What is SEO?: The Beginner’s Guide

What is SEO

SEO is one of those highly vital practices of your  website.

It  can make or break your site.

It casts the line between the profitable and the losers, the experts and the amateurs, the traffic-getters and the scaper-bys.

This article will help you implement SEO on your site so that you start getting the ranking and traffic you deserve.

What is SEO?

SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization

SEO comprises of those actions you do online so that readers and search engines alike may find your content relevant, useful to, and satisfactorily meeting their search intent.

People are constantly searching for something online, and what you yourself have come to know from the internet started with a particular phrase you entered into the search box of Google, Yahoo, Bing, or any other search engine.

In that case, the search engine would have presented you with a range of search results on a page , otherwise known as the search engine results page (SERP), from a variety of websites.

An example of an SERP is given below.

These results are presented according to the order of descending relevance and satisfaction that the search engines deemed fit for your search query.

What Is The Importance of SEO?

SEO is done for the sake of people and traffic. Simple.

You want to satisfy user search intent and experience. You also want free traffic. Plenty of it.

In view of the fact that most searchers don’t go beyond the first results page, SEO in particular aims to place posts on the first page of the search engine results.

It is often said that if you want to hide a dead body effectively, go no further than the second page of Google. Because this is where most searchers don’t venture.

Barry Feldman of FeldmanCreative says:: “..at a broad level, most can agree search engines base rankings on:

  1. The quality of the content and
  2. The popularity of the content (which is assumed to reflect the prior).”

SEO is therefore also an attempt to be found of high quality and popularity by the search engines and people alike, and consequently to rank high in the search engine results, for a particular search query.

What is the value of ranking high on the SERP?

High search engine rankings mean that you get more free traffic than sites placed below you.

And more traffic ultimately means more revenue for your business.

Here are some first page traffic stats to get your juices flowing:

51% of all website traffic comes from organic search

Sites listed on the first page of Google search results enjoy 91.5% of the traffic share. That means that page 2 gets only less than 9% of traffic!

A study by Chikita show that even on the first page, most traffic is enjoyed by the first 3 sites.

Accordingly, the first result gets 32.5%, the second 17.6% , and the third, 11.4%, of the google traffic share.

So it is imperative that your site should rank on the first page of Google. And even on the first page, as high as possible.

Search engines have got guidelines that they have set for both the business of satisfying their users queries, and providing a remarkable, smooth user experience.

So in order to master SEO you got to subscribe to and abide by the prescribed practices that will please the search engines  and their users in turn.

Maintaining a fine balance between pleasing both search engines and their users will see you ranking high for particular search queries.

Since Google is the dominant search engine in the world, you will above everything else want to please Google in your SEO practices. This is because, as of July 2019, Google holds a search engine market share of 76.06%.

Having covered why you need to do SEO, let’s look at how you can implement it on your site

How To Do  SEO : Simple Actionable Tips To Rank Your Blog Content Right  Away

Moz classified the Google raking factors into thematic areas and subsequently came up with the graph below.

how to do SEO

The classification is based on percentage weights that are believed to be at the center of the Google ranking algorithm

To simplify SEO into actionable points, it can be divided into two categories: On-Page and Off-Page SEO.

On page SEO

On-page SEO focuses on the site as a whole. This include the site’s posts, pages, and inter-page links.

It generally encompasses everything that is aimed at meeting the visitor’s expectations and that provides a smooth user experience.

Though recognized as less powerful than off-page SEO, on-page SEO still has its own rightful, important place.

It is what is within your near reach and capability to accomplish.

You must therefore capitalize on upping your rankings through on-page SEO.

Let’s look at some important On-Page SEO factors.

1. Dwell time

Dwell time is the amount of time visitors stay on your page. It is closely related to time-on-site which is the amount of time people spend on your site.

A study by Moz found that dwell time and google organic position (organic ranking) are closely correlated.

Source

The more time visitors spend on your site, the more it means your content is engaging. By extension, it means you are providing quality content.

More stay on your page will boost your SERP rankings as it will be a signal to Google that your content is valued and relevant to the user’s search.

How can you improve the dwell time on your site?

a. Write quality content

There is nothing to keep people on your site more effectively than quality content.

This is because quality content meets the visitor’s expectations by providing the answers they have been looking for.

How do you write quality content?  

i. Seek to meet the user intent fully and you will be able to write quality content.

That means you have to understand first what the user really wants and give it to them

ii. Seek to provide in-depth, heartfelt answers and you will be on the highway of quality content.

In-depth answers are detailed and therefore provide more value

b. Link to other related and relevant posts on your site

When you link to relevant pages on your site, you multiply dwell time.

People will read not only the current post, but also every other post that you have linked to that is relevant and high quality.

i. Linking to other internal posts has several advantages:

Your old posts will get re-crawled and resurrected again.

You may have posts that are no longer ranking well. Linking to them drives more traffic to them and may well give them the boost to hit the rank surface again

ii. Linking provides context to your posts and enhances site navigation.

The more you link, the more search engines crawl your site and understand its overall message.

iii. Internal linking improves dwell time and reduces bounce rate.

The longer you can keep somebody on your site, the more it signals to the search engines that your content is good.

Statistics indicate that over 75% of visitors never return to a site again. So keeping them engaged by linking to other posts is a huge win for you.

Here is what to do when interlinking:

i. Use anchor text to link to other posts.

This involves using the keywords of the post that you are linking to.

This will serve to give a map and overall context of your site since it will prompt the search engines to crawl your linked pages as well.

ii. You can also place related posts at the end of every post.

Use a related post plugin to unleash this function

c. Use multimedia

The use of various multimedia significantly enhances the user experience.

It is in the nature of people to love pictures, graphics, and videos. This is because media add a visual element, which is crucial to evoking interest.

In short multimedia is engaging, which translates into more time taken on your page.

The picture below sums it all up. The more varied multimedia you use, the more the views on your posts

Source

It is also a researched fact that articles with images receive 94% more views than those without

Also stats predict that by 2022, video traffic will make up 82% of all online traffic.

So catch the trend while its rising and use videos in your posts to draw and retain user engagement.

Other multimedia you can use include slideshows and audios.

d. Optimize for mobile friendliness

It is predicted that between 2017 and 2022, mobile traffic will increase by 46%.

That’s a huge implication for targeting mobile users!

In 2015, mobile user  numbers overtook  those of desktop users, for the first time.

Since then, Google has introduced a mobile-first policy.

This means that priority has been given to mobile users. This in turn means your posts, pages, images, and other media have got to be mobile friendly.

How do you do that?

i. Use a premium theme.

A lot of themes allow you to view your blog both in desktop and mobile perspective.

This allows you to make necessary mobile friendly changes effortlessly.

So using a premium theme can be one of the best decisions you make.

ii. Reduce page loading time.

Loading time can man the difference between a visitor staying and leaving your site fast.

In fact 53% of mobile website visits are abandoned if a website takes more than 3 seconds to load.

Reduction of page loading can be achieved through a number of ways.

Those include using fast hosting, using a caching plugin and or a content delivery network to enhance load speed, using lazy loading, and optimizing images on your site.

WE’ve talked about dwell as a factor that can impact your on page SEO.

What other on page factors are there?

2. Order and good user experience

A well ordered and structured site will provide a good and smooth user experience.

This begins just from showing the location of your important posts

This makes it easy for a visitor to find what they need.

Here are a few tips to enhance the order of your site.

a. Use heading tags to make a hierarchy in your posts  

Heading tags are HTML tags that you assign to headings and subheadings.

Heading tags are used to differentiate headings and subheadings from paragraphs in your content.

You can access and implement heading tags through the editor on your site.

Here is an example on the use of tags.

The phrase “heading tags” has been tagged with the H3 tag, signifying it’s a subheading.

In comparison, the rest of the content appears in normal font size.

Heading tags descend in order of importance from H1 to H6.

 H1 is the tag that is assigned to the main heading or title of a page.

This tag indicates to both the reader and the search engine what the post is all about.

All the other tags from H2 to H6 are used to show subtopics or subheadings.

You will notice that as you go from H1 and lower, the font size will decrease steadily.

In this way, a clear architecture and hierarchy of your post’s important parts is achieved.

b. Space your paragraphs and lines

Proper spacing makes your content easily readable.

It also draws the reader on and on. If it’s a long post, they will finish it without realizing it.

This in turn reduces your bounce rate and improves dwell time. 

Proper formatting and a user-friendly layout can also help make your content easy to scan and digest.

So your readers will stay on your site longer and consume your website’s information.

So let your paragraphs be between 1 and 3 lines thick.

Your sentences should also be short.

c. Use font sizes and colours that are easy to read

Your readers should not squint in order to read your post. Make it easy and enjoyable for them by using large but easy-on-the-eyes fonts and colours.

d. Use bullets or numbers to organize your content

Bullets and numbers contribute to the neatness and order of your content.

Here is an example

how to SEO for your post

The proper use of bulleting and numbering makes for easier reading, understanding, and smoother flow

e. Optimize Your Search Engine Snippet Structure  

  

The snippet is what appears in the search results when a search query has been entered.

The structure of the search snippet comprises of several components that we shall consider below:

Meta title

The title of your search result is the first thing that the reader will lay their eyes on.

Therefore it will be the determinant whether the reader clicks or moves on.

In the above image, the meta title is indicated by the red arrow.

Here is how to optimize the meta title:

1. Ensure that your target keyword appears at the beginning of your meta title.

This is for the reason that when the visitor sees the phrase they are looking for, this will create an immediate engagement point.

This will translate into more clickthrough on your listing.

2. Also, make your meta title as enticing as possible.

While you do this, maintain a fine balance between creativity and ensuring that your post delivers what is promised in the meta title.

A post that goes contrary to what is promised in the SERP snippet will likely have a pogo sticking effect, and high bounce rate.

3.Keep the characters or letters in the title between 50 and 60

The extra characters will get truncated and not show up in the search result. Besides looking unprofessional, it may cost you a few clicks.

Keep in mind that while the inclusion of your targeted keywords in the exact order may impact clickthrough rate, this wont necessarily result in high search engine rankings.

Google has grown smarter than that.

Google satisfies itself with relevant content and context that fully answers the search intent!

3. Distinguish between the meta title and post title.

The post title is the title that appears on your post when the reader visits your site.

In contrast, the meta title is the title that appears on the search engine results page.

So specify the meta title in your SEO snippet.

Otherwise, the search engines will show your post title as the meta title.

This may result in truncation of some words in the meta title if the post title is too long.

It may also impact on your clickthrough rate.

Meta description

The meta description is the wording that appears below the meta title.

In the picture below the meta description is encased in green

To optimize the meta title, use words that describe in brief what the post holds for the visitor in relation to what they were searching for.

To effect this:

i. Use your keyword in the meta description

Also, make a brief summary of the main points of your post. This will engage the reader immediately.

See how optinmonster has killed the meta description!

how to optimize the SERP snippet

ii. .Use a free plugin like Yoast SEO to make life easier with optimizing your meta title.

iii. Keep the characters in your snippet between 150 and 160 characters

That includes spaces!

To avoid truncation of important words, Yoast SEO will also guide you.

iv. Let your meta title and meta description speak the same thing

For example, if you used the phrase “affiliate marketing” in your meta title, don’t use the phrase “online marketing” in your meta description.

Let there be consistency in what you want to communicate. Your target keyword should be maintained throughout.

Use of different keywords may impact on your rankings as the context is lost, and the search engines won’t be able to determine the exact discussion of your article. 

f. Use no-follow attributes

Links to other sites are a show of your reference for further reading.

Links may also be a sign of confidence or vote for the sites linked to.

Such linking may be used in the case of statistical findings, case studies, original sources of information, and so on.

Since linking is an endorsement of some kind, you need to be careful which sites you want Google to know you trust.

Therefore you need to communicate which links you want Google to follow or not follow.

Following best practices, here is how to use follow attributes:

i. Use a do-follow attribute when linking to trusted sites.

Such sites include government and other highly reputable sites

ii. Use a no-follow attribute to link to content you don’t trust or don’t want to pass link equity to for one reason or another

Such content may include various forms of user-generated content, comments, and any content that may otherwise fall into the category of spam.

Be sure to also use no-follow attribute for sponsored or paid links.

This is because using a do-follow attribute in this case may be interpreted by Google as bias on your part.

g. Use a Robots Meta Tag with content=“noindex” attribute

A no-index attribute instructs the search engines not to index or take into account the particular page.

Reasons for this instruction may include:

i. Existence of draft pages on your site

ii. Special pages you want accessible only to privileged people, for example in the case of  paid subscription, or newsletters

iii. Duplicate or thin content

You wouldn’t want thin, duplicate, or draft content to be taken into account when evaluating the overall theme of your site as it may give a wrong signal to the search engines.

This is because wrong interpretation of your site by the search engines may adversely affect your search rankings.

Aside from the foregoing, a no-index attribute gives you control over your site in determining what pages are accessible by the larger public.

h. Use a rel=”canonical” Link Tag

A rel=”canonical” link tag tells search engines which version of a page you consider the main one. As such that is the page you want to be  indexed by the search engines.

You may find that you have one page appearing under multiple URLs. Or you may be having several pages covering the same subject matter.

This may confuse the search engines in determining what content or page to index.

The search engines will then end up choosing which URL to place on the search engine results page.

Unfortunately, that page may turn out to be one undesirable to you.

Being in this state of affairs also means that you cannot reliably track your performance stats.

Based on the above, you should:

  • Canonicalize pages with similar content and discussing the same subject matter.
  • Canonicalize duplicate pages which appear under multiple URLs

I. Optimize your images

Image optimization is important not only for speed purposes. Here are more reasons why it deserves more mention

i. An image has to be the right size for your use and blog.

You don’t want to find that your image borders go beyond your page dimensions!

ii. Everyone has to be able to know what your image represents. This includes the visually-impaired who may not see the image well

iii. Search engines cannot read images.

Rather they index your images by way of crawling the text attributed to the image.

In addition, if the image cannot be loaded, the reader has to know what the image was about by seeing the alt text associated with the image.

So how do you optimize your images?

i. File size

 Reduce or compress your images before uploading to your site’s gallery.

Use a plugin like Smush to compress the images you upload.

ii. Dimensions:

Use Smush to set the correct dimensions for the image.

If any image you are using on your site is of wrong size, the plugin will prompt you to change the dimensions as in the above picture

iii. Alt Text

Remove the number that has been assigned to the image as its name.

For example, an image may have been originally captured as Image023.jpg.

Instead of this number, add a contextual description to the image.

You can do this by adding a keyword-rich description to the alt text field as in the picture below

how to optimize an image

j. Enhance your site security

Your website has to give an indication to the search engines that it’s running under a secured server.

Your website may be running under the HTTP or HTTPS protocol.

HTTP means hypertext transfer protocol, and HTTPS means hypertext transfer protocol secure.

Therefore HTTPS denotes security as compared to HTTP.

This will optimize your site by signalling that the site is secure to the search engines.

So to secure your site, ensure that you purchase an SSL certificate or HTTPS if you dont already run under them.

Nowadays, most hosts like Bluehost and WP Engine provide a free SSL certificate with their hosting package.

k. Increase your site loading speed

As indicated before, we are in the age where more people access the internet on mobile devices than on desktop.

The site speed therefore plays a crucial role in your overall traffic stats.

The slower your site loads, the more mobile visitors you lose by the moment.

Source

Here is how to improve your site speed

i. Optimize images

Most files are large and therefore take up a lot of memory. You can use several plugins to reduce their sizes and thereby speed up your site.

ii. Cache ur site

A cache provides space for temporary files. From here your files can be readily retrieved without having to access them from the gallery.

That means that your files can be loaded faster.

Plugins like W3 Total Cache help in providing space for temporary files.

iii. Use Content Delivery Networks (CDNs)

Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) work by enabling access to data from the nearest server.

So if you use a CDN, your visitor’s server will access your content through a node that is closest to them.

This will prevent slow loading by enabling ready access to data

Cloudflare and StackPath are both examples of good CDNs.

iv. Choose the correct host from the very beginning

Hosting is the most important factor when it comes to site speed.

All the other factors come in second place.

So choose a reputable, fast host.

v. Avoid too many plugins

Plugins bear on the memory of your site and thereby increase its drag.

To avoid this, keep your plugins to a bare minimum by removing all unnecessary ones

vi. Use lazy loading

Lazy loading works by loading certain components of a page like images only when the visitor has scrolled to that particular section.

It therefore eases the site of the burden of loading all page components at once.

3. Base your articles on long-tail keywords

Your articles have got to be based on keywords that you have a realistic chance of ranking for.

Because many established sites rank on short phrases or single words that describe the services they provide, it becomes near impossible to rank for such words if you are a small fish.

As such, it becomes imperative to use another strategy.

In this scenario, long tailed keywords have become the solution to many online businesses.

Studies indicate that 70% of all searches online are long tailed.

That means huge traffic!

Source

When you enter a search phrase in the search engine boxes, that phrase usually takes the form of a question as that is what you are wondering about.

Questions are inherently long. Hence the long nature of long tailed keywords.

And for the reason that these type of searches are on specific matters, long tailed keywords characterize most of the search traffic online..

Also, since long tailed queries are highly specific, it means they are targeted. That in turn removes ambiguity in writing blog posts for those queries.

You also will get targeted traffic in using long tailed keywords.

Overall, because of the high search volume for long tailed keywords, you have a much better chance of ranking for long tailed keywords as compared to shorter ones.

A good tool for getting long tailed keywords is the KWFinder.

how to do keyword research

With the KWFinder you not only get long tailed keyword suggestions.

You also get gold nuggets like keyword difficulty, domain authority of competing sites, the ranking position of your own pages, and the search engine results for a particular query.

how to keyword research using the SERPWatcher

This information enables you to know what keywords to target by gauging the competition, as well as the posts you can optimize to rank higher.

You can access the free trial here

Having discussed on-page SEO at length, let’s now turn to off-page SEO.

Off-page SEO

 Off-page SEO involves all external factors that affect your website.

Such factors include other sites apart from yours, social network influences, and online searchers.

And while these are not entirely in your control, there is a lot you can do to sway matters in your favour.

Factors that influence off-page SEO

Here are some of the factors that impact off-page SEO.

1. Backlinks

Google takes note of the sites that link to you.

The more the sites that link back the more your domain authority and google position rises.

Source

But it is not just any site’s backlink that will influence your ranking for the better

You need to target high domain authority sites. Getting a backlink from a high domain site is like getting a vote for a ministerial position!

Ok, jokes aside, backlinks from authority sites send a signal of trust to Google. That can only raise your own domain authority and increase your ranking.

Backlinks also direct traffic from the referring site to yours. That can mean plenty of traffic if its a high domain authority site.

How To Create Backlinks

As you may know, Google frowns upon and penalizes all manipulative link-building practices.

So be sure you steer clear of all unethical moves in this regard.

Here are several white-hat tactics to build backlinks:

a. Write epic content

Epic content is what will outlast every other SEO tactic.

This is because Google recognizes good content when it sees it.

What’s more, other bloggers and businesses recognize good content when they see it.

And they cannot refrain from linking to or sharing it! That’s just how contagious good content is.

But what is epic content?

In my opinion, epic content meets the following criteria:

i. It is actionable

 Readers have  to be able to follow the steps in the article and achieve the same outcome as the author.

This can only be achieved if the author lays out detailed, step-by-step directions.

ii. It has authority.

You can bolster the authority of your posts by using statistics, case studies, or testimonials

Statistics and case studies deepen your readers trust in what you are conveying to them.

They also broaden knowledge on trends and developments in your niche.

iii. Epic content uses multimedia

Pictures, videos, slideshows, and infographics are an able medium of communication.

They grab and retain attention and interest.

So what is another way to create backlinks?

b. Create infographics

Infographics tell a thousand stories in one picture.

Also, infographics can improve website traffic by 12%.

In addition, infographics are liked and shared 3 times more on social media, than any other form of content

So, for the fact that they are popular and well received, infographics get linked to lots.

Source

So, research popular topics in your niche, create infographics around them, promote the infographics, and you are set for massive backlinks.

And traffic!

If you are not conversant with creating infgraphics you can always head over to Fiverr and get the job done for a few bucks.

While infographics may not command so much traffic and backlinks as when they first exploded, they are still an able source of backlinks and traffic.

c. Do guest posting

Guest posting taps into the audiences of other bloggers.

Also, posting on high domain authority sites inherently positions you as an expert in your niche.

In addition, you get a high quality backlink.

 An added advantage is that if the editor is impressed with your first article, they can extend the hand for you to be a regular guest.

In order to pitch on high authority sites, ensure that you build relationships first. Then you can later on ask to be their guest

Another prerequisite for guest posting is that your posts must be quality.

It goes without saying that high domain authority sites are where they are because of high quality content, so you better catch the fever!

Also, research the site, gauge their audience, and see what posts may be relevant to them. This will help you prepare a post which will resonate with the audience of that site.

The usefulness of guest posting is captured in the experience of Adam Enfroy.

At the end of a study of only 8 guest blog posts to test the efficiency of guest blogging as a marketing strategy in 2019, Adam Enfroy enjoyed the following returns to his site:

  • 32 new referring domains
  • 247 new backlinks
  • 268 new organic keywords ranking in the top 100
  • 372% increase in organic traffic
  • +12 to Domain Rating
  • Alexa Rank improved by 600,000

So how else can you get backlinks?

 d. Syndicate your content

Content syndication allows you to leverage your content multiple times over.

It is a form of guest posting. Only that you can use the same post on more than one site.

To curb issues of content duplication and multiple indexing of the same url though, ensure to canonicalize the original link on your site.

You can build backlinks by linking from your author bio on the syndication site, to your own site

Many sites like Medium and Linkedin are open to content syndication.

Having talking of backlinks as one off-page SEO factor, here is another one:

2. Social Activity

Social activity is one factor that the search engines take into account when ranking sites.

So giving good social feedback to the search engines may impact your rankings positively.

Here are several ways you can use to reach people in the social space:

a. Have active pages on social media

Having your own social pages builds up your social following like nothing else.

Your loyal followers are those people who are always looking out for your newest post.

Posting regularly will help in retaining those followers as well as getting more views and sharing of your content.

b. Optimize sharing of your content

There are those posts of yours that have proven to be hard hits.

To maintain consistency in reaching out to your audience and enhance popularity, you can preload and schedule those popular posts.

Tools like Coshedule and Sendible do a good job of this

Source

Regular sharing of your content will ensure that you stay relevant and engage your audience continually.

c. Have influencers share your posts

Having your work shared by an influencers can mean virality for you. This is because influencers command large followings, who in most cases take their word as gospel.

In view of the importance of influencers, 80% of marketers find influencer marketing campaigns effective.

Also, influencer marketing has been demonstrated to be on the rise in recent years.

So you can ride on this wave to grow your site.

Source

You can incentivize influencers by relationship building first, offering them something in return for sharing, and involving them in round-up posts.

Since it builds up their own authority, influencers will readily share your round-up posts. That means a win-win for both of you.

However take note of the fact that only 24% of influencers accept more than half of the offers they receive.

That means that the larger majority of influencers reject pitches.

What’s the way around this?

Find and pitch to only relevant influencers. That means your blog or topic has to align with those of the influencer’s blog or social channel..

In addition, offer true value to these influencers so they may receive a sense of real appreciation for their work.

Wrapping it all up

SEO is all about following proper and ethical practices to enhance the relevance and fit of your site to the searchers online.

When properly done, it can raise your site’s ranking and bring you a lot of free traffic.

Follow all these guidelines and you will see a boost in your ranking and traffic.

What SEO practices do you follow yourself that others can borrow a leaf from?

what is SEO

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