What is SEO? (Guide for Newbies)

Introduction

It is 2019, and businesses are struggling more than ever to make a mark in the online world. The market has turned highly competitive and consumer-driven. Your potential customers are likely spoilt for choice every time they want to purchase a product or avail a service. In such a scenario, creating a powerful online presence is of utmost importance.

A website is one of the most effective tools for building brand awareness. It also reinforces brand credibility and helps drive conversions. However, even the best-designed website won’t deliver any results unless your target audience discovers it. This has become even more crucial in today’s competitive market.

You can invest all your time and resources to develop a new-age product and create an excellent website. But, if your potential customers don’t know about you, all your efforts will be in vain. This means you need to develop a concrete strategy to drive increased traffic to your website. Additionally, you have to reach out to your target audience before any of your competitors do.

One of the most powerful techniques of boosting website traffic is search engine optimization (SEO). It is an extremely cost-effective way of increasing your brand’s online presence and strengthening its reputation. If you are a website owner or marketer, you are likely familiar with a few search engine optimization techniques. However, for beginners, SEO can seem to be a daunting task.

In this guide, we will discuss everything about SEO – its definition, benefits, and drawbacks. Additionally, we will elaborate on the different components of SEO and how each one of them works. We will also share some useful tips and insights that will help you build a robust SEO strategy for your business.

However, before we delve deeper into the different search engine optimization techniques, let us understand the concept in greater detail.

Decoding SEO: The Concept

If you are a novice in the world of digital marketing, you might be wondering what search engine optimization is? Simply put, it is a set of strategies focused on increasing organic website traffic. In other words, SEO helps drive more visitors to your website from search engines. This is achieved by increasing your website’s search engine ranking and giving it a prominent position in search engine results pages (SERPs).

High-quality content is the foundation of every SEO strategy. If you regularly publish fresh, unique, relevant, and insightful content, your website will climb up the ladder of search engine results. Apart from impeccable quality, you should also ensure that your content is optimized using the right keywords. Keywords are the terms or phrases that are used by your target audience in their search queries.

Additionally, your website’s architecture and inbound link profile also play a vital role in determining its search engine ranking. You might be wondering how does search engine optimization work. To understand that, we need to take a closer look at how search engines operate.

Understanding Search Engines

Search engines use programs called crawlers or spiders to hunt the internet for new and updated content. This content could be in the form of a PDF file, a video, or even a web page. All the fresh content is analyzed and stored in databases known as indexes. Therefore, if you want your website to appear in SERPs, you must ensure that all your important content has been indexed.

Whenever a search engine receives a query, it refers to the indexes and retrieves relevant web pages. Additionally, a ranking algorithm is used to sort these web pages based on relevance and other parameters – from highest to lowest. Finally, a list of search results displayed to the user.

Image via SE Ranking

This is a straightforward overview of how search engines work. It is important to note that merely creating a website is not enough to guarantee a high search engine ranking. If you want your target audience to discover your website, you first have to ensure that it is visible to search engine spiders.

Moreover, search engines always strive to deliver the best search experience to their users. That is why they prefer websites that regularly publish high-quality content. They also have a penchant for websites that attract genuine backlinks from high-authority domains. Search engines perceive this as a sign of trust, reliability, and credibility.

Thus, the goal of SEO is to fully optimize your website so that search engines reward it with a higher ranking. When your website appears at the top of search engine results, users are more likely to visit it. In the following sections, we will discuss various aspects of SEO. However, before we do that, let us take a look at some of the ranking factors used by search engines.

SEO Ranking Factors

As an SEO newbie, you must be wondering what exactly does the term “optimization” imply. Which part of your website are you supposed to optimize? To understand this, let us take a look at the parameters used by search engines to determine a website’s ranking.

Search engines such as Google use a plethora of ranking parameters. Brian Dean of Backlinko has compiled an extensive list of 200 search ranking factors. While some of these parameters are related to the domain, others deal with site architecture and user-friendliness. As a beginner, here are the factors you should pay attention to:

Domain Age, Authority & URL:

According to a study by Ahrefs, only 22% of the top-ranking web pages are less than a year old. So, if your website is new, it might take a while before it starts climbing up the SERPs ladders.

Image via Ahrefs

Moreover, websites with a higher domain authority are also preferred by search engines. This is usually a combination of top-notch content, inbound links, and social shares. In some cases, relevant exact-match domains also see an increase in ranking.

Security:

Enabling SSL security on your website can influence the way search engines perceive it. However, it may not have a direct impact on your website’s indexability.

Accessibility:

If you want all your relevant web pages to be indexed, you must ensure that they are easily accessible. It is essential to create a lucid XML sitemap that will help search engine spiders crawl and index your website. You should also create a robot.txt file to help search engines navigate your site.

User Experience:

Is your website user-friendly? How difficult is it for a visitor to find relevant information on a web page? Is it easy for a visitor to navigate from one page to another on your website? All these factors can have a significant impact on your website’s search engine ranking.

Page Speed:

Web pages that load faster are given preference over slower ones. Additionally, your website should be able to load quickly across all devices. You can use a tool like Google’s PageSpeed Insights to improve your website’s speed.

Bounce Rate:

A higher bounce rate is usually a sign of lower engagement levels. It indicates that a website is unable to hold visitors’ attention for a long time. This can be due to slow page speed, irrelevant content, or poor design and layout. In turn, this can hurt search engine ranking.

Mobile-responsiveness:

Search engines want to deliver an impeccable user experience across all devices. In 2018, mobile phones generated more than 52% of global website traffic. Considering the prevalence of mobile devices, it is not surprising that search engines prefer mobile-responsive websites.

Content:

The quality of content on your website is unarguably the most important search ranking factor. In addition to being unique and insightful, it should be relevant to your target audience. Your content should either educate or resolve their problems. Moreover, it should be optimized with the right keywords. Search engines always give preference to websites with high-quality content.

Inbound Link Profile:

If your website attracts genuine backlinks from authoritative domains, it will have a positive impact on search engine ranking. A strong inbound link profile indicates that your website is perceived as a trusted and valuable source of information by others. This, in turn, encourages search engines to feature your site at the top of relevant search results.

Social Signals:

Google has stated that social shares and links don’t have a direct impact on search engine rankings. However, if your content gets actively shared across social media, it indicates that others find it valuable. Moreover, it gets more visibility and is more likely to be linked to by others. This, in turn, has a positive albeit indirect influence on your website’s ranking.

This is just a snippet of the most crucial ranking factors used by search engines. If you want to increase organic website traffic, you must optimize your website based on all these parameters. Every aspect of your website, including content, design, speed, architecture, etc. should be leveraged to give it increased visibility on search engines.

Image via Moz

So far, we have developed an overall understanding of what is search engine optimization. We have also taken a closer look at how search engines determine a website’s position in search results. In-depth knowledge of these concepts will help you develop a concrete SEO strategy for your website.

Before we dig deeper into the subject of search engine optimization techniques, it is essential to understand why you need an SEO strategy.

Why is Search Engine Optimization Important?​

Let’s say you want to buy a new DSLR camera. What is the first thing you will do? Will you go to an actual store to check out the latest models? Or will you run a quick Google search for “latest DSLR cameras”? You will most likely choose the second option.

Next, Google will return a list of web pages that it has determined as relevant to your query. You will probably click on the first couple of links. If the first few results don’t answer your question, will you move to the next page? Or will you enter a new search query?

Like most online users, you probably won’t pay heed to the web pages in the second or third page of the search results. Even if you click on one of them, you will question their credibility and authority. Now, imagine if your potential customers run a Google search and your website doesn’t make it to the first page of search results.

Here is the thing – most online experiences begin with a search engine. Google receives more than 76,000 search queries every second. Likely, your target audience is already actively using search engines. Every time they want to buy a new product or service, they will conduct a thorough online search to narrow down their options.

If your website doesn’t appear on the first page of search engine results, your target audience may never discover it. Even if they chance upon it, they may deem it unreliable or less authoritative. Thus, it is extremely crucial to optimize your website so that it gets a high search engine ranking.

Additionally, most users won’t even look beyond the first few results on SERPs. According to Advanced Web Ranking, the first three Google search results get more than 55% of all clicks (on desktop). Thus, it is not enough for your website to appear on the first page of search engine results. You have to use SEO to take your website to the top of SERPs.

SEO is also a powerful weapon to win an edge over your competitors. When a consumer wants to buy a product, they will likely weigh a few different options. If your website outranks those of your competitors’, it immediately signals authority and credibility. This, in turn, drives more potential customers towards your brand.

We have established that SEO is an indispensable part of your digital marketing strategy. It gives increased visibility to your website and drives organic traffic. Moreover, it reinforces its brand reputation and trust. Ultimately, it connects your potential customers with your brand and helps you earn more revenue.

However, despite being such a useful digital marketing tool, SEO has its own set of limitations. This shouldn’t discourage you from creating an SEO strategy. Instead, knowing the drawbacks of SEO will help you decide whether it is worth investing your time and energy in it.

The Shortcomings of SEO

The most significant disadvantage of SEO is that it is a time-consuming process. It can take months before your efforts start yielding any results. Therefore, if you are looking to garner swift traction, other techniques such as paid search ads might be more useful.

Likewise, if you are competing with any big and established brands, they may outrank you just by domain authority. If your website is new, you will have to work hard to beat such a competitor. Even then, there is no guarantee if you will ever come close to them. In such a scenario, you should explore other avenues, such as social media marketing and influencer partnerships.

Moreover, SEO is a continuous process. It needs regular monitoring and tweaking. You also have to dedicate time and resources to publish high-quality content. It is crucial to assess whether you are in a position to make such a commitment right now.

Despite its durability, the world of SEO is extremely volatile. Search engines are always modifying their ranking algorithms. A significant algorithm update can completely topple your existing SEO strategy and drag your website to the bottom of SERPs. Therefore, it is essential to stay abreast of the latest changes in search engine algorithms.

Over the years, marketers and brands have started exploring various new-age avenues of digital marketing. Social media platforms, owing to their massive reach, can improve brand awareness. Many brands have even leveraged influencer marketing to establish trust and authority. Email marketing has also emerged as a powerful tool for driving conversions.

This begs a straightforward question. Why do you need SEO when there are so many other options? Let us explore further.

Is SEO Still Relevant?

The straightforward answer to this question is a big YES! Despite the rise of social media, it is still essential for brands to have a strong presence on search engines. Marketers always brainstorm to build a robust SEO strategy. According to HubSpot, 61% of marketers agree that improving SEO and boosting organic presence is their top inbound marketing priority.

This is not surprising considering the benefits of SEO over other digital marketing techniques. What makes SEO so effective is that it drives qualified visitors to your website. Only users who actively searched for your product or brand will land on your site. Such visitors are more likely to convert into paying customers.

Additionally, when given a choice between sponsored ads and organic listings, search engine users will likely choose the latter. 70% – 80% of users solely focus on organic listings. This is understandable because an organic listing is a sign of authority and reliability.

Another advantage of SEO is that it delivers an exceptionally high ROI. This is because you don’t have to pay search engines for organic traffic. The only expense associated with SEO is the fee you allot to your SEO expert and content creators. If you don’t have a high marketing budget, you can learn about SEO and work on it by yourself.

That is why SEO is more cost-effective than other methods paid search ads or Facebook advertising. Moreover, unlike paid ads, SEO delivers long-term results. You don’t need a constant flow of money to keep your website at the top of SERPs. All you have to do is publish high-quality content and attract authentic backlinks.
Moreover, SEO is one of the most powerful ways of establishing brand authority. When you consistently publish top-notch content, your audience regards you as an industry expert. This, in turn, helps you win their trust and convert them into loyal brand advocates.

SEO is still a hot favorite among digital marketers and brands due to its durability and cost-effectiveness. A powerful SEO strategy is crucial for every business, irrespective of its scale, age, and nature. However, if you want to make the most of it, you should have a clear understanding of search engine algorithms.

In the next section, we will take a look at a few critical Google algorithm updates.

Note: We are focusing on Google’s algorithm updates because it accounts for 94% of global organic web traffic.

SEO and Google’s Algorithm Updates

We have already discussed that search engines use crawlers to find fresh content on the internet. We have also seen how they use ranking algorithms to determine the order of various web pages in search results. It is crucial to note that these algorithms aren’t static; they are always modified and updated to create a better search experience. In 2018, Google introduced more than 3,000 improvements to its search algorithm.

While updates and overhauls are widely reported, minor changes may go unnoticed. However, even a small change can impact your website’s search engine ranking. Therefore, it is crucial to keep a tab on the latest developments in the world of search algorithms. You can use sites such as Search Engine Land and Search Engine Journal for this purpose.

One of the most critical updates was the introduction of Google Panda in 2011. The primary purpose of Panda is to reward websites with high-quality content. On the other hand, it penalizes sites with duplicate, thin, and scraped content.

Following in the footsteps of Panda, Google announced the introduction of Penguin in 2012. It focuses on identifying websites that try to manipulate search engine algorithms. It penalizes sites that indulge in unethical practices such as link schemes and keyword stuffing.

In 2013, Google introduced Hummingbird – a complete overhaul of its existing search algorithm. With Hummingbird, Google attempts to deliver an enhanced search experience by identifying the intent behind a search query. Instead of performing an exact keyword match, Hummingbird identifies the real purpose of the searcher. This, in turn, helps return more relevant search results.

The application of Hummingbird is particularly noticeable in voice search and local search. For instance, when you search for “best Thai places,” Google returns a list of the top Thai places near you.

Image via Google

To turn the concept of semantic search into reality, Google took its efforts one step further by introducing RankBrain in 2015. With RankBrain, Google attempts to use machine learning and determine the most relevant search results. Apart from keywords, RankBrain analyzes other factors such as a searcher’s location, device, etc. to interpret their real intent. RankBrain also analyzes your content to determine what your website is all about.

Image via Backlinko

It is also worth observing how the appearance of Google search results has changed over the years. For instance, certain search results now feature-rich snippets with additional information. Websites that grab the coveted position of rich snippets are perceived as more authoritative and trustworthy.

Image via Google

Likewise, with the introduction of the Knowledge Graph, Google now offers direct answers to specific search queries (apart from the organic listings).

Image via Google

In the world of SEO, it is not enough to take your website to the first page of search results. You need to make it to the top of SERPs and ensure that it stays there. Before we discuss some useful search engine optimization techniques, let us briefly discuss white hat and black hat SEO.

White Hat SEO vs. Black Hat SEO

When you want to develop an SEO strategy, there are two ways to approach it. The first approach is to use techniques that follow search engine guidelines. This is known as white hat SEO and primarily focuses on delivering a valuable experience to human visitors. It may take time to yield a noticeable outcome; however, the results of white hat SEO are long-lasting.

The other approach is to use manipulative schemes and dupe search engine algorithms. This is known as black hat SEO. It focuses on leveraging loopholes in search engine algorithms to aggressively climb up the SERPs ladder. However, the results are usually short-lived and often put your website at risk.

In the early days of SEO, many website owners and marketers indulged in black hat tactics. They used link schemes, keyword stuffing, content farming, etc. and managed to achieve high search engine rankings. Other black hat SEO techniques include negative SEO, duplicate content, content scraping, etc.

However, search engine algorithms have progressed a lot since then. Today, such unethical tactics are easily detected by programs such as Panda and Penguin. If you indulge in such practices, your website will receive a manual penalty and can even get banned from search engines altogether. Undoing a ban can be a difficult task.

Additionally, black hat SEO demands a thorough knowledge of how search engines operate. You may also need a bit of technical expertise to manipulate the algorithms. This is often more cumbersome and time-consuming than white hat SEO. It is also likely that the results will disappear with the introduction of new algorithm updates.

Simply put, black hat SEO can deliver faster results. However, it is not a safe and long-term solution for generating website traffic. Therefore, as lucrative as it might seem, you should stay away from black hat SEO.

It is now time for us to explore the different aspects of a tenacious SEO strategy.

Components of SEO

Search engine optimization techniques can be split into three parts: on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO. Each component serves a specific purpose in your SEO strategy. It is also essential to understand that a good SEO strategy is one that puts equal emphasis on all three aspects.

Image via Styla

On-page SEO is the process of optimizing all the elements on a web page – from content to user experience. It starts with keyword research, i.e., identifying the search queries you wish to rank for. After that, you need to publish high-quality and keyword-rich content. Your content should also be appropriately structured with optimized and relevant headlines and subheadings.

Additionally, you should optimize user experience by making your website fast, user-friendly, and mobile responsive. It is equally important to design a lucid layout for your web pages. You should also ensure that visitors can easily navigate from one page to another. It is also crucial to optimize the meta title and description of every web page.

Off-page SEO refers to the search engine optimization techniques used outside your website. The focus of off-page SEO is to attract backlinks from high-authority websites. It tells the search engines that your website is a reliable source of high-quality content. In turn, this encourages them to include your website in relevant search results.

An essential step of SEO is to identify and leverage link building opportunities. Some of the useful techniques are guest blogging and spotting broken links on blogs that are relevant to your niche. You can also harness the potential of social media and influencer marketing to attract more backlinks.

It is, however, crucial to understand that high-quality content is still required to facilitate shareability. In the absence of great content, you won’t be able to harness even the most potent link building opportunities. Thus, off-page and on-page SEO are intertwined and can’t exist in isolation.

Technical SEO is the part that deals with the crawlability and indexability of your website. What is the use of creating high-quality content when search engine spiders can’t even find it? You have to ensure that all your important web pages are indexed. You can check this on Google by entering “site:<domain URL>”; it returns a list of your indexed web pages.

Another critical step of technical SEO is to create an XML sitemap and robot.txt file. These help search engine spiders navigate your website index individual web pages. You can even inform search engines if you want certain web pages to be excluded from indexing.

A powerful SEO strategy is one that focuses equally on on-page, off-page, and technical SEO. Your website can achieve and maintain a high search engine ranking only when all three aspects of SEO work in tandem. Let us now take a closer look at each one of them.

Understanding On-Page SEO

We have already understood the meaning of on-page SEO. Let us jump right in and discuss how to develop a solid on-page SEO strategy.

Identify the Right Keywords

If you are even slightly familiar with SEO, you would know that keywords are the foundation stone of every SEO strategy. The most crucial step of SEO is to select the keywords you wish to rank for. Additionally, you need to analyze and validate each keyword to determine whether it is worth ranking for.

Simply put, keywords are terms and phrases that your target audience is likely to use in their search query. You can find relevant keywords in your niche using tools such as SEMrush, Ahrefs, and Google Keyword Planner. Most of these tools require you to enter your website URL or terms related to your product/service.

Image via Google

Once you enter the URL, you can view a list of keyword suggestions along with different parameters such as search volume, competition, etc. These parameters will help you select the most popular keywords.

Another simple technique is to search discussion forums such as Reddit and Quora for relevant threads. Pay close attention to understand what topics your target audience is discussing about. Monitor the most popular cloths to identify keyword suggestions. You will also get an idea about the type of content your audience is looking for.

Once you have picked your keywords, it is essential to validate them to determine the level of competition. You can easily do this by installing Moz’s SEO toolbar on your web browser. Next, run a quick Google search with one of your selected keywords. Take a look at the domain authority (DA) score of the top organic listing. If most of these websites have a DA of less than 50, it indicates low competition.

You should also check if any of your selected keywords returns any established brands. Such brands will outrank you solely based on their domain authority and age. It will be challenging to compete with big brands using SEO when your website is relatively new.

The key is to identify keywords that are popular and relevant to your niche. However, you should refrain from using high-competition keywords. Additionally, you should have a deep understanding of your target audience, including their preferences and pain points. This will help you pick the most relevant and meaningful keywords.

Leverage on LSI Keywords

LSI stands for latent semantic indexing. It is a technique used by search engines to determine terms and phrases related to a particular keyword. You can use this to streamline your search and identify more keyword suggestions. On Google, you can find LSI keywords by typing your selected keyword and looking at the ideas.

Image via Google

Perform Thorough Competitor Analysis

The very nature of SEO implies that you are competing with other websites for a top position in SERPs. Knowing who your competitors are and evaluating their SEO strategies can be beneficial. The first step is to identify your competitors by running a quick Google search using one of your target keywords.

The first few organic listings are your most potent competitors. You can use competitor analysis tools such as SpyFu and QuickSprout to identify the keywords that are being used by your competitors. Additionally, you should take a closer look at the type of content your competitors are publishing and the subjects they are talking about. Pay equal attention to their website navigation, page layout, URL, etc.

Publish Insightful Content

If keywords are the foundation of your SEO strategy, high-quality content is its lifeblood. It is recommended that you develop a compelling content strategy that addresses your audience’s pain points. Additionally, your content should resolve their problems or add some kind of value. The most effective technique is to start a blog and regularly publish fresh content.

You should also ensure that your content is optimized using the right keywords. However, don’t stuff your content with irrelevant keywords. Integrate them into your content seamlessly and organically. Make sure the use of keywords doesn’t hinder the overall readability of your content.

It is also essential to make periodic updates to existing content. This ensures that your content remains relevant and fresh. You can also create evergreen content that is not likely to get outdated with the passage of time.

Apart from the blog, you should also optimize the content on other web pages. This includes product/service description, FAQs, about us, etc. Make sure the content is meaningful, error-free, and keyword-rich.

Place Your Keywords Judiciously

The use of keywords in your content helps search engines determine whether it is relevant to a particular search query. However, flooding your content with too many keywords can do more harm than good. Instead, you should integrate them seamlessly. Moreover, it is essential to intersperse the keywords throughout your content.

Make sure the target keyword is used at the beginning of your content (preferably the first paragraph). It helps search engines quickly understand what the content is all about. Additionally, you should use variations of the keyword throughout your content.

Get the Structure Right

If your blog post is written as a continuous wall of text, website visitors may not read the entire thing. It also becomes difficult for search engine spiders to interpret your content and determine its relevance. A good practice is to break your content into short and concise paragraphs. Additionally, you should group related items under meaningful subheadings.

Make sure you give the subheadings appropriate H2 and H3 tags to improve crawlability. It is also recommended that you use variations of your target keywords in the subheadings. This helps make your content more meaningful and relevant for search engine crawlers.

It is also recommended that you use relevant images to make your content more engaging. Make sure you assign a descriptive alt tag to every image and integrate the focus keyword whenever possible.

Use Keyword Modifiers

You should consider adding terms such as “top”, “how to”, and “best” to your target keyword. This helps you create variations of your keyword. You can then integrate these variations in the body and subheadings of your content. Enter your target keyword on Google and scroll down to the “searches related to section” to identify suitable modifiers.

Image via Google

Optimize Page Title and Meta Description

Both the title and meta description of a web page is used by search engine spiders to interpret it. It helps search engines understand what the page contains and determine whether it is relevant to a particular search query.

It is essential to create a clear title and meta description for every page on your website. Make sure it conveys what the page is all about. You should also use the focus keyword in the title and meta description. A well-crafted meta description also increases the click-through rate (CTR) of your web page, thereby increasing website traffic.

Search engines usually allow a limited number of characters for the page title and meta description. For instance, Google allows 50 to 70 characters for the page title and 320 characters for meta description. Make sure you adhere to these limits to prevent your copy from getting cut off in search results.

Assign Your H1 Tag

The H1 tag is used by search engine spiders to get an idea of your content. Therefore, you should ensure that you assign proper H1 tags to all your web pages. If you use a content management system such as WordPress, the title of your page automatically gets the H1 tag. Otherwise, you may have to look into the source code and assign the H1 tag to the page title.

The key is to ensure that every page has a relevant and meaningful title and assign the H1 tag to it. Additionally, you should ensure that the target keyword is included in your H1 tag.

Use Meaningful URLs

Search engines use URLs to understand and interpret web pages. Therefore, you should ensure that the URL of every web page gives a clear idea of what it contains. Additionally, you should use the focus keyword in your URL and keep it concise.

Enhance User Experience

Shoddy website layout and poor user experience result in higher bounce rates. This, in turn, tells search engines that your website failed to engage a visitor and hold their attention. As a result, your website’s search engine ranking can drop, even if your content is of impeccable quality.

Thus, it is incredibly crucial to ensure that your website delivers a smooth and hassle-free experience. Check for any substantial media assets and optimize them to improve page speed. Make sure it is easy for visitors to move from one page to another on your website. You should also work to make your website mobile-responsive.

Work on the overall layout of your website to ensure that it aids scannability. If visitors have difficulty finding relevant information, they are likely to exit without taking any action. Use appropriate calls-to-action (CTAs) and internal links to encourage them to visit other pages on your website. This will ensure that visitors spend more time on your site, thereby improving the bounce rate.

Internal Linking

Internal links are essentially links on your website that point from one page to another. They are used to improve your website navigation as they help your visitors find relevant information without much effort. If done correctly, internal linking can help you keep your visitors on the website for longer durations. This reduces your bounce rate and increases your audience engagement.

To do internal linking effectively, you must ensure that you use proper anchor text when linking one page to another. This anchor text should relate to the page the link points to. You must avoid putting generic anchor texts such as “click here” and “read more.”

While creating internal links, make sure that you don’t end up creating duplicate links. You must also try to keep maximum relevance when you’re creating internal links. It’s also a good practice to keep only a few internal links per page to prevent over-optimization. Lastly, avoid broken links at all costs and remove them if you find one.

Defining Off-Page SEO

While on-page SEO deals with the optimization of your website, off-page SEO is that part of SEO that deals with the optimization that is off your website. It focuses on building your website’s credibility and authority through other websites. You need to make your presence felt online, and the only way to do that is to have your website and brand mentioned at as many credible places as possible.

Off-page SEO tells the search engines what other websites think about yours. Each vote counts as a positive indicator and helps you rank higher up in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Now that you know what is off-page SEO let’s look at some of the factors that affect it and how you can create an off-page SEO strategy.

How to Develop an Off-Page SEO Strategy

Just like on-page SEO, several factors affect your off-page SEO. These include backlinks, co-citation, co-occurrence, anchor text optimization, and more. Let’s see how you can use them to build your off-page SEO.

• Backlinks

Backlinks are one of the most critical off-page SEO factors and are crucial for building your website’s authority. They are links from other websites that point back to yours. Each backlink that appears on the internet is seen as a vote to the credibility of your website. It is natural to feel that the more backlinks you have, the better it will be for your brand.

However, that’s not the case. Along with the number of backlinks, their quality is taken into account too. Search engines like Google look at the authority of the linking website and decide the weight that the backlink carries. A website that has more authority will affect your ranks more than a site that doesn’t.

For this, it’s essential to understand the Domain Authority (DA) of a website. It’s a measure developed by Moz that helps you figure out the authority of a website. Each site is assigned a number between 1 and 100 based on various parameters like its link profile. A higher score indicates a better chance to rank higher in searches.

There are two primary ways of getting backlinks from other websites: naturally and by approaching them. The first option is the best one in which you need to put focus on creating valuable content that people would naturally want to link to. In this method, all you do is create authority content that people would find helpful. They may add a link to this content on their websites, and you’ll get a backlink without any effort.

In the second method, you’d need to approach the webmasters of various websites to ask them for backlinks. The most popular way of getting backlinks through this mode is by writing guest posts. In this, you pitch topics to the webmasters and write high-quality content for their website. You can include a link or two to your website in this content and thus get backlinks.

Guest posting lets you have full control over the anchor text that’s used to link to your website and also the site that links back to you. Additionally, if you create high-quality content, those who read the guest posts may become interested in your brand and might become your followers.

Apart from guest posting, there are several other ways of getting backlinks. You can look for broken links on other websites using tools like Broken Link Checker. After finding these links, you can approach the webmasters and ask them to link to your resource instead.

Alternatively, you can look for the websites that link to your competitors using spying tools like SpyFu and SEMrush. Based on their backlink profiles, you can approach the websites which link to them and ask them to link to you as well. One way of improving your chances of getting these links is by creating better resources than your competitors so that the websites would want to link to you.

• Anchor Text

Anchor text is the text that’s used to link to your website. To ensure maximum impact from your link building process, you need to optimize your anchor text too. It needs to be relevant to the page that you’re linking back to rather than being a generic piece of text.

This is necessary because a relevant anchor text would give users an idea of what they are getting into by clicking on the link. Search engines see the anchor text as a depiction of how people visit your page. Additionally, they use them to understand what your pages may be all about too.

If multiple sites show that a particular page is relevant for a specific anchor text, the search engines may push that website up in rankings for that term. There are different types of anchor texts that you can have; they are:

  • Exact Match: In this, the anchor text exactly matches the keyword of the page that is linked.
  • Partial Match: A partial match anchor text is one where the anchor text uses a variation of the keyword of the target page.
  • Branded: The anchor text here uses the brand name rather than the keyword for linking.
  • Generic: A generic piece of content is used to link to the target page here.

When you’re doing anchor text optimization, you need to keep in mind that the text that you use shouldn’t be keyword heavy. It should be brief, relevant, non-generic, and low on keyword density. Over optimizing your anchor text may lead to some penalties from Google.

• Co-Citation

Co-citation means that two different websites have mentioned the same brand or site. Just like backlinks each of these citations work as a vote towards the authenticity of your website.

When multiple sources mention your website or brand name, it helps in building your brand image. At the same time, Google notices the same, and this would positively impact your SEO. Do note that the places where your website or brand is mentioned should be well-reputed websites too. This off-page SEO factor helps in building trust and engagement for your brand also.

• Influencer Marketing

While influencer marketing isn’t a factor that directly affects your off-page SEO, you can use it to improve it. For this, you reach out to famous personalities in your industry and ask them to partner with you. These influencers are authority figures in their niches, and their audience is often highly engaged and loyal to them.

When an influencer endorses your brand, it will positively affect your brand image. Many of their followers might get interested in your brand and may start mentioning it or even linking it to your website. Additionally, when the influencers talk about your brand name or link back to your website, it will positively affect your SEO. The main reason for this being that their blogs are very likely to have good domain authority.

Even if the influencers don’t link back to you or mention your name on their blogs, you may be able to get a lot of traffic through the campaigns. The increased website traffic will help in improving your SEO and search engine rankings.

Defining Technical SEO

Technical SEO, as the name suggests, deals with the technical aspects of a website and is a crucial step in the entire SEO process. If you face problems with technical SEO, it may result in all the other SEO efforts going in vain.

Technical SEO is essentially a process that aims at optimizing your website for crawling and indexation. It helps the search engine spiders crawl your site and inspect it without any troubles. If the spiders hit a roadblock here, they may not be able to index your website correctly on the search engine, which could be disastrous.

It’s called “technical” because the whole purpose of this method is to improve the infrastructure of your website. This makes it drastically different from the other two types of SEO, where content plays a significant role.

Technical SEO also aims at improving the overall browsing experience of a user. That’s why it has involves improving the page loading speed, website security, etc.

How to do Technical SEO

Several factors affect the technical SEO of a website. Here are the most important ones that you need to handle.

Robots.txt

Robots.txt is one of the essential files that deal with technical SEO. While you won’t be required to edit it in most cases, it’s necessary to check whether there’s anything on it that blocks search engine spiders from crawling your website.

URL Structure

The URL structure refers to the format of the URLs that you use on your website. Ideally, all your URLs must have lower case characters. You must also use – to separate the words in your URLs. It’s also essential to ensure that they are as short and concise as possible. Unnecessary characters or words should be avoided when creating your URLs too. If you have a target keyword, try to incorporate it naturally into the URL without overstuffing it.

Website Navigation

Yet another vital factor that affects your technical SEO is website navigation and structure. This is critical not just for SEO but even to ensure that your visitors find it easy to navigate around your website. They must be able to find everything that they want to see without much trouble.

At the same time, defining a clear website structure is essential to ensure that the search engine crawlers can quickly find your pages and index them. This can help in improving the rankings of those pages as well.

Canonical URLs

A canonical URL tells search engines which page they need to take into account while indexing your website. This is especially useful when you have various pages that have the same or similar content on them. The canonical tag in the URL will tell the search engine which page is the original one and must be indexed. This helps you avoid content duplication issues that can harm your website’s SEO.

All you need to do is add the rel=”canonical” tag to all those pages that have similar content. However, to make it simpler, it’s better to have a canonical URL for all the pages on your website.

XML Sitemap

The XML sitemap is yet another important aspect of technical SEO that must be optimized. It’s basically a list of all the pages on your website along with their links. You can also find the date of publishing and updates in this sitemap.

It’s used by the search engines as a guide to crawl your website. Hence, it’s necessary to optimize it well so that the search engines can easily crawl your site and index your most important pages.

Try to include only those pages that have original content on them in your sitemap. The XML sitemap should also be updated regularly in an automated manner whenever any new page or post is uploaded. The same should happen even when any page is updated.

Website Security

Search engines always strive to make the browsing experience of their users more secure. That’s why SSL has become an important ranking signal in recent times.

This certificate means that all the information that’s transmitted between the website and its server is entirely encrypted. For SSL, all you need to do is contact your web hosting provider and ask them to add SSL to your account.

Website Speed

The page loading speed of your website is a vital parameter for judging its user-friendliness. No one likes to wait long to see a page load. In fact, the bounce probability can increase by up to 90% if the page load time goes from 1 to 5 seconds.

To improve your website’s speed, there are several technical parameters that you need to modify. These include minifying your JavaScript, CSS, HTML, etc. You also need to put effort into compressing your images and videos, especially if there are loads of them on your webpages.

To test your page loading speed, you can use Google Page Speed Insights and Google Mobile Speed Tool.

Some of the other things that you can do to improve your page loading speed are:

  • Upgrade server to a 64-bit operating system
  • Use cloud hosting
  • Minimize the number of plugins used on the website
  • Upgrade all your plugins to their latest versions
  • Try to use a lighter, custom-made theme
  • Try using asynchronous JavaScript loading
  • Reduce the number of scripts in the header of your website
  • Using caching plugins to deliver cached pages to your visitors

Mobile-Readiness

Nearly 50% of web traffic today comes through smartphones. It is then only natural that a website should be designed in such a way that smartphone users can easily use it. Creating a mobile-friendly website has become a necessity now, especially because it’s used as a ranking signal too.

Your website must be fast and mobile-friendly to ensure that it ranks higher up in searches. To create a mobile-friendly website, you need to build a website that’s responsive or choose a responsive theme. This should be configured well too. To see if your website is mobile-friendly, you can use the Mobile-Friendly Test by Google.

The mobile website must have the same content as your desktop website as Google has come up with its mobile-first indexing system. Additionally, it should load as quickly as possible to reduce the bounce rate and positively impact your SEO.

Local SEO

When you own a local business, your local SEO becomes extremely important. This is necessary to attract local customers who are close to your business. The importance of local SEO can be proven by the fact that 27% of people searched for local businesses online in 2018.

For local SEO, you need to get your keyword research right as well, just as it is with regular SEO. However, there are a few other factors that affect local SEO as well.

Factors Affecting Local SEO

• Name, Address, and Contact Information

When you own a local business, it’s crucial to have your name, address, and contact information available quickly. However, it’s also necessary to ensure that this information is consistent across all the places where it’s available. If there’s any discrepancy in the data, it can make the spiders question your authenticity.

• Google My Business

Google My Business is the most important factor in local SEO. If you have a local business, you must claim a Google My Business listing. Google My Business signals are so critical for SEO that Moz claims that it’s the number one ranking factor for local SEO.

Image via Moz

To create a Google My Business page, you need to provide the correct details of your business. These include your business name, address, contact information, and more. You also need to select the category of your business, provide working hours, and some images.

• Schema Markup

Schema markup helps search engines display relevant information about your business. Information such as your online ratings, prices, and reviews are picked up through this technology. This information usually stands out from the rest of the search results and thus increases your click-through rate too.
To add schema markup, you can use the Structured Data Markup Helper from Google. By using the Structured Data Testing Tool, you can also figure out how your page will look post the schema markup.

Best SEO Tools

SEO isn’t the simplest of things to do, and without tools, it’s not possible to do it. Tools make it easier to do everything related to SEO. Let’s look at some of the best SEO tools that you can use for your website:

Google’s Tools

Google has its own set of tools on SEO. Some of the best tools introduced by Google are:

  • Google Analytics: Used to analyze your website traffic, discover your audience, and its sources.
  • Google Keyword Planner: This tool is used to look for relevant keywords for your brand.
  • Google Search Console: Used to find and fix on-page issues. You can also track your organic search results through this tool.
  • Google Trends: To identify the topics that are currently trending.
  • Google PageSpeed Insights: Tool used to measure the page loading speed of your website for both desktops and mobiles.

Ahrefs Backlink Checker

This tool by Ahrefs lets you check the main 100 backlinks of any website that you enter. Additionally, this tool allows you to see the top five linked-to pages, total backlinks, referring domains, and common anchor texts. Along with that, you’ll get to see the website’s Domain Rating (DR) and URL Rating (UR) scores.

This can help you not only understand your own backlinks but lets you spy on your competitors too.

Yoast SEO

If you’re a WordPress user, there’s no way you can miss out on Yoast SEO. It makes SEO dead-simple for everyone who uses it on WordPress. You can quickly generate your XML Sitemap with the click of a button and the plugin also submits it to Google.

It also helps you write meta tags, SEO title, and much more. The plugin analyzes all the content that you’ve written and informs you if there are any necessary changes to be made. It also lets you select a target keyword and checks if it’s well-optimized throughout your content.

Hunter.io

To do outreach, you need to know the email addresses of the concerned people, which can be pretty challenging to find. Hunter.io makes this process simple for you. All you need to do is enter the name of the website for which you need to find the email addresses and hit the search button.

Within seconds, the tool finds all the email addresses associated with that domain name. The email addresses also come with a confidence score, and some come with the verified tag too. This can help you figure out if an email address is legitimate.

Additionally, the tool gives you the option to find the email address of a particular person as well. All you need to do is enter the name of the person and the domain associated with the name. The tool will find the email address straightaway.

LinkMiner

If you’re looking for some broken link building opportunities, LinkMiner is the perfect tool for you. It is a Google Chrome extension that allows you to find broken links on any website. You can scrape multiple links and export them to a CSV with a single click. Using a combination of LinkMiner and Hunter.io, you can easily build quality backlinks from broken links.

SEMrush

SEMrush is one of the most popular SEO tools out there. It can do everything from tracking your keywords, to competitor keyword research. It also shows you your organic traffic and helps you do link building as well.

In addition, you can do a backlink audit of your competitors through SEMrush as well. It also features an on-page SEO checker and allows you to do site audits as well. You can also compare the keywords of your competitors head-to-head through its Keyword Gap Tool.

Where Goes?

If you are looking for a tool that shows you the redirecting parts of a URL, Where Goes? is a perfect tool for you. All you need to do is paste a URL in the box, and it will show you the type and number of redirects of the URL.

This tool can help you reduce the number of redirects of a URL and improve your technical SEO. The more the number of redirects, the slower will your website be. Having loads of redirects in a chain might even confuse the Google spiders.

Robots.txt Generator

Robots.txt is a file that’s present on every web server and helps Google spiders crawl your website. However, if you wish to generate a properly formatted robots.txt, you can use the Robots.txt Generator.

Advanced users can also create custom rules for various boxes through the custom option of the tool.

Moz Pro

Moz Pro is a set of tools that you can use for your website’s SEO. It includes the Moz Open Site Explorer, Moz Keyword Explorer, and more. Be it keyword research or on-page SEO optimization; these tools help you accomplish it all. The Keyword Explorer, in particular, enables you to loads of information, including SERP analysis that shows the number of AdWords ads, Google News results, etc. for each keyword.

Smush Image Compression and Optimization

Smush is a fantastic plugin on WordPress to reduce the sizes of the images on their website. It helps you compress, optimize, and resize all your images to ensure that your page loading speed increases. The best part about this plugin is that it works its magic as soon as you upload an image in WordPress.

Quick Recap

SEO is crucial for the success of your business, be it an online or a traditional one. There are three basic parts of SEO, namely, on-page, off-page, and technical SEO. Apart from these, there is local SEO that you can use to promote your brand to an audience located in the proximity of your local business.

Several factors affect your search engine rankings. These are:

  • Domain authority
  • Security
  • Accessibility
  • User Experience
  • Page Speed
  • Bounce Rate
  • Mobile-Friendliness
  • Content
  • Inbound Link Profile
  • Social Signals, and many more


While SEO is great to reach your target audience, it has several shortcomings as well. It takes a lot of time to build authority in your niche and rise in the search engine rankings to get noticed by your audience. To get quick traction, you have to rely on paid ads. Additionally, you need to monitor the performance of your website continuously when it comes to SEO. Your rankings are also susceptible to changes in algorithms by search engines, which can wreak havoc sometimes.

Despite its shortcomings, SEO is still one of the essential methods of marketing your brand. To understand it even further, you need to know about the most significant algorithm updates rolled out by Google. They are:

  • Google Panda in 2011, which focused on rewarding those websites that came up with high-quality content rather than those that were stuffing keywords to rank.
  • Google Penguin in 2012, which penalized websites that indulged in unethical practices to manipulate search engine algorithms.
  • Google Hummingbird in 2013, which changed the way results were displayed. It prioritized searcher intent.
  • Google RankBrain in 2015, which brought machine learning into searches. This brought a whole new perspective to search engine results.
  • Google also introduced knowledge graphs later that answers direct queries and appear above the organic listings.

It’s also necessary to know the two types of SEO tactics that people apply. These are white hat and black hat tactics. The former focuses on delivering a better user experience while the latter tries to climb the SERPs quickly by finding loopholes in the search engine algorithms.


Coming to the main parts of SEO, on-page SEO looks into your website optimization. It involves:

  • Finding the right keywords for your website. This can be done using keyword research tools. 
  • Leveraging LSI keywords that are essentially keywords that are similar to your target keyword. 
  • Performing a thorough competitor analysis to understand the strategies of your competitors. 
  • Researching and coming up with high-quality content that is not only informational but also provides value to your readers. It should make you a thought leader in the industry. 
  • Placing keywords judiciously and naturally in your content to ensure that you aren’t over-optimizing for SEO. 
  • Breaking your content into bite-sized pieces that can be digested by your audience with ease. Split it using sub-headings with H2 and H3 tags. 
  • Using keyword modifiers to create variations of your target keyword. 
  • Optimizing the page title and meta description. Add your target keyword to them as well. 
  • Use meaningful URLs that can help the search engines understand your page. Add your keyword to them as well. 
  • Improve your user experience by working on your layout and providing CTAs at appropriate spots. 
  • Use internal links carefully to keep the traffic on your website and help search engines discover new pages.


Off-page SEO looks into optimization away from your website. It includes:

  • Creating numerous high-quality backlinks that can improve your domain authority and pass traffic to you.
  • Writing guest posts and finding link building opportunities through broken links and creating better content.
  • Optimizing your anchor text such that it echoes what the target link is all about.
  • Ensuring that your website’s name is mentioned on multiple sites.
  • Partnering with influencers to increase your reach and also get high-quality traffic and backlinks.


Technical SEO involves modifying the technical parameters of your website. This includes:

  • Managing your robots.txt file to ensure that the search engine spiders can crawl your website well.
  • Maintaining your URL structure to make it simpler for visitors and search engines to understand what the page is all about.
  • Creating a seamless website navigation that ensures that search engine bots can easily find all webpages.
  • Using canonical URLs on your pages to make sure that search engines understand which page is the original one.
  • Creating XML sitemap to make things simpler for the search engines.
  • Securing your website by using SSL.
  • Improving your website speed by modifying technical parameters.
  • Creating a mobile-ready website.


If you own a local business, you need to invest in local SEO as well. This is aimed at driving local traffic to you. It involves:

  • Filling your name, address, and contact information properly all across the internet and maintaining its consistency.
  • Creating a Google My Business page by providing your details.
  • Using schema markup to help search engines pick up information like prices, reviews, and ratings.


Lastly, it’s recommended that you use SEO tools to make things simpler. It’s crucial to track your progress at all points and manage your website well. Some of the best tools are:

  • Google’s Tools
  • Ahrefs Backlink Checker
  • Yoast SEO
  • Hunter.io
  • LinkMiner
  • SEMrush
  • Where Goes?
  • Robots.txt Generator
  • Moz Pro
  • Smush Image Compression and Optimization

Conclusion

SEO may seem like a very technical method of marketing for beginners. However, it’s very simple if you follow all the guidelines that the search engines provide. Concentrate on creating high-quality content and reach out to reputed websites to build links. Try to make your website more user-friendly, and SEO is a game that’s half won. Using tools can also help with the simplification of SEO.

Put yourself in the position of your audience and think about what a good browsing experience would mean to them. This is the exact experience that you need to provide them when they visit your website. Do this, and your SEO will automatically follow.

What are the other things that you wish to know about SEO? Do let us know in the comments below and we’ll try to help you out.

16 thoughts on “What is SEO (Guide For Newbies)”

  1. Superb blog! Do you have any recommendations for aspiring writers?
    I’m hoping to start mmy own blog soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you advise starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are just too many choices out there that I’m totally overwhelmed.
    Thanks a lot in advance!

    1. Hey Fauzan,

      Thanks for writing in. We use Elementor Pro for building all our pages. It’s really one of the best page builders out there. Super versatile and lightweight too!

  2. Greetings! Very useful advice in this particular post! It’s the little changes that make the most impact. Many thanks for sharing!

  3. Maribel Rosario

    I’m extremely impressed with the content as well as with the layout on your website, extremely authoritative.
    Either way, keep up the excellent content, it’s rare to see a great blog like this one these days.

  4. Have you ever considered creating an ebook or guest authoring on other blogs? I have a blog centered on the same topics you discuss and would really like to have you share some stories/information. I know my subscribers would enjoy your work. If you are even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me an email.

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