Whether you’re new to SEO or just looking to refresh your fundemantals, you’re in the right place.
Google’s search engine algorithm is one of the world’s best kept secrets. Years of updates have ensured that it’s secrecy remains intact while also forcing marketers to constantly change their approach.
Through many years of trial and experimentation, people have slowly figured out how the algorithm works (though not a 100%). One thing that is for sure though is that the best practices for SEO are constantly changing.
Being tasked with ranking up your website can be daunting, especially if you don’t know where to begin. The plethora of updates to the algorithm certainly doesn’t make learning SEO any easier.
In this blog, I will attempt to present a clear, no-frills guide on how you can get started with optimizing your website, content or any other digital channels to become popular on Google. So here we go.
This one’s a no-brainer and something everyone is tired of hearing. So let’s just get it out of the way first; keywords!
Here’s a quick summary on keywords. Try to guess what people are typing into Google the most. Add those phrases to your website. The better you guess, the higher your website ranks on Google’s search index. All digital content should be focused around keywords. This is SEO-101.
Of course, no one will ever be able to accurately predict what 4 billion internet users are typing into Google. Later we will touch on some of the ways you can improve your guessing game. For now, remember that keywords are just tools. Using them is one thing, using them correctly is another. Keep your keywords clean, simple, relevant and pleasant. Here’s a quick test:
WHAT’S A GREAT HOME PAGE TITLE FOR A “FLOWER SHOP”?
a. ‘Splendid Botany Emporium’
b. ‘Gift Beautiful Flowers’
c. ‘Affordable Flower Shop Selling the Best Flowers for Flower Lovers’
d. ‘The Flower Shop’
A common rookie mistake is overusing keywords or ‘keyword stuffing’. Some are tempted to go all-in by adding a ton of keywords on a single page and hope that one of them lands a click. If you’re one of these people, you’ve got a lot to learn.
Quality Over Quantity
As of 2011’s Panda algorithm update, Google has shifted its focus towards favoring high quality, low volume content. This essentially makes keyword stuffing obsolete.
Why am I mentioning an update from almost 10 years ago? Because it is shocking how many out there are still cramming keywords in their content!
So if you haven’t figured out by now, ‘c’ is absolutely the wrong answer in the above exercise. Why is that? Because Google’s search algorithm will think that it’s too aggressive and redundant. A better way to describe it would be ‘desperate for attention’. The 2011 update will make sure that such pages appear as low as possible in the search result.
Moral of the story; avoid keyword stuffing. It’s an archaic practice that needs to be forgotten as soon as possible.
While we’re on the subject of keywords, let’s talk about Google Trends. It is the bread and butter in the life of a digital marketer.
So far we’ve learned that keywords are good, but too many keywords are bad. So the question is how do you focus your keywords and pick the right one?
This is where online keyword research tools come in handy. Many of them require a premium but Google themselves have kindly provided Google Trends; a free keyword analysis website. Simply plug in the keyword and instantly see its popularity anywhere in the world.
I personally use Trends to polish my content to be as SEO friendly as possible. Here’s an example.
Let’s say you are writing content for an online shopping website. A common keyword you may want to focus on is ‘e-commerce’. However, many prefer typing ‘ecommerce’ (without the dash). So which one should you use? This is where Google Trends can help. A quick comparison reveals the following:
‘E-commerce’ performs much better than ‘ecommerce’, therefore this is the one to use. Small optimization tricks like this can make a big difference.
Stepping away from keywords, let’s talk about links. One way Google ranks a page higher or lower is by checking if other websites link to it. It makes sense if you think about it. If others are referring to a page, then surely it must be good.
Google sees backlinks as a seal of approval. Having others link to you is a powerful way to get into Google’s good graces.
Inversely, external links can also help (but not as much as backlinks). If you know a credible website that could help your visitors, add a link to it. Ideally, one external link should be enough on a single page but there are exceptions. Especially if you can create a link exchange.
If someone else is willing to link to your website, you can link to theirs. This kind of link building activity can strongly improve your standing so add it to your daily to-do list.
Unlike keyword optimization, link building is a completely different type of work with it’s own set of challenges. You will need to rely purely on reaching out and connecting with others.
Fortunately, marketers all over the world are actively looking for referrals and usually welcome a proposal for link exchange. So go out there and see which websites are most similar to yours. Invite them to connect with you while helping them out as well. You can email or send them a direct message on one of their socials. But keep your messages brief.
Normally, most marketers are quite welcoming to such offers since it’s an opportunity to boost their SEO ranking for free. But many are also careful. Especially if they are from a reputable website. They know the power of their backlinks and won’t be so receptive to a referral.
If there was a 100% successful playbook for link-building, trust me, I would share it with you. Truth is, link building takes time, patience and good old salesmanship. My suggestion would be to just start with a short list and see who responds and who doesn’t.
Google despises websites with low activity. Pages that don’t regularly update with new and exciting content will end up at the bottom of the search result ocean. Write blogs, announce news, update images. Whatever you do, just keep digital channels busy.
According to our backend support research, it is best to add meaningful content at least 5 to 10 times a month with an extra emphasis on ‘meaningful’. Don’t just add content for the sake of it. Try to be engaging. Perhaps touch on a recent development in your industry. Or maybe guide folks that are new to your business. Show your audience that you care.
However, don’t get carried away with engagement. Remember, our goal is to beat the algorithm. Google is updating their search engine to recognize more meaningful content (as we discussed earlier with keyword stuffing). But it’s still not perfect.
When it comes to updates, it’s still a numbers game. Always keep the 5-10 quota rule in mind and just keep updating.
Watch for Bots!
While it would be nice to have only humans surfing the web, the reality is very different. Almost half the internet traffic is actually just bots (why else do you think all the websites keep asking you to prove that ‘I’m not a robot’?).
Bots are constantly crawling all over the internet, looking for any place they can plug in ads. If they are not dealt with swiftly, you will soon end up with a website cluttered with shady links. Bad external links are a serious red flag for Google.
Therefore, always stay vigilant for bots. They are more prevalent than you think and can substantially hurt your SEO ranking.
If you are using a CMS to build your website, then be sure to take advantage of SEO plugins. There’s Yoast for WordPress and SEO Wiz for Wix. If you’re on a different platform, then be sure to see which plugins are compatible.
SEO plugins are incredibly handy but sorely underutilized. I’ve seen so many people blindly submitting content on WordPress pages without even paying attention to Yoast’s recommendations. Taking some time to improve your content based on SEO plugins certainly makes a difference.
Hopefully there’s enough here to help you get started. But this shouldn’t be the end to your journey to understand SEO. As I said in the opening, Google constantly updates their search engine. So keep on learning!
We would also love to learn from you. Let us know in the comments below how you feel about SEO in today’s digital landscape. Also, be sure to check out our other blogs.