SEO refers to strategies that are used to improve visibility and increase inbound traffic from search engines to a website. There're many definitions of SEO out there but this one gets to the point fast.
This definition is appropriate because SEO isn't about tricks. In fact, it's one of the most sophisticated form of online marketing that's available today! The people who are unable to do proper SEO are quick to call it trickery but it's a marketing discipline, that is all.
But it's a highly effective one and for many, SEO is marketing's best kept secret!
It usually takes up to 6 months to start seeing any improvements in rankings when conducting an SEO campaign unless the given website is already established. Furthermore, depending on the competitiveness of keyword targets, it can take 12 to 18 months to see strong ROI for a brand new site. You see, there's a myth about SEO professionals using Jedi mind tricks or some kind of magic bullet solution to rank web pages.
Sorry, but... There're no quick fixes and no magic bullets but maybe some truth to the Jedi mind tricks -__-. How fast you see results from SEO, depends on your niche and competition level. Although it's possible to rank a website on page #1 in as little as 6 weeks, depending on a number of factors like your budget, niche and market, there's no easy route. This type of marketing requires determination, time and patience! Everything that we're about to share with you, will help you get started on implementing SEO.
Types of SEO professionals
If an SEO expert guarantees that they'll get you the #1 spot on Google, don't conclude the transaction and look elsewhere. SEO is highly dependant on many external factors that usually arise from the search engines themselves. Therefore, it's irresponsible to make any guarantees about SEO because policies and algorithms (a form of artificial intelligence) continue to change on a regular or even daily basis!
There're three types of experts in this field. These are White Hat, Gray Hat and Black Hat SEOs. But in truth, they're all trying to achieve the same goal, which is to rank their client's websites. So with that in mind, is there really a separation? Well, let's find out, starting with...
1. White Hat
This kind of SEO is focussed on stable growth. White Hat experts focus on long-term stability with good marketing, rather than instant gratifications that can lead to a website getting banned from search engine results pages (aka SERPs). This is the practice recommended by Google, Bing and others.
2. Black Hat
Black Hat SEO is focussed on instant gratification. The basic idea is to use anything and everything that'll work fast. In this situation, the problem with fast growth is that problems always arise in the future. Google in particular, frequently releases updates to their algorithms in order to combat Black Hat tactics. You can go from making $10,000.00 a month to $0.00 in just a few days if your site is removed from the SERPs.
3. Gray Hat
Gray Hat SEO is a combination of Black and White Hat tactics. This is risky but it's likely the best way to go. Although it's not talked about much in the industry, many white hat SEO professionals are really gray hats because they're able to use anything that supports stable growth, while discarding tactics that can hurt campaigns.
On-page and Off-page SEO Basics
We can break SEO down into two main parts, these are on-page and off-page. On-page refers to optimizing the web pages within a given site. Off-page refers to any measures that can be taken to improve a website's visibility on the SERPs externally such as acquiring backlinks, which we'll cover in more detail shortly.
The reason you need on-page is because it'll improve how search engines understand your web pages. It eliminates indexing and crawl problems for websites. There're several things that you can look at when working on your web pages, but below are the most important things that you'll need to get right.
1. Keyword Research
It all starts with this! Keyword research is how you find relevant keyword targets for your business. Using tools like Wordtracker, you can easily identify lucrative terms for your products. The tool also informs you of the competitive level of queries. Free tools like Google's Keyword Planner have similar functions but with limited features.
2. The Page Title
The title of your web page is the most important part of your page. It informs the search engines about your content. For example, if your web page is about gloves, then your page title can say something like “The Best Gloves You'll Ever Wear! Fast Shipping - The Glove Company”.
If you're unfamiliar with writing html titles, that's ok. You can just speak to your web designer about it but here's what they look like.
If you're using WordPress or any other CMS (content management system), you'll only have to type in your title and the system does the coding for you. Let's look at one more example. If another web page is about tactical gloves, then the title should say something like “Tactical Gloves For Men And Women - Your Company Name”. Your titles have to be different, otherwise, all your web pages will be competing for the same positions on the SERPs. But more importantly, search engines will often ignore duplicate titles and rank only one of your web pages. And this is bad for SEO.
For maximized results, place your most important keywords in front of your title and add your business name last or first, depending on the power of your brand. There's a limit to the number of characters that search engines will display in their search results. Best practice is to keep the length between 50-70 characters. Also, make sure you're targeting keywords that'll give you the most ROI. The higher the estimated monthly search volume, the better the potential and the tougher the competition.
3. Page Description
Officially, the description of your web page isn't used for rankings but it's highly important for the user. However, all evidence that we've seen suggest that it's also used for rankings in some way. Therefore, our recommendation is to always insert your keyword in the meta description too.
It's a good rule of thumb to always think user experience first and SEO second! Your description is your chance to rope the user in or give them a reason to click. So make sure that it's well written. Here's an example of a well-optimized search snippet.
Note that the above screenshot was taken during Google's brief limit increase of its description copy to test user experience (UX). Right now, the maximum characters that'll display on the SERPs is 165.
4. Body Text
The body text of your web page should have your keywords within it. Essentially, if your page is about guitar lessons, then you should have those keywords in there, including some synonyms or variations of it. But avoid over using keywords because it's considered keyword stuffing or over-optimization and can cause a web page to drop ranking position. The best way to avoid this debacle is to write for your visitor first and think about SEO second. Ideally, your exact match keyword shouldn't appear more than 1 to 3 times on the page.
Design matters and search engines know it! You can significantly boost your rankings just by having a great website design! Think about it for a second... Search engines make their money by ensuring that people continue to use their platform. And bad design, more often than not, results in horrific user experience, which leads to fewer return visits or users.
Incidentally, your design is also a good indicator of trust to visitors. Whether or not they trust your website is highly dependant on your design because that's one of their first impressions of you. Furthermore, since more searches are coming from mobile devices, mobile-friendly websites seem to be gaining favour on the SERPs. Do NOT neglect mobile when creating your website!
6. The Content
When creating content for your visitors, take your time and write it well or hire someone who can produce great copy. Make sure that your content is beneficial to the reader because good content contributes to SEO success. Search engines love good content because they are all about information. The reason people use search is to find info that they would otherwise have to spend a lot of time looking for.
Use images and videos to improve or enhance your content. It should be informative, educational or fun. Create content that others will want to share with their social network, co-workers, friends and families. The more people share your content, the more buzz and links you'll naturally attract to your website.
This guide is for beginners, so we'll only discuss link building basics here. However, there're several off-page signals that you may want to learn more about such as social media marketing or video.
This is one of the most time consuming part about SEO because effective link building takes time. There're hurting ways to earn backlinks and effective ways to do so, we'll avoid the disastrous ways in this guide. And suggest a few tactics that you can use to earn links to your site.
However, the best strategy is to fill your website with high-quality content that consumers want. If you can make your website so useful that it benefits your visitors, they'll share your stuff with others and talk about you because you're providing massive value.
Good content always has the potential to become viral or at least gain some links. Getting people to share your content is the surest way to attract strong backlinks. And while we're on the subject, can you please share this guide?
Basic SEO Link Earning Strategies
Below are some good and safe link building tactics that you can start with. As with all things marketing, make sure that you're tying your tactics to real business objectives. Just doing this with no goal in mind is a fool's errand. Now with that out of the way, let's get started!
Listing your company on niche specific and general directories can help you build links to your website. But don't over do this and stay away from low quality directories. Business listings expose your company to more people, which is a good thing. Add your website to directories because they'll bring you more traffic, not just for a link. Besides, you don't really want all your traffic coming from search engines. That's like putting all your eggs in one basket, isn't it?
Listing your company or website on government sites, Yelp, BBB and similar websites can be of great benefit to your bottom line.
2. Guest Blogging
Establish relationships with other website owners and contribute content to their Blogs. These links are harder to get so they carry more weight or hold plenty of value. Blogs that accept guest posts are easy to find by searching Google or Bing's database. You can use a search combination like: your keyword + "guest post" or your keyword + "submit guest post" or your keyword + "guest blogger wanted".
3. Content Submission
Much like Guest blogging, content submission is about contributing content to other websites. There're many websites that operate with user contributed content. Use combinations like your keyword + “submit content” or your keyword + “submit article” to find them. If you need more information or advanced training on the topic, read our link building guide here: How to Create Backlinks to Your Website
Why Links Matter
Links are part of how search engines decide whether or not to trust your website. The basic idea is to have more sites linking to you but it also matters where those links are coming from. For example, if site A has 1000 links from many low-end sites and site B has 50 links from websites like Nasa, education and other government sites, site B will most likely outrank site A.
The difference is in the quality of backlinks. Also, avoid paid links and automated submission services. These type of links will reflect negatively on your SEO and perhaps, even trigger a manual review from search engines. Not good! In fact, automated submission services are never accurate and these sites are usually untrusted or spammy.
Finally, treat your website as a business. Everything should be moving and interesting! Review your web pages and update them or make improvements on an ongoing basis. Don’t associate with websites that engage in spammy activities. Get a blog started, add content that way and link back to your most important web pages.