This article covers the fundamentals of SEO. If you have a solid understanding of SEO and already know why SEO is important, feel free to skip this and go to the article on best practices for on-page SEO. For everyone else, this article will help you understand the fundamentals of SEO and give you simple tips for starting your SEO right now.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It is a continuous process of optimizing the website's technical configuration, creating rich and relevant content, and popularizing the links to make the pages easily findable on search engines for users' search queries.
Search engines rank websites based on the relevancy and popularity of their pages. There are several factors that contribute to a good SEO score, but creating rich content and backlinks is always a strong strategy. In fact, it can be said SEO is all about content marketing.
In 2020, Google accounted for over 86% of global search traffic. Since Google has the majority of search traffic, this article focuses only on Google SEO.
Why is SEO important?
To keep it simple, a good SEO can bring in more high-quality traffic to your website without you spending a cent on website promotion or paying to get visitors, unlike search engine marketing.
Some SEO stats
SEO can have a conversion rate of 14.6%
99% of searchers click on one of the links on the first page of search engine results
Search engines drive ten times more traffic to sites than social media
60% of marketers say their highest quality leads are inbound from SEO
Some more reasons why SEO is important for your business:
SEO builds trust and credibility. SEO is a long-term process, it's a marathon, not a sprint. It takes a lot of patience and continuous effort to build a high-quality online presence that makes customers trust the brand.
Good SEO means a better user experience. Focusing on SEO will automatically improve your page quality and user experiences, such as by improving page speed, image quality, and navigation.
SEO doesn't cost you much. You don't have to spend anything on promoting or advertising your website. A good content marketer and a web designer can manage the SEO initially.
SEO is a sustainable way of marketing and winning customers as it is always a good long-term strategy.
How SEO works
When you write content or upload an image on your website, search engines don't immediately rank your website. The search engine bots go through all your pages and process them as follows:
Crawling: This is the first step. In this process, the search engine bots scan your entire website to pick the content (text, images, videos, and links). Then it stores all that data in a data bank for indexing.
Indexing: Indexing is the process of storing your website data and categorizing it according to content relevance in a search engine database. For instance, if you work for an energy drink company, your websites may have images of energy drinks, related keywords like a caffeine-free energy drink for athletes, and content about sports that is related to your products. Based on all this, search engines will understand you are an energy drink business and index you accordingly.
Ranking: When a user searches on Google, bots look for websites stored in the index that are relevant to the user's search term. The website with the highest relevancy ranks first and the website with the lowest relevancy ranks last. The process of ordering websites in search engine results based on relevancy is called ranking.
Pro Tip 1: It takes between four days and four weeks to crawl your website if it's brand new. Want to make the crawling process faster? Go to the sitemap generator and enter your website URL. Download the generated file and upload it to Google Search Console. This will speed up your crawling process by sending signals to Google crawlers.
Components of SEO
SEO has three main components: on-page, off-page, and technical. If you run an ecommerce store or have a local business, there are other two components you should pay attention to: ecommerce SEO and local SEO.
On-page SEO: On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing individual web pages in terms of site, structure, and content. It refers to all the measures taken directly on the website to improve its position in search rankings. Some examples of on-page SEO are: keywords, page titles, headings and subheadings on the page, and content such as blogs, infographics, and images. 57% of marketers say on-page SEO was their most effective SEO tactic.
Let's look at the on-page components of this site:
1) Brand logo and link to the home page
2) The website structure is sequential for easy navigation
3) Keywords are used in heading tags (H1) and the heading is meaningful
4) The home page has an H2 tag with a call-to-action button
5) The blog page gives value to visitors and contributes significantly to on-page SEO
Pro Tip 2: If you are new to SEO and not sure where to begin, start with on-page SEO. Create super-rich content for your users in various formats like blogs, infographics, and videos and post them on your website and social channels.
Off-page SEO: As the name suggests, this refers to actions you take away from your page to improve your page ranking in search engine results. It involves improving users' perceptions of your site's popularity, relevance, and authority. Some examples of off-page SEO are linking your website from and to other reputed websites, sharing your content on social channels, and guest blogging on other popular or relevant sites. The average page at the top of Google search results has over 35,000 external links.
Technical SEO: Technical SEO is the process of ensuring your website meets the technical criteria of the search engine such as page loading time, website architecture, URL structure, and security. Technical SEO plays a critical role in the process of indexing and rendering. Over 60% of Google searches are from mobile devices. Focusing on mobile phone pages and other aspects of technical SEO have become essential today.
Local SEO: Local SEO is optimizing your online presence to attract more customers from relevant local searches. Say you have a local business like a coffee shop. You can list your shop on Google My Business, upload photos of your shop, add details like your business opening times, contact number, address, and encourage your customers to write reviews.
Example of local SEO: Coffee shops in Texas
Google algorithms capture all your details and show your sites to the local audience who are looking for coffee shops nearby. SEO stats confirm 50% of local searchers have visited a venue within 24 hours of finding it on search.
Ecommerce SEO: This is the process of making your online store more visible on search engines. When people search for products that you sell, you have to rank as high as possible to attract more traffic and convert them. Ecommerce SEO involves product categorization, headline optimization, product descriptions, product images, FAQs, and customer reviews. Ecommerce SEO is important for online business as 70–80% of people ignore sponsored ads when shopping.
Pro Tip 3: Amazon is the best place to look for ecommerce SEO tips. You can see relevant keywords, clear images, and product descriptions for the search term. If you work on an ecommerce website and need some ideas, search for your product name on Amazon and take ideas from their product page.
Google SEO algorithms
Google SEO algorithms are a set of rules or instructions to evaluate your website content (texts, images, videos, and links) and validate its authenticity and ensure that all your assets comply with Google SEO policies.
Here are some Google algorithms and their functions:
Panda: Google Panda evaluates the content quality. Thin or low-quality content can trigger the Panda and decrease your page rank. To avoid getting blacklisted by Panda, always focus on creating rich, relevant, and useful content for your audience.
Dos and don'ts for Google Panda
Create rich and original content to help your audience
Create a duplicate or plagiarized content
Use relevant keywords sparingly
Stuff your content with keywords
Check your grammar, spelling, and language before publishing
Publish your content with linguistic errors
Provide useful and insightful information that is beyond the obvious or well-known
Provide information that is well-known or redundant
Penguin: Google Penguin evaluates the link quality. If you buy or exchange links for your website, you are likely to be blacklisted by the Penguin. Only link to pages that may actually be useful for your users. Make sure the pages you link to are relevant, credible, and have a high domain score.
Dos and don'ts for Google Penguin
Provide relevant links to your article from your own page or other articles you have published. This is called internal linking.
Link to internal articles that are not relevant.
Include some relevant and credible links to other sources in your article. This is called external linking.
Get links from websites with low domain scores or which are irrelevant to your content piece.
Build links to your article and share them on social channels
Build too many links and share them all at a single time. The Penguin bot may assume robots are being used for link building.
Pigeon: Google pigeon evaluates the local SEO. This algorithm helps the audience identify relevant businesses that are close to them and relevant to their search queries. For example, you have a coffee shop in Texas. You want your potential customers (people in Texas) to find you when they search for "coffee shops nearby". Pigeon bots take the user's search term, compare it with a local index (a list of coffee shops in Texas), and return the relevant results (coffee shops in Texas that are close to the searcher's location).
Hummingbird: This algorithm is different as it focuses only on improving the search. It tries to interpret the reason for the user's search query and returns pages that are highly relevant and contextual. For instance, if a user searches for Nike sports shoes, Hummingbird algorithms try to understand the intent of the user, whether they want to buy Nike sports shoes or they are just looking at new models or comparing Nike shoes with other brands.
Black hat and Grey hat SEO: Any activities that violate a search engine's policies are known as black hat or grey hat SEO. Some examples include keyword stuffing, article spinning, duplicate content, and buying backlinks. Please note that Google search algorithms are getting smarter and may suppress your website in searches and block your domain if you use these tactics. It may take years to rebuild your reputation again.
White hat SEO: White hat SEO refers generally to any practice that improves your ranking on SERP while following all the guidelines and adhering to the search engine's policies. Examples include creating high-quality content and optimizing the pages for easy navigation. You can read more on Google SEO policies here.
Tips for starting your SEO
Congratulations on completing this article on the fundamentals of SEO. Understanding the fundamentals provides a strong foundation for building a solid SEO strategy. Let's look at some easy tips for starting your SEO after you finish this article.
Improve your page loading speed. The ideal website load time is 1–2 seconds. Each second after 2 seconds may result in greater bounce rates. You can check your page loading speed here.
Keep your website easy to navigate. This increases the time spent by users on your page.
Create rich, relevant content for your audience. Understand what your audience is searching for and ensure you give them value. Content is always king in online marketing. And, it's worth repeating, on-page SEO is all about content.
Share your content on social channels like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube and actively engage with your users. This is perhaps one of the best methods for off-page SEO.
Pro Tip 4: Zoho Marketing Plus is a unified marketing platform for creating and managing content pieces and promoting them on social channels. Users can also run campaigns, manage social media, engage with audiences, and measure progress, all from a centralized platform, without wasting any time setting up third-party tools or toggling between multiple tabs.
Zoho Marketing Plus is a tool that can not only catalyze your SEO efforts but also power all your marketing needs.