A Beginner’s Guide to SEO

Nothing beats Google as one of the top platforms to market your products or services to customers online. It doesn’t matter what your business is – if you are looking to grow your business, then you should first invest time in growing your online presence.

According to HubSpot’s research, 75% of internet users never scroll past the first page of search results. If your keywords are not amongst the top 10 Google search results, it’s time to rework your SEO strategies.

However, with ever-changing Google algorithm updates, how do you know what works for your business and its SEO?

How do you improve your site ranking if you don’t know where to start?

Here are some ways to not just improve your site’s rankings, but also reach out to the exact set of customers who can make an impact on your firm’s bottom line.

But first, let’s start at the basics.

What is SEO?

In simple terms, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is optimizing your content to rank better in organic search results.

The point of SEO is to make the most relevant information available to users queries, while also organizing your website in a way that is most convenient for search engine bots to access them easily so they can identify if your information is indeed the best response to a query.

For your website to make the top of the Google search engines, it must meet three main criteria –

  • It must have the best information – detailed, concise, and filled with terms (or keywords) that are likely to be found in relevant answers
  • It must be “bot-optimized” – all relevant tags must be filled to allow search engine bots understand what they’re reading
  • Other websites must also think your answers are good – in other words, backlinks!

These are a few criteria to consider. In reality, the scope of optimization is huge. If you can afford it, you could consider hiring digital marketing experts to optimize your websites – they give you twice the ROI with less-than-minimal efforts.

But how do you optimize your content for SEO, and what are the most important SEO ranking factors?

Pro Tip: With changing SEO practices and methods, it’s important to focus more on optimizing content based on “search-intent” or “user-intent” rather than just keywords.

SEO: On-page SEO vs Off-page SEO

The search engine optimization strategy can be categorized into two –

– On-page SEO and

– Off-page SEO.

On-page SEO

On-page refers to on-site techniques used for optimizing both the content and HTML source code within the website to improve the search ranking position.

On-page SEO factors:

  • Title tags
  • Meta description tags
  • Header tags
  • Long-form content
  • Using the right keywords for your content
  • Image optimization
  • Alt text
  • URL Structure
  • Internal links
  • Page Performance
  • SSL/HTTPS

Title Tag

Title tags are short descriptions of the web page content that you find on result pages. According to Moz, title tags that start with targeted keywords tend to rank better than title tags with the targeted keyword towards the end.

SEO-basics | On page seo

Pro Tip: Ensure that each web page has a distinctive title tag. It has both SEO as well as User Value.

Meta Description Tag

Description tags play an important role in increasing the click-through-rate (the likelihood that someone clicks on a link to visit your site), which is one of the key ranking factors that search engines consider when determining the worthiness of a website.

The ideal way to write meta descriptions is between 120-158 characters in length.

SEO-basics | meta description

Header Tags

Header tags are HTML tags that help organize your content. These are important for better user experiences and thereby lesser bounce rates (easier to read = better user experience).

The use of targeted keywords in the H1 tag is crucial to communicate what the website is all about. Therefore, header tags are usually the most important headings that include a targeted keyword.

Long-Form Content

For most of the web pages that rank at the top of the search results page, the average size of the content is at least 2,000 words. Therefore, it helps to create long-form articles to start ranking higher.

Choose The Right Keywords For Your Content

Keywords are “queries” asked by search engine users.

For example, when someone wants to identify which shoes to buy, they would type “best running shoes or best leather shoes”. In this case, the terms “running shoes” or “leather shoes” would be a great base keyword to start with.

Make sure to write content with solid keyword research. Google uses these keywords to decide where to rank your content in the search results, thus making it easy to reach the right audience.

Image Optimization

Reduce the size of images without sacrificing the quality. This helps you reduce the page loading time and will give your website an increased performance score.

Pro Tip: User Experience is a key metric for high page rankings.
.˙. Great Page Load Times = Enhanced User Experience = Better Website Rankings

Alt Text

Alt-texts are short descriptions for images on your website. Search engine bots cannot read images, so this is a helpful way to help search engines understand what the images on your website are all about.

In turn, this improves the ranking of images. However, avoid stuffing keywords as it results in a negative user experience and may cause your site to look spammy.

SEO-basics | alt tag

Pro Tip: Alt Text is also by Google to describe images to people with visual difficulties, so adding Alt-Text to your images optimizes your site for visually-impaired people, which is another plus in the eyes of Google Bots.

URL Structure

Keep the URL structure as simple as possible. Searchers are more likely to click on URLs that help them to understand what a specific URL is about.

SEO-basics - url

Internal Links

Internal links are hyperlinks between different relevant pages on the same website. This process serves a dual-purpose:

– makes it easier for search engines to crawl everything on the website,

–  keeps visitors engaged for a longer time.

Page Performance

When it comes to user experience, speed matters. Faster websites rank higher, so it’s important to optimize your site to load quickly across different browsers and mobile devices.

Pro tip: You can evaluate your page speed with Google’s PageSpeed Insights – https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/

Here are some major factors that affect page performance:

Minimalize CSS, JavaScript, and HTML codes: By optimizing the codes (which include: removing spaces, commas, and other unnecessary characters), we can increase the page speed. Additionally, remove code comments, formatting, and unused code. These unnecessary aspects slow down how fast your webpage loads.

Reduce redirects: Redirects “forward” visitors from one URL (one that they want) to another (the one that exists in its place). Each time a page redirects to another page, visitors face additional wait time for the HTTP request-response cycle to complete.

For example, if your mobile redirect pattern looks like this: “example.com -> www.example.com -> m.example.com -> m.example.com/home,” these two additional redirects make your page load slower.

Remove render-blocking JavaScript: Browsers have to build a DOM (Document Object Model) tree by parsing HTML before they can render a page. If the browser encounters a script during this process, it has to stop and execute it before it can continue. So Google suggests avoiding and minimizing the use of blocking JavaScript.

Leverage browser caching: Browsers cache (or store) a lot of information (stylesheets, images, JavaScript files, and more). This way, when a visitor returns to a site, the browser doesn’t have to reload the entire page. This reduces page load times, leading to higher webpage performance scores.

Pro Tip: This is more technical than others, so get your webmaster to add the relevant caching codes to your “.htaccess” file.

Feeling Overwhelmed? Reach out to our team of digital marketing experts to help optimize your website. Call us today!

Improve server response time: To improve the server response time, look for performance constraints like slow database queries, slow routing, or a lack of adequate memory and fix them.

Pro Tip: The optimal server response time is under 200ms.

SSL/HTTPS

Google chrome sometimes displays the words “not secure” when we enter certain websites. These words in red strike a certain chord of fear for most users, resulting in them leaving the site.

To ensure that your URLs are using the https:// protocol instead of http://, you must first obtain an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate.

On-page optimization is one of the basic steps in search engine optimization. Now, it’s time to focus on Off-page SEO factors. If both are done right, they act together to improve your website’s visibility in the search results.

Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO includes activities done off your website to increase the site’s search engine ranking and traffic.

Links and off-page SEO

A backlink is a link created when one website links to another. For Google, it acts as a vote of confidence.

A site with many high-quality backlinks shows Google that their information is reliable and therefore is used by other websites as reference points.

As a result, sites with high-quality backlinks usually rank better than sites with fewer ones.

However, the quality of backlinks matters more than the quantity.  Low-quality links will likely do more harm than good for your rankings. Therefore, it is always better to focus on building high-quality links.

Here are some smart ways to build or earn backlinks, or to get high-quality backlinks to your website.

List your website in trust-worthy online directories

Identify the best directories that are relevant to your niche. These directories provide useful information to visitors, which helps you create good online visibility.

Pro Tip: Always check the authority and standards of online directories before you submit your website. Shady directories reduce your brand value and could cause search engines to penalize your site.

Company Related Sites

Search for company-related sites and contact their webmaster requesting a link: These can be sites that offer company-related supplies, services, sites that help promote company events, etc.

Approach them with a personalized message, which shows you are familiar with the recipient’s website/organization, and make sure to address specific reasons why it would be beneficial for them to link to your site.

Broken Link Building

This is a crafty outreach link-building technique. Find dead pages on top sites in your niche (using tools like Ahrefs site explorer, Screaming frog, etc.). Recreate the same content, and email the owner or webmaster of the site asking them if they wish to replace the dead resource with your newly created content link (the new resource should be more resourceful and informative than the previous one). If done right, it’s a win-win for both parties.

Tools you can use –

For prospect lists (getting email ids for outreach) – Ninja outreach

To find broken links  – Screaming frog,  Ahref site explorer

Link Reclamation

When you find mention of your site or domain on other sites without a hyperlink to your site, you should email the owner/webmaster with a friendly reminder to add a link to your work.

You can use tools like Google alertBuzzSumo, and Mention.com to find mentions of your domain.

Learning from Competitors

  • Find competitors (i.e. similar websites or pages in your niche) with many high-authority inbound links
  • Figure out how competitors are building links or earning techniques and then you can replicate their tactics.
  • You can also set alerts to know when competitors are publishing new content on their websites and the new link-building opportunities they have earned. This will help you replicate their best backlinking techniques and better understand their content marketing tactics.

Guest posting the right way

Guest posting is the practice of contributing a post to another person’s blog to build relationships, exposure, authority, and links.

Bloggers are mostly interested in publishing high-quality content on their blogs to attract new readers, as well as for their current audience. You can identify content gaps in high-authority blogs, write a well-informed piece of content, and reach out to the bloggers asking if they would like to publish your work. Guest blogging is a win-win solution as the bloggers gain fresh content, while you gain more backlinks.

Collaborative Link Building

Start by finding sites that discuss topics that your site also covers. Email the content management team of that site, provide them with some top-performing article links and ask them to add the link to their existing content or next time they write. They are likely to agree, especially if the work you have published is top-notch.

Skyscraper Technique

The Skyscraper technique works by way of “mimicking”. In this process, you find popular content and create a better copy.  When the content is better, it’s only natural that it garners backlinks naturally, once correctly promoted.

  • Research topics related to your niche using online tools like Semrush, Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and Buzzsumo
  • Find articles that rank at the top for a topic that has many backlinks.
  • List out the topics and start preparing better content for backlink outreach.
  • Promote your content so it starts gaining traction among readers. Once it reaches many readers, it is likely to rank well because you have managed to meet every one of Google’s criteria to rank a page well.

On-page SEO and Off-page SEO, both go hand in hand for a website to succeed. It takes around 4 to 6 months to start seeing the results for all your SEO efforts to take effect, patience is key.

So which strategy from this post are you going to use first? 

16 Dec, 20 By Sneha Suresh
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