Search Engine Optimisation for Beginners (Easy-to-Understand Guide)
If you are a regular web surfer, you must have come across search engine optimization or SEO at least once. For us in the tech industry, we deal with SEO daily and it’s the backbone of most online businesses. If you own a website or plan to own one and you know very little about SEO, you may be missing out on a lot. Here’s a detailed and easy-to-understand guide on Search Engine Optimization.
What is SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)?
Imagine being in a market filled with many sellers advertising similar products and hoping to attract customers. Who do you think will get more customers, the sellers with stands at the entrance of the market or those sitting comfortably at the rear? Those at the entrance, right?
Now imagine the stands at the entrance of the market are given out to people when they meet certain conditions. Do you believe sellers will do their best to meet those conditions? Yeah, I believe they will do more than that too.
Search engine works similarly. This time around, the sellers are websites, the market is the search engine in use, and the customers are the search users. Search Engine Optimisation refers to the collection of processes websites utilize to gain favourable search engine rankings and attract better organic traffic.
When people talk about SEO, the search engine mostly referred to is Google because of its popularity and reach. So, in simple terms, search engine optimization is what business do so their websites will be seen first when people carry out Google searches. Sound’s easy, right?
How SEO works?
For a better understanding of how SEO works, you need to first understand how Google controls the market.
When you host a new website online, Google crawlers find the sites and crawl the pages to understand what they are about. These spider bots then add the pages they fully understand to their index and move on to the next website. When a search user makes a query using certain search terms, Google’s algorithm pulls out the crawled pages for the user with the most optimized pages placed first. This method of placing optimized pages first is called ranking and helps the user get the best web pages first.
This means that optimized pages get a huge chunk of search engine traffic, while poor ones are relegated to the background. For this reason, businesses constantly struggle to optimize their web pages to attract this heavy chunk of search traffic. That means taking note of and meeting the factors or signals that the algorithm looks out for.
What are the Major SEO Ranking Factors to Optimise for?
Google’s HummingBird algorithm utilises more than 200 factors and signals to determine website ranking. These factors are not made known to the public, but SEO experts have been able to identify some of the important factors the algorithm considers. Here are the top five signals to optimize for:
Of all the factors the algorithm considers, this comes out among the top three. Google uses links to determine if a website is trustworthy and contains genuine information. The number and quality of the links establish the authority of the website and positively influences rankings. PageRank, the algorithm that controls Links as a ranking factor, recognizes three types of links:
- Inbound Links
- Outbound Links
- Internal Links.
When another website adds a link from its website to yours, you have gained an inbound link. The best inbound links are those that come from authority websites that people trust already. An outbound link is one on your website which points to another website. Outbound links enable you provide extra value or information to your visitors by connecting them to an authority site.
An internal link is one linking a page on your site to another page still on your website. Internal links help visitors navigate your website easily, and also help Google’s spider bots to easily crawl your web pages. The internal links also help boost the authority of some weak pages on your website.
Of the top three ranking signals Google looks out for, content is the one websites can easily control, and perhaps the most important. Google seeks to meet search queries to the utmost satisfaction of the user. That means providing them with results that offer great value. Here are some tips to boost the value of the content on your web pages:
- Make Use of LSI Keywords
- Shun Duplicated Content
- Make Use of Visuals
- Predict and Understand User Search Intent
- Long-form Content Works Best
Use of LSI Keywords
If you truly want to optimize your web content for better rankings, you need to be intentional about your use of keywords. Google spider bots use the keywords in your content to understand what the page is about. The first thing you need to do before you set out to write your website content is to carry out keyword research. This enables you to identify quality keywords your web page can rank for.
Once you have decided on your main keyword, you need to pick out its Latent Semantic Index keywords. These are key terms that are related to the main keyword. For example, if your main keyword is cooking, its LSI keywords include kitchen, pot, knife, spoon, frying etc. To avoid being penalized for keyword stuffing, you need to use more of the LSI keywords in your content.
Google frowns upon plagiarism and content duplication. It heavily penalizes websites that contain 100% similar web pages to ones already in its index. You could also get penalized even if the two web pages are from your websites.
Keep your content fresh and updated to stay in Google’s good books. For e-commerce pages with similar web copies, you need to make use of canonical URLs that point to the original piece.
Use of Visuals
Images and videos are great SEO boosts for web content. Besides helping your content look interesting, it helps communicate messages faster. Thanks to statistics, we know that web pages with visuals perform better than ones with plain written content. Videos particularly provide a greater ranking boost. Website visitors are 79% more likely to watch a video on your webpage than read the content. This means they spend more time on your website and Google interprets it to mean that they like what they see.
User Search Intent
This is a major part of the content signal; so important that Google set aside a machine-learning algorithm for it. Recall that Google seeks to satisfy the user. It does that better by understanding the intent behind the search query. Websites stand a better chance of staying on top of the search engine result pages (SERPs) when they tailor the content to meet this search intent.
Thanks to studies, SEO experts now know Google prefers long-form content to short articles. This makes sense when you remember that it is trying to satisfy the search user. Your website is more likely to meet the search intent of the user when your copy or content is detailed. This does not mean filling up your web content with fluff to increase your rank. Instead, try to cover more depth in your website content if the topic allows you to. Most web pages that make it to the top ten rankings have content with over 2000 words.
RankBrain is the third most important ranking signal. It is a machine-learning algorithm Google uses to understand user search intent and pull out the best web pages in its results. RankBrain also considers user experience on websites and uses it to determine if they meet search intent.
Thanks to RankBrain, websites can push for Rank Zero, which is the snippet box at the top of the first page. The snippet provides answers users might be searching for without them visiting the website. To stand a chance of getting a featured snippet, your website content must have headings in question format. The headings should be similar to the search query, and the content should briefly provide a valuable answer to the question.
If your page takes more than 4 seconds to load, you could lose more than 11% of your website visitors. This percentage increases significantly with an increase in load time, leading to an increase in Bounce Rate and a decrease in Dwell Time. When this happens repeatedly over a certain period, your page rankings will be significantly affected.
A good way to avoid the drop in rankings is to optimise your page speed for mobile and desktop. There are many tools to test your site’s speed and fixes are relatively easy for professionals. Ultimately, you should aim to give your average visitor user a great time on your website.
Thanks to the rise in the use of mobile for internet surfing and searches, Google has adopted a mobile-first policy. This means that websites which are optimized for mobile are given better ranking than those optimized for desktop alone. You could start by making sure you have a responsive website which automatically resizes to fit the screen. The fonts should be readable on small screens and users should be able to tap on menus easily.
Other Important SEO Terms to Take Note of
These five factors we covered above are certainly not all there is to know about SEO. A deeper dive into the niche will expose all the 200 factors that contribute to website ranking. Along the line, you will definitely come across some of these terms:
SEO activities are sometimes broadly classified into two according to their location of implementation – on-page and off-page SEO. On-Page SEO covers all SEO activities carried out directly on the website. This includes technical activities such as optimizing your metadata, schema mark-up and content-related activities. Your internal link structure and flow also are included under on-page SEO.
Just as the name suggests, off-page SEO refers to all SEO activities that are not necessarily done on the website. This includes building inbound links and also optimizing your website’s social signals. These are not done on your website, but they affect your website’s authority and improves ranking.
Before SEO became a popular concept, it was (and still is) classified into two – white-hat SEO and black-hat SEO. White-hat SEO is used to refer to Google-approved SEO activities carried out by website owners to improve rankings. This includes all the tips already covered in this guide. When implemented diligently, your website rankings will steadily improve with time.
In contrast to white-hat SEO, all other SEO activities which are frowned upon by Google are grouped under Black-Hat SEO. These activities such as link spamming and keyword stuffing and content duplication were used by many sites back in the early days. Google fished the sites out and heavily penalized them.
While they may promise fast ranking boost, Google algorithm finds these sites easily and the penalties are hard to overcome. You really want to avoid getting into Google’s bad books.
Technical SEO deals with codes and other technical on-page SEO activities. This includes creating meta descriptions for pages, defining content hierarchy using header tags, and optimizing your page speed. Using keyword phrases in page URLs, titles, and image tags also comes under technical SEO activities.
Local SEO grew out of the need to help search users connect to businesses around them. Google tries to pull up results from businesses near the location of the search user first. If you were looking to find a shop that sells cooking utensils, you would certainly prefer to see results from stores around you. This means businesses with offline stores would benefit more from search engines when they focus on local SEO.
You certainly want Google spider bots to understand that intent, so a good way to start is by sprinkling places around you in your content. Having a country-specific domain extension (.ng, .us, etc) will offer a great boost too.
Voice search is one of the top 2019 trends that are slowly changing the tech industry. Thanks to Siri, Alexa, Cortona, and OK Google, most mobile users prefer carrying out voice search queries to the traditional method. SEO experts are leveraging this to optimize their pages and content for voice search.
One tip that makes voice SEO easy, is to master writing with your audience in mind. Think conversation-style, long-tail keywords, and headings with questions. Aim for rank zero i.e. appearing in featured snippets too.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Search engine marketing or search marketing is a form of digital marketing which deals with search engines. It is a faster way of getting to the top of search engine result pages (SERPs) with paid advertisements. You carry out keyword research, bid on selected keywords just like other businesses, and Google will display only the website with the best quality score and maximum bid.
Staying Ahead of Others with Optimized Content
Search Engine Optimization sometimes feels overwhelming, especially for beginners. It’s a steady process that requires constant focus, diligence, and smart work. As a business owner hoping to generate online revenue, you need to invest in proper white-hat SEO. For SMEs and startups, a good and cheaper way to start is to invest in good content. With quality long-form and optimized web content, your website is already 67% optimized.
Kopykart Solutions is looking to partner with businesses to boost their website activities. We provide you with optimized website content and copies which will boost your rankings and conversions. Our writers are trained web copywriters with years of experience in web content writing and search engine optimization. Our rates are very affordable and we offer significant discounts for long-term projects.
Say yes to Search Engine Optimization, partner with us, and smile all the way to the bank!
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