With search engine optimization, content marketing, and link building, you may improve the exposure and ranks of your website.
When you require fresh marketing concepts, what do you do first? What happens if you decide that it’s time to look for new accounting software? even if you spot a flat tire on your car?
I guess that you search on Google.
SEO was listed as the top marketing goal in 2021 by 61% of marketers, according to Impact Plus. And so, it’s an unavoidable fact that your company will struggle online if it doesn’t have at least a little presence on Google. You’ll learn about SEO, or search engine optimization, in this guide (SEO). You’ll discover what SEO is, how it operates, and how to place your website in search engine results.
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization is referred to as SEO. Increased visibility for a business in organic search results is the aim of SEO. As a result, the company’s website receives a greater number of visitors, improving its chances of more conversions, which results in more customers and money.
When asked to define SEO, I frequently go with the phrase “a strategy to ensure that people find your website when they Google your product or service category.”
However, this slightly simplifies the discipline.
There are several techniques to increase the SEO of the pages on your website. The following factors are among those that search engines check for title tags, keywords, image tags, internal link structure, and inbound links (also known as backlinks). To evaluate how highly placed your site should be in their SERPs, search engines also consider your site’s structure and design, visitor behavior, and other external, off-site variables.
After accounting for all of these variables, SEO largely affects ranks and visibility.
How Does SEO Work?
In order to raise the rating of a piece of content and make a website more visible, SEO works by optimizing the content of the website, doing keyword research, and obtaining inbound links. SEO efforts might take months to fully yield results, even though you can usually see results on the SERP once a webpage has been crawled and indexed by a search engine.
This is how search engines choose where to position a specific web page in the SERP. A web page can rank for one position at a time, with rankings starting at position zero and continuing until the last number of search engine results for the query. A web page’s ranking may fluctuate over time as a result of aging, competition in the SERP, or algorithm updates by the search engine itself.
This phrase refers to the prominence of a specific domain in search engine results. When a domain isn’t accessible for many relevant search queries, it has lower search visibility; when it has higher search visibility, the converse is true.
Traffic and domain authority are the two primary SEO goals that must be achieved.
What’s the importance of SEO?
You should use SEO for one more crucial reason: the tactic practically aids in positioning your brand across the entire buying process.
In turn, SEO can make sure that your marketing plans reflect the modern consumer.
Because, as Google acknowledged, consumer behavior has changed a lot.
92% of online searches as of June 2021 take place on Google properties.
Additionally, they favor handling the majority of the purchasing process on their own.
For instance, Statista discovered that 60% of people do online brand research prior to making a purchase. Furthermore, this procedure has never been trickier.
Last but not least, 67 percent of B2B buyers begin the purchasing process with a general web search, according to DemandGen’s 2022 B2B Buyer’s Survey.
But how do they make use of search engines while doing this?
They begin the procedure by using Google to research their issue. Some people also ask about possible solutions.
Before contacting a company, people assess the alternatives based on reviews or social media hype. But this occurs after they have used every available informational resource.
Therefore, being in their search results is your only chance to get their attention and have them take you seriously.
How does Google determine a page’s ranking?
Search engines have just one objective. They want to give users the most relevant solutions or data.
Their algorithms select the pages that are most relevant to your inquiry each time you use them. Then sort them by authority or popularity, showing the highest ranked ones first.
Search engines evaluate two aspects in order to provide users with the appropriate information:
- Relevancy between a page’s content and a search query. Search engines evaluate it based on a number of variables, such as the topic or keywords.
- A website’s popularity on the Internet serves as a proxy for authority. Google presumptively believes that the more well-liked a page or resource is, the more valuable its content will be to readers.
And they employ sophisticated equations known as search algorithms to analyze all of this data.
Search engines don’t reveal their algorithms. The variables that SEOs take into account when rating a page, however, have been identified over time. They are the main objective of an SEO strategy and are known as ranking factors.
The E-A-T framework can be quite helpful when determining relevance and authority. In SEO, the letters E-A-T stand for “expertise,” “authority,” and “trustworthiness.” Additionally, even though these aren’t actual ranking factors, they can help your SEO content, which in turn can influence actual ranking factors.
As you’ll soon see, increasing internal links, optimizing picture filenames, and adding more content can all have an impact on your rankings and search visibility. And the reason for that is because every one of those actions raises a ranking component.
What is SEO strategy?
A thorough strategy for increasing website traffic from search engines is known as an SEO marketing strategy. Both on-page strategies, which make use of keywords with specific intent, and off-page techniques, which generate inbound connections from other pages, are essential to effective SEO.
Three Fundamental Elements of an Effective SEO Strategy
Three areas — technical website setup, content, and links — must be improved in order to optimize a site’s ranking factors. Let’s examine each of them one at a time.
1. Technical Setup
Three events need to take place for your website to rank:
A search engine must first locate your site pages.
Then, it needs to scan them to determine their keywords and identify their topics.
Finally, it must include them in its index, a database of all the online information it has discovered. Thus, its algorithm will take your website into account when providing results for relevant queries.
It seems easy, doesn’t it? Absolutely nothing to be concerned about. After all, if Google can visit your site without any issues, they should be able to as well.
There is, however, a caveat. The way a web page appears to you and a search engine differs. You see it as a collection of images, hues, formatted text, and links.
Everything is just text to a search engine.
As a result, the search engine is unable to see any items that it cannot render in this manner. Therefore, even though your website appears to be fine to you, Google may find its content to be inaccessible.
I’ll give you an example. Here is how one of our articles would appear in a typical search engine. If you want to contrast it with the original, it is this one, by the way.
Take note of the following:
- It’s just text on the page. Although it was well crafted, a search engine simply sees text and links.
- It is unable to view an image on the page as a result (note the element marked with an arrow.) Only its name is recognized. The search engine would not be able to see that image if it contained a keyword we would like the website to rank for.
Technical setup, also known as on-site optimization, plays a role in this. It makes sure that Google can easily scan and index your website and its pages. The following are the most significant influences on it:
Website navigation and links
Similar to how you would, search engines also crawl websites. Links are followed. Crawlers from search engines arrive at a page and use links to locate further content for analysis. But as you can see from the example above, they cannot see images. Set the links and navigation to text-only.
Simple URL structure
Long, complex word strings are unpleasant for search engines to read. Keep your URLs as brief as you can. Set them up to contain as little information as possible, excluding the main term for which you wish to optimize the page.
The amount of time it takes for a user to be able to read a page is measured by search engines as a sign of quality. It may be impacted by numerous website factors. For instance, image size In order to improve your pages, use Google’s Page Speed Insights Tool.
Dead links or broken redirects
A broken link directs users to a page that doesn’t exist. A broken redirect directs users to a potential defunct resource. Both offer a bad user experience and make it impossible for search engines to index your content.
Sitemap and Robots.txt files
Simple text file known as a sitemap contains a list of all URLs on your website. In order to decide which pages to crawl and index, search engines use it. On the other side, a robots.txt file instructs search engines on what material not to index (for example, particular policy pages you don’t want to show up in search). Both should be produced to hasten the crawling and indexing of your material.
Pages with identical or very similar content cause search engines to become confused. They frequently discover that it is almost always impossible to display even one of those pages. Your website may suffer if search engines discover them. Because of this, duplicate material is viewed negatively by search engines.
When you utilize a search engine, you’re always seeking for material, such as details about a certain topic or concern.
True, this content may be available in a variety of forms. It may be written content from a web page or blog post. However, it may also be a product review, a movie, or even a company directory.
All of it is content.
It also aids in SEO’s efforts to improve search visibility.
Here are two explanations:
- Customers expect substance when they search, first and foremost. Whatever they may be seeking for, content gives it to them. And the more of it you post, the more likely it is that it will appear in additional searches.
Additionally, content is a factor in search engine ranking. We already discussed the notion of relevance—the relationship between a page and a person’s search query.
- They identify a page’s subject while crawling it. They can evaluate its quality by looking at aspects like the page length or the structure. Using this data, search engines can match a user’s query with the sites they believe to be the most pertinent to it.
The first step in content optimization is keyword research.
Increasing website traffic is not the goal of SEO. You want to draw in clients who require what you have to offer and who can eventually become leads.
But only if it ranks for the search terms that users would enter is that even then. If not, there is no possibility that they will ever locate you. Even if your website was listed first in the search results, it would still be the case.
Discovering the search terms that potential customers use is where SEO effort begins.
The procedure usually include determining words and subjects pertinent to your company. making them into beginning keywords after that. Lastly, do significant study to find phrases your audience might use that are similar.
We’ve written a comprehensive introduction to keyword research for novices. It details the steps involved in doing keyword research. Use it to determine the search phrases you ought to be focusing on.
The next step is to optimize your content using the list of keywords you have at hand. This procedure is known as on-page optimization by SEOs.
By using on-page optimization, also known as on-page SEO, a page’s topic and keywords are understood by search engines and its ability to match relevant queries is increased.
Not content, I stated “page.” That’s because on-page SEO also involves optimizing specific code components, even though the majority of the work is focused on the words you employ.
Some of them—the two most well-known ones are title and description meta-tags—may be familiar to you. However, there are more. Here is a summary of the most important on-page optimization procedures to follow.
Note: When discussing those elements, I’ll concentrate on blog SEO, or optimizing blog articles for pertinent keywords, as blog material predominates on the majority of websites. All of this guidance, though, also applies to other page kinds.
a) Keyword Optimization
Make sure Google is aware of the terms you want this page to rank for first. Make sure you use at least the primary term in the following to do that:
- Post’s title: Put it as near to the beginning of the title as possible. The words at the beginning of the headline are believed to have greater weight with Google.
- URL: The term should also be present in the page’s URL. Ideally, exclude all other items. Remove any stop words as well.
- H1 Tag: This element often shows the page title by default in content management systems. Make sure, nevertheless, that your platform doesn’t apply a different setting.
- The first paragraph or 100 words of the content: Google will be reassured that this is, in fact, the topic of the page if the term appears at the beginning of your blog post.
- Meta-title and meta-description tags: These two pieces of code are used by search engines to display their listings. The meta-description supplies the information for the little blurb that appears below the meta-title, which is shown as the title of the search listing. In addition, they utilize both to gain a deeper understanding of the subject of the page.
- Image file names and ALT tags: Recall how visuals on a page are seen by search engines. Only their file names are visible to them. Therefore, make sure that the term appears in the file name of at least one of the photos.
Contrarily, the alt tag is text that web browsers show in place of an image (for visually impaired visitors.) Nevertheless, because the ALT tag is part of the picture code, search engines also consider it as a relevance indicator.
Include semantic keywords as well, such as your keyword’s variants or synonyms. They help Google and other search engines assess a page’s relevance more effectively.
I’ll provide a little illustration to show you what I mean. Assume “Apple” is your primary keyword. But are you referring to the fruit or the business that created the iPhone?
Imagine what would occur if Google discovered phrases like sugar, orchard, or cider in the copy. It would be simple to decide which searches to rank it for, right?
Semantic keywords function in this way. To prevent your page from appearing for unrelated queries, add them.
b) Non-Keyword-Related On-Page Optimization Factors
There is more to on-page SEO than just scattering keywords all over the place. The following elements also support the legitimacy and authority of a page:
- External links: Linking to additional, pertinent pages on the subject aids Google in narrowing down its focus. Additionally, it offers a positive user experience. How? by presenting your material as a useful resource.
- Internal links: These links benefit your rankings in two different ways. First, they make it possible for search engines to identify and crawl more website pages. Additionally, they demonstrate the semantic connections between distinct sites, which makes it easier to assess each page’s relevance to the search query. Generally speaking, each blog article has to include 2-4 internal links.
- Content’s length: Longer articles usually rank higher. This is due to the fact that, when written effectively, a longer blog article will always provide more in-depth information on the subject, keeping readers on your site longer. The search engines consider dwell duration, also known as bounce rate, to be a key ranking element.
- Multimedia: Multimedia components like movies, infographics, and audio players might indicate a page’s quality even if they are not required. Like lengthier content, it keeps viewers on a page for longer. And as a result, it shows that people consider the information to be worthwhile and important.
As a result of everything you have read so far in this article, you are aware that two factors—relevance and authority—are necessary for a page to rank.
Google and other search engines give priority to pages they believe to be both the most relevant to users’ searches and the most well-liked in their attempt to provide consumers the most accurate results.
Technical setup and content were the first two areas that were concentrated on raising relevance (though I admit, some of their elements can also help highlight the authority.)
But popularity comes via links.
Here is what SEOs mean when they refer to links, though, before we get into more detail about how they operate.
What is a backlink?
Referrals to your content on other websites are known as links, or “backlinks.” Your website receives a backlink each time another website mentions it and directs visitors there.
For example, Hubspot’s Not Another State of Marketing Report page is mentioned in this post on Entrepreneur.co. The fact that it is linked to it enables their readers to view statistics other than the one that is mentioned.
This type of link’s number and quality is used by Google to determine the authority of a website. The idea behind it is that popular, high-quality websites would be more frequently cited by webmasters than subpar ones.
But take note that I also brought up link quality. Because not all links are created equal, this is. Some – low-quality ones — may have a detrimental effect on your rankings.
Links Quality Factors
Your rankings might be impacted by low-quality or questionable links, such as those that Google might interpret as being constructed on purpose to increase the authority of a website.
Because of this, SEOs don’t concentrate on creating any links when generating links. They strive to produce references of the greatest caliber.
Naturally, we aren’t quite sure what elements define a link’s quality, much like with the search algorithm. But over time, several of them were uncovered by SEOs:
- The popularity of a linking site: Any connection coming from a website that the search engines see as authoritative will unavoidably be of high quality. In other words, links from sites with high-quality connections going to them will produce better outcomes.
- Topic relevance: Links from websites with related topics to yours will have more authority than links from unrelated websites.
- Trust in a domain: Similar to popularity, search engines evaluate a website’s trustworthiness. Rankings are constantly improved by links from sites with a higher level of reliability.
Link building is the term used in SEO to describe the process of gaining new backlinks. It may also be a difficult activity, as many practitioners acknowledge.
Link building involves creativity, smart thought, and patience if you want to do it properly. Create a link building plan if you want to produce excellent links. That’s no little accomplishment.
Keep in mind that your connections must meet certain quality requirements. Additionally, you can’t make it evident to search engines that you purposefully created them.
Here are various methods for doing it:
- Editorial, organic links: These backlinks originate from websites that independently cite your content.
- Outreach: With this tactic, you approach other websites to request links. Numerous things may result in this. You may email them to let them know about a fantastic piece of content you’ve created. Then, if they think it’s worthwhile, they’ll make mention to it. You may also propose potential locations for links to it.
- Guest posting: Blog entries that you write as a guest on other websites are known as guest posts. In exchange, such businesses frequently let adding one or two links to your website in the article’s text and author profile.
- Profile links: A lot of websites provide you the option to build a link. Online profiles are a prime example. Frequently, while creating one of these profiles, you may add your website as well. Although not all of these connections have high authority, some do. They are also worthwhile to pursue given how simple they are to create.
- Competitive analysis: Last but not least, many SEOs frequently examine the backlink profiles of their rivals to find those they may duplicate for their own websites.
Now that you’re still with me, you’ve just learned what makes your site successful in search.
Finding out whether your efforts are successful is the next stage.
How to Monitor & Track SEO Results
A website’s ability to rank in search results depends on its technical configuration, content, and links. Monitoring your progress aids in furthering the development of your plan.
Monitoring traffic, engagement, and link data is necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of SEO campaigns. Although most businesses create their own sets of SEO KPIs, the following are the most popular ones:
- Organic increase in traffic
- Keyword positions (split into branded and non-branded terms)
- Conversions resulting from organic traffic
- The bounce rate and the average time on page
- Top landing pages bringing in organic traffic
- Number of pages indexed
- Link growth (including new and lost links)
Up until this point, we concentrated on raising the overall rank of the site in search results. However, Google also enables you to place your local company in front of potential clients in your region precisely if you own one. But you may utilize local SEO for that.
And it’s worth it in spades.
Google searches for local companies account for 46% of all searches. They search for recommendations for suppliers and even particular company addresses.
Additionally, they take action on this knowledge: within 24 hours of their search, 72% of searchers visit a nearby business’s location.
But wait, is local SEO any different from the topics we’ve covered previously?
No and yes.
Similar guidelines are used by search engines for both local and international rankings. However, because they position a site for specialized, regional results, they also need to consider several other ranking elements.
Even the search results for nearby areas differ:
- They only show up when someone searches with a local purpose (such as “restaurant near me” or when the location is specified explicitly).
- They include outcomes related to a certain area.
- They focus on providing people with specialized information that they may access directly.
- Due to the increased usage of local searches on mobile devices, they primarily target smartphone consumers.
For example, a localpack, the most noticeable component of local results, contains nearly all the data a consumer would require to select a company. Here are the regional results that Google returns when you type in “best restaurant in Boston.”
Note that there are no links to any content in these results. Instead, they provide a list of nearby eateries, a map indicating where they are, and further details about each:
- Business name
- Opening hours
- Star Reviews
A company’s phone number or website URL are frequently included as well.
Customers may pick which business to work with using all of this information together. But it also gives Google the ability to choose how to rank it.
Local Search Ranking Factors
Google considers how close a website is to a searcher’s location when evaluating local websites. Due to the increase in “near me”-related local searches, it is only reasonable that Google will attempt to list the nearest companies first.
Additionally, keywords are crucial for local SEO. However, the inclusion of a company’s name, location, and phone number on a website is another aspect of on-page SEO. The NAP is how we refer to it in local SEO.
Once more, it makes sense since the search engine requires a mechanism to determine the location of the business.
Google evaluates authority for local search in more ways than just links. Reviews and citations, which are internet references to a company’s address or phone number, also emphasize its authority.
The information above only scratches the surface. But if you want your company to rank highly in local search, you should focus on getting these things right first.
What is black hat SEO?
I also hope you won’t be tempted to adopt the final SEO strategy I want to highlight for you. I really do.
Because, despite its allure, employing black hat SEO frequently results in a punishment from search listings.
Black hat techniques try to game search engine algorithms by employing methods that go outside the rules. Keyword stuffing, cloaking (hiding keywords in code so that people can’t see them but search engines can), and purchasing links are some of the most popular black hat SEO strategies.
So why would someone employ unethical SEO tactics? For starters, it frequently takes time to rank a website in accordance with Google’s requirements. Quite a while, in fact.
Black hat techniques, for instance, allow you to simplify link creation. By filling a website with keywords, users may rank for multiple keywords without having to provide extra content.
But as was already said, getting discovered frequently causes a site to disappear entirely from search rankings.
And I bring it up here because I want you to understand that there are no quick cuts in SEO. Also, be wary of anyone who offers advice that appears too good to be true.
Should you outsource SEO or keep it in-house?
You’ll want to make this choice knowing as much as you can before deciding whether to handle SEO yourself, assign it to another team member, or totally outsource it.
Doing SEO Yourself
Are you interested in studying SEO? Be completely honest with yourself. Have you got the time to get the fundamentals? If you rebuild your website and unintentionally deindex a number of pages, do you have the funds to hire assistance? You might not want to take on the burden of SEO yourself if the response to any of these questions is “no.” Like building a muscle, SEO is a long-term strategy that requires regular effort to see benefits. That may need a significant level of dedication. If you are unsure, consider doing the job in question via delegation.
Delegate SEO to a Team Member
If you’re unsure about handling SEO on your own, think considering assigning the task to a team member. This would be a helpful ability to have if you have someone who is interested in growth marketing, development, or even web design. If you have the money, you may potentially engage a full-time search engine optimization expert.
The marketing team, development team, or even the design team may be the individual in this position’s reporting line. In the event that departments need to be reorganized in the future, this role won’t be susceptible to frequent changes because SEO impacts almost every aspect of a business while keeping a distinct set of skill requirements. Most of the time, the individual you assign to this task will contribute across functional lines, giving you some leeway in how you manage them.
Outsource SEO to an Agency
Your staff is already at capacity, you lack interest in SEO, and you lack the financial resources to hire an SEO professional full time. What’s next? The greatest use of your money is to hire a reliable specialist to handle your SEO needs. Why? A reputable SEO consultant is first and foremost an expert in generating organic traffic, leads, and sales for companies. Since they do this on a daily basis, they won’t require the same amount of time to ramp up as you or a member of your team would in order to understand the fundamentals.
Second, since a consultant doesn’t need to pay for insurance benefits, payroll taxes, etc., they may be less expensive than hiring someone full-time for the position. But precisely how much would you expect to pay for SEO outsourcing?
If you use a keyword research tool to perform SEO on your own, it might cost between $100 and $500 each month. A consultant may charge $75 to $150 per hour, while a full-service marketing firm may charge up to $10,000 per month. Remember that smaller companies typically spend less on SEO than well-known names.
Investing in your organic search strategy or the expense of paid search engine marketing (SEM) services like Google Ads are two examples of incurring SEO expenditures. The cost of hiring a tool, consultant, or marketing firm to assist you in optimizing your site content will depend greatly on the quality of the services you receive.
SEO Resources & Training
This guide just serves as a starting point for learning SEO. But there is still a lot to discover.
If you or a member of your team wishes to learn this skill, try these online training tools next:
Additionally, you may learn about SEO from industry professionals and their blogs. Some of these are worth reading:
- BrightLocal (local SEO advice)
- Search Engine Journal
- Search Engine Watch
- Search Engine Land
- Bruce Clay Inc.
Over To You
No firm can succeed long without actively promoting its content in search results.
You can increase visits, conversions, and sales by improving your search exposure. And it makes the work invested in being an SEO guru worthwhile.