SEO FOR BEGINNERS
Today, we use the internet as a resource to almost everything. You can’t remember the name of the actress that starred in your favorite film? Google it. You do not know how to cook Carbonara but you want to impress the girl you’re dating? Google it. You do not know what SEO means? Google it.
Well, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It is the practice of increasing a website’s online traffic specifically through organic or unpaid means.
Currently, Google has a whopping 86.86% share of the market (as of November 2020). What this means is that almost 9/10 people uses Google as their primary search engine. Since Google is the most widely used search engine, this blog will focus mainly on Google SEO practices. The first question we will be answering is “How did Google grow to be one of the biggest brands in the industry?”
HISTORY OF GOOGLE
Google is a play on the word “googol”, a very large number equating to 1 followed by a hundred zeroes. That is 1100 or 1 to the power of 100! The name itself predestined the company to be the biggest information provider of the future. Founded in 1995, Google was originally named BackRub as the search engine was dependent on backlinks that estimates the significance of a website. The then start-up company bought the domain name Google.com in 1997 and the first ever official google search was in 1998 when its founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, demonstrated the accuracy of their search engine. They typed in the name Gerhard Casper, the president of Stanford University at the time. Google presented links related to the actual person while AltaVista, their rival search engine, popped up Casper the Friendly Ghost.
The search engine company dominated the internet scene shortly after it was established and was even awarded as the “most useful word of 2002” by the ADS or American Dialect Society. Now, when we hear the word “google” on television or film, it is no longer a paid advertisement, but a part of the actual script. Today, Google boasts a whopping 40,000 search queries every single second (yup, you read that right) for a total of 2 trillion global searches in a year. For every search, google scours the depths of the internet to give you the most substantial results, and did you know that among all the google results, only 10% of the internet’s content gets real-people access?
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF SEO?
SEO or Search Engine Optimization plays a big role in putting any website on the first few pages of Google, or any search engine for that matter. SEO is an important tool to be part of the accessible 10%. Simply put, SEO is the art and science of organic search engine results. SEO exists not only to increase the quantity of website traffic, but the quality of it-- because high quality website traffic means more business. SEO involves reading website traffic data, hence the science part of it, and adjusting your content to what your target likes and needs, thus the art.
Let’s say you own a carwash business and you already have a website. Of course, you want people to visit your webpage and check the services you offer. In order to be ‘seen’ or be part of the first page of Google results, an effective SEO strategy must be implemented. First, you need a tool to read traffic **data (usually the number of clicks and duration of stay) and check **engagement **(how visitors interact with your website). After which, you will then know which parts of your websites need tweaking. **Ultimately, understanding SEO means understanding your audience’s intent.
HOW IT WORKS
In the Search Engine Optimization process, there are mainly three components. Your website, the search engine (which almost always Google) and the internet user. In order to get good results, the process of being ‘seen’ starts with keyword research.
Internet users, or searchers, surf the web for the information that they need using key words. Going back to your hypothetical carwash business, searchers will have to enter the key words carwash on Google. If you use a tool to analyze search engine performances, you will see that “carwash” is very broad, therefore would be a steep competition for business owners and dictionary websites alike. The easiest way out is to modify your content and** **code by adding the city name. For example, “Tucson carwash”. Then, depending on how many competitors you have, you can get a bigger chance to be seen in the first page of Google search results. As part of the research, you will also check the statistics for similar keywords such “carwash in Tucson”. If this is a popular keyword with limited competition, angle your website to be optimized with the given keywords.
SEARCH ENGINE RESULTS PAGE (SERP)
Have you noticed how Google makes it easier for the searchers to find what they are looking for? Features such as the *image pack or image carousel, top stories, knowledge panel, related questions, *and the *direct answer panels *make our lives (as internet users) very easy. Most of our Google queries can be displayed immediately by the search engine in the first SERP or Search Engine Results Page.
For example, you input the name Leonardo DiCaprio, you will immediately see an image pack on the upper right corner of the SERP, beneath that is the knowledge panel of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Wikipedia entry. Information on the knowledge pack is widely accepted as factual, which is why most of the time, these are Wikipedia pages. With a short scroll down, you will see the related questions panel, more commonly known as “People also ask”. These are questions with the greatest number of searches related to Leonardo. Underneath the related questions panel, you will see the top stories—the latest news entries that feature Leonardo. The direct answers feature short snippets from articles or blogposts that answers your question. For example, typing in “When did Leonardo DiCaprio start acting?” will give you a straight answer from a biography website.
LOCAL SERP FEATURES
According to data, 46% of Google searches are for local businesses. As for these searches, Google also customizes SERPs to give wider options for the internet users. These local SERP features focus on establishments, their addresses and their services. Some of the most useful components are the local pack *and the local knowledge pack.*
The local pack is a set of results that contain locations that are similar to the key words. The Google SERP algorithm organizes and ranks these results according to their relevance, popularity and proximity to your detected location. The relevance of a location can be raised through external reviews.
The local knowledge pack, like the knowledge pack, is on the right side of the SERP (for computer users), and contains information such as the working hours of a business, their top reviews and exact addresses. Having your own local knowledge pack if you own a local business may significantly contribute to your revenue, considering 4 out of 5 local searches convert to sales.
With all of that said, being on the first page of Google SERP as a business owner will drive your traffic up since the websites on the first page gets a huge chunk of internet traffic—42%, to be exact, while the second page only get 11%, the third gets only 8%, and it continues to dwindle down for the next pages.
THE SEO COMPETITION
A lot of times, the only difference between a thriving business and otherwise is its placement in Google. In fact, according to data, users perceive the websites on the top results as part of the most authentic businesses in their own industries. Being on the top results may guarantee psychological advantage over competitors.
This has led to a tight competition to rank on top of the Google index, and boosting your rank on Google may take months, or even years. This has resulted in a divide of good (or Google-approved) SEO practices and the opposite.
WHITE HAT SEO VS BLACK HAT SEO
If we were in the Transformers universe, white hat SEO techniques are the Autobots while the black hat SEO are the Decepticons. Black hat SEO is more often cheap but the package comes with great repercussions.
Google, being the most massive search engine, implements a set of rules for websites to fairly take their shot at increasing their online traffic called the Webmaster Guideline. The basic principle a website must follow to avoid being banned from Google is: be ethical. Google suggests a website owner to ask oneself whether or not they would be comfortable discussing what they have done to an employee of Google.
As it implies, white hat SEO techniques play by the rules. It focuses on adding value to a website and slowly tracking progress. These include key word analyses (examining key word performances), rewriting meta-tags (short descriptions for the Google algorithm to determine relevance), and crafting blog articles for human readers, among many.
On the other hand, black hat SEO techniques are aimed to trick the Google crawlers. These include keyword stuffing (repetitive and redundant), link farming (creating other websites for the sole purpose of linking back to the original one), and spamming blog contents.
White hat SEO can take months while black hat SEO can be in a matter of days or hours. Black hat SEO is also termed cheap SEO as they relatively more affordable than the legitimate SEO services. The thing is, if you own a website, you cannot afford cheap SEO. Websites have been deindexed from Google and some businesses saw their downfalls because of the dirty tactics black hat SEO employs.
The main point we would like to drive is to add value to your website to capture attention. A website must be designed for human audiences instead of Google’s algorithms.
IMPORTANT SEO DATA TO TRACK
A website usually takes a hefty number of man hours to be built, so it needs to be seen. A website deserves attention. Now to measure how much attention a website gets, Key Performance Indicators or KPIs are evaluated if and when they reach benchmarks of growth. Here, we have listed the most critical KPIs for every website owner and SEO specialist to look out for.
Organic Sessions These measure the number of actual visits of a website as well as the activity being done on your website. Organic traffic is considered the most important data to track for a website as it is most aligned with the goal of SEO: getting human eyes to look and stay on a website. To increase the numbers on this KPI, you need to craft a user-friendly website with clear, relevant and engaging content.
Keyword Ranking This is your standing among other websites when a user inputs particular keywords (see carwash example). Depending on the niche and sub-niche you are targeting, there are what we call high volume keywords (most frequently searched keywords). Of course, the higher a website ranks for these types of keywords, the better. It is quite normal for a website to fluctuate in ranking as the competition could be tough or the search engine (Google) may implement revised algorithms. Most of the time, keyword ranking is the entry point to the success of the other goals of a website such as more traffic, organic sessions, and sales.
Leads or Conversion Rate This is the KPI that actually translates to revenue. The first two focus on getting users' attention while leads and conversion rate is the indicator that the users are doing what the website tells them to. Leads, in the context of SEO, is any kind of communication channel with a user or potential customer. They are usually Emails from newsletter signups, contact form submissions, and completed purchases. Clear calls-to-action and a well-designed user interface are two of the greatest factors that contribute to higher leads.
Average session Duration This KPI is a great determiner of a website's quality in terms of content and structure. This KPI measures the average duration of a click in and click out of a website. The more value a user gets from a website, the longer they will most likely stay. This is the reason why content is king.
Bounce Rate As opposed to average session duration, this KPI measures the percentage of sessions where internet users load a website and exits without performing any action. Around half of all sessions are 'bounce sessions', where users are expected to take no action but this varies from industry to industry. This is a KPI that a website owner wants to keep low, because the it sends signals to the search engine algorithm as to whether or not a website is relevant and ultimately affects overall keyword ranking.
Page Load Time This KPI is least prioritized by a lot of websites but it highly contributes to all of the metrics we have listed so far. As a user, when a website takes too long to load, we get frustrated. We refresh our browser sometimes but most of the time, we immediately exit the page and check the next suggestion on the SERP. According to a 2018 study, a user will leave a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. Given the abundance of options, it is easy for users to jump from one website to another.
Did you know that more than half a million websites are created every single day? That’s about 380 new websites every minute. The competition is extremely tough, that is why proper SEO planning and execution can be the key of your website’s success. And for that, you will need experts in the industry.
You will need a design that retains complete attention. You will need content that calls readers to action. You will need a website that converts clicks to sales. You will need a web agency that knows all things world wide web.
AllthingsWWW will help you step-by-step towards reaching your internet goals. Send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org to know more.