The Complete Free Beginner’s Guide to SEO Marketing
As we all know, most of the businesses are shifting their focus from traditional marketing methods to vast online possibilities.
Today, if you ask people in any age group about how they want to earn money or get famous, most of the time you’ll get the same answer in various forms i.e. “It’s easy. Online!”.
If you consider “Online” as a place, it is a vast interconnection of networks that share information in the form of content. It enables us to transfer data across narrow or wider lanes with relative traffic and which possesses itself as an arena to earn name and respect as an individual entity.
To traverse the web, to connect with different entities and to present yourself an authority; there are some strategies to follow. These include PPC, Content Marketing, SEO, Email Marketing and many more. All these strategies are encapsulated and given the name “Online Marketing” or “Digital Marketing”.
SEO is basic but the most important aspect of online marketing. This free beginner’s guide to SEO marketing will help you learn and understand how to employ SEO in your digital marketing strategy.
What Is SEO?
SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization”. It is a practice of increasing traffic to your website and providing exposure to your brand through Search Engine Results that are not paid for (also known as “organic results”).
A well planned and executed SEO strategy helps your website rank higher in the search results thus bringing a lot of quality traffic.
To derive at the best suitable SEO strategy for your business, you need to take into consideration the following questions,
- What are the people searching for online?
- What answers they are seeking?
- What words they are using to search?
- What type of content do they wish to consume?
Also, knowing what the users want is just one face of SEO coin and presenting it in such a way that search engines find easy to crawl and understand is other.
Importance of SEO
42% of people all over the world use the internet and this number is increasing as you read this. This point to the fact that there is huge traffic online which can prove powerful for a business. Along with the quantity, there is a lot of very specific and high intent traffic.
Paid advertising, social media and other online mediums can generate traffic to websites but the quantity of traffic driven by search engines is unmatched for. Organic search results cover a vast area of the digital canvas and receive way more clicks.
People are searching for many things directly related to your business. However, many people searching for information loosely related to the business. This is a huge opportunity to connect with those folks, help them with the answers and thus become a trusted resource for them. There are more chances that people will use the services/products from the business they trust.
SEO when setting up correctly will continue to provide results over long periods. Thus, SEO is the essence of any digital marketing strategy.
On-Page vs. Off-Page SEO
When you launch a business online, your website is the online property you own. It is totally in your control of how the optimization will take place on the website. Search engines look at two important aspects when evaluating your website – On-Page and Off-Page SEO.
On-Page SEO (also known as “On-Site SEO”) lets you convey what your site is about. It a practice of optimizing different parts of the website that directly affect the website’s ranking on the search engines. The most important factors include Title tags, Header tags, Alt text for images, page loading speed, internal linking and Page content.
Off-Page or Off-Site SEO is all about increasing the domain authority. This is achieved by getting links from other relevant authority websites in your niche. Backlinks pointing to your website is the most important off-page factor which establishes your authority among other sites. This is a signal for search engines to endorse your site as a trusted resource for the people seeking answers.
White Hat and Black Hat SEO
“White Hat SEO” refers to the SEO techniques, strategies and methods that follow the Search engine guidelines and rules. Playing by these rules might take some time to give you the results but once you are through with it, the results work for you in the long run.
On the other hand, “Black Hat SEO” refers to those techniques that attempt to trick the search engines to rank higher in the search results. While the spammy techniques can work, it possesses a tremendous risk of getting penalized or the website being de-indexed (removed from search results) completely.
Now that you have learned what is SEO, let us look at how, to begin with, the process of generating a strategy for your website’s SEO.
Keyword research is the first and the most important step in that direction. In simple words, keywords are those terms that people will search for on the search engines to seek answers.
Any business becomes successful by providing people with the information, products, and services they need. Keyword research will present you with opportunities to better understand the right kind audience for your business. It will help you answer questions like,
- What are people searching for?
- How many people are searching for it?
- What type of information they are seeking?
Discovering Keywords and Search Volume
If you have a few keywords in mind which you’d like to rank for, that’s great! These could be the products or services you offer. These are the seed keywords to kick off the research process in the right direction.
Enter these keywords into the Keyword Research tools to get insight into the search volume and related keywords. The related keywords can give you an idea about the keyword variations.
Let’s consider an example of a clothing brand which deals in sportswear.
If you type in “sports” and “Clothing” in the research tool, you may discover highly relevant and highly searched keywords such as,
- Swimming trunks
- Gym shorts
- Track pants
While you discover keywords, you may notice the search volume varies greatly. Though you definitely could go with highly searched keywords, the competition is also high. Also, keywords with low search volume are advantageous as they have less competition and covert quickly.
Both high and low search volume keywords can be advantageous. Looking at the search volumes, you are at a better position to decide which keywords to prioritize that will give your website the biggest strategic advantage.
Focus on Long-Tail Keywords
Generally, the search queries that people put in the search engines can often be of three types – Informational, Navigational, and Transactional. These are categorized based on the intent with which the user is searching on the web.
Informational queries constitute a situation where the user needs some information such as “how long is the river Nile” or “what is the population of India”.
If the user wishes to go to a certain website, like say “YouTube”, it falls into the navigational queries.
In this section, we will focus on the third category, the transactional queries. This constitutes the buying phase where the users have already researched for the products/services they are interested in and is ready to buy or make a transaction.
Long-tail keywords are very specific three to four words phrases that users search for with the intent of buying the products or services you offer. Most of the time, these specific searches will result in sales than generic searches that tend to be towards the research phase before making a buying decision.
In reality, even if the search volume of the generic queries is 10000 a month, it is only a fraction of all the searches performed on the internet. Keywords with a very high search volume may present users with ambiguous content. However, Low volume and very specific keywords present users with exactly what they need and help you to convert them.
Read More: How to create your Keyword Strategy for SEO?
Now that you have discovered, prioritized and decided the keywords your target market is searching for, it is the time to use those keywords in the web pages on the website.
The best practice would be to optimize the content on each of the web pages, focusing on a particular keyword, as every keyword has a different intent and answers for your website visitors.
Title tags are the HTML element that is descriptive and specifies the title of the webpage. Each of the web page on the website should have a unique title tag.
It is the first thing visible to the users on the search engines. Title tags are important as it casts the first impression on the users.
The ultimate recipe for the title tags include,
- Keyword usage
In practice, the target keywords should be at the start of the Title. This helps the search engines and users to understand what the page is all about.
Generally, search engines show 50 to 60 characters of the title in the search results. However, do not limit the title to the strict character count if hampers the readability.
For a brand, it is a good means to fuel the brand awareness effort. Including the brand name at the end of the title make people acquainted with your brand and increases the click-through rate if it is a well-known brand.
Meta-description plays a very important role in the strategy. It’s an opportunity to write a description that summarizes the title.
A Good Meta-description increases the chances of the user clicking and visiting your business. The more the CTR (Click-through rate), the greater the chance of the people using services or buying products that you offer.
That being said since search engines display first 150 – 166 characters of the description, it is advisable to keep it under that limit. Also, include your target keywords in the Meta description to give it more value from users’ and search engine’s perspective.
The actual content on a web page is what provides value by answering the user’s questions. It is important as different types of content have different roles to play.
Say, a web page with content for SEO strategies will help users in a certain way than a web page with customer care related content.
While you create the content, it is advisable to refrain from using low-value tactics such as,
Thin and Duplicate content
For a piece of content on a web page, there is no magic number for word count. The most important factor to consider is to account for the intent behind creating that web page.
Just incorporating the keywords and writing a very short content won’t work. Search engines today give more weight to relevance for the users than themselves. So, creating the content just for search engines by ignoring user questions will land you in trouble.
Also, duplicating the content on multiple web pages is not advisable. For example, suppose you have a website for sportswear. You have created two web pages for “swimming costume” and “swimming trunks”.
Though the web pages are optimized for different keywords, the content will essentially be the same. Tactics like these are not helpful for the user, and as Google specifically stresses on this factor, you could be penalized.
Cloaking is a practice of presenting users and search engines with different content. According to the search engine’s guidelines, the content on the website should be visible to both the users and the search engines alike. Websites do this by hiding the text in HTML just for the sake of search engines and the users are not able to see this content.
Inserting a large number of keywords in the web content and Meta description to rank higher in the search results is termed as keyword stuffing.
This could be done in many ways, such as matching the font color to the background, setting font size to zero and hiding the keywords behind an image.
It is an unethical SEO technique and if caught your website could be penalized and de-indexed from the search results. Moreover, any users visiting your site will not stay for long due to the absence of relevant content.
Alt text is an HTML element that provides alternative text to the images on a web page. This image markup technique can not only impact the way search engines perceive your web page but it also helps you to generate traffic from an image search on the search engines.
It increases web accessibility as search engine crawlers are not able to crawl the images (.jpeg, .png, etc.) on a web page. Providing Alt text also helps visually impaired people to understand what the image depicts through the screen readers.
The important point to note here is that you should not stuff keywords while providing the alt text as it hampers the relevance of images for search engines.
URL stands for “uniform resource locator”. Every web page on the website has a unique address known as a URL.
It is the most direct way for someone to visit a page on the website. As the title and Meta description, the URL is also shown in the search engine results.
A URL mentioning a clear path to the web page is helpful for the users who are trying to understand what a specific URL is all about. Consider a website which sells dessert.
There may be individual web pages for say “apple pie” and “fruit custard”. In this case, the best URL structure would be “example.com/dessert/apple-pie” and “example.com/dessert/fruit-custard”.
In this case, if someone is looking to buy fruit custard, the user is in a better position to click the related URL.
Information Architecture and the Power of Links
Information architecture is a concept of how you organize different pages on your website. In response to the searches performed on the search engines, the way pages are organized and inter-linked on the website has a tremendous impact.
With well-planned information architecture, search engines can better understand what a page is about and how important it is. Search engines perceive links as the “votes of confidence”.
Internal linking is a practice of linking different pages of the same domain. In layman’s term, an internal link is one that points to another page on the same website. Internal links are useful for three main reasons,
- They allow users to navigate a website in the best possible way.
- They help to establish information hierarchy for the given website.
- They help search engines to spread link juice among websites. Consider a website that deals with car performance chips. External domains link to a particular page on the website providing information on how the performance chips work. The other page on the website is sales-related which receive comparatively less number of external links. Now, if the informative page links to the sales-related page, it is a signal to the search engines that the sales page has authority because it is linked to the page with more authority.
Also known as inbound links or backlinks are HTML hyperlinks that point from one website to another.
Backlinks are the currency of the internet.
If you visit a town and you ask three people what the best restaurant in that town was, and they all said, “Nanking”, you’ll feel confident that it indeed is the best restaurant.
This is exactly what backlinks do for the search engines. If a good quality of links points to your website, search engines know that your website is authoritative and it helps to improve the rank of the website in the search results.
The simplistic step-by-step way to build backlinks to your website,
- Conduct audience research and study about the audience in your niche.
- Make a list of websites which are related to your niche and appeal to your audience.
- Explore the type of information the audience on these sites wishes to consume.
- Craft a well-written piece of content including your target keywords.
- Reach out to the website owners.
Follow and No-follow Links
To give you an idea of how powerful the links are, when a web page gets an inbound link, which is a hyperlink pointing to that page from another website, it helps to boost the SEO. Consider a link as one point (Link juice), the more points you get the more it is beneficial to rank higher.
Now that you have learned how external links work, we can define the follow and no-follow links. Follow links are those links that pass the link juice to the website they are pointing to.
No-follow links, on the other hand, does not pass the link juice. No-follow links tell the search engines not to follow the links.
Some search engines still follow the “no-follow” links to simply discover new pages but does not contribute towards boosting the SEO.
Additional SEO Parameters
The main factor for ranking higher in the search results in SEO has been link building until now. With time, as the search engines are becoming more intelligent, they have started to give importance to a lot of small but important parameters.
Technically, the strategies for SEO differ for different businesses. But, there are some common factors everyone should pay attention to. These common factors include,
- Page Speed
In simple words, users’ interest to remain on a page is inversely proportional to the page load time. The lesser the time your page takes to load the more probability of people spending more time on the website.
Studies reveal that 53% of people will leave a mobile page if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. Optimizing the page for speed includes identifying and optimizing the elements that take more time to load due to their size.
- Mobile Friendliness
Today, websites are experiencing most of the traffic from mobile devices. Since traffic from mobile devices outweighs the traffic from desktop, how ‘mobile-friendly’ your website is will have a huge effect on the website ranking.
- XML Sitemap
XML sitemaps help search engines understand your site and find all of its content. Submitting a page to the search engines in the sitemap does not mean that your page will rank in the search results. Consider it as a door to your site where search engines can decide for how to rank that page. You can create your own Google XML sitemap online as well.
Congratulate! Yourself for getting this far. Now, with our free beginner’s guide to SEO marketing, you have learned how search engines rank websites and the techniques that help you rank higher in the search results.
In reality, no site can do a perfect job of executing all the aspects of SEO. “Jack of all trades and master of none” goes for SEO too.
Identify and prioritize the strengths of your site and use the budget optimally. Plan your SEO strategy in such a way that it gives you the best return on the investment.
Author’s Bio –
Tejas Shahakar is the SEO and Content manager at Convomax Digital. His experience as a digital marketer includes working on SEO (on & off Page), PPC, social media, and content creation. Prior to Convomax Digital, he has worked as a digital marketing freelancer, who brought a wealth of knowledge to serve the goals of the clients.