What is SEO? – Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your website so that your website is noticed by search engines and is shown on the search engine when people look for what you offer.

Optimization is important when there is a lot of competition, and for two reasons:

  • There are only a certain amount of ‘organic’ results shown on page one (you’re pretty unlikely likely to get seen if you’re not there)
  • Competitive keywords tend to bring up maps, meaning that there are fewer organic places left. If you don’t come near the top of the maps listing, you most definitely need a well-optimized site.

Of course, it’s not just your website that can get seen. If you have content on picture, audio and video sites, they too can show up in the search engine results page too.

What is a Search Engine Results Page?

What is SEO? A Search Engine Results Page or SERP is the page that your search engine displays in response to your search. It brings up a mixture of results consisting of:

  • Paid ads (where there is enough completion for the keyword). Google’s paid ads are known as ‘AdWords
  • ‘Organic’ results. These are results you haven’t paid for; Google has shown these sites because they are seen to be relevant to user’s search
  • Maps. Sometimes a local map is triggered, and sometimes not, depending on the keyword used and who locally has a ‘Places’ page using that keyword

search engine optimization guide | seo

What are Keywords?

If you want people to visit your website, you need to know your keywords as they determine the amount and type of traffic that comes to your website. Get it wrong and searchers will end up at a competitor’s website.

A keyword is a specific word or a phrase that best describes what a web page is about and helps search engines to find and display your web page on the SERP with relevance with the user search.

Short-tail keywords are ones that are just that – short. Examples include, ‘SEO’, ‘mortgage’, ‘solicitor’, ‘dining room furniture’, ‘boat repairs’ and ‘garden center’. These are not only the hardest ones to rank for, they’re not always buying keywords either – someone searching on ‘dining room furniture’ may just be seeing how they can sell their own or looking at the history of dining tables. This is not to say ranking for short tail keywords is wrong – it’s not; it just depends on what your particular needs are.

Longtail keywords are those that are phrases or questions that people put into the search engines – they’re not necessarily what you’d think of ranking for, so you need to think of what your visitors want. For example, instead of typing in ‘SEO’ or ‘search engine optimisation’, people are more likely to write ‘how to get on page one of Google’, ‘how can I get my website to show on the first page of Google’, ‘how can I improve my search engine rankings’, and ‘how do I use social media in SEO’.

Geotargeted keywords are ones that are location based. They may be long or short. Examples include, ‘SEO Cambridge’, ‘online marketing firm Bury St Edmunds’ and ‘who does websites and SEO in Luton’. Google quite often adds a local element even if you don’t put one in by bringing back a local map among generic results.

Keyword Density

Keyword density refers to how often your keyword or phrase appears in every hundred main words. Words such as ‘and’, ‘an’, etc will not be included and are known as “Stop Words”. The general rule of thumb is to keep the number of times you use a keyword on a given page down to a level where the text reads naturally. Of course, the more content you have, the more your keyword can appear.
Since many people began to abuse keywords by spamming etc, to show up higher in the SERPs, we advise you to follow a few rules while using keywords as part of your SEO-

  • Do have one primary keyword per page.
  • Use it in the page title, the headings (especially the h1 tag) and subheadings, in the first and last sentence, in anchor text, and a few times elsewhere; bold or italicize it once or twice.
  • Don’t use your keyword so many times it makes reading difficult or your content may seem unnatural. Remember that you are writing for your audience first and search engines second.
  • Aim to use your keyword two to three times per 100 words.
  • Use your keywords in context, and using a singular, plural or gerund where appropriate and use synonyms as well.
  • Don’t ‘stuff ’ keywords in; that is, don’t write the keyword 100 times and hide them by putting them in the same color as the page.
  • Use your keywords in the metatags (page description, h tags, tags, page title, images, etc) and page URL.
search engine optimization guide | seo

ImageSource: AnswerThis

Keyword Research Tools

There are a number of free keyword research tools out there. Some of them are freemium – that is, they have a free version but also highlight their paid version which offers more features. To start off with, the free versions are just fine; an Internet search will come up with a list.
Try Google’s Keyword Planner. It’s been designed for AdWords users in mind but is good for some keyword research. If you have an AdWords account you get access to more search results, but even with no account, you can get some very good ideas. Even better, you can download results as a .csv file to use in a spreadsheet.

Other tools include:

Types Of Search Engine Optimization:

1.On Page SEO

On-page SEO means the optimization you do to your site itself in terms of content and ‘metatags’. While it is not as important as off-page optimization, it’s still an important part of your overall SEO campaign.
On-page optimization is about having the best keyword for each page. It’s also about making your page content relevant to those keywords and letting Google know about it.

search engine optimization guide | seo

ImageSource: SEOPressor

Key Factors of On Page SEO:

Good content matters for three main reasons: you want the search engines to see it, you want people to stop and read it, and you want the search engines to notice people are engaging with your page whether they are staying on it to read, or clicking on a link to another page on your site.
But good content by itself is not good enough, you need to optimize it.

Keywords and Website Name
The most commonly asked question is, ‘Should I use keywords in my domain (website) name to help with optimization?’
Having a keyword-rich domain name used to be very helpful. In  terms of SEO, it is helpless but, it is certainly not harmful.  In addition, when people are looking at SERPs results and see a keyword rich domain name they are more likely to click on it.

Getting Indexed
If you type a website into the search bar and it doesn’t come up in the results, you know the site hasn’t been indexed. If yours hasn’t, log in to Google and Bing’s webmaster tools and submit your sitemap. It is a straightforward process as you get taken through step by step. Once the site has been indexed, software robots called spiders ‘crawl’ it and add the information found in the pages to their massive database.

Site Navigation
SEO isn’t just about getting links to your site and people to your pages. Site visitors need to be able to navigate through your site easily. If you make it difficult for people to navigate your site, they’ll just click away and the same thing applies to robot crawlers as well for the most part.

Tags and Metatags
Metadata is information about data. Metatags provide information about the HTML (code) of your site. Metatags are found in the HTML (code) part of your website between the opening and closing head tags (<head> and </ head>). The tags don’t show up on the web pages but can provide useful information about a web page, its content and more to search engines and developers.
Search engines send out ‘crawlers’ to read the tags. Providing they’re not made with Flash, you can see the metatags of pages of your site and competitors’ sites by right-clicking your mouse on a web page. A menu pops up: left click on ‘View Source’ and you will see the tags in the code.

Images are very helpful:

  • Adds interest to your site
  • Help illustrate points you make
  • Comes up in searches, especially if someone is looking under Google Images
  • Helps your pages get spidered more effectively

To make the most of the pictures, first, rename your image so it doesn’t read something like ‘image 123.jpg’ to something that contains your keyword.
One last thing that you can do is hyperlink the picture (just as you would a phrase) so that if people click on it, they’re taken to a relevant page and that’s one more bit of link juice.

When you click on a website link that’s broken, or where the original page no longer exists, you see some sort of ‘404’ or ‘Page Not Found’ message. A 404 commonly happens when a page is moved to a new URL and the old link hasn’t been ‘pointed’ or ‘redirected’ to the new page. While placing a bespoke message or search box on the page helps, a 404 increases the chances of a visitor clicking away. In addition, 404 pages mean the search engines can’t spider (search and note)  your  pages properly. Also, using 302s for the scenarios just outlined won’t help you at all in terms of SEO as the search engines don’t accept the redirects as permanent, which means that you’ll lose any link juice you had and, in some cases, get the site banned.

Page loading speeds
Pages that load slowly increase operating costs and reduce the time people spend on a page – in fact, if it’s too slow to load, viewers may click away before the page has even fully opened. Google is now taking page loading speed into account in its algorithm. As yet, it doesn’t play a big part, but it’s worth getting it right and your webmaster will be able to help you here. There are various tools that analyze your page loading speed and that give suggestions of how to decrease loading  times.

2.Off Page SEO

Off-page SEO is the way of improving your site’s rankings by building up incoming (off-page) links and thus we can say ‘off- page SEO’ is ‘link building’. The links between the content you are linking from and your site need to be relevant / associated or complementary at the very least.

search engine optimization guide | seo

Important Factors of Off Page SEO:

Link Building
In the past, search engines based their rankings on on-page factors such as keywords in your content and metatags. This system gradually became abused by those in the know, and they used various forms of ‘keyword stuffing’. Their sites, often nothing to do with a searcher’s query, would show in the SERPs. At the same time, genuine site owners generally knew little about SEO, so didn’t show in the SERPs, viewers became disgruntled. As a result search engines, particularly Google, also consider the number and quality of links to your site.

The best way of getting great link juice and increasing your credibility and authority at the same time is to create a compelling reason for people to visit your site, and to stay there for at least a few minutes.
Content can include:

  • Articles
  • Features
  • News
  • FAQs (frequently asked questions with their answers)
  • Updates
  • E-books and reports
  • Slideshows/presentations
  • Podcasts (audio)
  • Video

Link Baiting
Links can be coming into your site or between its pages. Other ways to get people to click through to your pages include what are known as link baits; that is, linking to highly shareable content which gets spread via social media, blogs, news agencies, and websites.

People who have bought a product or service from you or your site can be a good source of links. Assuming they’re happy with what you provided, ask them to leave reviews on your Places page (covered later) and/or review sites, and/or link to you from their own sites or social media accounts.

While many sites are made using blogging software, it’s worth mentioning blogs in terms of how they can help you. Blogs (‘web logs’) can be stand alone or an integral part of your main site. You can also have an on-site blog and other blogs linking to your site. Content placed on blog pages is known as a ‘post’.
Blogging is straightforward to do, even if you have no idea how to build a website and there are a lot of blogging sites, including WordPress which is Google-friendly.

Many people disregard SEO thinking that it is time-consuming and difficult but, you can start with little bits and work your way up.

Look at SEO as an essential but interesting part of your marketing effort and you will soon attract more website visitors, clients and customers, and referrals.

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About Vedh Jagadish

Digital Marketer keen on helping companies and brands establish & grow through social media. Helps empower startups and entrepreneurs through effective inbound marketing, email marketing and social media strategies.

3 Thoughts on “What is SEO? – Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization

  1. Pingback: How Social Media Affects SEO? - 5 Important Factors - AeroLeads Blog

  2. I really do appreciate the level of knowledge that you bring to the table with well written articles like this, thank you!

  3. This is a good, comprehensive guide concerning items that need to be looked at for SEO! Many people believe that SEO only involves keywords, but there are other factors too, such as a website’s page loading speed.

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