The Basics of Search Engine Optimization
What Is SEO in a Nutshell?
Search engine optimization, commonly known as SEO, represents an internet marketing practice that improves website visibility in the organic results of online search engines. Based on this, boosting the amount of traffic your website gets isn’t possible without understanding SEO basics, and implementing the best SEO practices.
This guide will focus on explaining the importance of search engine optimization and guide beginners through the process of creating their very own strategies. We have also included a number of important tips that will boost your results, alongside several resources that are mandatory for anyone looking to better market their website to search engines.
Understanding Why SEO Is Important
SEO works by making it easier for search engine algorithms to understand what a website is about. As such, the likelihood of your website popping up when searching for a specific term on Google is dictated by several factors, with SEO being the most important. It is mandatory to keep in mind that major search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo use web crawlers that constantly scan the web for relevant content. As such, when a search query is made, then targeted, relevant results pop up. Following the main SEO principles will put your website ahead of the competition.
As a website owner, you should note that there are several methods for boosting traffic. The main ones are SEO, social media marketing, and ad campaigns. Failure to properly take care of the first two methods will lead to less traffic, and thus zero revenue for the website in question.
Apart from making sure that search engines have indexed your website, following the SEO basics also ensures higher rankings. This means that your website will pop up higher in online searches, thus encouraging a higher number of clicks.
Should You Do the SEO Yourself or Hire an Agency?
Search engine optimization is certainly a complex niche, which requires a constant amount of study to ensure familiarization with the most effective practices and strategies. Deciding whether you should do SEO on your own or hire one of the SEO agencies out there is a matter of personal decision. As such, when making your choice, take the following factors into consideration:
Do You Have Enough Time?
If you’re starting your first website as a hobby, it’s recommended that you take care of the SEO basics by yourself. This will allow you to learn some of the best practices, which you can definitely use later on. However, if you already own a business, chances are that you won’t have enough time to take care of your SEO by yourself.
Consider Your Budget
No business can expect revenue and brand recognition without a marketing effort. Basic SEO is quite cheap, whereas more advanced strategies mandate larger expenses. Therefore, ask yourself whether you’re ready to allocate a monetary budget toward marketing and how much can be spent on hiring an SEO professional.
Online SEO Education Is Freely Available
You don’t need to follow a course, or get a bachelor’s degree in internet marketing to do SEO. Luckily, the web is filled with a variety of complex guides—much like this basics of SEO guide—that cover everything there is to know about the niche. As such, by combining internet knowledge with a bit of practice, you can quickly become well versed and carry out your own SEO optimization. In fact, this guide includes some of the most important basic SEO practices that any website owner should keep an eye out for and follow.
The Search Engine Optimization Basics
1. Market Research
This practice should be kept in mind prior to the launch of a website. Carrying out market research entails using search engines to look up terms that are deemed important. By doing this, you can determine which websites class as competition, and how fierce this competition is. As such, if important government, media, business, and institutional websites show up, your SEO efforts will need to be scaled accordingly, thus making the process more difficult. If average or below-average website results show up, congratulations! You’ve found a good, marketable niche.
2. Keyword Research & Optimization
One of the essential basics of SEO is keyword research. For those who are not familiar with this, keywords represent the terms that people generally use when querying search engines. Finding the right keywords is more complex than a brainstorming session, as it entails actual research. The purpose of keyword research is to determine which terms people search with so the results will bring up your website.
With this in mind, when carrying out keyword research and learning how to do SEO, consider the following factors:
To kick things off, the keywords that you decide to target should be relevant to your website’s niche and the type of content that you provide, alongside the products and services that are being sold. Consider targeting keywords that serve adjacent niches as well, as users searching for similar products are likely to search for your niche as well.
Keyword Search Volume
Another SEO basic rule dictates checking the search volume. Many keywords sound good to the ear, yet their search engine potential is very limited. With this in mind, make sure to check the search volume for all the keywords you’re planning to target. This will verify that people are actually using the keywords in their searches, thus ensuring a potential audience for the website being optimized.
If there is a search volume for the keywords you’re considering, then chances are you’ve also found your competitors. And so—as an important part of this SEO basics tutorial—when picking your keywords, consider whether other sites ranking for the same keyword are trusted, high-ranking, and authoritative. Additionally, establish if the other websites targeting these keywords are actually aligned with the terms you’re targeting.
If competition is high, it will likely take considerable effort to rank higher in search engines. In this scenario the best step, according to SEO basic knowledge, would be to continue your keyword research effort and look for other options. Repeat the process until you have a list of suitable keywords that you can target. Keep in mind that the initial choice of words doesn’t have to be the final one—feel free to change your targeted keywords with time, by keeping an eye on traffic and SEO analytics.
3. On-Page SEO Optimization
The basics of SEO for 2019 also include on-page optimization. As such, once you have a list of suitable keywords, it’s time to start optimization. This means that the keywords should be present throughout the written content available on the website being optimized. This includes titles, the landing page, headers, articles, sales pages, and copywriting work.
When researching keywords, make sure that you find core terms alongside related terms, as both categories should be found on your website’s pages. When carrying out on-page SEO optimization, keep the following factors in mind:
Optimize Your Body Content
One of the most important things to remember for these SEO basics: Google is known for rewarding high-quality and unique website content with higher rankings. But how exactly does it determine which content is worthy of better indexed results?
To kick things off, websites should have content of varying sizes. There is certainly no magic word count, so good SEO practice entails having both shorter and longer-form articles, a few thousand words worth of content available in total. Emphasis is put on the value provided by the content available—therefore, a good SEO practice is to only post high-quality, value-rich content. Keyword optimization should be present throughout the articles posted on a website. As such, for good SEO optimization, all content should have a focus keyword, alongside related keywords.
When learning SEO basics, keep an eye out for user engagement, and whether your articles encourage sharing. Google is known to reward websites that fulfill these requirements.
Title Tags Are Essential
Search engines constantly attempt to understand the purpose and meaning of web pages. Oftentimes, bad keyword usage is punished, so make sure to not overlook the keyword you use in your title tags since it holds the highest impact. This was one of the basics of SEO in 2018.
Don’t Forget Meta Descriptions
Search engines don’t always show the meta description of a website, but when they do, most searchers tend to read it before deciding whether or not they’ll access the site in question. As such, consider investing in a high-quality and detailed meta description. Don’t forget to add a core keyword so you follow all of the SEO basic principles.
Have Exemplary Website Architecture
Quality SEO optimization also requires that your website be easy to read and understand by both search engines and users. With this in mind, it is recommended that you organize pages with usability in mind. Another tip in this regard is to actively link between the pages on your website since this helps search engines better understand what each page is about, thus indexing all of them.
4. Link Building and Content Marketing
Our “What Is SEO and How It Works” guide wouldn’t be complete without explaining each of these aspects. Link building is an essential SEO practice, as search engine algorithms are highly focused on finding high-quality links when deciding which websites should be ranked and given authority. In other words, most SEO practices are useless if no attention is paid towards link building and content marketing.
So what is SEO when it comes to content marketing and link building? Well, before we explain how link building works, you should note that search engine algorithms are sophisticated enough to detect aggressive and artificial link building techniques. Therefore, paying for links or simply copying and pasting them for the purpose of manipulating rankings is a practice that will likely get your website penalized.
To get started with link building, our SEO tutorial dictates that the first step is to identify, research, and understand your potential linking audience. As such, look for other websites or influencers involved with your niche who are likely to share your content. Once you have a list of potential linkers, consider what you can do to provide value to their audiences. Then, simply obtain the relevant content. If you’re lucky, it will generate a couple of high-quality links.
In some cases, you might want to reach out to successful websites and ask if they’re interested in publishing your content in exchange for backlinks. Avoid overdoing this, since the Google SEO algorithms favor organic linking more.
Remember that link building often takes time and can definitely test your patience.
Other SEO Tips
By now, it should be clear that search engine optimization is a complex niche, filled with a variety of strategies. Here are a couple of other tips worth taking into consideration when preparing a website’s SEO strategy and understanding how SEO works:
User-Intuitive Web Design
While search engines lack personality, algorithms can definitely notice if a webpage is poorly designed. As such, make sure that your website is responsive, intuitive, and easy to navigate through. All features should be displayed accordingly, and users shouldn’t waste time trying to find relevant information. A common mistake often made by websites is posting links that take you to broken pages, or nowhere. Avoid doing this!
Quick Loading Speeds
We’re living in the era of speed—therefore if a website isn’t responsive, or its loading time is too slow, chances are that both users and search engine algorithms will avoid it entirely.
This is one of the bigger but unexpected SEO basics rules. Google and other search engines are highly interested in websites that are mobile-friendly. It is important to note that the majority of internet traffic now comes from mobile sources; therefore you’re losing out big time if your website isn’t optimized for mobile devices.
Content Uniqueness and Avoiding Duplication
It is best to avoid duplicate content whenever possible. Search engines often consider duplicate content low quality, which will impact your SEO results. As such, it’s considered the very basics of SEO to make sure all your content is unique and that no information is repeated unless it’s truly necessary.
The Robots.txt file is responsible for asking search engines to not crawl a specific section of a website. Therefore, take a look at the file to see if any sections of your website are blocked. For instance, you can use the file to ask search engines to avoid indexing duplicate content.
Expecting Results too Soon
Search engine optimization will not provide results overnight. It is a constant process that requires dedication, strategy changes, and an understanding of what search engine algorithms are looking for.
All About SEO: Measuring Results
Measuring SEO results is an essential practice to ensure that the strategies being implemented are actually working. Therefore, when attempting to measure results, there are several aspects you should keep an eye on.
Organic traffic can be a clear indicator as to whether the SEO efforts are succeeding. There are a variety of tools designed for this purpose, yet Google Analytics is one of the most popular ones. It’s also free! If the SEO efforts paid off, you should see an increasing trend of organic (unpaid) traffic.
An effective SEO strategy should improve a website’s ranking for specific focus keywords. However, don’t sweat it if the rankings aren’t the best. Improvement will come over time. Additionally, the main purpose of understanding what is SEO isn’t to rank keywords, but rather to drive traffic to your website, hence improving sales and profitability.
Organic Leads and Conversion Rates
The amount of traffic, or ranking in search engine results, doesn’t really matter if you’re getting organic sales leads and are actually making a profit. There are numerous tools available to keep track of organic leads, sales, and conversion rates. Google Analytics is a good solution in this case as well.
You should now be well-versed in the most important SEO basics worth taking into consideration, based on everything that’s been outlined so far. There are a lot of methods available; therefore you should make sure to keep on searching to find what’s best for your niche. Additionally, the web is filled with tools that can help with keyword research, link building, content marketing, and on-page SEO optimization. A quick search for “SEO basics YouTube” will give you a decent number of interactive, well-made explainer videos worth taking a look at.