Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a method used to increase your website’s visibility on Google or Bing search results. It involves using various techniques to increase your ranking on Google. These techniques include writing great content, linking to other relevant sites, and making sure your site is mobile-friendly.
To put it simply:
Achieving a high visibility in the organic results (non-paid) on a search engine is all about improving a website’s rank.
Companies like Google utilize complex algorithms to manage their search engine and determine websites’ ranks, and optimizing for them can create free traffic for your site on an ongoing basis.
Understanding how search engines like Google and Bing work.
When you search for anything on Google (or any search engine), an algorithm searches through millions of sites at once to determine which one has the best answer to your question.
Specifically, Google has a set of factors it scans for in its index of hundreds of billions of web pages in order to find a list of results that will best satisfy your search.
How does Google establish which results are best?
Even though Google doesn’t make the inner-workings of its algorithm public, testing shows that it can be determined that websites and webpages are ranked based on:
If you search for “apple pie recipes”, you don’t want to see results about tractors.
Google’s algorithm understands this and makes it a top priority to align the search results with the searcher’s intent as much as possible.
This can be trickier than it sounds, since the difference between two distinct search terms can be quite subtle and semantic.
It might be readily apparent that pages about tractors and apples have nothing to do with each other, but less obvious is the difference between a page explaining how to bake an apple pie and one discussing which types of apples are best to eat.
Both pages are related to eating apples but only by looking at how the rest of the site gives context to the search term can a search engine determine which is most relevant to your search.
But finding the pages that are relevant to a keyword usually isn’t enough.
Typing “apple pie recipe” into Google will net you 206 million search results that the algorithm has decided are about baking apple pies – far too many for any human to look through and determine which site best fits their needs.
In order to make the engine’s search results more useful and get people the results they are looking for, the algorithm employs a website ranking system based on three elements.
If a site is found to be strong in all three compared to its competitors, they have a good chance of being shown at the top of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
One of the easiest ways to determine if a site is relevant is to measure its authority within a certain search term.
Authority for a search engine algorithm is based on how accurate and reliable the target page is to a specific keyword.
It measures these two factors by tallying all the links other websites have made to the target page.
The logic is simple: if other sites are linking to the target site, it means that other people have found that site’s content to be useful and relevant.
(In fact, the ability for Google to measure authority via links was what separated it from search engines like Yahoo that came before it.)
These links are known as Backlinks and are seen by the algorithm as a sort of “vote” for the target site; the more votes a webpage has, the higher it will rank.
Backlinks are powerful because not only are they one of the top factors an algorithm looks at, they are one of the hardest to synthesize.
It’s easy enough to edit one’s own webpage to optimize for certain keywords or edit the layout to be more accessible and user-friendly, but getting other sites and companies to link back to that page usually only happens organically and with strong, well-written content.
Google wants to show you what it thinks is best for you. If it doesn’t think your content is useful, it won’t rank it highly.
Google has publicly stated that there is a difference between “higher quality” content and “useful” content.
For example, if you search for “paleo diet”, you’ll get results for information on paleo diet recipes
The first link you click on (‘Result A’) is written by the founder of the Paleo Diet. And because the page contains so much high-quality content, lots of people have shared it.
However, there is a lot of information here that is poorly organized, and it’s full of jargon that most people don’t understand.
Contrast that with another example (“Example B”).
This article is written by someone relatively new to the Paleo Diet. Their website doesn’t have nearly the amount of links pointing to it.
But their site is well-designed, with content organized into distinct categories, and it’s written so that anyone can understand.
Google is an algorithm that ranks websites according to what users search for. If you want your website to rank high, then you need to optimize your site for Google.
You can do this by using keywords in your title tags, meta description, and URL. You can also add links to other pages on your site that contain those same keywords. But if the end result of this optimization is a jumbled mess of barely-legible text and phrases, the search engine will not see the site as being very useful to its users.
Google measures usefulness by looking at user experience signals. These are metrics the algorithm can measure to determine how long users spend on a particular site and whether or not they found what they were looking for.
My top tip for higher rankings is to focus on providing quality content.
Create a site that people love! Search engine optimization (SEO) is about making sure your website gets found by search engines. You can play right into their hands by using real signals instead of artificial ones. Make sure you’re doing everything possible to get your site ranked high in search results and retain users that click on it.
Now it’s time to put these things into practice with a step-by-step SEO tutorial.
How SEO Works
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) works by optimizing your site so that it ranks well in search results for the keywords that you want to target.
Your job is to ensure that a search engine considers your site to be the best result for a particular search.
How they determine the “best” result is based on an algorithmic approach that considers factors such as authority, relevance to that query, loading time, and more.
(For example, there are over 200 distinct ranking factors in Google’s algorithm.)
Most people think of search engine optimization (SEO) as something you need to do to get your website ranked higher on Google. While that is true, there are many other ways to optimize your site for search engines. The focus here is on optimizing your site specifically for Google’s organic results, but first we will briefly discuss the difference between organic and paid search results.
Organic vs. Paid Results
Organic and paid results are separate from each other.
Organic search results are natural results that rank solely on their merits.
There’s no way to pay search engines like Google or Bing to rank higher in their organic search results.
Google ranks the organic search results based upon hundreds of different ranking factors, but in general, organic results will be deemed to be the most relevant, trustworthy, and authoritative sites or webpages on the subject.
Search engines like Google and Bing are powered by algorithms. These algorithms are designed to understand what you’re looking for and then return relevant results. Search engines use a number of different factors to determine relevance, including your location, time of day, and even your mood.
When we talk about “SEO,” we are talking about ranking our websites higher up in the organic (non-paid) search results.
Paid search results are advertisements that appear on top of, or under, the organic results.
Paid advertising is an important source of revenue for many websites. Paid ads are completely independent of the organic listings. Advertiser rankings are determined by how much money they are willing to spend per click.
Why Is SEO Important?
Short answer: search engines are a big source of traffic.
Here’s a breakdown of where the majority of website traffic comes from:
Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo account for about 60% of all internet traffic. Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn account for another 30%. Together, just those two sources account for 90% of all traffic.
Let’s illustrate the importance of SEO with an example…
Let’s imagine that you own a party supply store. You’ve been doing well for years, but your profits are starting to drop. You’re not sure why. You think about what you could do differently. Maybe you should start advertising on Facebook. Or maybe you should try selling your products
But if you’re showing up at the top of Google for your keywords, then you could be attracting 22,000 visitors to your site every month.
Let’s quantify that – how valuable are those visitors?
The average ad spend for that keyword is around $1.00 per click. That means that the traffic generated by 22,000 visits is worth around $22,000 a year.
That’s just for that search term. If your site is optimized for SEO, then you can rank well for hundreds (and sometimes even thousands) of different keywords!
For example, in real estate or insurance, search engine traffic is worth more than in other industries; advertisers pay over $45 per click for the search term “auto insurance price quote.”
Before diving into the nitty gritty details of title tags and HTML code, it’s important not to skip a key step: creating a good website structure.
Customer and keyword research.
You need to figure out what your customers are searching for. You can do this by using Google Analytics, which will give you insight into what keywords your visitors are using to get to your website. You can also use other tools like SEMRush, Keyword Planner, and WordStream. These tools will help you find the right keywords for your website.
Here’s what you need to do.
If you already run a business, you probably know who your target customers are.
A customer persona is a fictional character that represents a typical user of your product and can be a useful way to plan and outline your on-page optimization.
Here’s an example:
SEO and content marketing aren’t just about creating great content, they’re also about helping your customers find what they need. Customer research helps you understand what your customers want and how they search for information online, enabling you to create content that will help them find what they need.
To succeed with SEO you need to create content that your customers search for, so they find you when they’re looking for something related to your business.
Unless you know who your customer base is, it’s almost impossible to understand the types of searches that they’re making.
Once you have a customer persona ready, it’s time to move on to the next step: Keyword Research.
This is where you drill down into exactly which words and phrases (search terms) people use when they search for your product online.
Keywords tend to fall into two categories: product keywords and keyword phrases.
You also have keywords that your target audience uses when searching for something else (Informational keywords).
How about an example?
Let’s say that your eCommerce website sells baseball equipement.
Your bucket of product keyword phrases would be things like:
- Baseball Bat shipping
- Nike tennis shoes
- Flat feet tennis shoes
On the one hand, informational keywords are things that your audience might be interested in even if they aren’t searching for them.
- Second serve tutorial
- How to stop unplanned mistakes
- Proper backhand form
- How to hit a topspin serve
To succeed with SEO, you need to optimize your pages for both types of keywords.
So that when your customer searches for the product, you appear in the search engine results page.
And for keywords that aren’t related to your products or services, you show up for them too.
Keyword Research Tips
Here are some tips to help you find good keywords.
First, use Google Autocomplete.
\You may have probably already used this feature without knowing it; when you type something into Google, you’ll see a bunch of search suggestions. Type keywords into Google and jot down any suggestions that come out.
Next, type words and phrases into Answer the Public.
This free tool is GREAT for finding informational keywords. If you’re writing an article about the Paleo Diet, type “Paleo Diet” into the search box at ATP, and it will generate questions people ask that are closely related to the topic.
One example of a question I found was ‘Will Paleo Diet Increase Cholesterol?’. That question is an excellent topic for a blog post.
After that, use a keyword research tool.
Keyword tools can tell you how many people search for a particular keyword and how hard it will be to rank high enough on the first page of results for that term.
There are many different ways to go about finding the right keywords for your website. Some of them are free, while others cost money. You can also use paid services like Google Adwords, Bing Ads, Facebook Ads, etc.
Here are some I recommend checking out: —-
However, the best all-around keyword research tool is Google’s Keywords Planner.
Keyword Planner was created to help people with Google AdWords campaigns, but it can still be used to find keywords for SEO, you just need to enter a product keyword or an informational keyword into it. You’ll then get data on that specific phrase (like average monthly search volume), and a list of related terms.
You can use the number of monthly searches you get from Google Keyword Planner to figure out which keywords are searched for most often and which ones aren’t.
If you’re new to SEO and you want to focus on keywords, then you should focus on long-tail keyword phrases.
You should always target long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are typically less competitive than short-tail keywords, so attaining a higher rank is easier. You will also see higher search volumes for these keywords.
Content marketing and SEO are closely linked.
You should always strive to create high quality content. If you’re writing about something you’re an expert at, then you should probably just link to your own blog post. If you’re writing something that’s really niche, then you might need to spend time researching what other experts in the space are saying. You should also always avoid plagiarism.
Here are some tips for creating SEO-friendly content.
Creating Content for Product and Service Pages
You shouldn’t write about your products and services just because you think it will get more traffic. You need to write about what your customers care about. If you’re writing about something that isn’t relevant to your audience, then you’re not going to get any traffic at all.
Your product pages should focus on the features and advantages of your products. You want to show visitors what your product does and how it will benefit them. Your product pages should also contain information about your company and its history.
For example, take a look at the Baremetrics website.
This isn’t a blog post, but it’s still high quality content. You can see how well-designed the page and outlines for key product features are.
If someone searches for a product keyword like “revenue forecasting software” they’d get a lot of value out of this page even though the main goal is to get them to sign up for a free trial.
Bottom line: Make sure you’re providing value to your visitors. Don’t forget that conversions should always be your #1 goal!
Creating High-Quality Blog Content
When most people say “content is king”, they’re usually referring to the type of highly useful and informative content that gets published on blogs (like this one).
(In other words, not content that you would find on most product and service pages.)
And there’s no question that creating awesome content can help improve Google rankings.
According to HubSpot, businesses that regularly publish content get 350% more traffic.
This approach has worked for me.
Thanks to a commitment for publishing high-quality content on my site, it receives 553,682 search engine visitors each month.
I wouldn’t get nearly as much traffic if I didn’t put up a bunch of product listings and hope that Google ranks them. That’s not what SEO is about in 2021.
SEO is all about putting out engaging content on a consistent basis. If you’re not doing that, you’ll never get any traffic.
According to recent statistics from WordPress, 70 million new blog posts are published each month.
And that’s just through WordPress. People also post millions of articles on Medium, Shopify, and other platforms.
Bottom line: If you want to rank well on Google, you need to create great content. Otherwise, you’re just wasting time and money.
Content With Data
BuzzSumo analyzed 100 million blog posts to identify content trends.
It’s hard to get people to share your content because there’s just too much content. There’s so many articles, videos, images, and other types of content that it’s getting harder and harder to stand out. People are also sharing less and less content, and instead of sharing, they’re just consuming.
On a more positive side, webpages providing authoritative research and reference content continue to gain links.
The first post was a case study based on an example taken from real life.
The other was a new study packed with data.
Which one do you think did better: A or B?
So far, my case study has over 600 links.
But my data-based guide has 25,000 links:
That‘s the good news. The bad news is that making this type of data-based content can be really tricky!
If you’re willing to put in the effort, this article will teach you how to create original research content.
A complete guide is similar to the Complete List that we discussed earlier.
The biggest difference is that with a complete guide you aren’t necessarily outlining a massive list of tips or recommendations. Instead, you‘re covering every angle there is on a given topic. The reader should get all the information they need to succeed, whether they’re just starting out or they’ve been at it for years.
Yes, we still want to cover actionables. But the main goal here is to give someone everything they need to know about a topic in a single page.
Earlier, I mentioned my complete list of link building strategies.
If you’re looking for a massive list, this is a great resource. But if you’re looking for an explanation of what link building is, or why building backlinks is so important for SEO, then this isn’t the right article for you.
My list post wouldn’t help them.
That’s one reason I also wrote a comprehensive guide to link building. It contains a few strategies, but that’s fine because its real focus is to help people understand the general topic of “Link Building”.
A pro tip for writing guides: cover new, trending topics to increase the chances that your guide stands out from the crowd.
For example, this article on the Ketogenic Diet came up in 2013 when the keto movement was gaining traction. Because the guide was among the first of its kind in the Paleo webspace, hundreds of Paleo bloggers linked to it and shared on social media.
A study by one industry found that infographics were an ideal content format for linking.
Infographics aren’t just for information anymore. They can also be used to tell stories, explain concepts, or simply entertain. Infographics can be made using any type of media, including text, images, video, audio, and interactive elements. They are easily shareable and can reach a potentially massive audience through social media platforms.
If you’re ready to start creating content, I recommend reading this post of visual content ideas and samples.
On-Page SEO is about making sure Google can find and index your website so it can display it in the search results. On-Page SEO includes all the elements that help Google understand what your page is about and how to rank it well. These elements include:• Title tags• Meta descriptions
Specifically, Google scans web pages for specific words and phrases to determine their relevance to the content of the page.
When it sees the same term repeatedly, Google says: ‘This page must be about that keyword!’
That’s one reason why it’s so important to use your target keywords on your pages.
(More on that later.)
Let’s cover how you can improve your site’s SEO.
If your site runs WordPress, I highly recommend installing the Yoast SEO plugin
It doesn’t magically optimize your site for you but Yoast makes setting up your page’ title and description tags easy.
It also has tons of other features to help improve your site as a whole, including things like SEO, analytics, and security.
If your site runs another platform (like Shopifly or Wix), they’re bundled with SEO features that YOAST has.
The #1 rule for on-page SEO is to focus on quality content.
Put your keyword in your title.
Why is this important?
When it comes to on-site optimization, your title tag (or H1) is the most important part.
Think about it this way:
Your title tags summarize what your page is all about. And when you use keywords in your title tag, you tell Google that your page is all about those keywords.
For example, I’ve published this list of 17 tips for SEO before.
My target keyword for that page will be: “SEO tips”.
This is why I included that exact keyword in my meta description:
Optimize Your Meta Description For Clicks
Your meta description isn’t nearly as important as your title tag.
Google doesn’t pay much attention to your descriptions (or meta keywords) when ranking websites.
So why should you create a description?
Because people use your title to determine whether or not to click through to your page.
For example, take a look at this description from an important web page on my site:
I’m not going to lie, I love getting links back to my website. But I also understand that if you’re trying to rank high on Google, you need to focus on quality content first. So I’ve come up with a sneaky way to get links to my site without actually writing any content.
Pro tip: Use your main keyword(s) in your description. When you search for that term, Google highlights your keyword(s), making your page stand out even more in search results.
Use Keywords In Your Content
Next, you want your keyword included on your page a few times, so that Google will be confident that the page is really about that subject.
For example, for an SEO tips post I mentioned above, you can see that it includes that keyword in the first 100 words, and that same keyword was sprinkled a few more times throughout the content.
I used my main keyword 5 times in my content. Considering that my content is over 4,000 words, that’s not a very high keyword frequency. But it’s enough for Google to get a sense of what my content is all about.
Keywords should be used sparingly, but not at the expense of quality. You don’t want your website to be full of keywords, but you also don’t want it to be boring. Use them strategically, and make sure they are relevant to your content.
Bottom line: If you’re trying to rank for a broad term like “best dog food”, then you need to make sure that you’re using that exact phrase somewhere on your site. You may think that you can get away with stuffing other variations of the word “dog” into your pages, but you won’t see any traffic or sales conversions from those pages.
Use Synonyms and Variations
Use synonyms and variations of keywords throughout your content. This can help your site be found by hundreds of different keywords.
For example, take a look at this post from my site: http://www.jeffbullas.com
Because I use my keyword in my title tags and throughout my content, I expect to rank in the top 3 when people search for that term.
But I also include a lot of variations of my keywords, as well as LSI keywords.
(LSI keywords refer to words that are closely related to your main keyword, they help give it context and meaning.)
For example, I use LSI keywords like ‘outreach tools’ and ‘backlink analysis’ in the post.
Check your site with the Google Search Console
From indexing to ranking, Google Search Console (GSC) is an online dashboard of your site‘s health and performance in search engines.
(Fun fact: Bing has its own version of this tool named Bing Webmaster Tools)
You’ll need to confirm that you own your domain name before using Google Search Console.
When you do, Google Analytics will show you how many people see your site on Google‘s search results.
But that’ll be enough for now.
The GSC has tons of useful features that help you submit your sitemap to Google, see how much content is indexed, and so much more.
Make sure your URLs are SEO-friendly.
Most people don’t put a lot of thought into their URLs.
And it leads to strange-looking URLs like this one:
It turns out that URLs are a key part to your site’s SEO.
Make sure that when it comes to URLs, you’re using them correctly.
- Your URL should be structured in a way that helps Google understand what each page is about. You can create different categories for your site, and then assign each page to its own category. For example, if your site sells coffee, you could have a category called “Coffee” and another called “French Press Coffee.” Then, you could link to your French press pages from within the “Coffee” category.
- Make sure that your target keyword appears once in your URL. For example: www.website.com/your-target-keyword.
- Avoid junk! Shortened URLs are not always the best option. Longer URLs tend to rank better on Google.
If you feel like you need to change your existing URLs, then go ahead and do so.
I think it’s obvious that you should keep your original URL. However, I also think it’s important to create SEO-friendly URLs for any future pages you publish.
If you decide to change your URL structure, make sure to 301 Redirect the old pages to the newly structured ones. If you have multiple pages with similar content then you should implement Canonical URLs.
Measure and Optimize For PageSpeed
Slow loading websites aren’t just annoying. They can also hurt your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.
Google announced a new ‘speed update’ in 2018, meaning that it has begun penalizing websites that don’t load quickly on mobile devices.
Fortunately, Google doesn’t make you guess whether or if your site is slow. It tells you right away. You can check your site’s page speed using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. It gives your page a 0-to-100 score for its speed.
Depending on the suggestions you get from Google, you may be able to improve your site’s loading speed with a number of WordPress plugins. If not, you may need a developer to tweak your site’ s HTML code.
Secure websites get a slight advantage in search results.
According to MozCast, 98.5% (or 985 out of 1000) of first page results are secure with HTTPS encryption, and Google Chrome now displays a big warning when you go to a site that isn’t secure.
If your site isn’t secure, I recommend setting up SSL/TLS right away.
The only problem with using HTTPS is that you need to change your website’s URLs. That means that every page needs to redirect to the same URL, otherwise users will get confused when they click on links and end up at a different place.
If you need help with this process, I suggest checking out this checklist.
A lot of people ask me if they should switch from HTTP to HTTPS.
My answer: “Maybe”.
I don’t think that HTTPS is a “super important” ranking factor. In fact Google has referred to HTTPS (HTTPS) as a tie breaker. I think that if you’re going to rank your site, then you should focus on other SEO elements first.
If you rank #8, then moving to HTTPS might move your ranking up to #7.
We moved our entire website from HTTP to HTTPS in late September of 2017.
And our organic traffic for the following month was pretty much the exact same as before the switch.
Site architecture and internal linking are important for SEO.
As long as your site isn’t brand new and only has five pages, website architecture doesn’t matter all that much.
However, if your site grows to hundreds of pages, how your website architecture is set up can make a huge difference.
You first need to create an organized structure for your pages.
Next, you want to use internal links to high-prioritization pages on your site.
And that‘s pretty much it. There are two other things to keep in mind. First, you want your internal links to have keyword-rich anchor texts. Second, you want to avoid using exact match anchors.
If you’re linking out to another website, don’t just use an anchor text like “Click Here”. Instead, try using something like “This Cold Brew Coffee Guide”. If you’re trying to get clicks on a link to your own site, then you should be using keywords in your anchor text.
Optimize For Mobile
Mobile optimization has gone beyond “nice to have.” It’s now an absolute necessity.
Google’s algorithm is mobile-first. That means that the mobile version is the main version Google sees. So if you’re not optimizing your site for mobile, you’re missing out on a lot of traffic.
If your site loads slowly on mobile, but loads quickly on desktop, Google will think your site is slow.
You can check if your site has any mobile issues by verifying it in Search Console.
You can also use the “mobile-friendly test” tool from Google if you don’t know whether your site is mobile-friendly. If you find that it is not, that is an issue that should be addressed immediately.
Pro tip: Don’t use interstitials for mobile search traffic. Google has said that doing so can negatively impact your rankings, so avoid them if possible.
You can always track your results with Google Analytics.
How do you know whether all the effort you’re putting into SEO is actually paying off?
You can largely answer that question by using just one tool: Google Analytics.
Here’s how Google Analytics can help SEO campaigns run smoothly:
- You can track changes in organic traffic over a period of time. If you see an example like this, you‘re probably on the right path.
- You can see which pages bring in the highest amount of traffic from search engines. You can then focus your efforts on those pages.
- Google Analytics helps you understand how visitors interact with your site, whether they’re coming back or not. You can see what pages they visit, when they visit them, and how long they spend on each page. This information lets you optimize your site for search engine results.
You can also set up conversion tracking in Google Analytics. That way, you will know if the traffic that‘s coming in from SEO actually converts into leads and sales. You can also track your conversions using different channels like social media, emails, etc.
Link building is an important part of any digital marketing strategy. It helps you gain visibility online and increase traffic to your site. Link building involves getting other websites to link to yours. This is also known as Off-Page SEO.
Backlinks have always been the backbone of Google’s algorithm. They’re still a top priority; we’ve been analyzing the same set for years.
We’ve found that links are still strongly associated with first page Google rankings, even though Google has changed its algorithm.
Links are an important part of SEO and they aren’t going away any time soon.
Here’s a quick primer on all aspects of link building.
Some links are better than others.
Links from high-quality websites will pass more PageRank than links from low-quality websites.
There are two main methods of measuring authority: Domain and Page Authority.
Domain Authority (DA) is the site’s overall authority. Even if a specific page doesn’t have a lot of links pointing to it (which is rare), the DA means that the page still holds some authority among related websites.
Page Authority is the measure of the importance of a specific web page.
To learn more about link authority metrics, check out this video from Moz.
You want links from authoritative sites on high-authority pages. The problem is that these links are extremely hard to get. You need to spend time finding them, and then you need to convince them to link to your site.
Focus On Links From Relevant Websites
When building links to your website, remember one thing:
That’s why links from sites related to your industry pass more SEO value than those from sites outside your industry.
Links from relevant sites show Google what kind of content you’re linking to. If most of those links point to your baking site, then Google will assume that your baking site is legitimate.
(Note that it’s fine to get links from other sites, but if they make up the majority of your backlink profile, you have a serious problem.)
For example, here’s a link to my website from Moz:
Moz is an online marketing company that helps businesses get found online. Moz covers SEO. My site also covers SEO. To Google, my site is a link from a relevant website.
“Relevant content” doesn’t necessarily mean that the site must be on your exact topic, but it should be relevant to your audience and the topic they are researching.
For example, some years ago I was linked to from this website.
Web design is not SEO. But it’s still closely related. So that link will still count as a relevant backlink even if it’s not directly related to SEO.
HOW do you get others to link to your website?
Before we get started, let’s talk about black hat and white hat techniques.
White Hat vs. Black Hat SEO Techniques
When I first started out in SEO, black hat SEO was the only game in town. Link building was the only way to get traffic to your site, and if you could trick Google into thinking you had links, you’d rank higher. But those days are long gone, and engaging in such techniques could get you penalized or banned. That‘s why I don‘t recommend using black hat SEO. It isn‘t worth the risk.
Today, white hat SEO is the norm. White hat SEO is all the SEO techniques that are considered legal and fair-game for site-owners to utilize. The goal is to discourage spammy, underhanded black hat techniques that ultimately lessen the users experience on a website.
How do you know whether a specific link building strategy is black hat or white hat?
- Google’s link schemes list is a regularly updated list of things that Google thinks are shady. It includes links that are considered spammy, like those that point to sites
- Google doesn’t allow paid links because they are not considered “natural”. If you are going to buy links, you should do it through an SEO company.
- Did someone link to your website because they think it’s worth linking to? If yes, then you’re good! You’ve earned a link back to your site.
To be clear:
SEO is not just about links. There are many other ways to get traffic to your site. Black hat SEO is when you try to trick Google into thinking your website is something it isn’t. Doorway pages are an example of black hat SEO.
But in most cases, when people say “black hat SEO”, they’re referring to black hat link building.
Now, let’s talk about some white hat link building strategies that I use and suggest.
The Skyscraper Technique
If you’re new to SEO and content creation, I recommend The Skyrise Technique because it takes a ton of the guesswork out of the equation.
This approach isn’t easy at all. In fact, it takes a lot of hard work.
But the reason I suggest starting here is the fact the Skyscraper content is fairly easy to create and promote.
A while ago, I got over 700 links to one single post.
If you want to give it a go, here’s a case study that will guide you through the steps.
Guest posting as a link building strategy is extremely controversial.
That’s why guest blogging can easily go either way. It can be a legitimate way to get visitors and exposure or it can potentially be seen as a black hat approach.
But when done right (and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be), guest blogging is an awesome way to gain some early links and exposure.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when starting guest posting:
- Only publish guest posts on related websites. Publishing many guest posts on unrelated sites will be a big red flag.
- Use your brand name as the link text. Don’t use keywords like “best” or “free”. Use words that describe what you offer. For example, if you sell software, use words like “software”, “solution”, “
- Don’t scale. Guest posting shouldn’t be a central component of your link building strategy. You should aim to get links from high quality sites, not low quality ones. If you’re getting links from guest posts, you’re probably doing something wrong.
To learn how to guest post for authority sites in your industry (or any industry), check out this guide.
Anything that people will gladly link to is called a “linkable asset.”
And this goes way beyond just “great content“.
There’s so much great content out there already. Writing yet another “10 tips for weight loss” post isn‘t going to push anyone else to link to you, so why not share your own unique perspective?
Instead, I recommend writing content that’s designed to get links.
Here are some examples of Linkable Assets that you can create:
- Industry study
- Myth-busting article
- Visual guide or resource
- Free tool
- A curated list of tips, examples, or resources
For example, a few years ago I published an SEO tools list.
I knew that this post would be useful for my readers, but I also realized that this article would be a Linkable asset that bloggers in the SEO industry would want to share with the rest of their audience.
I was right. That page was linked to 10.2K times to date.
(Not to mention 1.9 million likes on Facebook.)
To be clear:
You don’t necessarily need to create a mega list or guide for your linkable asset.
This relatively simple infographic I created a few years ago now boasts 8.8k total links.
I think it did really well because I made it easy to understand. I also included lots of images and videos, which made my guide an extremely valuable resource that people were happy to link to.
If you want to learn even further about backlinking, check out this video outlining some of my favorite strategies.
There are four main types of search intents. These are:
- Navigation – A user wants to navigate to another page within the same site.
- Information – A user wants to get information about something.
- Commercial – A user wants to investigate brands or services.
- Transactional – A user wants to complete an action.
Understanding search intent is a big part of succeeding with SEO today and into the future.
For example, let’s say that you want to get Thai food for dinner, you might search for “Boston Thai food”.
You’re looking for something to eat; your intent is transactional.
But let’s say that you want to cook a chicken curry at some point. You’d probably search for something like “How to make Thai chicken curry”.
In that situation, you’re looking for recipes; you want to know how to cook that dish.
The better you align your content with people’s search queries, the higher you‘ll rank on Google.
Case Study: How Search Intent Boosted My Search Engine Traffic
A while ago, I improved the organic reach of one of my pages by 220%.
I didn’t build any links to that page. That 219% increase was a result of me improving my content for search intent, and making sure that all of my pages were optimized for SEO.
Here’s the full story:
Back in 2013, I published this guide to finding keywords for your content.
Because keyword research is such a huge topic, I broke the guide down into different sections:
Each chapter is a different page on my website. This structure was great for anyone landing directly on the homepage of my guide.
But let’s say you did a search on Google for “keyword tools” and landed on this page.
You might be thinking: “Chapter 6?!”. I just need a list of tools… not a multi-chapter tutorial.
And that’s why the page didn’t rank well on Google.
Last year I decided to better match the content of the page with the user’s search intent.
First, I searched for my target keyword: “How to get started with growth hacking”
I realized that my page didn’t list nearly enough tools. Many people that search for “keyword research tools” want a list of 10+. But my page only listed X tools. So I decided to create a list of all the tools I have found to be useful.
After that, I made some changes to the page so it better matched user intent.
Specifically, I turned a page in my book into a full-fledged blog post.
And I added 15 new tools to the list.
These relatively simple changes resulted in a significant increase in organic search traffic to my site… and landed me a top ranking.
You might be wondering:
How does Google know whether a page is a good match for someone’s user intent?
It turns out that Google closely monitors how people use its search results.
If they notice that searchers aren’t clicking on your result, Google will think your content isn’t relevant for that search, and it will downrank you.
Marketers like Larry Kim have been successful at linking organic click-through rate to Google rankings.
To be honest, I don’t think CTR is nearly as important as something known as “pogo sticking”.
If you want to learn more about pogo sticking, check out my full guide here.
If you’re looking for a quick overview, pogo-sticking is when users bounce from one result to another to find something that helps.
If Google notices that people tend not to click through to your site after they’ve clicked on one of your links, that’s a really bad sign.
If you want an example of how user signals affect search rankings, check out the following video:
How to Optimize for User Signals
Your first step is making sure that your content aligns with the search intent of the keywords you’re targeting.
If your content isn’t a good fit for what users want, Google WILL notice.
Once you’ve got that content up there, here are some other ways you can improve its chances of ranking well for relevant keywords:
- Use a short introduction. Instead of “This topic will help you understand X, Y, Z”, say something like “X is an important concept that helps us understand Y and Z”.
- Images and graphics are great for any type of content. They help break up the monotony of reading and add visual interest to your content.
- Add internal links to your page. People will then be able to read more about topics that you covered in your article… without bouncing back to the search results.
- Slow loading sites = higher bounce rate. In fact there is a direct relationship between page loading time and bounce rate. According to Pingdom, slow loading sites will result in higher bounce rates.
- Make sure your content is easy to read. Use large fonts (I personally recommend 16px) and bold text. Bullets and numbered lists are great ways to break up long paragraphs. You can also use headings to create sections within your content.
- Keep your website fresh and up-to-date. Users always want to see new content that’s 100% relevant to them right now. If you’re not updating your site regularly, you’ll lose traffic and potential customers.
Let’s finish up this beginner SEO tutorial by discussing some emerging trends in the digital market.
I’m not going to go into detail about SEO here because there are plenty of other resources out there. However, I will give you an overview of what you need to know to start getting results.
A study by Moz found no correlation between using Schema markups and first page rankings.
Some people misinterpreted that result as: ‘Schema doesn’t work!’.
And yes, if you think that Schema markup is going to improve your search engine rankings, you’re going to be disappointed.
Schema is an SEO tool that helps you optimize your website for search engines. You can use it to create rich snippets, schema markup, and structured data. These features will help you rank higher on Google and other search engines.
For example, here are some search results:
Which one looks best? Obviously, the one that has reviews!
Structured data is the foundation of rich results. If you want your site to show up in search results, you need to add structured data to your site’s markup. You can do this by using Schema.org markup, which will help Google understand what your page is about.
E-A-G-O-N-E-S is something that Google has placed more and more emphasis on in recent years.
It’s easy: Google wants to be completely sure that the content in the results can be trusted.
There’s lots of controversy in the SEO community about E-A-S-S.
However, the bottom line is that if Google considers your site to be a trusted authority in your field, then it needs to be considered trustworthy by its visitors.
Wikipedia probably has the highest EAT rating of any website on earth. The content is written by thousands of people (most of whom are experts in their field) and edited by thousands more.
If you want to improve E-A-T on your website, you need to put in the time and effort to create high quality content. You also need to promote your content through social media and other channels.
But if you put up high-quality content written for respected experts, your E‑A‑T is going to be fine.
E-A-T is also influenced by links. In addition, Google recently confirmed that page rank is a big part of determining E-A-T, and that link quality is a factor in determining E-A-G-I-S-M.
Voice Search SEO
It’s not a secret that the number of voice searches has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years, but it’s important to note that there are still millions of people who don’t use their keyboard to search for things.
Nearly half of all adults use Google’s voice search every day.
And it’s growing fast.
Voice search is an important part of our lives. We use it every day when we ask Alexa to play music, get directions, or even just check the weather. Voice search is also becoming increasingly important for SEO. If you optimize your site for voice search, you will rank higher on Google Home and other voice assistants.
It’s a good idea.
Voice searches aren’t just for smart speakers, such as Amazon Alexa.
According to Search Engine Land, one in five searches done on mobile phones is a voice search.
Voice search is becoming increasingly popular. People are using their voices instead of typing when searching for information. Voice search is also becoming more important for mobile devices. Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana, and Alexa all offer increasingly sophisticated voice search capabilities.
Voice search is one of the fastest growing trends in the world of search engine optimization and digital marketing. Especially for local SEO.
As more people start searching with their voice, publishers must figure out ways to create content specifically for voice searches, which will require them to rethink their entire approach to optimization.
To optimize for voice search, read “Voice Search: the Definitive Guide”.
Core Web Vitals
Google rolled out what they call a “Page Experience Improvement” update in the summer of 2021.
This update took into consideration what Google calls Core Web Vitalities: a set of factors that are considered important for user experience on the web.
It’s unclear how much of an impact Core Web Vital has on rankings, but it’s definitely worthwhile to optimize for it.
You can view your site’s Core Web Vitals report from your Google Search Console account.
Optimize YouTube Videos
YouTube is the second largest website in the world.
Unlike other websites, YouTube, which is owned by Google, is also a massive search engine. This means you need to optimize your videos for SEO.
According to Sistrix, Google is now including YouTube videos in its search results.
YouTube videos have been on Google’s search results for years. Over the past few years, however, they’ve taken up more and more space in the top results, especially above the fold.
Millions of people use YouTube everyday. It’s important to have a presence on the platform if you want to be successful in SEO in 2021.
If you’re new to YouTube SEO and want to learn more, watch this video for the basics.
I hope this guide helped you understand what SEO is and how it works. I also hope it gave you some ideas about how to start your own SEO campaign. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below!
SEO is an important part of any website. It helps your site rank higher in search results. If you want to get more people to visit your site and engage with your products, then SEO is a must.
I recommend starting with the basics: making sure that search engines can crawl your website and read it without issue.
Then, create content that is optimized for keywords.
Finally, use outreach techniques to get links back to your site.
Those three steps are an important part of SEO.
Once you feel like you’ve mastered those basics, look into more advanced stuff, such as YouTube SEO and voice search