Search Engine Optimization: [SEO] The Ultimate Guide

SEO Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization is defined as “The process of affecting the online visibility of a website or a web page in a web search engines unpaid results.”

This of course is just a basic definition and doesn’t do much to explain why it’s important. Luckily I’m here to do just that, within this article I hope to give you a basic understanding of SEO and how it helps your business.

Why Is SEO Important?

There are a lot of people on the internet, and most of those people will have searched for something at some point.

The type of traffic that is generated can be very powerful for any business, all you have to do is figure out how to get it to work for you.

You could of course pay to advertise, let’s say on a billboard. (Or anything similar, doesn’t really have to be a billboard.)

However would you rather everyone driving by on the highway see your billboard whether they’re interested in your product or not, or have a highly specific search engine that will show your product anytime someone searches it up on google.

I would guess the latter, after all those people driving by could have zero chance of taking an interest in your product. The people searching for it though obviously already have an interest, and are very possibly ready to buy.

Everyday countless people search for things that are related to your business both directly and indirectly, and each one of those are potential customers that could be looking for exactly what you’re selling.

Each of these prospective customers give you opportunity to further along your business and build trust with your community, by answering questions, and helping people to understand exactly what it is you do that can help them.

After all when they are ready to spend their hard earned money, are they more likely to trust a stranger, or someone who’s trusted and ready to answer any questions they may have?

What Works For Driving Traffic From Search Engines?

It’s important to note that majority of the search engine traffic in the world belongs to Google. There is a little fluctuation depending on the type of business you run, but Google is responsible for the most part.

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Whichever search engine you use, search results are in a constantly shifting state. A lot of the easiest and cheapest ways of getting your web page ranked in SERPS (search engine results pages) have become risky in recent years.

Google has a complex algorithm in place to decide how exactly the pages are ranked, I’ll take just a moment to go over the main qualities that they focus on.

Google looks for pages that have high quality relevant information, based on the searchers query.

They determine relevance by crawling your websites content, whilst at the same time evaluating whether the content is relevant to what the user has searched for, mainly based on the keywords contained within.

Quality is determined by a number of factors, the main one being the number and quality of pages that link to your own web page, and site in general.

  • How much time do people spend on your site, do they just immediately click back to the results page, or do they not even click on your link at all and pass your site up for another? This is another important factor Google uses when determining your quality.
  • The speed at which your site loads, along with it’s ability to be mobile friendly.
  • The amount of unique content contained within your site, as opposed to copied or low value content.

As previously stated there are hundreds of factors that Google looks at to determine your sites quality, these were only the most obvious ones, Google also is constantly changing to include new factors as well.

Don’t worry though, you won’t have to get a degree in search engine marketing to learn how to rank for high value terms in search results.

We will go over proven, repeatable practices, that you can use to optimize your website to drive your targeted traffic through search engines.

Best Practices For Keyword Targeting, And Research.

The first step to search engine optimization is to determine what exactly it is that you’re optimizing for.

What this means is that you need to identify the terms that people are searching for “AKA keywords.” That you would want your website to rank for in search engines.

Unfortunately, this is not quite as simple as it sounds. There are some factors that you’ll want to take into account when choosing your keywords.

1. Relevance. This seems like a pretty straight forward concept, however you need to be careful, keywords that you think perfectly describe what it is you do might not draw the attention you want.

On the other hand keywords that seem like they don’t have anything to do with your company could potentially draw prospective customers to your site.

Research your keywords, don’t just use ones that you think are directly related, using indirectly related keywords can be just as if not more effective.

2. Competition. With any and all businesses, you’ll need to understand the likely costs, and potential for success.

SEO is no different in these aspects. To this end you’ll need to understand the type of competition you’ll be facing when it comes to obtaining certain keywords.

3. Search Volume. Another important thing to consider, is who is searching for the keywords you’re trying to rank for, or conversely if there are no people searching for those keywords you may want to look into more popular ones.

The first thing you want to understand, is who your prospective buyers are, and of course what they are likely to search for.

If you don’t already know who your prospective buyers are, thinking about this first is a great idea for your business in general.

What You’ll Want To Understand.

  • What types of things are your prospective buyers interested in?
  • What problems might they have?
  • What kind of language do they use to describe the things that they do, such as the tools they use?
  • Who else are they buying from?

As previously stated there are hundreds of factors that Google looks at to determine your sites quality, these were only the most obvious ones, Google also is constantly changing to include new factors as well.

Don’t worry though, you won’t have to get a degree in search engine marketing to learn how to rank for high value terms in search results.

We will go over proven, repeatable practices, that you can use to optimize your website to drive your targeted traffic through search engines.

Best Practices For Keyword Targeting, And Research.

The first step to search engine optimization is to determine what exactly it is that you’re optimizing for.

What this means is that you need to identify the terms that people are searching for “AKA keywords.” That you would want your website to rank for in search engines.

Unfortunately, this is not quite as simple as it sounds. There are some factors that you’ll want to take into account when choosing your keywords.

1. Relevance. This seems like a pretty straight forward concept, however you need to be careful, keywords that you think perfectly describe what it is you do might not draw the attention you want.

On the other hand keywords that seem like they don’t have anything to do with your company could potentially draw prospective customers to your site.

Research your keywords, don’t just use ones that you think are directly related, using indirectly related keywords can be just as if not more effective.

2. Competition. With any and all businesses, you’ll need to understand the likely costs, and potential for success.

SEO is no different in these aspects. To this end you’ll need to understand the type of competition you’ll be facing when it comes to obtaining certain keywords.

3. Search Volume. Another important thing to consider, is who is searching for the keywords you’re trying to rank for, or conversely if there are no people searching for those keywords you may want to look into more popular ones.

The first thing you want to understand, is who your prospective buyers are, and of course what they are likely to search for. If you don’t already know who your prospective buyers are, thinking about this first is a great idea for your business in general.

What You’ll Want To Understand.

  • What types of things are your prospective buyers interested in?
  • What problems might they have?
  • What kind of language do they use to describe the things that they do, such as the tools they use?
  • Who else are they buying from?

As soon as you’ve answered these questions you’ll have a list of potential keywords and domains that you can use to build your ideas around, in order to put some search volume and competition metrics around.

Take this list of core ways that your prospects and customers describe what you do, and input those into keyword tools such as Google Ads Keyword Planner.

The main idea in this initial step is to run a number of different searches with a variety of keyword tools. You could also use a competitive keyword tool such as SemRush, in order to see the types of keywords that your competition is ranking for.

These tools look at thousands of different search results, and will show all the keywords that your competitors have ranked for lately.

This doesn’t just need to be something you use to look at for competitors, you could also look at related tools that are selling to the same market for content ideas, or even look at niche publishers and see what those sites are driving traffic for.

If you already have an existing site, there is a good chance that you are getting at least some traffic from search engines already.

In this case take a look at which keywords are driving that traffic, to help you better understand what exactly you should be focusing on.

Google, unfortunately has stopped delivering a lot of information about what people are searching for to analytics providers.

However SemRush can still help with getting a sense of what terms you’re ranking for and their search volume, on your own site.

The Google Webmaster tool makes a bit more of this data available, which will allow you to see search query data and diagnose technical SEO issues.

Once you’ve taken the time to understand how you’re prospects talk, and what they may be searching for, as well as the different keywords that are driving traffic to your competitors and other similar sites, along with the keywords that are driving traffic to your own site.

Once you have all these things figured out you will then need to understand, which terms you can conceivably rank for, and where the best opportunities lie.

Determining the competition relative to each keyword can be a fairly complex task, but what you need to understand is the following.

1. How popular and authoritative each individual page on your competitors sites are.

2. How trusted and authoritative the entire site itself is.

3. How well aligned they are with that particular keyword.

Page Optimization.

Now that you have your keyword list, the next step will be implementing them properly within the context of your website.

Each page on your site should focus on one particular core term, along with a handful of other related terms. Let’s go over what a page should entail before we discuss this further.

Title Tag.

Google has started being able to better understand and punish the aggressive overuse of keywords that have become rampant in the last few years. As such it is important that while you include keywords that you not needlessly overuse them.

The title tag however is the place with the most impact, as such including your keyword there is a very good idea. overuse of keywords that have become rampant in the last few years.

As such it is important that while you include keywords that you not needlessly overuse them. The title tag however is the place with the most impact, as such including your keyword there is a very good idea.

Keep in mind that a title tag is not your pages primary headline, instead the title tag is the words you see at the very top of your browser located on the tab.

The length of the title tag that google will show varies, as it is based on pixels and not character length. A good rule of thumb though would be about 55-60 characters.

Ideally what you want to do is work in your core keyword, but do it in a compelling and natural way. If possible add some related modifiers around that term as well.

Keep in mind that the title tag is also what a user will see in their search history, so make sure that it is something that would be likely to be clicked on.

Meta Description.

Where the title tag is the headline of the search result, the meta description is essentially an additional ad copy.

Google takes liberties when it comes to if your meta description is shown or not, but if you have a compelling description of your site that would make people likely to click on it, the amount of traffic that can be generated is very impressive.

Body Content.

This comprises the actual content of your page, and as such is very important. Different pages will have different jobs, and you’ll want your cornerstone content page that many users will link to, to be very different from your support content that users will need to be able to get to and find answers from quickly.

With that said, Google favors certain types of content, as such here are some things that you’ll want to keep in mind when creating your web pages.

Thick And Unique Content. There is no perfect number for the amount of words a given page should have, and if you have a few pages that are only a couple hundred words then Google isn’t going to necessarily give you the cold shoulder.

However if you have a lot of small word pages, think in the thousands, or lots of pages with duplicated content, then you’ll want to make some changes. If after taking a look at the pages connected to your site, you find that a majority of them are low value, thin, or duplicated.

Then take a moment to read them over and think of ways to thicken them with more unique content, also check you analytics to see how much traffic those pages are getting, if the traffic is low or non-existent then it might be better to exclude them from search results.

This way Google doesn’t think that you are just trying to flood their index with lots of low quality content.

Engagement. Google judges how engaging, and user friendly your content is more and more as time goes on.

You can help with this by ensuring that your pages are answering the questions that your prospects might ask, making them stay on the page and engage with your content more often.

It’s a good idea to avoid unsightly things such as aggressive ads at the top of your page as well, this can make people quickly back out of your content, which is of course the opposite of what you want.

Share Ability. All of the content on your page will not have the potential to be linked or shared hundreds or thousands of times, but in the same way that you have to be careful of shoveling out low quality content.

You’ll also want to take into consideration how likely your content is to be linked or shared, having a lot of pages that don’t get this consideration will have an adverse affect on your site, by making sure these pages will not show up on search results pages.

Alt Attributes.

How you mark up the images on your pages, impacts not only the way that search engines perceive your page, but also how much traffic your page will get from image search results.

An alt attribute is an HTML element that allows you to provide alternative info for an image if a user can’t view it.

Over time your images could break, and this will allow you to have a useful description of an image if it can’t be seen, it can also help search engines with what your page is really about.

Make sure that you don’t just cram your keyword into an images description, be positive that it feels natural, and if you can’t get it to than it is better to exclude it altogether.

Make sure that you don’t skip the alt attribute though just give the image a thorough description.

By writing naturally about your topic, you’re avoiding over optimization filters.

This way it doesn’t look like you’re trying to trick Google into ranking your page. This will actually give you a better chance to rank for long tail keywords connected to your core keyword.

URL Structure.

Your URL structure is important from both a tracking perspective and sharing wise. Just like before you need to be careful not to jam too many keywords into your URL, just create a short precise and descriptive URL

Also it’s worth noting that if you don’t have to, then do not change your URL. Unless there is proof that your URL is negatively affecting your traffic, and business in general, then do not change it to be more keyword focused.

Schema & Markup.


Once you have all the on-page elements taken care of, you can finally take it a step further and help Google to better recognize and understand your page.

Schema Markup doesn’t affect your ranking on search results. (Not currently anyway.) However it can help with giving your site more real estate area. In the same way that ad extensions help with Google Ads.

In some search results, say that no one is using Schema, this will give you an advantage in click through rate, just by virtue of showing things such as ratings while others don’t.

Whilst in others where everyone is using Schema then having reviews could be the difference between getting new customers and not, therefore hurting your business by omitting them.

There are many different types of mark ups that you can include on your site, a lot of them may not apply to your business, but it’s likely that at least one will be able to help on some aspect of your site.

Information Architecture & Internal Linking

The way that you organize your web page is known as information architecture, how you do this, as well as how you interlink between your pages affects how the content on your site ranks.

The reasoning behind this is that search engines perceive links as others putting their trust in your page, and can help google understand what your page is about.

Search engines will also look at the text used to link your pages, this is known as anchor text, and it also helps google to understand what your page is about. Like always though avoid the overuse of keywords.

By linking aggressively to a specific page from multiple other areas of your site, you can indicate to search engines that this page is very important to your site.

Having external links on your pages is important in getting your pages to rank on search results.

Information Architecture can be a very complex topic, especially for larger websites. To help you out a bit here are some of the most important things to remember.

  • Understand the pages that you link to the most.
  • Keep your most important pages high-up on in your information architecture. This means linking to them in your navigation pages, and as often as possible in your most linked-to pages.
  • Keep a flat information architecture for your site. Basically try to make sure that your pages that rank in search results are a few clicks away as possible from both your homepage and your most linked-to pages.

Content Marketing & Link Building.

Considering the algorithm Google uses is still largely based on links, it is incredibly important to have a large number of high quality links to your site, which will increase search traffic.

It doesn’t matter how much work you do on-page without links to your site, you won’t get on search results.

There are many ways to get links to your site, but with Google becoming more sophisticated some of them can be extremely risky.

If you’re new to SEO then there is a good chance that these riskier tactics won’t be to your advantage, seeing as how you won’t be able to properly navigate the pitfalls and evaluate the risks.

A sustainable approach to getting links would be to focus on more general, and reasonable approach such as the creation and promotion of quality content, including specific terms you’d want to rank for.

Don’t forget that traditional PR for your business helps as well.

Creating and promoting content that will get you links and social shares is not an easy path, following these core steps can help you to understand a little better.

Identify & Understand. (You’re linking and sharing audiences.)

The most obvious step to getting links and shares on your site is to understand exactly who it is that you’re targeting.

There are quite a few tools that can help you when it comes to this, they allow you to identify influencers within your community who might share your content. Buzzsumo is probably the most powerful of these tools.

The basic idea of these tools is to identify the thought leaders and potential linkers in your space, and then understand what they themselves share and link to.

Find out what kinds of problems they have, the types of content they typically share, and think about how to create content they would find valuable, therefore sharing it with others who would also find it valuable.

As you work through this process think about what you might be able to do for these influencers.

How would you be able to help with their projects? What could you do to help them achieve their goals, what could you create that both they and their audience would find valuable?

Anytime before you start to create your content you should think, how would you can get the content shared, who would share it, and why.

Determine What Content You Can Create.

The next step should be for you to try and understand your own capabilities. What kind of content can you create that is likely to be shared by your audiences.

Here are some things to keep in mind, when deciding what kind of content to make.

1. Create content that solves your prospect’s problems, as well as your customer’s problems. Listening in on social media is a great place to get ideas for this.

2. Reverse engineer what already works. Take something that already has results and just work to make it a step or two better, this will ensure an almost fail proof strategy.

3. Make others look good. Ask questions from intelligent people in your community, and share their answers. Once you’ve highlighted someone or their content as valuable they will be more likely to help you share and promote that content.

Just focus on creating multiple content assets that will be of actual value, make a plan to promote those assets, and don’t be afraid to let people know that its out there.

Map Your Assets To Specific Keywords.

Don’t forget about your keywords, this doesn’t mean you should cram a keyword into every piece of relevant content even if it doesn’t fit.

It means that you should use keyword research as a way to discover various pain points, and that as you create new assets you want to find the ways that you can incorporate the language that your prospects and customers are using into said assets.

Especially the ones that are likely to get linked-to.

Common Technical SEO Issues.

While the basic practices of SEO have changed repeatedly in the last few years, and at the same time content marketing has become more and more important.

What many would consider the traditional SEO has stayed extremely valuable when it comes to generating traffic from search engines.

As I previously stated keyword research is still very important, and technical issues with SEO that keep Google and other search engines from understanding and ranking the content of your site are still prevalent.

While bigger companies tend to utilize technical SEO in their own ways, there are some common mistakes and issues that businesses of any size would benefit from understanding.

Page Speed.

Search engines place a large emphasis on the speed of sites, keeping your page speeds fast are not only beneficial to search engines, but also for your users, and your sites conversion rates.

Google actually has a tool that can help by giving you advice about what you can change to increase site speed.

Mobile Friendliness.

If your site generates a lot of mobile based search engine traffic, then making sure your site works well on mobile devices is a must.

In some places mobile traffic has already outpaced its desktop counterparts, making this that much more important.

Header Response.

The code your site sends back to the search engine is extremely important, if your page is working make sure that it is sending back a correct code, and on the other hand make sure a page that is not present is sending the correct code back as well.

If these are mixed up then your pages could appear blank, or worse not show up at all, and therefore not be eligible to rank.

Redirects.

Improperly utilizing redirects on your site can and will heavily impact your sites search results in a negative way.

It is best to never change your content from one URL to another, unless there is an undoubtedly strong reason to do so, and even then make sure to weight this against possible short term, and long term loss of search engine traffic.

In the event that you have to change the URL then be sure to utilize the correct code based on if the change is permanent or temporary.

Also keep in mind that changing a URL could result in a broken link error which will hurt your referral traffic and make it harder for users to navigate your site.

Duplicate Content.

Thin or duplicated content, is generally something you’ll want to avoid. By using similar content on multiple pages with little to no changes it will negatively affect your chances to rank with search results, and could even appear manipulative to the search engines programs.

XML Sitemap.

XML sitemaps are used to help both Google and Bing understand your site and uncover all of its content, just be sure not to include pages that would be deemed low quality, or not useful.

Keep in mind that just because you submit a page to a search engine in a sitemap doesn’t mean that it will rank.

Robots.txt, Meta NoIndex, And Meta NoFollow.

Robot.txt is a file that allows you to control what type of content is visible to Google, and which isn’t, as well as how they should handle said content.

There is a good chance that this file already exists on your site, so you’ll want to start by making sure that it isn’t blocking Google from seeing anything that could help you rank.

Afterwords you can utilize this to hide low quality or duplicate content that users might find useful but Google would flag you for. Meta NoIndex and Meta NoFollow are similar programs but they each differ in their own way.

How To Track And Measure SEO Results.

Once you’ve put all these steps into motion its only natural that you would want to check how well it’s working. On the surface there is a fairly simple way to do this, but there are a few different metrics that you’ll want to focus on.

Keyword Rankings.

Finding where your site ranks for a list of keywords is not your final destination. After all no matter how many rankings you get you can’t pay your staff with them.

They can after all be difficult to track, and all they really do is show where your pages show up in search results.

However getting an idea for where your site ranks could be a good indicator for your sites health, just don’t get obsessed with the rankings for any one term.

Remember the endgame is to use the rankings to drive up traffic for your website.

There are many tools that can help you understand your rankings, most of which are fairly similar with varying degrees of uniqueness.

If your business is small or just starting out it might be better to stick with a free, easy to use tool for now.

Organic Traffic.

Organic traffic is a great indicator when it comes to seeing how fruitful your SEO tactics have been.

Looking at your organic traffic allows you to gauge the amount of visitors coming to your site, and what their destination may be.

Majority of analytics tools will allow you to see the amount of organic traffic that is being directed to your site.

This is a powerful thing for sites just getting started with SEO, since majority of your sites traffic will be driven by what is known as “Branded Queries” or basically searches with your companies brand name.

Obviously you want people to search for your brand, and want them to find your site once they do. Unless you’ve been penalized by Google you will almost certainly rank for at least your own brand.

What most of your ongoing SEO efforts should entail would be incremental traffic, or traffic generated by people that previously had no knowledge of your brand.

Organic Leads, And Sales.

The primary, and most efficient way of gauging how well your SEO efforts are going, is by measuring the leads, sales, revenue, and of course overall profit that you have obtained since starting.

Google Analytics can help with this, as it allows you to set up goals, or e-commerce tracking.

By utilizing your reports you can look at your the amount of organic traffic your site has obtained on a page to page basis.

Allowing you to see the amount of converts you have obtained through organic searches, as opposed to paid ads, or third party windows.

Whilst pretty straightforward there are still a few things that you’ll need to keep in mind when utilizing this to measure your SEO efforts.

Web Based Analytics Is Always Imperfect.

When transitioning from more physical advertising like billboards or newspapers its easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer volume and precision of the data available in digital marketing.

However there are frequently issues that can change your data, from being just slightly off to being wildly inaccurate.

It doesn’t hurt to double check your data, especially if something doesn’t seem to add up properly. It may be necessary to put some checks in place to ensure that your analytics information is synced to your actual revenue and spend data.

Your System May Be Creating Gaps In Tracking.

If you’re using a system that can’t tie in to analytics for whatever reason, there may be gaps in what you can track as goals and actual sales.

Attribution And Life-Time Value Metrics Can Be Tricky.

This problem isn’t really tied into SEO, it has more to do with business and web metrics.

However this doesn’t change that figuring out how you attribute sales to different channels and factoring in life-time value to your sites traffic can be tricky.

Be sure that you’re asking the same tough questions and utilizing SEO the same as you would any other business venture.

Additional SEO Considerations.

For the majority, understanding the technical aspects of SEO, as well as finding which keywords you wish to target, and finding our what kind of strategy you should utilize to maximize sharing and linking, is all that is needed when using SEO, but there are some more unique cases that require a little bit different approach.

1. International SEO. There are quite a few benefits and trade-offs when it comes to ranking on search engines in other countries, and languages.

2. Local SEO. When it comes to small businesses and franchisees, getting local rankings for different variations is the best way to rally your organic search traffic.

While things that help with traditional SEO also help with this, there are a separate list of ranking factors when it comes to ranking locally.

3. App Store Search Engines. If you have an app for your business, whether its the core model surrounding it, or just something to help mobile users interact with your product.

You’ll want to have your app show up on the app store searches.

This brings my SEO guide to an end, remember that every business will need to utilize SEO in a different way, don’t be scared to get help, or experiment to see what works best for your business. I hope that this guide has managed to help you.

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5 thoughts on “Search Engine Optimization: [SEO] The Ultimate Guide”

  1. Everything is very open with a really clear explanation of the challenges.
    It was truly informative. Your site is useful. Many thanks for
    sharing!

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