By the time you finish this guide, you will know everything, to be well on the way on the way to optimizing pages yourself, or at least have good working knowledge, if you hire an SEO consultant.
Search traffic is valuable. Consider these 4 keyword phrases connected to the term SEO:
That is not a sale, just a click.
Best SEO company
Top SEO companies
On the day we searched, the average cost per click was around $20 for a Google AdSense click.
You can see how valuable free, otherwise known as organic traffic is, and why the race to be on the front page is intensive.
Google tries to help you write a well-optimised page with published guidelines as it is a win-win result for delivering the best page for the searcher and for determining if your page is relevant or not.
Because of this, we will refer to Google’s own SEO guidelines in this article, which can be found here.
You should note that where we state Google says “avoid”, that if you don’t, your results most likely will be negatively impacted and even result in your page not being indexed.
Search engines index your pages in their directory using what is known as a spider. Googles spider is known as Googlebot. A spider is a program that follows hyperlinks (links) on the web and indexes them in their directory, using the search engines algorithm.
The search algorithm decides what pages should be shown first to the searcher by determining the authority of the site and page and other many other factors we will discuss.
The optimisation process for your page targets making it easier for the spiders to understand what your page is offering, and can be broken into two parts.
“On page,” where you are looking to optimise the page to rank better in SERP (search engine results page)
“Off page“, where you are finding ways for others to link to your page.
Why is SEO important for business?
Visitors or “traffic” are the life blood of your online business. By following this SEO guide and optimising your web pages for search, you are giving them the best chance of ranking in the search engines. This means visitors see and click on your listing, bringing you organic or free traffic.
Which Search engines should I optimise for?
According to StatCounter, Google had 92.86% of worldwide traffic for the period Jan 2018?—?Jan 2019. Traffic varies by platform and region but Google rules, making it a “no brainer” that you follow Google’s guidelines when optimizing your web pages.
The SEO optimization process part 1- On pageKeywords and keyword research
The first thing you need to decide is what keywords you will optimize for. Keywords are words or phrases that you target so that when searched, your phrase comes out in the search results and you receive a click to your page.
Keyword research is the most important but often overlooked part of the process, so please don’t skip the keyword planning phase.
As there are over 2 billion blogs competing for keywords, you will need to target keyword phrases which are less competitive.
Single words are almost impossible to rank for, and as we saw at the beginning of this SEO guide, even three-word phrases can be highly competitive.
Generally speaking the more words in your key-phrase the less competition you will have, but the less search traffic there is.
The trick is to find phrases that have volume but not too much competition, or at least competition you can beat. Often these will be 4- or 5-word phrases otherwise known as Long tailed keywords
On our website briliantmarketing.info in the Internet Marketing Toolkit page there are tools which will help you find keyword phrases, some of them free or have free trials. They will suggest phrases and show you how competitive they are.
In addition, you can see how much it would cost you to buy the phrases in paid advertising.
They will also show you which domains rank the highest for each phrase, so you can research your competition which is an essential part of the process.
Your chances of ranking, is determined by how good your article is (more on this later), how many other people are targeting the key word or phrase, as well as many other factors we will discuss including who you link to and who is linking to you. Google has over 200 ranking factors but we will discuss the key ones.
Keyword Research example
In this example, we will target the phrase “tennis coach.”
This is a very simple example and I would expect an actual tennis coach to spend more time on it
First, I will use a tool called Ask the Public.” People often search with questions and this brings up 62 questions and 76 prepositions.
Now using this information, I can save a list of likely candidates and search Google one by one looking at the competition and also looking at related searches at the bottom for other ideas. Search Engine Optimization a complete guide
Ask the public is free and enabled us to generate good keyword phrase ideas.
The issue though is this is only part of the story, we also need to understand search volume and competition.
At this stage good tools cost money but many have free trials. We list the best on our website.
For this example, I will use Moz, a full explanation will take too long and Moz has excellent training videos, as do others.
Now we are getting some real information.
If you are paying attention, you will have noticed that I have changed the target keyword phrase to “tennis lessons nyc. “
This is because in my research I noticed “tennis coach” was not getting any search volume, something Ask the Public was not telling me.
Also by adding NYC where my fictional tennis coach lives, I have narrowed down the search. There is no point haveing someone in London getting a broader search back and there is much more chance of getting on the front page.
So what else are we seeing?:
The monthly search volume?—?This is a range of expected volume
The difficulty?—?This is based on the Page authority and domain authority of results which currently rank on Google’s top 10 results
Organic CTR?—?How many searchers in percentage are likely to click through on the results
Priority?—?This can be used against your other keywords to decide which to use. The higher the number the easier it will be to get results using several factors including search volume, competition etc..
Keyword Suggestions- Other keyword phrase suggestions
SERP Analysis?—?Showing the current results coming back from Google including the Domain authority and page authority of the pages ranked.
Tools like this are what agencies use. They provide real information in which to make sound decisions from.
Besides keyword phrases, many other tools such as keyword campaigns, spying on your competition’s links, Domain authority, and crawling your site for issues are available.
Whilst this guide is about organic free traffic, you should also consider paid traffic.
You can use your organic traffic to check your product is converting and then switch on targeting traffic through sources such as Facebook ads and Google Adsense.
Once you know your conversation ratio’s, you can work out if your paid advertising is worth the cost and switch it on like a tap if it is.
Introduction to Meta tags
Meta tags are hidden pieces of HTML code that allow you to specify an attribute to further help the search engines understand what your page is about
The mains ones we are interested in for SEO are:
- Title Tag
- Description tag
- Header tag
- Canonical tag
- WordPress has plug-ins to allow you to specify the tags and other individual editors will usually have them.
The Title tagFrom Googles guide: A tag tells both users and search engines what the topic of a particular page is.<br />
The <title> tag should be placed within the <head> element of the HTML document. You should create a unique title for each page on your site.</p>
<p>In other word make sure your title tag reflects the phrase or keyword you are targeting as it tells the search engine what your page is about.</p>
<p>The title tag is actually the underlying HTML code that makes up your web page. It would look like this.</p>
Google advises best practice
Making the Title tag relevant
To use natural titles that communicates the topic of content.
Have unique titles so the spider can identify different pages.
Can provide an extra description on your home page such as location or offerings
Keep titles brief but descriptive
and to avoid
Duplicating the title tag across pages
Using very long titles that does not help the user
Keyword stuffing, where unnecessary keywords are placed in the title, in an attempt, to gain an advantage.
Most platforms take the title of your page from what you designate in your H1 header tags which we will discuss separately.
The Description tagFrom Google: A page’s description meta tag, gives Google and other search engines a summary of what the page is about. A page’s title may be a few words or a phrase, whereas a page’s description meta tag might be a sentence or two or even a short paragraph.
You should try to use your keyword or phrase in your description.
The page description shows up on the SERP and will be scanned by the searcher when they are deciding if they are going to click on your page or not.
The description for https//brilliantmarketing.info looks like this.
As you can see the description gives the searcher and the search engine a good idea about what the site is about. Search Engine Optimization a complete guide
Google emphasises the importance of:
accurately summarising the page content so that a searcher can accurately understand what the page is about
Have a unique summary of each page
When writing the description, use a description that has no bearing of the page.
Copy the entire content of the page into the description.
Filling the description with keywords (known as keyword stuffing)
Using generic descriptions, i.e. “This is a page about stamps.”
The canonical tag is used to avoid duplicate page issues by pointing at the most relevant page. A good example is an online store that has several pages, each for a product in a different colour. The canonical tag tells the search engine which version of the page should be indexed preventing many versions of the same page showing up in the SERP.
If all your pages are unique, you don’t need to worry, but if you think this may be an issue check your platform for a solution. WordPress has many plugs-ins that will take care of this
You can check your pages canonical tag by going to your page online, right-clicking and selecting “view source”
In the example below the canonical attribute was set by Yeost, a WordPress plugin.
Content layout and Semantic SEO
Remember Google is trying to give searchers good quality content, so the algorithm is looking for well laid out content which suggests the web page has been professionally written.
This includes breaking the content into sections using Header tags.
As well as the Title tag that we have already discussed, there are other title headers H2, H3 and H4 which get smaller and can be used to break your text into readable sections.
If you look at this page:
H1 is the main title “SEO a complete guide”.
H2 is used for sub section headings, e.g. “The SEO optimisation process part 1- On page”.
H3 is used for sections within the subsections, e.g. “Content layout and Semantic SEO”
In addition to the header tags, you should also try to use lists and include images.
Google advises you should optimise for users not search engines, and this will usually bring positive results, which brings us to Sematic SEO.
Sematic SEO is the art of trying to guess what else the user is searching for apart from the original search term and answering their next question. For example, if you searched for “First aid” your next query might be “First aid course” or “How to administer first aid”.
Google has a clever way of measuring whether users are enjoying content.
It’s called Pogoing.
If a user bounces straight off your page, Google’s algorithm determines it has served the wrong content and will penalise you. On the other hand, if a user stays on the page for a while, the algorithm will determine it has done a good job, as have you, and rewards you with a boost accordingly.
So apart from good content, make sure it is well laid out with interesting images and a good description so the user gets what they expected.
Grammar and spelling
Poor grammar and spelling are an indication that the page has been poorly put together so will not rank well.
If you think you could benefit from them, we have suggestions of common tools professional writers use in the Internet Marketing toolkit.
Page loading speed and Image optimisation.
Google does not want users to wait for the page to load, so ensure you reduce (optimise) your image size so that your page loads quickly
Once again we have suggestions in the toolkit section on how to optimise images.
Google takes this so seriously that they provide a tool to help you understand how quickly your pages are loading.
Here is a link to the Google speed checker, simply put your url into the checker and click analyze.
Image size is only one factor, although usually the main culprit. Also check plugins, as too many or resource intensive ones, can seriously slow down a WordPress site.
When we analysied our own site, we were surprised how slow it was. We researched the plug-ins we are using and found that Jetpack was slowing the site down. After removing Jetpack, the score changed dramatically. Search Engine Optimization a complete guide
Other considerations of optimising images apart from size are
Use a descriptive but brief file name
Fill out the alt tag on the image but keep it brief
Using generic names such as pic1, pic2 etc in image title
Stuffing keywords in image title or alt tag although one is recommended
Use of the alt tag is used by viewers using assistive tools which will give information about the image.
Optimizing for mobile
Googles own guidelines tell us that the world is mobile now and that the majority of users searching Google do so from a mobile device.
From Google: As a result, having a mobile ready site is critical to your online presence. In fact, starting in late 2016, Google has begun experiments to primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content for ranking, parsing structured data, and generating snippets. see link
Ever ready to help, Google provide an online site tester to check if your site is mobile ready. See -Mobile friendly test
For more information, see Google’s mobile-friendly guide
As complicated as this might seem, if you are using a quality WordPress theme , you can check how your page looks in mobile, tablet and desktop views
Before we move onto linking, we need to understand PageRank.
PageRank was invented by one of the founders of Google, Larry Page.
It is one of the factors used by the Google algorithm
From Google “PageRank works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of how important the website is. The underlying assumption is that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websites.
If you really want to melt your head have a look at the mathematical equations on the Wikipedia page for PageRank here. Search Engine Optimization a complete guide
For us laymen, all we need to understand is that broadly, the more links we have from other sites particularly those with authority (high page rank) the better our page rank will be. This is just one factor in the overall algorithm but an important one.
Pages on your website can also receive PageRank from your internal pages.
On Page Linking
Not to be confused with incoming links where another site links to you, there are two kinds of on page linking.
Links to other pages in your site.
Links to other websites
Links to other pages in your site
SEO Best practice
Visitors find content easily without using your search facility.
All pages can be accessed through links.
Have text links
Have a site map so humans can see all pages and Googlebot can crawl it.
Have a customized 404 page for dead links or typos. This helps the user experience by putting them back on track. Search Engine Optimization a complete guide
AvoidComplex navigation, the fewer clicks to your pages the better. Aim for 3–4 at the most.
Different site maps for humans and Googlebot.
Links being dead or outdated.
Links to external websites.
Try to link naturally on the topic to other sites with authority.
What this shows to Google is that your article is researched and that you are providing more information to the reader.
So, for example, on this page, the reference to PageRank includes a link to the Wikipedia entry, which provides more detailed information, including that brain-melting algorithm.
Off Page Linking
Off-page, linking is where other sites are linking to your domain or specific pages.
In theory the more pages that link back to you, the more important (PageRank again) your site or page is.
Part of your SEO strategy, therefore, should be to promote your article and try to get backlinks through important sites and social media, with your own niche being the most important to get links from.
If the link back to your site contains your keywords (anchor text) , it will help, but you have to be careful about this. The reason, for years business’s paid agencies to build backlinks to their pages. If the algorithm detects unnatural behaviour and 100’s or 1000’s of links have the same anchor text, it will be counterproductive.
The best strategy is to build images or infographics that people can share and build your links naturally. This is known as link bait.
For local business’s, add your website to Google My Business which will be listed on websearch and Googlemaps
Promote your biggest most interesting content not every piece.
Attempting to promote each new, small piece of content you create; go for big, interesting items.
Avoid schemes and purchasing links
Spamming people with link requests
Some people try to create content quickly by copying others, but Google is wise to that, and this Black Hat technique will reward you with nothing but algorithm contempt.
This is something you cannot physically do but is important.
Unless your site has massive authority, it takes a while for pages to rank, usually months.
Think of it as a test. You are the new kid on the block, why should Google rank you?
As Google learns to trust your content against others and other people link you will gradually rise through the rankings. As your whole website gains authority if your website is new, your pages will rank quicker if good. Search Engine Optimization a complete guide
A lot of websites try to make money from affiliate links and fair enough.
Google though takes a dim view of pages stuffed with loads of affiliate links.
Whilst 2- 3 is probably OK you are better to have a designated page or email clearly marked that links are affiliate ones.
Keep your page and site updated
Google likes pages and sites that updated. From an algorithm point of view, the information is fresh and not passed it’s “sell by date”.
You should review your content on an ongoing basis
The robots.txt file is a file that sits in the root directory of your site and instructs spiders which pages they should index and which ones they shouldn’t and excluding image, audio and media files.
You can read more about Robots.txt file and how to use it here.
An XML sitemap is sometimes jokingly referred to as spider food. It tells the search engine (or user) the layout of your site. You can use Googles search console to generate one, or there are WordPress plugins that will generate them.
Wrapping it all up
Google’s exact algorithm is a closely guarded secret but as we have discussed Google gives a clear indication in their guidelines of what will help increase your chances of success.
By making your web page provide great information that your reader will benefit from, content laid out well with references to research material, quick loading pages, a thumbs up in the form of incoming links from sites with authority.
The algorithm changes all the time, but follow these rules and you won’t go far wrong
Search Engine Optimization a complete guide
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