If you want to get the maximum amount of profit from a website, then you need to get as much traffic as you can. If you want to get the maximum amount of traffic to your website, then you need to get to the top of Google. And if you want to get to the top of Google, then you need SEO or ‘Search Engine Optimization’.
Introduction to SEO:
What is SEO:
According to Wikipedia: Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the online visibility of a website or a web page in a web search engine’s unpaid results—often referred to as “natural”, “organic”, or “earned” results.
Search Engine Optimization is the process of optimizing a website so that Google will be more likely to index it and ensure that it ranks highly for the most relevant keywords and phrases.
If you have a website the sells hats, then you might try to get it to rank for the phrase ‘buy hats online’. To do this, you would go through an optimization process that would involve both ‘on-site’ and ‘off-site’ strategies which we shall discuss in a bit.
With any luck, you would eventually be able to get your website to the top of the SERP (‘Search Engine Results Page’) for that term (‘buy hats online’) and thereby attract a huge amount of traffic.
Buy hats online is Googled a lot of times and considering the fact that the first result receives about 21% of all organic traffic that is a lot of traffic coming your way!
More importantly, that traffic would not just be from random visitors but would rather be from specific people who are looking for hats.
Better yet, those people will be looking for hats at the very point that they came to your website (why else would they search for hats?) which thereby means that they’re ready to buy and it should only take a small push to get them to make that decision.
SEO can be a slow going process but it is still possible to very reliably climb the ranks and to get your website to a point where it will start getting more and more organic traffic from searches.
How does SEO work?
Before we learn how search works, it would be helpful to learn how search engines (like Google) work.
Here is a video by Matt Cutts who is the former head of the webspam team at Google.
SEO essentially works by attempting to second guess the algorithms used by Google to decide which sites to index and where to rank them. It also works by predicting and guessing how the algorithm works (because no one can be completely sure) and then using that information in order to engineer your website to get the maximum number of hits.
Being effective at SEO means having an up-to-date understanding of how it works and it means knowing the core principles that underlie the different strategies.
Read on and you’ll learn which old, outdated strategies you need to avoid, how to work with Google to get the very best results and how to future-proof your site for upcoming changes.
What not to do for SEO:
SEO strategies are categorized into “white-hat” and “black-hat”. To understand what this is, let’s rewind a bit and go to early 2000’s; when Google’s algorithms were much simpler!
When SEO was first born, Google’s algorithm was a lot simpler and manipulating it to your own ends was a lot easier as a result. Back then, Google looked at two key factors in determining its rankings. Those factors were:
Keyword density meant how many times your website would repeat the words that you were trying to rank for.
Your links profile (also called ‘backlinks profile’) is essentially determined by how many links you have pointing at your website, coming from other sites.
This simple algorithm made a lot of sense in theory and should have helped Google to find content people were looking for efficiently.
But the problem was that people eventually cottoned on to the way this worked and started to take advantage of it. SEOs realized that all they had to do to get to the top of Google was to create as many links and as much content (with keywords) as possible.
Worst was what started to happen to the content. In a bid to create as much content as possible and to use the keywords as often as possible, creators began to churn out content in huge quantities while giving no regard to quality. They also began using ‘keyword stuffing’, which essentially means repeating keywords over and over again, even when it doesn’t make any sense.
A typical website from the early 2000’s might read:
“Are you looking to buy hats online? Then you have come to the right buy hats online website! This is the best place to buy hats online for anyone who wants to buy hats online Carolina.”
As you can see, this content gets completely nonsensical and would be highly off-putting for any real visitors looking to make a purchase!
This doesn’t work anymore and you don’t need to stuff keywords to rank for a particular term anymore. Google is getting smarter by the day and thanks to it’s ever-improving technologies, Google now understands what words mean and uses something called LSI words-which means Google looks for synonyms though and related language – which is something that we’ll discuss too!
How to actually SEO:
Wait…! After all that mentioned above, did you decide SEO is useless? Well, you could be very wrong. People are spending more on SEO now more than ever, it went up from 52% to 74% from 2016 to 2017!
So, we’ve seen what doesn’t work anymore, it is now time to consider what actually works. If you remember we spoke about on-page and off-page techniques a bit before. These are nothing but SEO you perform on your page and off your page…(duh!?).
On page , of course, refers to all the strategies that you can use within your pages to get Google interested in your site. This begins with content.
Make excellent/informative content:
One of the first things you’re going to need to do is to fill your site with great content and to use your keywords throughout. There’s a fine line to be walked here: you need to repeat the phrase a few times to ensure that you create that association but at the same time, you also need to make sure that you don’t overdo it and thereby appear to be spamming.
But you also need to use your common sense a little: some keywords are easier to use in a natural manner than others and making sure that your content sounds natural should always be the number one concern. Some keywords will be hard not to repeat 100 times! Others will never feel that they can come up naturally.
The user always comes first. So, if you can’t fit the keyword in naturally anywhere, just forget it and use it in your image alt-text etc.
Length of your posts:
The length of your posts is also an important consideration. Back in the days of spammy-SEO, almost every post was 500 words long. Today, you’ll have the most success by writing posts that are longer and more in-depth.
Imagine that your reader is going to sit down with a cup of tea and really dive deep into the subject – that’s the kind of experience that you should be delivering!
This has another advantage because it means that you can repeat your keyphrase a lot more while keeping your density low. If you repeat your keyword 100 times and your content is 1,000 words long then that’s a 10% density. If your content is 5,000 words long, that’s 2% density!
Of course 5,000 words is too long for most blog posts. Instead, the general consensus is that an ideal blog post will be somewhere in the region of 800-1,500 words. The average number of words for the content in the #1 spot on SERPs is about 2,416 though; this just shows that people love detailed posts (like this one 🙂
Be conversational with your content:
At the same time, you also need to consider something called ‘LSI’ or ‘Latent Semantic Indexing’. This is basically a fancy term that explains how Google now understands actual meaning rather than just looking to match words.
You can see this when you start to enter text into the Google search bar:
Tip: You can use LSI Graph to find LSI keywords.
For example, if your keyphrase is ‘build massive arms’, then you should also try to include the terms ‘build big arms’, ‘build big biceps’, ‘get big biceps’ etc.
Google now knows that this means the same thing but won’t be as likely to penalize you for keyword stuffing. It also makes you look like a better writer for your visitors!
Schemas and Structured Data:
And on that same note, you should also look at rich snippets. Using ‘structured data’ you can highlight to Google certain key elements of your content: like recipes, dates, company names, scores etc.
The ratings, time, calories appear because of adding schema.
This helps Google show some of that information in the SERPs (search engine results pages) and thereby attracts more visitors to your site.
There are plugins that will let you do this easily, or you can do it through meta tags. Either way, you’ll use this to do things like highlighting the ingredients in a recipe, or the show times of play, or the score in a review.
You can implement Schema on your site using this guide: How to Use Schema Markup
This is important because it lets Google understand your content even better than it is already able to. Google is no longer just a search engine but rather an AI – this is the direction that Google is heading in and being able to understand and utilize this might just be the key to SEO success in future.
Right now, using structured data and rich snippets will allow information from your site to appear right in the SERPs. This way, if someone searches for a recipe, they’ll be able to see the ingredients for your version before they even click on your link!
This means your listing will take up more space and demonstrates the value of your site. And all that in turn means that you’re going to attract more clicks than a site without that information.
Design and Layout:
In terms of the actual design and function of your website, the main goals are:
To ensure your site will load quickly and
It will look great on mobile (responsive)
Avoid using too many plugins which will slow you down and try not to inundate your visitors with adverts and pop-overs.
Also the average bounce rate for sites that load at 2 seconds is less than 10 seconds where as for sites that load at 7 seconds or more is upwards of 32%
Did you know that using light colors, like light blues, can actually help to keep people on the page longer by making them feel more relaxed? Consider this when picking your theme.
Likewise, choose a theme that will adapt to the size of the display viewing it and make sure that you take advantage of things like caching to keep your site nippy. Themes that do this are called ‘responsive’, in that they respond to the shape and size of the display they’re being viewed on. This works by removing certain elements, by rearranging menus etc. and by shrinking images.
In the title:
Always try to include your keyword in the title, especially at the start.
Make sure the titles for each of your pages are unique and relevant to the content being displayed. Avoid extremely long titles (more than 65 characters), as Google will cut them off.
In the Body :
The keywords need to appear in the body of your website several times. This is often referred to as “keyword density”. A good keyword density to aim for is 0.5-2.5%. Less than that may not be enough, more than that may be treading on spammy ground.
Include your keyword at least 3-4 times throughout the actual content – once in the first sentence if possible, a couple times throughout the paragraphs, and once in the last sentence.
Emphasizing the keyword through bolding or italicizing may be a good idea. Include your keyword in the H1 tags as well, and at least once in the anchor text of a link.
A good blog post contains at least one image. Adding your keyword to the Title attribute and Alt text attribute helps with SEO and your images may also rank in the Google Image search.
In the URL:
Finally, try to add your keyword in the URL of each blog post.
This is the basic strategy you will use for your on-page SEO then. But what about link building? How has that changed in recent years?
Once again, the key is to focus more on quality rather than quantity.
If you once had a thousand different links all coming from low quality websites, then this could now actually stand to hurt your SEO as it will just look like link spam. If you’ve been guilty of using these old practices, then you might consider using Google’s Link Disavow tool.
This allows you to tell Google that you didn’t ask for the low-quality links and thus prevent them from affecting your ranking (the fact that tools like this exist show that Google does still support good SEO, by the way!).
The sites that Google will rank highest for a particular search term are the ones that appear the most relevant and that have the best content and best design. At the same time though, they will also be the ones that have the most trust. This means that Google considers them an authoritative resource and expects the information on their site to be accurate and well-written.
This is something that sites like Moz have tried to quantify with terms like ‘Trust Flow’. However, there’s no defined method of determining a site’s trust and instead, we have to infer the best strategies for building trust… as usual!
What we do know, is that there are some sites that Google trusts absolutely implicitly. These are sites like Harvard.edu, BBC news etc. And how does it know that it can trust them? The current understanding is that Google will trust sites that either have a very well-recognized brand name (like the BBC, or The Verge) or sites that have ‘.edu’ or ‘.gov’ domains.
We’ve covered an awful lot of ground in this post and even speculated at what future SEO might entail. At this point then, you may be wondering where to start and how to put everything you’ve learned into action.
Let’s simplify for a moment then shall we? Here are our key takeaways:
Google is getting smarter – to the point of becoming an AI with a LOT of personal information about its uses
Google is increasingly understanding what content actually means, rather than just what it says You should not try to ‘trick’ Google
Work with Google to provide your users with the most relevant, well-informed and entertaining answers to their questions
Prove that you are trustworthy by connecting as closely as possible to high authority sites Use structured data to further explain your topics
Don’t keyword stuff – write naturally using synonyms, relevant terms and lots of nouns Build a brand and focus on consistent quality
Post regularly and build the trust of your users with content marketing Use guest posts and aim for the sites that have Google’s trust already
Think of SEO as one small part of a much more cohesive marketing strategy Combine excellent posts with social sharing and link bait
Measure and monitor what is working and update your strategy on the fly
Another tip is to make sure you do your research and examine which terms to target before you set out. But even more important than that is to choose the right niche.
This means picking a niche that has a large enough appeal to give you a big market but at the same time, it means picking a niche that won’t be too competitive for you to make any dent in. Look for subject matters that cater to a specific audience and that people can really get passionate about.
And make sure that you are passionate about it too.
Because when you really love what you’re writing about, all the high-quality content, great connections, and consistency. Stop looking for quick wins and focus on building a trustworthy brand filled with incredible information. If you do that and you do just the smallest bit of marketing to give yourself a push, Google’s algorithm should do the rest and reward your enthusiasm!