Search Engine Optimization
To most people SEO is an obscure technical term used by geeks. Search Engine Optimization is about visibility. There is a sea of websites out there, most of them are a business requirement, a necessary expense. The websites we create are not just another tax deduction, they are lead generating assets an added value to products, services and brand. Search engine optimization, or SEO, is widely regarded as a good choice for your Internet marketing strategy, largely thanks to its overall effectiveness. The many benefits of SEO are numerous. Organic search engine optimization is online marketing efforts and techniques utilized to reach a high-rank placement on search engine results. The goal, to obtain a high position in the unpaid results, those purely reached by merit and not by paid advertising. Our methods are “organic” or natural, they produce more long-lasting results.
Search Engine Optimization
How Search Engines Work
A top position on a search engine result page gets most of the clicks and impressions, so getting a top-position ranking means a substantial increase in your website traffic. Search engine optimization also puts emphasis on the creation of informative and keyword-relevant meta descriptions and title tags. Those show up on result pages. Optimized descriptions and tags boost your click-through rate, which increases how much targeted web traffic you receive. When you have a purpose for each page, it is also known as a call to action. There is always a reason for every item that you post on your website, whether you are adding engaging posts to get people to subscribe to your newsletter, or if you are listing stunning photographs of your merchandise to make sales.
The first thing to do is to use the keyword in the title of your page. Take note that I used the term page, not a website. Search engines do not rank websites as a whole; instead, they look at each of the sites’ inner pages and rank them according to their relevance for various search queries. For example, you have a website about vegetables. The page that talks about carrots should make use of keywords and related terms about the word carrots. The page about tomatoes should then use tomato-related keywords to tell the search engines what that particular page is about. You can improve your on-page SEO by using your target keyword in the title, the first paragraph and the last paragraph of the page. There are other things you can do to further enhance the relevance of your web pages such as using H1, H2 and H3 tags. Heading tags are used to put more emphasis on certain terms on your content, allowing search engines to determine what the page is about. Study your target market and write really interesting pieces of content that visitors can’t help but share.
Off-page SEO Strategy
What Is It, And Why Is It Important?
Welcome, we are truly excited to have you here!
If you have a thorough understanding of SEO and the reasons why it is so important, you might want to skip to the next Chapter (we still recommend that you skim over the best practices from Bing and Google at the end of Chapter 1, as these are useful refreshers).
For anyone else, Chapter 1 is going to assist you with building your foundational SEO knowledge, along with the confidence to progress forward.
What Is SEO?
SEO is the abbreviation for Search Engine Optimization. It is a practice that involves increases the quantity and quality of traffic to websites, along with exposing your brand, using non-paid, which is also referred to as “organic” search engine results.
Despite its acronym, SEO is focused on both people and the search engines. It is all about gaining an understanding about what people search for when online, the answers they are seeking, the words that they use, along with the type of content they would like to consume. Gaining an understanding when it comes to knowing answers to such questions, allows for a way to connect to people that search online for solutions that you are offering.
When knowing the intent of the audience which can be described as the 1 side of the SEO coin, then delivering this in such a way that the Search Engine Crawlers can understand and find would be the other. This guide will show you how to achieve both.
What Does That Word Mean?
If you are struggling with any definitions that are mentioned in Chapter 1, make sure you have opened our SEO glossary as a reference.
Check Out Our SEO Glossary
The Search Engine Basics
The search engines can be described as answer machines. They are able to scour millions if not billions of content pieces along with evaluating countless factors in order to determine what content is more likely to provide an answer to a query.
The search engines conduct all these tasks in the way of discovering and cataloging all content that is available on the Internet. This includes web pages, images, videos, PDFs, etc. Through the process called “crawling and indexing”, followed by ordering this information in association to how accurately it matches a query, it uses a process that is referred to as “ranking”. We have covered crawling, ranking, and indexing more in-depth detail in Chapter 2.
What Search Results Are Regarded As “Organic”?
As mentioned above, the “organic” search results are the type which is earned through SEO that is effective, and it is never paid for (for example, not advertising). This was once clearly visible, as the ads were labeled clearly, and remaining results would usually take on the form of “10 blue links”, which were listed under them. Yet the way in which searches have changed, you may be wondering how you are able to spot the organic results of today?
Today, the SERPs, which stands for Search Engine Results Pages now feature even more advertising along with an increase in dynamic formats of organic results known as SERP features. A few examples of the SERP features include answer boxes or featured snippets, image carousels, People Also Ask boxes, and more. The latest SERP features carry on emerging, which is largely driven by what users are seeking.
For instance, if you had to search for “Denver Weather”, you may see the weather forecast dedicated to the Denver area directly in a SERP in place of using a link to sites that may have the forecast. If you have to conduct a search for “pizza Denver”, you will see a “local pack” results which include a variety of pizza places in Denver. This is a pretty convenient feature for many people.
It is important to keep in mind that different search engines are making money for ads. They have a goal to solve the queries of the searchers as best they can (within SERPs), in order to ensure the searchers keep coming back, along with keeping them on the SERPs for longer.
Some fo the SERP features that you see on Google are organic and are often influenced by SEO. These will include the featured snippets (a promoted organic results which come with a displayed answer box inside) along with related questions (ie. People Also Ask boxes).
It is also worth mentioning that there are various other types of search features, that do not fall under paid advertising, that are not usually influenced by SEO. These are the features that in most cases have acquired data from the proprietary sources, which include IMDb, Wikipedia, and WebMD.
Why Is SEO Important?
While social media, paid advertising, and the other types of fo online platforms are able to generate traffic to sites, the main portion of traffic online is actually driven by the search engines.
The search results that are organic cover a larger area of digital real-estate, they also appear to be more credible when it comes to the savvy searchers, and they also receive a much higher percentage of clicks when compared to paid advertisements.
To explain this briefly: SEO has around 20 X more traffic opportunities than PPC for both desktop and mobile.
In addition, SEO is among very few of the marketing channels online, that once set-up properly, will carry on paying dividends as time goes by. If you are able to provide solid pieces of content which deserves ranking for the correct keywords, it can cause your traffic to explode over time, whereby advertising requires continual funding in order to direct traffic.
The search engines may be getting smarter but at this stage, they still require our help.
When you optimize your website it assists with delivering better information to each search engine, in order for your content to be correctly displayed and indexed in the search results.
Should I Hire An SEO Agency, Consultant, Or Professional?
Depending on how complex your site is, how willing you are to learn, and your bandwidth, it is possible to perform some of the basics of SEO on your own. However, you may find that you would rather use the guidance and experience of an expert. Regardless of which path you choose its okay!
If you do decide to hire expert help, you must understand that there are many consultants and agencies that “provide SEO services”, yet the quality of these services vary widely. Knowing the right way to choose one of the best SEO agencies will save you money and time, as the incorrect SEO techniques could actually cause more harm to your site than good.
White Hat Vs Black Hat SEO
White Hat SEO is a reference to SEO techniques, best strategies, and practices which are abiding by the search engine rules. The primary focus of these techniques is to provide value to searchers.
Black Hat SEO refers to the strategies and techniques which attempt to fool or scam the search engines. While Black Hat SEO often works, it also places the site at significant risks when it comes to becoming de-indexed (removed from search results), penalized, along with a number of ethical implications.
The penalized sites have often bankrupted businesses. This is just another important reason why it is very important that you are extremely cautious when you choose an SEO agency or expert.
Search Engines Share Goals That Are Similar With The SEO Industry
The search engines want to assist you in succeeding. In fact, Google even offers its own Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide, similar to the Beginner’s Guide. They are also supportive when it comes to efforts of the SEO community. Digital marketing conferences like SearchLove, MNsearch, Unbounce, and Moz’s own MozCon, frequently attract representatives and engineers from the primary search engines.
Google assists SEOs and webmasters through their Webmaster Central Help Forum, and in the way of hosting office-hour live hangouts. (Unfortunately, Bing shut their Webmaster Forums down in 2014).
While the webmaster guidelines will vary from one search engine to the next, the main principles remain the same. Avoid trying to trick or fool the search engines. Rather, focus on providing your potential customers and visitors with a good online experience. In order to achieve this, you need to follow the guidelines of the search engines, and fulfill the user intent.
Google Webmaster Guidelines
The Basic Principles:
• Make your pages mainly for your users and not for the search engines.
• Do not deceive or try to trick your users.
• Avoid the tricks that are focused on improving your search engine ranking. A good rule to follow is to ask yourself whether you feel confident explaining what you have done to your website to an employee at Google. Another test that is useful would be to ask “Does this help my users?”, or “Would I do this if search engines did not exist?”.
• Think about things that make your website engaging, valuable, or unique.
Things You Should Be Avoiding:
• Content that is automatically generated.
• Participate in any of the link schemes.
• Create pages that feature no or very little original content (i.e. copied from somewhere else).
• Cloaking- this practice involves showing the search-engine crawlers content that is different from what your visitors see.
• Hidden links and text.
• Doorway pages- the pages that are created for ranking well for a specific search or searches in order to funnel more traffic to the site.
It is a good idea to become familiar with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. You should be making the time in order to know what they are about.
Click On The Full Google Webmaster Guidelines Here
Bing Webmaster Guidelines
The Basic Principles:
• Provide deep, engaging, clear, and content that is easy-to-find on your website.
• Keep your page titles relevant and clear.
• Links are seen as a sign of popularity. Bing rewards such links which have been organically grown.
• Social shares and social influence are positive signs and may have impacts on how you are ranking organically over the long-run.
• Page speed is vital, in addition to useful and positive user experiences.
• Make use of the alt attributes in order to describe your images. This helps Bing to understand the content better.
Things To Avoid:
• Pages that display mostly affiliate links or ads, thin content, or redirect visitors to other websites do not rank very well.
• Link tactics that are abusive which aim to increase the nature and number of the inbound links like buying links, or participating in a link scheme, which can result in de-indexing.
• Use concise, clean, keyword-inclusive URL structures. Parameters that are dynamic can dirt the URLs up and result in duplicate issues when it comes to content.
• Your URLs need to be short, descriptive and keyword rich as much as possible while avoiding the non-letter characters.
• Duplicate content.
• Keyword stuffing
• Cloaking- The practice where you show the search-engine crawlers content that is different from what your visitors see.
Guidelines On How To Represent You Local Business On Google
If the company that you perform SEO for operates locally from a storefront or the business drives to the locations of customers in order to conduct services, then the site qualifies for what is known as Google My Business listing. For the local companies like these, Google has its own set of guidelines which govern what you must and must not do when managing and creating these listings.
The Basic Principles:
• Make sure you are first eligible for a Google My Business index. You will need to use a physical address, even if you have to use a home address, and you have to serve your customers face-to-face, from a location such as a retail store or at their homes such as a carpet cleaning service.
• Accurately and honestly represent every aspect of your local business. This data should include the name of the business, the phone number, address, business categories, website address, your operating hours, and any other important features.
Things To Avoid:
• Creating Google My Business listings for the entities that are not eligible.
• Misrepresenting any of the main business information, which includes “stuffing” the name fo the business with service or geographic keywords, or creating a listing using a fake address.
• Using a virtual office or PO box in place of a street address.
• Abusing the review part of the Google My Business listing, in the way of using fake reviews about your business, or using negative and fake ones on your competitors.
• Novice and costly mistakes can stem from not reading the fine print of Google’s guidelines.
If you are interested in ranking on the Bing Search Engine, you should also find out about their guidelines. It is polite and sensible.
View The Full Bing Webmaster Guidelines Here
International, National Or Local SEO?
The local companies often prefer to rank for the local-intent keywords like “[service] + [near me]” or for “[service] + [city]” to attract potential customers that are searching for services or products within a specific area that they are offering. Yet, not all of the businesses will operate locally. There are many sites which don’t represent location-based businesses, but rather target users on either an international or national level. You can find out more about international, national, and local SEO in Chapter 4.
Fulfilling User Intent
Rather than violating or ignoring these guidelines in your attempts to fool the search engines in order to rank higher, it is better to focus on first understanding and then “fulfilling user intent”. When people are searching for things online they expect a desirable outcome. Regardless of whether it is an image of a dog, concert tickets or for an answer, this desired content is known as their “user intent”.
For example, if an individual searches for “bands”, is it the persons intent to find wedding bands, musical bands, band saws, or perhaps something else?
Your role as an SEO is to provide users quickly with content that they desire in a format that they prefer.
The Common Types Of User Intent:
These searches are to gain information. For example: “What is the best Smartphone for photography?”.
Searches for specific websites. For example “Apple”.
Searches to purchase something. Example: “the best deals on MacBook Pros”.
You can get an idea about user intent when you Google your desired keyword or keywords, and then evaluate the current SERP. For instance, if it comes up with a photo carousel, it is likely that the people that search for this keyword are searching for photos.
It is also important to evaluate the type of content the top-ranking competitors are using that you are currently not. Now ask how you are able to offer 10 times more value when it comes to your own website.
When you provide high-quality and relevant content across your website it will automatically assist you in ranking higher in the search results. More importantly, it will also establish trust and credibility with your different online users.
Before doing any of these tasks, you first need to understand the goals for your website in order to execute an SEO plan that is strategic.
Know What Your Client And Website Goals Are
Each website is entirely different, so make sure you take enough time to gain a true understanding of the business goals of a specific site. This will assist you in deciding what SEO areas you need to focus on, where you should be tracking conversions, along with the right way to set the right benchmarks. It will also assist you in creating talking points to negotiate SEO projects with bosses, clients, etc.
What are your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) going to be in order to measure returns on your SEO investment? More basically, what barometer will you use to measure how successful your organic-search efforts are? You will want to document these, even when it is this basic:
For this website ———–, my main SEO KPI is——————.
Here is a couple of the main KPIs to help you get started:
• Phone calls
• Email signups
• Contact form submissions
If your company has local components, you should also be defining KPIs for your Google My Business Listings. These may include:
You might have noticed that the things like “traffic” and “ranking” were not on the KPIs list, and this is intentional.
But you may be wondering but “ I came here to learn about SEO because I heard it can help me rank and get traffic and you are now telling me these goals are not important!.
Not at all! Yes, you heard correctly. SEO can assist your site when it comes to ranking higher when it comes to search results, which consequently drives an increase in traffic to your site, yet traffic and ranking are only “a means to an end”. There is no use or purpose in ranking if no visitors are clicking through the site, and there is also no use to increase your traffic when that traffic is not accomplishing the larger objectives of the business.
For instance, if you are running a Lead Generation website, would you have:
1,000 monthly visitors and only 3 people complete the submission or contact form, Or…
300 monthly visitors with 40 people that complete the contact forms?
If you are using SEO in order to generate traffic to the site with the goal of conversions, you will probably choose the latter. Before you embark on SEO, you need a clear vision about the goals of your business, then it becomes easier to use SEO to assist you in accomplishing these goals, opposed to the opposite way around.
SEO accomplishes a lot more than only vanity metrics. When done right, it is here to assist real companies in achieving their goals for success.