Search engine optimization ( SEO ) is the process of optimizing your website to improve your search engine rankings in the search results. Or we can say for getting non-paid or organic traffic on your website. SEO shares history back to the 90s when search engines emerged for the very first time. But at present times, it is an ever-growing industry and an indispensable marketing strategy.
However, Search Engine Optimization only focuses on organic search results and doesn’t include Pay Per Click Optimization. Though, both PPC and SEO are part of search engine marketing.
This definitive guide is specially designed for newbies who are just entering the world of Search Engine Optimization. Here, we’ll talk about different strategies and methods using which you can improve your search engine ranking. In short, here’s everything you need to know!
Need a quick solution to your problem? Hop on to the specific topic here :
- SEO in a nutshell
- Basic SEO Terminology
- What are Search Engines, and how they work?
- Search Engine Ranking Factors
- Why SEO important for your business?
- Best SEO practices for 2021
- Adjust your SEO strategy for zero-click searches
- Add the main keyword early in your content
- Optimize your page title and subheadings
- Your title, description, and content should be unique
- Align your content with the search intent
- Focus on writing a compelling title tag and Meta Description
- Ensure your site is optimized for mobile and voice search
- Optimize your images
- Wrapping Up
SEO in a nutshell
You don’t have to possess all the technical knowledge to optimize your website but just the important part. Let’s see the three main aspects of SEO :
- Technical aspect – This area covers all the technical aspects you need to know, often known as on-page SEO, which we’ll see later in the guide.
- Great Content – High-quality content is the main thing that will decide your success on the Internet. Low-quality content = no rankings; it’s as simple.
- High-quality backlinks – The icing on the cake is high-quality backlinks. These backlinks establish the authority of your website. You might have excellent quality content and an optimized website, but at the end of the day, you need to gain authority by getting quality backlinks.
In the following points, we’ll look at these factors from a practical point of view.
Basic SEO Terminology
On-page SEO –
On-page SEO refers to everything you can do on the website. This includes technical stuff and how you optimize your website. On-page SEO consists of the following :
- Content Optimization
- Keyword Research
- Internal Linking
- Title tag optimization
- Page performance optimization
Off-Page SEO –
Off-page SEO includes everything you do to promote your website and generate high-quality links. In simple words, all the efforts to get backlinks and establish your website’s authority counts under Off-page SEO. Apart from this, off-page SEO is also related to online marketing, such as social media marketing, which indirectly builds the trust and authority of your website.
Black Hat SEO –
Black Hat SEO is the bad guy that includes all the activities that violate Google’s policies and can get your site banned or penalized. Many website owners adopt Black Hat SEO for success, but they do not see the consequences. It may get your instant or short-term success, but you can’t hold it for long. Very soon, you’ll be sacked by Google. We strongly advise you to stay out of such practices.
Black Hat SEO includes the following practices :
- Irrelevant backlinks
- Hidden Text
- Comment Spam
- Link manipulation
- Keyword stuffing
- Sneaky redirects
White Hat SEO –
As the name suggests, white hat SEO is the good guy here that consists of all the efforts made the right way! If you’re in for the long run, your focus should be practicing White Hat SEO. Here, search engine rankings are achieved by producing great content, optimizing the website, and adopting a user-oriented approach.
These were the basic SEO terms you should be familiar with; let’s move to the next topic ( and an important one).
What are Search Engines, and how they work?
Before you dive deep into the ocean of how to rank your website top on the search engine, let’s understand what is a search engine and how does it work?
In simple words, a search engine is an online tool that helps people find their information – for instance, Google. Yes, you’re right. There are other search engines, but you’ll not be surprised to know that Google holds around 92 % worldwide market share. So when we say search engine, we mostly mean Google.
Now let’s see how a search engine works. Don’t get dizzy. It’s not rocket science but more straightforward than you imagine. Search engines have bots, also known as spiders, that crawl the contents of a web page. After it’s done, Google runs the content through their algorithms to decide which one to rank where. If you have optimized your page efficiently, Google will show your content in the search results.
That’s how a search engine works. You must be wondering what are those factors eventually ranks your page in the search results? Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. These are known as ranking factors, and there are many. Luckily you don’t have to go through all of them. Here are the most important ranking factors you should know.
Search Engine Ranking Factors
However, these are not ranked in order of relevance or preference.
Referring domains –
Referring domains are other websites that link to your website. When you have already established domains linking to you, you’ll get benefitted in two ways. First, you can establish the authority of your website, and second, you can rank high on search results.
Organic Click Through Rate ( CTR ) –
It is defined as the number of times a user clicks on your web page after searching for a keyword. High CTR indicates you have good chances for improving your rankings.
Domain relevancy –
It means your domain should have content related to your main topic. For instance, you run a tech blog, it will be much easier to rank your content if you post tech blogs. Whereas, it will be much harder to rank them if you start posting travel blogs.
Mobile usability –
Not everyone rushes to get their laptop when they need to search for something. That’s why you must work on the mobile usability of your website. It shows how easy it is to use your site on mobile devices like tablets and smartphones.
Dwell Time –
Dwell time is the time a visitor spends on your website. Let’s understand this with an example – Suppose your web page ranks 4 or 5th on the search results. A user clicks on your web page and really likes your content, and spends enough time to read what you’ve posted. Your content has satisfied the user’s intent, and he left without clicking on a different link. Google will notice this and might up your position.
Number of Backlinks –
As we have already mentioned before, more backlinks help improve your search engine rankings.
Content Quality –
This is the basis of everything. All your efforts will go in vain if your content isn’t informative or engaging enough. In simple words, this is the foundation of SEO for bloggers.
Why SEO important for your business?
Ranking and Visibility –
The most crucial function of SEO is to increase visibility, making it easier for users to find you when they search for something you are offering. Visibility is related to your ranking. The higher rank on a SERP, the more chances prospects will see your website and go through it.
Web Traffic –
If you own a website, you’re very well aware of the fact what web traffic means for the success of any business. When you increase ranking and visibility, your web traffic automatically gets enhanced. 75 percent of the clicks go to the first five listings. If you want to drive more traffic to your website and want to be number one on the list, know the SEO practices very well.
Authority means your web page is trustworthy, has relevant and high-quality content, and offers something unique. The more authority to your site, the higher ranking you’ll get.
Better Visitor Experience –
All the time you spend on creating great content with on-page SEO increases the usability of your site. For example, when you take measures to make your site responsive, it will make it usable for all users who visit your site through mobile or laptop, or desktop. By increasing your load page speed, you will decrease the bounce rate. It is said that users bounce to another page if a site takes more than 4 seconds to load.
The critical reason why SEO is essential is definitely for the growth of your business. SEO helps drive more traffic to your site, gives more authority, increases conversions, increases customer experience, and builds a better relationship with your audience. All of these mean increased sales and growth for your business.
The SEO landscape has changed then it was several years ago. It may look quite daunting to keep with the new trends and to know which tips are worth spending time on. TO save you from all the chaos, we’ve compiled the best SEO practices you can try in 2021.
Best SEO practices for 2021
Alter your SEO strategy for zero-click searches
One of the prominent game-changers for SEO is zero-click searches. Zero-click search is when you don’t have to click on a link to get an answer, the answer is already displayed in the SERPs.
To optimize your website for zero-click searches, you can follow these practices :
- Use keywords with higher click-through rate opportunities.
- Focus on ways to get value from zero-click searches.
Add the main keyword early in your content
You know the importance a keyword has in improving your search engine rankings. You might be using keywords a handful of times in your content, but you may not know that the location of your keyword also plays a vital role here.
More specifically, you would want to use the main keyword on the top of your content. You must be thinking, what difference does it make? Well, Google prefers terms that appear at the beginning of a web page.
To increase the chances of being on the top of search results, you’ll need to do some keyword research on the topic. Use keywords that have high volume and are easy to rank. In simple words, keyword research is the first and the most crucial part of SEO that you don’t want to ignore.
Optimize your page title and subheadings
Now that you’ve researched keywords, it’s time to use them in your title, subheadings, and throughout your post. But we are not suggesting stuffing of keywords. Use keywords naturally, and don’t use them where they look stuffed or don’t make any sense. Always remember your goal is to satisfy the reader first and then Google.
Your title, description, and content should be unique
You can stand out from the crowd only if you have something unique to offer. That’s why not using duplicate content is the most essential SEO practice to keep in mind. Google states that, in any state, avoid “duplicate or near-duplicate versions of your content across the site.”
And the same rule applies to every element of content on your website, including :
- Landing pages
- Meta description tags
- Category pages
- Ecommerce product pages
- Title tags
- Image alt text
Basically, if you publish anything on your site, it should be 100 % unique and plagiarism-free.
Align your content with the search intent
Search intent, also known as user intent, is the reason behind every query. Understanding and satisfying user intent is the top priority of Google. Pages that rank on top of search results have passed all the checkboxes of the search intent test.
Let’s understand this with an example :
Suppose a user wrote how to make choco-chip cookies at home; Google will show pages with recipes of choco chip cookies and not e-commerce sites selling cookies. When someone enters buy choco chips cookies, the search results will show e-commerce results instead of blog posts about homemade recipes.
For this reason, if you want to rank your page on top of search results, you have to understand the concept of search results. These are as follows :
A search falls under the informative category when the user is searching for some specific information. It can be anything quick and simple, like what is the weather today? To something detailed like How to gain more followers on Instagram?
The purpose behind a search is commercial when a user is looking for some specific products but hasn’t made the final decision yet—for instance, best watches, best backpacks, etc.
Here, a user is looking for a particular app or website like Facebook login, youtube, Amazon, etc.
Here, the user has made up their mind to buy a specific product. For instance, buy TaylorMade golf balls, buy Nikon d500, etc.
The best practice is to keep in mind the search intent while crafting your content.
Focus on writing a compelling title tag and Meta Description
Title tags are highly crucial from the SEO point of view. In Google’s words, “Titles are critical to giving users a quick insight into the content of a result and why it’s relevant to their query. It’s often the primary piece of information used to decide which result to click on, so it’s important to use high-quality titles on your web pages.”
The best practices to write a title tag are :
- Write your title tag like this: Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand Name.
- Avoid duplicate title tags at all costs.
- Keep title tag 55 characters long ( including spaces ) for better searchability.
Meta Description –
Meta Description though not very helpful in improving rankings, is crucial in getting users to click through your link in SERP. You may use keywords here but make sure to write a compelling description so the user would want to click on it.
The best practices to write a meta description are :
- It should be compelling.
- The recommended length is 155 to 160 characters.
- Avoid using quotes and non-alpha characters as Google cuts them out.
Ensure your site is optimized for mobile and voice search
Around 60 % of searches come from mobile devices like tablets and smartphones. So make sure you have a speedy and good mobile version of your site. Apart from this, Google also looks at your mobile version before ranking your site in the search results.
Even if you have traffic on your website from a desktop, you can’t rank well without optimizing your site for mobile searches. Focus on creating a responsive design that goes with any theme and test your website speed to see if it’s fast enough.
Not every user wants to type with a tiny keyboard. Some want their voice assistant to do the job for them. According to the data, around 45 % of searches will come from voice. Hence, it’s crucial to optimize your content for voice searches.
Optimize your images
Images have great importance in improving the user experience on your website. And chances are that you’re already spending enough time selecting the right images to enhance your product pages, blog posts, and other essential pages.
But are you spending enough time optimizing the images on your site? If used efficiently, images can boost the traffic to your site and may work wonders for the site’s overall SEO. You can try the following tips to optimize your images :
Choose the best file format –
Site speed plays an active role in ranking your page, and images are the most significant contributor to overall page size. Hence, to improve your site’s overall performance, you have to optimize your images for speed. The first step you can take is choosing the best file format, like PNG vs. JPEG vs. WebP.
The most widely used image format is JPEG and PNG. Both formats use distinct compression
techniques, so the file sizes can be dramatically different in these two. If we look at the file sizes, here’s the clear winner – JPEG. But it doesn’t mean PNG is useless. While JPEG is suitable for photographs, PNG is best suited for images containing texts.
Compress your Images –
You already know the larger your image file size, the longer your website will take to load. This makes it crucial to compress all the images before uploading them to the site. Fortunately, there are many tools to help you with this :
Image Optim – If you’re a Mac user, use this tool to compress all your images. In fact, Google also recommends using Image Optim. It is by far the best tool for compressing JPEG format images but not for PNGs.
TinyPNG – Use this tool to compress both JPEG and PNG files.
Short Pixel – If you use WordPress to run your site, install this plugin to compress images. If you go by the free plan, you can compress 100 images a month.
Wrapping it Up!
Search Engine Optimization can be competitive but is the most effective way to drive more traffic to your page. With time, this process will help you to rank your site based on high search volumes. We’ve tried to make this article as detailed and comprehensive as possible. This will help you know about SEO, its importance, and how to implement the best SEO practices in 2021.
You think we missed out on something? Write in the comment section and let us know!