SEO Optimization Guide: SEO Marketing for Beginners
Don’t know where to start when it comes to SEO optimization? You’re not alone. That’s why we did the heavy lifting for you and made a guide to get you started.
Originally posted on the Bookmark Blog. Check it out for other great articles and guides.
Here’s our SEO best practices guide to help you grow your small business by mastering the power of SEO. Below you’ll find everything you need to get up to speed on SEO best practices in 2019.
Click the links below to jump to a certain topic:
- SEO for Beginners: SEO Optimization Made Simple
- Digital Marketing: Keyword Research 101
- SEO Tips: How to Write a Title That Google Will Love
- Simple SEO Checklist for Your New Website
SEO for Beginners: SEO Optimization Made Simple
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is such a daunting world to the newcomer. Its mysteries seem to run vast and deep. And with each new Google algorithm update, SEO strategies seemingly change in stride. How, then, can a newcomer ever get a grasp?
Today’s post is going to share that knowledge, so get ready to take some notes. If you’re short on time, here’s a simple SEO checklist you can follow as well.
When it comes to ranking organically on the first page of Google Search, you’re going to have to play the long game. There’s no immediate way to rank on the first page unless you pay to play – I’m speaking of Google Ads. That’s a whole topic in and of itself. For now, let’s stick to SEO basics.
Although it’s hard to get a page one Google ranking, it’s not impossible. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.
Ranking high on search engines isn’t rocket science. Even the most experienced SEO expert makes it seem complicated, but the process can be simplified into three primary categories:
- On-page SEO
- Off-page SEO
- Technical SEO
On-page SEO is the optimization you do for keywords you want to insert into your page or blog post. We’ll cover this in a second. Off-page SEO is comprised of the amount of influence your page receives from other websites that link to it. Lastly, technical SEO is website structure optimization that help search engine spiders crawl and index your website more effectively.
Now, you have a basic understanding of the two different types of SEO you need for your website and web page to rank in search, let’s get into how to increase your rank.
What is On-page SEO?
On-page SEO is all about which keywords you’re targeting and how you incorporate them into your website.
Every keyword or keyword phrase (consisting of multiple search keywords) carries distinct qualities that either make it attractive or unattractive. These qualities are:
- search volume
Search volume is very important to judge the amount of incoming traffic you’d like to receive for your website or web page. If you target five SEO keywords, all with 10,000 searches a month, hypothetically, you’ll be eligible to receive 50,000 searches to your website a month.
However, you have to take the 50,000 with a grain of salt because, often, high search volume keywords (short-tail keywords) have high competition. This means others are competing with you for the same keyword traffic, so if you don’t already rank high in searches, you’re unlikely to get a good portion of that traffic – more like scraps.
Lastly, relevance is how well Google measures whether your website or web page is fulfilling a user’s search intent. Is your content relevant to a user’s keyword search? If so, how relevant? Do you answer their search in full or do you leave them wanting?
These three qualities will judge how well your SEO website will perform in search. To understand more about keyword research, see our Digital Marketing: Keyword Research 101 post.
Now that you understand what to look for when targeting keywords, you’re probably asking, “how do I use this newfound information to get more searches?” The answer to your question is creating a content strategy.
Beginning Your Content Strategy: Pillars and Topic Clusters
Every business, no matter how large or small, needs a content strategy. Content is what attracts, qualifies, and, most importantly, motivates potential customers. Without it, your business will experience a hard time growing a loyal customer base. Loyalty and trust is everything. Content works because it builds trust; and trust builds sales.
For this reason, you need to create valuable content, pertaining to your business, you can give to your potential customers that will build their trust. Once you have a couple of ideas of what topics you can write about, write down the top three topics that are most relevant to your business and customers.
Those top three topics should be large enough topics that you can search them as short-tail keywords and easily write five to ten subtopics for each one. The top three topics your choose will be known as your “pillars” and your subtopics will be your “topic clusters.”
Every pillar keyword will be the title for a long post between 2,500 and 3,000 words long. Topic cluster keywords, on the other hand, will be the title of a smaller blog post. You will make each topic cluster keyword the title of a blog post.
An early mapping of your content plan should like something like this (in this example, there’s one pillar and three topic clusters):
Each topic cluster should be targeting not only the title keyword, but between five to ten long-tail keywords that are related to it. Take a look at the example below to get a better picture.
Lastly, you will also include volume and competition metrics to understand which SEO keywords are worth targeting. In the below example, I’ve also included average monthly searches from the Google Keyword Planner, as it’s a great way to visualize how many potential visitors you’ll receive month to month. It’s also free to use for keyword research; however, you’ll find you can get even greater keyword ideas, search volume, and competition data from SEO tools such as SEMrush and Ahrefs.
The resulting spreadsheet should look something like this.
After you have built your content strategy spreadsheet, you’ll find the best keywords to target based on upon how much volume and competition they have. This part of the the planning process will be a little more subjective; although, it doesn’t take a genius to understand a smaller volume keyword with far less competition will yield greater results than a high volume keyword with higher competition. Do your best and follow your gut. You’re looking to find the highest search volume keywords relative to the lowest competition.
If you later find your performance is suffering, you can always keep record of which keywords you have used, switch out the ones you haven’t used, re-optimize your post, and see if you can improve your results.
Executing Your Content Strategy: Pillar Content Linking
The most important part of the pillar content strategy is how you create your pillar content page and how you link to and from it.
Your pillar content page will be made up of all the topic cluster posts that fall under it. In the above example, you can see that out pillar page is called “Website Design.” Its topic clusters, “Usability, User Experience, and User Friendly,” are all individual blog posts that will also comprise sections of the pillar page.
When these topic clusters are written as sections in the pillar page, they will be a fraction of the size (500 words) they normally are when they are published as blog posts (1000-1500 words). However, these topic cluster fractions will link back to the full blog post from the pillar page. This will create a master document (pillar) that will link out to all of its attached content (topic clusters). On the flip-side, your blog posts will have a link to your pillar page, with anchor text containing the pillar page keyword, “Website Design.”
This bilateral linking creates an effect on Google that helps to boost relevancy of not only your blog post keywords, but your pillar page keyword as well. Google sees your pillar page is providing detailed answers to searchers through linking to blog pages to better fulfill search intent.
Measuring Your Content Strategy: Organic Growth
In order to see if your content strategy is effective at driving more organic traffic to your website, you’ll need Google Analytics.
The measuring process is simple. Since Google has a reflection period of about three months, you can measure your organic growth over business quarter cycles.
To see your organic traffic, go to the “Acquisition” section of analytics, choose “Channels,” and select “Organic Search.”
Here, you’ll see the number of sessions and new users to your website. Below, you’ll see an example of Bookmark’s quarter one organic traffic metrics.
In the second example, you’ll see quarter two’s metrics.
Seeing as the organic traffic increased, we’re moving in the right direction.
If you’re curious how much we grew our organic traffic, take Q2’s new user number (9,851) and subtract it by Q1’s (8,565). Take the resulting number (1,286) and divide it by Q1’s new user number (8,565). Take the resulting number (0.15) and multiply it by 100 to get the percentage (15 per cent).
If you’re growing your organic traffic by 10 per cent or more, you’re doing well. If you’re beneath that number, you should consider targeting different long-tail keywords.
What is Off-page SEO?
Off-page SEO refers to building your website or web page’s influence outside of the keywords you’re using.
It usually refers to other categories of SEO like building backlinks and local SEO. Off-page SEO can be summed up as the following: anything you do outside of your website to generate traffic to it. This could be getting posts you have created to be posted on other websites, getting links back to posts or pages on your website, or even getting reviews on Google My Business. A large percentage of your off-page SEO will come from building backlinks. For that reason, we’re going to teach you how to build backlinks.
How to Build Effective Backlinks
In this demonstration, we’re going to use SEMrush. On a side note, Ahrefs is just as good a service for SEO. No matter which service you use, you’ll be able to find and create backlinks for your website.
Getting into it, we’re going to, hypothetically, find website pages that could benefit from including our new post. After you’ve created your free account, head over to the “Projects” tab on the left-hand side navigation menu. Once you do, you’ll see a big green button at the bottom of the field that says, “Create my first project.” Click it, enter your domain, and proceed to the next step.
Once you begin your first project, you’ll be prompted to add the keywords you want to target. For this example, we’re going to continue with our website design pillar page from earlier; therefore, we’ll add a couple keywords centered around website design.
After you’ve input your desired keywords, it’s time to enter in competitor URLs. This is where you’ll have to do a little bit of research. We’ve provided some of our competitors in the web design space below for example.
Once you finish and click “Start Link Building,” SEMrush will take a few minutes to compile the data. After it completes, you’ll be presented with a dashboard that looks something like this.
Here, you’ll find all the pages that reference your keywords and the competitive landscape you’re in. These web page prospects are all opportunities for you to reach out and pitch your new content. Add whichever pages you feel could benefit from your new pillar page to your “In Progress” section by clicking the blue “+” button on the right-hand side of the corresponding page.
After you’ve finished selecting prospects, head over to the “In Progress” section and begin working on your pitch. SEMrush already has automated pitch templates created for you. In order to access them, click the blue “Send” button on the right-hand side of the corresponding page you want to pitch to.
Every now and then, SEMrush won’t be able to come up with an email for the page, so you have to go out and find the email. If this happens, we recommend looking at the post, finding the author, and contacting them through LinkedIn.
When you’re ready to send your pitch, all you have to do is personalize the email for your company and content, include the content link in the email, and hit the green “Send” button at the bottom of the page.
Prior to sending out your pitch emails, you’ll head over to the “Monitor” page to track the status of every accepted backlink. It’s in this section where you’ll see if your backlinks are active, broken, lost, or rejected.
If you want your website to grow and prosper, you’ll need to put just as much effort into your off-page SEO as you do into your on-page.
Don’t Forget About Technical SEO
Aside from the above, you also need to pay attention to the following:
- Title tags – optimize the tag of your website by including a keyword that describes the main theme of the website.
- Meta tags – this is not an SEO ranking factor, but it tells people what the content of the page is all about. You need to include a keyword there, too.
- Headlines – your page should have a headline and sub-headlines, i.e., h1, h2, or h3, depending on how you want to subdivide the article. If possible, the headlines should have the post’s focus keyword or LSI.
- Sitemaps – it is basically a road map to your website. It tells search engine bots about the structure and content of your website. You can have either XML or HTML Sitemaps. You should generate the sitemap using a site map creator tool, then submit it to Google or Bing Webmaster.
- Domain name – a domain name with a keyword you want to rank will appear high on search engine results.
- URL structure – it should be simple, memorable, and contains the focus keyword. It should not contain extraneous characters.
- ALT tags – all images must have ALT tags. This makes it easier for the search engine to index images.
Generally, when you consider all these, you can perfect your new website’s SEOwithout spending a lot of money.
Again, don’t forget to list your website on various online directories or bookmarking websites. Social media and online marketing play a pivotal role in SEO too.
This may seem like a tedious process, especially if you’re doing it for the first time. With practice, however, you will definitely find this as part of your publishing routine, making your new website rank high on search results faster than others.
Craft Quality and Informative Content
We don’t want to leave you without mentioning how important quality and informative content is. With Google’s recent search engine algorithm updates, Google aims to provide useful content to its users. Its bots crawl your website to find what users are potentially looking for; therefore, you need to conduct thorough research on what your potential customers are looking for most. Even though, you’ll be targeting keywords to attract potential customers to your website, you need to write something of value to get them to stay and interact with your business.
This means don’t write specifically for search engines. You should aim to convert visitors to customers. In order to do that, creating quality content, that helps to alleviate a customer pain points, should be your first priority.
To optimize content for better SEO ranking, consider the following SEO techniques as well:
- Content titles – Write the focus keyword as close to the beginning of the title and use division techniques to separate title words.
- Keywords – should be relevant to the content. You should include latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords, too. These are phrases or words related to the focus keyword.
- Links – focus on both inbound and outbound links. For outbound links, target reputable websites within your niche. Choose anchor text that describe your website.
- Content quality – content must be high quality, original, and informative and cannot easily be found anywhere else on the web.
- Update your website regularly.
Bookmark’s SEO e-Learning Class
Bookmark offers free e-Learning to support your small business success as well. If you’d like to learn more about SEO, sign up for the free course and make your mark!
Check out the below video to get a better idea of the course. You’ll learn how to use keywords, other ways to build backlinks, and even more cool SEO tips.
Digital Marketing: Keyword Research 101
Basic keyword research plays a fundamental role in any marketing effort and should be the starting point when creating a new website for your business.
It should be noted that good keyword planning doesn’t exempt pursuing other forms of search engine optimization (SEO) or having a responsive website, but it does put you ahead in terms of adherence to the nuts and bolts of any marketing plan. It also prepares you to stay ahead of digital marketing trends.
By conducting proper research beforehand, you ensure only the right kind of visitors check into your website.
With the right information and tools at hand, you should be able to predict shifts in demand, respond promptly to changing market conditions, and adjust your product or services to reflect and feed the current vacuum in your market.
How Google Search is Changing
A study conducted in 2018 found 60 per cent of overall search volume came from mobile devices. This represents a dramatic shift from the year prior; whereby, now, more than half of all people are searching on their phones. That’s not the only change: in 2019, it’s expected voice search will rise, currently comprising 40 per cent of total search volume. This means there will be changes coming to Google’s search algorithms to facilitate changing search methods. By searching through voice, keyword strategy will have to accommodate words and phrases surrounding focus keywords. New strategies targeting, possibly, entire phrases including your focus search term may become normal procedure in the voice search space.
It’s too early to tell if including larger phrases into your keyword strategies will become more common. With the influence of voice search on the horizon, we may see keyword phrases beat out single keyword search terms. What we do know, however, is latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords, surrounding your focus keyword, will help give Google’s search algorithms context. As machine learning becomes more advanced, context becomes crucial because it establishes the intent behind a user’s search. The LSI keywords you use assumes the job of pairing a user’s search intent with appropriate content. The more accurate your LSI keywords indicate the context of your content, the easier it is for Google to make sure your page gets paired to a user’s search query matching the same context of your content.
Latest Google Ranking Algorithm Update
There are between 500-600 Google search algorithm updates that occur each year. Only a few of these individual updates are notable and warrant attention.
We currently reside in Google Hummingbird. It’s the latest update of Google’s search algorithm, which debuted in 2013. With the Hummingbird update, search engine optimization changed its approach from analyzing single words in search queries to entire word groupings to construct meaning. This changed the algorithm from a high density word search engine to a context based search engine. Now, pages are ranked more accurately based upon the content they offer, rather than the amount of times they repeated the search term.
Satisfying User Search Intent
In SEO, we’re always looking to maximize reach and traffic to our website. What if we achieve those but still can’t increase dwell time or, even worse, increase conversions. Even though your searches are high, the case may be you’re not putting out relevant content that satisfies user intent.
In order to satisfy a user’s search intent, you have to know what information they’re looking for. Every time a query is made, there are three types of interpretations Google classifies: dominant, common and minor.
- Dominant interpretations are what most people intend to search when entering a query
- Common interpretations can have multiple interpretations
- Minor interpretations are less common interpretations (can be locally dependent)
Within these interpretations, there are categories of search intent which determine the type of results you will receive. Google calls this “Do – Know – Go.”
- Transactional (Do)
- Informational (Know)
- Navigational (Go)
The first category, “Do,” is a transactional category where searchers look to purchase or complete an action. This happens most frequently on mobile because people are on the go and looking to receive short and simple answers to help complete a purchase. With the increasing use of digital personal assistants, people can verbally command purchases through Google Home and Alexa assistants. The second category, “Know,” is an informational query. At this stage, users are looking for value through content to help inform them of a decision they will make later down the road. Even though, there’s no direct correlation between the quality of content a user receives and their immediate purchase intent, businesses understand the inherent value of good content. The last category, “Go,” is a navigational query, where users are looking to go to a specific web address.
Once you understand the intent behind a search, you can begin to hone your content into a category that helps to provide users with what they’re looking for.
Why You Need Latent Semantic Indexing
Because some words are homonyms, words with double meanings, you need satellite words to narrow down meaning of homonyms to one definition over the other. For example, the word “book” can be a noun; however, “book” can also be used as a verb to indicate making a reservation. If you work for a hotel company and want to buy the keyword “book,” you can face competition from publishers, retailers, and more. Unless you add LSI keywords to indicate your less common definition of “book” is different from another more common definition of “book,” you’re going to be fighting an uphill battle. It would be far better to use the keyword phrase “book your stay,”- with your focus keyword still being “book,” but adding LSI keywords “your stay.” This allows Google to understand the intention of this search is to make a reservation rather than to buy a book.
More examples of homonyms where LSI keywords can help:
You get the idea…
It goes beyond just homonyms. Google also needs to parse through semantic content like abbreviations, parts of speech, and references. This is why adding LSI keywords identifying which of these groups your focus keyword belongs to is paramount.
Instead of looking for just your focus keyword as many times as it appears (keyword density), Google looks at other words on your web page to help give it context. By finding words relating your keyword to a certain context, Google can better identify the intent of your web page and help index it for search optimization. For example, your focus keyword is “apple.” Most of us know that could either reference the fruit or the famous tech company. Now, Google will look through your page to find words clarifying one of those two definitions. If Google searches your page and finds words like, “red delicious, granny smith, and baked apples,” it will index your page for searches based on “apple,” the fruit. The opposite would be true if it found words like, “iPad, iPhone, and laptop.”
LSI keywords are fantastic because they allow your pages to get searched forkeyword variations based upon your primary keyword. Long gone are the days where you have to jam in as many of the same keyword as you can on a single page. LSI makes it far more important to produce quality content that is, above all else, accurate.
With that out of the way, let’s look at how a beginner can tackle keyword research.
Keyword Research for Beginners
FULFILL SEARCH INTENT
The first thing to consider before creating any kind of marketing content is its purpose. Now that you know what search intent categories exist, pick one and optimize content around it. For example, if you choose to do an informational blog topic, make sure you’re facilitating someone’s intent to learn by creating a topic they’re interested in learning about.
Run through some ideas you think would captivate your audience and, by process of elimination, choose the topics which resonate most. Begin to choose keywords which best correspond to your topics. Don’t worry, we’ll make adjustments to these in a second. Once you’ve completed your primary list of keywords, include sources from reputable and authoritative organizations, and you’re ready for the next step.
SEARCH VOLUME & CLICKS
Using the resources at the bottom of this post, begin researching the popularity of keywords on your niche topic. You’ll find keyword popularity is primarily sorted by search volume and clicks. Don’t be fooled by search volume, as it’s not the best metric for accurate traffic representation. Instead, take search volume and divide it by the number of clicks. This will give you the click-through-rate (CTR) of each keyword. By comparing CTR, you’ll have a better understanding of which keywords translate into traffic. The sources with high searches and low clicks could have a disconnect between user intention and satisfaction; therefore, try to identify if there are similarities between keywords with high CTRs. This is where you’ll find the best hints for your page keywords.
ASSESS COMPETITOR PAGES
Look at your competition to see which keywords are working best for generating traffic to their pages. Compile the keywords and topics of their 10 best performing pages to determine if they rank for keywords on topics you could similarly make to steal away traffic.
CONTENT GAP SEO ANALYSIS
Perform a content gap analysis to understand which topics to focus on. Look at your competitors’ web pages bringing in the most traffic and determine which search intent category, keyword and topic corresponds to each page. Create a spreadsheet with these categories and filter them by their search intent category (do, know, go).
If you’re trying to bring in new customers through informative content, you can quickly see which keywords and topics are most popular for that category and optimize your content around them. You can then do the same for transactional and navigational categories.
When you search the top 10 pages that rank for a keyword, you’ll see the common keywords or keyword phrases people use to rank. We’re going to ignore these words and phrases. Focus on the words that aren’t common in the top 10. These will be keywords that are related to common keywords. For example, here’s a list of top searches:
“automated website builder”
“fast website builder”
In this example, we can see the word “website” and phrase “website builder” are common among top searches; however, the words surrounding this phrase are also important. Not only do they give them context, but they provide you with ammunition you can use to rank better. You can take words like “fast” and “personal” and include them in a new post you can later optimize for search.
Choosing Your Keywords
With the on-going debate over short and long-tail, it’s hard to know which type of keyword to choose. Keep reading to get a better idea:
Head terms, also known as short-tail keywords are 1-2 word terms or phrases used for search. They comprise 30 per cent of all global search; however, they generate the most traffic.
These keywords get the highest amount of listings on Google and secure you the best chance of having your content viewed; although, they are by far the most competitive.
Medium-tail keywords are right in the middle. These keyword phrases typically consist of 3 words and can be great sources of traffic, if composed well. Three words gives enough flexibility to create unique keyword phrases applicable to certain niches. This will require experimentation.
70 per cent of all global searches are long-tail searches, 4 word phrases or more, and these include hundreds of millions of searches every day when taken as a group. These types of searches often result in lower traffic volume but bring in higher quality traffic. Don’t confuse the two.
One lesson new search marketers need to learn is long-tail keywords often make better conversions than single word searches. For example, a person searching for “suits” or “shoes” is most likely browsing non-committal; on the other hand, a person searching for “best price Tom Ford navy blue suit” or something more specific like “best price Air Jordan size 12,” most likely has their credit card out.
TITLES, META DATA, & HEADERS
If you find your site isn’t receiving the kind of traffic it deserves, try optimizing titles tags, meta data, and headers.
By aligning your title tag more accurately to the content on the page, you can increase your chances to rank better. If there’s too much of a disconnect between your title and your content, say goodbye to page views. If you don’t rank well, try experimenting with new titles and measuring which one performs the best. Meta data doesn’t rank but is still a good way to help summarize what your page is about. H1 and H2 headers get ranked. Write your headers as if they are search terms. This will give them a higher probability to receive traffic. If you’re stuck, Google your heading, head down to the bottom of the search page to the “searches related to” section and see what is recommended in bold. Modify your header by incorporating a related term that is popular.
Bonus – alt-text is another way to drive traffic to your site. Fill out alt-text descriptions in order to create another avenue to receive traffic.
How to Judge Keyword Value
To understand how valuable a keyword is for your website, consider the following factors:
DOES THE KEYWORD RELATE TO THE CONTENT ON YOUR WEBSITE?
People should be able to find exactly what they’re looking for on your website if they were led there by the keyword. If the content on your site answers all their questions and offers a solution (hopefully in the form of financial transaction), you have a good working system.
FIND OUT WHICH OF THE MAJOR SEARCH ENGINES RANK YOU FOR YOUR KEYWORD
This will give you an idea of what it takes to make it to the first page. Also check for ads running along the top and right side of organic search results – it’s a good indicator of high-value keywords to steal.
IF YOUR WEBSITE FAILS TO RANK WELL, YOU CAN BUY TEST TRAFFIC TO FIND OUT HOW WELL IT CONVERTS
You can use Google AdWords and select “exact match,” so as to point traffic to a specific page on your website.
To get a clear picture, track impressions and their conversion rate over the course of about 300-500 clicks.
HAVING COLLECTED THIS DATA, TRY TO DETERMINE HOW VALUABLE EACH KEYWORD IS
Let’s assume, for example, you have a search ad that generated 5,000 impressions over the course of a single day. Of these five thousand, 100 unique visitors came to your site, and three converted for a total profit of $300.
This means that a single site visitor for that particular keyword is worth $3 to your business, and out of the 5,000 impressions your website could generate 18-36% click-through rate in 24 hours with a #1 ranking.
This would translate to about 900-1800 visitors per day with each of them worth $3, or between $1-2 million per year. Those are significant earnings in the long run. With a consistent growth pattern, there really isn’t any apparent limit to growth.
9 Beginner Resources for Keyword Research
Google AdWords is a common starting point for SEO keyword research, as it gives you an estimate of search volume in addition to predicting the actual cost of running paid campaigns for specific terms.
In order to predict your chances of success, it’s vital that you first understand the demand for a given search phrase and the effort required to achieve high rankings for it.
If you find that all the top ten results are from large established brands and you’re only starting out, the battle for high rankings can take years of effort and a considerable amount of money in paid marketing. Consider changing your strategy to win SEO battles with some of these beginner tools:
- Google Trends
- Google Keyword Planner
- Ahrefs Site Explorer
- Google Search Console
- Moz Link Explorer
- Google Correlate
- LSI Graph
SEO Tips: How to Write a Title That Google Will Love
Every business owner knows having a recognizable business title is a major attributing factor when it comes to the growth and success of your small business. In fact, your business title will determine whether or not your business can be easily found online.
Even though you may have an easily searchable business title for direct traffic, content is what will drive the rest of your customers to your business. If you can create useful content, you’ll bring in more traffic and more potential customers. Now, the tricky part is writing a title for search engine optimization (SEO).
Below, we share some useful tips for writing effective SEO titles Google, and your readers, will love.
Google Search Ranking Signals
Google uses ranking signals to determine in what order its search engine results appear. There are hundreds of ranking signals and their importance change with every update. As there are multiple, small updates to Google’s search algorithm every single day, SEO experts tend to only focus their attention on major updates, as too should you.
In its latest search algorithm update, on March 12, 2019, Google announced changes to its Broad Core Algorithm. The details of the changes made are still not made public; however, most speculate the changes were made in order to better serve user satisfaction. This means Google is looking to see how well your search result answers a particular search query.
If that’s the case, which many experts believe it to be, the first place to begin improving user search satisfaction is with your title.
Understand User Search Intent
In order to understand user search intent, you have to know why people search online in the first place.
Online searches can be grouped into three categories such as transactional “Do,” Informative “Know,” and Navigational “Go” queries. For all information regarding queries, check out our Digital Marketing: Keyword Research 101 blog post.
All of the above search categories correspond to a level in your sales funnel, where informative searches are top of funnel and transactional and navigational searches comprise bottom of funnel.
Each funnel will have types and topics of content that perform best to incentivize users to complete an action or engage with your content. Content pages using the best performing topics and structures, at their respective stage in the funnel, matching a query will be ranked higher in search because Google believes users who interact with your content are satisfied. In turn, the type and topic of content will inform the title as well.
For example, if the query is informative in nature, its aim will be to qualify customers to enter deeper into your funnel through providing more detail around a topic where you also provide a product or service. As is, E-books are effective forms of content for engaging users when they conduct informative based searches. This means you should include an E-book on your new content page, presumably in exchange for an email. As this type of content play will be the draw for your page, you’ll then know to include the word “E-book” and the topic it covers in your title.
Create a Title Your Audience is Searching For
Always remember the results of your users’ search queries come with a direct effect on how your meta titles will appear within Google.
When keywords within a user search query matches with your title, Google will rank your website higher on various search results and will also bold the matching phrases and words in your meta title.
This means that in order to greatly benefit from these matching title results, you will need to make a great effort to create your title based on what the potential customers will likely be looking for.
With Google Keyword Planner, you can fine-tune your SEO titles to match perfectly what your targeted audience is searching for.
To find keywords and keyword phrase combination ideas to best match with user searches, create a free Google Keyword Planner account. After you’ve set-up your free account, click on the left box, “Discover new Keywords” to find new keyword ideas.
Type in a keyword or keyword phrase relating your business. For this example, we’re going to use, “paint store.”
As an alternative to entering a keyword, you can enter the domain page of one of your competitors to see which keywords they rank for. All you have to do is copy their home page URL and paste it into the search bar, click entire site (unless you want to examine keywords on a certain page) and click the “Get Started” button.
You’ll see both branded and non-branded keywords populate. Since you’re company won’t share the same name as your competition, you’ll be looking to see which non-branded keywords they’re using to drive traffic to their website. Pay particular attention to any keywords denoting specialized forms of products, as it’s here where you can find ideas to separate yourself from your competition.
Also, don’t ignore branded keywords entirely. They can be a great way of understanding what branded search terms your business can steal from your competition. Simply replace your business’ name with theirs and test how well your new traffic performs.
An additional note, URLs will appear as green bubbles instead of blue.
Proceeding from our initial keyword search of “paint store,” a list of related keywords will populate.
Look for keywords that have high search volumes and low to medium competition. These will be the keywords you want to target most. Unfortunately, unless you have an active spending Google AdWords account, you will see that your average monthly searches do no give you exact search numbers. You can see that Google shows you an estimate of the search between a select range of numbers. This won’t give you much to go on; however, there is a work-around.
Select the keywords you want by clicking on the box directly to their left and a drop down menu in blue will appear. From that new menu, click on the match type drop down window and select “Exact match.”
Now, select “Add to plan” from its drop down window (it’s selected by default) and click on “ADD KEYWORDS.” Head over to the keywords menu from the left column navigation.
Now you can see exactly how many impressions and clicks each keywords gets. This will help inform which words you use in your titles.
Spend time looking for keywords that get a good mix of impressions and clicks. Also, don’t forget to calculate click-through rates (CTR) to find which keywords perform the best. You can learn a keyword’s CTR by dividing its number of impressions by its number of clicks.
Keyword research such as this can help your business find keyword and keyword phrase searches to create content around in order to increase your business’ traffic and, more importantly, better fulfill search intent.
Make Search Titles Accurate
Accuracy is very important when trying to make your page title compliant with Google Search satisfaction because it gives a clear expectation for your audience.
Understand your titles need to accurately reflect your content. One way to ensure accuracy is to add a division in your headline after you insert your focus keyword to better clarify your topic from your business.
There are four distinct ways in which you can better clarify the content of your headline: vertical lines, dashes, brackets and colons.
If you take a few minutes to look at the top search results, you’ll likely see they are short and clear about which topic they are writing to and subsequently use a division (in the form of the one of the four above) to separate the name of their business or the type of content.
As you can see, every search result uses a form of division to indicate either what the content is, what form the content will take, which niche it belongs to, and which company its from.
It’s these kinds of headlines or titles with clarification, on average, that perform better than those without.
In addition, it’s all about setting high and clear expectations because readers will know exactly what they are getting themselves into before clicking.
Keep SEO Titles Precise
There are no clear rules as to how short or long a title should be. However, it depends on where it will appear and what your goals are.
For instance, if you want your post to rank high on search engines, then your title should have less than 70 characters. Optimizing your SEO titles for social sharing entails a different requirement.
However, titles between 8 and 12 words in length are believed to get the most social shares and likes on average. It’s therefore a good idea to run some tests to determine what exactly works better for your target audience on search and social.
Simple SEO Checklist for Your New Website
Do you have your website ready to launch and are desperately in need of a step-by-step, simple search engine optimization (SEO) checklist to use before going live? If that’s you, you’re going to love this post.
In this post, we’ll discuss an easy process that will drive more traffic and more customers to your new website as quickly as possible. First, let’s see how far we’ve come.
Looking down memory lane, ranking a web page on Google simply required you to craft a glossary of articles stuffed with hundreds of relevant keywords and a little manual link building. If you try doing that today, you’ll be out of the game before you even realize it.
We are living in the post-Panda and Penguin update era, which demands fresh content and well-planned search engine optimization (SEO) strategies.
Our current era is characterized by significant algorithm updates that sees millions of web pages de-ranked by Google. Gaming the system to rank at the top is now difficult to achieve, especially when everyone is trying to do the same thing.
So, what should you check before launching your site? Read on to find easy steps any beginner can take to increase website SEO in 2019.
Install Google Analytics
Coming in at the top of our checklist is installing Google Analytics. This tool will help you determine which keywords are successfully driving traffic to your website. Many new websites only focus on website ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs), when they could be optimizing content and pages for their most relevant keywords.
How much traffic should your site actually be getting? The true measure of on-page SEO and the best way to appreciate how organic traffic is generating leads for you is by using the Google Analytics tool. It is, perhaps, the best free analytic resource you’ll find out there today. Use it religious and you’ll find your SEO strategy will be made simple.
The Google Analytics tool will help you understand critical data like:
- The amount of organic traffic your site is receiving versus how much is coming from elsewhere
- The quality of search traffic that your site is getting and the exact keywords used during the search
- The performance of your organic traffic along the lines of dollar value by simply comparing how much your keywords are worth in pursuance of Google AdWords
- The pages in your website that are loading sluggishly and hindering the general user experience
Installing this tool to your site is easy. All you need to do is install the Google Analytics plugin if you are using a Content Management System like WordPress. Most website builders have Google Analytics integrated into their systems; however, if you have created a website that doesn’t automatically support Google Analytics, you will need to install its code into the header of you website.
Add Your Website to the Google Search Console
A little while ago, the Google Search Console was known as the Webmaster tool. Its main purpose is to help you track your website’s performance in search and see which keywords you are ranking for. It is a great tool that will easily help enhance your site’s on-page SEO.
If you are determined to improve your SEO rankings, you need to add and verify your site, thus enabling you to analyze its productivity in many ways. This free resource will help you appreciate:
- How much traffic you are getting through search
- Your site’s click-through rate and how new users are finding you
- The most common devices used to browse your site
- The best performing pages on your site
Setting up the Google Search Console only takes a few minutes, so there’s no excuse not having it.
When Google gets an error trying to crawl your website, it will appear in Google Search Console’s Coverage report.
If Google can’t access your page, it won’t rank. Be sure to check from time to time after your website’s launch to make sure you don’t have any problems.
Avoid Duplicate Tags
When you have similar topics on your website, you may run into duplicate content. If you don’t plan your title and meta tags with care, Google can confuse your two pages and not know which one to rank.
You can avoid duplication by creating a clear site link structure for every page, each with a distinct URL name.
In terms of creating content, don’t spin or rephrase content. You should aspire to always make unique content. If you see you have two posts on your blog that are incredibly similar, delete one and combine the content.
Add Your Website to Bing Webmaster Tools
It’s no secret that Google rules the world of search. Comparing Google to Bing would be a great disservice to Google. As a matter of fact, the lion’s share of your traffic will come from Google; whereas, only one-third traffic may come from Bing. However, that doesn’t mean that you should overlook the Bing Webmaster tools, as one third is a sizable amount of traffic. Bing holds significance in the SEO world in the following ways:
- We all want to have more and more search traffic and despite Bing contributing a small section of your website’s aggregate traffic, it is relevant and, that means, it has a high possibility of generating sales.
- It has been on the market for quite a while and recent reports show Bing’s stake in the search engine market is increasing faster than Google’s.
- Even though the Google Search Console shares similar features with Bing Web Master, a few of them are specific to Bing. For example, Bing Webmaster Tools are able to access Yahoo data, which Google cannot.
Keep in mind, your number one source of organic traffic will be Google and Bing will be second. You should focus on both Google and Bing if you want to increase traffic to your site.
Keep a Tab on Page Speed
You need to check on your page speed before hitting that launch button. Page speed refers to the time it takes a page display its entire content.
It is a fact your visitors want to browse a website that loads fast. Google shares similar sentiments and that’s why Google checks how fast a site is loading to determine its rank.
In the event your web pages are slow to load, Google’s spiders will crawl just a few pages. Having web pages that load quickly will improve your rankings and will also generate more sales.
Page speed can be improved significantly by
- optimizing your images
- enabling compression
- reducing redirects
- using browsing caching
Google PageSpeed Insights is a free resource by Google to check page speed. For best results on search engines, you should try to achieve a score of 80 or above.
Improve the Quality of Your Pages
You should ensure your pages are well designed to be accessible by search engines. They will not rank if they are of poor quality.
Scan through your site by the use of an SEO tool to ensure:
- Your pages don’t have any misplaced “noindex, disallow, and nofollow” tags. Failure to do so will ensure those pages and links are not indexed, crawled, and followed. All your web pages should be accessible to search engine spiders.
- Your web pages have unique content only. Google won’t punish you for plagiarized content but it won’t applaud you either. You need to ensure none of your pages have plagiarized content. Use tools such as Grammarly or Copyscape to check for plagiarism.
- There are no pages with irrelevant content. Google favors content that will offer real value to your visitors.
Once you have all these boxes checked, it’s time to hit that big launch button.
Submit a Sitemap to Google Search Console
The best way to make sure your website is accessible on search engines, like Google, is to create a sitemap. By creating a sitemap, you’ll be able to determine the structure for how your website is crawled by search engines. It’s easy to do and will immediately help a beginner website rank better in search.
Before we get into the steps involved in submitting a sitemap, let’s quickly go over why it’s useful.
A clear sitemap will be easily searchable and will provide users with more accurate search results from your site when they are inputting keywords or key phrases. This happens because search engines use sitemaps to point them in correct directions, helping users find relevant website content in line with their keyword or key phrase searches.
Now that we understand it’s importance, open up Google Search Console. In it, you’ll need to select the version of your domain you want to proceed with. Once you’ve done that, click the “CRAWL” section, which will, then, reveal a “SITEMAP” section. Click “SITEMAP.” Once you have, you can add a sitemap by clicking the “ADD/TEST SITEMAP” button, typing in sitemap.xml, and clicking submit. Refresh the page and you’ll find your sitemap has been added.
Front Load Keywords
Front load keywords in your post titles. By doing so, you’ll be able to rank better as the keywords will be the first words to appear in search. A lot of the pros already do this. This one simple SEO trick will dramatically help your content pages rank better, as keyword relevance is immediately displayed in the beginning of titles.
For example, if the post is about a “SEO Checklist,” you should write your titles like this:
You can see in these titles, the name of content comes first, followed by the company.
It was debunked you don’t need to include your main keyword phrase in your H1 titles. However, there’s a good reason to have an H1 title containing your main keyword phrase:
- Others will judge content they want to link by the title of articles
- By having your keyword in your H1 title, visitors know they are interacting with the right content
When others want to link to articles, they often read the title and scan the content. Therefore, if you want to increase the chances of getting your content linked with your target keyword, you should include it in your title.
By including your main keyword phrase in your title, those reading your content will be able to surmise the direction of the article, increasing the chances you will attract your intended visitors.
Google’s artificial intelligence isn’t at the level where it can understand what images mean without any associated description text. In the future, Google will be able to identify the sentiments behind images with visual sentiment analysis and classify them according to their sentiments. This will take away the need to include ALT tags descriptions altogether. However, for the time being, ALT tags are needed to give context to images.
Therefore, providing ALT tags to images on your website gives Google a better understanding of your images and helps to direct people who are looking for those or similar images.
As a bonus, you will have a new avenue by which users can find your site through associating your website to images.
Content Keyword Strategy
One of the most important aspects of SEO is keyword research. In order to effectively do it, you need to understand the basics. This section will break it down as simply as possible to all us newcomers. For those looking for an in-depth understanding of keyword research, see Digital Marketing: Keyword Research 101.
To quickly summarize, there are short and long-tail keywords that exist. Typically, short-tail keywords are more competitive and receive the most search volume; long-tail keywords are less competitive and receive the least search volume.
It’s, by far and large, easier to target long-tail keywords, as they are easier to rank for. They also have more purchasing intent.
Your job is to identify which ones will work best to attract traffic to you website. In order to find the best keywords to bring in that sweet, sweet traffic, you need a keyword research tool. The most common are Ahrefs, Moz, and SEMrush. However, none of these are free. You can get away with a free Google Keyword Planner account, however.
Using the Google Keyword Planner (GKP), you will find new keyword ideas similar to your phrase. You will also be looking primarily at keyword data by evaluating search volume, competition and click-through-rate (CTR). Find keywords that are relevant to your business, receive good traffic, aren’t competitive, and have decent CTR. These will be case by case. Compile all keywords that fit this criteria and pick a main keyword phrase.
The next step is to include main keyword phrases on each page or blog post of your website. Each page should be targeting a main keyword or keyword phrase. Once you determine each page’s main keyword phrase, you can add variations to boost visibility.
Most main keywords, relevant to your business, will bring your website traffic. However, covering all your bases is what will increase your traffic. By adding in keyword variations to your main keyword phrase, you will be able to cast a wider net to catch all potential searches.
For additional simple SEO hacks, use Google’s autocomplete “suggest,” in its search bar,
and its “searches related to” features to include additional keyword phrase variations for your pages.
Internal & External Links
In your website’s framework, you should be linking internally from one page to another. A popular strategy is to link your blog posts from one to another.
The reasons behind linking something like your blog content is it helps strengthen those keywords internally for those pages. This means search engine crawlers can navigate through your website easier and make linked keyword articles more noticeable to Google, so the article page is more relevant for that specific keyword.
When linking external, make sure you are linking to external resources that have good authority. These links will tell Google you are referencing relevant sources for your information.
With that said, always try to provide the most value to your users. If there’s a lower ranking authority site that provides better content, opt for the better content. Providing value to your visitors is far more important an objective than linking to high authority sites. This is because fulfilling search intent is the most important aspect search engines try to facilitate.
Understanding good SEO is easy: always think value first.
Google introduced a new Mobile-First-Index last year. In a nutshell, mobile-first indexing means Google will use mobile versions of web pages for indexing and ranking instead of desktop versions.
Those who have “mobile-friendly” or responsive websites will be ranked higher in search as Google is trying to reach it’s primary, mobile audience.
If your website isn’t mobile optimized, it should be. There’s no getting around it. If you’re unsure whether or not your website is mobile-friendly, you can test it to find out.
We understand search engine optimization is a hard topic to understand. Try to incorporate as many of the above tips as you can but don’t stress out if you can’t. Do what you can do in the meantime and gradually come back and work on it. For that reason, here’s a simple SEO checklist for beginners that covers the basics.
After reading this guide, you have straight-forward actionable tips to improve you SEO. Start putting them into practice; you will see results. If that sounds like too much work for the time being, Bookmark websites optimize your SEO and provides you with cutting edge analytics that can help get your website noticed.
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