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Search engine optimization is the most efficient and most effective technique for digital marketing. It’s what gets your website found, your product out there, and your brand visible. It’s something that you need to master for your business to have continuous old and new traffic.
Search engine traffic is the single most consistent source of traffic for websites. So, everyone hustles to come up top on the SERPS (search engine result pages) because the site that appears on the #1 position gets 31.7% of the clicks. #2 position gets 18% and so on. So everyone wants to come to number one.
But what exactly is SEO? In this blog article, we’ll go over the basics, a brief guide and tutorial, how it helps with digital marketing, and its overall importance. We also have some top tips, tools, techniques, and strategies to teach you. So let’s take a deep dive in.
SEO Definition and Meaning
SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization.” Now that the internet is run by users entering search terms into search engines, webpages are fighting to come out among the first few results for specific keywords. Employing SEO means wanting to appear on SERP or Search Engine Results Pages.
That is why SEO is essential for digital marketing. Businesses benefit from SEO by optimizing their websites to be searchable and identifiable for search engines. A website that is well optimized for SEO, brings in a good number of organic traffic daily.
Digital marketing involves creating leads, bringing in traffic, and ultimately increasing businesses’ reach and success. That can all be done through the power of SEO. But what exactly are you optimizing? How does SEO work? What is it all about?
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On a broad scale, I see SEO becoming a normalized marketing tactic, the same way TV, radio, and print are traditionally thought of as marketing tactics – Duane Forrester, Senior Product Manager, Bing
Search Engine Optimization Types
Before we get into what contributes to search engine optimization, here are a few different types: Local SEO, Mobile SEO, On-Page SEO, and off-page SEO. At any point, if you find this all overwhelming, you can always consult an SEO agency.
Local SEO helps brick-and-mortar enterprises become visible on the internet in proximity to their locals. These small shops benefit tons from local SEO because local customers will keep coming back and keep their businesses alive.
So when you are building a local SEO strategy, here is a quick checklist that you should keep in mind: proximity, relevance, and prominence. Proximity ensures that you as a business are near potential customers looking for your service through a search engine.
How close you are to the user could increase your search rank; the closer, the higher. That is what distinguishes local SEO from standard SEO.
Relevance, on the other hand, is a standard SEO factor. We’ll be covering relevancy factors soon. And lastly, prominence, which is also standard among SEO, will tell the search engine that your business is legitimate, trusted, and valid.
Mobile SEO revolves around increasing your search engine optimization ranking among mobile users. Because many people are searching for things on mobile, Google takes this into account and delivers mobile-optimized search results instead. So what are some strategies and tips to make your website mobile-friendly?
The adoption rate of mobile is twice that of the internet, three times that of social media, and 10 times faster than PCs – Emma Crowe, Senior Vice President of Client Strategy at Somo
SEO Ranking Factors
In deciding the position a web page appears in its search engine results page (SERPS), Google and other search engines consider so many factors. The better your article page is at each factor, the higher your page will rank on the SERPs.
As usual, not all factors carry equal importance. Some are more important than others. But you should strive to optimize for as much as you possibly can, and desist from fouling on them also.
Here is a breakdown of the major SEO ranking factors:
– Tags (Title, Meta, and Canonical
– Keywords in the content copy
– Content Quality
– Duplicate content
– Image Optimization
– Freshly updated content
– Linking out to authoritative pages
– Internal linking
– Server Location
– Device Optimization
– Google Search Console Integration
– Website and Data Security
– Domain Trust
– Country TLD Extension
– Domain speed
– Domain age
– Domain history
Link Related Factors
– Link Quality
– Backlink Authority Trust
– Do Follow and No Follow Links
– Anchor Text
– On-page keyword usage
– CTR Traffic
Non-Links Related Factors
– NAP citations
– Brand mentions
– Google My Business
– Social Signals Graph Metrics
– Bounce Rate
Let us take an in-depth look at each of the SEO ranking factors listed above and how you can optimize for them in order to get better love from the search engines.
On-Page SEO Factors
On-Page SEO (also called on-site), is the most common form of search engine optimization that you will read about on the internet. It pertains to all the content, data, and qualities of a website that raise its SEO ranking, such as tags, keywords, quality, images, links, and more. In fact, on-site SEO is the main thing we will cover, so keep reading.
On-page SEO is no longer satisfied by raw keyword use. Matching keywords to searcher INTENT is critical – Rand Fishkin
Quality content is king! One of the simplest yet most important ways to increase your search engine optimization ranking is through your SEO writing and keyword focus. That involves researching commonly-searched yet relevant keywords and key phrases and focusing your written content around them.
The quality of the content copy is one of the most important SEO optimization factors. It has to be humanly readable and avoid grammatical errors. You may use Grammarly while writing to ensure the copy is grammatically good.
For example, if you run a plumbing service, you can use key phrases like “Top Plumbing Service” or “Best Plumbing Service” in your page title. You can also write site content like “How to Fix a Clogged Toilet” or “Plumbing Maintenance.”
Not only should these appear in the header, but throughout your site content or blog post overall. There are many tools and plugins out there that can assist in keyword research or in rating your keyword focus. Content agencies are very adept at covering all aspects of SEO writing.
Content is the reason search began in the first place — Lee Odden
Keywords in the content copy
The keyword you are targeting to rank for should appear on the page copy. But you must moderate it – not too much (keyword stuffing) and not too little. Thankfully, SEO tools have a built-in feature that counts the number of keywords to inform you when it’s optimized.
Keywords in URLs
Search engines recommend that the keyword you are trying to rank for should appear on the page URL. It makes things easy for the crawlers to know what the page is all about.
The length of the content
The length of the content also matters. Too small and it doesn’t look authoritative to search engines like google. Also too long and it becomes boring to the reader. The optimum article length is about 2400 words.
Mixed-up sentences and poorly crafted grammar will not be appealing to humans. The same appears to google bots. Search engines have an algorithm that is able to detect poorly written articles and downgrade their relevance as expected. Concentrate on writing good quality content by using tools like Grammarly to help you make corrections.
When the idea behind the content is unique in google’s eyes, the content gets love as well, especially if it’s written with a top content writing tool.
Answers to questions
Including answers to questions related to the keyword is another smart search engine optimization technique. After all, many people ask the same or similar questions when they arrive at google. So the closer your question and answer are to their query, the higher Google ranks your page.
Tags (Title, Meta, and Canonical
Title tag is an HTML element that shows the web page title. It is clickable when it displays on the SERPs for a given search engine result page.
Meta tag is another HTML tag that provides information about the web page to search engines and site searchers (on the SERPs). It provides more information about the page title tag.
Meta robots like NOODP are another set of tags that help control the way search crawlers index the pages.
Canonical tag specifies to the search engines that the page URL stands for that main page. It prevents issues like duplicate content.
Duplicate content is when more than one version of the content or closely related content is published on the same website or multiple websites.
Such action is bad and contributes to reducing your SEO ranking. Search engines find it difficult to know which version to index. This makes them distrust the later versions while lowering others.
Optimizing images on a web page will assist your SEO efforts. Images still bring in a good amount of traffic, as many people do conduct image searches.
Here are some image optimization techniques for SEO
- Include captions
- Optimize the image title
- Resize your images to fit the page
- Use alt tags
- Add image structured data
- Minimize image file size
- Use unique images
Freshly updated content
Google prefers fresh content to stale content. You may have very good content that ranks well, then as it becomes stale, google may not rank it high anymore, as they believe it’s gone stale.
It’s a good idea to freshen up articles after a while by adding or removing outdated stuff and making it stand out again.
Linking out to authoritative pages
It used to be that people thought that linking out will reduce the SEO effect of the content. But this is not true. Google has confirmed that linking out to authoritative pages will in fact aid your search engine optimization.
Now the word authoritative does not entail you linking out to Facebook.com and Youtube.com due to their Domain Authority. It simply means authoritative sites/pages about THE TOPIC. The page being linked to should be about the topic you are writing about, for best results.
Just like linking out helps SEO, also interlinking your own pages is a very strong SEO factor. You should link to other related articles on the same site.
DO this as much as possible, as long as the article being linked to has some relevance to the new article.
Google and other search engines don’t rank contents that are plagiarized. Plagiarism is when you copy and reproduce content from others as yours without their consent.
If you must reproduce works from others, be it intentionally or not, you have to give them due acknowledgment for it.
Site factors are the aspects of your site that most people don’t notice or even see. Although people read your site content, several other site factors make your website user-friendly and consequently search engine optimization friendly. Here are a few:
Sitemaps are literally maps of your websites that search engines use to identify how legitimate and relevant your website is as a whole to its users. Search engines will also look for your pages most relevant to a keyword search.
Where your server is located can affect your ranking because its proximity can affect site speeds and security. Since Google takes loading time into account, you have to consider the right server location for your target audience.
Just like mobile SEO, search engines will look for sites optimized to the device the user is searching from. Is the website optimized for mobile and other devices?
The adoption rate of mobile is twice that of the internet, three times that of social media, and 10 times faster than PCs – Emma Crowe, Senior Vice President of Client Strategy at Somo.
Google Search Console Integration
Google has its means of evaluating and analyzing potential site errors and loading issues, and that is through its Google Search Console. Integrating your website into the Google Search Console will help you optimize it further.
Website and Data Security
The most common forms of data security for websites are HTTPS and SSL. HTTPS secures a website’s server connection, while SSL secures and encrypts user data inputted into your website. Having both will tell search engines that users can trust your site.
Search engines also analyze the domain of your site. Among these search engine optimization factors are domain speed, domain age, domain history, domain trust, registration, hosting, and more.
Domain trust will tell the search engine that you use a trusted domain to authenticate the user and keep them secure. This has different classifications that can be constructed to improve your SEO.
Country TLD Extension
Country TLD, or country code top-level domain extensions, are further data regarding the location of the domain extension your site is using.
The general speed of a website also contributes to its ranking, A faster domain will naturally rank higher in search engine result pages than a slow domain.
Here are factors to know about speed for search engine optimization:
- Bad Server and/or Hosting – Use good hosting and server
- Plugins and Widgets – minimize usage and delete unused ones.
- Hotlinking – Prevent others from hotlinking your images. On this same note, you can also host your heavy images on remote servers and call them up on your website. It makes things more lightweight.
- Heavy images – reduce the size of the image files,
- Poor Coding Standards – ensure the coding of the website is done properly. If you are not sure, use good website themes.
The age of a domain is seen as a determining factor for its authority. The older the domain the more trust search engines attribute to it, hence higher ranking. This is one reason why people buy old domains.
Google and other search engines always refer to the history of a domain in order to rank it. A domain with a bad history is not trusted, for instance, a domain that hosted pornographic stuff.
Also, a domain from another niche will not be trusted or ranked higher if the niche suddenly changes. For instance, a website that was used for a food blog suddenly turns to write about automobiles.
Yes, search engine optimization extends past your on-site factors and metadata factors. Off-page SEO factors come from other sites, anchor text, authority, traffic, and relevance. One way to think about it is your site’s relationship with surrounding sites and the rest of the internet. If it has a good relationship and reputation, search engines will favor your sites more.
Link Related SEO Factors
Backlinks are the external sites that are referring back to your site. That is an aspect of that “reputation” we mentioned earlier. If your site is highly relevant or informative about a particular topic, other sites and blog posts will likely link back to your site.
Although it’s difficult for you to control since they are off-site factors, it widely helps your SEO ranking. Also, you are not supposed to buy or incentivize other websites for backlinks. Google will penalize your website. Here are the link related SEO factors :
Link quality is also essential. Low-quality links are those that aren’t very useful in relevance, information, or user-friendliness. So if a page that doesn’t have anything to do with your topic randomly links back to you, search engines don’t see any value in that.
Just like the quality of links matters, the number of links also matters. The more, the better. You don’t want to flood your site with backlinks from irrelevant and spammy sites. But trust me, the Google algorithm finds this out.
Backlink Authority Trust
All links pointing to your website don’t carry the same weight. A link from a top website carries more authority and google or other search engines regard it as the same. So always aim to get backlinks from higher authority websites.
Do Follow and No Follow Links
Not every link contributes to your SEO rank and link building. There are “do follow” links that do contribute and “no follow” links that don’t contribute. No-follow links will have a “rel = “nofollow”” tag in their HTML. These links are meant to avoid spammy link building and usually apply to comments, forums, and social media sites.
Although you would theoretically want all link referrals to your site to be Do Follow links, No Follow links still help build the informal side of your search engine optimization reputation. They can still pull in traffic that will eventually encourage more sites to create Do-Follow links for you. It looks unnatural for all your links to be do-follow. Search engine algorithms know this also and tend to give more trust to backlinks with a reasonable mix of do-follow and no-follow.
Do-Follow links also have degrees of effectiveness to your SEO rank. That degree is known as “link authority.” Links with high authority are typically popular sites, and good quality, with probably a very high SEO, rank themselves.
Because Google prefers links from texts over links from images, the anchor text also is a big SEO factor. If the anchor text for a food website is example PORK, it will rank more than the anchor text of the road.
The road has almost nothing to do with food, but pork is used to prepare food. Anchor text is a very important search engine optimization factor, therefore.
Another important link factor is relevance. For example, if your website is about food but you get a backlink from an automobile website, Google and other search engines will not treat the backlink as relevant.
But if the backlink is from a related niche, they will treat it as relevant. In this example, a food website getting a backlink from a food preservation website will be trusted much better than the automobile website link. You may want to learn about backlink tools.
On-page keyword usage
The number of keywords used on the particular webpage that links back to your site also determines the ranking it gets from Google. Too much (keyword stuffing) or too few is bad. You have to maintain a reasonable percentage, depending on the article length.
Using most SEO tools will make things easier, as they calculate and let you know when it’s too much or too little.
CTR is the number of clicks that landed on your webpage from relevant websites, including Google search engine result pages. If people search on google and click on your website, it means there is something useful about it. So Google also gives you more trust.
This is why you need to SEO your articles to appear click-worthy and attract clicks. The more clicks you get, the higher you rank.
All of these link classifications, authorities, and qualities contribute to the link profile that your website will build. The fuller and more legitimate a link profile your website has, the higher it will rank in SERP. You also generally want a high CTR, or clickthrough rate, for links leading back to your website, just like how you want high CTR traffic on your advertisements and such.
Non-Links Related Profile
As important as the link profile of a website is, there are non-link-related aspects that further help your website SEO. These are especially crucial for smaller and local businesses that don’t have an extensive online reach.
One of the first and most basic non-link features you should have on your site is a NAP citation, or Name, Address, and Phone number. These should all be accurate on your site, and anywhere else it gets listed; a directory, Yelp, Citysearch websites, and more. Search engines cross-reference this information to make sure it’s accurate; any inconsistencies could affect your SEO rank.
Brand mentions, reviews, and Google My Business all go together in improving the social side of your website or brand’s SEO ranking. Like retail sites or review sites that mention your business, any other site will help build your non-link-related SEO profile.
Reviews about your business, whether on your website or a different website, are further social proof about your it and can lead to growing your business leads.
Building up your Google My Business profile is a great way to inform Google about your business as well directly.
Social Signals Graph Metrics
And of course, in the age of social media, the number of times your website or web content is shared on social media contributes to your SEO rankings. These are referred to as “social signals.” You want to attach social media sharing buttons to your web content so that people can easily share them. As with links, the quality and number of the social signals matter.
Spammy social signals are also a no-no. When social signals are coming from social posts that are not attracting engagements, search engines tend not to trust them, and so don’t rate them.
One of the aspects you don’t want at a high number is your “bounce rate.” A bounce rate is how often a user visits your site and leaves it without further engagement and interaction. A high bounce rate will tell search engines that your site is low-quality and not what users are looking for.
Now that we’ve covered what contributes to your SEO ranking let’s go over some techniques and guidelines to remember when building your SEO profile. Sure, it’s good to know all this in theory, but how do you start applying them?
Some good places to check out are the Google Webmaster Guidelines and the Bing Webmaster Guidelines. As the two most significant search engines out there, Google and Bing have created their own sets of guidelines to help brands and businesses increase their SEO ranks.
These guides are beneficial and an excellent place to get started. Google also has a great page that outlines its very own ranking factors, so check that out here.
When it comes to coming up with your strategy and techniques, note that different kinds are legitimate, not-so-legitimate, and very illegitimate. These are known as white hat, gray hat, and black hat techniques, respectively.
We highly advise you to stick to white hat techniques, which we have outlined throughout this post. Do your best to avoid gray and black hats.
Successful SEO is not about tricking Google. It’s about PARTNERING with Google to provide the best search results for Google’s users – Phil Frost, Main Street ROI
Search Engine Optimization Tools
Thankfully, SEO doesn’t all have to be done by yourself. There are a lot of website optimization tools and plugins that are made to increase your SEO ranking. Some of the most widely-used tools are SEMRush, WebCEO, SEO Profiler, SEO PowerSuite, SEO In Practice, The HOTH, and Mangools.
Many SEO tools are free and high quality. Some features you will encounter with SEO tools are improving Google-specific SEO, auditing, SEO checking, software tools, and search engine optimization reviewing tools.
Each tool has a different way of interacting with the aspects of your website and analyzing them. To make your SEO process more accessible, get started on finding the best free SEO tools out there.
SEO Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to questions that people mostly ask regarding search engine optimization.
What is domain authority?
This refers to the weight a domain carries in terms of ranking. In determining a domain’s authority, search engines put all the ranking factors into consideration. So, the higher a domain scores for each SEO factor, the higher its domain authority. The more SEO factors, the bigger the domain authority and consequently, higher SERPs ranking.
What is Link Equity?
Link equity is the weight and authority a link transfers from one page to the other. Previously referred to as link juice, it has now been made irrelevant by the introduction of the do-follow and no-follow link attributes algorithm updates.
Google released the update when SEOers resorted to gathering all sorts of spammy backlinks in order to rank high when link equity was a top-ranking factor.
What is Google Penalty?
This refers to the reprimand or downgrading a web page receives from Google for flouting one or more of its rules. Effectively, Google pushes down (or totally de-indexes) a web page on its SERPS when the page or site disobeys its stands or tries to trick the system by employing black hat methods.
What is SERP?
This stands for Search Engine Results Page. It’s the results you see when you query search engines like Google.
What are Indexing and De-Indexing?
Indexing refers to when the search engine has onboarded your page/site into its system for onward display to the searching public on its SERPs. Understand that it may take a while for search engine crawlers to notice and index your page/site.
De-indexing on the other hand is when they drop it from their system, meaning anything about that page will no more appear on the SERPs of the search engine. This usually happens when the page/site has floated a rule. Google does this to keep presenting quality content devoid of trickery to its users.
What is Organic Traffic
Organic traffic refers to web traffic that comes naturally from search engines. When people search on Google or other search engines and see what interests them, they click on the result and are taken to the website. That is organic traffic.
Google only loves you when everyone else loves you first.” – Wendy Piersall
SEO rankings can seem complicated at first, but it has a bottom line: Search Engines want to deliver high-quality websites to their users. The higher quality of your website is, the better your SEO ranking will be. Focus on delivering quality content and the ranking will come naturally.
My rule of thumb is build a site for a user, not a spider – Dave Naylor
We’ve gone over what SEO essential means, how to achieve them, and what tools to use in doing so. We hope this helped you in your search engine optimization, so don’t delay any longer! Start ranking up your website’s SEO.
As usual, Dede Dan likes reading your thoughts. Let me know what you think about this article or your SEO challenges.