SEO
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE

SEO EXPLAINED

SEARCH ENGINE SEO

KEYWORD SEO

TECHNICAL SEO

ON-PAGE SEO

OFF-PAGE SEO

SEO ANALYSIS

SEO EXPLAINED

 

What is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimization. SEO is the process of boosting the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the search engine results page (SERP). 

 

SEO dates back to the 90s when search engines first appeared. SEO is now the primary marketing technique businesses use to generate more leads and sales in today's world. 

 

SEO focuses on organic or non-paid results. Unlike search engine marketing or SEM techniques, SEO does not include PPC or pay-per-click marketing. For clarity, search engine marketing is SEO + PPC = SEM. 

 

Search engines are used by people when they need an answer to a question. It's that simple. 

 

The secret to successful SEO is to provide answers to questions. Google must consider your website a quality source of information to rank you higher for user search questions.

 

Although SEO applies to all search engines like Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex, the current dominance of Google means SEO typically means Google Optimization. The techniques in this guide will focus on Google Optimization. Don't worry if you use another search engine; however, what works on Google tends to work on other search engines too.

How To Do SEO:

No one knows the exact algorithm Google uses to rank websites. However, as most SEO pros will tell you, you can do three core things to get to the top of search engine results pages. This includes:

  1. Technical SEO: Ensuring that all the technical elements of SEO are covered is your first step to ranking no.1 on Google.  

  2. SEO Optimized Content: High-quality content that informs and answers user questions will give you robust and sustainable SEO results. 

  3. Build High-Quality Backlinks: Backlinks provide your website the authority that commands Google to send more traffic to your site. 

White & Black Hat SEO:

If you're like us and grew up with a parent or grandparent who loved westerns, you might already know the difference between black and white hat SEO. Black hats were the bad guys, and white hats were the good guys. White hat SEO represents a professionals approach, and black hat SEO represents an amateur's approach. In practical terms, white hats follow Google's Webmaster Guidelines, while black hats don't.

  • White hat SEO = Legitimate best SEO practice to optimize Google rankings

  • Black hat SEO = Unethical techniques to climb up the Google rankings

 

Some common examples of black hat SEO include: 

  • Sneaky link redirects

  • Keyword stuffing 

  • Irrelevant backlinks 

While these techniques may temporarily get you on top of the search engine results page (SERP), search engines will eventually get wise to you and penalize or even de-list your website.

 

Some common examples of white hat SEO include: 

  • Great content

  • Quality backlinks 

  • On-page optimization 

 

White hat SEO is a long-term strategy that will bring sustainable rankings on the SERP. This is because search engines will recognize you as an authoritative, trustworthy source of knowledge. 

 

 

 

 

On-Page & Off-Page SEO:

On-page SEO is any actions you take directly on your own website to boost SEO. This includes content and technical SEO. The primary goal of on-page SEO is to provide answers through content and a great user experience (UX). 

  • Internal linking

  • Keyword research

  • Content optimization

  • Title tag optimization

  • Page performance optimization

Off-page SEO usually means building high-quality backlinks that build authority and show search engines that your website has value. However, overall best practice dictates that the following activities have the most significant effect on off-page SEO results: 

  • Link building

  • Guest blogging

  • Email outreach 

Mix the two together and you get a world-class SEO ranking!

SEARCH ENGINE SEO

 

Search Engines Explained:

Search engines are essentially fact finders that scan online libraries when users ask them a question. Common examples of search engines are Google, Bing, Yandex, etc. 

 

In SEO terms, when we refer to search engines, we are referring to Google. This is because Google is the most widely used search engine on planet earth, with a whopping 95% of online users searching for answers there. 

How Search Engines Work:

Search engines follow a three-step process to find the answers to user's questions. This includes: 

  1. Crawling

  2. Indexing

  3. Selecting results

Let's break down what each of these steps entails and why it's important to know for boosting your SEO results. 

Crawling:

Google and other search engines are constantly scanning billions of web pages. You may have heard of Google bots. These are the programs that Google uses to crawl new and existing web pages. 

 

These bots are scanning the structure, content, and links (both on your webpage and links pointing to your webpage) to determine the quality and relevance of your website. 

Indexing:

After crawling, Google indexes information by analysing, categorizing, and storing them in its online library. Essentially, when you type in a question, Google will refer to its library and pick the most relevant and up-to-date answer it has in store.  

 

The Google Search Console is an online tool that allows webmasters and SEO professionals to check if a webpage is being ranked. It will also tell you if there are on-page issues impacting Google's ability to effectively crawl your website. 

Selecting The Results:

Every time a user enters a search query into Google, the search engine dives into its index and selects the best pages to show to the user. 

 

Users know this as the search engine results page or SERP. You've probably seen this page a million times when searching for whatever you need on google. Now, let's take a closer look at exactly how Google selects the pages to show for any given search query. 

What Is The Google Algorithm?

The Google search algorithm is the word used to describe a number of search algorithms/programs that Google uses to rank websites. Google uses a number of ranking factors in order to show the best results to users. 

 

Firstly, Google needs to understand exactly what your searching for. That's why, even when your searing for the same topic, you'll see different search results for different queries. The Google search algorithm has become very adept at understanding the exact context of a search query.

Once Google understands your query, it qualifies web pages based on the following criteria. 

  • Relevance

  • Content quality

  • User experience (UX) 

  • Location and searcher context

 

The websites that best match your search query according to the above-ranking factors are the web pages that will appear on the SERP. Google updates the algorithm regularly, always with the sole aim of providing optimal results for users' search queries which why it is important to continually improve:

  • Content

  • Backlinks and;

  • User experience (UX)

How Does Google Rank You?

To rank high on the SERP, it's important to understand all the factors that Google takes into account when ranking web pages for a search result. 

 

Search Engine Friendly: 

Firstly, your website must be findable for Google. That means ensuring that the website is crawlable. Your website's content must also be created with the goal of answering questions that users type into Google. This combination of building a website for the search engine and for the user is a very important ranking factor. 

 

On-Page:

On-page SEO refers to the internal signals on your website that show Google that your web pages are relevant to specific search queries. On-page SEO is not just about the words on the page. It's also about the usability and speed of your website. This includes:

  • The uniqueness of your page's content

  • The relevance of your page's content 

  • The web page structure, including title tags, etc. 

  • The page load speed

 

Off-Page: 

Off-page SEO refers to the external signals pointing to your website that show Google that your web pages are relevant to specific search queries. Off-page SEO is not just about the backlinks to your page. It's also about the quality of those backlinks. This includes:

  • Quantity of links pointing to your site 

  • Quality of links pointing to your site 

  • Variation and quality of domains linking to your site 

KEYWORD SEO

 

Keywords For SEO Explained:

Keyword research is the first stage in developing an SEO strategy. Keywords help you to understand what your target audience is searching for on Google and the type of content you should build for your website. 

Types Of Keywords For SEO:

There are two main types of keywords; seed keywords and longtail keywords. Seed keywords are terms that are central to a topic. For example, "search engine optimization" is a seed keyword. Keywords like these tend to have a larger monthly search volume on search engines. 

 

How To Research Keywords:

 

 

Longtail keywords are longer versions of a search term that provide more context to a search query. For example, "what is search engine optimization" is a longtail keyword term. It may have a lower monthly search volume than its seed keyword, but it provides Google with a better idea of the user's search intent.

 

When building keyword research and your SEO strategy, it's important to take both seed keywords, related terms, and longtail search terms into account. 

 

The first step is to identify core keywords around which you will build your website content. Once you have identified which seed keywords to target, you can start to identify related terms.

 

There are several places you can go to identify keywords, how often they are searched per month, and how difficult it will be to rank for them. Many paid tools offer keyword research and analysis, but you can get much of the information for free from tools such as Google Keyword Planner and Google Correlate.

 

Start with the core products and services you offer. Identify seed keywords related to your products with a high monthly search volume. 

How To Select Keywords:

Targeting irrelevant keywords may bring you traffic, but you'll struggle to convert those site visitors into sales. The keywords you select should always:

  • Have a high search volume

  • Have a reasonable level of difficulty

  • Be relevant to your target audience

  

Many websites use seed keywords to inform the content for their main website pages, such as those you would list in your website's navigation or menu.

 

Longtail keywords can then be used to create your ongoing blog strategy. Longtail keywords are useful because they provide more context on the user's search intent. That means you can tailor your blog content to answer those questions more precisely, making your web page more relevant and, therefore, more likely to rank on the SERP for that keyword.

 

For a new website, it can be a good idea to target low volume, low difficulty keywords. That gives you the opportunity to establish a position on the SERP and start driving traffic to your website. Over time, this increases your domain authority and makes it easier to start ranking for higher volume keywords.

TECHNICAL SEO

 

How To Create A Sitemap:

A sitemap is an XML file stored on your website so that Google bots can more quickly and easily crawl your website. 

 

While you don't need a sitemap, it is best practice in SEO because it makes it easier for search engines to crawl and index your site. It's especially important for larger websites with potentially thousands of web pages, such as an eCommerce site.

 

Many website builders today automatically create a sitemap based on how you structure and link your web pages, or they offer plugins that will do it for you.

 

You can then submit your sitemap file on Google Search Console to ensure the search engine crawls it and indexes your website accordingly.

Create An SSL Cert:

If you see a website with the prefix "https" rather than "http," that means they have an extra layer of security and encryption on the site. It makes it more secure for users to visit that website, and it has become standard practice in website creation today.

 

Back in 2014, Google also stated that it had become a ranking factor in how sites are indexed and served to users in the SERP. 

 

Many website builders today will automatically include an SSL certificate so that your site is indexed as "https." If your website does not have one, there are many free services available online where you can get an SSL certificate for your site.

Mobile-Friendly Websites:

Users are searching from cellphones and other mobile devices today more than ever before. But most websites are created with desktops in mind first. However, Google now prioritizes mobile site crawling ahead of desktop, so it's essential that your website is optimized for use on mobile devices.

This means ensuring that:

  • The elements on your web pages are responsive (they will shift in size and perspective according to the screen size on which they are being viewed)

  • Your menu is laid out in a way that makes it easy to navigate on a mobile device

  • Any pop-ups are easily dismissed on mobile so the user can continue to access the rest of your site

  • The font size adjusts responsively to the screen size, so your website is still readable on mobile devices

 

A lot of website themes on WordPress are created to automatically optimize your website for mobile. But if you're unsure, Google Search Console has a section called "Mobile Usability," which lets you know if there are any issues with the mobile version of your site. 

Page Load Speed:

The speed at which your website loads (on both desktop and mobile) is a major ranking factor for Google. Users become easily frustrated with slow-loading websites, so Google wants to ensure only the most user-friendly sites are shown on the SERP.

 

You can use Google Page Speed Insights to see how fast your website is loading and any potential issues that may be impacting that speed.

Some factors which can impact the loading speed of your web pages include:

  • Web hosting: Your website hosting service may have a poor server response time.

  • Browser caching: enabling caching means certain aspects of your site are stored for previous users, allowing it to load more quickly on return visits.

  • AMP technology: Accelerated Mobile Pages enable content to be compressed and shown more quickly on mobile versions of your site.

  • 3rd Party Scripts: from embedded content to WordPress plugins, the extra script can take longer to load on your website. It's a good idea to limit these as much as possible.

  • Large image and video files: large images and videos should be compressed before being uploaded to your site. Otherwise, they can take a long time to load for users, especially on mobile sites.

  • Lazy loading: this means that the website doesn't begin to load beyond the fold until the user starts to scroll. It's especially useful for websites that use a lot of images or media files.

Alt Text, Title Tags, and Meta Descriptions:

When creating a new web page or blog post, there are some important locations where you need to add indicators for Google to better crawl and index your content.

 

These tags and descriptions are not visible to the user. They are stored in the code of your website.

 

  • Image alt text: any images you use on your website should have an "alt text" or "alt description" added to them. The alt text should accurately describe the content of the image and include keywords wherever relevant.

  • Title tags: Each heading on your web page should have a title tag that shows the hierarchy of your content. For example, each page should only have one "H1" tag. Any headings that come under the title should be tagged as "H2." Any heading under each respective H2 should be tagged as "H3" and so on and so forth.

  • Meta Description: The meta description is a short snippet of text that describes the content of your individual web pages. It is the snippet that appears underneath the title of your web page on the SERP. While Google has confirmed that it has little bearing on SEO, a well-written meta description can vastly improve the click-through rate into your web page from the SERP.

ON-PAGE SEO:

 

Content Creation & SEO Optimization:

As Google's algorithm has evolved, it has become far more adept at identifying high-quality, relevant content for search terms. This has led to the rise of content marketing as a primary driver of SEO results. Marketers are using blogs and resources to rank for high traffic, relevant keywords. 

When it comes to creating content for your website, whether it's for your homepage or a new blog post, the content must:

  • Be relevant to the user query

  • Well organized and easy for Google to crawl

  • Optimized for specific keywords and search terms

Choosing Content Topics:

First, it's important to select keywords and create content for your core website pages. These are the website pages that are listed in your website's menu or that relate to specific products or services you offer. 

 

Create a keyword map for your website and audit the existing content to ensure it is optimized for those keywords.

 

Next, it's time to identify other keywords (both seed keywords and longtail search terms) that you would like to rank for. Each time you choose a new blog topic for your website, it should be based on one of these keywords. 

 

Start with the lower volume and lower difficulty keywords. Create a blog calendar with a posting schedule using topics and titles related to each keyword. Over time, you will have built up a solid performance in SEO by targeting keywords that are relevant to you and to your target audience. 

Optimizing Content For Keywords:

There are a few key steps to ensuring your content is search engine friendly and built to rank on the SERPs.

 

First of all, your keyword should appear in a few key locations, including:

 

  • The blog/web page title tag

  • The meta description

  • The page URL

  • The H2 and H3 subheadings

  • Within the paragraphs of text

  • Meta descriptions of images

You should also link your web pages to each other when relevant. For example, if you create a blog on a specific topic, you should link to that blog post whenever you mention it in a subsequent blog. When linking, ensure the anchor text (hyperlinked text) relates to the keyword for which the linked blog is aiming to rank.

Content Quality & Length:

There is a lot of debate around the ideal length of content. A couple of years ago, SEO experts were of the opinion that longer content is better.

 

For the most part, that is true - particularly for high-volume seed keywords. But it's less to do with length and more to do with the quality of your content. 

 

Google isn't ranking longer content just because it's long. It's ranking it because longer content (which is well optimized in terms of its subheadings) tends to indicate that the page goes more in-depth into a topic and provides more value and answers for the search query.

 

So a good rule of thumb is the higher volume and more generic the keyword, the longer and more in-depth your content should be. For more specific longtail keywords, it's more important that you are answering the search intent behind the query as specifically as possible.

How Often Should You Update Content?

As SEO becomes more competitive, it has become far more difficult to get to the top of the SERP and stay there. What is ranking number 1 on a particular day may easily slip down the rankings the next.

 

That's why many SEO experts cite content updates as an important factor in maintaining a sustainable presence on the SERPs. 

 

Google has stated that the "freshness" of content is not a ranking factor. However, information becomes outdated more and more quickly in today's information-driven world. For that reason, it's important to audit your content regularly and update it as needed.

Internal Linking:

These days, there's a lot of focus on creating backlinks. While backlinks are essential to SEO results, it's important not to ignore the best practices of internal linking too.

 

What is internal linking?

An internal link is any link from one of your web pages to another of your web pages. Internal linking helps Google to understand the structure of your website and the importance of certain pages. While not as powerful a tool for SEO as external linking, internal linking is important for search engine friendliness and user experience - two of the ranking factors that we discussed above.

 

If you're building internal links and you're not sure where to start, here's a good rule of thumb to follow: none of your web pages should be more than three clicks away from your homepage. 

 

There are several ways to create internal links on your website:

  • Menu/Navigation: Your website menu provides links to your top tier website pages such as your services, pricing, and contact details.

  • In-text links: Using anchor text to link to other pages provides internal links and is good for user experience.

  • Categories: Categorizing your blogs posts helps you to build internal links and makes it easier for your visitors to find other content they might like on your site.

OFF-PAGE SEO:

 

What Is A Backlink?

A backlink is any link from outside your website that points to any page on your website. An example would be an article on another website that mentions your website in the body of the article. Another example is listing your website on an industry directory. Backlinks can either be tagged as "do-follow" or "no-follow." 

A backlink is any link from outside your website that points to any page on your website. An example would be an article on another website that mentions your website in the body of the article. Another example is listing your website on an industry directory. Backlinks can either be tagged as "do-follow" or "no-follow." 

 

"Do-follow" links indicate that when Google crawls that external website, it should take note of the fact that the website is linking to yours. The benefit of this is that Google sees an external link to your website as an indication that you are relevant and authoritative in your subject area. It takes these backlinks into account when it indexes and categorizes your website. "No-follow" links are backlinks that point to your website, but the webmaster of that site has indicated that Google should ignore the backlink and not index it.

Backlinks: Tips & Best Practices:

Backlinks have quickly become one of the most talked-about tools in the SEO arsenal. SEO practitioners have long been using them to boost SERP rankings, but Google has recently confirmed just how important they are as a ranking factor. 

Backlink Quality:

The problem is, you have little to no control over who links to your website and whether they tag the link as "do-follow" or "no-follow." You also have very little control over the quality of website that links to yours.

 

The quality of a website is indicated by its domain authority. The higher the domain authority of a website, the more "link juice" will be passed onto your website if they link to yours.

 

Backlinks can also be seen as "spammy." It's not a good idea to have lots of suspicious or low domain authority websites linking to yours. If you're starting to see a build-up of these types of backlinks, you can create a list and submit it to Google to disavow these links and avoid them impacting your SEO results.

Backlink Profile:

Your link profile is a map of all the websites that link to your website. The quality of your link profile is a major ranking factor for Google. In an ideal world, your link profile will be:

 

  • High quality: only mid to high quality websites point to your site

  • Diverse: the diversity of your link profile applies to the number of websites that link to yours and the anchor text that is used to link to your site

  • Relevant: the websites that link to yours should be relevant to the content of your site

Anchor Text:

The anchor text refers to the text that is used to hyperlink to your website. There are different types of anchor texts that can provide backlinks to your website. It's important to try and cultivate a diverse range of anchor texts, including:

 

  • Exact match: An exact match to the keyword you are trying to get the backlinked web page to rank for.

  • Partial match: A partial match or related keyword to the one you're trying to get the backlinked web page to rank for.

  • Generic: Any term not related to the web pages content or keyword. Examples include "read more" or "learn more" or "here."

  • Branded: The anchor text is the name of your company or website.

  • Naked URL: a full URL is used instead of anchor text

 

It might be tempting to buy up a ton of anchor text backlinks related to a specific keyword. However, Google has gotten wise to this practice, and it may actually harm your SEO results. Instead, it's better to have your anchor text backlink profile look like a natural mix of all the anchor text types above. 

Link Building Best Practices:

Building an organic backlink profile that Google will love takes time and energy. It's also worth noting that several common strategies used in link building today can actually harm your SEO results.

Link Building & Google Penalties:

If you're starting out with your website SEO strategy, you'll likely find lots of websites out there offering a fee for a guest post on their blog and a fee for a "do-follow" backlink. 

 

If you've got the budget (the average price is around $100 per backlink), you can quickly build up a healthy backlink profile.

 

However...

 

Google has explicitly stated that any attempt to manipulate your backlink profile can result in penalties. So, if Google gets wind of this tactic, you may find that your paid backlinks soon send your website down to the bottom of the SERP or off Google's index altogether.

 

Another common backlink strategy that can get you into trouble is link swapping. If your backlink profile is coming from irrelevant sites and you, in turn, are linking out to them, it will be pretty obvious to Google that you have agreed to swap backlinks with other websites. This strategy is definitely best avoided.

Link Building & Google Penalties:

If you're starting out with your website SEO strategy, you'll likely find lots of websites out there offering a fee for a guest post on their blog and a fee for a "do-follow" backlink. 

 

If you've got the budget (the average price is around $100 per backlink), you can quickly build up a healthy backlink profile.

 

However...

 

Google has explicitly stated that any attempt to manipulate your backlink profile can result in penalties. So, if Google gets wind of this tactic, you may find that your paid backlinks soon send your website down to the bottom of the SERP or off Google's index altogether.

 

Another common backlink strategy that can get you into trouble is link swapping. If your backlink profile is coming from irrelevant sites and you, in turn, are linking out to them, it will be pretty obvious to Google that you have agreed to swap backlinks with other websites. This strategy is definitely best avoided.

Best Way to Build Backlinks For SEO:

The best way to build backlinks is to create valuable, thorough, authoritative content on your website. Over time, other websites will naturally link to your website as a source of valuable information to their readers.

 

Consider creating some of the following resources in your industry or niche:

  • In-depth blogs and guides

  • Infographics and other media resources

  • Relevant guest posts on other blogs within your niche

  • Find unlinked mentions of your brand through Google alerts and contact the webmaster with a relevant backlink 

  • Find broken links related to your niche and email the webmaster with one of your links as a replacement

 

Building backlinks this way takes a lot of time and effort through cold outreach. You may find that a lot of your efforts are ignored by other website owners. Unfortunately, that's just part of the link building process, and it's a far better alternative to using spammy or paid link building options which may have dire consequences for your SEO results in the long term. 

SEO ANALYSIS:

 

SEO Analytics, KPIs, & Progress Tracking:

Since SEO strategies take a lot of planning, time, and effort to implement and maintain, it's important to keep track of your efforts. Understanding the best way to build your SEO analytics and select the right KPIs means you'll always have full oversight into the true performance and impact of your SEO strategy.

Important SEO KPIs:

You may also be running some paid advertising to boost traffic to your website. Traffic may also come from sources such as social channels or through links on other websites. So it's important to ensure you're separating organic traffic from paid traffic and SEO traffic from general traffic.

 

When establishing your KPIs to track SEO performance, it's essential to understand:

  • What is the goal of your SEO strategy? Are your current results helping you to achieve that goal? 

  • What keywords and search terms do you currently rank for on Google? 

  • What keywords are you targeting that you are not ranking for?

  • How do your visitors find you? On mobile or desktop?

  • Which country or location are your visitors from?

  • What are your top-ranking pages, and which pages are bringing you the most traffic?

  • What actions are your visitors taking on your site after reaching you through the SERP?

Building an SEO Dashboard:

Your SEO analytics should tell you two key pieces of information:

  • How is your SEO strategy currently performing?

  • What are the most logical next steps to take to boost performance?

Some common SEO results to keep track of and monitor include:

  • Average SERP ranking position

  • Ranking for specific keywords and search terms

  • Organic traffic levels

  • Competitor benchmarking

  • Backlink profile

Building an SEO Dashboard:

There are lots of paid SEO platforms and software on the market to help you build, execute, and monitor an SEO strategy. Many of these platforms come with a similar set of tools, including:

  • Technical website audit

  • Keyword research and analysis

  • Backlink analysis

  • Competitor analysis

There are some platforms with extra features such as content builders with built-in SEO recommendations, but aside from pricing and user experience, they all generally offer the same functionality. 

 

If you're not ready to commit to a paid tool, you can mine a lot of this information yourself from free Google tools.

Google Search Console:

The Google Search Console tells you a lot of the information you get from paid tools, although it can take a little more digging to extract it. 

 

Through Google Search Console, you can learn about:

  • Your website's technical performance

  • Mobile vs. desktop SEO performance

  • Keywords you are ranking for and at which position in the SERP

  • The traffic, click-through rate, and impressions your SERP results receive

  • Your backlink profile (including domains and anchor text)

Google Analytics:

Combining what you learn from Google Search Console with your Google Analytics dashboard can provide powerful insight into your overall website performance. Google Search Console is great for telling you about your website's technical, keyword, and backlink performance. Google Analytics, on the other hand, tells you a lot about what happens after your visitors reach your website, their key demographics, and the performance of individual pages and blog posts.

 

Through your Google Analytics dashboard, you can learn:

  • What is the conversion rate of organic visitors to subscribers or sales

  • How does your organic traffic compare against paid or direct traffic

  • What do your visitors do on your site after they have landed there through Google

  • What are your most visited pages or blog posts

 

This is a very high-level overview of what Google Analytics can do. You can also easily integrate your Google Search Console and Google Analytics dashboards for a more seamless overview into your SEO performance.