1. Technical Setup
For your website to rank, three things must happen:
A search engine needs find your pages on the internet. It must scan your pages in order to understand your topics and identify your keywords.
It needs to add each page to its index-- a database of all the content found on the world wide web. In this way, its algorithm can consider displaying your website for relevant queries.
Seem relatively straight forward, build your site put it online and that's it?
There is a catch. Every web page looks different for us than it does for the search engines. We see pages as an assortment of graphics, colors, but what SE's review are plain text, formatting, and linking infrastructure.
As a result, the processes through which it can not render remain invisible to the search engine. Consequently, despite websites looking great to us, places like Google might find its content unusable or even irrelevant.
Search engines visit sites the same as you would. They follow our linking structure. A search engine visit a page and uses its links to find content to analyze but since they can not see images they only view the code.
Search engines don't do well reading lengthy snippets of code with complex structure. Another reason to keep URLs short. We recommend setting them up to include as little as possible beyond the main keyword for which you intend to optimize the page for.
Among the contributing factors of SEO search engines look at is the load time-- the length of time it takes for a user to be able to see the page-- as an indicator of quality. Many website elements can affect this. Image size, for example.
A dead link sends a visitor to a nonexistent page. Both provide poor user experience and prevent search engines from indexing your content properly.
A sitemap is a simple file that lists all URLs on your site. Search engines use it to identify what pages to crawl and index. A robots.txt file, on the other hand, tells search engines what content not to index (for example, specific policy pages you don't want to appear in search.) Create both to speed up crawling and indexing of your content.
Pages containing identical or quite similar content confuse search engines. They often find it near impossible to determine what content they should display in search results. For that reason, search engines consider duplicate content as a negative factor. And upon finding it, can penalize a website by not displaying any of those pages whatsoever.
Every time you use a search engine, you're looking for content-- information on a particular issue or problem.
True, this content might be available in different formats. It could be text, like a blog post or a web page. It could also be a video, product recommendation, and even a business listing.
And for SEO, it's what helps gain greater search visibility.
Here are two main reason whies:
For one, content is what customers want when searching. Regardless of what they're looking for, it's content that provides it. And the more of it you publish, the higher your chance for greater search visibility.
But also, search engines use content to determine how to rank a page. It's the idea of relevance between a page and a person's search query that we spoke of earlier.
While crawling a page, they determine its topic. Analyzing elements like page length or its structure helps them assess its quality. Based on this information, search algorithms can match a person's query with pages they consider among the most relevant to it.
The process of optimizing content begins with keyword research.
SEO is not about getting any visitors to the site. You plan to attract people who need what you sell and can become leads, and later, customers.
However, that's possible only if it ranks for the keywords those people would use when searching. Otherwise, there's no chance they 'd ever find you. And that's whether or not your website appeared on top of the search results.
That's why SEO work starts with discovering what phrases potential buyers enter into search engines.
The process typically involves identifying terms and topics relevant to your business. Converting them into initial keywords. And finally, conducting extensive research to uncover related terms your audience would use.
We've published a thorough guide to keyword research for beginners. It lays out the keyword research process in detail. Use it to identify search terms you should be targeting.
With a list of keywords available, the next step is to optimize your content. SEOs pertain to this process as on-page optimization.
On-page optimization, also called on-page SEO, ensures that search engines a.) understand a page's topic and keywords, and b.) can match it to relevant searches.
Note, I said "page" not content. That's because, although the bulk of on-page SEO work emphasises on the words you use, it encompasses optimizing some elements in the code.
You may have become aware of some of them-- meta-tags like title or description are two most popular ones. But there are more. Here's a list of the most crucial on-page optimization actions to take.
Note: Since blog content prevails on most websites, when speaking of those factors, I'll concentrate on blog SEO-- optimizing blog posts for relevant keywords. All this advice is equally valid for other page types too.
Ensure that Google understands what keywords you want this page to rank. To achieve that, make sure you include at least the main keyword in the following:
Post's title: Ideally, place it as around the start of the title. Google is known to put more value on words at the beginning of the headline.
URL: Your page's web address should also include the keyword. Ideally, including nothing else. Remove any stop words.
H1 Tag: In most content management systems, this tag displays the title of the page by default. Make sure that your platform doesn't use a different setting.
The first 100 words (or the first paragraph) of content: Finding the keyword at the beginning of your blog post will reassure Google that this is, in fact, the page's topic.
Meta-title and meta-description tags: Search engines use these two code elements to display their listings. They display meta-title as the search listing's title.
Image file names and ALT tags: Remember how search engines see graphics on a page? They can only see their file names. Make sure that at least one of the images contains the keyword in the file name.
The alt tag, conversely, is text browsers display as an alternative to an image (for visually impaired visitors.) Since ALT tag resides in the image code, search engines use it as a relevancy signal.
ii. Non-Keyword-Related On-Page Optimization Factors
On-page SEO is not just about sprinkling keywords across the page. The factors below help confirm a page's credibility and authority too:
External links: Linking out to other, relevant pages on the topic helps Google determine its topic further. Plus, it provides a good user experience. How? By positioning your content as a valuable resource.
One, they allow search engines to find and crawl other pages on the site. And two, they show semantic relations between various pages, helping to determine its relevance to the search query better.
Content's length: Long content typically ranks better. That's because, if done well, a longer blog post will always contain more exhaustive information on the topic.
Multimedia: Although not a requirement, multimedia elements like videos, diagrams, audio players can signal a page's quality. It keeps readers on a page for longer. And in turn, it signals that they find the content valuable and worth perusing.
From what you've read in this guide so far, you know that no page will rank without two factors-- relevance and authority.
In their quest to provide users with the most accurate answers, Google and other search engines prioritize pages they consider the most relevant to their queries but also, popular.
The first two areas-- technical setup and content-- focused on increasing relevancy (though I admit, some of their elements can also help highlight the authority.).
Links, however, are responsible for popularity.
Before we talk more about how they work, here's what SEOs mean when talking about links.
What Is a Backlink?
Links, also called backlinks, are references to your content on other websites. Every time another website mentions and points their readers to your content, you gain a backlink to your site.
This article in Entrepreneur.com mentions our marketing statistics page. It also links to it allowing their readers to see other stats than the one quoted.
Google uses quantity and quality of links such as this as a signal of a website's authority. Its logic behind it is that webmasters would reference a popular and high-quality website more often than a mediocre one.
Note that I mentioned links quality. That's because not all links are the same. Some-- low-quality ones-- can impact your rankings negatively.
Links Quality Factors.
Low quality or suspicious links-- as an example, ones that Google would consider as built deliberately to cause it to consider a site as more authoritative-- might reduce your rankings.
That's why, when building links, SEOs focus not on building any links. They aim to generate the greatest references possible.
Naturally, similar to with the search algorithm, we don't know what factors determine a link's quality, specifically. However, with time, SEOs discovered a couple of them:.
1. The popularity of a linking site: Any link from a domain that internet search engine consider an authority will naturally have good quality. In short, links from websites that have superior links leading to them, work better.
2. Topic relevance: Links from domains on a topic similar to yours will carry more authority than those from random websites.
3. Trust in a domain: Much like with popularity, search engines also assess a website's trust. Links from more trustworthy sites will always impact rankings better.
In SEO, we refer to the process of acquiring new backlinks as link building. And as many practitioners admit, it can be a challenging activity.
Link building, if you want to do it well, requires creativity, strategic thinking, and patience. To generate quality links, you need to come up with a link building strategy. And that's no small feat.
Remember, your links must pass various quality criteria. Plus, it can't be obvious to search engines that you've built them deliberately.
Here are some strategies to accomplish it:.
Editorial, organic links. These backlinks emerge websites that reference your content on their own.
Outreach. In this strategy, you contact other websites for links. This can happen in many ways. You could create an amazing piece of content and email them to tell them about it. Therefore, if they find it valuable, they'll reference it. You can also suggest where they could link to it.
Guest posting. Guest posts are blog articles that you publish on third-party websites. In turn, those companies often allow including a couple of links to your site in the content and author bio.
Profile links. Many websites offer an opportunity to create a link. Online profiles are an example. Often, when developing such profile, you can also list your website there too. Not all such links carry strong authority, but some might. And given the ease of creating them, they're worth pursuing.
Competitive analysis. Many SEOs regularly analyze their competitors' backlinks to identify those they could recreate for their sites too.