SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a process that involves improving the quality and quantity of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.
I’m sure you’ve already heard a thing or two about SEO. Maybe you’ve even had some friends try to sell you on a few “strategies”. But what exactly is it and how does it work?
This article is here to answer that question – and more. This isn’t going to be one of those overly long, dense articles with fancy words that are hard to read or understand.
Instead, it’s a simple guide on what search engine optimization (SEO) really is, what it encompasses, and how you can use it today. Also, we’ll cover some FAQs about SEO.
What is SEO?
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a process that involves improving the quality and quantity of traffic to your website through organic search engine results. It is a series of processes and tactics that will help get your site ranked higher on search engine results pages.
How Does SEO Work?
In order to understand how SEO works, it’s important to understand how search engines work.
Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo crawl the web with computer algorithms. The algorithms attempt to figure out what each site is about, and in what ways it might be useful for users.
Essentially, the algorithm’s job is to return the best possible answers to a searcher’s question. To do this, it needs to understand the intent of the searcher’s query (what they are actually looking for), then find all of the resources available on the internet that match that query best, and return them in order.
When you write content for your website, you need to keep both the searcher and the search engine algorithms in mind. Write content that will help people find answers to questions they have about your industry.
If you do this well enough, search engines will rank your site higher in their results pages because they’ll perceive your website as valuable, relevant and trusted.
Core Elements of SEO
Search engine optimization is a comprehensive process that encompasses the technical and creative components of a website. On-page SEO focuses on the technical part, while off-page SEO focuses on the creative component.
On-page SEO is a component of search engine optimization that occurs directly on website pages. This means that it encompasses what happens on a website itself, as opposed to off-page SEO, which involves external activities that happen off the website. The goal of on-page SEO is to increase the overall visibility of web pages in search engine results.
On-page SEO includes optimizing things like title tags, URLs, internal links, content, and meta descriptions. It also includes ensuring that your website pages are optimized for mobile devices and page load speed.
Off-page SEO is the opposite. It’s all of the factors that search engines consider when ranking your website and are not controlled by you directly. Think of it as anything you can’t do on the page itself, like backlinks and social media activity.
Backlinks are links that point to your page from another page. They’re important for making sure that other pages consider yours authoritative and trustworthy. Social media activity similarly shows search engines how much people enjoy your content—or don’t!
Black Hat Vs. White Hat SEO Explained
When you’re trying to rank your website, the first thought that comes to mind is how to get the #1 spot on Google.
And then you begin looking for ways to get there. That’s when you encounter the terms White Hat and Black Hat SEO.
As a beginner, you might be confused as to what these two are. When should you use them? Which one is better?
In this guide, we will help you understand what White Hat and Black Hat SEO are, the differences between them, and which one is right for your business.
White Hat SEO
The only way to get good, long-lasting results from an SEO campaign is to use white hat SEO techniques. White hat is defined as any technique that adheres strictly to the rules provided by search engines and follows their best practices for building a website.
This includes things like:
- Writing high-quality content
- Building links slowly
- Avoiding duplicate content
- Making sure your site has a good user experience.
If you’re working with an SEO agency, they should be doing all of these things, and checking in often with you to make sure you’re happy with their results.
White hat SEO techniques may take longer than black hat techniques to show results. However, they have been proven to work time and time again.
Black Hat SEO
The term “black hat SEO” refers to the practice of using aggressive SEO strategies and techniques. They focus only on search engines and not a human audience, and usually do not obey search engines’ terms of service.
Black hat SEO is typically for those looking for a quick return on their site, rather than a long-term investment on their site. Black hat techniques can get a site to rank well initially. However, the site will eventually be banned once the search engines discover what they are doing.
Some examples of black hat techniques include:
- Keyword stuffing: The repetition of keywords in meta tags, page copy, and code.
- Cloaking: Showing different content or URLs to human users and search engines.
- Hidden text: Using white text on a white background to hide keywords.
- Doorway pages: Creating pages that are filled with keywords in an attempt to attract search engines to those pages.
Search engines have gotten wise to black hat techniques over the years. They will penalize or even ban websites that try them now. So any progress made from using black hat techniques won’t last long.
Why Is SEO Important for Marketing?
SEO has become an integral part of marketing in the digital era. Marketers understand the value of an organic search, and with how much time people spend online, it’s easy to see why.
Search engines are the main way people find what they’re looking for on the internet. The results they get when they search a keyword or query can help them narrow down a ton of options to just a few.
If your website shows up at the top of that list, you are likely to get more clicks and traffic than your competitors—especially if you have worked hard to make sure your website is one that people would want to click on.
If you’ve ever written a blog or published content online, you know that it’s not always enough just to have a website. In fact, anyone can have a website these days.
Instead, you need a strategy to make sure people will actually find it. This is where SEO comes into play. It is one of the most effective ways to increase the visibility of your brand and get potential customers interested in what you have to offer.
Marketers use SEO as an integral part of their strategy because it allows them to:
- Reach out directly with relevant information about their products or services
- Drive traffic back towards their site through organic search results
Research tells us that out of the total amount of traffic that comes to your site, only 2.86% will ever buy from you (invespcro.com). If you don’t have an effective SEO campaign in place and have bad content on your site, you won’t get this potentially huge part of your traffic.
SEO Marketing Basics
SEO is an important part of digital marketing. It helps you to attract new customers, increase the visibility of your business’s website in search results, and build trust with users who are searching for your product or service. But it can be hard to know where to start.
That’s why we’re here! With this guide, we’ll walk you through some basic SEO practices that can help you get started on the path to becoming a search engine optimization pro.
It’s no secret that content is a huge part of search engine optimization. Search engines use complex algorithms to determine what content is shown where in the search results, and it’s difficult to game the system. That’s why you should focus on creating excellent, helpful content that will both serve your business and reach your target audiences.
When creating content put a lot of emphasis on:
- Quality: Add more value and depth
- Intent: Understand what the searcher is looking for (know who your reader is)
- Freshness: Keep your content up-to-date
- Readability: Break up your text with lots of images and headers
- Actionable content: It should answer the question “what now.”
Keyword Research and Selection
Another important aspect of SEO is keyword research and selection. But it’s not just about finding popular keywords. It’s about finding ones that are relevant to your business and have a decent amount of searches per month.
How to find the right keywords
Target audience: Who do you want to read your content? What kind of person are they? Answering these questions will help you identify keywords that are relevant to them and their interests.
Check out search intent: First, you need to make sure it’s relevant. It doesn’t matter if “unicorn horn” is the most popular search term in the world. If your site is about basketball, what are the odds that people searching for unicorn horns are going to find value in your content?
Search volume: Find out how many searches per month the keyword gets. If you’re trying to rank a page on your site that sells clown wigs, you want to know how many people are searching for clown wigs.
If no one’s looking for them, even if you do show up at the top of searches, it won’t matter—you just won’t get any traffic.
Find long-tail keywords: When it comes to choosing keywords for your website, you want to avoid broad, general terms. Instead, you’ll want to focus on those “long-tail keywords.”
A long-tail keyword is a keyword phrase that is specific to your brand, product, or service. It’s called a “long tail” keyword because it has a lot of words in it, and is more specific than a short, broad keyword.
Longtail keywords have less competition. For example, “how to choose the best chair” is more competitive than “how to choose the best chair for back pain.” The second term is more specific and has higher conversion rates.
Create a list of LSI keywords: LSI keywords are a great way to expand your keyword list with relevant terms that will help you rank higher in search results. But what are LSI keywords? And how do you find them?
LSI keywords are synonyms or closely-related words and phrases to your target keyword. These keywords can be used in your content to help search engines understand the context of your content, and they can also help you rank for more valuable keywords.
For example, say you have an article all about camping—what is camping, what supplies do you need, where should you go camping, etc.—and you want it to rank for “camping tips.” By using LSI keywords like “camping equipment” and “camping checklist” in your article, Google will understand that those words are related to your target keyword and rank the page accordingly.
Use competitors’ keywords: The next trick you can use is to find out what keywords your competitors are using. If a competitor’s website ranks highly on Google for a particular term, there may be good reason for it—and worth investigating further.
Use a tool like SEMrush to get insights into the organic keywords your competitors are ranking for and the ones they’re trying to rank for but aren’t doing so well on.
Don’t forget keyword tools: Using a keyword tool can help you choose the right keyword. You’ll want to look for a tool that:
- Gives you search volume (how many people are searching for your keyword)
- Tells you just how competitive each keyword is
There are lots of tools out there for helping you decide which keywords are best for targeting; here are a few we recommend:
- Google Trends: a basic tool, but totally free and very user-friendly. It shows how often people have searched for a keyword over time in Google Search
- SEMRush: a paid tool that has lots of advanced options, but is a little more complicated to use than other tools (especially if you’re new to SEO)
- Ubersuggest: a free tool that gives lots of information about specific keywords and how they perform on search engines
Proper HTML is super important. Make sure that you have enough header tags, ALT text, and that they are formatted correctly! If you want to link to another article on your site, then use an anchor tag instead of just pasting the URL. This will make it easier for people to read your article and help search engines better understand what it is about.
Site architecture is one of the most important aspects of SEO marketing. The way a website is set up—called its “architecture”—can affect how easy it is for search engines to crawl, index, and rank your site.
The most common ways you can improve your site architecture for both on-page and off-page SEO include:
- Optimizing URL structure: One of the most common ways that you can improve your site architecture is by optimizing your URL structure. Your URLs should be easy for both users and search engines to understand, and they should be organized in a way that makes sense to the people who visit your site.
- Using breadcrumbs: Another option is to use breadcrumbs. These are links at the top of each page that show you where you are on the site, as well as provide links back to higher-level pages. Breadcrumbs let you see your page’s relationship with other pages on the site, and they can help you navigate between them more efficiently.
- Creating a logical link structure: A logical link structure is also an important part of improving your site architecture. You should think about how new visitors will navigate through your website, and organize it so that it makes sense to them. You may find that you need to create a sitemap or reorganize some of your pages in order to create a structure that works well for all users.
- Incorporating keywords into internal links: This is another great way to improve your site architecture! This helps search engines understand what each page is about, and it makes it easier for them to index new pages as they are added.
Note: Good site architecture should also focus on improving page speed and mobile-friendliness.
Link building is a complex boon to SEO marketing. When used ethically, they are a powerful way of increasing your ranking. The more trusted sites link to you, the better. It indicates that people who have already earned their place in search results have found you worthy.
Trust is another pillar of good SEO marketing. The more trustworthy your brand is, the more likely it is to succeed.
This can be achieved through good design, usability and accessibility, and clear communication—all things that will make your brand stand out as one that people want to engage with when they’re searching for you on the internet.
There are some personal factors that affect how people search for things on the internet. These include:
- Demographics: This includes things like age, gender, and education level. For example, someone might search for “child-friendly restaurants” if they have a young family.
- Location: People’s searches will vary based on where they are in the world. For example, an American in New York might search for “top pizza places in New York,” whereas a person in Rome may search for “best pizza spots in Rome.”
Social Factors consist of social media popularity, interactions with the site, and keywords on social media sites. If a company has a lot of backlinks or links to their website from other websites or social media platforms, this will increase their SEO ranking. Also, if there are keywords on social media sites about their content, it will be more likely to show up in searches related to those keywords.
EAT (Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness)
Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness (EAT) is a framework used by Google’s search algorithm to determine how to rank websites in search results. It was introduced in 2014, and since then has helped Google users find the content that is most relevant to their searches.
Expertise refers to how much detail a website provides about a given subject. Websites that include detailed information about a topic are considered more authoritative than ones that do not.
Authority refers to how many other websites link back to it as an authoritative source on that topic. Websites that have more links from other sites are considered more authoritative than those with few links or none at all.
Trustworthiness considers whether or not the website seems trustworthy or credible. In addition to checking for spelling and grammar errors, Google checks for things like whether or not it uses HTTPS encryption and if there are any obvious signs of ‘spammy’ behavior on the page (like links leading offsite).
Measuring and Tracking Success
Measuring and tracking success is one of the most important aspects of search engine optimization. You can’t know whether your efforts are working if you don’t know how to measure the results of those efforts!
But what should you measure? How do you use these metrics to determine how well your SEO campaign is working? What tools should you use to measure these things? And how often should you be checking them?
In this post, we’ll answer all these questions – and more.
What should you measure?
Depending on the nature of your business and the goals you have in place, there are a number of different metrics that could be useful to measure. Here are some popular ones:
- Organic search traffic: How much traffic comes to your website from non-paid search results.
- Keyword rankings: How often your keywords appear in certain spots on search engine results pages.
- Bounce rate: The rate at which people leave your site after clicking through from a search result without going to a second page or engaging with your brand.
- Website conversions: Actions taken by visitors on your site that indicate they want to buy something from you, such as signing up for a newsletter or contacting you for services.
What tools to use
It’s important to track how your SEO is doing—and it’s not always as simple as just looking at where you rank. You need to use tools that give you the full picture so you can see how many people are finding your site, what they’re doing when they get there, and whether or not those actions translate into actual business for you.
Google Analytics: Google Analytics is a great way to do this because it’s free and easy to use. It lets you measure both the quantity (how many people have visited your site) and the quality (what they did while they were there) of traffic you’re getting from search engines. Google Analytics will also help you understand which keywords are delivering the most value in terms of traffic and conversions.
Open Web Analytics: This freemium tool provides a wealth of valuable information about how people are interacting with your site. It also provides tools for measuring social media and offline campaigns you may be running.
Google Console: Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools), will show you how often your site appears in Google searches, what keywords it ranks for, and even what position each keyword brings in on average.
Moz Pro Toolset: Moz offers a full suite of SEO tools for keyword research, site audits, page optimization, link building, and more. There’s a 30-day free trial for new users; paid plans start at $99 per month after that.
SEMrush: SEMrush offers keyword tracking, on-page SEO recommendations, site auditing, and social media analytics. The service starts at $119.95 per month.
Alexa Rank Checker: While it isn’t strictly an SEO tool, Alexa Rank Checker can provide useful information on the popularity of a site in comparison to others on the web.
How long does it take for SEO to work?
It can be tough to wait for SEO to work its magic. The good news is that you don’t have to wait forever, but it does take time.
How long? Well, Google doesn’t give us a clear timeline, but the general consensus is that it takes around 6-12 months for most keywords (morningscore.io). You might not get all your traffic right away, but you should see an uptick in traffic after six months.
But why does SEO take so long to work?
The explanation for this lag time is that SEO is meant to boost long-term results. So you might not see the results of your SEO right away.
Think about the way Google works: its goal is to provide users with the best answer possible whenever they search for something. It wants them to be satisfied with the results they get from their searches and never need to look anywhere else for answers. And this takes time.
How much does SEO cost?
The cost varies wildly, and it depends on how you approach it. You can hire someone who is an SEO expert; they’ll know what they’re doing and they usually have a proven track record of success. But that comes at a price—and a high one at that. The cost of hiring an SEO expert can range anywhere from a few hundred dollars for consultation to tens of thousands of dollars for their services.
Alternatively, you can do it yourself. This will be far more cost-effective (probably free), but there’s no guarantee that it will work.
Can I rank without SEO?
Yes, you can rank without SEO. However, even if you are able to rank without it, it will take you a lot longer than if you were to implement SEO.
By now, you should have a solid understanding of what search engine optimization is, why it’s valuable and important, and how to get great results in an ever-changing SEO environment.
The bottom line is that optimizing your site for search engines is a complex process. There’s no foolproof formula for ranking #1 on Google (if there were, everyone would be doing it!).
But by following best practices and avoiding common pitfalls, you can position your site for better performance in search engine results.