Search Engine Optimization Roadmap: Everything You Should Know About SEO (Updated 2019)
SEO is a marathon, not a sprint!
Note: This guide will be updated once a year. Therefore, the latest updates, as well as helpful information, will be included.
The search engine optimization, or in short- SEO, is the largest speck of digital marketing, often the hardest thing to learn. Since there are so many individual components that make the large picture of what SEO is, people assume one can never fully learn SEO.
While this can be considered true, due to the constant changes in the world of digital marketing, breaking SEO down to its core elements, and understanding them all individually, will help you better grasp the overall concept.
The little components that make SEO are, in fact, not so difficult to learn, thus, understanding the sense of what their position is and what they mean, will ultimately make you understand SEO entirely.
The History of SEO
Today, the term search engine optimization, mostly revolves around Google, as the largest search engine that exists. However, back in the day when SEO first appeared, it was much different.
It is widely argued whether the SEO appeared along with the launch of the first website in 1991, or with the launch of the first search engine. The story of SEO, however, began in 1997.
The author of “Digital Engagement”, Bob Heyman, said for the appearance of SEO as we will grow to know it today, we can thank the manager of the band Jefferson Starship. According to Heyman, he gave birth to this new field.
As early as February of 1997, the term search engine optimization will start to float around, making people like John Audette of Multimedia Marketing Group, to use the term regularly.
Back then, people had no idea SEO will be what it is today — the largest niche of the marketing world. Along with the birth of SEO, a lot of new fields, work positions, and expertise were born.
What Is SEO?
SEO, or search engine optimization, is a process of affecting a website’s or webpage’s online visibility in the unpaid results of the web search engines. These results are also known as “organic”, “natural”, and “earned”.
SEO encompasses the creative and the technical elements required to improve the rankings of your website, increase awareness, and drive traffic.
Even though the word itself puts a lot of focus on the search engines, SEO means optimizing your website/webpage to be useful and friendly for people too.
Why Does My Website Need SEO?
The largest portion of the traffic you are going to get on your website will be driven by the major search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing. It is true that social media and some other types of advertising can drive traffic to your website, but since the search engines will remain the primary method of navigation to most of the Internet users, they are the ones that will bring the majority of traffic to your website.
The thing here is to rank higher on the search engines. If you are ranked on the last page in the search results, people may never get to your page. That is why SEO is important. The higher you are ranked on the search engines, the more available you are to the rest of the internet, including users and websites.
Search engines provide people who use them with what they look for.
The search engines are roadways that connect the users with the content they are seeking.
In order for the search engine to bring a user to your website, it has to understand your website and content first.
How Do Search Engines Work?
On the search engines, there are endless possibilities about how you can find something you are looking for. You can do it by typing the URL address inside the search bar, typing specific keywords, or follow the links from other pages in order to get to the desired website. However, all of these activities would not be possible if it was not for the existence of the background work of the search engines.
Search engines have two main functions: crawling (resulting in building an index) and providing the ranked list.
Crawling and Indexing
The program that the search engines use to make an index on your page is called ‘web crawler’. These automated robots, also known as ‘crawlers’ or ‘spiders’ reach millions of documents found on the web daily. They work in a way of automatic browsing and storing information about every page the web crawler visits. This data can later help the search engine deliver the results you are after.
Every time a web crawler reaches a particular webpage, it makes a copy of that page and adds its URL to an index. Once the crawler is done with this function, it proceeds to follow every single link included in that page, continually repeating the process of copying, then indexing, then again following the links. As it goes, it reaches, copies, and indexes all the links and pages it gets to.
The pages that no-one links to, and the pages that intently stop the crawlers are the kind of webpages the ‘spiders’ cannot reach, therefore cannot index.
As soon the web crawlers are done collecting the whole data, it puts together for the search engines to use. This becomes the search engine’s index.
All the pages that are recommended to you by the search engine, once you type your query, are webpages the crawlers have already visited and indexed.
The results that the search engines display, are the ones the search engine itself believes are the most useful.
Search results are answer machines because they are the reply to the user’s requests.
The best and the most famous algorithm the search engines use to improve web search results is called “PageRank”. Simply described, this algorithm signifies a popularity contest.
The most viewed and linked-to pages are always displayed at the top of the list, while all the rest are shown further down the search results.
This means that the more links point to a specific website, the more search engines find that website as useful, thus it will appear higher in the list of results.
The webpages that are placed on the first page of results are the ones that the algorithm PageRank thinks are the best.
When positioning in the search results, the search engines also pay attention to other vital signals such as how frequently updated the page is, or how trustworthy the domain is.
Different search engines use different algorithms, meaning that what works for Google may not work for Bing, and vice versa. This also means that if one webpage is placed on the first page on Bing, does not mean it is also positioned on the first page on Google.
Here are the webmaster guidelines of both, Google and Bings, that should help you achieve higher rankings on their search engines.
Google Webmaster Guidelines
For better rankings on Google, the team behind this main search engine, widely used by the whole world, recommend:
- Make your webpages mainly for users, not for search engines. Do not fool the visitors of your page with different content than what you present to the search engines. This practice, although entirely wrong, is surprisingly very practiced and known as “cloaking”. Avoid this at all cost. Be genuine about what you post, and deliver content the same for the users as for the search engines
- Create a site rich in information, and pages that will precisely describe your content. Here, also make sure the ALT attributes, as well as the <title> elements, are accurate and descriptive.
- Create a hierarchy and text links that will be clear. Every single page on your website should be reachable from a minimum of one static text link.
- Use keywords and keyword phrases that are descriptive, and create URLs that are human-friendly
Bing Webmaster Guidelines
When it comes to ranking on the search engine Bing, their webmaster guidelines mention the following:
- Assure clean and keyword-rich URL format
- Create keyword-rich content that will match the keywords the users are searching for
- Do not put the text you want the web crawlers to index, inside images
How People and Search Engines Interact?
Do people communicate with the search engines? Yes.
To get what we want from the search engines, we have to interact with them first. And, how are we supposed to do that? Simple — by using search queries.
In simple terms, search queries are the words and phrases people type into the search box in order to get results. Although a lot of things have changed regarding the way of how people use search engines, the primary principles of conducting a search, for the most part, it remained the same.
The processes of searching the web begin with the user’s need for an answer, piece of information or a solution for a specific problem. The string of words the user formulate in order to get results is what completes a “search query”. As soon as the users enter the query, the search engine immediately displays pages and websites it has already indexed and found relevant to the query.
From here on, the users are free to do their own research and browse through the results until they find what they were initially looking for. The search engine does the work for them by ranking the web pages, the search engine believes are most useful and suitable. If the user is not satisfied with the given results, they can further add more words in the query and browse through as many pages as they like.
This is exactly how we, the humans, communicate with the search engines. Thus, the query we enter is what grants us the interaction with the search engine. The outcome of this communication is the list of results the search engine provides us with, believing it will meet our needs.
In the search marketing world, there are three general types of search queries. In the following part, I will explain what these types of queries are and how exactly you can target them with your content.
Navigational Search Queries
A navigational search query is that type of query you enter if you want to get to a specific place on the internet such as Twitter, or the home page of your favorite shop.
There are several ways to get to the website you are looking for. In the search bar, you can enter the URL of the website, a few words regarding what you are looking for, or simply use a bookmark.
How to Target Navigational Search Queries?
When it comes to this specific kind of search queries, the truth is you don’t stand much of a chance. Unless you own the website a particular person is looking for, there is no another way for you to target such a question.
However, an important thing here is to own the navigational query of your own brand. Even if you target keywords that you already organically rank for them, it sometimes is worth buying those keywords.
Transactional Search Queries
A transactional search query is that type of query that suggests an intent to complete a transaction. These queries often times include the name of the product as well as the brand, along with terms such as “order”, “purchase”, or “buy”.
How to Target Transactional Search Queries?
Whenever you try to target transactional search queries, it is utmost important to take a two-pronged approach. What does this mean?
This means that while it is great to target this kind of queries with organic content you will publish on your site, you should also consider using PPC to target search terms like this.
Why? The reasons are really simple:
- A lot of the available space for transactional queries on the search engine result pages is taken up by nothing other than sponsored results — PPC should always be your choice if you want to be visually above the fold for the transactional keywords
- The transactional queries are that kind of queries that have the higher chance of delivering ROI in paid search — When people are looking for something online, sponsored ads do the same work as organic results (which is not the case with the other types of queries)
- Google offers multiple whistles and bells for product listings and sponsored ads — The options you have with organic results are way more limited than the sponsored ones. For instance, you can edit the content and add photos of the product inside the listings and ads.
- It has been proven that people click sponsored results twice more often than organic results
Although these reasons should be enough, do not neglect the SEO part of managing the content on your site.
Informational Search Queries
An informational search query is the kind of query that covers a large topic. For these queries, almost always there are thousands of relevant results.
People enter informational query because they want to be provided with information that will either answer their questions or educate them on a certain topic. These queries are nothing like the navigational queries because the users, in this case, are not looking for a specific website, and also are very dissimilar to the transactional queries because they are not looking to make a commercial transaction.
In short, the users who enter informational queries, seek information about “What”, “When”, “Why”, and “Where”.
How to Target Informational Search Queries?
Out of all the types of search queries, the informational ones are the hardest to monetize. Due to the fact the internet is basically overwhelmed with information, it is very hard to target these searches.
However, with hard and smart work, nothing is ever really impossible.
Here are some of the ways you can target the informational search queries and drive leads and traffic to your website via an organic search:
- Write Guides — Detailed step-by-step guides are one of the most useful contents on the internet. But, keep in mind to write a guide that is relevant to your business and the industry you are in
- Create Infographics — People simply love visual content, and if your infographic illustrates a specific concept, important for your business and the industry, it is a win-win situation
- Write Blog Posts — Not only your blog posts should be entertaining and information-rich, but they should also be useful. That is why you should definitely write ‘Tips&Tricks’ blog posts, again, related to your niche
- Create How-To Videos — One of the easiest ways for people to learn something is through visual content such as photos, infographics, and videos. If you are in an industry where you cover interesting topics and a lot of How-To questions, you should definitely sit in front of a camera and start filming. It will be out of great help to everyone who will come across it
The Importance of Site Structure for SEO
A good site structure eases the job of the search engine crawlers so they will be able to better index it. And we all know what good indexing means — Higher rankings, of course!
Many advertisers and business owners make the initial mistake of not paying attention to the structures of their websites. Now, the site structure gained more importance than ever before due to the introduction of AI inside the ranking algorithm of Google.
Having pages thrown all over on a website is not enough anymore.
You have to have all of the pages on your website properly grouped into specific categories so that the search engines can recognize and understand the exact topics you aim to rank for.
The structure of your website is not only important for SEO but also in terms of usability. The more well-defined your site is, the better it is for both, the search engines and the users to navigate through it.
The structure of a website is important for SEO for three major reasons:
- It Is a Guide for the Search Engines
The way your website is structured will provide the search engine with clues about where to search and find the most important content.
Essentially, the site structure determines if the search engine will be able to understand what your whole site is about and what you sale or not. As mentioned above, a good site structure helps the web crawlers read, understand and index your pages faster. All of this combined increases your chances of getting ranked higher in the search results.
The search engine Google uses a bot called Googlebot, which follows all the links, external and internal, that you include in your pages. By following these links, Google decides what the relationship between different pages on your website is. From this, we can conclude, the more defined your structure is, the easier Google navigates through it. How your site is structured is a guide to the search engine, thus it is crucial.
2. It Increases the Possibility of Getting Sitelinks on Google
If you are not familiar with what ‘Sitelinks’ are, those are the links displayed in Google search results, right below the description of your snippet. The Sitelinks serve the purpose of putting an accent on the most important pages on your website.
Having your Sitelinks shown will help whoever come across your website to better list through it, and to faster find what they are looking for.
Since you are not able to tell the engine which parts of your website you want to be shown as Sitelinks, you will have to do the work yourself. The algorithm of search engines such as Google, automatically select the Sitelinks, so if you want relevant site links to appear in the small snippet, you will have to focus on the internal linking structure.
If you don’t tell the search engine which of your pages are important, it has no way of determining it itself.
3. It Provides a Great User Experience
While being focused on SEO, do not forget the users along the way.
A decent structure will not only help you rank your website high on the search engines, but it will also help you achieve a great user experience (UX). The experience the users have while being on your site should mean everything to you. Nobody likes spending time on websites that are not easy to navigate or are unclear and confusing.
This is exactly where a good site structure come to the rescue. A clear structure will initiate a good user experience. Hence, the more the users like your site the more likely they are to come back to your website. Once you gain their trust, you can slowly convert their visits and views into sales.
How to Get a Good Site Structure?
Before getting into the details of how optimization is achievable for your site structure, it is important to know what you want to achieve.
An ideal site structure of a website is an actual structure firmly related to the exact content of the website. If we end up dividing the site types into several groups, there will be four main ones; blogs, corporate websites, news websites, and e-commerce websites. Now, all of these structures are differently divided into departments.
Below, I will add photos of each type of websites and their ideal structures.
On top are the best site structures of a blog and a small business website. However, this does not mean you should or that you cannot adjust your own website accordingly your wishes. These are the idea structures that have been found to be more suitable regarding the type of website.
Below are the ideal site structures for news and an e-commerce website.
Now that you have the ideal structure of your site, it is time to pay attention to optimizing it.
The good news is, you can optimize it pretty effortlessly and quickly. The bad news is, you have to constantly maintain the quality of the structure of your site. It is not something you establish once and never worry about it again. It simply is not how it goes. So, here are some basic tips on how to improve your site structure within no time:
- Improve Your Site’s Internal Linking Structure
The most essential content on your site should be the one that gets linked the most. Essential content means relevant, useful, and best articles and posts that you have. For search engines like Google, a great internal linking structure is necessary. It does not make sense only to the algorithms of the search engines, but to the users too. It is always beneficial for visitors to read your best articles, isn’t it?
- Delete the Old Content
Before you jump into deleting every single post you have posted years ago, take your time to decide whether that content is still valuable or not.
Regardless of how poorly structured it is, if it still provides some kind of value to your site, leave it there.
But, for example, if you have an e-commerce website and you don’t expect to sell a certain product again, you should remove that page. Once again, even if this is the case, check how beneficial the links are before deleting them.
- Decide on Same-Sized Categories
Prior to creating your categories, regardless of how many of them you plan on having on your website, decide about their size. The categories on your site should be about the same size, all of them. It is extremely bad if one category contains hundreds of articles while another only has two. My biggest advice here is to plan ahead. Write ideas about the stories you want to publish and then divide them into several equal categories.
The SEO Basics
Although it may seem like we already talked about the basics in the search engine optimization, we are far from it.
Now that you know exactly how the search engine operates to recognize your content, it is time to focus on the content itself. In this sense, search engines sometimes fail to understand what you have published due to a variety of reasons. Some other times, you will do many mistakes while thinking you are doing SEO just the right way.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are lots of little elements that come with SEO, that you should pay attention to. Even though everything we went over by now is very important, I welcome you to the basics of search engine optimization, the ‘must’ part, in this guide.
Understanding this part will help you grasp the overall picture of SEO and its underlying tones. Therefore, this segment will help you connect the dots between us, our content and the machines that read it.
All right, let’s start!
You are probably wondering, what now? We already talked about creating content that will be easy to index, haven’t we? Well yes, and no.
When it comes down to creating content that will be very easy for the search engine to index it right away, there is more than just the site structure. It is true that without a good site structure you decrease the chances of your content ever being indexed, but you should also pay attention to other things.
Keep in mind: The search engines do not see the content as we do!
Therefore, the search engines work only with the directions that we provide and reads the content that we say is important. Here is an amazing example of how we and the search engine sees the content we publish.
If your content is in HTML text format, it allows the search engine to better index it and rank it higher in the listings. Placing words and phrases in the HTML text on the webpage is the easiest way to ensure they are going to be equally visible to both, the visitors and the search engines.
Additionally, if you demand greater visual display design or better formatting, here are some ideas:
- Add Java or Flash plug-ins with text on the webpage
- Add alt text for photos you put inside the text
- Add search boxes with links for a better navigation
- Add a transcript for audio and video content if the phrases and words you are going to use, you want to be indexed
It is really common for websites to have a real struggle with putting out indexable content. The solution to this problem is nothing other than double-checking. Due to the mentioned reason for the search engines not seeing the content the same as we do, you need to make it appropriate for both sides.
For this purpose, tools like Google Cache, and MozBar can help you significantly. Using such tools will help you see what is visible in your webpage, therefore what the search engines can index. Here, you have to make sure the cached result looks the same as your actual webpage.
The link structures are yet another element you should also be very cautious about. Before the search engines can reach your content so they can index it, they first need to find the content. And, how are the search engines supposed to do that? By finding, and seeing your links in the first place.
This being said means that your link structures need to be crawlable. Crawlable links are the ones that let the web crawlers browse the website’s pathways. Thousands of websites make this essential mistake when they structure their navigations in such ways not allowing the search engines to access their webpages. As a result, webpages cannot be indexed.
According to Google, their search engine only follows the links that are a <a> tag with an href attribute. Otherwise, the crawlers will not access the links.
Here’s what can be found on Google’s Support page. If you want the web crawlers finding your webpages on Google, then you better consider using the following:
There are a lot of different reasons why your webpage may not be reachable for the search engines. Avoiding such pitfalls, you will have clear HTML links that will allow the web crawlers to access the content pages on your website.
Here are the links you should avoid in order to get rid of the potential of not being found:
- Lins in Java, Flash or other plug-ins
- Links pointing to other pages that are blocked by robots.txt or Meta Robots tag
- Links on webpages that have thousands of links
Important Links for SEO
In the SEO world, the links are a very important part.
Link, or often referred to as a hyperlink as well, is a clickable part of a webpage that transfers you from one page to another. The visible appearance of the links may be in text, buttons, or photos. Based on the destination of the link, the links are divided into three main categories: inbound, outbound, and internal links.
#1 Inbound Links (Backlinks)
Inbound links are the type of links that come from a different domain name or another website. These links, also known as backlinks, are the ones with the greatest SEO benefit. That is exactly why they are the hardest to obtain.
Since they act like votes of authority, credibility, and trust, the inbound links provide the largest impact.
Logically, the more other pages link to one specific page, the more it helps that page to rank higher in the search results. The search engines automatically recognize that webpage as relevant, authoritative and trustworthy, to it gets placed higher. The quality of the links, however, is not the only thing that matters. For the inbound links to deliver the wanted results they have to be natural and come from other webpages that also have a good quality and relevancy.
#2 Outbound links
Outbound links are the types of links that are included on your website and link out to other websites with a different domain name.
Adding outbound links is mostly practiced when it is necessary for the users.
For example, you are writing an article about the mobility system in the USA, so studies and statistics will be necessary throughout your text. Of course, you can leave the links out of the text, but adding them increases the credibility of your words.
There are two kinds of outbound links: Dofollow and Nofollow Outbound links.
The ‘do-follow’ links pass on ranking power from your website to the targeted webpage.
The ‘no-follow’ links contain a ‘no-follow’ attribute and tell the search engine not to follow the links. In the total number of your outbound links, ‘no-follow’ links should be a minority.
Same as with everything else, there are a few things you should be careful about:
- Do not always link a ‘no-follow’ outbound links- It makes sense to add a rel=nofollow attribute to links on the <a> tag, but do not practice it all the time. Recognize and give credit where credit is due.
- Do not include too many outbound links — When creating content for your site, do what feels right. Although I am advising you not to use too many outbound links, if you are writing on a topic where they are needed, then do not restrict yourself from linking. But typically, avoid adding too many links in the content.
- Link to quality sites — The catch is not only to get linked but to link other pages yourself too. In the rare moments when you actually decide on doing this, except if the link is necessary for the readers, you have to pay attention to the quality of the site you want to link to. It is extremely beneficial for the quality of your website if you link to quality websites too.
#3 Internal links
Internal links, as their own name is saying, are the links you use to link to your own website. The search engines have the ability to determine whether you are linking to your own website by looking at the domain name. If the links are within the same domain, they are automatically recognized as internal links.
Linking to your own pages is not beneficial only to the PageRank, but also for the visitors of your webpage. The internal links help the readers more easily navigate through different pages on your site and help the search engines crawl your site more detailly. If you link to your site inside your pages, the web crawlers will have to stop a few times and index your page several times. This contributes to better recognizing of your website in the search engines.
The keywords, as an integral part of SEO, are the phrases and words in your website’s content that allow the people to find your site through search engines. Without targeted keywords, your SEO has no chances of working appropriately. If a website is well-optimized for search engines, it is considered to “speak the same language”, which makes it very easy for the users to get to your site.
In other words, you have to find out how exactly people are looking for the information, products, and services that you offer on your website. When it comes to running a successful search marketing campaign, SEO and the keywords are connected directly. The truth is- the keywords are a foundation of every SEO effort you will ever make, so investing time into developing a list of keywords appropriate for your site, should come first.
Starting from the research of SEO keywords, to using tools and making the keywords work for you, I will cover the essential keywords’ aspects, as the most important “search terms”.
SEO Keyword Research
When doing research regarding the best SEO keywords for your business, you have to remember it is not something that you have to do once and keep it the same forever.
The SEO keywords research is an ever-evolving and an ongoing part of your job. There is such a thing as old keywords, and they are the ones that need to be eliminated. Among the most common mistakes most marketers do is searching for SEO keywords once, not bothering to expand as well as update their list of keywords, and targeting keywords that are too popular.
Just because some keywords are used too much, does not mean you should not use them. It simply means not to make them a priority in your list. What you should definitely do is create keywords that are more unique but still relevant for your website.
Basically, this is how the process of doing keyword research looks like:
Step #1 — Make a List
This list should consist of all the relevant and important topics based on what your business is all about.
Whatever it is that you are doing, make sure to create a list that will include some general topics from your industry such as: “social media”, “marketing”, “blogging”, “analytics” etc.
Step #2 — Insert Keywords Inside the Topic Buckets
Now that you have the general topic buckets, you have to fill them in with specific keywords. Take a look at your list, and brainstorm some phrases you believe are important in order to rank in the search engine result pages (SERPs). Why? Because your potential visitors will probably look for content like yours the exact same way.
Let’s take one of the previous topic examples — “Social Media”. The keyword phrases that can be related to this topic might be social media automation tools, social networking sites, what is social media marketing, social media apps, how to use a social media manager, etc. In this part, you can get as creative as you want.
If you are struggling with finding actual key phrases, you can research related search terms.
Go on Google, or any other search engine, and type a few keywords. You can use every keyword from your initial list to check for related key phrases.
Then, put all of the key phrases that you will find and you think are valuable down in your list.
Step #3 — Check Long-Tail Keywords for Each Bucket
On the topic of keyword phrases, an important thing to know is that there are longer and shorter ones. The shorter ones are called head terms and they typically contain up to three words in length. On the other hand, long-tail keywords are keyword phrases that usually include more than three words.
The reason why you should focus on creating long-tail keywords is that they are easier to rank. Shorter keywords are much harder to rank for since there is already a huge competition for every keyword imaginable.
This does not have to discourage you as it does not mean you absolutely cannot rank for common keywords. All I am saying, it will be very, very hard. At least, much harder than it would be if you use long-tail keywords.
Step #4 — Check Your Competitors’ Ranking
Here, it is important to note that not everything that works for your competitors will work for you too, and vice versa. The same goes for the keywords. Just because they are your competitors, does not mean you target all the same keywords, nor that all the keywords will work equally for both sides. However, there is one great way to give yourself an insight into what your competitors are trying to achieve. And, that is by understanding the exact keywords they are trying to rank for.
It definitely makes sense to improve your ranking on keywords that your competitors are already ranked on. But, do not ignore the keywords they seem not to care about, yet you managed to include in your list. Frankly, those keywords are your chance to shine.
There are multiple ways to figure out what keywords your competitors are ranking for. One of the ways is by opening an incognito browser and manually searching for the keywords you have in your list. Once the keyword is entered in the search bar, see the position of your competitors on that specific keyword. Another advantageous way of doing so is by using tools, such as SEMrush, that allows you to run a lot of reports for free. From these reports, you will see the top keywords a domain is ranking for.
Step #5 — Use Google AdWords Keyword Planner
The thing with keyword lists is that often times they are very large. Instead of focusing on 50 keywords, what you should definitely do is cut down your keyword list and focus on the most important keywords- the ones that can actually bring your website higher on the search engine result pages.
For this purpose, I highly recommend using the Google AdWords Keyword Planner. This planner will allow you to search the traffic and the volume of the keywords that you are considering. Delete from the list any terms that have too much or too little search volume. Despite the search volume, if there is a specific keyword that you believe is worth focusing on, do not remove it from the list.
Combine the use of the Keyword Planner with Google Trends. When Google transitioned the Keyword Tool, into what we today know as Keyword Planner, a lot of interesting functionalities were stripped out. Google Trends should help you fill in some blanks.
Where and How Should I Use Keywords?
Now that you have found the best keywords for your website, you have them work in order to deliver your wanted SEO results.
While some experts advise using keywords more often, others recommend using keywords at specific places and times. Both of the cases are very much true.
Why? you may ask. Because we have seen successful websites that have thousands, if not millions of keywords, and we have seen websites that use keywords in a calculated way.
A while ago, I read about a thing called keyword grouping, and I think that is the most appropriate way of targeting keywords. Accordingly this method, you should divide related keywords into small and manageable groups.
For instance, you are running an online jewelry store. It might be wise to create one keyword grouping for all of the silver jewelry you are selling, and one grouping for the gold jewelry. Further, create even smaller subgroups (silver earrings, silver rings, silver bracelets). Then, even smaller groupings for each product (silver plated earrings, nickel silver earrings, fine silver earrings, sterling silver earrings, etc).
This way you can create separate pages fully optimized for every small group of keywords.
In SEO, keyword relevance is more important than keyword density.
With this in mind, focus on using suitable and relevant keywords rather than using them all of the time. If you sit down and start grouping all of the keywords you are considering into smaller groups, it will probably take you too much time. There is a tool, called Keyword Grouper, that can help you automatically group preexisting lists. You should definitely check it out.
Now, when it comes to the place where you should put your keywords, there are plenty.
Especially when you are using keywords divided into smaller groups, consider most, if not all, of these places to put your keywords in:
- Use the keyword in the URL
- Use the keyword in the -Title- of the webpage
- Use the keyword in the alt text of the images and in any image file paths
- Use the keyword in the meta tags (especially meta description)
- Use the keyword as anchor text
On-page SEO is the optimization of your webpages so that the search engines can register them accurately. This type of SEO is a very important factor when the rankings of your website are determined. That is why the On-page SEO is essential, and you should definitely pay attention to it.
If you made this far in this guide, then the On-page SEO will already sound familiar to you. Some of the most crucial things we already talked about making this kind of SEO, the On-page SEO.
So, let’s begin.
Keywords and Their Placing
As I previously covered, you should decide on a specific keyword or keyword phrase that you are going to use in each individual page. Also previously mentioned, you should definitely choose some long-tail keyword to try ranking for.
Regardless of which keyword or keyword phrase you end up choosing for your page, you have to make sure it is easy and natural to use within the text of the page. They also have to be related to the content and easily searchable.
Now that you have your relevant keyword, the next thing you should focus on is where you place it.
Here are some of the proper placements of your chosen keyword/keyword phrase:
- In the URL
- In the page title
- In Meta Descriptions
- In the Photo Filenames
- In the Body Text
- In the Headings of the Page
- In the Image Alt Attributes
- In Bold and Italic Text
However, take this with a grain of salt. Although using the keyword or keyword phrase is good for SEO, you should avoid keyword stuffing. What you can do here, is consider the length of your text, and be cautious about how many times you are using that specific keyword or keyword phrase.
Do not go too far with using your keyword! It will not be an additional help when ranking and it definitely does not look good. Thus, keep this in mind.
The content that you will publish on your pages is extremely important, not only because it is what brings visitors to your website but also for the search engines. Due to the quality and uniqueness of your content, the search engines can recognize whether it is a duplicate or not.
That is why you have to focus on creating unique and quality content. From an SEO perspective, good content has two characteristics: must be linkable and it must supply a demand.
What does this mean?
Your content is considered linkable if your content is one that people find use from, therefore, they choose to link it. Most of the pages that get linked on other pages either provide a well-researched text or infographics and photos that people would not be able to find anywhere else but on that exact page. Make sure you create such content, that the visitors and other pages will find so relevant and important that they will feel the need to link to it.
Your content is considered to good also if it supplies a large demand. Regardless of the format, the content can be a photo, sound, video or text, but it needs to supply some kind of demand. Make sure you decide on the right demand you want your content to supply.
On a scale for importance, the title tags come right after the content. They are the second most important factor for good On-Page SEO. The search engines determine the relevancy of your page accordingly the title tag. So, it is an understatement if I say it is important because it is not only ‘important’ but crucial.
The title tag is that thing that tells the search engine what to display on the SERPs. It is a small bit of metadata embedded in the HTML of every single page. This displayed link is the one the users will click when they do a specific search.
One thing you have to remember about the URL is that it has to include the keyword or the keyword phrase of that specific page. This keyword/keyphrase that you are using, put it at the beginning of the URL string. On the Google search engine, this algorithm proved to work the best.
While there is no strict limit of how many words you should use when creating an URL, still, try not making it too long. If it looks wordy or long, it is because it probably is. So, try making it shorter.
Avoid using words as “the”, “a”, “an”, “and”, in your URL. Most of the search engines ignore these words, so leave them out regularly.
The meta description is another thing that most of the search engines check, especially Google.
This description is what appears in the small paragraph under the title and that is often the first thing the viewers see before they click on your page. Thus, include the keyword or the keyword phrase you are using on that particular page worth paying a visit.
Image Alt Text
The Alt text of the images is also an important part of the On-Page SEO because it helps the search engine to “see” the picture the same as we do.
Therefore, it is crucial for you to add the keyword or the keyword phrase you are targetting as the alt tag on the images you insert in your pages.
This sends signals to search engines, such as Google, that the photos you are using are relevant to the content on your page. If you do not add this alt text, the search engine will not recognize the image as supposed, thus, will not be much of a help when you try ranking higher in the search results.
Below, there is a good example of how the alt text of the images you use throughout the text should look like, in order for the search engine to “sees” it the same as you do.
External and Internal Links
Covered earlier in this guide, the links inside your content are also vital for your rankings. Here, you should focus on both, the external and the internal links. Adding a few internal links will help the visitors better navigate through your site, and will also help the search engines index and recognize those sites better.
The search engines also track the use of external links, and as I previously mentioned, do not avoid linking where linking is due. Do not be selfish when thinking you should some other page’s content in your article, because your readers will find it super useful and necessary.
The external linking will also help the search engines to perceive your page as a site that truly provides quality content and do everything to be relevant and useful to the viewers.
The benefits of link building are countless and they include advantages such as increased backlinks, increased brand value and web traffic, increased rank page, and increased crawl Rate.
On-Page SEO Tools
living in this era, when you have so many opportunities, it would be such a waste not to take advantage of SEO tools. In some instances, nothing can help you but a tool, so, recognize the importance of using several tools when you are optimizing your content.
Below are some of the crucial On-page SEO tools you should definitely use;
Copyscape is a plagiarism checker that will let you know how original your content is. The uniqueness of your content is crucial for SEO, so you should definitely strive to achieve ‘No Results’ when checking your articles for plagiarism.
The tool does charge a small fee per search but it will serve you a great purpose. If you are not using it by now, you should start immediately.
SEOCrawler is one of the leading On-page tools in the industry trusted by over 5,000 businesses worldwide. The tool can help you optimize your chosen keywords as well as analyze your webpage with just one click. It shows you the duplicate tags and content, page speed, broken links, and keyword optimization. What you can do with the tool for just a few seconds, you will do without the tool for hours, maybe even days.
The Moz On-Page Grader is a tool that analyzes your webpage and later compares it to the existing SEO factors checklist. By running statistics on this tool, the results will clearly show you how your page is doing overall as well as the points where you can make improvements.
Not using tools can deliver an unwanted outcome. It is very easy to miss things when you are checking your website or webpage manually, therefore if you do not decide on using all the tools, at least decide on using one. The sooner you understand how essential it is to get help from systems that can clearly do the work much better and faster than you, the sooner you will become a fan of these tools.
The Off-Page SEO often referred to as Off-Site SEO, include all the actions you take outside of your website in order to impact its rankings in the search engine result pages.
The majority of people associate this type of SEO with link building. If you are not familiar with what link building is, it is a completely separate field of SEO that focuses on the number and the quality of inbound links to a webpage. This ultimately helps the website to rank higher on the SEPRs.
Anyway, the off-page SEO can be correlated with the link building process, but it is not only that.
Everything you do outside the boundaries of your own website is considered an Off-page SEO. The most important activities here are:
- Link Building
- Social Bookmarking
- Social Media Marketing
The Importance of Off-Page SEO
To achieve a good and quality search engine optimization, you need to combine both, the On-page and the Off-page SEO. Therefore, the Off-page SEO, regardless of how little it is mentioned, it is equally important for reaching the perfect optimization.
The Off-Page SEO is important because it sends signals to the search engines of how the rest of the Internet (users and websites) perceive a specific website.
Most of the high-quality websites have a lot of references, meaning links, from other websites, are more likely to be bookmarked, and have more mentions on social media. These websites more often than not are shared a lot among like-minded communities, which results with the search engines actually recognizing their quality and ranking them higher on the result pages.
Off-Page SEO Techniques
The moment you decide to work on your Off-page SEO is the moment you enter one of the most competitive branches of marketing — internet marketing.
If you have been focused on SEO, even for a while, I am pretty sure you have already worked on creating quality content. But, you hardly ever succeeded in gaining traffic, right?
Here is where the Off-page SEO techniques come to the rescue. There are a number of methods that you can use that will finally make your efforts pay off.
If I have to describe the ‘Skyscraper Technique’ using just one sentence, it would be the following:
‘Skyscraper Technique is a system for turning content into high-quality backlinks’
This method was created by Brian Dean, the founder of Backlinko, therefore it was named and explained solely by him. I personally have used this technique, and I must say is one of the most effective techniques you will ever find online.
According to Dean, the ‘Skyscraper Technique’ works pretty simple as all you need is to do good research. You should start by researching the most popular trends in your industry.
Here, you have to find the topics and areas that are most often covered. Then, look at the pages that rank higher for those exact topics and come up with a twist to the story. Come up with ways to provide an answer to the same questions (that have already been answered) in your industry, but in a more unique way. This includes more detailed research on the topic, an update of the statistics, or simply a better design.
Whatever it is, find the flaw in the ‘Best’ content of that topic, and make yours better.
Once you are done creating the content, it is time for you to start sending emails. The crucial part of email marketing is to target the perfect audience. Instead of sending the content via email to a random list of people, strategically decide who people would actually link to your content. Then, send it to them. The people who actually have a chance of linking your content, are those who already linked your competitors.
So, do your research, and of course, create better content than your competitor so you will instantly increase your chances of getting backlinks.
Mentioned previously, the link building is one of the largest parts of Off-page SEO. It is extremely important, so do not neglect it. It can be the easiest way to get your organic search engine traffic.
Keep in mind: The more links- The higher rank on search engines.
For the purposes of link building you will have to first create quality, interesting, and useful content and then seek to get linked.
Here are some tips that will most definitely change your traffic:
- Offer unique and helpful content
- Create high-quality infographics and publish them on your website
- Promote your content to the right people
Infographics, really, are one of the easiest contents to link to. However, it is not the only type of content you can build links to. We all love good and visual content, and the combination with usefulness is the perfect match. In order for others to find your infographic, video, article, or photo, worthy of linking to their site, it needs to provide a detailed and useful explanation on a specific topic.
Besides the visual contents, below are the rest of the link building types of content.
If your content does not answer some questions, no matter how well-designed it is, it will not get linked. So, be smart when creating!
Same as with the skyscraper technique, where you look for getting your articles and guides linked, you have to promote your visual content to the right crowds. Find websites that have already covered articles on the same topic as your infographic and offer them to link it throughout the text. Also, you can find websites that have already linked visual content on the same topic, and offer them to link yours (if the one they have linked is worse than yours).
The social media platforms as a part of the Off-page SEO is a form of link building. Even though most of the links you will get from social media are no-follow backlink, that does not mean they do not have any value.
It is always good if people are talking about your content on social media or even link to it on their profiles. It may not make a drastic change in the statistics of your website, but it will surely provide your content with exposure, therefore views to your content and website.
Social bookmarking as an activity that helps in Off-page SEO is definitely not what it used to be in the past. However, it still is a good source of traffic to your website. Entirely depending on the industry you are in, you can visit websites like stumbleupon.com, reddit.com, or delicious.com, to promote your content. Never stop promoting your content and exposing it to larger crowds. You never really know who may come across it.
Off-Page SEO Tools
Working with SEO without using any kind of tools can often be a mission unaccomplished. There are a lot of details necessary to pay attention to, that you have no other way of finding out without using SEO tools. If you have never used any tool, you are about to discover a life-changing set of SEO tools that will change the game forever.
Before anything, please bear in mind that accomplishing a good search engine optimization will cost you money. Some tools are cheaper than others, but the ones that actually function the best, are the ones you will have to invest some funds in, in order to achieve great results.
One of these tools is Ahrefs. Even though people consider it very expensive, I promise you- it is worth every penny.
Ahrefs is the most useful tool when identifying link opportunities.
All you have to do is enter a domain, and boom, there you have the whole report of that site beginning od the DR (domain rank) of that page, to traffic statistics, organic keywords, their backlinks (no-follow and do-follow links), referring domains, paid keywords, etc. Not only you can do research into specific domains, but you can also search for keywords, their volume, return rate, parent topic, etc. Basically, on Ahrefs you have everything you need in order to do quality research of your competitors or sites you would like to link on.
There is not a single thing that you cannot do on Ahrefs.
Previously mentioned in the SEO Basics, SEMrush is Ahrefs’ competitor but for a cheaper price.
SEMrush is one of the most popular tools used in the industry of SEO. Same as Ahrefs, it provides you with a great insight inside the statistics of your competitors, the keywords they target, their links, their domain rank, traffic and so much more.
What’s best in SEMrush is that they offer a built-in Link Building Tool that will help you immensely when evaluating link prospects, track link building progress and tracking new links.
There also are a number of different tools you can use for social media scheduling, email list building, etc. All of these tools will also help you a lot when you are doing an off-page SEO, but I thought I should mention the two major tools that will change everything about how you are doing SEO for good.
Both of these tools will become your best friends for all the right reasons. Yes, you may have to invest some money in order to take full advantage of them, but it will be worth it.
Now that you have gone through the whole guide, you should be able to at least understand how search engines work, therefore why they are so important. Of course, there are million little things that I cannot even begin to talk because the more you learn about SEO the less you will know.
SEO is not something you can learn within a week or even a month. It may take you months of research and hard work to grasp the overall concept. But if you want — you will get there. All of these components we talked about, make the search engine optimization what it is, so logically with their internal changes come the changes in SEO. That is what makes the search engine optimization hard to learn — the inconsistency of its core elements. Keywords, algorithms, and structures are changing on a daily basis, forcing SEO to be constantly under construction.
However, if you do decide to take your time to fully focus on SEO you will soon be able to see how beneficial it is.
Nothing you do online can be good without SEO. It is the center of digital marketing. Without SEO, nothing would have made sense.
SEO makes everything we do online — important.
Hope you enjoyed this guide!