A Complete Guide To Good SEO For Beginners
Investing in your website design is good, it will help build a good reputation for your website especially with your first time visitors. It will make conversion easy, it will help you get referrals. But all these will be difficult to achieve with a poor Search Engine Optimization. We have been dealing with lots of clients here at Todhost and one major problem they want to overcome is how to build traffic to their website. The simple answer is that you should begin to take SEO seriously. In this article, we undertake to present the essential steps you should take to achieve good SEO for your website as a beginner. Let''s begin with some basic explanation of what search engine optimization or SEO is.
What is SEO
According to Search Engine land, SEO ” is the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial” or “natural” search results on search engines.
Search Engine Optimisation or SEO is quite a simple activity but requires a good understanding of the processes involved. It is the process of ensuring a website can be found in search engines for words and phrases relevant to what the site is offering. In many respects it can be seen as quality control for websites.
Optimizing websites for search engines require a good understanding of how the search engines work. This has been a crucial aspect of SEO and though Google has hidden the clear signals used in ranking websites, Backlino has provided a clue which guides us on the major signals to take seriously to get good ranking.
The Backlinko Study unveiled some 200 ranking factors that are used by Google. Backlinko analyzed 1 million Google search results to come with its results and that is an interesting study that we should take very seriously. In making a judgement on which factors correlate with first page search engine rankings, Backlinko identified 11 main ranking factors that are summarized below:
- Backlinks are still the number one factor in determining search ranking.
- Site Authority correlates to ranking.
- Tightly focused content ranks better.
- Longer content ranks higher.
- Sites using HTTPS do better than equal sites using HTTP.
- Schema markup doesn't help.
- An image in content raises ranking.
- Small correlation with title tag keyword optimization and ranking.
- Speed is now a huge ranking signal. It matters a lot.
- Exact match anchor text has a strong influence.
- Low bounce rate improves ranking.
Now you know what matters most, going by this study by Backlinko above. You now need to be guided by what the search engines see as acceptable to implement the ranking signals on your website. That brings us to the concepts of White Hat and Blac Hat SEO.
Black Hat SEO
Black hat SEO practices are simply what Google does, SEO practices that are not acceptable by Google, SEO practices that attempt to outsmart or take advantage of the search engines. These are the things Google hates. Given the complexity of the search engine ranking algorithm, there are actually lots of things you can do and Google for instance, will not accept it as good SEO practice. Moreover, the guidelines keep changing as Google in particular keeps updating its ranking signals. Notwithstanding, here are a list of we have considered bad SEO:
Things to Avoid - Bad SEO Practices
There are many black hat practices that can bring the full weight of a Google penalty down on your site, so it's best to avoid doing the following, even if it looks like a brilliant easy win at the time.
- Keyword stuffing
Keyword stuffing is the over use of keywords on your pages. This practice had been used before by people to gain some advantage in ranking placement in respect of those keywords. keyword stuffing can be damaging especially when they obviously affect the readability of your site. It is no longer debatable that Google no longer uses keywords as a ranking factor anymore.
- Link buying or excessive link exchanging
External links to a website is a major ranking factor. To take advantage of this, some website owners and managers have resorted to buying links. Google strongly frowns at this and will strongly penalize you for this. Thinking of buying or paying someone to post a link for you - a link farm? Just don't do it. The most valuable links to your site are the ones that come from authority sites within your own niche. So take note that it is not just about getting links but when the links come from websites with higher authority than yours, it can be more beneficial.
- Annoying ads
Ads are a source of revenue for websites but take note that anything that is overly intrusive and negatively affects the pleasure of reading your content can also affect user experience on your site, cause much distraction and affect Google's ranking for your website.
- Mobile app interstitial
Google frowns at mobile app interstitials. Don't present mobile visitors with a full-screen advert to download your app, Google will consider you no longer mobile friendly.
- Duplicated content
If Google finds two exactly identical pieces of content, whether on your own site, or on another you're not even aware of, it will only index one of those pages.
- Hidden text and links
Some website owners want to add more keywords to their website in such a way that human eyes cannot see them but the search engines do. Avoid using white text on a white background, positioning text off-screen, setting font size to zero or hiding a link in a single character like a comma or a full-stop. It used to be helpful before but not now any longer.
White Hat SEO - What the search engines love
The more relevant your content is to providing the answers sought by visitors, the more the search engines will love your page and rank it better. Search engines try to provide the most relevant results to a searcher's query, whether it's a simple answer to the question, (the answer of which Google will likely provide without you having to leave the SERP) to more complicated queries.
How search engines provide these results is down to their own internal algorithms, which we'll never truly determine, but there are factors that you can be certain will influence these results and they're all based around relevance.
- Content quality
You have to publish helpful, useful articles, videos or other types of media that are popular and well produced. Write for actual human beings rather than the search engine itself. Well, you should. Latest research from Search metrics on ranking factors indicates that Google is moving further towards longer-form content that understands a visitor's intention as a whole, instead of using keywords based on popular search queries to create content.
Basically, stop worrying about keywords and focus on the user experience.
- User experience
There are many SEO benefits for providing the best possible user experience. You need an easily navigable, clearly searchable site with relevant internal linking and related content. All the stuff that keeps visitors on your webpage and hungry to explore further.
- Site speed
This has become a ranking factor and you should be interested in how quickly your webpages load.
- Cross-device compatibility
;Is your website and its content equally optimized for any given screen size or device? Bear in mind that Google has stated that responsive design is its preferred method of mobile optimization.
- Internal linking
Internal linking can help push traffic around the site and that may lead to higher trust signals for Google. Internal linking has many advantages:
It provides your audience with further reading options. As long as they're relevant and you use clear anchor text (the clickable highlighted words in any given link). This can help reduce your bounce rates.
It helps to improve your ranking for certain keywords. If we want this article to rank for the term SEO basics then we can begin linking to it from other posts using variations of similar anchor text. This tells Google that this post is relevant to people searching for SEO basics. Some experts recommend varying your anchor text pointing to the same page as Google may see multiple identical uses as suspicious.
It helps Google crawl and index your site. Those little Googlebots that are sent out to fetch new information on your site will have a better idea of how useful and trustworthy your content is, the more they crawl your internal links.
An authority website is a site that is trusted by its users, the industry it operates in, other websites and search engines. Traditionally a link from an authority website is very valuable, as it's seen as a vote of confidence. The more of these you have, and the higher quality content you produce, the more likely your own site will become an authority too.
- Meta descriptions and title tags
Having a meta description won't necessarily improve your ranking on the SERP, but it is something you should definitely use before publishing an article as it can help increase your chances of a searcher clicking on your result.
The meta description is the short paragraph of text that appears under your page's URL in the search results.
- Properly tagged images
Adding the alternate attribute when uploading images to a website content is definitely something you shouldn't overlook because Google cannot see your images, but can read the alt text.
By describing your image in the alt text as accurately as possible it will increase the chances of your images appearing in Google Image search.
It will also improve the accessibility of your site for people using screen reader software.
- Evergreen content
More thoughtful and helpful articles can lead to huge long-term wins in terms of driving traffic and occupying highly visible positions in the SERPs.
- Domain names
You should use sub-directory root domains (todhost.com/host/blog) instead of sub-domains (blog.todhost.com) as this is better for your overall site architecture.
You should also stay away from hyphens (tod-host.com) and alternative Top-level domain names (.biz .name .info) as these are considered spammy.
Having a keyword rich domain name may lead to closer scrutiny from Google. According to Moz, Google has de-prioritized sites with keyword-rich domains that aren't otherwise high-quality. Having a keyword in your domain can still be beneficial, but it can also lead to closer scrutiny and a possible negative ranking effect from search engines - so tread carefully.
Also you should make sure that if you operate a site without the www. prefix, someone who types in www.example.com will still be redirected to your site. If this isn't happening, Google may assume these are two different sites and your visibility could be compromised. This is called canonicalization.
- Headlines and permalinks
The headlines for your articles should be under 55 characters to ensure their complete visibility in SERPs. Make sure they're snappy, attractive and as descriptive as possible (this is often an impossible balance).
The permalink (or URL), which you can normally alter in your website design even after it's been set automatically, doesn't necessarily have to match the headline exactly. Google has stated that you can use three to four key words that you should put the most important keywords first.
Do not turn off your comments system. Having a thriving community of regular commenters engaging in dialogue under your posts shows that visitors care enough about your content to either make their own relevant points or to praise it. Either way, at least people are reading it.
- Local SEO
Increasingly Google is serving results to users based on their location. This is particularly important to businesses out there in the real world who need to catch a searcher's attention just at the right moment. You should register with Google My Business and ensure that all of your information is accurate and up-to-date, such as opening times, contact information, customer reviews and that you're categorized correctly.
You need to make sure you're present on all relevant social channels (wherever your audience may be), and not just broadcasting your content in a faceless manner, but by using it as a customer service channel and genuinely interacting with people in a friendly, helpful and entertaining manner.
Monitor Evaluate, Review and Be Patient to Get Results
After implementing our SEO strategy on your website, we recommend that you monitor your site's performance, evaluate site performance in the various areas especially in respect of conversion, bounce rate and all other relevant factors. Here are some other key factors and activities that overall will help your SEO performance.
1. Use Analytics for Monitoring
There are lots of free analytic tools. The most popular is Google Analytics(GA). With GA, you can track the performance of your website, monitor its bounce rate, know where your visitors are coming from in terms of country and city, monitor the length of time visitors spend on your website and so on.
You also need a Google Webmaster Tools account to track your traffic, view site errors, view your click through rates, check how your website is performing with various keywords and areas that need improvement like short and long metatags, short and long title tags, descriptions and so on.
GA helps you to see which pages receive the most hits, see where your traffic is coming from. Who links to your site? What keywords are people searching when they find your site? These are both important factors to help inform your future efforts.
You will also find other analytic tools very useful. One of such very useful tools is Pingdom. Pingdom will help you determine the speed of your website at every point in time. This is very important because website speed has become a ranking factor in Google. Google's focus on user experience places a lot of importance on the speed of your website and Google simply wants websites that make users happy to be placed at the top of their search engine result pages.
Other useful analytics for SEO will include Seositecheckup, Woorank, iwebchk and Seoptimizer. All of these analytics will provide useful guidance on areas needing improvement on your website. One good thing about them is that they provide a score for your SEO efforts and tell you if you rate well or poorly.
Also read: Best Google Analytic Plugin for WordPress
2. Use Quality Keywords
Keywords are still relevant. Although Google has announced that it no longer uses keywords to rank websites, The keywords placed in website content are still valuable to help the search engines understand what your website is all about. Keywords should appear naturally in your content, in the titles of pages, URLs, image names, and in the content itself. Don’t force keywords in there. When considering which keywords to focus on, don’t go too general. Be precise and just use the keywords naturally. If you make clots for women, then just stating that you are a "Women Cloth Designer" will just be enough to drive traffic to your site by ranking you high for people who search for "women cloth designers".
- How Not to Use keywords
Google cites the following as examples of keyword stuffing - the practice of placing as many seo keywords onto a page as much as possible. These are the cases of bad use of keywords and should be avoided because Google hates it:
Listing phone numbers without substantial value to your users
Big blocks of text listing cities or states you want your webpage to rank for
Repeating the same words or phrases so often that it sounds unnatural (like in the example above)
- What then, you would ask, should be the best practice?
We will recommend that you write just the way you speak. Be professional in writing, selecting your words and using them rightly within the right content. Let your use of words be natural and you will find that you have been able to put out an excellent piece of writing.
3. Other On-Page Tags
One of the most important aspects of your website SEO is your title page. The website title remains a ranking factor and should be taken seriously. It should contain the keywords you want to rank for and we recommend that it should end with your brand name.
We have used the following format for our website title:
Primary keyword - Brand Name
MOZ Recommends the following as an optimal format:
Primary Keyword- Secondary Keyword - Brand Name
In both cases, the primary keyword precedes the brand name and you should avoid placing your brand name first when writing website titles. This is not to say that websites who place brand name ahead of their primary keywords perform worse than those who place brand name behind keywords. Some evidence suggests that this is not always the case. However, Google tends to consider the words you place first as more important than those you place last.
Note: Keep title tags between 10 to 55 characters. Although we have recently tested and seen title tags as long as 63 characters in Google SERPs, we strongly recommend that your title should not be longer than 55 characters because we have also seen titles as short as 50 characters. Google tend to present about 60 characters and rarely will show more than 55 characters.
So, ensure that your title and descriptive tags contain the relevant keywords for the page. The title tag should be short and descriptive. The meta description tag should be a somewhat longer description of the content and should be kept at about 150 characters.
Heading tags should be used inside the content itself to set up separate sections. Only ever use one H1 tag, at the top of the content, for the main header of the content.
4. Use Clean Search Engine Friendly URLs
Depending on the tool with which you have designed your website, if you have used a Content Management System like WordPress or Joomla, ensure you enable search engine friendly urls in the admin section. Your URL structuring is important as it helps search engines better read and understand your website content.
Always make sure your urls are like this: https://www.yourwebsite.com/university/article/avoiding-negative-and-bad-seo/
and not like this::
Search engines pull information from URLs. The first URL lays out the content precisely, the second gives no information whatsoever. Using plain language makes it very easy for search engines and browsers to understand the content of the page they’re visiting..
5. Use a sitemap
A sitemap will help search engines easily navigate your website and its content structure will be easier for human visitors also. Sitemaps includes internal links to your content, linking it together and requiring fewer clicks to get through. You will also have to submit your sitemap to the search engines especially Google and Bing.
6. Optimize the Speed of Your Website
The speed of your website is very important. A fast website is much more appealing to visitors and search engines love it and will always reward such websites with better ranking because they are appealing and provide better user experience. You may want to check your website speed with this tool
Basically, to speed up a website, you need to take some steps including the following:
Ensure that cache is enabled on the website. If you are using a CMS, there should be a plugin to enable which will handle your caching system. You may want to check the documentation of your content management system on how to do this and you also learn more about caching here.
Ensure that you optimize your images, template CSS, JS, and disable the development mode in your template settings.
Check up your website script documentation for additional steps for caching.
Note: If visitors come to your site and it doesn’t start loading near-instantly, they’ll quickly grow frustrated and look elsewhere. Search engines take this into account and if your site loads slowly while they are crawling it, your rankings will suffer. It’s always easier to start off making sure your code, images, and other assets are optimized rather than go back and make changes later. Use tools like Pingdom or PageSpeed Insights to give you ideas on where you can improve your site’s speed. That way you will know how much improvement is required. For a simple guide, if your website loads in less than 2 seconds, then it is fast. If it loads between 2-5 seconds, then it is normal. If it loads in greater than 5 seconds, then it is not good and will require immediate attention.
Also remember, server speed could be a factor for speed. If server speed is slow, then there's probably nothing you can do to change the situation but to move to another web host.
Did we miss anything or are there things you'// want to add to this, let us know in the comment box.