When we need something today – be it an answer, an idea, a strategy or a service – the first thing we ask for is the search engines. Google alone receives 3.5 billion search queries every day. Just as search engines have become an integral part of our lives, they have also become an integral part of many companies’ marketing strategies. In fact, 49% of marketers consider organic search as the channel with the highest ROI.
Organic search is just a fancy name for normal, ad-free results, and the way marketers use organic search as a marketing channel is through search engine optimization (SEO).
How can you harness the power of search engines to grow your business? In this comprehensive guide to search engine optimization, you’ll learn everything you need to know to perform better in Google, drive more traffic to your website, and improve your brand reputation.
What is SEO?
What is SEO?
Advantages of SEO
Types of SEO
How does SEO work?
Ranking factors for SEO
Off page optimization
What does SEO stand for?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. Let’s break it down in the context of your website.
Search: What people do when they are looking for an answer to a question or a product or service that meets their needs.
Search Engine: A website (such as Google or Bing) where a person can do such a search.
Search engine optimization: What you do to get the search engine to associate that search with your site.
What is SEO?
That’s all well and good, but you can tell me that RPA stands for Robotic Process Automation, but that doesn’t mean I know what RPA is.
What is search engine optimization?
A formal definition of SEO:
Search engine optimization is a set of technical and content practices designed to adapt a website’s page to a search engine’s ranking algorithm so that it can be easily found, crawled, indexed, and appear in the SERP for relevant search queries.
A simpler definition of SEO:
Search Engine Optimization aims to improve the structure and content of your website so that your pages can be found by people searching for what you offer through search engines.
The simplest definition of SEO:
SEO is what you do to rank better on Google and get more visitors to your site.
Yes, Google is just one search engine among many. There is Bing. Directory search engines. Instagram is also a search engine. But with a 92% market share, the terms “Google” and “search engine” are synonymous for the purposes of this post.
Benefits and importance of SEO
People search for all sorts of things related to your business. These are all opportunities to connect with these people, answer their questions, solve their problems, and become a trusted resource for them.
More website traffic: if your site is optimized for search engines, you’ll get more visitors, which equates to greater brand recognition, as well as….
More customers: To optimize your website, you need to target keywords – the terms your ideal customers/visitors are searching for – which means you get more relevant traffic.
Better reputation: A better Google ranking creates instant credibility for your company. When Google trusts you, people trust you.
Higher ROI: You invest money in your website and the marketing campaigns that lead to your web pages. A high-performing website improves the results of those campaigns, making your investment worthwhile.
Types of SEO
Google and other search engines consider many factors when ranking content, so SEO has many facets. The three main types of SEO are on-page SEO, off-page SEO and technical SEO:
On-page SEO: optimize the quality and structure of the content on a page. Content quality, keywords and HTML tags are the key elements of on-page SEO.
Off-page SEO: Getting other websites and other pages on your website to link to the page you are optimizing. Backlinks, internal links and reputation are your off-page MVP.
Technical SEO: Improving the overall performance of your site in the search engines. Security, usability, and site structure are crucial.
The three types of SEO mentioned above are used for websites and blogs, but they also apply to three subtypes of SEO:
Local SEO: Your business should rank as high as possible in Google Maps and local SERP results. Google Business reviews, listings, and profile optimization are most important here.
Image SEO: A mix of on-page strategies and techniques to rank the images on your site in Google Image Search.
Video SEO: A mix of on-page, technical and off-page strategies to get your videos to show up in YouTube or Google Video results.
While all three subtypes require all three basic types of search engine optimization, they differ in the intensity with which they use each basic type.
Image SEO relies heavily on technical and on-page optimizations, while local SEO relies more on off-page and on-page optimizations.
How does SEO work?
How does Google determine which pages appear on the search engine results page (SERP) for a given search query and how does this translate into traffic to your website? Let’s take a look at how SEO works.
Google’s search crawlers are constantly scouring the Internet, collecting, sorting and storing the billions of web pages that are in its index. When you search for something and Google displays the results, it does so from its index, not from the web itself.
Google uses a complex formula (called an algorithm) to rank the results according to a number of criteria (ranking factors, which we will discuss below) such as the quality of the content, its relevance to the search query, the site (domain) it belongs to, etc.
The way users interact with the results tells Google which requirements the individual pages meet (or do not meet), which is also taken into account in the algorithm.
In other words, SEO works as a complex feedback system to get the most accurate, reliable and relevant results for any search, using input from you, Google and the search engines. Your job is to produce content that meets Google’s Expertise, Authority and Trust (E-A-T) requirements, which in turn meets the requirements of the search engines.
SEO Ranking Factors in GOogle
So what are these requirements-what really constitutes high-quality, targeted, consumer-friendly, SEO-optimized content? Well, there are hundreds of Google ranking factors, and Google is also constantly developing and refining its algorithm to continue to provide the best possible experience, but there are 12 that should take priority.
According to FirstPageSage, these are Google’s most important ranking factors and their weightings:
Consistent publication of high-quality content (26%).
Keywords in the meta title (17%).
Niche expertise (13%)
User engagement (11%)
Internal links (5%)
Page speed (2%)
Site security/SLS certification (2%)
Schema markup/structured data (1%)
Keywords in URL (1%)
Keywords in H1 (1%)
But make no mistake about the factors at the bottom of this list. As you can see in the table below, the “other” factors, such as unlinked mentions, social signals, domain history, outbound links, and site structure, have a weight of 1%. But since there are at least 200 factors in Google’s ranking, there are at least 189 “other” factors that add up to that 1%. In other words, the seemingly small factors, such as keywords in the URL, which alone account for 1%, are not that small.
How to do SEO: On-page Optimization
Now it’s time to talk about how to actually do SEO, how to optimize your website for these factors so that you rank better in Google and get more visitors. This requires a combination of on-page, off-page and technical optimizations, so let’s organize the steps this way. Here are the on-page optimization steps:
Start with keyword research.
Create quality content targeted to those keywords.
Place the keywords
Optimize your titles
Optimize your meta descriptions
Include and optimize images
Internal and external links
- start with SEO keyword research.
The first step in search engine optimization is to determine the keywords for which you want to optimize. These are terms that visitors to your ideal site are likely to type into Google or other search engines, and each page of your site should target a different set of keywords so that they don’t compete with each other.
How to do keyword research for SEO
Here are the basic steps to finding the best keywords for your organic content:
Create a keyword list – Start by making a list of the words and phrases that your ideal customers type into Google. Think about their interests, wants, problems and goals, and the language they use, which may be different from the language you (as an expert) use.
Enter them into a keyword research tool: Keyword research tools provide data on those keywords so you can see what terms you can rank for and where the best opportunities are. Metrics include:
Search volume: how often the term is searched per month.
Competition: How difficult it is to rank for this keyword.
Sort and prioritize: Enter the terms and resulting data into a spreadsheet. Now you can group them into main topics and also assign priorities to them. Ideally, target keywords whose search volume is high enough to achieve a reasonable reach, but not so high that the keyword is too competitive to rank for. It is better to appear on the first page for a low volume, low competition keyword than to not appear for a high volume, high competition keyword.
You can read a more detailed guide to keyword research here.
- Create quality content that targets these keywords.
Your main navigation pages (homepage, about us, contact, products, services) will be keyword targeted, but most of your targeted keywords will come from long-form content in the form of blog posts. Quality SEO content is:
Aligned with keyword intent: Make sure your content provides the information people are looking for when they search for that keyword. So always search Google for the keyword first.
It provides a good experience: it is free of overly aggressive pop-ups or CTAs or other distracting elements, uses images to represent concepts, and loads quickly and correctly on all devices (more on technical SEO below).
Read naturally: don’t write with keywords. Write like a human being addressing your audience, not like an author trying to optimize your content for a search engine.
Go deep: Google is not interested in sparse, duplicate or low-quality pages. That means 1,500 to 2,500 words of accurate, up-to-date information.
Organize: Use your header tags to show the hierarchy of information on the page.
- Place your keywords
In addition to your content, you should place your keyword in specific places on the page to tell Google what you want to rank for. This includes
SEO title (title tag)
Page title (H1 tag)
At least two H2 titles
Image alt text
Naturally in body
- optimize your titles
For every page on your site, you actually have two titles. The title tag is the title that appears in the SERP and is the most effective place to put your keyword. The H1 tag is the title that appears on the page when you click on it. Whether they are the same or not depends on the page.
To optimize your titles, consider the following:
Include the keyword: If you can do it naturally and convincingly, also include some related modifiers around the term.
There should be only one H1 per page: This should be your main heading, and H2s should be used to indicate your main sections.
Limit title tags to 55-60 characters: The number of characters Google displays varies (it’s based on pixels, not number of characters), so include the keyword.
State the value: what does the user get from the page? This will influence whether they click on the SERP or your website, and whether they read more.
- Optimize your meta descriptions
The meta description is the description that appears in the SERP below the title tag. Google does not always display the page you specify in the SERP, it creates its own page based on the search query, but it is still important to optimize it for search engine optimization. Google reads this description when it crawls the page to understand what it is about.
Optimize your meta description:
Include the keyword and related keywords if you can do so in a natural and compelling way.
Keep it short: The ideal length of the meta description is 155-165 characters.
Make it compelling: Remember that appearing in search results is only the first step. You still need to get searchers to click through. Include a concise description, a clear benefit, and a call to action, such as ad copy.
6 Integrate and optimize images
Images are a key element of SEO optimization. They ensure that users stay on your pages, improve the quality of information, and give you the opportunity to rank your host pages through image results and generate visitors. In addition, Google has been making the SERPs more and more visual.
Here’s how to optimize images for search engine optimization:
Filename: Save the file name with the keyword, with hyphens instead of spaces.
Add alt text: The alt text is the text alternative to an image and is used to help Google “see” an image on a page and recognize its keyword relevance. It also makes your site accessible to screen readers, and if images break, the alt text will still be displayed. Do not type keywords here. Imagine describing your image to someone who can’t see it: that’s what it’s for!
Compress: Large images can slow down your site. Compress them to reduce the file size and resize them appropriately. You shouldn’t need images larger than 1000px, but every website is different.
- Internal and external links
When optimizing blog posts for search engines, you need to add internal and external links.
External links: Find 1-3 pages relevant to the topic you are covering on other websites that have high domain authority and link to them in your post. This will help build trust with Google.
Internal links: In the content of the post you write, link to other posts on your site, as I did in the last point, and use “high domain authority” as anchor text. This gives Google multiple paths to each post and makes it easier to crawl your site as a whole. The number of links depends on the length of the post and the amount of content you want to link to. Make sure the links are relevant to the page and the anchor text you are using.
It is natural to include links to old posts in your new blog, but you should also go back to old posts and add links to new posts.
How to do SEO: Off-Page Optimization
All the above steps are on-page SEO strategies. Off-page SEO, on the other hand, is what you do on other pages of your site, on other sites, and even on other platforms to help your site rank better. Here are some off-page SEO tactics
- Gain and maintain backlinks
Backlinks, links to your site from other sites, are Google’s third most important ranking factor. Backlinks from more trusted sites are naturally more valuable than those from less trusted sites. The more quality backlinks you have, the higher your ranking will be.
So how do you get more backlinks? There are several strategies, but some of them are
Produce original and authentic content that is worthy of receiving backlinks.
Proactively approach websites to which a link to your content would be a useful addition.
Report on public relations activities.
- Share your content on social media.
In addition to links to your site on social media profiles, you should also regularly share your blog posts with your feed. This will give you more visitors, and the more visitors who are aware of a post, the more likely you are to generate backlinks. Social media itself is not a direct ranking factor in Google, but your activities on the platforms and users’ engagement with your content there send social signals to Google that influence your ranking.
- Build your brand image
When determining the ranking of a particular page on your website, Google doesn’t just look at that page. It considers your brand as a whole, looking at other information about it on the Internet, such as reviews, ratings, listings, awards, and even unrelated brand mentions. Therefore, building your brand’s reputation through optimizing your listings, positive press, and getting reviews is essential for search engine optimization. Much of this falls under the umbrella of local SEO, but there are many brand-building strategies that apply to companies that don’t stand out as well.
How to do SEO: Technical optimizations
Technical SEO optimizations are done on the backend of your site to ensure that it meets Google’s requirements for site security and usability, and to make it as easy as possible for Google to work on your site. Below are some of the main technical optimizations you need to make:
Page speed: In addition to image size, the code behind your site’s content and the order in which it is loaded can also affect page speed. This is where page speed optimization and slow load times come into play.
Security: Make sure your site uses HTTPS instead of HTTP.
Mobile-first: It is no longer enough to be mobile-friendly. Google’s indexing is now geared toward mobile devices, so your site needs to be fully responsive.
Web Vitals Core: These three metrics are used to quantify the user experience with your website. Learn here how to improve your Core Web Vitals.
URL Structure: An organized website structure, for example using /blog, /landing page, /product buckets, makes it easier for Google to crawl your website, for users to navigate your website, and for you to segment data into reports.
Website Architecture: Ideally, a user can get to any page on your site in three clicks or less. Internal links are key.