Complete Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization.
This topic is a step by step guide to SEO. This article will be an introduction and overview of search engine optimization (SEO), a mandatory marketing tactic if you want your website to be found through search engines like Google.
In this guide you’ll learn:
- What is SEO & Why is it Important?
- Keyword Research & Keyword Targeting Best Practices
- On-Page Optimization Best Practices
- Information Architecture Best Practices
- How to Execute Content Marketing & Link Building
- Common Technical SEO Issues & Best Practices
- How to Track & Measure SEO Results
Additional SEO Considerations (Such as Mobile, International & Local SEO Best Practices)
By the time you reach the end of this SEO basics guide, you’ll have a strong 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.
1. What is SEO & Why is it Important?
You’ve likely heard of SEO, and if you haven’t already, you could obtain a quick Wikipedia definition of the term, but understanding that SEO is “the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s unpaid results” doesn’t really help you answer important questions for your business and your website, such as:
How do you, for your site or your company’s site, “optimize” for search engines?
How do you know how much time to spend on SEO?
How can you differentiate “good” SEO advice from “bad” or harmful SEO advice?
What’s likely interesting to you as a business owner or employee is how you can actually leverage SEO to help drive more relevant traffic, leads, sales, and ultimately revenue and profit for your business. That’s what we’ll focus on in this guide.
Why Should You Care About SEO?
Lots and lots of people search for things. That traffic can be extremely powerful for a business not only because there is a lot of traffic, but because there is a lot of very specific, high-intent traffic. If you sell blue widgets, would you rather buy a billboard so anyone with a car in your area sees your ad (whether they will ever have any interest in blue widgets or not), or show up every time anyone in the world types “buy blue widgets” into a search engine? Probably the latter, because those people have commercial intent, meaning they are standing up and saying that they want to buy something you offer. People are searching for any manner of things directly related to your business. Beyond that, your prospects are also searching for all kinds of things that are only loosely related to your business. These represent even more opportunities to connect with those folks and help answer their questions, solve their problems, and become a trusted resource for them. Are you more likely to get your widgets from a trusted resource who offered great information each of the last four times you turned to Google for help with a problem, or someone you’ve never heard of?
What Actually Works for Driving Traffic from Search Engines?
First it’s important to note that Google is responsible for most of the search engine traffic in the world (though there is always some flux in the actual numbers). This may vary from niche to niche, but it’s likely that Google is the dominant player in the search results that your business or website would want to show up in, and the best practices outlined in this guide will help position your site and its content to rank in other search engines, as well.
Regardless of what search engine you use, search results are constantly changing. Google particularly has updated lots of things surrounding how they rank websites by way of lots of different animal names recently, and a lot of the easiest and cheapest ways to get your pages to rank in search results have become extremely risky in recent years.
So what works? How does Google determine which pages to return in response to what people search for? How do you get all of this valuable traffic to your site?
Google’s algorithm is extremely complex, and I’ll share some links for anyone looking to dive deeper into how Google ranks sites at the end of this section, but at an extremely high level:
Google is looking for pages that contain high-quality, relevant information about the searcher’s query. They determine relevance by “crawling” (or reading) your website’s content and evaluating (algorithmically) whether that content is relevant to what the searcher is looking for, mostly based on the keywords it contains.
They determine “quality” by a number of means, but prominent among those is still the number and quality of other websites that link to your page and your site as a whole. To put it extremely simply: If the only sites that link to your blue widget site are blogs that no one else on the Web has linked to, and my blue widget site gets links from trusted places that are linked to frequently, like CNN.com, my site will be more trusted (and assumed to be higher quality) than yours.
Increasingly, additional elements are being weighed by Google’s algorithm to determine where your site will rank, such as:
How people engage with your site (Do they find the information they need and stay on your site, or bounce back to the search page and click on another link? Or do they just ignore your listing in search results altogether and never click-through?)
Your site’s loading speed and “mobile friendliness”
How much unique content you have (versus very “thin” or duplicated, low-value content)
There are hundreds of ranking factors Google’s algorithm considers in response to searches, and they are constantly updating and refining their process.