Today, there are over 1.7B websites in existence.
How can you ensure that people find your site when they search on Google, Yahoo, Baidu or Bing?
Your site needs to be trustworthy, have content that answers the query of the user and be well-designed.
This is all covered in the world of SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
If you are new to SEO, don’t fret.
In this post I will cover the basics of SEO (including its definition) and provide you with a guide to do SEO yourself (for free).
What does SEO mean?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and it describes the logic behind the ranking of websites when you perform a search on a particular search engine (such as Google).
In short, SEO can be defined as a digital marketing strategy that helps increase the quantity and quality of the traffic to your site.
The optimization part of SEO comprises a series of steps that you can take to rank higher on Google and thus get free organic traffic.
Notice that I said steps, meaning that as long as you follow each of the steps (and are patient) you will notice great results.
Although it may seem tedious and painful at the start, SEO can actually be rather fun and easy to implement.
The best way to understand SEO nowadays is to break down its meaning. In that manner, SEO is:
- A marketing discipline – understanding SEO is crucial to all your marketing efforts because this way you will be able to drive traffic to your website and generate leads and conversions. You not only need to write content that Google likes but also content that will resonate with your audience.
- A technical task – knowing the best practices to optimize your content and site is important if you are planning to compete for traffic. People that know the ins and outs of search engine optimization are highly sought after because the ROI they bring is high.
- An exciting field – I don’t know about you but to me, creating dope content and generating leads for free is quite amazing. Also, I love the ever evolving nature of SEO and the fact that it requires marketers like me to constantly read up on new algorithm changes and more.
For you visual learners, here’s a cool simple video that describes SEO in detail.
How does SEO work?
When a user searches for a term on a search engine like Google, the results that he or she is presented with is a series of websites that are relevant to the query and websites that have a solid domain authority (among other factors described below).
For example when you search for ‘chocolate cake ideas’, the top results are the ones that are adopting the best SEO practices in Google eyes.
This is mainly because the search engines use advanced crawlers that gather the information on every website, gathering every bit of content it can find on the Internet.
That creates an index for every website that is compared to the algorithm that Google has built for the best SEO practice.
Here’s Matt Cutts from Google explaining how this all works:
Which factors affect SEO?
Whether you are trying to learn more about SEO or want actual ranking techniques on how to improve your website’s SEO, there is a set of on-site and off-site factors that Google and other search engines favor when ranking every site.
Even though there are more than 200 factors in the Google algorithm that affect how your site ranks, the good news is that anyone can improve their website by simply working on a handful of them.
The 8 most important SEO factors to rank high in 2020:
1. Domain Authority
Domain Authority (DA) is a metric that shows how much trust your domain has built over time by a matter of backlinks and age.
The more sites that talk about yours, the higher your authority.
Similarly, the older your domain, the higher its domain authority.
Another important factor that I’ve found is the relevance of the domain name in respect to the main keywords you are targeting. For instance, seoexpert.com will be more likely to rank better than lucysblog.com for “seo” related queries.
Lastly, a few of my SEO expert friends have reported that shorter domains will generally outperform longer domains.
You can also boost your domain authority by building backlinks to your site.
My strategy with a brand new blog is to start by picking medium to low competition keywords and then slowly build up my post to target more competitive terms.
If you are looking to rank then you should definitely include LSI keywords (keywords that are synonyms to your target terms).
For instance, a site that talks about “portable chargers” can also include terms such as “power banks”, “portable batteries for phones” and so forth. Make sure to include the keywords that you want to rank for in the title and in the sub-headings for perfect on-page optimization.
3. Relevancy and Context
Search engines are smarter than ever before.
They do know the difference between a relevant page and a copied one.
They can also distinguish whether just site is about oranges or protein bars. I recommend sticking to a niche when building out a site and catering content specific to that particular niche.
For me, my niche is online marketing and SEO.
The more relevant links your website is pointing to, the greater your SEO score.
Same goes for inbound links which are actually more favored, especially if they are coming from prestigious, relevant and popular sources.
You can get backlinks by getting yourself featured on big news sites for example.
5. Site Speed
Google really cares about how quickly your site loads. To speed up your site you can use caching plugins such as W3 Total Cache or use a CDN to deliver your content in a faster way.
6. Clean and responsive design
Nowadays, the best optimized websites are the ones that are clean, functional and responsive to devices of all types and sizes. In fact, Google even favors websites that have mobile-friendly design than ones that don’t have.
If you are using WordPress, you can install the AMP plugin to have your site load blazingly fast. If your site is not using WordPress, you should learn how to make use of the accelerated mobile pages project by Google.
7. URL structure
The easier your url, the better it is for humans and search engines to understand what your post is all about.
Here are two examples:
Clearly example A is better because it’s descriptive and to the point.
Several studies have confirmed that the shorter the url, the better. Nevertheless, you still want to make sure you are including your top keyword in the slug for an added SEO juice.
8. Length of your content
Whenever you are writing a blog post that you want to rank, you want to make sure you are going into as much detail as possible. Search Engines have been rewarding long-form content and in 2018, you won’t rank unless you write at least 1500-2000 words per post.
When you write long form content, you give yourself the chance to explore a topic in depth, which in turns increases the time that some visitor spends on your site and signals Google that your content is awesome.
If you have a new site, how would you start with SEO?
A lot of my readers ask me this question:
“If I had to start all over with a brand new domain, how would I do it?”
I actually just started that experiment with my new site: The Insurance Nerd.
As you can guess by the name, the site covers topics about insurance and health care. I picked this niche because 1) it is hard 2) it pays very well on Adsense.
I picked a hard niche to test if the SEO principles I teach work, and they do.
So what is the strategy, I follow?
I covered the step-by-step plan here, but it can be summarized as:
- Find medium-tail keywords that have decent volume
- Create long content that is 1500+ words
- Build backlinks by guest posting
That’s it. There’s not much more to it.
Which tools can you use for SEO?
There’s many good tools out there. My favorite ones are (they are all free!):
- Ahrefs to analyze each url and see who’s linking to them and what keywords they rank for (free version, although I suggest getting the paid one).
- Keywords Everywhere to understand the volume and competition of my queries
- Google Search Console to see how my site is performing over time.
I use those tools for 97% of what I do. For the remaining 3% such as backlink building tools and others, read my complete list of SEO tools.
Why should you do SEO?
SEO has the potential to drive tons of quality leads to your website for free.
For instance, when you search for “custom portable chargers“, aren’t you more likely to become a client of whoever shows up on Google?
This is the power of search engine optimization.
Alternatives to SEO: Is SEO better than PPC?
SEO is way better than PPC (pay per click) because you don’t have to spend money on ads to drive traffic to your site.
With PPC, your traffic will stop as soon as you stop paying for ads. SEO has a much longer-lasting effect.
On the flipside, the advantage of PPC is that if you have a well-converting sales page, you can very easily grow your sales from day 1 without having to wait for all the SEO efforts to kick in months later.
The SEM formula is much more predictable than SEO, but SEO will pay for many more months.
Backlinks are simply links from an external site to yours. For example, when I link to this SEO agency in Los Angeles, I am generating a backlink for them. The more high quality backlinks you get, the higher the authority and rank of your site.
Therefore, building backlinks is a key SEO task if you want to reach page #1.
Are these tips just for Google SEO?
Google dominates the search engine space with almost 80% of all global searches. Yahoo and Bing have about 9% each. Even though the techniques we’ve been discussing here are particularly about Google SEO, they apply to all search engines alike.
Are there any other alternatives to SEO?
Given that SEO’s main purpose is to drive traffic to your site, you can also get more visits by means of ads (like Google Adwords or Facebook ads), you can also drive traffic through affiliate links and get quoted on articles in highly trafficked sites.
How can you learn SEO?
In the end, the best way to learn SEO is by doing it. The more organic, natural and unique content you write on your responsive website, the better results you should expect.
However, just like every other digital marketing practice, SEO requires time (at least a couple of months to kick-off) so be a bit patient and don’t get discouraged. It took me at least a year to start seeing some consistent traffic on my site.
The bottom line is that SEO is not a one-time job. It is a recurring strategy that every website should focus on.
It can take time, but if you’re willing to learn then it will definitely pay off in the long-run.
If you are serious about learning SEO, check out my top SEO posts and also consider subscribing to my newsletter.
Want to learn how I do SEO? Check this post.
A final word
Getting organic traffic is just the first step in building a successful business, don’t forget that you can also get traffic by getting featured on major sites, driving a lot of traffic from social media, and building a loyal fan base that will continuously buy from you and refer their friends.
Need an SEO Growth Hacker in your startup? Hire me full-time. Just message me on Linkedin.
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