid manner) presenting your content on the first page when people search for related content. Bonus points if your content appears at the top of the page.

The practice we know as SEO started in the mid-1990s. SEO today very much revolves around Google. The practice however predates the world’s most popular search engine co-founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

It could be argued that SEO and all things search engine marketing began with the launch of the first website published in 1991. Although, perhaps it could have been when the first web search engine launched.

According to Bob Heyman, author of Digital Engagement, we can thank the manager of the rock band Jefferson Starship for helping give birth to a new field that we would grow to know as “search engine optimization”. He was quite upset that the official Jefferson Starship website was ranking on Page 4 of some search engine at the time, rather than in Position 1 on Page 1.

Before DMOZ(a multilingual open-content directory of World Wide Web links) fueled the original Google classification, LookSmart (which provides search, machine learning and chatbot technologies as well as pay-per-click and contextual advertising services) was powered by Zeal, Go.com was its own directory, and the Yahoo Directory was a major player in Yahoo Search.

Today everybody wants to rule the search engine results pages (SERPs).

While SEO as a term isn’t perfect — after all, you’re optimizing your web presence as opposed to optimizing search engines — it has remained the preferred term of the industry for more than 20 years now and likely will be for the foreseeable future.

Search engines have changed the way we find information, conduct research, shop for products and services, entertain ourselves, and connect with others.

Behind almost every online destination, be it a website, blog, social network or app is a search engine.

When a person types “fried potatoes” into a search engine, they’re likely looking for a recipe, ingredients, and instructions on how to make it or benefits.

So ideally if you had written an article or created a video or infographic explaining the process involved in making the tastiest fried potatoes, you’d want people to find your recipe from the above simple search.

This is guaranteed if you rank above all the other websites with recipes or information on fried potatoes.

Ideally you want to be at the top of the search results since chances of a user scrolling through different articles on different pages are minimal.

It’s not easy to rank at the top of the search, but SEO marketing makes this possible.

In order to optimize for this, you need to understand how search works then implement fresh actionable ideas into your content hence increasing traffic to your site. Since the more eyeballs you have on your posts, the higher your reach, engagement, leads and ultimately conversions or sales.

To begin with, it is important to understand the elements of SEO.

Elements of SEO to Factor in while Marketing

  • On-Page SEO

On-page SEO is about building content to improve your rankings.

This can be achieved by incorporating keywords into your pages and content, regularly writing high quality content, and ensuring your metatags and titles are keyword rich and well written.

  • Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO is the optimization happening off of your website itself, such as earning backlinks.

This can be achieved by building relationships and creating content people want to share. In spite of the fact that it takes a lot of legwork, it is integral to SEO success.

There are some gray areas. Like for instance guest blogging. Case in point, if you’re purchasing guest posts on sites that have nothing to do with your niche and spamming a bunch of links, you’re going to get penalized. If however you’re creating unique guest posts that provide value to readers on sites that are relevant to you, you’ll be fine, and the link juice will flow nicely to your site. Since in SEO marketing, it’s not so much about what you do but how you do it.

Important to note: Should you decide to use sneaky tactics to increase your ranking, it may work for the short-term and get you some traffic to your site but after a while, search engines like Google will end up penalizing you and even blacklisting your site so you’ll never rank. As such, it is important to bear in mind the guidelines and rules set by the search engines even as you play with SEO. This ensures that your content is easily accessible and stays visible and available.

When you search “quick and easy homemade fried potatoes”, Google, Bing or whichever search engine you’re using puts all its energy into delivering to you what it deems as the best recipe for homemade fried potatoes on the entire web. This recipe will ideally consume as little time as possible and require minimal ingredients. In essence, it doesn’t just look for the quickest recipe, the easiest recipe or present various online shops for frozen dinners, but it tries to give you exactly what you asked for. This means your number one job to do well with SEO marketing is to produce great content.

One of the first things that comes to mind when we talk about SEO is links and link building.

Factors to consider when building links for your site

Link Quality

Building quality backlinks is more important than the overall number of links. Implying that it is more important to have quality authoritative links as opposed to flooding your site with random links that may end up labelled spam or low quality.

Interesting enough, links from brand new sites are worth more than repeat links from existing sites. Additionally links from other websites are worth more than a bunch of links from your own site. It is common practice to link from one page to another on your own site but this is less effective as compared to linking to other websites. This however varies on a case by case basis.

Anchor Text

This is the text used beneath the link. The goal is for the text to appear as naturally as possible in the article. In fact if possible to directly relate to what’s in the link. In your article or site it is advisable to have a variety of different types of anchor text because they each have their own place in the SEO realm.

Avoid indicating “click here” pointing to your site. Instead, if say you wrote an article about how to pay off your mortgage and you’re trying to get a link to it, you may want the anchor text with a link on it to actually say “how to pay off your mortgage”. Doing this helps tell Google more about what is to come when someone clicks through.

Factors Impacting Personal SEO

  1. Country

When a person puts in a query in their search engine, they see results relevant to the country they’re in. This also goes for things like open times of recommended stores and restaurants. They will appear according to respective time zones.

2. City

Geo-targeting goes further down to the city level. This is why you usually see results from right around the block when you search for say a fast food chain. Using city names as keywords helps. You however have to be careful not to paint yourself into a corner. Otherwise you’ll end up looking like you’re only a local authority. In the event that you are a local authority and your business primarily deals in the local area, you want to capitalize on this with great local SEO.

Factors that Influence Social for SEO

  1. Quality of Shares

SEO marketing and social media marketing go hand-in-hand because the goal is to bring to the search engine’s attention how great your content is. The more people share your content (increasing your reach) the better the impression the search engine has of it. It indicates people like what you are offering. In essence implying your content is of great value. Which is most marketers mission.

2. Number of Shares

Creating a viral hit is every marketer’s dream, but it is overrated. There are a lot of tips and hacks on how to go about this. The underlying simple solution being creating awesome content. Remember there’s no one size fits all when it comes to this. Depending on your niche or target audience, the definition will change.

For instance it is touted in the marketing space that long-form content almost always outperforms short-form. When we consider celebrity gossip on the other hand, your audience usually wants something succinct with a lot of drama. They want more videos and images with less text. The bigger the headlines the more people you’ll draw in. Even more is they will be more inclined to re-share if it sounds like what’s inside is very exciting.

3. Canonicalization issues

Reposting your content on another website or publishing your guest posts again on your own site doesn’t hurt your SEO unless you do it the spammy way.

For instance if you repost your exact same content to a big outlet like Medium, it might hurt your rankings because Google indexes your Medium article first. This is because Medium is considered the more authoritative domain. Such a situation is often referred to as a “canonicalization” problem, and it might already be happening on your site without you realizing it.

Canonical issues occur when one or more URLs on your site displays similar or duplicate content.

4. Mobile-Friendliness

Google indexes for mobile first. Meaning you as a content creator need to create a site that performs well on mobile. This is because that will be one of the most important deciding factor when Google determines how easy it is to crawl your site.

If you go into your Google Search Console, you’ll find a lot of information about what Google thinks of your site. This can help you optimize your site.

The Moz website does a deep dive on all things SEO including giving a break down of how the Google Algorithm works. It breaks down 7 key points otherwise referred to as Mozlow’s Hierarchy of SEO needs. Remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs?

Well Mozlow’s Hierarchy of SEO needs constitutes;

  • Crawl accessibility so engines can read your website.
  • Compelling content that answers the searcher’s query.
  • Keyword optimized to attract searchers and engines.
  • Great user experience including a fast load speed and compelling user experience (UX).
  • Share-worthy content that earns links, citations and amplification.
  • Title, URL and descriptions to draw high Click Through Rate (CTR) in the rankings.
  • Snippet or schema markup to stand out in search engine results pages (SERPs).

3 Tips to get more shares on Social Media

  1. Great content: everything in business is an exchange of value; the same goes for SEO marketing. Provide valuable content to the search engine and it will reward you by giving you more presence.

2. Consistency: posting consistently on social media requires you to have new content to share on a regular basis. It all goes full circle since your readership is maintained and reach increased.

3. Simplification: make it easy when it comes to social sharing. There are many plugins that can help you achieve this. Bear in mind that if the reader can’t figure out a simple way to share your post on social media, they’ll likely move on minus doing so.

Google explains in its evaluator guidelines that a high-quality page needs to possess a high level EAT. EAT is a set of guidelines that translates to:

Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness

A lot of factors come to play in determining what makes content display EAT. Though you may not have control over all of the factors from the get-go, keeping EAT in mind as you create content can help ensure your content is headed in that direction.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take for SEO to work?

SEO is not a fast track to success. You need to have a long term plan when it comes to SEO because it takes as long as it takes to rank for most keywords. Could be weeks or even months depending on your strategy. Should someone else do something even a little bit better, most likely you’ll get bumped off the top of the SERPs.

What is the most important factor in SEO marketing?

There is no one factor that is most important because they’re all important. What needs to consistently be maintained across board is the quality of content you are putting out.

How do you rank faster on Google?

The best way to rank is with consistent regular effort. Implement the tips we’ve listed above and you’re well on the way to having your site at the top of the first page.

Is it possible to rank a website without SEO?

Yes it is. There are situations where people get lucky. More often than not it’s likely because they’re providing something a lot of people aren’t. Overall so many people are competing in the same space for often times the same readers.

How much does SEO cost?

SEO cost depends on whether you’re hiring a professional to do it for you or going the long route of doing it all on your own.

What Are the Best Free SEO Tools?

If you’re looking to get started with SEO or want to achieve better results at the cost of $0, you have a number of resources and tools at your disposal. Some of which include:

Which provides you with a lot of handy data about websites such as the number of site visits, traffic sources, and location demographics.

With the detailed information from Google Analytics you as a digital marketers, business owner or entrepreneur can tweak your content strategy and figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Missing keyword data? Worry not as Keyword Hero has got you covered. It uses advanced math and machine learning to fill in the blanks.

This service is free for upwards of 2,000 sessions per month.

Mozcast tracks changes big and small to Google’s search algorithm.

With Google making hundreds of changes on a yearly basis, keeping abreast of the latest developments helps you make sure you’re doing everything to have the best SERPs.

This tool lets you know ways in which your website has fallen short of SEO best practices so that you can take corrective measures.

You can filter data by error type, and export you results to Excel, CSV, and Google Drive.

  • Link Redirect Trace

Use this Chrome plugin to make sure all your link redirects are directing people and crawlers where you want them to go.

An SEO log analysis tool that provides data in real-time and page categorization.

  • Robots.txt Generator

Create a correct robots.txt file in an instant so search engines know how to crawl your website. Advanced users can customize their files with Robots.txt Generator as well.

It lets you see how your website looks to a search engine.

It basically strips your webpage of any styling and shows you the underlying structure. This helps you figure out if Google’s bot has any difficulty accessing important content on your site.

A neat feature of this free SEO tool is the SERP preview. This shows a preview of how your site appears in search results.

You can see if your titles and meta descriptions are adequately optimized and make changes as needed.

In conclusion, 3 points to remember on your SEO marketing journey;

Black Hat Vs. White Hat SEO

Black hat SEO is using slimy tactics like buying links, stuffing keywords, and duplicating content. While these things work in the short-term, they won’t work long-term. You might see a boost in traffic and revenue for a month or two until search engines like Google figure you out and blacklist your site for good.

White hat SEO is the way to go… It takes longer but implements the right tactics that will pay you for years to come.

Keyword Research and Selection

Having the right keywords on your website is the main way Google and other search engines figure out what your site is all about. Using tools like Ubersuggest can help you find the right keywords that are relevant to your topic. Ensure to not force words where they don’t belong.

Quality over quantity.

Trust

Having features like SSL certificates and HTTPS is the industry standard now. You can’t have a website without these and expect to rank because search engines like Google expect this to help establish that your site is trustworthy.

SEO is synonymous with continuously running tests. Something I specialize in given I spend a lot of time iterating on frameworks. In fact one of my philosophies is Always be Experimenting. Among other things, I thrive on constantly trying new tactics and channels then doubling down on the campaigns that drive positive return on investment (ROI). I’m also an authoress with several online and print publications.

TLDR; SEO is the practice of increasing the quality and quantity of your website traffic through organic search engine results. It enables you to connect to people searching online for the solutions you offer. This is achieved by understanding exactly what people are searching for, answers they are seeking, words and phrases they are using and the type of content they wish to consume.

To get shares in the SEO game, you simply need to create awesome content that people like to read. Ensure you also do this on a site where people are reading. Hence why guest posts on sites with an actual readership come in handy. If you’re guest posting somewhere with no readers what are the chances your content will be shared?

Keep in mind that SEO trends are constantly changing. What currently works may be rendered obsolete in a few months.

All the best as you grow your traffic!

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