Search Engine optimization is the practice of implementing strategies that make your website rank higher in SERPs. By reading this beginner’s manual, you will learn SEO and know the strategies that make a website search engine friendly. We aim to simplify SEO techniques and help you implement them in your website. This guide covers the fundamental techniques involved in SEO like On page SEO, link building, keyword research, image optimization, content optimization, etc.
Now the question arises, what is SEO? SEO stands for search engine optimization. It is a technique used to improve the rankings and visibility of your website in the organic or unpaid search results. The right approach to SEO can get you to the top of the SERPs. At its core, SEO focuses on optimizing the website for search engines and providing value to visitors.
How Search Engines Operate
To learn SEO, you must know how search engines work. When a person searches something, search engines crawl and index through billions of documents. Search engines then provide search users with a list of websites ranked according to what search engines consider most relevant.
Search engines use web crawlers to go through numerous pages. It is the links in websites that allow crawlers to reach billions of interconnected documents. Crawlers then store selected information in databases, which is recalled when a user searches a query.
The search engines rank the results according to the websites’ relevance and popularity. They use a set of complex algorithms to do this. When a search query is performed, a search engine goes through the database and returns results that are relevant to the query.
How People interact with Search Engines
People generally make three kinds of search queries:
- Navigational Search queries: to find a particular website or webpage.
- Informational search queries: to search for information about a particular topic. These search queries are done to learn about a particular subject matter.
- Transactional Search queries: when users search with the intent of buying a product or service.
Why Search Engine Optimization is necessary
After knowing what is SEO, it is very important to know why SEO is required. Search Engine Optimisation is necessary because it improves traffic and results in more conversions. Search Engine Optimization can help you achieve:
- Increased Traffic: By learning how to do search engine optimisation, you can get your website in the top ranks of SERPs. The higher your website ranks, the higher number of visitors you recieve.
- Improved visibility: If your website is on the top results, your brand becomes visible to potential customers.
- Credibility: Websites ranking high in SERPs are viewed as trustworthy and credible.
- Higher ROI: SEO generated leads have a higher ROI than other marketing channels.
- Targeted traffic: you can easily generate targeted audience using SEO.
Basics of Search engine friendly design and development
To learn SEO, you should know the basics of a search engine friendly website design. Here is a list of aspects that make a website search engine friendly:
On Page SEO: It is the practice of optimizing individual web pages for higher SERP rankings.
- Title Tag: Your title tag must include your focus keyword.
- URL: URLs must be optimised. SEO friendly URLs are easily readable and include keywords. It is advisable that they contain the focus keyword. They URLs should not be having any stop words.
- Heading and subheading: The heading (H1 tag) must include the keyword. The subheading can have additional keywords.
- Content: The first 100 words of your content must include the keyword.
- Internal links: Internal links boost SEO and help search engines discover your content. You should provide proper internal links to relevant pages of your website. Wikipedia is a very good example of how internal links should be effectively used.
- Image optimization: including alt tags in the images and making your images smaller in size is important.
Off Page SEO: Also referred to as ‘Off-site SEO’, it refers to the practices and actions that are done off-website.
- Building backlinks: It is one of the most important and crucial practices of off page seo. A website of high quality and high domain authority, linking to your website will increase your SERP ranks.
- Social Media marketing: The practice of promoting your products, services, business or content on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, google Plus, instagram, LinkedIn etc.
- Guest Blogging: Also called guest posting. It is the practice of contributing content for other people’s blogs. We can also include relevant links back to our website from the guest blog.
- Influencer marketing: The use of influencers to promote your brand is another essential way to get high authority back-links.
For a more detailed knowledge about Off Page SEO, you can check our blog Parameters of off page SEO: know how off page SEO is done.
To learn SEO, keyword research is critical. By researching the keywords that your customers use, you can build a good seo strategy and understand your target audience. Using the right keywords in the content and meta tags helps you to target the right kind of customers. Some free keyword research tools you can use include:
- Google Keywords planner: you can use the Google Keywords Planner to find organic keywords. Keywords planner gives you keyword ideas, search volume for keywords and traffic forecasts.
- KWFinder: It is a long tail keyword research tool. It gives you trends, CPC, search volume and level of difficulty for keywords.
- Moz’s keyword explorer: Gives out CTR, importance of keyword for you, and keyword metrics to help you select the best keywords.
- SEMrush: Provides information like trends, CPC, volume, number of results, competitive analysis etc.
How usability, experience and content affect visibility
Websites that are of value to searchers, have certain traits in common. They are easy to use and navigate, provide relevant information, and provide high quality content. Search engines use certain signals to determine quality content, which are:
- Engagement: Search engines measure the quality of website by measuring the time, for which the viewer engages with your website. Thus, it is necessary to ensure that the website is easy to navigate, providing a good user experience.
- Algorithm: Search engines have algorithms, which figure out what content would searchers find of value and rank the content accordingly. Hence, it is necessary to ensure that the content follows the algorithms of the website.
- Links: Search engines go through the linking structure of the website. Hence, as an SEO executive, you should aim for generating a good number of organic and genuine high quality links.
All these affect the search engine rankings. Creating a website that provides a good user experience and quality content, invariably results in higher rankings.
Growing popularity and links
Link building is critical for the success of your SEO strategy. Getting credible links is important to get more traffic and rank higher in SERPs. Thus to maintain a good rank, link building is important.
There are two types of links that your website can acquire:
- Natural links: Links given by sites and pages that want to link to you.
- Manual link building: This involves reaching out to bloggers or submitting websites to directories. Other off page optimisation techniques mentioned above can also be used to do manual link building.
Search Engine tools and services
Here is a list of some popular, important and useful SEO tools you can use to optimize your website:
- Google Analytics: It analyses website traffic and offers keyword insights.
- Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools: These are the official consoles of Google and Bing. They provide a platform for the webmaster to submit their website to the search engines and interact with them in various ways. The Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools also provide website analytics, error reports, bug reports, indexing error reports etc.
- Open Site explorer: Provides a detailed analysis of the links on your website.
- Google Keyword Planner: You can enter a specific keyword related to your business and the keywords planner tool comes up with related keywords along with the search volumes. You can use this tool for planning your keyword strategy.
- Google PageSpeed Insights: It tests the loading time for desktop and mobile browsers for your website.
MYTHS and MISCONCEPTIONS about search engines
When you are learning how to do search engine optimisation, there are a lot of misconceptions that can confuse you. These are the strategies, which used to work long ago. Due to the algorithm changes and search engine updates, such techniques have become redundant and are now classified as black hat seo techniques. Such techniques can get your website penalized.
- Keyword Stuffing is going to boost SEO: A popular myth is that search engines rank pages according to the keyword density. It is believed that the more number of keywords you add, the higher will be your rank in the SERPs. This is absolutely wrong. Keywords should be present only in 2-5% of your content. Any higher, and your website could fall in the SERP rankings.
- Links don’t work: A lot of people think that links don’t affect SEO. Even if you have a good content, without links search engines won’t be able to find you. Your website needs credible links for higher visibility and rankings.
- Manipulative linking: Another misconception, which is the opposite of the previous one is manipulative link building. Getting links from link exchange programs, link schemes, paid links etc. won’t do much good for you.
- Search Engine submission: It is important to submit the website and its site map to the search engines, however they do not guarantee ranking or rank increase. Search engines use crawlers to search for relevant web pages. Off page techniques affect how the crawlers reach your website, from various other websites on the internet.
Measuring and tracking success
Once you know what is SEO, you should know how to measure and track results. Getting your website and its pages ranked on the search engines takes time. Getting them in the top results takes even more time and is also affected by competition. Remember, that as you are doing SEO, your competitors may also be doing it. On an average, it can take at least two to three months for the results to show up, if SEO is done in a professional way.
Tracking and analysing data about links, rankings, referrals, etc. can help to improve your SEO strategy. Here are some key performance indicators that you need to keep a track of:
- Leads or Sales: Websites usually get leads by asking contact information of the visitors. You can keep track of leads by measuring form submissions. To track sales, there are numerous tools like Google analytics which offer ecommerce tracking. You can change and tweak your strategy according to the amount of leads and sales you get. The leads can also be calculated manually, as and when they are received.
- Organic Traffic: SEO is aimed at generation of organic traffic. To track the success of your SEO strategy, you have to keep track of the organic traffic your website gets. You can analyse organic traffic using Google Analytics. Google analytics provides weekly, monthly and yearly data about the organic traffic your website receives.
- Backlinks: An important parameter for SEO are backlinks. You need to keep check on the number of backlinks your website has, the relevance and credibility of the backlinks, and the diversity of referring domains. You can use Ahrefs to track your backlinks.
Bounce rate: Bounce rate refers to the number of viewers who leave the website after viewing just one page. A low bounce rate indicates higher user engagement. This means that visitors find your website useful or interesting.
- Page Load Time: Fast page loading times are good for SEO. If a site doesn’t load within 3 seconds, most of the visitors abandon it. Thus, keeping track of the page load times is important. Reducing size of images, choosing a suitable hosting server, minimizing redirects, etc. can boost page loading time.
Knowing what SEO is and it’s implementation is crucial because Search Engine Optimisation helps to establish an online presence and increases your visibility. The process requires a lot of work and time. Even though the results take a while, the effects are long lasting. Hopefully, after going through all the above points, you would now have a basic understanding of what SEO is and how it works. It is important to know that building a site that is search engine optimized means that it appeals to both crawlers and the visitors. Search Engine Optimisation is all about implementing strategies that make the overall user experience better and simultaneously help you rank higher in the SERPs!