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A Beginner's Guide to Search Engine Optimization

Updated: Apr 2, 2018

Do you want to rank higher on Google? Then you need to understand how search engines work and concepts of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).



What is Search Engine Optimization?


SEO Optimization is the process of getting website traffic from organic search results on search engines. All search engines rank webpages and content based on the relevance to its users. The good news is that all organic searches are free! Read our article on Pay-Per-Click Advertising to learn more about Search Engine Marketing.


How do search engines rank websites? Search engines utilize complex algorithms to factor in information such as keywords, webpage titles, links, anchor text and reputation to derive a PageRank. The factors that influence your website ranking can be categorized into On-Page and Off-Page factors.


On-Page factors are factors that you can directly control through good content writing, website architecture and HTML code. While, Off-Page factors are influenced by external agents such as visitors, publishers and other websites. Both types of factors are equally important for SEO optimization to be successful.



A Beginner's Guide For Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Summary Table: One-Page & Off-Page Factors



On-Page Factors


1. Content


Writing content that is fresh, unique and high quality will attract visitors to your website. Using relevant keywords in your website will help search engines rank your webpages. All content should be written in a natural way for human readers and not specifically for search engine crawlers. Adding graphics (i.e. images, photos, infographics, videos) will make your content more visually appealing and can increase engagement by up to 6.5 times. And always remember that your content should address the search query and provide visitors with the answers that they are looking for.



2. Website Structure (or Architecture)


Designing an SEO-friendly website with proper links and navigation can help search engine crawlers index your webpages. Submitting your sitemap is another way to facilitate indexing. In terms of URLs, ensure that they are concise and contain keywords that describe the webpage. Check search function, content management systems and e-commerce application to make sure that there is no duplicate content. Other features to consider include have a mobile responsive web design, fast website speed and secure connections. Avoid using cloaking techniques, Flash and AJAX elements.



3. HTML code


The HTML code of your website contains a wealth of information. Search engines read titles, headers and meta descriptions and pick up keywords to make sense of your website. Using relevant keywords in these elements will help you achieve higher website ranking. You can use structured data (e.g. reviews) to increase the visibility of your search listings. You should regularly evaluate the performance of you website and diagnose it for any issues. Avoid practices such as stuffing and hiding keywords or risk being penalized by search engines.



Off-Page Factors


1. Trust


Building trust and authority is an important component of any SEO strategy. Search engines look at the number of links from reputable websites to your site. They also rank websites based on their vintage, citations and visitor engagement. Write content that is engaging and use free business listings to build up your citations. Avoid practices like plagiarism and spamming your website with ads. These practices can be detrimental and lower your PageRank.



2. External Links


Spend time and invest in building up external links or dofollow backlinks to your website. These dofollow backlinks should be from high authority websites that is related to your business. A good practice is to use vary the keywords in anchor text of dofollow backlinks to increase credibility. Avoid buying paid links from spam blogs, forums and websites which can result in penalties.



3. Social


Although Google does not use social signals (i.e. likes, shares, comments) for website ranking, social media is still a great platform to drive website traffic. Building your social media presence increases your brand awareness and increases the opportunity that other websites will link to your content. And quality content and engagement on social media will build trust with your target audience.



4. Geographic


Does your business have a physical presence? Then local SEO should be part of your SEO optimization strategy. Include your physical address (and zip code) in your website and create business listings. Business or local listings will help your target audience find your services through local search engine results. Remember to ask your customers to write reviews, testimonials or comments on your business listing to build credibility and boost website ranking.



5. Analytics


Any SEO strategy should begin with the goals you want to achieve (e.g. increase website traffic by 20% in 2 months). Setting goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound will help you track your website performance and achieve a successful SEO campaign.



Improving your SEO Optimization should be your top marketing priority. A search optimized website will rank higher and generate more sales leads. In fact, 61% of marketers agree that improving their SEO and growing organic searches is their top marketing priority (from HubSpot, 2017).



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