What is SEO?
What is SEO?
SEO (search engine optimization) is the practice of getting traffic from a search engine’s organic rankings.
And to achieve that some of the activities you perform are – keyword research, content creation, link building, and technical analysis.
In other words, SEO is all about growing ranking in the search engine’s non-paid section on SERP (Search Engine Results Page)– obviously, to increase organic traffic.
There are usually two types of results shown on a SERP:
A well SEO optimized webpage can get a huge traffic around a keyword consistently.
Why is SEO Important?
Have a look at mind-blowing SEO stats:
As you can see, 53% of the total website traffic that comes from organic search.
Organic search generates 10x more website traffic than organic social media and almost 4x more website traffic than paid marketing.
Let me take an example to explain you the value of traffic that gets generated through search engine optimization:
Suppose you’re running a online grocery store. According to Google Keyword Planner tool, 27,100 people search for “online grocery” every month.
And Google’s first result gets 20% of all clicks — that comes to (27,100*20%) 5,420 visitors per month if you rank #1.
Do you know how much those visitors worth?
On an average, advertisers spend 40 INR per click for that phrase. Hence, that means the web traffic of 5,420 visitors worth (5,420*40) 2,16,800 INR/month.
And you know that’s just for one search phrase. If your website is SEO friendly, then your site can rank of hundreds or thousands of other keywords.
The worth is even more if you are into industries like: legal, insurance, and real estate.
For example, an average advertisers pay over 70 INR for search phrase like “buy flat in gurgaon”.
Let’s get to know some more amazing SEO stats:
- Google owns 95.45% of the search engine market share.
- 76% of clicks go to page one of the google results, out of which the first five organic results get 53% of the clicks. This clearly indicates that your position on the search engine results page is the decisive factor in the number of clicks you get on your site.
- Organic search drives 53% of traffic on Google.
- 95% of the search traffic leaves never bothers to visit the second page of Google search results.
- Over 1 billion people use Google every month.
- The #1 result on Google gets 31.7% of all clicks.
- It’s estimated that Google processes around 63,000 search queries every second. This roughly means 5.6 billion searches every day.
Google contains over hundreds of billions of pages and approx. 5 million results for your every query.
Search engines are smart, but they still need help.
The major engines are always working to improve their technology to understand the web more deeply and return better results to users. However, there is a limit to how search engines can operate.
Whereas the right SEO can get you thousands of visitors and increased attention, the wrong moves can hide or bury your site deep in the search results where visibility is minimal.
In addition to making content available to search engines, SEO also helps boost rankings so that content will be placed where searchers will more readily find it.
The Internet is becoming increasingly competitive, and those companies who perform SEO will have a decided advantage in visitors and customers.
Let us talk solely about SEO now! The simple answer is, if you want your business to be converted into a brand, the simple answer is SEO.
Sure, it is a time taking process, but the results are always long-lasting.
As we discuss further, you will understand that in SEO, you can not do everything to the last detail single-handedly.
So, is it the right choice to hire an SEO expert?
Well, it largely depends on the size of your business. If you feel that you have a large-sized business and have limited time in hand, then you can always take the help of an expert.
With many people claiming to be SEO experts, you have to be conscious about your choices. I have seen people claiming to produce the best content and get your site into ranking within three months. They loot you for three months and leave when the time comes to answer.
Always trust the genuine. Have enough knowledge to understand and diagnose their past work and what strategies would they build up your website. With vague ideas of SEO, anyone can fool you and extract money. Don’t let that happen!
Types of SEO
On-Page SEO: In simple terms, it means to implement action items on your website. This deals with making sure Google can find your web pages so they can show them in the search results, as well as making sure you have relevant, detailed, and helpful content to the search phrases you’re trying to show up for.
It includes improving on:
Title: should be longer than 30 characters and not exceeding 60 characters. Can contain your main keyword. It’s better if the main keyword is right at the beginning of the title. Keep the name of your business at the end separated by ‘|’.
URL: Try keeping keywords here too. Your URL should describe the whole path, right from your website name to that particular web page.
An URL has a protocol, domain name, and path. The structure goes like this:
You should have a semantically accurate URL, which means it should perfectly describe the destination (where would it lead to).
Description: should be more than 70 characters and less than 130 characters.
Should define what your page is about appropriately.
These are 3 major decisive factors for clicking a page before a user goes through the content.
As discussed, keyword stuffing should not be practiced.
Alt texts: This feature is used on CMS platforms, like WordPress, wherein you can type a description for every image you add. The description should be able to explain what is happening in that image or what it is all about. It is beneficial for those with visual impairment.
Page Speed: Nobody likes slow-loading pages. It results in a bad user experience and people don’t think twice before visiting a website as there is so much content out there.
Mobile-friendly Pages: As per Goggle reports, it faced 54.8% traffic coming only from mobile in the first half of 2021. Because this device is handy and we are always searching for something or the other, it is natural that people use it highly on their mobile phones. It fits into your pocket but a laptop or a desktop can’t.
Content: How can we leave this behind when it comes to on-page factors? This is one of the most crucial factors in getting your page into the ranking. A single high-quality blog post can get you more traffic than 10 poor-quality ones. It’s always quality over quantity.
Off-Page SEO: These are the actions you perform outside your website.
This deals with trying to get other websites to tell Google what your website is about as well as that it’s an authority in the industry and a website that they can trust to show in their results. This is done through acquiring backlinks from other websites (known as “ SEO link building”).
Ever wondered why Wikipedia shows up for almost every search query? The answer lies in “link building”. Wikipedia is a mine for internal links, the blue clickable text that you see all over the screen on any of its pages.
Having more and more links is a key factor to increasing “domain authority”.
This is a score that indicates the authority of your website.
As per studies, link building is one of the 3 most important ranking factors.
It’s like people vouching for you and they would only do that if they found your page and its content worth it.
While ranking a page, Google will have a look at the number of votes ( SEO links) the page is able to grab. A high number of links to your page is a direct indicator that it has quality content on it.
It is commonly observed that pages with more number links outrank the ones with lesser links.
Just like having quality content, quality links are always preferred over the number of links.
But, it is easier said than done!
It’s not an ideal case where every website would link to every other website in its niche.
For instance, an ideal SEO link for a new website in sports and fitness would be Decathlon. But the question that arises here is if Decathlon would be interested in mentioning you on their website?
Being a big brand, it would never link to a site that can hamper its image. It’s obvious that a site that ranks would like to link with other sites that rank too. So, with millions of sites getting into the Google index every day, you can imagine the competition.
But, as you add more content to your site and reach out to people, your site will start getting some recognition. It’s always a hit-and-trial method. You can’t decide what content will work and what doesn’t. We will discuss how to produce SEO optimised content in the next chapter.
To go through all the pages on a particular topic to choose whom you want to link with is practically impossible.
The top-ranking pages would Google search a query they want to be answered on their web page via their link. They will go through the pages ranking on top for that search query. After going through them, they’d include the link to the page that they felt best answered their needs.
Wow! What a piece of cake!
But this is only applicable for the pages that themselves are ranking!
A page that ranks at #9 for a query will not get backlinks as fast as the one that’s ranking first for it.
So, there can be two scenarios here!
The pages that rank at the top are there due to their easy link building ? or is it the other way around? Meaning they get links to them because they are already in ranking!
Well, it’s true both ways!
The ranking pages get more sites linking to them and a high number of backlinks bring a site into ranking!
This is the very reason why it’s so difficult to outrank the pages at the top.
Keep yourself in this situation. How much do you scroll down when you search for something on Google?
First page? Second page? I’m sure not even halfway through unless it’s something very specific that you’re looking for. Even in that case, you hit the search bar and edit your query for better results.
This behaviour means something here. In your mind, you don’t want to scroll down much and visit the pages buried at the bottom. You have an impression in your mind that those pages are not as good as the top ones and might not solve your problem.
Rightfully so! So far we’ve discussed that from the SEO standpoint, the pages that match best to your query are obviously more likely to resolve your problem and these are always ranked at the top by Google. After all, the best user experience is something Google has always strived for.
Think of someone looking for pages they want to link with. They will only link to the pages they’ve read and what they’ve read would mostly be the top-ranking pages. Do you see the pattern now? That’s the cycle it follows!
We will dwell further on the technicalities of how to get these links and everything related to that when we discuss Backlinking in upcoming lessons.
Technical SEO: You need not be scared by the term ‘technical’.
I’m not sure what it is, but as soon as people see the word “technical,” they start to get squeamish.
Here, we aim to understand our website from a technical standpoint and how to improve on its technical factors. Technical SEO is the process of working and improving on all the technical considerations of a website and how to improve on them. This will enable a better user experience and boost up your site’s ranking dramatically.
You don’t have to be a coder to work on the basics, but if you want to work vigorously on all technical fundamentals, it will surely need you to know and understand those codes.
It is not only limited to working on your website but includes server optimization also.
But is doing these technical corrections really worth your while?
Let’s take a yummy example of chocolate truffle ice cream! Don’t drool!! You really love the flavor but it’s served in a bowl that has holes in it. This leads to dripping ice cream once it starts melting. Though you are served with your favorite flavor in the bowl due to the poor container, it led to a bad experience keeping you from enjoying your ice cream.
Let us put this same scenario for your website.
Even if your site has great content that ranks on every factor of SEO, the technical issues on your website will keep the users from fully focusing on the matter inside and they will get irritated due to other technical factors
Technical SEO is one major pillar on which your whole website stands. Skipping it can lower down your site’s visibility. Its major elements are crawling, indexing, working on your site’s architecture, and rendering.
Just like they have for on-page SEO, technical aspects of SEO have changed as search engines have become more sophisticated.
While there isn’t much you can do to “game” search engines from a technical standpoint, there are some new factors that you need to consider if you want to improve your or your clients’ rankings.
I’ll go over the most important aspects of technical SEO from a beginner’s perspective as well as give you a few specific tactics and next steps to fix common problems in each area.
Technical SEO is all you do except for on-page and off-page SEO. To make your site load faster on any device, compressing the size of images without deteriorating quality, making your site mobile-friendly, etc are all a part of technically optimizing your website.
How does a Search Engine Work?
It’s time for us to learn how exactly search engines work.
Most of the search engines including Google perform three major functions :
Crawling means when search engines like Google/Bing sends out bots/spiders to visit and download a page and extract links on the page in order to discover additional pages.
It is the very first step in the entire process.
Imagine you’re travelling to a new city – and want to see the entire city.
To do that, you’ll have to find the best possible way – may be a public bus that rides through the entire city.
Same happens with search engines. Since they want to crawl the entire web (that usually has a web page, but sometimes a PDF, JPG, or other file) – they also need a best possible way to travel to find the resources. And that best possible way for them is – Links.
The link structure of the web keeps all of the pages bind together.
Hence, crawlers travel through links to find new pages and what’s there on the page.
Indexing means the search engine’s bots/spiders has understood the page that it has crawled – and considering it to be included in its database.
In other words, Indexing is the process of storing the newly discovered pages that Crawler has found.
If your website is indexed in Google’s database, it can appear in Google search results.
Search engines are answer machines.
When a person performs an online search in Google, an algorithm gets to work and brings you that search engine considers the best result.
How does Google decide what’s the best result?
Google doesn’t make its algorithm completely public. Though based on filed patents and statements from Google – we know how Google ranks web pages:
When you search for “leather shoes”, you don’t want to see results about cars.
That’s why most importantly Google looks at the web pages that are closely related to the search query.
However, Google doesn’t simply rank the web pages on the top that are most relevant – because there are thousands or millions of web pages that are relevant to each search query.
For example, search query “leather shoes” alone has 780 million results in Google:
Google considers two more ranking factors in addition to relevancy –
Authority is Google’s way to find if the content is accurate and authoritative.
How does Google determine the authority of a page?
Well, it just looks at the number of other links pointing towards the page. It’s also known as “backlinks”.
In other words, the more links a page has, the higher it will rank.
And Google’s ranking factor “authority” is what separates it from search engines like Yahoo, which came before it.
Imagine you are a person who does not belong to a science background and has searched for “air purifying plants” on Google. Among many other sites, NASA is one such site that ranks.
With real data and personalized research, it is obvious that you’ll find high-quality and authentic data on their page.
But here’s the twist! As you begin reading their blog on air-purifying plants, you find yourself constantly interrupted by heavy words that are too scientific for you to understand. One can easily expect it when a blog is published by NASA.
Out of the desire to be updated by a trusted website, you might continue reading further. But as you continue, you’ll lose grip and find it confusing. Eventually, you’d leave the page and visit some other page.
What exactly happened here?
The content is undoubtedly relevant and authoritative. But if it’s not useful, Google won’t want it to show at the top position.
Even Google has said that there’s a difference between high-quality content and useful content.
On the other hand, you find a different content on the same topic. It’s well organized and written in a way that anyone can understand.
But not equally authoritative and trustworthy as previous one.
Still that page is going to rank higher based on “usefulness scale”.
How SEO Works
SEO is all about optimizing your website for the search engines where you want it to rank.
For example, search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, or YouTube.
Your ultimate job is to make sure that Google finds your web page as the best content for a person’s search.
I recently talked about how Google shows the best content on the top is based on three important factors:
Relevancy, Authority, and Usefulness.
However, that’s not all. In its Press Day on May 10th, 2006 – Google said there are more than 200 ranking signals.
But no one knows all those 200 ranking signals. Google has never listed them anywhere.
Hence, testing is the best way to learn things for yourself.
8 major Google ranking factors can be a good starting point.
Most people care about Google rankings. This is why we’re going to focus on optimizing your site for Google in this course.
Customer Persona and Keywords
Producing content is one of the major parts of SEO work.
Before knowing your customers and what words/phrases they use to search online – it’s almost impossible to publish content.
That’s the only way you can create websites that customers would love to hang around.
Let me show you how exactly you can do this:
Customer persona is how your target customer looks like.
Example, if you have to sell some stuff – without knowing who’s your target customer. Your sales pitch won’t be effective.
In other words, it’s going to be very hard to sell without knowing if the customer is an adult person or just a teenager.
Hence, it’s extremely important for you to create customer persona before getting into the knitty-gritty of SEO.
Let me say it again, to succeed with SEO – you will need to create content around topics that your target customers are searching for. But if you don’t know the topics your customers are searching for, it will get impossible for you to create that.
To know what your target customers are searching online – start with creating a customer persona.
You can use a free tool that comes from Hubspot – Make My Persona tool.
This amazing free tool lets you create customer persona in a stepwise manner. At the end of the process, you’ll have a nice looking avatar that you can refer to time and again.
Now that you have created customer persona, it’s the time to do keywords research.
Keyword research is the process of finding exact words or phrases that your targeted customers type into Google’s search box.
By and large, keywords are of two types:
Informational keywords: Keywords people use to find what you don’t sell.
For example, I sell SEO training. Hence, my main keyword is Seo training.
However, people interested in SEO training, should not be all the time searching to buy SEO training.
They also search for link building, content marketing tips etc. These keywords are informational keywords for my site.
Product keywords: Keywords people use to find what you sell.
Let’s continue the above example. As I mentioned SEO training is my main product. So keywords that fall into Product keywords category for my site could be like:
- SEO training
- SEO training course
- SEO training online
How about another example-
Let’s say you run an e-commerce store that sells leather bags. Your product keywords would be like:
- leather bags
- leather bags for men
- leather backpack
And Informational keywords would be like:
- How leather bags are made
- What leather is gucci bags
- What leather is best for bags
Organic Keyword Research Tips
First, use Google autocomplete.
You must have noticed when you type in Google – it gives you some suggestions:
These are the keywords people are typing in Google. And Google itself suggesting that.
Hence you should be adding them to your list of keywords.
Second, use Related Searches feature in Google:
After searching for your keyword idea in Google, scroll down to the bottom of the page.
It’ll show you Related Searches to your keyword:
I recommend you consider them adding to your keyword list.
Third, use free tool AnswerThePublic to find informational keywords that people are typing into search engine:
For example: If you run a blog about Yoga. Then you will type Yoga into the search box at AnswerThePublic.
It will return you question people are asking around the topic Yoga:
For example, I found an amazing question ‘can yoga help back pain’ people ask around the topic –
can be a great topic for a blog.
Next, use keyword research tools:
- Google Keyword Planner
- Moz Keyword Explorer
- Seed Keywords
The best free tool out of above is Google Keyword Planner.
Though the tool is designed for paid Google campaigns. But it can still help you find SEO keywords.
Head over to Google Keyword Planner, type your informational or product keyword.
The keyword planner tool will show you data for the exact phrase and a huge list of related keywords.
The data under average monthly searches tell you – how many times the phrase gets searched on Google.
The higher the volume is, the higher the search is.
Finally, if your website is completely new – you want to focus on long tail keywords.
Because long tail keywords are less competitive and can help rank your new site faster.
Once your site starts hitting some traffic – you gradually can start moving towards short keywords that are more competitive than long tails.
For example, my site is not very old. So I mostly publish content on long tail keywords like:
White hat SEO training
My site ranks #1 in Google for the keyword.
Relevance (Keywords) and Authority (Links)
To scroll through millions and millions of pages and rank them is hard to even think. Google has its own algorithms to carry out this task. The indexed pages that get submitted on google are gone through and the one that fits as the best answer to your query ranks at the top. Google has its own team of engineers who manage these algorithms and update them from time to time.
The two principles that help in deciding this are relevance and popularity.
Sure, it’s a combination of many factors, but the prime ones are always relevant and popular.
Other factors include page speed, location when you are searching for someplace nearby, page friendliness (not all pages are mobile-friendly), how current the matter on your page is, etc.
But, how do search engines determine relevance and authority?
To a search engine, relevance means more than finding a page with the right words. In the early days of the web, search engines didn’t go much further than this simplistic step, and search results were of limited value.
Over the years, smart engineers have devised better ways to match results to searchers’ queries. Today, hundreds of factors influence relevance, and we’ll discuss the most important of these in this course.
Popularity and relevance aren’t determined manually. Instead, the engines employ mathematical equations (algorithms) to sort the wheat from the chaff (relevance), and then to rank the wheat in order of quality (popularity).
The complicated algorithms of search engines may seem hard to crack. Indeed, the engines themselves provide little insight into how to achieve better results or garner more traffic.
These algorithms often comprise hundreds of variables. In the search marketing field, we refer to them as “ranking factors.”
These algorithms often comprise hundreds of variables. In the search marketing field, we refer to them as “ranking factors”. As per studies, there are more than 200 ranking factors that Google considers before ranking a page. Obviously, we don’t know them all but a few major ones are right here:
- Domain Age: There have been many discussions going around this topic guessing the importance of this factor. It is believed that on 2 websites with other factors kept equal, the one with the older domain will outrank the other.
- Quality of Content: Better quality content will always glue the audience to your site and appear on top pages when the search query matches it. It’s not the number of blogs on your website that matters the most, but the quality content written there.
If your website has numerous blogs but none has well-researched and easy-to-understand information, in no time your visitors will bounce back.
- Backlinks: This is one of the most important tasks when it comes to your page ranking. Let’s understand this with an example. Imagine yourself as a tea seller. Everybody who comes to have tea at your stall enjoys it. Now, they’d recommend your stall every time someone asks about some good place to have tea. This way your business will get promoted.
Apply the same rule to your content. If you have quality content on your website, people can vouch for you by mentioning you on their website. We’ll get into the details of it in upcoming chapters!
- Latest Information: Everybody wants to have access to current information. Ho would want to waste their time on outdated content that holds no relevance today. No matter how good you’ve written it, if it’s not up to date it needs to be changed.
- Mobile Friendliness: As mentioned earlier, it is counted as one of the major ranking factors.
In the first quarter of 2021, it was estimated that around 59% of organic searches were made from mobiles.
- Page Speed: the speed at which your page loads will naturally determine the number of people staying on your page. Nobody would want to waste their time waiting for your page to load or reload in between. The faster the page, the better it is.
- Core Web Vitals: This is a new entry in the ranking factors. It will be implemented in July 2021.
Core web vitals have 3 parts to them. Without getting into much detail, let’s try understanding them
LCP: It is short for the largest contentful paint. It is measured by the amount of time it takes to load the biggest element on your page, say a youtube video.
FID: It is short for first input delay. These don’t mean the interaction, like scrolling through the page but actions like pressing a certain button, for example, clicking on “sign up” on a form page. This parameter helps in measuring them.
Google’s new metrics call for an FID of less than 100ms to appear responsive. Anything between 100ms and 300ms needs improvement, and you can view anything above that as performing poorlyGoogle’s new metrics call for an FID of less than 100ms to appear responsive.
Anything between 100ms and 300ms needs improvement, and you can view anything above that as performing poorly.
CLS: some pages shift their layouts before they actually appear with their content. This time is different for every page and is considered as a ranking factor as people may leave your site if they don’t see what they visited in less than a second or two.
- Do not confuse Google: Understand it like, you won’t consider content as a good read if you barely understand it and as a result, you won’t promote it to others. The same applies to Google. If it can’t get your message or the content is not quality content, your web page would not rank for any search query.
- Give a proper structure to your website: This will make for a good sitemap, hence, helping in fast crawling.
When creating websites with CMS (content management system) like WordPress, the web pages and links should be fit to be crawled.
WordPress is easy to use as it has premade codes and you just need to design your website using themes and plugins.
Themes: for example, iTunes on Apple. These are operating software where your site can be designed.
Plugins: these are like apps on a phone. Plugins are used to enhance the functionality of the site.
The domain name that you choose should be:
-Easy to remember
-Easy to spell
One should always use a short URL.
- If a site is not secure, it means it has ‘http’ and not ‘https’. Such sites are prone to hacking and Google would never rank such sites.
- Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines. Don’t deceive your users or present different content to search engines than you display to users, a practice commonly referred to as “cloaking.”
- Make a site with a clear hierarchy and text links. Every page should be reachable from at least one static text link.
- Create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content. Make sure that your <title> elements and ALT attributes are descriptive and accurate.
- Use keywords to create descriptive, human-friendly URLs. Provide one version of a URL to reach a document, using 301 redirects or the rel=”canonical” attribute to address duplicate content.
Have No Fear, Fellow Search Marketer!
In addition to this, over the 15+ years that web search has existed, search marketers have found methods to extract information about how the search engines rank pages. SEOs and marketers use that data to help their sites and their clients achieve better positioning.
We always believe SEO skills are best learned when practiced.
So it’s the time for a little exercise –
- Register a domain (free or paid one)
- Create 2-3 pages on the website
- Publish the pages
- Submit to google (just search query “submit my website to google” on google)
- Verify the domain ownership