Whatever you want to sell, be it tires, cameras, or training courses, you need a website. And if you have a website, you want it to be found by people who may be interested in your service or product. Otherwise, there’s no point in having one in the first place.
How do you get your website noticed? That’s where SEO comes in. Doing things that follow the best SEO practices can help create content that people are looking for and take your website to the top of Google search results. Sounds complicated? It might, but it shouldn’t be.
With our guide to SEO basics, even a complete beginner will quickly master SEO fundamentals and improve their website rankings without breaking a sweat. Ready to learn? If so, let’s get started.
What Is SEO?
Before we go any further, let’s start by determining what SEO actually is. In a nutshell, SEO is a shortened form of the term “search engine optimization”.
The goal of search engine optimization is to boost the rankings of a website so that it comes up at the top of the search list when people type in a query. As a result, it allows website owners to increase conversions, whether it be subscriptions or sales, without having to splurge on more expensive marketing channels.
While this may sound clear, you may still be wondering why one website comes up on the first search page and the other doesn’t appear even on the second one. This is due to how SEO algorithms rank your page (we’ll get there in a minute).
Your mission is to put your best effort into making sure your website appears on that first page, because the truth is, not many people look past the first page. To be more specific, if people don’t find what they’re searching for, 75% would simply skip it.
Why Is SEO Important for My Business?
To begin with, organic search is the main source of traffic. According to Ahrefs, more than 68% of user journeys that are happening online start with search engines, making it one of the best ways to get noticed by a targeted audience.
For those who have a shop at a physical address, this would also mean getting more foot traffic, since Google tends to show stores that are located closer to a searcher. Last but not least, SEO allows you to beat your competitors and poach their clients – a good goal to aim for when you have a good SEO strategy in place.
Using SEO and getting affiliate experience, you can achieve excellent results.
How Does Google Decide How to Rank a Page?
But how does Google choose which pages to rank? The main mission of Google is to provide users with the content that is most relevant to their queries, which it picks based on the following factors:
Relevancy is a measure used to determine how well the content, along with its topic and keywords, aligns with a searcher’s queries. Authority, in turn, reflects the popularity of the site. To analyze those metrics, search engines use special algorithms.
Truth be told, nobody knows how these algorithms work. However, over time, SEOs have managed to identify the key factors that have the biggest impact on search rankings and incorporate them into their SEO strategy.
What Is an SEO Strategy?
Basically, an SEO strategy is a process of improving the content of the website to increase its chances of appearing at the top of search results. In layman’s terms, this is a plan for how a website can capture more attention from visitors. This plan is usually achieved through a few pillars – on-page and off-page optimization.
On-page optimization refers to the elements on the site that you can update and control, such as topics, headlines, images, meta titles, descriptions, etc. When it comes to off-page optimization, it covers all other activities that happen away from the site, such as blogging, forums, social media marketing, and so on.
By and large, the techniques used both for on-page and off-page optimization can further be grouped into three main areas: technical SEO, content, and backlinks. SEO strategies built around those areas generate the most organic traffic and allow entrepreneurs to get the most results.
How to Build a Strong SEO Strategy: Step-by-Step
As we’ve already outlined the key areas that underline an SEO strategy, let’s look at them in detail.
1. Technical SEO
Don’t let the word “technical” put you off, because technical SEO isn’t that difficult. When we say technical SEO, we mean the structure of your website, or, in other words, how Google “understands” your website.
For Google, all billions of pages that are published on the Internet every day look the same. It doesn’t recognize images or videos, and everything you publish on your website, it sees as text. So if you use your focus keywords and links in the graphics, it simply won’t scan them.
To make it easier for search engines to understand what your website is about and add it to their index (stress here), it’s vital that all the links and keywords are used in an explicit manner. Surely, you can still add images to your content, but to make the most out of them, it’s best to add your keywords to Alt texts so that Google can read them.
Website Navigation Links
Just like your visitors follow your links, so do search engines. So, it’s important that you use navigation links on the site. However, as mentioned earlier, make sure that your links are text-only, otherwise, they’ll be invisible to Google.
Using links throughout your website is essential to help search engines find and analyze content. Similar to keywords, links act as a signal of relevancy and authority to search engines and help improve rankings.
That being said, not all URLs are good. As evident, search engines don’t like lengthy URLs with a complex structure and often skim them, so it’s recommended to keep all URLs on the site as short as possible.
On the note of links, broken links are as bad as lengthy ones. Not only the use of broken links can cause poor user experience, making them question the usability of your site, but it will also not allow Google to index your content, which will inevitably drag your rankings down.
Page Load Speed
Page load speed is another factor that search engines take into account when ranking a website. Basically, it identifies its quality. In fact, according to the analytic tool Kissmetric, pages that do not load fast enough are abandoned by over 40% of people, allowing their peers to have the upper hand in the competition.
If you have noticed that your website loading is slow, most likely, the reason is unoptimized images. However, this is not the only reason that may affect the page speed. So, be sure to use third-party tools to find a cause of delay to put in the right optimization efforts.
If you don’t make use of a sitemap, it’s time you start, because it prompts search engines which URLs on your site to crawl and index, thus, helping it to rank higher. Besides, it’s very easy to create.
All you need to do is list the information about the pages, media, and files you have on the site in the form of a map, which can be easily done manually or with the help of special sitemap generator tools.
Unlike sitemaps, robot.txt.files are used to instruct robots what pages not to index. For example, if you have policy pages, you may want to create a robot.txt.file to avoid overloading your website. Search engines honor websites with robot.txt.files requests and usually rank them higher.
Now that we’re done with the technical part, let’s move on to the content.
Without a doubt, content is the key element of an SEO strategy. It may come in different forms, from images to videos and text, but it’s always content that people are searching for.
In terms of SEO, it’s also the main area where most improvements can be done to gain greater search visibility. Therefore, content optimization should be at the top of your priority list.
Where do you start? As obvious as this might sound, any content optimization starts with keyword research.
By conducting keyword research and using specific-related keywords, you can get your website not only noticed but get noticed by the people you target. What’s more, you can reveal many topics that have not yet been covered on your site but may be of interest to your potential users, and thus, give a boost to your traffic.
Here’s a quick guide on how to conduct keyword research:
- Brainstorm topics relevant to your topic;
- Expand each topic with keywords and phrases that your customers most likely use when searching for your product/service online;
- Find single and long-tail keywords;
- Evaluate the strength of the keywords;
- Analyze competition.
The common mistake that many companies make is overloading their content with single keywords. Of course, using single keywords is important, but long-tail keywords, in most cases, can often bring even more value by letting you beat the competition in low volumes. So make sure to use them in your content strategy.
When you have a list of keywords to optimize your page, it’s time to get down to on-page optimization.
Although on-page optimization is associated with content, it’s not only about the “content” but also about the “page” (hence the name). Many unobvious things, such as titles and meta descriptions, are perceived as content by bots, which is why they should be optimized as well.
To start off, consider your page title. Just like your post headline, it should include a keyword and reflect the general essence of the page.
The page’s URL should also include a keyword, and if possible, be as short as possible.
“The first 100 words” is another SEO golden rule that should be observed. By placing your keyword in the first paragraph, you’ll reassure search engines that the content on your page is relevant, and they will more likely show it to potential customers.
Meta Titles and Descriptions
Meta titles and descriptions should also not be overlooked, as Google uses them to display as search listings. So, make sure to include your focus keywords there, too.
Aside from keyword-related factors, there are a few other things that can be done to improve your website rankings. One of them is using external links. By linking to other sources, you will be able to kill two birds with one stone:
- First off, you’ll provide your visitors with a good user experience;
- And secondly, you’ll prove to Google you’re a resource people trust.
In a similar way, you should use internal links to help search engines establish semantic relationships between your pages and match your content with a searcher’s query.
Another not less important factor is the content length. If you want to get to the top of search engines, you should play by their rules, and their rules tell that long blog posts provide more value to visitors, which is fair enough seeing that people spend more time on the site reading those posts.
To increase dwell time on the site, it may be a good idea to use media. Images, videos, infographics, or anything along those lines will make the content more attractive for users and keep them on the page longer. This, in turn, will be a signal to Google that your page has valuable content.
It’s also worth mentioning that search engines can easily spot duplicate content. In fact, if you get caught using identical content, you may face penalties. So, make sure that you use SEO-optimized and unique content throughout your website.
Though last on our list, backlinks are no less important than technical SEO and content when it comes to website rankings. In fact, backlinks indicate the popularity of a website.
As we’ve already found out, Google ranks a page based on two factors: relevance and authority, and backlinks help towards making your website more authoritative.
Every time somebody refers to your website, you get a higher score because you give search engines a signal that your content is valuable for readers. That said, the quality of backlinks also matters.
Some website owners post links on forums deliberately to make their websites seem more authoritative. However, more often than not, this leads to the opposite effect, as search engines easily recognize suspicious links. What do you do? You should use link-building strategically.
Rather than posting links randomly, make a list of authoritative websites that rank high in search engines and use them to post referral links. A backlink from a website with an authoritative domain that is trusted by Google will generate more traffic.
Alternatively, you can outreach webmasters directly to ask them to link to your content. In this case, however, you’ll need to make sure that the content you ask them to link to is valuable.
Another great way to use backlinks is through guest posting. Essentially, guest posts are posts that you write for another company’s website that has similar blogs.
The Advantages of Writing Guest Posts Include:
- The option to add links to your website in a way you see best fit;
- Earn a reputation for being an authoritative resource on Google.
You can also use backlinks when creating an online profile. Many companies use this as part of a link-building strategy and create online profiles on websites that allow for product listings.
Finally, it never hurts to take a peek at what your competitors are up to. Obviously, you don’t want to copy their strategy, but it may help you get insights into what can be improved in your existing strategy to get better results. Most SEOs analyze their competitors to put in the right efforts, and you should too.
All in all, no business can succeed without an SEO strategy. Getting SEO right is crucial to make your website visible and attracting customers. What’s more, if you nail SEO, you’ll be able to generate more traffic without spending money on other channels, which will help save your marketing budget.
If you’re reading this, you’re already halfway to success. Of course, you’ll still need to keep abreast of the trends to understand the best SEO practices because search engines change their algorithms every now and then. However, if you stick with this guide, you will be able to notice a huge increase in your website rankings sooner than you know!