If you’re a website owner, you may have heard of search engine optimization (SEO).
People browse the internet and search for things every day. According to GlobalWebIndex, 60% of the world’s population has access to the internet. And did you know that 53% of B2B and B2C website traffic comes from organic search? That means more than half of your website traffic could come from search engines like Google. So you need to optimize your website for search engines to get website traffic.
Despite that, The Manifest shares that only 30% of US business owners have an SEO strategy in place. Most entrepreneurs that have tried it found it too time-consuming and have seen little SEO success.
But actually, SEO is not as complicated as it seems. Once you become familiar with the fundamentals of SEO, you’ll realize that SEO is about implementing best practices that give search engines and visitors the best chance of finding your website.
That’s why we’ve written this beginner’s guide to help you get started with SEO for your site. The article covers the fundamental aspects of SEO, so read on to learn more about:
1. SEO Definition
Search engine optimization is the practice of optimizing your web pages to increase your website’s visibility organically in the search engine result pages (SERPs).
SEO is completely different from search engine (paid) advertising. With paid advertising, you’re paying search engines like Google to show your website on the search result page. Instead, with SEO, you’re optimizing your website so it organically shows up on the first page of the search result. The number of visitors who come to your website through these search results is defined as organic traffic (because they found your website themselves).
2. Importance of SEO
Why should you implement SEO strategies and start learning SEO fundamentals? That’s because of the many benefits SEO brings to website owners.
SEO generates more traffic
Implementing an SEO strategy is essential because organic traffic makes up a significant percentage of search engine traffic. And organic traffic is the best kind of website traffic as you don’t have to spend money to get visitors to your site. Next to that, 75% of searchers click on the results from only the first page of the SERPs. If your website appears on the first page for a query, you may receive the majority of clicks and traffic.
If your website isn’t ranking near the top, you won’t get as much traffic, leads, sales and revenue.
SEO traffic is consistent
If you have a page that’s ranking well on Google, it’s likely that you’ll receive consistent traffic through that page. Unlike other traffic acquisition methods like social media or email marketing, websites that rank on the SERPs receive consistent, passive organic traffic. According to HubSpot, Google receives 5.6 billion searches per day. So you are assured of traffic coming from search engines, simply because people always search for things online. If you’re just starting out, it may take a while before you see results from SEO, but it’s well worth it.
SEO improves user experience
SEO was simple during the early days: stuff many keywords into your website, and poof – your content appears in the SERPs. Can you imagine how annoying it is to try to read an article with a keyword being repeated in almost every sentence? That’s not a good experience at all, you may even want to leave before finishing the article. Thankfully, with multiple Google updates later, ranking in SERPs now takes more than just keywords.
Nowadays, good user experience is synonymous with good SEO practices. In 2021, Google introduced the Page Experience algorithm update, aiming to provide an optimal experience for its users. While user experience has always been integrated with good SEO practices, the new update incentivizes websites to actively improve their user experience. So basically, you won’t be able to rank if you don’t strive to provide a proper user experience.
SEO yields a high return on investment (ROI)
SEO drives higher ROI than other marketing strategies. According to Terakeet, websites that rank high on SERPs:
1: Increase a blog’s business value by 429%
2: Decrease customer acquisition costs by 87.41%
3: Bring in $12.20 of revenue per $1 spent on marketing
3. How search engines work
As part of learning SEO fundamentals, it’s crucial to understand how search engines work to determine which aspects of your website you need to optimize.
Take Google as an example. Before Google can serve your website to its users, there are 3 steps it needs to take: crawling, indexing, and ranking
1: Crawling. Google sends out robots (also known as spiders or crawlers) to follow hyperlinks on the web to discover new content. The content can be webpages, PDFs, images, videos or anything that can be linked to. When crawlers get to a web page, they gather information about that page and follow links to other pages. Then they report back what they find to Google.
2: Indexing. If crawlers find unique content, they add it to the huge database of discovered URLs, also known as the ‘search index’.
3: Ranking. Once the URLs are in the database, the ranking process begins. For each search query, Google has to try to organize the results from most relevant to least relevant.
So, in order for your website to show up on the first page of Google, you have to provide relevant answers to what people search for.
4. How to get your website on Google
The aim of SEO is to rank higher on Google, but you can’t rank if Google doesn’t know you exist.
Google will automatically add your website to its search index, but this might take a few days or weeks. If you’re the website owner, you can manually submit your website to Google to accelerate this process. You can even request Google to crawl and index individual pages as well.
There are two steps to submitting your website to Google:
1: Find your website’s XML sitemap. An XML sitemap is a file that lists all the important pages on your website. It provides directions for Google to find and crawl all those pages. You can find yours by typing these URLs on your browser: ‘yourwebsite.com/sitemap.xml‘ or ‘yourwebsite.com/sitemap_index.xml‘
If they’re not there, you probably don’t have one. Check out this guide to creating an XML sitemap.
2: Submit your sitemap to Google Search Console. Google Search Console is an SEO tool that helps measure your website’s search performance. You can submit your XML sitemap to Google Search Console using Google’s guide to sitemaps.
Read our in-depth article on How to Get Google to Index Your New Website in 3 Steps
5. SEO fundamental: content is king
If you want to rank high on Google, you have to create high-quality content that people want to read. When it comes to SEO, this is the first and most important advice we can give you!
There are quite a lot of ranking factors Google takes into consideration when ranking a website. But it wouldn’t matter that you have the fastest website or the best website structure if people can’t find what they’re looking for on your site. If you can provide people with what they want, it’s more likely that they will stay longer on your site. They may browse other pages, revisit your website or even complete a purchase. These are signals telling Google’s algorithms that your website is helpful to its users, so you could get a ranking boost from having good content.
How to write more content on your website?
Blogging is a great way to have more content on your website. Next to that, it’s an excellent way to show your expertise on a particular topic. And the more content you have on a topic, the more Google will regard you as an expert. This is extremely beneficial for your SEO efforts.
If you run an ecommerce site for instance, then your website revolves around selling products. It’s not easy to write about a product, and you should avoid writing about how great your product is compared to other stores. People don’t want to read an article that feels like a marketing promotion. Instead, they’re looking for solutions to solve their problems or needs. So, that’s exactly what you should do. Write articles that help people to solve their problems!
Let’s say you have a store that sells mattresses. Don’t just write about the new mattresses in your store. Instead, write articles about what people need to consider when choosing a mattress. Other topics could be things like how to clean and maintain mattresses. Articles like these will surely help you sell your products. And you can apply the same content principle to other websites. Just try to be helpful!
Deciding on which topics to write about is a headache. It’s good to sit back once in a while and brainstorm about what to write. Of course, you should do keyword research to find ideas.
Keyword research is the process of discovering what your target audience is searching for, how much traffic those terms can send your way and how difficult it is to rank for those terms. There are different paid and free keyword research tools available in the market. Google Keyword Planner, Ahrefs and Moz are some popular keyword tools.
These mentioned tools are powerful in their own ways, especially if you can take full advantage of their features. That would require a lot of time and effort. So if you’re just starting out, another way to find ideas is to see what others are writing about. Next to that, the search suggestions from Google itself also provide valuable content ideas you should consider. For instance, we put ‘handmade candles’ in the search box and these are the suggestions we got.
6. SEO Components
Search engines consider many ranking factors when deciding on the most relevant pages for a particular search query. While understanding these factors is an SEO fundamental concept, you don’t have to memorize all of them.
We talked about the importance of having good content as a ranking factor. Next to that, there are other ranking factors grouped into the following main facets:
Technical SEO is about optimizing your website’s infrastructure so that search engine crawlers can easily access and index your website. It’s called technical SEO because it only deals with the backend. People won’t see what you do for your technical SEO, but search engines will surely make use of your efforts.
Technical SEO efforts include optimizing:
2. Implementation of structured data and schema markup
3. Website and page speed
4. URL structure — Fixing URL redirects
6: Website security (SSL and HTTPS)
On-page SEO factors are all the things that you have direct control over on your website. Many people consider technical SEO to also be a part of on-page SEO.
As you can imagine, content creation is a big part of on-page SEO. That’s why we really put emphasis on it. Besides creating informative content that best answers a user’s query, on-page SEO also concerns optimizing pages for specific keywords to improve search visibility. And because search engines technically cannot read, a part of on-page SEO is about including data to help search engine robots organize and understand the meaning and context of your content.
On-page SEO efforts include optimizing:
1: Title tags
2: Content formatting and headers
3: Meta descriptions
5: External and internal links
Off-page SEO refers to the efforts made outside your website to improve its ranking. It considers your overall presence on the web. You can think of off-page SEO as a form of word-of-mouth marketing. The type of websites that link to your content and in what context they refer to your brand says a lot about your website.
Off-page SEO efforts include:
1: Link building. In short, it’s about getting quality backlinks from other websites. A backlink tells search engines how your content relates to other websites and pages on the internet.
2: Guest posting. It’s about getting popular authors from other sites to write content on your site. Google doesn’t approve of backlinks from guest posts, but it’s still a great opportunity to build your brand awareness.
3: Social media awareness. Don’t forget about social media when trying to drive traffic to your website!
Final Thoughts: A beginner’s guide to SEO fundamentals
If you want to bring in more traffic to your website, SEO is non-negotiable. Learning SEO fundamentals is just the first step in building SEO knowledge. Start applying what you learned and grow your audience. Without a doubt, you will learn a lot along the way. Do remember that SEO takes time to yield results. You won’t see many changes after 2-3 weeks of implementing your SEO efforts. But if you keep on doing it, and review your progress once every few weeks, you will see results!
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