Have you actually ever wondered what is SEO? A lot is being said about it online an in this article I’m gonna talk about what it actually is to do Search Engine Optimization. Here is our simple SEO guide.
- How search engines work
- What are Google algorithms
- What is SEO
- On page SEO
- Off page SEO
To start with I think it’s important to know how search engines work and what they are.
How search engines work
Search engines like Google or Bing are kind of huge online directories where you can list your website. You can actually submit your url to these search engines for consideration or wait for them to find your newly created page and index it. The second option may take a while but it will work eventually. It’s because these search engines have their own web crawlers that constantly scan the web and index new websites or new pages on existing websites. Because of the sheer volume of listings though, these search engines have to decide how to store these entries once they indexed them and which piece of content show to to users when they search their index for a given phrase.
It’s kind of like categorising content on your blog so users can find it easily but big search engines had to come up with complex algorithms wanting to provide their users with content they search for. The moment you type a phrase on Google for example and hit enter, it searches its entire catalogue to give you the answer you were looking for and it’s getting better at it. Remember the times some years ago when websites were stuffed with keywords and meta tags and more often than not, the top page in Google weren’t the one that provided the answer to your question? The system got abused then mainly with keyword stuffing and spammy backlink systems and these days the search engines look at way more than just meta tags when serving content to its users. You can imagine it wasn’t difficult to rank irrelevant pages by stuffing them with a lot of keyword phrases. These pages weren’t easy for humans to read but crawlers (spiders) found and read them without problems. That’s not the type of user experience Google wanted to bring to the table so over the years they rolled out many updates to their algorithms fighting spam and focusing on quality content.
What are Google algorithms?
The short answer is – nobody knows! SEO analytics from around the world can only analyse and speculate what it takes to rank high in Google and other search engines. Therefore whatever you read about SEO on this or any other SEO blog, it’s going to be speculations. Most of the time all these SEO speculations are going to be backed up with a lot of research and testing what works and what doesn’t but it will still be just trying to find out what Google actually does to rank pages.
Now we know how search engines work we can move onto what is SEO.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization is basically what it says on the tin. It’s a process of optimising the content of your website to make sure that Google and other engines can easily:
- find, read and understand your website,
- serve the content of your website to users searching for what you offer.
When talking about SEO and ranking high in Google, we mean optimising your page so that it ranks high for a certain kyword in the organic results below the paid ads section.
These days Google looks at way more than just meta tags and backlinks when matching the content of your page to the searched phrase although quality backlinks remain an important part of the proces. Generally speaking we can divide all SEO activities into two groups:
- On page SEO
- Off page SEO
On page SEO
On page SEO is all you can do within your page to make it more attractive for Google and relevant to its users.
The content of your page is what users will be searching for so you need to make it stand out and this is not easey with a tonne of new blog posts being published every day. Focus on a particular topic and expand on it to provide a comprehensive article that can fulfill the users needs. Update your content when it needs to be updated and don’t let it go out of date.
It’s important not to stuff your copy with keywords but do your keyword research and prepare a list of words of phrases you would want to include in your post. That will help you focus on keeping your content optimised. When writing your copy, write for humans, not for bots. Natural use of keywords will make it readable real users and keyword stuffing can only make your page get devalued in Google’s eyes. Use relevant keywords and phrases.
Proper use of headers in your copy will help read your post and ensure Google knows what that particular paragraph is about. Try to use relevant keywords in your headers but do so in a natural way. Your keywords will be super important in the title tag also known as H1 tag. That tag will show in the search results when your page is served to users searching for that phrase.
Make your meta description attractive and try to include your keywords as well. Meta descriptions appear under title tags in the SERPs (Search Engine Results) and a well written description can attract users to click on your listing.
Link to your posts so users can easily find them and navigate across your website. You should have a blog page listing all your blog posts and it’s good practice to link between posts as well. If you have two or more posts that are related to each other then you should naturally link between them directing users to more information on a given topic. Internal linking is also a great way to show search engines which posts on your website you consider important and what the entire website is about.
You can also link to the most important posts or pages from the main menu or footer menu making it easier for users and crawlers to find them.
Sitemaps help Google understand the structure of your website and find new pages. HTML is still widely used in websites but their content is usually built dynamically like in WordPress. That means your content is built on the go and when users click on the link, WordPress reaches to its database, pull the relevant content and serves it to its user in a form of a HTML page. It happens in split seconds. This however can make it more difficult for search engines to find your pages and this is when internal linking and sitemaps help. It’s a good idea to have both .xml and .html sitemaps on your website and to submit the first one to search engines via their webmaster tools – Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.
Check for errors
Connect your website to both webmaster tools (although the first one is the one to go to for many) and check for errors. You will be able to see if your content is indexed by Google correctly.
Check for any duplicate content and duplicate title or meta tags. Duplicates can negatively affect your online presence as it will confuse search engines when deciding which piece of content rank for a given phrase. If you have more than one piece of content covering the same topic it’s best to merge them together and create a comprehensive article. You can redirect all the deleted pages to the new merged page.
Page speed and mobile friendliness
Page load times are important. Users are impatient and don’t want to wait more than a few seconds for a page to load and navigate away to the search results if they don’t see what they were searching for. Optimise your images as poorly optimised images can drastically increase your page loading time. Combine your css and js files where possible and use a caching plugin. Make your website mobile friendly as more and more traffic comes from mobile these days.
Off page SEO
Off page SEO is what we do outside our page to help it rank higher.
Link building remain a big part of SEO although it changed drastically in the last few years and not every backlink is good for our website. Think of backlinks as of recommendations. The more websites link to your website it’s a sign to Google that your page must be good.
It’s also about quality though so don’t justy go out there and don’t link to your page from any place on the web. Backlinks need to come from pages relevant to yours. For example if you’re a wedding planner then you’d want to build quality backlinks from websites relevant to the wedding industry. Spend the time writing unique and quality content and submit guest posts to wedding blogs in return for a backlink. List on wedding directories and register on wedding forums but don’t just spam these with backlinks to your website as you can easily get banned by admins and moderators.
Don’t just go for dofollow backlinks, no follow backlinks are good as well when they come from related domains.
Check quality of the pages you link from. There is a variety of tools you can use to evaluate the strength of the domain you want to link from. Check out Moz, Ahrefs or SEM Storm among others. They are paid for tools but have some free features as well or trials if you want to try them out.
SOcial shares are an easy way to get instant traffic. It also sends important social signals to Google. Create a page on a platform where your potential customers are likely to be. Of course remember about the biggies like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. YouTube is a great platform as well and embedding relevant Youtube videos on your page can make users stay on your page for longer decreasing your bounce rate.
Thank you for getting this far. I hope this article helped you understand what SEO is.
Optimising your content to rank higher in search engines is time consuming but can bring you long term profits. Building and optimising your content and increasing the authority of your pages by getting quality backlinks will pay back in larger search visibility and traffic to your site.