What is SEO: Beginner’s Guide to SEO
As of 2019, 61% of marketers consider increasing organic presence and improving SEO as top inbound marketing priorities. The importance of SEO services in the field of online marketing cannot be stressed enough. So, with this comprehensive guide, you can understand the key ins and outs of SEO along with some crucial Google Webmaster Guidelines, a step-by-step guide, and essential parts of SEO, among other aspects.
WHAT IS SEO?
SEO or Search Engine Optimization is a process of optimizing your website and its content to improve visibility. SEO helps your website secure a higher position on search engine results, and therefore, increases both the quality and quantity of organic traffic. This is one of the most crucial marketing tactics and helps your website to reach more and more target audiences and derive better sales and leads.
However, with millions of content pieces available over the Internet coupled with constant search engine algorithm updates, obtaining and maintaining a higher rank becomes a challenging task. With professional SEO services, however, you can optimize websites and content according to the latest algorithm updates and reach your target customers easily.
HOW DOES SEO/SEARCH ENGINES WORK?
Understanding how SEO works is a primary step towards learning different tactics that are used to increase your website’s visibility. Therefore, the following section offers you a brief insight into how search engines as well as SEO work.
Search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc., use bots, also known as web spiders, to crawl through and collect information about the web pages which make up a website. This helps them to index the pages and determine when to show your website to an audience against a particular search query.
Next, the search engine algorithms analyze the pages which are indexed by taking into account multiple ranking factors, like page speed, title tags, internal links, backlinks, etc. These ranking factors determine the order in which the web pages appear in the search results for a particular query.
Now, there are over 200 ranking factors that are used by Google and other search engines. SEO optimizes your websites’ content with key implementations of several On-page and Off-page ranking tactics. The On-page SEO strategies primarily deal with everything on your website like title tags, content quality, URLs, site speed, etc. On the other hand, Off-page SEO strategies involve generating quality back-links, i.e., securing links from other sites to your website.
Both, On-Page and Off-page SEO are extremely crucial to make your website more credible, relevant, and trustworthy, and collectively, it demonstrates to the web crawlers that your website’s content is the best result for a particular search query.
WHY IS SEO IMPORTANT?
Investing in SEO services helps to gain a competitive edge in the business and increase revenue substantially.
Here are 5 key advantages of implementing SEO in an online marketing campaign:
- Increase in Sales & Leads
Adopting SEO practices to optimize your website according to new algorithm rules, thereby increasing readability and improving navigability, helps the page secure a higher rank and reduce bounce rates. Consequently, the website’s visibility increases, allowing the audience to know about your product and turn them into potential customers. The benefits of SEO towards increasing brand visibility are massive, which also helps to improve the business objective by understanding the clients’ goals. In a ground-breaking case study of an Ohio-based company named Belden Brick, it was stated that there was a marvelous rise of 85% in online traffic and sales lead generation in 2016, after implementing a complete SEO optimization of the entire website content and by improving the overall site visibility.
- Securing Quality Traffic
SEO services help to optimize the website and its content by employing online ranking methods like systematic keyword research, structured content organization, customized on-page, and off-page SEO, etc. The ultimate result is continuous high traffic and increased sales, as witnessed by the Sans Francisco-based Boombox Storage. In 2020, Boombox was able to increase its visibility and organic traffic by 1690% with custom on-page and off-page SEO campaigns and by identifying and implementing thematic keywords that were generating an increased volume of traffic for its competitors. The company is now swamped with orders and witnesses online booking YoY of 443%
- Improving Brand Visibility and Credibility
When your website is optimized with custom on-page and off-page SEO, it allows the web spiders to index the website’s content easily and offer it a higher rank on the search results. Consequently, your brand’s visibility increases, which again propels it to reach more audiences and build credibility by offering it a place in competitive search results. Gema and Co. wanted to step into the highly competitive engagement ring market with its unique Moissanite gemstone. After implementing a thorough and systematic SEO campaign, the brand could secure an increase in the organic search revenue by 26% within 6 months in the year 2020.
In most instances, apart from increasing brand visibility and generating leads, a streamlined SEO implementation proves extremely cost-effective for businesses as it helps to produce sizeable ROI and also reduces the marketing cost. This is not just a myth, and the fact is proven by the SEO-related growth case study of the US-based online pharmacy company Blink Health which marked a 573% growth in ROI as of 2021 after it started a systematic SEO campaign in 2019.
- Long-term Results
Long-lasting results in terms of growth, visibility, and building brand reliability are some of the significant benefits of successful SEO services. Once your company’s website is optimized adequately by experts, it will result in lasting high rankings in the search results and automatically facilitate long-term success in digital media marketing. This factor was testified by the case study of Service Max from GE Digital, one of the US-based leading field management applications for enterprise businesses. Though the company was always doing well in terms of SEO, a collaboration with the professional SEO service provider in 2019 helped it witness a constant increase of 104% organic traffic, 284% increase in organic impression, and 70.4% increase in the ranked keyword in 2021. The collective understanding of the case studies and the benefits of SEO optimization now pushes us to the important question.“What are the best and most effective SEO practices that can help your website to rank higher?
STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO SEO
In 2014, Robbie Richards, an online marketing expert, shared a step-by-step process that helped him to generate 150,732 website visits. Take a look.
STEP 1: KEYWORD RESEARCH AND SELECTION
Choosing the right and targeted keywords with thorough research is the primary step to secure a higher ranking on search engine results. For this, you have to study and analyze the market, research the best-performing primary or targeted keyword with which you can optimize your content, and rank for the next 3-6 months in the top search results.
STEP 2: IMPLEMENTING THE KEY PARTS OF SEO
- On-page optimization
On-page SEO tactics involve optimizing the title, meta title, meta tags, ALT tags, headings, site map, and images of your website. These measures are implemented directly on your own website to make it easy for the bots to crawl through it and also to improve the overall content quality, content structure, and performance for the end-users.
- Off-page optimization
Simply put, off-page SEO is the process to generate quality back-links from third-party websites via guest blogging, seeking out contacts in various industries who will like to share your content, guesting on podcasts, etc. Off-page optimization also involves some other promotional processes, like getting exposure via social media posts on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, etc. Off-page SEO services also help to improve the domain authority and link popularity.
- Technical SEO
Technical SEO broadly refers to website and server optimization that helps web spiders crawl and index your website more appropriately and improve the organic ranking. Some of the essential technical SEO characteristics are: Making your website mobile-friendly, website speed optimization, creating an XML sitemap, website structure, Hreflang, etc.
STEP 3: GOOGLE ANALYTICS AND TRACKING
Integrating Google Analytics with SEO is an advanced and one of the most effective methods of website optimization to gain sales lead as well as keep track of the returns on investment.
Some of the proven ways to integrate Google Analytics with SEO are synching your search console account, compare non-organic visitors with organic visitors, using content drill-down reports, track keywords in Google Analytics, check the number of Google views on your website, etc.
STEP 4: USING SKYSCRAPER TECHNIQUE TO FORMULATE CONTENT
The Skyscraper technique is one of the best ways to optimize your website content and make it more valuable and informative for your target audience.
As per a Backlinko report in 2016, the Sky Scrapper technique was said to improve organic traffic by 110% in just 14 days after implementing it. It is basically a process of reverse engineering that is used to create contents that are available on the internet. It also involves the practice of back-linking to existing posts to generate more organic traffic.
STEP 5: SUBMITTING YOUR BUSINESS DETAILS TO GOOGLE MY BUSINESS LISTING
Google My Business listing is another effective local SEO technique to increase visibility and improve local business, something a professional SEO service provider can help you with.
This can be done by submitting your business address and contact details to Google My Business listing Account. It will help to enhance your customer support, improve brand credibility and also offer a business authority to your brand.
WHITE HAT, BLACK HAT, AND GRAY HAT SEO
This is a crucial thing to understand as a beginner in SEO since it will help you avoid spammy or low-quality pages that often get banned or are subjected to penalties.
On the other hand, white-hat SEO helps to optimize the website content for both the users and search engines and secure more organic traffic and credibility while maintaining the website’s integrity. It abides by the search engine’s terms of service. It also improves your website’s credibility and prevents it from getting banned and from harsh algorithm penalties. Some of the most recognized white-hat SEO practices include:
- Quality content
- Content-relevant keywords
- Keyword-rich page titles and metadata
- Lean code/well-structured markup language
- Authoritative inbound links
- Simple website navigation
- Fast page loading times
Black-hat SEO can be broadly defined as optimizing websites only for the search engines without generating anything of value for the users. These practices are highly against the search engine’s terms of service and may lead to heavy penalties and result in your website getting banned from search engines and other affiliated sites. Some of the most recognized black-hat strategies are:
- Creating duplicate contents
- Using invisible texts
- Stuffing keywords
- Using irrelevant backlinks
- Reporting a competitor
- Article spinning
- Link farming
- Cloaking or redirecting users to another site
- Creating pages and sub-domains with duplicate contents, etc.
Gray hat SEO strikes the right balance between white hat SEO and black hat SEO. Gray hat SEO helps to improve a site’s ranking without any negative consequences. It is not primarily a tactic to violate the search engine’s terms of service, but it helps to get some distinct advantages.
For example, Google considers guest blogging to build links as a Black-hat SEO technique. But several websites use guest blogging to create more brand awareness, which drives more traffic to their website. This is one of the most ingenious Gray-hat SEO techniques that help to secure enhanced traffic and ensure productive end results.
Some of the best Gray-hat SEO techniques are:
- Careful use of social bookmarking sites
- Having several social media accounts
- Buying expired domains
- Using Private Blogging Network
- Building a Microsite or Blog
- Adding more length to old contents, etc.
GOOGLE WEBMASTER GUIDELINES – BASIC PRINCIPLES AND THINGS TO AVOID
To ensure that websites make pages primarily for the users’ benefit and not simply for search engines, Google has enlisted some quality guidelines that must be duly followed. These guidelines are meant to prevent manipulative behavior that website owners often resort to for higher ranks in SERPs. It also intends to make website owners think about ways to make the website unique and different from their competitors and secure more traffic without using any black hat SEO techniques.
Some specific guidelines and things to avoid:
- Avoid auto-generated content
- Avoid buying or selling links
- You shouldn’t be creating pages with no original content
- Avoid deceptive practices like cloaking and sneaky redirects as it is of no help to the users
- Avoid participating in affiliated programs without adding contents of sufficient value, etc.
In case your website violates any of the above-mentioned guidelines, Google may take some actions and impose heavy penalties. This will not only impact your visibility in the search engine but will consequently jeopardize your organic traffic, sales, and leads.
Hence, this comprehensive guide talked about everything that can certainly get you started with your SEO campaign. From understanding the meaning and importance of SEO to the essential Webmaster Guidelines and the difference between white-hat and black-hat SEO, this is your ultimate beginner’s manual.
Having stated all the essentials, it must be acknowledged that SEO can be a tough nut to crack for a beginner. SEO is a complex yet effective process that, if not implemented efficiently, will not leverage the desired results. Beginners may also face difficulty understanding the differences between black-hat and white-hat SEO techniques, which can lead to severe penalties and decrease the websites’ rank drastically. To avoid these uncertainties, it is wise to avail the help of professional SEO services that can comprehensively assist you in improving your website’s rank significantly.
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