SEO 101 - The Core Components You Should Know
Search engine optimization (SEO) gives your company a unique opportunity to reach potential customers that could not have been reached otherwise.
Put simply, it can help you get found by all those people who didn’t know you existed previously.
SEO can be a powerful tool to gain more exposure in today’s search engines.
People may not be aware of it, but statistics show that over 85% of users prefer to use search engines rather than any other means of finding information.
75% of people claimed that they wouldn’t purchase without first conducting some kind of research online.
The exciting part is that the percentage of Internet users who look for information via search engines continues to rise at a fast pace.
There are many search engine optimization strategies that can prove to be successful for you. Some of the ways to improve your search engine rankings include using specific keywords in the site’s content, referencing high-quality inbound links, and making sure you have all of your website information submitted to the best web directories.
In this article, we’ll go over the SEO core components you should be familiar with if you want to start optimizing your website.
Introduction to On-Page SEO
On-page SEO can be defined as the process of getting traction on your website by improving your content and links.
All the on-page SEO features are important for better Google rankings.
To achieve higher rankings, you need to use clean and informative content, make it easy to read and also have the right navigation and elements to help the users find the content in a fast and streamlined manner.
You want to make sure that it is easy for your users to navigate in and out of your page, otherwise, they will bounce right back where they came from.
There are three important on-page factors that play an important role in achieving higher rankings on Google.
- Making sure that your meta tags are optimized for the search engines;
- Having a clear headings structure on your main website pages;
- Optimizing your content for the desired focus keywords.
Other on-page elements that are not talked about often but can make you stand out from the competition are:
- Links, more specifically building quality inbound links that enhance your site structure;
- Video embedding, which is an inbound form of video marketing
- Image optimization, both for visually impaired users and for search engines.
Before you get started with optimizing your content, you need to know how to conduct keyword research for your business.
What is keyword research and why is it important?
A better question might be, what is keyword research not important for?
From buying a new car to getting the latest celebrity gossip or finding something to eat on a Friday night, keyword research plays an integral part in SEO.
So if your business creates content that you want people to find, then it needs a core understanding of what its audience looks for.
One of the most efficient ways to conduct keyword research is to look for long-tail keywords that you can rank for within your niche. This step involves brainstorming ways to approach a keyword and looking at competitors to see what topics they touch upon.
Once you have a good understanding of what your audience is searching for online, you can start optimizing your pages based on these keywords.
Meta Tags and Headings
There are two main kinds of meta tags: the meta title and the meta description.
They are the text snippets that appear on the search engines and they help Google and users understand what your website is about.
While they are not directly correlated with rankings, they do help increase click-through rates if they are compelling and interesting enough.
Some of the best practices for creating meta tags are:
- Add numbers at the beginning of the meta titles;
- Include the main keyword in both the title and description;
- Include a call-to-action at the end of the meta description.
On the other hand, headings help guide the reader.
They are used to break up the content that is provided on a page. Headings tell the reader what a certain paragraph is about.
That way, they know whether or not to continue reading. Without them, readers will not know what your content is about. They will become lost in the huge amount of information you provide, and won't know where to look next.
Content marketing’s importance goes well beyond its importance as just an SEO tactic.
In fact, if you do it right, content marketing produces more leads than PPC.
It gets you in front of the right people, at the right moment with the right message – so that when they land on your site through search, they stick around and convert.
Content helps establish credibility with your target market and potentially get more subscribers.
Moreover, content marketing is used by companies and businesses that need more exposure for their services, products, and solutions. Allowing consumers to engage in their product or service for free through content allows you to gain SEO traffic and start building trust with potential customers.
Developing content which answers a question that people have can be a great way to generate leads. Think about it — you search for the keyword ‘choosing an SEO agency’ and find content that not only answers your questions but also contains a form or contact information in which you can get more information.
A few years ago, businesses could simply put together a website and fill it with any kind of content to start driving traffic and leads.
If you were lucky enough to display a pretty picture, it was even better. Supposedly, back then a high-quality or interesting website was enough to get people to sign up for your stuff.
Now, you need to take into account more advanced keyword research, competitor analysis, and a much better-organized site structure.
How to Nail Technical SEO
Let’s face it, search engine optimization is just as simple or as complicated as a jigsaw puzzle.
You have to know the basic elements of SEO, but you have a long way to go before you have a true understanding of how to build traffic to your site.
Without a steady stream of high-quality traffic, your efforts in promoting your business or company in search engines are of little or no value.
For that reason, having a strong technical foundation is one of the most important steps for successful SEO.
A lot of people think that technical SEO is limited to just website architecture, but in reality, it’s more than that.
A strong technical foundation is built by having a website crawlable and indexed effectively, which includes proper site architecture (internal linking structure) and having a fast loading site.
You can have a beautiful-looking website with an optimized conversion path that ranks well in search engines, but if it’s not being crawled or indexed effectively your rankings won’t last long.
Technical SEO Audit
Every SEO audit is different but at some point, you're probably going to have to run your website through a few different SEO tools.
It’s good practice to check the technical health of your website regularly. Each tool can tell you something different and each gives you more insight into what needs fixing.
Some great tools for auditing your website are Ahrefs, ScreamingFrog, or SEMRush. It’s important to understand that a technical SEO audit will not tell you why your website’s rankings are dropping, but it will serve as a foundation of understanding which aspects of your website to change in order to make improvements.
Generally, technical SEO audits include website performance recommendations and page-level optimizations. These internal site changes can initially boost the ranking of your pages without any internal linking or external link-building efforts.
So, how do you go ahead and build a website from scratch with SEO in mind?
Most businesses start working on SEO at later stages of development, which puts them behind their competition. Building a website that’s focused on SEO right from the start can get you ahead of your competitors and give you an unfair advantage.
For example, H1 tags or meta description tags are something that new websites often forget to implement when they start working on SEO. These are easy fixes that can lead to faster page load speed and better user experience.
Other basic technical SEO pieces that you should be aware of are:
- Optimizing your website for mobile devices;
- Have a clear and well-defined URL structure that doesn’t confuse the search engines and makes it easier for the user to navigate your website. Avoid using unusual characters and keep it simple;
- 404 pages are fine until they aren’t! Make sure that any 404 pages on your website are redirected to other relevant pages, or at least have a custom 404 message displayed. Don’t leave users hanging.
- Have an SSL certificate installed on your website.
Acquiring High-Quality Backlinks
Link building is one of the biggest ranking factors.
Google states that: "In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages."
By creating awesome, sharable content on your website, you increase your chances to get and keep links.
Google has estimated that the power of a high-quality backlink (i.e. one that is “a canonical link to your site from another high-quality site that has the same content and comes from a respected domain name that Google recognizes as originating from you”) is about 80 times more powerful than the power of other links.
For the average website, building a high-quality link to your website improves its rank on Google search.
So, how do you make sure you strengthen your link profile?
Internal Link Building
Internal link building refers to passing link juice through the pages on your website.
Contrary to popular belief, external links are not the most useful ones for building your website's SEO.
Instead, internal links are the most beneficial, particularly at the beginning.
This is because they act as a link equity spreader of sorts.
You can spread link equity with the help of links, although this isn't so much about establishing a link-friendly structure and attracting links as it is to encourage cross-linking within your site.
This can work for businesses that already have an established presence on the web, as well as e-commerce sites.
External Link Building
External links are considered a vital SEO component, and in most cases, the most effective form of link building.
They help to improve the link popularity of your site or blog and can increase its search engine rankings.
External links are generally considered to carry more value than internal links because they originate from a different domain that has independent authority.
So, external links allow your site to benefit in several ways, by:
- increasing popularity through social media sharing;
- gaining exposure to users who may be interested in your site;
- influencing search engine rankings and traffic to your target page.
Link Building Best Practices
Link building doesn’t mean contacting thousands of websites and asking them to add a link to your site.
You need to consider a few best practices if you want to make the most of your link building efforts:
- The website you want to get a link from needs to be highly relevant to your niche. A business site is not relevant to a health site, and vice versa;
- The website also needs to have high authority. Receiving links from random blogs that just launched yesterday won’t help your SEO campaign. Google’s Penguin update shows it is increasingly important to build quality backlinks that provide value to other sites and search engines. It is these backlinks that pass PageRank and overall authority from site to site.
- Pay attention to your anchor texts. Anchor texts are one of the most important aspects of off-page SEO. These texts are displayed on each link to your website and draw the visitors’ attention. Most guides, including Google's Webmaster guidelines, recommend creating various anchor text variations, as it will make your backlinks look natural and avoid keyword stuffing.
As an SEO, you don’t have to know everything.
You can focus on just a few key terms every week and still be profitable, depending on how competitive your niche is.
Simple enhancements and improvements to a website can yield excellent results. Getting your first rankings and watching your traffic climb can provide a great deal of motivation to continue in the SEO game.