What is SEO? Learn Search Engine Optimization Quickly

learn how to SEO

You’ve heard the acronym before, but what does it mean? In this post, we will teach you what search engine optimization is. After you read through the post, you should be able to:

  • - Understand the basic concepts of SEO
  • - Identify SEO strengths and weaknesses of a website
  • - Create an SEO strategy for your website
  • - Determine whether or not you should hire an SEO service

Are you ready? Let’s learn everything you need to know about SEO.

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization includes a range of activities that help websites or web pages rank on search engine results. These activities include keyword placement, on-page optimization, backlinks, and a whole mix of techniques that increase the likelihood of a webpage being ranked on search engines.

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Thousands of new pages are created and uploaded on the internet daily. Search engines crawl through these pages to extrapolate what purpose these pages may serve. Ultimately, a search engine is only as good as the results it is able to provide its users. To offer the best user experience, search engines consistently update their Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

Why is SEO important?

Better SEO rankings generally get you more website traffic. The boost in organic traffic increases brand awareness, leads, and sales.

Before you start pouring all your energy into SEO, you need to understand the difference between organic and paid traffic.

What’s the difference between organic and paid traffic?

Search engines prioritize paid results first. Every time you’re looking to buy (even sometimes when you’re not), the search engine that you use will more than likely display ads before they show you organic search results.

Let’s take a look at some search results. Here’s what appeared in my search results when I searched laptop for sale.

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The search results that I have circled are all ads. Any traffic that your website receives from ads is referred to as paid traffic.

As you can see, everything above the scroll is an ad. After the scroll, I get Google My Business results.

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In this case, organic results appear two scrolls later.

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Paid ads get priority placement. They receive the lions share of traffic.

It’s important to note that paid ads don’t appear in all search results. I changed the search query to buy laptop Brooklyn. As you can see, the results and page layout changed.

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To even the playing field, an expert SEO service will recommend you target longer keywords such as best laptops to buy in 2020 or what to look for when buying a laptop. Keywords of the sort are comparatively easier to rank on and you wouldn’t have to compete with lots of ads.

Is SEO worth it?

Yes, SEO is crucial for long term success on the internet. Results from SEO aren’t as instant as a paid campaign, but you’ll get a better Return On Investment (ROI) with SEO. The website traffic you receive from your SEO efforts will increase with time, whereas paid visitors will stop as soon as your advertising budget runs out.

Another major reason why SEO is worth it is that it establishes credibility. For the most part, internet users understand the difference between paid search results and organic search results.

If you want to buy, for example, a Dell XPS 15 laptop, you wouldn’t care if you click on an ad or an organic link. At that stage, you’re just looking for the best deal. For most people, as long as they get a guarantee, it doesn’t matter if they’re buying a Dell laptop from Dell, BestBuy, or DavesLaptops.com.

On the other hand, potential customers are more likely to consider organic results over ads when they want to buy something that they’ve never bought before, such as a vegan steak, because perception is that better businesses rank higher on search engine results.

How Can I Improve My SEO Rank?

There are over 200 variables that determine how well a webpage ranks on SERPs. Depending on how competitive the industry you operate in is, you’d have to work on a combination of these factors to boost your SEO score.

Before you go through this list of variables that affect SEO rank, it’s important to note that there’s no easy path to success in SEO. For most small to midsized businesses, we recommend hiring an SEO service instead of attempting how to improve SEO.

Website’s Ranking (PageRank)

The most significant factor that determines how well a webpage performs on Google is your website’s overall ranking. Google determines how good a website is by measuring the number and quality of links to that website and then approximates a PageRank for them through an algorithm. According to some, Google PageRank is no longer used by Google, but credible experts suggest that PageRank is still important for SEO.

A website that already has a good PageRank has a much easier time with SEO.

When you first start SEO for your website, you must create a long term strategy (6 months+) to improve overall PageRank.

Example of PageRank

Amazon.com has a higher PageRank than HypotheticalOnlineStore.com because thousands of websites have linked to Amazon.com in their content, whereas only a handful of websites mention HypotheticalOnlineStore.com.

Let’s assume that Amazon.com and HypotheticalOnlineStore.com both put up a listing for a newly launched Dell laptop on the same day. To make it even more interesting, let’s assume that HypotheticalOnlineStore’s listing is better. It’s got higher definition pictures, more information, and a better pricing strategy. Even though their page isn’t as good, Amazon’s listing will still appear above HypotheticalOnlineStores listing because of its PageRank.

Meta Title (Title Tag)

The meta title and title tags of your webpage help search engines and users understand what they can expect to find on your website. This sounds like a relatively simple thing to do, but in our experience, meta titles are frequently overlooked or poorly done.

Each webpage should have a relevant and optimized meta title and title tags.

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Example of Meta Title

Here are two examples of meta titles and title tags for plumbing services in New York.

In this following example, the meta title is Home. Now that’s a lost opportunity. You should almost always optimize your homepage for the best keywords.

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Take a look at how it should be done.

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Both these businesses operate in the same space and offer similar services, but one ranks significantly higher than the other on search engine results because they’re better at SEO.

URL Structure and Web Address

The text that appears in the address bar of your web browser is the web address of that page. The URL structure is the format or layout that’s used to list these pages.

As a general rule of thumb, you want to include your main keywords (if possible) in the URL. This isn’t a dealbreaker per se, but your SEO results will dramatically improve if you have a clean and optimized URL strategy for your website.

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Example of URL Structure

Let’s assume that you run a plumbing business in New York City. You offer three primary services; plumbing, water heaters, and gas lines.

Since plumbing is a broad category, you decided that you want to have subpages for leak detection, commercial plumbing, and residential plumbing.

Here’s what your website URL structure should look like:

Home Page:

YourPlumbingSite.com

Service Page:

YourPlumbingSite.com/plumbing-services-nyc

Depending on your SEO goals, you can have separate pages for subpages or the different boroughs like Brooklyn, Queens, etc.

Secondary Service Pages:

YourPlumbingSite.com/plumbing-services-nyc/brooklyn-plumbers

OR

YourPlumbingSite.com/plumbing-services-nyc/residential-plumbers

Notice that instead of using just Brookly or residential, we added plumbers, not plumbing service. That’s recommended because some users search for plumbing service, whereas others search for plumbers. By using a combination in the service page URL structure, we were able to cast a wider net and attract a larger audience by optimizing the URL for variants of the main keywords.

Meta Description

A meta description is a 155-160 character description of the web page. A meta description might not directly impact your SEO score, but it improves your search engine click-through rate. In our experience, pages with good meta descriptions perform better than their counterparts.

They get clicked on more frequently than pages that don’t have a good meta description and they help search engine crawlers categorize pages.

Example of a Meta Description

Here are a couple of examples of good meta descriptions. You notice that they’re direct, customer-facing, and both of them include some great keywords.

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Mobile Friendliness

The internet is going mobile. According to Statista, over 60% of organic search traffic on Google came from mobile users. Search engines want to offer their users the best experience possible. As a result, mobile-friendly websites are prioritized on search results over websites that aren’t.

For the most part, your strategy for mobile SEO will remain similar to that of your overall SEO. To get the best results from your SEO efforts, you have to make sure that each page on your website is fully responsive for mobile devices.

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Keywords

The series of words that a user inputs into a search engine to find services, products, and businesses similar to yours are referred to as keywords.

You can’t know what is SEO without understanding keywords.

Keywords are relatively easy to understand. If you sell luggage, then keywords could include:

  • buy travel bags
  • duffle bags for sale
  • reliable luggage set
  • carry-on travel bags

There two main types of keywords.

  1. Short Tail Keywords
    • What are short tail keywords?
      • Keywords that are two words or less
    • Examples of short tail keywords:
      • Travel bags
      • Duffle bags
  2. Long Tail Keywords
    • What are long tail keywords?
      • Keywords (really they’re phrases) that are longer than three words
    • Examples of long tail keywords:
      • Best travel bags for international travel
      • Affordable duffle bags

In all honesty, that’s all you need to know about the types of keywords for now. What’s more important is that you understand keyword volume, keyword competition, and keyword placement.

Keyword Search Volume

The number of times a keyword is searched for in a search engine is referred to as Keyword Volume. The general rule of thumb is that you should focus on keywords that have good search volume.

Keyword volume is an excellent factor to consider, but you need to understand the context of the keyword first.

The best keywords correlate with user intent.

Let’s suppose that the search volume for the keyword travel bag in the US is over 33,000 searches per month.

That seems like a pretty good keyword based on volume, but we need to think about user intent.

Users that search for travel bag might be looking for:

  • How to fix my travel bag
  • How to pack my travel bag
  • Weight limit for travel bag
  • Can I carry a travel bag for free
  • Where to buy travel bag

Of the 33,000 searches, only a small percentage of users might want to buy a travel bag.

Keywords such as travel bag sale and buy travel bag may have significantly lower search volumes. However, they are more likely to result in leads and conversions.

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Keyword Competiton

Keyword difficulty or competitiveness is a metric used to determine the amount of effort it would take to begin ranking for a specific keyword. For the most part, short tail keywords are harder to rank for. There’s a correlation between search volume and competitiveness because search engine optimization has become extremely competitive.

You can, however, still find excellent keywords that have good search volume and relatively low difficulty scores. That’s the sweet spot you need to target.

It’s important to note that your domain authority, the number of pages on your website, the number of backlinks to your website, and other SEO metrics may skew keyword difficulty in your favor if you have a good website.

Keyword Placement

Where you place your keywords is just as important as what keywords you choose.

Keywords should be placed in the meta title, meta description, headings, first 50 words of the page, and depending on the word count of the page a couple of more times in the body of the text.

You should primarily write for the reader. The search engine crawler comes second.

Make sure the keywords don’t seem forced. You want them to sound natural. It takes time, but with practice you can master the art of keyword placement.

Links

Backlinks or links to your website are key for improving SEO. Every do-follow link from a good website immediately boosts SEO score.

Search engines realize that great products, services, brands, and marketing collateral will be talked about on different websites. Each link adds to your website’s overall PageRank. You can even get a hyperaggressive result if you’re able to secure a do-follow backlink from a website that has a very high PageRank.

Example of Links

I submit guest blogs on industry-leading websites regularly. It took me a while to write, but I submitted a guest blog on ContentMarketingInstitute (CMI). They’ve got tens of thousands of readers and a PageRank that’s significantly higher than ours.

The post included a link to our Blog Writing page. The week it was published, ranking on SERPs for our blog writing page skyrocketed.

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Are you interested in getting guest blogs published on industry-leading websites? Hire our guest blogging service! We will source amazing websites for you, you choose the website you like, and that’s really all there is to it! We’ll get a blog post published under your name with a do-follow link. Learn more today!

Images, Videos, and Other Resources

Search engine crawlers are able to detect and assess the quality of PDFs, videos, images, infographics, and other resources you may have added to your website. Google and website visitors want to find the very best and most relevant page for their search query. Adding high-quality resources to your pages adds depth and improves your overall search engine optimization results.

Case studies, brochures, guides, eBooks, and other digital marketing collateral such as long-form blog posts are also great for conversions!

You should continuously create and publish amazing content on your website.

Example of Resources

The SEO service page on our website has links to a couple of downloadable case studies. These case studies explain how our search engine optimization services help businesses improve on SERPs and increase website traffic.

We got a boost in our SERPs because Google’s crawlers have also identified these resources.

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How Long Does SEO Take?

For most websites, an expert SEO service can get you results within the first month. Through on-page optimization and other SEO techniques, you can get anywhere from incremental to significant gains in less than 30 days! This initial spike will stay there for a few weeks, but it’ll disappear quickly if you don’t keep working on SEO.

Almost all SEO professionals will tell you that long term SEO results take 6-8 months to show. And they’d be right. There’s no cookie-cutter answer to this question, a combination of factors determine how long SEO will take to get results.

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Businesses allocate a monthly budget for marketing and advertising. SEO needs to become a part of your marketing strategy. You need to invest in SEO if you want to maximize the potential business you can get from the internet.

6 Factors That Determine How Long SEO Will Take For Your Website

Search engine optimization is relatively easy for some websites, but for others, it’s an uphill battle. Before you get started or hire an SEO service, we recommend that you know where you stand in relation to these factors because they will determine how difficult SEO is for your site.

1.Domain Age

This one is pretty self-explanatory, domain age is the amount of time your website has been around.

Search engines know that established, quality businesses weather the storm and stick around for the long haul. New websites may come up quickly, but if they’re not a trustworthy business, they’re not going to last.

In SEO, the longer you’ve had a website, the better you are for it. Domains that have been around for 6 years have an easier time than websites that were created 6 months ago. Websites that were created 6 weeks ago are even worse.

It is possible for websites that are less than a year old to get really good SEO results, but it’s a difficult process and I would recommend you get professional SEO help if your website is new.

2.Number of Pages on Your Website

The more pages that you have on your website, the better the result. It’s recommended that each page on your website target only one or two main keywords. The choice and frequency of the keyword, headings, and meta tags will have to be optimized during the on-page SEO process.

On Page SEO is all SEO activity that you do on your website. Off Page SEO includes all the SEO activities that you do on other websites, such as link building and guest blogging. Both these concepts will be explained in greater depth later in this blog post.

The foundation that you build through on-page SEO will make all other SEO efforts effective.

When businesses first start, they generally create a website that’s got anywhere from one to five pages. Of the five pages, 9 out of 10 times two of the pages are contact us and terms & conditions. These pages add no SEO value. Both these pages are important, but they don’t offer any SEO value. Instead, you should focus on creating service and/or location pages.

3.Quality and Quantity of Content

High quality content ranks positively on search engines. It won’t be immediate, but a great SEO service like ours can get you positive SERP results if your website has good quality, original content.

Search engines recommend the best websites to their users. When users enter a search query, they want to find information that will help them. Search engines want to divert users to websites that answer their questions.

You can make SEO a little bit easier if you host a good number of webpages that have original content with targeted keywords and headers.

The key here is to find a combination depending on your industry, competition, and user behavior. Get in touch with us and we’ll recommend a roadmap for your SEO.

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4.Number of Visitors

SEO experts will tell you that number of visitors is a byproduct of search engine visibility. That’s not entirely true. Search engines track search behavior and then draw parallels to determine page score.

If you’ve got a treasure trove of website visitors already, then SEO becomes easier to do. Search engines look at it this way – if your website is good enough to be looked up by many visitors through brand name keywords, then it’s most likely an authoritative website that search engine users can benefit from.

Think of Samsung or Apple’s website. They barely do any SEO, yet they get a ton of website visitors. Subsequently, when they do put out content, it ranks extremely positively. This is because their website’s are prioritize because of the number of visitors they get.

5.Visitor Behavior

Getting a truckload of visitors to your website isn’t enough. You want the visitors on your website to take action. Search engines love it when they suggest your website to a visitor and that visitor buys a product, subscribes to your mailing list, or even explores your website further. They consider that a win. After all, they were able to suggest a website that helped their user.

SEO for websites that have great conversion and bounce rates is easier than for websites that don’t.

You are bound to have a hard time with SEO if you get a lot of visitors that don’t do anything or just leave your page in the first seconds. Work on your website’s conversion optimization and try to bring down the bounce rate as low as possible.

Search engines assume one of two things if you’re unable to convert traffic.

  1. Your website isn’t good enough
  2. You’re driving irrelevant traffic to your website

The last thing you want to do with SEO is to manipulate search engines by engaging in black hat SEO. People that try to cheat the system will mask links to your website and get you a lot of visitors through irrelevant link building. These visitors will leave your website almost immediately because they’ve been routed to a website that they have no interest in visiting.

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6.Backlinks

People will organically mention your website and link to it if you’ve got a good product or service. That, however, isn’t always enough. You must formulate a link building strategy that will get you placement on industry expert websites and blogs.

Let’s presume for a second that you’re not happy with the results you’re getting from your website. You run a quick search on Google for the term what is seo and find websites like ContentDevelopmentPros, SEMRush, and Forbes.

You can tell us what you want, but we know that you’re more likely to trust what you see on Forbes or a similar authoritative website. Statistically, you’re more likely to hire an SEO service based on what you see on an impartial website. Good news is though that as SEO service provider, we can get a link from Forbes or SEMRush.

It’s possible to get excellent do-follow links from industry-leading websites. Of course, some parameters need to be followed and it is a slow and arduous process – but an SEO service like ours can get you a ton of high-quality backlinks.

There are two primary components of SEO, on-page and off-page. Link-building or backlinks is the most critical activity for off-page SEO.

Guest blogging is a great way to start your off-page SEO. Basically, what we do is we find expert websites from your industry. You choose what sites you link. Then we reach out to the sites you selected, pitch an idea, and submit a blog post for their blog. They review the post and publish it on their website. And why wouldn’t they? They’re getting premium quality content for free!

The blog post won’t be very promotional, but we will get you a backlink for your brand and service in the post.

How to SEO Your Website

By now, you should know what SEO is. Based on the factors mentioned in the previous section, you would also be able to understand how much time SEO will take for your website.

In this section, I’ll break down what you can do immediately to get started with SEO.

Competitor Analysis

The first thing you need to do is scope out your competitors. Namely, those that appear in the first 3 spots on various search engine results. To beat the competition, you first need to identify their strengths and weaknesses.

Don’t look at what you’ve been doing first. You might be too hard on yourself or overly critical of the competition – either way, go through this activity impartially and try to identify what needs to be done to beat them in search results.

Here are some questions that will help you with competitor research.

  • What are these competitors doing differently?
  • How many webpages do their websites have?
  • What keywords are they focusing on?
  • How many blog posts do they publish monthly?
  • How much traffic are your competitors getting through their top content?
  • Where are your competitors getting their backlinks from?
  • How much content (both on and off-page) do your competitors upload monthly?

These are just some of the questions that you should be able to answer at the end of your competitor analysis.

If money isn’t an issue, I would suggest that you look into purchasing a subscription to SEMRush, MOZ, or a similar SEO tool that would quickly extract competitor data for you. This data isn’t complete and you’re still going to have to make sense of it, but at least you’ll save yourself some of the grunt work. These subscriptions aren’t cheap and I wouldn’t recommend you get one unless you can afford it or if you’re trying to improve SEO score for more than two websites at a time.

Site Audit

The second step is to audit your website. Don’t make any changes yet. To get going, you may want to start by answering the same questions you had for your competitors.

You can make the most of this process by being extremely diligent. I would recommend that you pop open a spreadsheet and start compiling data. Start with URL and include information that would help you prioritize when you begin making on-page changes.

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Adding data like when the page was published, who wrote the content for the page, and when the last update was could also be beneficial.

The goal in this step is to identify where the low hanging fruit for your webpages is. You also want to be able to come up with a plan that you can execute within a predefined timeline and having all this data ready will help you become super efficient throughout the process.

There are a lot of decent free tools that you can use to run a quick audit. Most of these “free” tools will try to sell you something. I recommend that you skip the free tools and compile this information on your own because it would help you have a holistic understanding of your website.

Keyword Research

You can finally start getting your hands a little dirty after you’ve completed your competitor analysis and audited your website.

The next step is to identify and select great keywords. For this step, I recommend you log into or sign up for your free Google Keywords Planner.

The tool is free to use. It’s primarily created to find keywords for paid ads, but you can use the data here for SEO.

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You can start a search with URL or with an idea for a keyword. The two main things you should be looking at when finalizing keywords are Average Monthly Searches and Competition. You want lots of monthly searches and low competition.

Make sure you choose relevant keywords. Google will suggest hundreds of keywords; you will have to filter through them to find the 20-40 keywords that you need to work on.

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On-Page Optimization

After you’ve figured out what keywords you want to prioritize, you’d have to go back to your audit report and work out which pages need to be optimized. Remember to focus on just one primary keyword per page and then maybe work in a couple of secondary long-tail keywords into the copy.

You’ll want to start with the URL structure and then work your way toward the meta details. Once that’s done, you should look at all the headings and try to optimize them for the keywords you’re targeting. After that’s complete, you may have to optimize the content on the pages.

In some cases, it might make sense to rewrite content for the whole page. I don’t recommend you try this on pages that are performing well. But if you do have a few pages that just aren’t getting you any results, then your best bet would be to rewrite the content and start from scratch.

I strongly recommend that you take it slow if this is the first time you’re optimizing your website. Like with any new thing, you’re likely to make mistakes on your first attempt. Make a few changes and then track website performance for a day or two and then continue.

Some of your pages will benefit significantly from this on-page SEO activity. On the other hand, you might not see any improvement in others. If you’re tracking an uptick, you’re doing something right. Circle back to the pages that didn’t get a boost and try to rework them until you get them right.

Remember, the boost you get from on-page SEO depends on a combination of factors. You can do everything right, but, for example, if you’ve got a new domain and you’re trying to rank in a competitive space, then you will have to be patient and consistent to see results.

Restructure Content and Create Fresh Content

You will undoubtedly question the relevance and effectiveness of some of your pages after you’ve scoped out your competition. Your website audit will reinforce this thought.

After you’ve started the on-page SEO process, you should begin thinking about scrapping some of your non-performing content. You should also consider readjusting some of your content. For example, you can consider compiling a free guide that’s just a collection of your blog posts.

Off-Page Optimization

The last step is the most complicated. In a nutshell, this is where you distribute or promote your SEO efforts. You want to submit specific service pages to relevant directories and get links from them. You would have to get links to your main website or service page URL from forums and industry-leading websites. Among the other things that you have to do, you’ll have to promote your content on social media.

There are no shortcuts in off-page optimization. It’s just manual grunt work that you have to chip away at regularly to get results. You get better results when you get a link published on a leading website, but getting that done is no easy feat.

To get started with off-page SEO, I would recommend that you focus on 3-4 services first. Pop open a spreadsheet and track every off-page link that you were able to get for the 3-4 services. Make sure you try a different approach for each page because you may get better results from a different strategy.

Max out what you can do for one service and then move on to the next until you’ve covered them all. Once you’ve done the first round, retry new links for the first service and check to see if you’re getting results from the old links.

Imagine that you made a great print ad for your service. That print ad needs to be distributed. On car windshields, bulletin boards, at conventions, on busy streets during rush hour – you get the picture. Off-page SEO is the same thing. You have to push to get the word out.

Are You Ready to Start SEO?

I know you are. You’ve got all the basics down and I’m confident that you have everything you need to get started with your SEO journey.

If you’re just getting started and don’t make any money yet, I would strongly recommend that you bootstrap SEO until you’re able to get some traction and then consider getting some help only if you need it. On the other hand, if you have an established business and want to get great SEO results, then you must hire an SEO service. It’s like buying shares of an undervalued company on the stock exchange. You know it’s going to pay off in some time… except that you’re not just buying shares – you’re investing in your own business.

Please feel to reach to us if you need help with SEO for your business. We’ll go through your website and your requirements to create a custom plan that’s just right for you!

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