Many years ago, when I started learning digital marketing, I dreaded the term SEO. It sounded synonymous with complex, dangerous, and difficult. In reality, SEO is straightforward – when you get the knack of it.
And how? Know the jargon, know your audience, and follow the below ten easy steps to learn SEO!
What is SEO (Search Engine Optimization)?
Whenever we need information, we go to Google. Most people rely on Google to give the best results. Why? Google has a vast database and intelligent algorithms to determine the most relevant pages and results for a user’s query.
There are other search engines too – Bing, Yahoo!, etc., but they are not as popular as Google because of the above reasons. As per netmarketshare.com, Google’s search engine share is about 69.80%, followed by Bing, which is at 13.31% – a huge difference!
For example, when a user types ‘Apple’, how does Google know if it is the fruit or the company. Google finds the relevant pages, stores them, and shows them to the users.
A Few Important Terms:
Crawling (finding relevant page): Google opens one page, then follows the links on that page to discover other pages. This goes on until there are no more pages to discover – or Google gets all the pages. If you give an easy way for Google to ‘crawl’ (through SEO), Google will give you full marks!
Indexing (storing pages): Search engines don’t see a page in the same way as we do. It looks for specific content making it easier to store or index the data. For example, it stores the on-page links, Alt link text, H1 heading, H2 heading, unique words count, keywords phrase frequencies, etc. With the right SEO, we can make Google index the most accurate data.
Returning queries (show the results to the searcher): Google searches its database for the user’s query and returns the most relevant results, based on ‘some’ algorithm. The exact algorithm – no one knows, but Google gives 100 marks to pages having genuine backlinks.
Now back to our question, “What is SEO?” i.e., how should I optimize my website for Google? Or how can I get my website on the top 3 results? What exactly is optimization?
SEO is of two types: On-page SEO & Off-page SEO. There are plenty of techniques for both, and you must take care of both for your website to rank well!
10 Easy Steps for SEO
Now that we know what to do, let us see how to do it:
1. Understand the Objectives
Firstly, you have to build a good SEO strategy. Find:
- How viewers interact with your website
- What content they are searching for
- Most common search keywords
- How your pages are performing
- What content needs an overhaul
This is just like dusting before you do a deep cleaning of the house. Some helpful tools in this process are Google AdWords, Google Analytics, and Google Search Central tools.
2. Perform Website Audit
Since Google has to rank the best site on top, they keep making stricter eligibility rules. This means you have to update your content and audit your website regularly to check for relevance, easy accessibility, and internal linking. Google will reject your site if there are any violations. The best tools for audit are Moz Site Audit, Checklist and WooRank.
3. Improve Website Architecture
Site architecture is the structure through which you deliver your website content. For example,
Users find content, and search engine bots crawl your pages through this structure. The best architecture is one where users and crawlers can easily navigate and find relevant content. Some simple tips for good architecture are:
- Keep simple, friendly URLs
- Use a sitemap
- Easy navigation through all website pages: for example, from the ‘Shoes’ tab to the ‘Home’ page should be just a click away!
- Make sure meta-tags are present and optimized
4. Add Rich Content in Each Page
At the end of the day, content is the king! Understand what the viewers want to see and create content accordingly. Add unique and informative content avoiding fluff at all costs. Remember that one of the main reasons for the popularity of certain websites is their original content. Add images, videos, descriptions, proper headings, and place keywords well. Don’t overstuff your content with keywords.
5. Perform Keyword Research
Know what the audience is searching. For example, if someone wants to search for a supermarket nearby, they would most likely type ‘supermarkets near me’, ‘best supermarket nearby’, ‘where can I get groceries nearby’ etc. If your website has these keywords, Google finds it easy to find your webpage and puts you on its list. Google Trends is a powerful keyword research tool to find trending keywords.
6. Perform On-Page Optimization
To improve SEO rankings, you can do a lot on the web page itself. Some important techniques are:
- Proper page structure: follow a logical format such as H1, H2, H3, etc., avoid duplicate content, use a search-engine friendly URL, use metatags like ‘noindex’ for pages that are not much useful so that they won’t be indexed
- Usability: Don’t use irrelevant complex graphics that might slow down page loading, make sure the desktop site also works seamlessly on other devices, don’t keep more than four sub-categories (crawlers can find your page easily)
- Internal linking: Internal links, i.e., providing links to other pages in the same domain, make it easier for users to navigate the website, and also define the structure of a website spreading the link juice properly can get you a good SEO ranking and conversions
- Call-To-Action: CTA is a way for the website to interact with the user. For example, ‘Buy Now’, ‘Save to Cart’, ‘Complete your Profile’, encourage users to engage with the website, and get more hits
7. Perform Off-Page Optimization
Off-page optimization means SEO outside of the web page. This is done through external linking with other websites, which help users know that your website is extremely important. The best examples are Influencer marketing and Social Media Marketing – both are not in our control but extremely powerful. Google measures factors like quality and quantity of backlinks in its ranking algorithm. Suppose there are two travel websites with equally good content – the one with more authentic backlinks and a better online reputation will get a better SEO ranking.
8. Perform Technical SEO
Technical SEO is a bit tricky – it involves having a website that’s fast, crawlable as well as secure. You should ensure the following for technical SEO:
- Make sure your website is crawlable and indexable
- A sitemap should be a proper XML document including new pages, canonical versions of URL, and follow the XML sitemap protocol. You can use the Yoast SEO plugin to generate an XML sitemap.
- Ensure that your website is mobile-friendly
- The website should be fast & responsive. Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool gives you a score based on your website’s speed.
- Ensure there is no duplicate content – Google does not like it!
9. Perform Local SEO
Local SEO refers to optimizing your digital presence and getting better results from local searches. For example, if someone searches for ‘furniture shop near me’, you shouldn’t get results for the whole city – the results should be local. You must have noticed the ‘Snack Pack’ results that Google gives – with reviews, location, distance, open and close times, etc. These are the top 3 most relevant local business listings. For this, you have to add local keywords like ‘Xyz furniture shop location’, ‘Xyz furniture near me’, ‘Xyz shop in Seattle’, ‘reliable furniture shops in Seattle’, etc.
A good way to know about all the keywords is through Google autocomplete:
Citations (online mentions of your business) is another top local ranking factor because people can also search for your business on other social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, etc. Having accurate citations will allow more people to find your business quickly.
10. Monitor Progress
Google keeps changing its algorithms, which means you should keep your website updated and keep checking if it’s still ranking well. If not, you need to revamp the navigation, update relevant keywords, update the content, provide more backlinks, perform technical SEO audits, etc. Even if everything is going great, it is good to improvise once in a while to maintain things the way they are!
SEO is not a one-time thing. If you thought that you had to stuff your page with keywords – you were wrong all the time (and so was I, a long time back!). You should keep revamping and innovating your SEO strategy with time to keep it in sync with the needs of searchers. To summarise,
- Keep website content relevant and updated
- Use the most effective keywords, but don’t your page with them
- Build backlinks
- Use rank trackers to monitor ranking and backlinks
- Perform regular audits to optimize your website content
- Ultimately, it is informative content that sells – so keep high-quality content!
Don’t worry about doing everything at once. Take it slow, and you will get there.