So, what is the first thing you do, if you want to buy a new phone or laptop?
In majority of cases in 2018, you will go online and search in Google.
To put it simple, if you want your business (either B2C or B2B) to exist, you need to have a Google presence and strategy.
To develop this strategy you need to know at least some basic facts about SEO – Search Engine Optimization.
Why do you need to read this guide?
By reading this guide, you will learn what is SEO and how to use it in your business.
What this guide is NOT about:
it’s NOT about lame “Top SEO trends in 2018”. It’s about SEO tactics I tried and which worked for me;
it DOESN’T CONTAIN complex tech jargon, which may scare you away and you will never try SEO again;
it DOESN’T PROMISE top position in Google after one month 🙂
1. What is SEO
So, let’s get ready to…
1. What is SEO?
SEO – abbreviation from Search Engine Optimization.
In other words, SEO is about optimizing content’s presence in search engines.
SEO is ensuring that if someone googles your service or product – he/she will be able fo find it.
Two main SEO metrics (apart from dozens of others) are traffic and conversions. It’s about how many visitors you bring to your site and how many sales they produce.
Two main SEO benefits are:
Good SEO practice ensures, that your site ranks well for top search queries – for example, if someone types “best running shoes” with a good SEO strategy, your site will appear on the first page and customers will be able to easily find it, click on it and buy your product.
2. Online visibility
With high visibility, your domain is powerful and every new piece of content you publish on your site/blog will automatically appear high on SERP (Search Engine Results Page).
Why SEO is important?
18% more shoppers choose Google over Amazon to find products.
More than 80% of users do online research in Google before buying a product.
According to Forrester research, more than 60% of people don’t want to interact with salespeople and 68% prefer to do a research on their own.
In overall, if you want to be discovered and considered by customers, you should be present in Google search.
Fun fact. Over 80% of Google revenue comes from…? Maybe, Google cloud, mobile phones, internet services or even self-driving cars, Google Glass or Internet balloons? No. It’s Google Ads. One more proof, how powerful Google search is and hence why SEO is so important.
Why Google organic search has highest ROI?
In overall, Google search is continuously recognized as top inbound marketing channel, based on ROI (return on investment).
Because of two things:
1. It’s free
Or at least much cheaper than paid advertisement. CPC (cost-per-click) from Google ads for high-intent keywords can easily be $4 and higher per one click. Imagine, when you are getting this traffic for free.
2. It’s evergreen.
Evergreen content – is a key to growing your business. It means, that even old content is still discovered and brings traffic to your site.
Evergreen content – is a secret behind steady high-volume traffic – the key to sustaining and growing any business.
For example, if your post on Linkedin goes viral – your site will receive huge amount of traffic for 2-3 days and then it will go down. You can’t rely on that.
While on Google, if your content ranks well, you can receive traffic from blogs which were published years ago.
That’s why bloggers love Google traffic. It’s a secret to passive income.Evergreen content is a secret to passive income online.Click To Tweet
2. How Google ranks content?
So, there are hundreds of millions of websites and blogs out there. How Google identifies which one to display on the first page? And which one should be on position 1, 2 or 3?
Overall, there are more than 200 ranking factors from Google.
They can be divided in 4-9 main categories. According to Backlinko, these are:
Google Algorithm Rules
On-Site Webspam Factors
Off-Site Webspam Factors
To simplify things, in my experience, 4 most important Google ranking categories are:
Basically, Google prefers content, which gives a complete answer to a search query and user doesn’t need to visit another site.
This is a high quality content – > it gives user what it searched for – > Google puts it higher in search results.
This is a bad quality content – > users don’t find an answer to original search query and leave site – > they think Google is a bad service and start using Bing 🙂 – > Google doesn’t want that, so it puts these sites lower in search results.
If many other sites link to your site, Google sees it as a signal of high authority of your site.
Other sites mention this blog – > hence it is valuable – > it should be higher in search results.
3. On-page SEO
On-page SEO has always been really important – it’s about how you make your content more understandable for search engine bots.
If Google bot immediately understands, what this page is about, which topic cluster it belongs to, what are main focus keywords, etc, etc – it will rank your page higher.
4. Technical SEO
Also, Google looks at multiple other issues:
– Mobile experience;
– Load time;
– Session time;
– Bounce rate;
– Rich snippets;
– Indexing (including sitemaps);
– Site structure;
– etc, etc, etc.
Put it simply, your site needs to pass basic requirements so it’s usable. Imagine two sites, with similar content quality and domain/page strength, but for one site it takes 8 seconds to load on mobile, for other – only 2. Of course, second site will be ranked higher in Google.
3. SEO strategy
Logically, your SEO strategy should be focused around Google ranking factors (mentioned above). Your SEO strategy should boost SEO ranking factors.
SEO is not that easy. But, when you finally figure it out – every process is dependent on other and everything starts to make sense.
In this blog, I will try to dive really deep on main elements of SEO, especially if you are a beginner.
Here are some of the main areas you need to focus your attention on when starting a new blog or trying to boost existing one.
Three main elements of your SEO strategy would be:
TL;DR Here is a nice infographic about bootstrapping your SEO effort.
1. Tech SEO setup
First and important part of your SEO strategy is about making sure, that search engines will understand your site.
These are 3 main things, which search bots will do with your site:
find it on the WEB;
Without any of these, your site just won’t available in Google search and all your SEO efforts will be worthless.
Remember, that search engine bots see and scan only text and links. Images are not recognized by search engines (only their tags).
So, you need to setup your site in a correct way.
Make sure, your website navigation is easy. Search engines scan your website in similar way with people – they just follow links. Ideally, any page on your site shouldn’t be more than 3 clicks away from your homepage.
Don’t create so-called “orphan pages”, which don’t link to anything and aren’t linked from anywhere else.
Your site should load fast – it is an important ranking factor for Google. Use Google Page Speed Insights for that. Here is analysis of Backlinko.com
In many niches, mobile traffic is already much higher, than desktop traffic. If your site is bad on mobile, it will be ranked poorly by Google.
Sitemap file (usually it’s sitemap.xml) helps Google to better understand your site structure and index it faster.
With Robots.txt you can tell search engines which pages to index and which don’t.
Create these files to speed up your crawling and indexing.
Simple urls, no dead links or broken redirects
Make sure your urls are not too long.
Check out if all links on your site are “alive” and point to correct pages. You can use Screaming Frog for that.
Forget about Duplicate content
If you are serious about SEO, forget about stealing other people’s work. Search engines get confused by duplicate content and can penalize your site, by not displaying that page at all.
Other technical fixes
There are plenty of other technical issues with your site. Usually, you will be notified about major problems via Search Console. You can can see problems with html, structured data, rich snippets, AMP pages, 404 pages – and so on.
Just fix these issues and try to keep them at low. You may need a developer for that.
Fix it – as a reward, you will get more traffic.
2. Content is king
Content is still king in SEO.
I mean, high quality, unique, engaging, analytical content.
of course, not fiverr content.
Good quality, engaging content – is a key for driving conversions and sales from your website. In fact, ability to create right content – is a great talent and it’s quite hard to hire this kind of person. You can take a look which salaries there are e.g. at Buffer for content creators.
You can think – well, I can just buy $5 posts on fiverr and spam the hell out of my blog. That DOESN’T WORK. In my own experience – I tried a lot of different stuff in SEO – low quality content doesn’t work anymore. It just DOESN’T RANK. Somehow, Google recognizes it – even if it’s more than 70% original – and doesn’t put it up in search results.
I did this experiment – I bought 2000-3000 words articles on fiverr – not the cheapest ones and put it on the blog (not this one ;). It was not that bad, but obviously it was put together from different existing articles and paraphrased (typical fiverr). And then I wrote my own article – only around 300 words, but did some real research and tried to put some interesting, engaging content, which solves some problem or answers some question.
Guess what? Even without backlinks – my original content was on first page… Only 300 words. Fiverr article – 2500 words – page 5 or 6.
Google analyzes engagement rate and session time – and if it’s low, your page will go down in rankings.
So, it’s always important to put some work into your content – it will be WORTH IT.
On-page optimization or on-page SEO is a very important factor of your SEO strategy. Because, it ensures that Search Engines can understand a) what your page is about; b) can match your page to relevant searches.
There are two types of on-page SEO: Keyword related and Non-keyword related
1. Keyword Optimization
So, ideally your page should look something like this.
You should include keywords in:
First paragraph of the copy
H1, H2 tags
Meta description tags
2. Non-keyword on-page optimization
Cite high-authority sources in your articles.
Internal links help search engines to crawl your site and also they show semantic relations between your articles.
Longer content tends to rank better. In my experience, it’s better to have 5 long-form, good quality articles, which rank, than 50 shorter, which hardly bring any Google traffic.
Here is an overview from Co-Schedule:
Google likes, when your page content includes not only text. Put some videos, infographics, diagrams, embed elements (maps, interactive graphics, etc). All these are signals of a high quality page.
Focus on topic clusters
Maybe 10 years ago, on-page SEO was a key factor. Everyone was talking like – you should put n number of keywords in meta description, then in meta keywords (remember? it was a thing back then) and then just spam your text copy with keywords. But, now GOOGLE GOT SMARTER.
Right now, Google is so advanced, it understands not only synonyms, but also context. So. you don’t need to put same keywords 20 times in your copy – e.g. “SEO services in UK” – and then create a similar page with a bit different keyword – e.g. “SEO companies in UK”. Now, Google understands, that it’s about one thing and these are synonyms – you don’t need to spam with keywords anymore.
Use on-page SEO to update your old articles
For me, on-page SEO mostly works in terms of monitoring and adjusting. So, I put out content, build backlinks and then you can see in Search console, what is getting impressions and clicks.
After that, you can put those keywords from impressions in your copy and optimize your text for one or multiple focus keywords – it’s very easy to use Yoast plugin for that.
And in time, you will get more traffic and higher rankings for that page.
Backlinks – for most people backlinks is kind of a “dark matter” in the world of SEO. A lot of bloggers just put out articles and hope for the best 🙂
However, backlinks create authority for your site.
What is a Backlink?
Links, or backlinks, are mentions of your content on other sites. Every time someone refers your content on other site, you get a backlink to your site.
In this example, Entrepreneur.com article (https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/321468) links to Shoutmeloud.com (https://www.shoutmeloud.com/how-to-grow-facebook-group.html) with an anchor text “1 billion people”.
So, Shoutmeloud.com just got a backlink from Entrepreneur.com. 🎉
Why “good backlink”?
For Google, both quantity and quality of the links is important.
In my experience, quality trumps quantity. So, if you have a backlink from a high-authority website (e.g. Entrepreneur.com) – it’s better, than 5 backlinks from low authority sites.
How to check link quality?
There are many SEO metrics and tools for checking out quality of a website. What you need to know, is a domain or page strength of a site, which links to you.
Easiest way to check it is via MOZ DA (domain authority) or PA (page authority). It’s free.
You can use freemium tool – Moz, or other paid tools (Ahrefs) to check domain and page ranks.
Just above I showed an example of a backlink from Entrepreneur.com. Is it quality any good? So, let’s check it in Moz.
As we can see, Domain Authority is 91 – everything above 35 – is very good, and page authority is 43, 1 linking domain, 5 inbound links, 0 ranking keywords.
So, overall domain authority is really high, page authority is ok. However, number of linking domains to this page is really low and it doesn’t seem to rank for any keywords yet. It’s a good link, because it is from very high authority domain, but it would be even better if page authority, nr of linking domains and ranking keywords was even higher.
How to build backlinks?
If you want to significantly boost your traffic – backlinks is an essential part of SEO. If content is king, backlinks – is a queen. And sometimes, depending on your niche and site structure, they swap. Quite often good quality backlink can play much more significant role, even than content.
There hundreds of techniques how to build backlinks.
Organic, editorial links
These are the easiest ones. They come organically from resources, which like your content and reference it on their own.
Note: this only happens, if you have really high quality and/or very shareable content. In my experience, it works with Infographics, Top lists, Guides, etc.
Well, if organic links didn’t happen, you can notify people about your cool content and hint them to mention it on their sites.
Look for relevant sites in your niche, grab their emails and do an outreach campaign to ask for a backlink.
Just stumbled your blog post about …
I liked your points about …
I wrote something similar recently, about …
would you mind mentioning it on your site?
Let’s keep in touch!
Here is how it worked for me:
Same as with outreach, you will need to find bloggers, publishers relevant to your niche and offer them a free guest post in return to a backlink to your site.
Here is my example, with exactly same email and same campaign.
Directories, profiles, PR…
A lot of sites offer an opportunity to create a free profile with a link to your site: social media sites, local listings, business listings, different directories and many other categories. Also, sometimes a PR campaign (e.g. you release a new feature) can produce links to your product or service. You can try some PR services.
Use these opportunities!
Your competitors websites can be an amazing source of backlinks. They are in the same niche and sites which link their content, possibly can link your content as well.
Tools like ahrefs, allow you to check backlink profile of any website.
Just to give you an idea, here is a glimpse of a backlink profile of a well-known SEO site – searchengineland.com
So, you see that linkedin.com, vimeo.com, plus.google.com, en.wikipedia.org – link to Search Engine Land, so these can be your backlink targets.
That’s just an overview, read my ultimate list of link building strategies.
How to Monitor and Track SEO?
So, we just discovered how you can use some SEO strategy to grow your website. During this process, it is crucial to measure results.
Most companies develop their own set of SEO indicators, however here are most commonly used ones.
Organic traffic growth
For example, number of sessions from organic search this month, compared to previous month.
Top pages by organic traffic
Top landing pages or blogs, which attract most organic traffic.
Domain or page rating
This metric reflects strength of a backlink profile of specific domain or page. It is commonly measured via Moz DA (domain authority) or PA (page authority). You can check yours for free here.
Growth of backlinks
Also described as referring domains or referring pages. Basically – number of sites, linking to your site. This metric directly correlates with one Domain rating – the more domains link to your domain, more powerful it becomes.
Where to check? Ahrefs, Search Console, Moz, Semrush, etc.
Session time and bounce rate
Average time a user spends on your site. This metric is very important for Google search engine.
Number of organic keywords
Number of keywords, which rank in top 100 results in Google search.
Where to check? Ahrefs.
Number of indexed pages
Pages, which are indexed by Google.
Where to check? Search console, or type in Google: site:yoursiteurl.com
Conversions from organic traffic
How many goals (clicks, sales, signups, demos, etc) were produced by organic traffic.
But, it’s important not to get lost.
In the end, only two metrics are important: traffic and conversions. How many visitors do your bring to your site and how many of them convert.
SEO – Need to know
So, now you know what is SEO, how Google ranks content, what should be your SEO strategy and how to measure it.
However, there are dozens of other SEO aspects and areas, which obviously won’t fit in this blog, but I will just try to introduce some of these concepts to you.
Up til now, we focused how to get Google traffic no matter where your website is located. However, there is a separate field of SEO – local SEO.
More than 90% of users use Google search to find local information. People search for local restaurants, shops, activities, hotels, etc, which are tied to a specific address.
Is local SEO a completely different thing?
Yes and no. If website has a good SEO standing in general, it will rank ok for local as well. But, it should contain relevant local information: clear address, location, etc.
It is important to create a Google business listing, associate it with your main website and keep it updated.
Black hat SEO
What is Black hat SEO? It is a complex of techniques, aimed at tricking Google algorithm. The aim of black hat SEO is to manipulate with search engines and ranking factors.
If you don’t understand what you are doing, don’t go there.
Very often black hat seo tricks end up in penalty from Google (e.g. some pages or whole site disappearing from Google search) – and you can simply loose your business.
Recovering from Google penalties is either extremely hard and painful or impossible at all – so it’s just easier to start a new site.
So, why would someone try black hat SEO? Because, it seems to simplify and speed up SEO process. And often SEO is hard and longterm game.
For example, some Black hat tricks can “sort of” speed up link building or use keyword stuffing and spinning – so you can create countless amount of content in seconds, etc.
And there are plenty of specialist/agencies suggesting you to do SEO – in an easy way.
For example, check out this fiverr gig, which offers 550 000 backlinks for $5 🤪 I wouldn’t like a link from your site, if you purchased it. 😅
SEO Resources and Tools
You will need some SEO tools to start with SEO. I have created a separate blog with 30+ SEO tools you have to use. Check it out.
Meanwhile, here are some common used tools in the world of SEO.
1. Google Search Console (free) – official Google tool (former Webmaster tool).
2. Google Analytics (free) – check your traffic.
3. Google Keyword Planner (free) – research keyword ideas.
4. Ahrefs (paid) – track backlinks, research keywords, on-page SEO, SEO audit, etc.
6. Keywordtool.io (freemium) – keyword research
7. Moz (freemium) – domain checker.
8. SimilarWeb (paid) – check competitors traffic.
10. Buzzstream (paid) – outreach.
11. Screaming Frog (freemium) – SEO audit.
Here are some great SEO blogs I recommend you to check out.
and many others…
Back to you
Hope you enjoyed this little glimpse in the world of SEO.
The bottom line is – without presence in search engines, it is very hard to sustain a business in 2018 and onwards.
So, invest some time in some SEO knowledge (at least basic stuff) and it will be well worth it!
What did I miss in this guide?
Leave your suggestions in comments below!